With its rolling green hills and lunar landscapes, Ireland is an enchanting island located on the northwestern tip of Europe. While many are already aware of its beauty and cultural relevance, it is often those hidden treasures located off the beaten path, that provide the most cherished memories.
There is no better time to discover the Emerald Isle than springtime; and no better way than by personal vehicle. How does an eight-day self-guided road trip through Ireland's pristine landscape sound? Throw in some medieval castles for a taste of luxury, a handful of cultural relics for good measure, and some locally brewed stout for a bit of flavor, and you've got yourself one truly unforgettable Irish vacation.
Begin your journey in the city of Dublin by exploring its Georgian streets and visiting its historic landmarks. For a truly authentic experience, take a trip to St. Patrick's Cathedral, enjoy a tasting at the Guinness Storehouse, and spend two unforgettable nights at the Clontarf Castle, which dates back to 1172.
Hit the road and discover the lore of the land with a driving tour through the streets of Galway, Connemara, Clare and Limerick. Go where the island takes you and make your way through the vast and varied terrain of the Connemara region. With its savage beauty of its lake and mountain scenery, Galway and Clare is known as the "land of the castles" and the medieval city of Limerick. Be sure to stop at the Belvedere House -- the early 18th century home of Robert Rochfort, Earl of Belvedere -- which rests on 160 acres of parkland on the shores of Lough Ennell. Cross the River Shannon, explore the Spanish Arch, and make your way to Clifden, where you will stay at the magnificent Abbeyglen Castle, which offers a panoramic view of both the city and the bay.
Additional area highlights include the 5,000-acre scenic mountains of Connemara National Park, the lakeside mansion, Kylemore Abbey, a scenic drive through Leenane, a quick visit to Rathbaun Farm, topped off with a sea cruise through Killary Fjord, where you'll enjoy the hidden gems nestled along its coast.
The following morning, travel to the Burren region and visit the Cliffs of Moher, a spectacular five-mile long cliff, which rises almost 700 feet above sea level, before stopping in the heritage town of Kilrush, where you can board a ferry to north County Kerry. After arriving in Tarbert, continue through Listowel and make your way to Tralee for a two-night stay at the Ballyseede Castle.
In the morning, the captivating backdrop will unfold before your eyes as you drive along the Dingle Peninsula while en route to the westernmost tip of the peninsula. In Dunquin, pay a visit to the Blasket Center, a living history museum, and learn what life was like on the remote Blasket Islands. Explore the islands further with a two-to three-hour boat trip and marvel as the indigenous marine life swims playfully alongside.
Before your trip comes to a close, be sure to spend a few leisurely hours in the medieval city of Limerick, where you can learn about the local history, architecture, or visit the Hunt Museum, which features one of Ireland's greatest private collections of art and antiquities. After, head east towards Kilkea in Co. Kildare and detour to the Rock of Cashel. Crowned by a group of buildings, both ecclesiastical and royal, the imposing rock rises dramatically from the flat countryside. Make the most out of your last night by staying at the Barberstown Castle, a 13th century castle, located in the heart of the horse-breeding county of Kildare.
Whether your next vacation involves a self-guided road trip, a romantic trip for two, or perhaps a culinary tour of the Capital City, a trip to the Emerald Isle will surely not disappoint.