Ireland: Food and Sightseeing Road Trip Guide
So, you want to road trip Ireland? You've come to the right place! Road tripping through the beautiful country, and neighboring Northern Ireland, was one of the best experiences of my entire life. The people, the food, and the sights are truly incomparable to any other place. Our week-long road trip eventually came to an end, but I couldn't let it slip away without sharing our route, as well as food and sightseeing recommendations with you all! If Ireland is on your list of 'must-visit places' in the future (it should be!), then this serves as the perfect guide to traveling through the country and eating delicious food while you're at it.
This guide covers the route from Dublin to Belfast (also Giant's Causeway + a GoT filming location), down to Galway, through Fanore (Cliffs of Moher!), and finally landing back in Dublin. If you are only visiting one of these places, feel free to scroll down and find your destination for my food + sightseeing recs. Our road trip was one week long. We do recommend that you rent a car if you want to truly see Ireland. It is a country that I believe would be hard to see without a reliable transportation method. Alright - enough with the logistics, let's see Ireland!
Day 1: Dublin.
Welcome to Dublin! The beautiful, diverse, capital city of the Republic of Ireland.
First thing’s first: Food. Stop in at The Kingfisher for a filling and traditional Irish lunch of fish n’ chips served with fresh peas. If you've never had traditional fish n' chips - it's a normal thing to add malt vinegar on top; if you're a vinegar lover, it's a must. Trust me on this.
After lunch, make your way to the Jameson Distillery. Reserve a spot in the Whiskey Cocktail Making Class and enjoy. It’s a bit pricey - but worth every dime. Before taking this class I believed I didn’t like whiskey, but that all changed after taking the first sip from our homemade whiskey sour. The class is led by a professional cocktail flinger and you leave feeling like you know a thing or two about whiskey that you otherwise would likely have never learned. When in Dublin!
Carry your evening to the Temple Bar district. Contrary to popular belief, Temple Bar is not just one single bar - but an entire neighborhood! It is lively, fun, and although there are tourists, it is not necessarily touristy. End your night dancing to traditional Irish music while drinking a thirst-quenching local cider or a locally-loved Guinness.
Things to notice:
The Gaelic signage everywhere. Ever since the Republic of Ireland gained their freedom from the U.K. in the 1920s, there has been a country-wide effort to bring the Gaelic, or Irish, language back into everyday use. Children are now taught it in school and every single road sign, airport sign, etc. has both English and Gaelic on it. This is more than a homage to their roots - it is a desire to return age-old Irish customs and traditions that were lost among British rule to their rightful place.
Dublin is expensive. That’s just the truth. It is the largest city in the Republic of Ireland and therefore the priciest. Keep this in mind when planning your trip. It is a really cool city with so much history and so much to see. We really only touched the base of it and would love to return to see more. We give Dublin a #3/4 of our most loved cities in Ireland/Northern Ireland.
Day 2: Belfast
Pack up and make your way to Northern Ireland. The trip is quite short and there are plenty of small towns to stop in along the way for a great lunch. Check-in to your accommodation - we went with an Airbnb. Find yourself a nice little pub to hang out in for the afternoon. We were lucky enough to be in Ireland during World Cup season, so every pub was crowded and lively!
After hanging out for a bit, make your way to the famous Cathedral Quarter. The Duke of York is an old pub known for its intense history and funky atmosphere; it happens to be in the heart of the Cathedral Quarter and totally embodies the eclectic atmosphere that is Belfast. Surrounding the pub are countless other pubs, an area known as The Courtyard, and an entire area of Belfast murals, otherwise known as Mural Square. Belfast is known for its murals and the stories they tell. I suggest asking for your drink to-go in the Duke, wandering around The Courtyard, and taking a look at the incredible murals that tell stories of Belfast’s past, present, and future.
For dinner, head to Made in Belfast (do make a reservation beforehand - as it tends to fill up). This restaurant was recommended by countless folks, including our Airbnb host. The restaurant is hip, trendy, and prides itself on serving local, organic, and sustainably-raised ingredients. We ordered potted crab for an appetizer, wild mushroom + black truffle risotto for a main, and sticky toffee pudding for dessert. Total foodie heaven.
Day 3: Belfast
It’s your second day in Belfast! Wake up early and schedule a black taxi tour. The black taxi tours are ran by local taxi companies and given by their taxi drivers. The tours are inexpensive and insanely informative (£40 for both of us for an hour and a half tour!). Belfast has an extremely unique history and there is truly nothing like hearing it firsthand from someone who has lived through it (the craziness only occurred in the 1970s). The taxi tour will take you around the entire city. You’ll learn a lot about the rise of the IRA and the Protestant Loyalists in the 1970s, the violence that occurred in the city, the sights and spots that are significant within this history, and the unrest on both sides that is still occurring to this day.
Once your tour wraps up, have your driver drop you off in the Cathedral Quarter and head to Havana Bank Sq for lunch. If you happen to visit on a Sunday, you’ll be lucky enough to dive head first into their Sunday roast. Pick between a two or three-course meal. I highly recommend ordering the seafood linguine for a main! The seafood was melt-in-your-mouth delicious.
After brunch, head home for a quick rest if needed - it was most needed for us. Post-rest, load up in the car and make your way to the very northern tip of Northern Ireland to explore the Giants Causeway. The Causeway is a UNESCO World Heritage site and a beautiful, naturally occurring rock formation that borders the sea. Wear your hiking clothes and explore the Causeway by foot. There are tons of hiking trails that provide incredible views!
Game of Thrones fan? Travel four minutes out of your way on the way back down to Belfast and check out The Dark Hedges, otherwise known as the Kings Road in the show.
We ate dinner at our apartment for our last night in Belfast in order to save some money and rest a bit after our first three days of nonstop travels. With that said, it's important to note that eating meals in is a great way to try local flavors without breaking the bank. Visit a local shop and find ingredients that are grown/made in the region that you might not be able to find at home and cook yourself a big, authentic meal! Loving the local cuisine doesn't always mean eating out.
Things to notice:
Northern Ireland is still a deeply divided place and Belfast is in the heart of that divide. The Catholics and the Protestants have come a long way in finding a happy place of co-existing; however from our observations, the divide is still ingrained within the city. For the most part, Catholics still live in one half of the city and Protestants in the other. The Protestants proudly hang their Union Jacks while the Catholics are clinging to their Irish heritage with all of their might. It's an extremely interesting culture and my words are only touching the surface. If you take the black taxi tour, you'll learn a wealth more information on this subject.
Belfast is a unique, incredible city with a rough-around-the-edges yet inspiring culture. The people are so kind and the food was extremely fresh. It’s still an up-and-coming type of city due to its rough past, so it has all of the hip and trendy offerings of that type of culture. With all of that said, Belfast ranked actually ranked #1/4 for us of favorite places we visited on this trip. It's definitely a city not to miss when traveling through Ireland and Northern Ireland.
Day 4: Galway
Time to travel back down to the Republic of Ireland. This time, to the west coast. Welcome to Galway! For a quick + filling lunch, grab a locally-sourced, grass-fed burger (they have veggie options as well!) from BurgerStory - an eclectic burger joint serving up delicious eats.
Now that we’re all fed, let’s see Galway! Walk along the River Corrib to the Galway Cathedral. This Cathedral is unique to most European churches as it isn’t hundreds of years old - it was only opened in 1965! Walk around the Cathedral and soak in the beautiful stained glass and the interesting history.
Next, make your way to Eyre Square. Walk around and maybe stop to get a whiskey from The Skeff Bar.
After exploring the square, wander down famous Quay Street. The street is known for its ‘craic’ (Irish/Gaelic for music, dancing, and entertainment), so expect to see many street performers and a pub every third building. The street is lively and colorful with beautiful, old architecture defining the buildings.
If you’re in need of an afternoon pick-me-up, stop at Coffeewerk + Press for an oat milk latte and then move towards the Lynch Memorial Window. This window is where the infamous ‘first lynching in history’ took place of a son by his own father. There is a story that goes behind it - you can read all about it at the site. Irish history, man.
Continue walking to the Spanish Arch and then meander along the water over to the docks. Check out the many fishing boats, the talkative seagulls, and the hidden beaches. Walking along the water is the perfect way to decompress after experiencing the loud and lively Quay Street.
Ready for a beer yet? Make your way to The Salt House for a delicious, local craft beer and some bar games. After a few beers, it’s time for dinner. Check out Oscar's Seafood Bistro - right up the street from The Salt House. We recommend the fresh oysters, the local fish cakes, and the fried octopus and calamari. Do note that you’ll need to make a reservation prior in order to guarantee a spot at Oscar's.
After dinner, find a pub to enjoy the craic and a few more pints before turning in for the night. You’re in Galway after all!
Things to notice:
The coastal scene. It almost feels like it should go without saying, but with lively Quay Street offering so much, I feel that the beautiful coast that made Galway the large city it is today (historic port city) is one of the best parts about Galway. Don't miss out on it!
Galway is easily a city that you can see within a few hours. The culture is so lively and local music is the big thing here. You’re in for a day and evening of entertainment, and of course some delicious seafood. Quite frankly though, it was an extremely touristy and crowded city. Maybe a result of the season but Galway ranked #4/4 on our most loved places in Ireland/Northern Ireland.
Day 5: Fanore / Cliffs of Moher
Good morning! Before saying goodbye to Galway, stop at Ernie’s Grocery - a local health food shop run by the sweetest Irish man and his family - for some picnic foods. We recommend red pepper hummus, seed crackers, pickles, tons of fruit, and a few bottles of kombucha. Pack it up and head south to Fanore Beach.
Prepare yourself for one of the most beautiful drives of your life; look out the window as you pass through the green, hilly countryside, the marshy beaches, and the traditional Irish towns.
On the way to Fanore you’ll drive through a small coastal town called Ballyvaughan. Stop here and walk along the pier to your right. You’ll know what I’m talking about when you see it, trust me! After taking in the beautiful views from the pier, drive twenty more minutes into Fanore. Take your food from Ernie’s and head down to the beach for a relaxing, water-front picnic with incredible views (also, hi money saving!!). If you’re feeling earthy, grab one of the bags provided by the town and do a little beach clean-up. Looking for a little adventure? The beach had a little shack in the parking lot offering surf lessons. We did not partake because of our limited time, but if you’re interested, it looked promising!
After your picnic, hop back in the car and drive to the Cliffs of Moher. It’s about a 30 minute drive from Fanore and an absolute must-see. Another UNESCO World Heritage Site, prepare for some jaw-dropping views. Wear your hiking clothes and wander all along the incredible cliffs. Look out for a famous filming location from Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince! And let me know how many cows you see grazing on top of the cliffs (totally took me by surprise!).
After exploring the majestic Cliffs, head back to Fanore for a relaxing evening of good seafood and beautiful views. Grab dinner from O'Donohue's Pub (the only restaurant in town!). We recommend the mussels and the pan-fried crab claws. Make sure to get to the pub at a decent time, as they only have a certain amount of food they serve nightly from the local fishermen. Once they’re out, they’re out! And that’s how you know it’s fresh.
A key tip for making the most of your time in the small town of Fanore is to stay at an Airbnb (or your accommodation of choice) that overlooks the water. Sit outside after dinner and watch the sunset over the Atlantic. I'm not sure I've ever experienced a more stunning moment in all of my travels.
Things to notice:
There is really nothing more than the beautiful, coastal views to notice here. Do visit Cliffs of Moher, as it is a unique phenomenon and one of Ireland's most known sites.
Fanore take-aways: We fell completely and totally head-over-heels in love with Fanore. It’s a tiny town so there isn’t much to do except embrace the beautiful views, listen to the waves of the Atlantic Ocean crash on the shore, and enjoy the fresh seafood. If you’re not into chilling, we don’t recommend this tiny, cozy beach town. If you ARE into chilling and relaxing and just being, then do yourself a favor and come up for a breath of fresh air in Fanore. It ranked #2/4 of places we loved in Ireland/Northern Ireland (and it was close between Belfast!).
Day 6: Dublin
Back to Dublin! On the way back to Dublin, make sure to stop when going through Ballyvaughan again, this time for a tasty lunch. Visit Monk’s Seafood Pub & Restaurant and indulge in the garlic baked oysters and creamy caesar salad.
After lunch, continue your journey back to Dublin - but not without making another pit stop at Hazel Mountain Chocolate, a hidden gem along the highway that handmakes delicious, ethically-sourced chocolate treats.
Once you’re back in Dublin, grab some dinner (we had sushi on our last night in Ireland, oops!) and find a local pub! Pop into the Brazen Head ,which is notably the oldest pub in Ireland, for a drink. It is a neat place, but a bit touristy. For a more local atmosphere, head across the street to Ned O’Sheas. If you’re looking for a good Irish dinner, the food looked and smelled absolutely divine.
Day 7: Dublin
It’s your last day in Dublin! I’ll be honest, we didn’t do Dublin well this time around. We were exhausted and a bit hungover (word to the wise: If you have intentions of doing a self-guided walking tour of Dublin the day that you leave, make sure to not drink a semi-heavy amount of whiskey at a local pub the night before… oops). For your convenience, I’ve linked the self-guided walking tour that we were planning on doing here.
Time to fly home! I hope you’ve enjoyed this foodie and sightseeing guide to Ireland + Northern Ireland. If you've enjoyed my guide, feel free to drop me a line or let me know in the comment section! For more food and travel adventures, follow along on Instagram @hungrysouthernyogi.