West Ireland Road Trip: Must-See Destinations and Tips

west ireland road trip

The west of Ireland is a treasure trove of breathtaking landscapes, rich history, and vibrant culture, making it a perfect destination for a memorable road trip. In this blog post, we’ll take you on a journey through some of the must-see destinations in West Ireland. We’ll explore the best routes, share insider tips, and highlight the unique charm of each stop along the way. Please note that we’ll be excluding the Ring of Kerry from this itinerary, as we’ve already covered it extensively in our previous blog post, “Discovering Ireland’s Ring of Kerry“. Likewise, read also our blog post on Dublin.

So buckle up, pack your sense of adventure, and get ready to experience the magic of West Ireland like never before.

Where is West Ireland airport?

When planning your west Ireland road trip, you’ll likely begin your journey at one of Ireland’s major airports. Shannon Airport, located in County Clare, serves as the main gateway to the west. This airport offers numerous international and domestic flights, making it a convenient starting point for exploring the region. From Shannon, you can easily reach many of west Ireland’s top attractions by car.

Alternatively, you might arrive at Dublin Airport, Ireland’s busiest airport, which is well-connected to cities worldwide. While Dublin is located on the eastern side of the country, it offers excellent transportation options to the west. The best way to reach West Ireland from Dublin is by renting a car and driving, which takes about three hours.

Why Discovering West Ireland by Car is Ideal

To truly appreciate the beauty and diversity of the west of Ireland, traveling by car is the best option. A west Ireland road trip provides the freedom to explore at your own pace, stop at hidden gems, and take detours to less-traveled spots that buses might miss. However, for those who prefer not to drive, there are multiple bus tour options available. These tours offer a convenient and stress-free way to see the highlights of the west. Later in this post, we’ll discuss some of the best bus tours that provide guided experiences through this enchanting region.

We have toured the west of Ireland multiple times, both by car and bus tours. Each experience was unique; however, certain destinations or attractions were not included on the bus tours (which is why we returned with a car).

West Ireland Road Trip

First Stop: Bunratty Castle and Folk Park

Bunratty Castle is one of Ireland’s most well-preserved medieval castles and a fantastic start to your west Ireland road trip. This impressive 15th-century fortress offers visitors a captivating journey through history, while the adjacent Bunratty Folk Park immerses you in 19th-century Irish village life.

west ireland road trip

How to get to Bunratty Castle

Upon leaving Shannon airport, take the N19 and merge onto the N18 motorway heading south. After approximately 7 kilometers, take Exit 7 towards Bunratty.

Second Stop: Cliffs of Moher

After an enriching visit to Bunratty Castle and Folk Park, your next destination on your west Ireland road trip is the breathtaking Cliffs of Moher. These iconic cliffs, rising majestically from the Atlantic Ocean, offer some of the most spectacular views in Ireland. The eco-friendly Cliffs of Moher Visitor Experience features informative exhibits about the area’s geology, history, and wildlife, as well as interactive displays and a virtual reality experience.

Numerous trails along the cliffs cater to different levels of fitness and adventure. Enjoy safe, fenced routes with plenty of viewing platforms, or take more daring paths to less crowded vantage points. If you’re lucky enough to find good weather, you’ll enjoy some spectacular views!

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west ireland road trip

How to Get to the Cliffs of Moher

  • Depart from the castle and head north on the R471.
  • Join the N85: Merge onto the N18 northbound and continue for approximately 10 kilometers. Then, take the exit for the N85 towards Ennis.
  • Drive through Ennis: Follow the N85 through Ennis, continuing westward.
  • Join the R478: From Ennis, follow signs for Lahinch and Liscannor, joining the R478. Continue on this road, which will take you directly to the Cliffs of Moher.

Travel Advice: Navigating Irish Motorways and Tolls

Irish motorways are marked with “M” and blue signs with white text.
Generally, the speed limit is 120 km/h (75 mph) unless otherwise indicated. Always follow posted limits and adjust for conditions. Some key toll roads include the M50 around Dublin, M1 from Dublin to Belfast, M7/M8 towards Cork and Limerick, and the Dublin Port Tunnel. At barrier-free toll roads, you need to pay by 8 p.m. the following day at eFlow.ie, or at Payzone outlets. Check if your rental car has an electronic toll tag for automatic payments.

Third Stop: Doolin

After experiencing the awe-inspiring Cliffs of Moher, your west Ireland road trip continues to the charming village of Doolin. Known for its vibrant traditional music scene and proximity to natural wonders, Doolin offers a delightful mix of culture and scenery.

Doolin is famous for its live traditional Irish music. Pubs like Gus O’Connor’s, McGann’s, McDermott’s, and Fitzpatrick’s Bar (also known as Fitz’s Cross) are renowned for their nightly sessions, where local musicians gather to play traditional tunes.

Home to one of the longest free-hanging stalactites in the world, Doolin Cave offers guided tours that take you deep into the earth to marvel at this natural wonder.

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How to Get to Doolin from the Cliffs of Moher

The drive from the Cliffs of Moher to Doolin is short and scenic, making it an easy and enjoyable leg of your journey. Exit the Cliffs of Moher and take the R478 south towards Liscannor. After approximately 6 kilometers, turn right onto the R479, following signs for Doolin.

Fourth Stop: Inishmore

Continuing your west Ireland road trip, your next destination is Inishmore, the largest of the Aran Islands. Known for its rugged landscapes, ancient forts, and vibrant cultural heritage, Inishmore offers a unique and unforgettable experience.

Visit Dún Aonghasa, a prehistoric fort that sits on the edge of a 100-meter-high cliff, offering spectacular views of the Atlantic Ocean. The fort’s semicircular stone walls date back to around 1100 BCE and provide a fascinating glimpse into ancient history. Don’t miss also the Seven Churches (Na Seacht dTeampaill). This historic site features the remains of several ancient churches and monastic buildings, dating back to the early Christian period.

how to get to aran islands
west ireland trip


You cannot take a car on the ferry to Inishmore. The Aran Islands, including Inishmore, have restrictions on bringing cars over due to their small size and the aim to preserve their natural beauty and traditional way of life. Instead, visitors typically explore the island on foot, by bike, or using local transportation options like minibusses or pony traps.
If you plan to visit Inishmore, you can leave your car at the ferry port in Doolin or Rossaveel,
where there are parking facilities available.
Renting a bike on the island is a popular and enjoyable way to see the sights at your own pace.

How to Get to Inishmore from Doolin

To reach Inishmore, you’ll need to take a ferry from Doolin Pier. Several ferry operators provide regular services to Inishmore. The journey takes approximately 1.5 hours. Ferries to Inishmore operate frequently during the summer months, but it’s advisable to check the schedule and book your tickets in advance.

Fifth Stop: Inisheer

The next stop is Inisheer (Inis Oírr), the smallest of the Aran Islands. Despite its size, Inisheer is packed with charm, history, and stunning natural beauty. Visit the Plassey Shipwreck, one of the most iconic sights which ran aground in 1960. The shipwreck, now rusted and weathered, sits on the rocky shoreline and provides a dramatic photo opportunity.

If time permits, visit also O’Brien’s Castle. This 14th-century castle perched on a hill offers panoramic views of the island and the surrounding ocean. Inisheer also boasts beautiful sandy beaches with clear waters. The main beach near the pier is a great spot for swimming, relaxing, and enjoying the coastal scenery.

Like Inishmore, Inisheer is part of the Gaeltacht region, where Irish (Gaeilge) is the primary language spoken by locals. Visitors can hear Irish spoken in daily life, see bilingual signs, and gain a deeper appreciation for Ireland’s linguistic heritage.

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west ireland on the road

How to Get to Inisheer from Inishmore

To reach Inisheer from Inishmore, take a ferry that connects the Aran Islands. Several ferry operators offer inter-island services like Aran Island Ferries and Doolin2Aran Ferries. The ferry journey from Inishmore to Inisheer typically takes about 30-40 minutes.

Staying Overnight on the Aran Islands

Staying overnight on the Aran Islands provides a peaceful retreat and allows you to explore the islands at a more leisurely pace. Enjoy the tranquility of the islands in the evening, dine at local restaurants, and perhaps catch a traditional Irish music session at a local pub.

There are several hotels and guesthouses in Inishmore, providing comfortable stays with various amenities. Popular options include the Aran Islands Hotel, and Kilronan Hostel.

In Inisheer there are more limited yet cozy options, like An Creagan B&B and Sea View Hostel, which offer comfortable lodgings with a personal touch.

It’s advisable to book your accommodation in advance, especially during the peak tourist season (summer months). This ensures you have a place to stay and allows you to choose from the best options available.

West Ireland Road Trip

Sixth Stop: Corcomroe Abbey

After your enchanting visit to the Aran Islands, your west Ireland road trip continues with a return to the mainland and a visit to the historic Corcomroe Abbey. This beautifully preserved Cistercian monastery, nestled in the scenic Burren region, offers a glimpse into Ireland’s rich medieval history. The Burren is a unique karst landscape characterized by limestone pavements, rare flora, and archaeological sites. This area is perfect for nature lovers and history enthusiasts alike!

Founded in the 12th century, Corcomroe Abbey features impressive Gothic architecture. The abbey’s ruins, set against the backdrop of the rugged Burren landscape, create a picturesque and tranquil setting.

west ireland road trip

How to Get to Corcomroe Abbey from Doolin

The drive from Doolin to Corcomroe Abbey is relatively short and takes you through some beautiful countryside. Here’s how to get there:

  • Head Southeast on R479: From Doolin, take the R479 road southeast towards Lisdoonvarna.
  • Turn Right onto N67: After about 7 kilometers, turn right onto the N67 road.
  • Turn Left onto R480: After approximately 9 kilometers, turn left onto the R480 road towards Ballyvaughan.
  • Turn Right at the Sign for Corcomroe Abbey: Follow the signs for Corcomroe Abbey. The abbey is located about 6 kilometers from the turnoff.

Seventh Stop: Galway

Next on your west Ireland road trip is the vibrant city of Galway. Known as the “City of Tribes,” Galway is renowned for its lively arts scene, historic sites, and bustling atmosphere. It’s the perfect place to immerse yourself in Irish culture, enjoy excellent food and drink, and experience the local hospitality.

Start your visit at Eyre Square, a bustling public park surrounded by shops, cafes, and historic buildings. Visit the Galway Cathedral, featuring beautiful stained glass windows and impressive architecture. It’s a peaceful retreat in the bustling city. Continue on your visit to the Spanish Arch and the Latin Quarter. Explore its narrow streets, colorful buildings, and vibrant nightlife. Check out traditional Irish music sessions in pubs like Tig Coili, The Crane Bar, or An Pucan.

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best things to do in galway


Ferries to the Aran Islands depart also from Rossaveel near Galway.
If you wish to visit the Aran Islands at this stage of the trip,
you can get ferry tickets to Inishmore or Inisheer

Accommodation in Galway

Galway offers a wide range of accommodation options to suit all budgets. For a luxurious stay, consider hotels like The G Hotel, or The Galmont Hotel & Spa. Budget travelers can find affordable and social accommodations at hostels such as Kinlay Hostel or Snoozles Hostel.

How to Get to Galway from Corcomroe Abbey

The drive from Corcomroe Abbey to Galway takes you through scenic countryside and is straightforward:

  • Head North on R480: Exit Corcomroe Abbey and take the R480 north towards Ballyvaughan.
  • Turn Right onto N67: After about 15 kilometers, turn right onto the N67.
  • Follow N67 and N18 to Galway: Continue on the N67 and then take the N18, which leads you directly into Galway city.

Eighth Stop: Kylemore Abbey

Your west Ireland road trip continues with a visit to Kylemore Abbey, a stunning Benedictine monastery nestled in the heart of Connemara. On the way to Kylemore Abbey, consider adding a stop at Connemara National Park. This stunning national park is worth a visit, offering spectacular landscapes, diverse wildlife, and excellent hiking opportunities. The highlight of Connemara National Park is the hike up Diamond Hill, culminating in breathtaking panoramic views.

Originally built as a private residence in the 19th century, Kylemore Abbey is now home to a community of Benedictine nuns. The abbey’s Gothic Revival architecture and picturesque lakeside setting make it one of Ireland’s most photographed landmarks. Kylemore Abbey’s grounds offer several walking trails through woodlands and along the shores of Pollacappul Lake. Don’t miss a walk through the lush greenery of the Victorian Walled Garden.

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How to Get to Kylemore Abbey from Galway

The drive from Galway to Kylemore Abbey takes you through the scenic landscapes of Connemara:

  • Head Northwest on N59: From Galway, take the N59 road towards Clifden.
  • Continue on N59: Follow the N59 for about 75 kilometers, passing through picturesque villages and enjoying views of the Connemara countryside.
  • Arrive at Kylemore Abbey: The entrance to Kylemore Abbey will be signposted along the N59.

West Ireland Road Trip: Must-See Destinations and Tips

Additional Tips

A road trip through West Ireland is an easy and rewarding way to experience some of the most breathtaking views and cultural highlights the country has to offer. To help you make the most of your adventure, here are some essential tips:

    1. Distances can be deceptive in Ireland due to narrow and winding roads, so it’s important to drive carefully and allow some flexibility in your itinerary.
    2. The weather in the west of Ireland can be unpredictable, so pack layers and waterproof gear.
    3. Some attractions and sites may have seasonal opening hours. Verify times before you visit.
    4. Download offline maps of your route, as cell service can be spotty in rural areas.
    5. Book your accommodations in advance, especially during peak tourist seasons, to ensure availability.

Find Places to stay in West Ireland using the map below


Best Bus Tours To West Ireland

As promised, we’re now going to share some of the best bus tours to the west of Ireland for those who don’t drive. The majority of bus tours depart from Dublin or Galway. Hence, if you plan to bus tour the west of Ireland, you should fly into Dublin instead of Shannon.

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West Ireland Road Trip: Must-See Destinations and Tips

Time for conclusions…

We hope you’ve enjoyed reading about this west Ireland road trip and that you find it useful. From exploring the historic Bunratty Castle, marveling at the breathtaking Cliffs of Moher, soaking in the charm of Doolin, and discovering the unique beauty of the Aran Islands, to wandering through the serene Corcomroe Abbey, diving into the vibrant culture of Galway, and finally experiencing the stunning Kylemore Abbey – it’s been an unforgettable journey. Traveling by car allowed us to uncover hidden gems and enjoy each stop at our own pace. We hope these tips and insights inspire your own adventure through this magical part of Ireland. Safe travels and enjoy every moment of your west Ireland road trip!


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