While Ireland might be thought of as a small country that is easy to get around, there are so many hidden gems and beautiful things to see and do that you will honestly never have enough time to travel all around it! Whether you are an Irish native looking to see more of your beloved country or simply a visitor to the beautiful Emerald Isle, this five day road trip itinerary is the perfect glimpse into what Ireland has to offer.
Driving around unknown territory is never easy which is why a great car and a good insurance company are two big musts! This post is brought to you in collaboration with Chill Insurance, one of Irelands leading insurance brokers.
DAY ONE: DUBLIN – FERMANAGH
Dublin is a great place to start your journey as it is the capital of Ireland. If you are a visitor from across the sea, Dublin is an especially great place to start as it is home to our biggest airport. Feel free to spend a day before, or after your road trip exploring the city and what it has to offer.
Dublin to Fermanagh is roughly a 2.5 hour drive (from Dublin Airport). Setting of as early as possible from Dublin, make your way towards the Cuilagh Mountains in Fermangh on the border of Cavan. It is here that you can do the ‘Stairway To Heaven‘ walk.
The walk takes roughly 2.5 hours to do and if you don’t arrive as early as possible you might struggle to get a car space. While it is a very popular attraction the car park is minuscule!
Next up on the itinerary just a short trip away are the Marble Arch Caves. Prices for entry into the caves are £11 for adults and £7.50 for children. The tour takes about 75 minutes and leads you through the underground channel of Northern Ireland’s largest save system. It is really brilliant, and something a little different too. At the end of the tour, you even get to enjoy a ten minute boat ride through the water in the caves which is a really fun experience!
Rest your head for the night then at Lusty Beg Island 50 minutes away from the Marble Arch caves! This is one of my favourite places that I have ever stayed. You can choose to take it easy after the adventure packed day or continue on by renting canoes or engaging in one of the many other activities that they have to offer.
DAY TWO: FERMANAGH – DONEGAL
From Lusty Beg, head onwards half an hour across the border to Donegal into the town of Bundoran.
Bundoran is the home of surfing in Donegal and the best place to catch some waves! Within the town there are many a quaint pub and café that will give you what you need to rejuvenate after your water sports! Heading out of the town is where you will find the ‘Roguey Walk Experience‘. It is on this walk that will take you to the stunning Fairy Bridges – sea stacks hundreds of years old and Bundoran’s original tourist attraction since the 1800s!
From Bundoran, travel up through the Donegal coast towards Slieve League Cliffs which takes an hour and 25 minutes. Slieve League is a series of cliffs not to be missed in Ireland! Towering over three times taller than their more well known cousins the Cliffs of Moher, Slieve League will leave you speechless. This attraction is free, just park up and enjoy the views!
From Slieve League, head up the coast to Silver Strand Beach also known as ‘Malin Beg‘ only 40 minutes up the road. It is no word of a lie when I say that this beach is one of the most beautiful beaches I have seen in the world. On a nice day you could mistake this beach for somewhere as tropical as Thailand or Indonesia.
From Malin Beg, travel to ‘Doon Fort’ an old fort in the middle of Doon Lough. On your way here you will get to drive the stunning Glengesh Pass! A gorgeous winding road through the valleys of Donegal. Unfortunately, when I went to visit here I got lost (!) but hopefully you will have more luck in finding the right way to get there. If not, bring a drone and enjoy the views with your little flying friend! From Doon Fort, head up to Portnoo where you can take in some more majestic beach views. Continue on up the coast for a short while until you reach this beautiful air bnb where you can stay for the night!
DAY THREE: DONEGAL
Starting off from your air bnb near Lettermacaward travel just under one hour to the stunning Glenveagh National Park! You won’t get a more scenic place to take in the beauty of the Irish countryside. Spanning over 16,000 hectares you will be spoiled for choice on different walks to choose from. Depending on the type of walk you would like to do you could spend almost all of your day here!
From Glenveagh National Park head north for 25 minutes to take you to Ards Forest Park where once again you will have your pick of routes to take and enjoy the outdoors. Nearby are beaches such as Dunfanaghy and Falcarragh if you fancy dipping your toes in after all the walking!
After a full day of activity in Donegal the last stop a mere 25 minutes away from Ards Forest Park is Downings. A lovely place with another stunning beach (there is a trend here, as you will notice!). There are plenty of air bnbs to choose from, but I thought this one was especially beautiful.
DAY FOUR: DONEGAL – ANTRIM
Starting off at Downings, take time to step away from the scenery for a bit and grab breakfast in the town of Letterkenny a 40 minute drive away. Try and make an early start for heading to Letterkenny as the next stop to Malin Head is over an hour away. Want to grab breakfast in your air bnb and skip the town views? You can always make a pit stop at Fanad Lighthouse that morning instead from Downings!
Malin Head is the most northernly part of Ireland and is such an amazing place to visit and take a walk. You really won’t see views like it and on a clear day the water is a stunning blue/green that you just can’t help but be in awe of. As far as I remember parking and all activities at Malin Head were free.
Malin Head is the final stop in Donegal! From here travel towards Portrush in Antrim. This route takes 1 hour and 40 minutes and brings you through the county of Derry before bringing you into Antrim, the last county to explore on the itinerary! Portrush has many activities that you can indulge in and amazing views to beat the band! Once you are done exploring what Portrush has to offer the famous Giants Causeway is only a 20 minute drive from here. The Giants Causeway is the first UNESCO World Heritage site in Northern Ireland and must be seen to be believed! Here, you will find tens of thousands of basalt columns in a hexagonal shape all along the coastline. Make sure to give yourself plenty of time when visiting here as it is truly beautiful.
As there is a lot of driving in day four, it’s easiest once your day is done to head back to the town of Portrush and lay your head there before your final day.
DAY FIVE: ANTRIM – DUBLIN
On the last day of your trip make sure to wake up early and make the very most of your day! Just over one hour away from Portrush lies the city of Belfast. There is so much to do in Belfast you can extend your trip for an extra night here – but if time doesn’t allow, here are some of the best things to do in the city.
– Do a Black Taxi Tour to give you full views of the city along with in-depth information about the history.
– The Titanic Exhibition (because, well, you just have to!)
– Victoria Square for a spot of shopping
– There are so many places to eat and drink! To find some of my favourite Belfast food spots you can read here.
From Belfast, Dublin is roughly a 1.5 hour journey and your roadtrip is complete! Obviously there are places in this itinerary that are not everyone’s cup of tea along with places you will naturally stop along the way at that you see. Hopefully you can use this itinerary as a rough guide in experiencing some of the most beautiful parts of Ireland, and if you are looking for car insurance to get you there be sure to check out Chill Insurance! If you are looking for some more inspiration on Irish Road Trips be sure to also check out their e-book of Irelands Most Beautiful Drives.