Ireland

How to spend 7 days in Ireland

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Trying to figure out how to spend 7 days in Ireland isn’t an easy task for one simple reason: with only a week in Ireland, it’s virtually guaranteed you’ll need to leave some of your Ireland bucket list items unchecked.

When planning a trip, it can be tempting to squeeze as much in as possible, but I do not recommend adding more to this itinerary. This is already a very busy schedule.

If you add on another city, you will get to “see” a lot, but you will end up spending most of your time in Ireland on the road. If anything, consider adding more days to this Ireland Itinerary before adding to another destination.

How to spend 7 days in Ireland

These three itineraries make a great starting point for designing your own custom itinerary to Ireland.

Classic Ireland Itinerary: Dublin + Galway + Cork

This is, without a doubt, the most classic and popular of 7 days in Ireland itinerary option. 3 days in Dublin. 2 in Galway and Cork is the

You can visit all the popular Dublin attractions like See the book of Kells, eat in a few pubs, take a tour.

Dublin + Day Trips Itinerary: (Wicklow + Kilkenny + Cork and Belfast)

Day trips from Dublin are a great way to explore a nearby city. You can take an early bus or train, exploring for the day, and heading back on one of the last trains at night than by arriving around midday, losing time by checking into a hotel, exploring for an evening, and then having to pack up and check out of your hotel the next day.

The best Dublin Day Trips – you can visit Wicklow and explore the gorgeous scenery, mountains, lakes, and beaches, or head to Kilkenny to see the finest examples of a 12th century Norman castle in the world.

Explore Ireland in 7 days by city

Cork

Things to do in Cork 

Cork is Ireland’s second-biggest city and also known as Ireland’s real ‘capital’, Cork. Bustling with brilliant shops, bars, and tourist attractions. Not to mention the deadly seafood, picturesque streets, and of course that interesting Cork accent and sense of humor.

Visit the English Market

Cork English Market, Cork Ireland Things to do

You can’t go to Cork without visiting the famous 18th-century English Market.

The market is open from 8 am- 6 pm, Monday to Saturday, and is packed full of vendors selling homemade goods and local produce. Make sure you visit Maki Sushi Rolls stall for a sushi roll while you shop.

See wildlife at Fota Park

Fota Park Cork

Fota Island is host to Ireland’s only wildlife park – as well as the historical Fota House and gardens and golf course owned by the “Fota Island Golf Club and Resort”.

Ring the Shandon Bells

Shandon Bells Cork

The name Shandon comes from the Irish, Sean Dun, which means Old Fort.

Visit St. Anne’s Church which is home to the Shandon Bells. The church is downstairs and you can go up the tower for a fee of €5 per adult, it has four clocks, with different times, earning it the nickname ‘The Four-Faced Liar’.

Inside, the tower you will find the original 18th century eight bells which have been retained, the heaviest of which is a staggering 1.5 tons.

Make your own butter

Butter Museum, Cork

I loved The Cork Butter Museum, which delves into the history of Irish Butter trade from prehistoric to present day and the huge impact it had on the city, It also took in some of the many exhibits and machinery used to produce butter in the early days. I loved the compact size of the museum and the friendly staff!

The Museum hosts a butter making class every Saturday at midday. 

Enjoy panoramic views

Kinsale Charles Fort, Cork

We drove for 30 minutes and reached out next destination Kinsale’s Charles Fort. This star-shaped military fortress was constructed between 1677 and 1682, to protect the town and harbor of Kinsale in County Cork.

Kiss the Blarney Stone

My weekend in Cork was sealed with a kiss after exploring the gardens and going to the top of the Blarney Castle.

Located in Blarney Village, about 8 km northwest from Cork City in the south of Ireland, you will find the Blarney Castle and Gardens. Built by Cormac Laidir, Lord of Muskerry. It started off as a wooden structure built in the tenth century, then was replaced by a stone structure in 1210 A.D.

After that was demolished, it was resurrected in 1446. Blarney Castle is the third structure to be built on this site.

We arrived at the nearly vacant Blarney Castle at around 10 am on a Sunday. This was a great time to visit as there weren’t a lot of people walking around the expansive grounds.

It cost €18 per adult and we each received a little map and entry ticket.

Things to do at Blarney Castle & Gardens

1. See The Seven Sisters

Legend tells of a famous King of Munster who once ruled these lands. He had seven daughters and two sons. His rival was also a powerful clan chief and the time came when the king had to defend his lands.

One fateful day the army rode out to battle with the king and his two sons at the head of it. Although victorious, it came at a great cost, as both sons were killed in the fighting. The army marched back to the castle, on a route passing the ancient druid’s stone circle that had stood for millennia.

The king dispatched a contingent of men to the sacred site and in his grief, he instructed them to push over two of the nine standing stones. This would forever commemorate his two fallen sons. The seven sisters remain standing to this day.

2. See the Fern Garden and Waterfall

In the heart of the castle gardens, you will find a limestone cliff overlooking ferns and a dramatic waterfall on one side to add to the ambiance. There are over 80 varieties of ferns including a 5m high Dicksonia antarctica which happens to be the tallest of its kind in Ireland.

3. The Rock Close and Water Garden

If you follow this trail, it will lead you through a leafy canopy of ancient yew and oak trees where you will find two flowing waterfalls. It’s a mystical place where you will find the “wishing steps” which the story has it, if you walk down these backward with your eyes shut, all your wishes will come true.

4. Learn about poisonous plants at the Poison Garden

Hidden behind the castle, you will find the infamous poison garden with a collection of poisonous plants from around the world including the Wolfsbane and the Mandrake from Harry Potter’s there is Information about their toxicity, traditional and modern-day uses.

5. Go to the top of the castle

The stairs in the castle are steep, windy, slippery, and narrow. Some sections have a rope that you can grab, but most do not so you need to be very careful. I’m not quite sure if I’d want my child to do this but it’s all up to the parent.

6. Kiss the Blarney Stone

For over 200 years people from all over the world have kissed the Blarney Stone with the hope of gaining the gift of eloquence. To kiss the Blarney Stone, you actually have to lean backward and grab the iron railing. There is a man there to hold you and keep the line moving.

7. Enjoy magnificent views

From the top of the castle, you can take in breathtaking views of over 60 acres of sprawling parklands which include gardens, avenues, arboretums, and waterways.

8. Visit the Stable Yard

It used to be a stable yard now it’s been turned into a Café but you can still walk through the stables or visit the horses’ graveyard on the property.

9. Get inside a cave

According to legend, three passages lead away from Badger’s Cave: one to Cork, one to Kerry, and one to the lake at the edge of the property. The castle garrison used this cave to escape from Cromwell’s general, Lord Broghill, in 1646.

10. Visit the Blarney House

Just 200 yards south of the castle, this family home was built in 1874 and it is beautifully situated overlooking Blarney Lake. It contains a fine collection of early furniture, family portraits, tapestries, and works of art.

Cobh

Cobh Island is a charming waterfront town on a glittering estuary, dotted with brightly colored houses and overlooked by a splendid cathedral. The area is one of the most popular places to visit if you want to experience the unique combination of architecture, food, and culture of county Cork.

Things to know before visiting Cobh

  • Cobh is pronounced as “Cove” and means small Harbour.
  • Cobh is located on the Cork Harbour.
  • The Town was known as Queenstown from 1849 until 1920.
  • Cobh was the departure point for 2.5 million of the six million Irish people who emigrated to North America between 1848 and 1950.
  • Today Cobh is home to 13 000 people.
  • Often described as the second-largest Harbour in the world after Sydney, A recent report proved that this information is false.
  • Cobh witnessed first-hand trauma and heartbreak in 1915 when 1,198 people perished when the Lusitania sunk off the Cork coast by a torpedo fired by a German U-boat.
  • Condé Nast Traveler named Cobh as one of the 25 most beautiful European small towns of 2019.

Where is Cobh and how to get there

Cobh is reachable by car, bus, train, or cruise.

How to get to Cobh from Dublin: The distance between Dublin and Cobh is 270 KM (approximately 3-4 hours depending on traffic). To get there using public transport will need to get a bus or train from Dublin Heuston Station and get off in Cork. An adult return ticket for a bus is €26 and €29 for the train. (These are the prices in September 2019 and they are subject to change).

Check timetables and rates for Irish Rails and Buses

How to get to Cobh from Cork: When you arrive in Cork station you will get another bus or train to Cobh. This will take approximately 1 hour.

Things to do in Cobh Ireland

Visit the Cobh Ireland Titanic Experience

On April 11, 1912, the Titanic made its last stop in Cobh before setting sail across the Atlantic. Today, the former White Star Line Ticket Office, which was the embarkation point for the final 123 passengers is known as The Titanic Experience.

For €9.50 per adult, visitors have an opportunity to travel in the footsteps of an actual passenger on that famous ship’s tragic maiden voyage. Only at the end will you discover if you were one of those who survived or was lost!

The Titanic Trail

Go on a guided walking tour that explores the town of Cobh which was the last port of call of RMS Titanic. This Irish heritage walking tour takes visitors through the historic town of Cobh where the buildings, streets, and piers have not changed since the Titanic’s sinking over 100 years ago.

The entertaining and innovative Titanic Trail has been operating every day since 1998. The one hour escorted tour, with specially trained guides, brings to life the story of Titanic, and the events in the town on the day Titanic left her last anchorage to sail into her icy fate in the North Atlantic.

Cork historian, Dr. Michael Martin, the creator of the Titanic Trail, offers a truly authentic Titanic experience. The Titanic Trail has been filmed by 20th Century Fox, National Geographic, and many other travel documentaries.

Admire St Colman’s Cathedral

The Roman Catholic Cathedral took 47 years to build. Starting in 1868. In 1916 a Carillon of 42 bells was installed. The largest bell is 200 feet above the ground and weighs 3.6 tons. The Cathedral organ, by Telford and Telford, contains 2,468 pipes. Its 49-bell carillon is the only such instrument in this country and is the largest in Ireland and Britain.

Mass Times:

  • Saturday: 6.00pm
  • Sunday: 10.00am, 12.00 noon & 7.00pm
  • Weekday Masses: 8.00am & 10.00am

Take a ferry to Spike Island

Cobh Cork Ireland

If visiting old prisons is your thing then I’m sure you’ve heard of Kilmainham Gaol in Dublin and the Cork City Gaol – both well worth a visit, as is a trip across the water from Cobh to Spike Island. Over the years Spike has played host to a variety of institutions including a monastery, a fortress and a prison, and these days it is open to the public as a visitor attraction.

While exploring the extensive star-shaped fort, see the jail cells, walk the ramparts, marvel at the 360-degree views of Cork Harbour, see the huge gun that protected the harbor from attack, hear about the high-society artist Willam Burke Kirwan, convicted of the violent murder of his young wife, or John Power, a Waterford orphan who was so brutalized by the system that he ended up murdering a prison warder and the Young Irelander, John Mitchel after whom Fort Mitchel is now named. You can find tour details, prices, etc on the Spike Island Website.

Say a prayer at the Lusitania Peace Memorial

A memorial for people who drowned when RMS Lusitania was torpedoed by a German submarine just under 20km off the Old Head of Kinsale on May 7th, 1915. 170 of 1200 who died were laid to rest at the Old Church Cemetery just outside of Cobh.

The Cobh Museum

Overlooking the Cork Harbor, the Cobh Museum has exhibitions that reflect the cultural, social, and maritime history of Cobh and the Great Island. Formerly known as Queenstown, Cobh has a long maritime history and is known throughout the world for its association with emigration and was the last port of call for the RMS Titanic.

The Museum holds the last written record for the RMS Titanic in the Pilot’s Logbook. There is a small genealogical reference section in the museum where visitors can do their own family research. Families and groups welcome. The museum is open Monday – Saturday 11 – 1pm; 2pm – 5pm and Sunday 2.30pm – 5pm.

Ride the Cobh Road Train

The Cobh Road Train takes you through the town stopping at, a spectacular viewing point which provides an opportunity to view the inner and outer harbor and the historic Spike Island. It’s the most relaxing, informative, and fun way to view Cobh’s historic sites and beautiful sea views.

The Sirius Arts Centre

The multidisciplinary non-profit center for the arts was founded in 1988 and dedicated to facilitating artistic expression in Ireland. The yearly programming raises artistic awareness, provides opportunities for participation in and enjoyment of the arts, this is achieved through visual arts exhibitions, an artist-in-residence program, music concerts, and community engagement programs.

The Sirius Arts Centre’s building, formerly the Royal Cork Yacht Club, provides the organization with a unique environment and revitalizes an important architectural gem on the banks of Cork Harbour.

See the Annie Moore Statue

A commemoration to the first immigrant to be processed through Ellis Island. She departed from Cobh, County Cork, accompanied by her brothers Phillip and Anthony, aboard the steamship Nevada on January 1, 1892, her fifteenth birthday.

Learn about The Queenstown Story at the Cobh Heritage Center

Cobh Heritage Centre is located in Cobh’s restored Victorian Railway Station and is steeped in history. A fantastic place to visit with many things to do. Come have a cup of tea or coffee and a bite to eat in our café, followed by some shopping in one of our shops such as Christie’s Irish Store Gift Shop.

After you have had a bite to eat and do some shopping you should then visit “The Queenstown Story” inside the Heritage Centre which dramatically tells the story of Cobh’s unique origins, history, and legacy through a stunning multimedia exhibition. Cobh’s Heritage Centre is a family-friendly attraction that has something for everyone.

Donegal

Located 3 hours from Dublin City Center and ranked #1 on ‘The Coolest Place on the Planet for 2017’ list by The National Geographic Traveller, County Donegal in Ireland is the perfect overnight trip!

Top things to see in Donegal in 2 days

There is so much to see in Donegal, getting lost can just be as enjoyable as planning where to go. Turning every corner brings a surprise and I’m not sure I’ll ever tire of seeing water everywhere. Of course, there are some tourist hot spots, so make some time on your trip for these:

Donegal Castle

Donegal Castle, Donegal, Ireland

Known as O’Donnells Castle, this 15th-century castle was built by Hugh O’Donnell, chief of the O’Donnell clan. The rectangular keep of the original building is still there but was added to over the centuries, the main addition was built in the early 1600s when a manor house in Jacobean style was added.

The O’Donnells had another castle in the area, Lough Eske Castle. The actual castle ruins lie to the northeast of Lough Eske castle (now a five-star hotel, Solis Lough Eske).

Slieve League

Slieve League

These sea cliffs are higher than the Cliffs of Moher although not as vertical.

Grianán of Aileach

Grianán of Aileach

View from Inside the Grianán of Aileach

Perched 800 ft. above sea level on a spectacular hilltop, the Grianán of Aileach fort is a former home of the Irish High Kings. The impressive stone fort dates back to 1700 BC, and has important connections with the ancient monasteries of Donegal, its history stretches far beyond the era of Christianity and is steeped in legend.

A terraced fort is an enigmatic place in which to immerse yourself in the past and survey the landscape. Sweeping views take in patchwork fields and lakes as well as the wider hilly countryside.

Glenveagh Castle and National Park

The second-largest park in Ireland with 40,000 acres of moorland, mountains, and lakes is open every day of the year with free admission. Once owned by American millionaire Henry P. McIlhenny and now in the hands of the Irish government.

There is a visitor’s center and after a lovely 4km walk from the car park along the shores of the lake, you will find the castle where tours and tea rooms are available.

Dungloe

Things to do in Donegal

We stopped in the small town of Dungloe. The Gaelic (Irish) name for Dungloe, ‘Clochan Liath’ means Grey Stones. The real attraction for the sportsman in Rosses though is fishing. With over 130 lakes in the area, fishing is so cheap that an outlay of a few pounds buys sport of a quality which elsewhere could cost hundreds.

Malin Head

Malin Head, Ireland

Ireland’s most northerly point.

Waterford

Waterford City Explore

Often overlooked by people planning an Irish vacation, Waterford is easily one of the most fascinating cities in Ireland. Not only is it the oldest city in the country but it was founded in 850 AD by the Vikings.

Waterford’s name comes from the old Norse word ‘Veðrafjǫrðr’ meaning ‘fjord of the castrated ram’! It’s original Irish name was Port Láirge, meaning “Lárag’s port”. The county is colloquially known as ‘The Déise’ (pronounced ‘day-sha’) after a Gaelic tribe known as the Déisi who settled here after they were driven out of north Leinster between the 4th and 8th centuries a.d.

24 hours in Waterford

Here are my top tips on how to get the most out of Waterford without spending a fortune:

Early morning is a rare and fleeting time in Waterford when you will nearly have the city to yourself. It gets crowded during the day, most are daytime visitors that leave in the early evening hours. Start your day with a coffee from Carters, if you’re lucky and it’s not raining you can sit outside and admire the view of spectacular Cathedral of the Most Holy Trinity.

Church of the Most Holy Trinity, Waterford

Located directly opposite the coffee shop, the Cathedral of the Most Holy Trinity was built in 1793 and is the oldest cathedral of the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland.

Church of the Most Holy Trinity, Waterford, Irelan

From the church take a walk up to John Roberts House, the Waterford Born architect who was responsible for the Bishop’s Palace, City Hall, and Christchurch Cathedral.

Christ Church Waterford

The Christ Church Cathedral stands at the site of an 11th-century Viking church, where English knight Strongbow and Irish Princess Aoife married in 1170. Later, in the 13th century, the Normans took over Waterford and built a Gothic cathedral, which remained until the community decided to construct Christ Church in 1773. 

7 days in Ireland - Vikings Boat Replica

While walking the streets and getting lost in the web of alleyways won’t cost you a penny. You might even discover a few hidden gems like a replica of a Viking longboat that was modeled on one of the famous Viking ships found at Roskilde, in Denmark; or the 23 meters long  (and 14 tonnes heavy) wooden Viking sword carved by John Hayes.

7 days in Ireland - Viking Sword, Waterford

Buy a postcard at the oldest Post Office in the city. It might be surprising to find a post office with a red door in Ireland as the red post box has been associated with the UK’s Royal Mail for years. This is the only one in the city that kept the original door and color after Ireland gained independence from Britain.

Waterford Ireland Itinerary

Check the time at The Clock Tower, originally known as the Fountain Clock (as it had troughs for working horses to drink from), it was built-in 1864 when Waterford was Ireland’s biggest industrial port.

Clock Tower, Waterford

We had lunch at No. 9 Café. Then we popped in for a cup of tea at The Granville Hotel, built-in the 1700’s by The Meagher’s, a well-known merchant and banking family of Dutch origin. Their son, Thomas Francis Meagher (1823-1867) who was born in the house and later created the Irish tricolor and unveiled it on March 7th, 1848 at The Wolfe Tone Confederate Club, now known as Three Thirty Three The Mall (just five minutes from the hotel). He went down in history as Brigadier General of the Union Army during the American Civil War.

Waterford: 7 days in Ireland

The Reginald Tower was built-in in 1171 and replaced a Viking tower that was built 168 years earlier in 1003. It was the first building to be constructed with mortar (a mixture of fur, blood, lime, and sea mud). It has been used over the years as a fortress, a prison and now it houses Waterford’s Civic Museum.

Waterford Crystal

Shop for souvenirs at the world-renowned Waterford Crystal. One of their most famous creations is the New York City Timesquare Ball. The origins of crystal production in Waterford dates back to the 18th century and the glass has become known as the finest in the world.

Although Waterford Crystal doesn’t produce their products in Ireland anymore, their center offers guided tours  (€12.60 per adult) where guests can learn how to make crystal sculptures or simply visit the retail shop for some shopping.

Wicklow

I recently hopped on a bus for an hour and a half long journey from Dublin to Glendalough, a Christian monastic city, located in Wicklow Mountains National Park, one of six national parks in Ireland. Known as the Glen of two lakes, you will find oak, Scots Pine and mixed woodland and the cleanest air in the country.

24 hours in Wicklow

Glendalough, St Kevin’s Cross

9 AM: A small footbridge brings us into an early Christian monastic settlement which was established by St. Kevin in the sixth century. The Celtic monastery chapel built outside the cathedral is older than St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin.

Legend states that anyone who can wrap their arms around St. Kevin’s Cross will receive his wish.

Wicklow Mountain, Ireland

10 AM: The prominent Round Tower in the cemetery is nearly 100 feet (30 meters) high, and the entrance is about 11 feet (3.5 meters) from the base.

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11 AM: After spending two hours in Glendalough, we traveled through Wicklow National Park, where famous movies such as Braveheart and PS I Love You were filmed. With lush woods, waterfalls and high, windswept bogs, quite steep mountains. Wicklow Way is a popular hiking spot.

12 PM: We passed through the little village of Hollywood with a population of fewer than 100 people. The name Hollywood originates from the words ‘Holy Wood’, which described a local forest in which St. Kevin is said to have prayed.

It was a local immigrant, Matthew Guirke from Hollywood, who gave the name of his native place to the famous suburb in Los Angeles. Hollywood was decimated by the famine of the 1840s.

 

Kilkenny Castle, Ireland

1 PM: When In Kilkenny you will notice how the River Nore splits the city in two. Overlooking the river is the Kilkenny Castle which was first built in 1172 as a basic wooden tower by Richard de Clare, the Norman conqueror of Ireland.

In 1260, his son-in-law William Marshall replaced the wooden structure with a stone castle. Today this thirteenth-century castle is one of the most popular attractions in the country’s medieval capital.

Butterslip, Kilkenny, Ireland

2 PM: Say a prayer at the 13th century St. Canice’s Cathedral and see one of the only two medieval round towers in Ireland that can be climbed to see the best views of the city.

Left Bank Bar, Kilkenny

3 PM: The 17th century Butter Slip connects the High Street and Saint Kieran’s Street and was once lined with butter vendors: the narrow stone street guaranteed a cool place to store their produce.

Left Bank, Kilkenny

4 PM: We had late lunch at Left Bank, what was once a large branch of Bank of Ireland that was sold off and transformed in 2008 to a modern, spacious late-night bar.

Smithwicks, Kilkenny

5 PM: Visit Smithwicks and go back in time to the 1300s, walk with monks of St’ Francis Abbey and discover how beer was born. From feeling the heat of the first malt to savoring the last drop of a delicious pint.

Travel Insurance for 7 days in Ireland

Use travel insurance while visiting Ireland so you are covered for theft and medical expenses. There are a lot of adventurous activities to do in the Emerald Isle, and it’s best to have peace of mind while driving, hiking, and trying some of the best food in the world.

Find out why I recommend World Nomads, check out my World Nomads Insurance review.

Disclaimer: This article contains affiliate links. This means that if you make a booking after clicking on a link, I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you!

5 Comments

  • Polly
    08/08/2020 at 7:44 AM

    I love this itinerary! I have been to Ireland once, however, I got to only visit Dublin. Just after that, I realized all the beautiful places around Cork that are also totally worth the visit. Your article just made me think about my trip from a few years ago. Hopefully I should be able to visit soon again. Bookmarking this article so I can go back to it, once I start planning,

  • Coni
    08/06/2020 at 6:07 PM

    This is such a nice itinerary! When I lived in London I planned a trip to Ireland a million times, always leaving it for later, for when I had more time. I feel like you can spend a month there! Now I think I should have gone for it, even if it was to scratch the surface. I’ll save this post for when I get back north 🙂

  • Mariah
    08/06/2020 at 3:48 AM

    Ireland is so dreamy from the cliffside views to medieval castles, what more could you want?! I’m hoping to make my way out to this beautiful country in the near future and this guide made my life a whole lot easier. I always enjoy having a jam-packed schedule and this seems like I’d be able to do and see a whole lot once I do visit. Thanks for the detailed guide!

  • Diane
    08/06/2020 at 12:57 AM

    This is perfect! Ireland is definitely on my list but I had no idea where to even start. Now I do!

  • Rhonda Albom
    08/05/2020 at 11:18 PM

    After reading your post, I realize how much I didn’t see when I spent about a week driving through Ireland. I spent a to of time in Northern Ireland as well as down the southwest coast but I didn’t dwell in the larger cities for too long. I guess this is inspiration to return.

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