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Best things to do on a Southern Ireland road trip

written by Intrepid Travel January 31, 2022
Southern-Ireland-Dingle-Peninsula

With its cosy country pubs, rolling hillsides, and charming towns, you’ll be captivated by the welcoming atmosphere and number of great things to see when you visit Southern Ireland.

Here you’ll find some of the most beloved towns in Southern Ireland – Killarney, Kilkenny, and Cork – and the famous the Ring of Kerry and the Dingle Peninsula.  The latter is the perfect spot to lace up your hiking boots and ramble through the landscape or explore ancient ruins with your expert leader on a small group tour in Southern Ireland. Think of it as the ultimate Southern Ireland road trip with someone to take care of the driving along all those challenging, winding country roads. Here are some of the best things to see and do along the way.

HOW TO SEE NORTHERN & SOUTHERN IRELAND ON THE ONE TRIP

Kiss the Blarney Stone

Kissing the Blarney Stone

Even if you aren’t keen on hanging onto a ladder and leaning over backwards to kiss the famous Blarney Stone, Blarney Castle is well worth a visit. A stroll through the grounds reveals a magical landscape that many believe is haunted. On a chilly morning or afternoon, it’s not hard to see why as the landscape looks almost magical with the mist rolling through it. You can also visit the castle and admire its formidable battlements and venture underground to see the castle’s dungeon. Walking backwards up and down the Wishing Steps without stopping is said to make your wish come true.

Visit Cork

Colourful buildings in Cork

Cork is the largest city in Southern Ireland and famous for The English Market which has been selling the best of the region’s produce since 1788. Wander its stalls and chat with the stall holders to learn more about the fare on offer. You can also pull up a seat and dine on traditional dishes like drisheen and pigs’ trotters at the market’s Farmgate Café. Other highlights in the town of Cork include touring the Cork City Gaol, strolling around Elizabeth Fort, admiring the stained glass at St Fin Barre’s Cathedral, and sampling traditional brews at the Franciscan Well Brewery.

Visit Torc Waterfall

Torc Waterfall

Visiting the Torc Waterfall near Killarney Town is easy as it is only a 200 metre walk from the carpark to the beautiful 20 metre high falls which are at their best when the weather is wet. If you can, time your visit after it rains as you’ll get to see delicate curtains of water tumbling down the falls. For a lovely view over Middle Lake, take the steps that lead up to the second higher viewing point after you’ve enjoyed your first look at the falls.

WALK THE WICKLOW WAY IN SOUTHERN IRELAND

Killarney

Ross Castle in Southern Ireland

Killarney is a lively tourist town that’s the perfect base for explore nearby Killarney National Park which was the first National Park created in Ireland. The colourful streets are a hive of activity, especially during the summer months, with plenty of cute gift shops and boutiques to explore. Allow time to visit Ross Castle, down on the shores of Lough Leane, a stronghold built by the O’Donoghue clan. The tower house has borne witness to much of Ireland’s history over the centuries. The 15th-century Muckross Abbey is another historic building worth exploring.

Drive the Ring of Kerry

Coastal road along the Ring of Kerry

The Ring of Kerry, a circular 179km driving route, takes you through some of the country’s most spectacular scenery and reveals countless unspoiled natural wonders. However, while there is no denying the rolling green hills, crystal clear lakes, and towering cliffs are superb, you’ll be glad your leader is driving. Many of the roads are barely wide enough to fit one car. Along the way, keep a lookout for castles, historic mansions and shepherds tending their flocks. A farm visit and herding demonstration is one of many highlights on this scenic journey.

Dingle

Castle on the Dingle Peninsula

Dingle is a cute little town that’s big on country charm. Rub shoulders with the locals at one of the many pubs, where you can listen to songs sung in the traditional Irish language, or take a short drive to Slea Head, Europe’s westernmost point. From here, it’s a short hike along the coast to admire the best of Dingle’s stunning scenery. You’ll stroll along country lanes and past beaches and cliffs where nesting seabirds, seals and even dolphins are a common sight. Don’t miss the Gallarus Oratory, an early Christian Church of unknown age and origin.

Kilkenny

Kilkenny is located in one of the most ancient parts of Southern Ireland and the perfect spot to try your hand at the Gaelic game of Hurling – one of Ireland’s treasured national sports. Cycle through the lush Irish countryside as you explore the Waterford Greenway, a traffic-free trail built on a disused railway line, or hike along the River Nore to Kilkenny Castle. This defensive castle with magnificent rose gardens and charming walking paths was remodeled to make it more genteel in Victorian times. Evenings can be spent at the pub with traditional live music and whiskey tasting.

SEE MORE OF KILKENNY AND ITS SURROUNDS

Galway

Cathedral in Galway in Southern Ireland

Galway is sure to get your toes tapping with traditional live music, either at one of the town’s atmospheric pubs or while you’re walking down the street as the buskers here are incredible. Take a drive to the Cliffs of Moher, one of the most visited spots in Ireland, which are fringed with wild waves and plunge dramatically into the ocean. While you’re in Galway, you can also visit the impressive Catholic Cathedral of Our Lady Assumed into Heaven and St Nicholas. If you enjoy seafood, the oysters plucked from the nearby ocean shouldn’t be missed.

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