Planning a trip to Ireland? I hope so, because it is one of my favorite travel destinations to date! My husband and I visited Ireland as part of a two week trip (we also spent time in England), and we absolutely loved it. I’m excited to share how we decided to spend our 4 perfect days in Ireland. (Note: We were technically in Ireland for 6 days, but I’m focusing on our non-full-travel days in this post.)
We may earn money or products from the companies mentioned in this post. We only recommend products and services that we love!
I’ll mention the obvious: we did not see everything in Ireland. Not even close! When we planned our trip, we decided to take it somewhat slow. We didn’t want to spend each night in a different place, and we didn’t want to look back on our trip and regret not slowing down to enjoy the things that were most important to us. We are so glad we did this!
We made a decision to focus our time in Killarney and Dublin (approximately two days in each location). If you prefer to just take a look at how we spent our time in each city, you check out these blog posts: How to Spend 36 Hours in Killarney and 36 Hours in Dublin. Otherwise, keep reading for our entire Ireland itinerary!
Before I jump into the details, here is an overview of the major locations we visited:
- Dingle Peninsula
- Gap of Dunloe
- Ross Castle
- Torc Waterfall
- Killiney Hill Park
- Killiney Hill
- Kilmainham Gaol
- Dublin Castle
- St. Patrick’s Cathedral
- Temple Bar Square
4 Perfect Days in Ireland
Driving from Wexford to Killarney
We arrived in Killarney in the late afternoon, after driving across Ireland from Wexford. (We had arrived in Ireland from Wales the night before; we stayed in Rosslare for the night and then took a bus to Wexford, where we picked up our rental car. I look forward to blogging about this experience in detail soon!)
The drive across Ireland was magical and was even more beautiful than I had imagined. Ireland was just as green as I had envisioned. Photos and videos cannot do it justice. We stopped for lunch in a tiny town where we were the only tourists in the only open pub (the owner even kicked a few regulars out of their seats for us- which was a little awkward but amusing at the same time). We enjoyed our first true Irish lunch (I had bangers and mash) before continuing on our beautiful road trip. Without stops, the drive took 3 hours and 15 minutes. My husband is a total stud and rocked the whole driving a manual on the opposite side of the car/road thing. We passed countless rolling, green hills and few gorgeous castles along the way.
Lodging – The Killarney Railway Hostel
When we arrived in Killarney, it was late in the afternoon and we checked into our lodging- the Killarney Railway Hostel. This was the only hostel we stayed in during our entire trip (the rest of the time we used Airbnb and a couple of hotels). Airbnb pickings were slim during our stay, so we opted for a private room in this hostel, which had great reviews. Parking was tight – they had only a handful of spots and they were tiny. One spot was open and it took my husband awhile to squeeze our rental car in, but we made it! (Note: When we returned to the hostel later that night, after we explored Dingle Peninsula, there were not any spots available. We had to park in a public parking lot in downtown Killarney, which was nearby, and walk back to the hostel.)
We opted for the private double bed option, which slept two and had a private bathroom. The hostel had a very rustic feel, and our private bedroom made it feel like a hotel. The room had two beds- one double and one twin, so my husband and I slept together in the double.
Overall, we were really happy with our stay. In true hostel form, it was loud at night with people walking down the hallway, but my husband and I are both deep sleepers and didn’t have any problems with it.
The shared kitchen was nice and spacious, with plenty of refrigerator space. We made breakfast there on our first morning, but we were not able to access it on our second (and last) morning there. The kitchen was locked up at night, and we had to leave before it opened to catch our 7:36am train to Dublin. We couldn’t find an open breakfast spot in town that early either, so I had to eat chips for breakfast (I have several food allergies, so allergen-friendly snacks are a must when I travel!).
Overall, I would highly recommend a private room in the Killarney Railway Hostel, if you’re ok with a little noise. The staff were all friendly and helpful, and we paid 5 Euro to have them wash and dry a load of laundry for us while we were out exploring. We were thankful for that service!
By the time we checked into our hostel, it was late afternoon. A lot of the major Killarney attractions were closing soon for the day, but we were ready to explore! We headed out for a couple hours in our rental car for the Dingle Peninsula. (The drive around Dingle Peninsula is about 30 miles, and you must drive it in clockwise direction.)
It was so fun. Because it was later in the day, almost all of the tourists were gone. We didn’t see any tour buses, and we only saw 1 or 2 cars on our drive. We loved having the tiny little roads to ourselves!
It started raining, which made our experience that much more fun. We stopped several times to take in the beauty of Ireland and enjoyed the scenery with awe. We fell in love with the view!
Gap of Dunloe
We began the next day by driving to the Gap of Dunloe, which turned out to be the most stunning destination that I have ever traveled to. I really mean it. It was absolutely gorgeous, and it left us breathless. We never wanted to leave, and we wound up spending several hours here (longer than we expected and planned for), because we could not pull ourselves away.
The Gap of Dunloe is a narrow mountain pass in Killarney. There are several lakes, countless rolling green hills, adorable sheep, and authentic cottages in the area. Although it is considered a popular tourist attraction, I have found that many people skip this when visiting Killarney. Please, do yourself a favor, and do not skip it! If you only visit one destination in Killarney, pick this!
You can rent a jaunting car (a horse-drawn cart with a guide- called a ponyman), but we chose to walk the gap. We took our time and explored as much as we could. We relaxed by the streams, enjoyed walking alongside the friendly sheep, and took in as much beauty as possible. We got lucky with perfect, sunny weather.
We ate a late lunch at Kate Kearney’s Cottage, which is located at the entrance to the Gap of Dunloe. It’s been family-run for 150 years. We loved their cheesecake! It was difficult to leave the Gap of Dunloe, but there were a few other sites in Killarney that we wanted to see, so we managed to pull ourselves away. (You can enjoy more of our photos from the Gap of Dunloe in this post.)
After lunch we drove to Ross Castle, which was beautiful! It was built in the 1400s, and it is open the public now for guided tours. We are really glad we decided to go inside – we learned so much about Killarney history and life for all the social classes. (Spoiler alert- even the wealthy didn’t live very glamorous lives!)
The grounds are stunning and it was well worth our time to explore the outside of the castle. It is right next to Lough Leane (also known as Killarney’s lower lake). We saw several people out on the lake on hired boats, and we decided that we need to make time for that next time we go to Killarney!
Torc Waterfall is a beautiful waterfall at the bottom of Torc Mountain. We did our research and knew that the best views were from the bottom, so we opted out of doing the hiking trail to the top of the mountain (we knew we wouldn’t have enough time in the day to do it all- sadly!).
The waterfall did not disappoint! It was pretty crowded compared to the Gap of Dunloe, but we still had a great experience. People often see red deer here. We didn’t, but I imagine that it would make the experience that much more beautiful!
We originally planned to visit the Muckross House as well, but we decided to skip it after arriving at the Gap of Dunloe. We wanted to see it all, but we knew we would enjoy ourselves much more if we took everything slowly and truly enjoyed our experiences, rather than rushing from one place to the next.
That evening, we returned our rental car (which turned out to be a very difficult task- I’ll blog about it soon!) and then enjoyed dinner at a local pub. My husband drank Murphy’s Irish Stout here for the first time (a bartender’s recommendation), and it has been his favorite ever since (thank you, Trader Joe’s, for selling it here in California!). We were excited to visit Dublin the next day but we were so sad to leave Killarney! We agreed that 36 hours wasn’t enough time, and we will absolutely return again!
Getting from Killarney to Dublin & our Airbnb
We caught a 7:36am train from Killarney to Dublin. The trip took about 3 hours with stops (we arrived at 10:45am). There were several political events taking place in Dublin that day (it was a Saturday), so the city was particularly busy. After arriving, we had to take a bus to the nearest DART station, where we waited for about 25 minutes (we were expecting the DART system to be more like the Underground in London, but the trains are not as frequent).
We rented an Airbnb in Killiney, a nearby suburb. It was just 10 miles from the city, but it took much longer to get there than we had imagined. Our Airbnb hosts were lovely and picked us up from the Glenageary DART station, which was a few minutes from their house. Our flat was wonderful! It was a one bedroom apartment, attached to a main house. It had a comfortable bedroom, a full kitchen (with a washer/dryer), a bathroom, and a nice living area. Even though we had a nice stay there, we will stay closer to the city next time.
In total, it took us 3 hours to get from the train station to our flat, and by that time we were pretty exhausted from our late night/early morning/half day of travel. Dublin itself was packed and public transportation was slow with all the events of the day, so we made the decision to explore the suburb of Killiney instead. This was not in our initial plans, but it was a decision that were both content with.
Killiney Hill Park & Killiney Hill
We set out on foot and enjoyed lunch at the Killiney Shopping Centre. We took our time with food and drinks and stopped by the market for some groceries so that we could cook later on. It was sprinkling, but we didn’t mind!
We walked to Killiney Hill Park, which turned out to be beautiful! We really had no idea how much Killiney had to offer, and we were glad we decided to explore it. Then we climbed Killiney Hill, which is one of two hills that form a boundary of Dublin Bay. The view from the top of the hill is amazing! We had a great view of Dublin (to the northeast), and on a clear day, you can see the Irish Sea and Wales to the southeast. It was cold and rainy so we didn’t get to see Wales, but we loved every minute. We took our time, explored, and enjoyed the view well into the evening.
We woke up the next morning early, ready for a full day in Dublin. We decided to go to Kilmainham Gaol first, because it was at the top of both of our must-see lists. Kilmainham Gaol was a jail, now run by the Office of Public Works. It was used for many years by the British to jail Irish revolutionaries throughout history.
If you love history, then this is a MUST SEE! We were there for several hours, so it was a big time commitment, but it was the highlight of our time in Dublin. My husband and I both loved every minute of it. You have to take a guided tour if you want to really see it, and it did not disappoint. We learned a lot about Irish history and explored jail cells and common areas. It really was fascinating!
Then we headed to Dublin Castle! We decided to walk so that we could see more of the city. We still laugh about this, because we totally got lost. We were expecting the castle to be a bit more obvious- like the palaces in London. We literally walked right by the castle’s courtyard wall and didn’t realize it!
When we finally realized that were right next to it, we went in and enjoyed its beauty! The inside was beautiful, but it was really the courtyard that we loved the most.
St. Patrick’s Cathedral
We decided to attend a “Choir of Angels” service at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and it was beautiful! (Tip: You can avoid Cathedral/Abbey entry fees by attending services, rather than open admission hours; we always give a donation, but we feel like we get to truly experience these places without paying for standard admission.)
The Cathedral and its ground were stunning. Keep in mind that you often cannot take photos inside churches, particularly during service times.
Temple Bar Square
By this time, it was evening, so we headed to Temple Bar Square for dinner. We were hoping to make it to their book market (open on Sundays until 6pm), but we just missed it. We still enjoyed exploring the area. We had decided to skip the Guinness Storehouse earlier that day, so my husband enjoyed a Guinness at a local bar. We did some souvenir shopping and took our time enjoying the culture.
We also witnessed a bar fight! One man broke a bottle over another man’s head in front of a bar. It was quite the sight and an exciting end to our time in the square! Thankfully, everyone seemed to be ok, and it ended with the first man being arrested and the second getting checked out by (what appeared to be) paramedics.
We absolutely loved our short time in Dublin. There is so much to do and see there, and we tried to squeeze in what we could. We left early the next morning to catch the Stena Line back to England, where we enjoyed one last day in London before heading back to the US.
Are you traveling to Ireland as a family? Check out these ideas for things to do in Ireland with kids! And if you are planning to include Northern Ireland in your trip, check out these ideas for things to in Belfast with kids!
I hope you found our itinerary helpful! We cannot wait to return to Ireland to enjoy the things we didn’t make it to on our first trip. Have you been to Ireland or is it still on your bucket list?
Pin for later: