Dublin City Tour Self-Drive (4/5 Days)
4 Night Tour From $343 pps
This tour arrives and departs from Dublin.
Destinations / Itinerary
Day 1: Arrival in Dublin and Dublin City Centre
Dublin – home to Ireland’s capital city, a place of diversity, history and culture. It’s hard to believe that contained within Ireland’s third smallest county, you could find so much, but with our Dublin city tour, you’ll be afforded enough time to discover a whole host of what this thriving urban cityscape has to offer. And what better place to start that the city centre.
Fresh off the plane and eager to delve into the cultural melting pot that is Dublin city, you won’t have to wait long before the adventure begins. From the airport you can be in the City centre in just under 50 minutes. On the way to your accommodation, you’ll get a glimpse at what’s to come: the hustle and bustle of friendly Dubliners going about their day to day, beautiful architecture blended with innovative contemporary offerings, buskers strumming on your heart strings as they demonstrate their Irish pride and an assortment of landmarks both old and new that bookmark the history of this wonderful capital.
It can be hard to know where to start, but luckily there are plenty of ways to see the best of Dublin. The Dublin Bus Hop On Hop Off tours are the perfect way to make sure you fit in as much of this bustling city as possible. They’ll bring you to all the major attractions and once you’ve gotten you’re ticket you can come and go as you please.
The Viking Splash Tour is a twist on your run of the mill expedition. On land and in water you’ll see the highlights of Georgian Dublin, Christchurch and St. Patrick’s Cathedral and you’ll even wade by a recording studio where the likes of U2 have laid down tracks.
Or if you prefer to ditch the wheels and wander around the old fashioned way, the Dublin Tourist Board have a whole range of free iWalks (guided tours recorded as podcasts) available for download so you can ramble around the city while the soothing voice of author Pat Liddy fills you on the history of Dublin.
Make sure to schedule in a visit to Trinity College Dublin on your first day in Ireland. This is one of Dublin’s premier visitor attractions and not without reason. Within the grounds of Ireland’s first ever college (established in 1592) you’ll find stunning architecture, The Douglas Hyde Gallery, The Oscar Wilde centre, “The Book of Kells” and arguably the “greenest grass in Ireland”. There are also regular walking tours around the campus where you’ll discover all the history and intricacies of this esteemed university. “The Book of Kells” resides in Trinity’s Old Library. This book, which is a 9th Century gospel manuscript contains lavish illustrations and is accompanied in the library by an exhibition – “Turning Lightness into Dark”.
For the art-lover Dublin has a whole host of museums and art galleries from the Chester Beatty Library in Dublin Castle to the National Museum of Decorative Arts or the Irish Museum of Modern Art. What’s more, entry is free, so there’s no excuse not to sample some of the more artistic delights our “Fair City” has to offer.
As you journey from one highlight to the next, immersing yourself in the electric atmosphere of Dublin you’ll find yourself in need of crossing over the River Liffey. So why not take a walk over the Ha’penny Bridge (or the Liffey Bridge as it is sometimes referred to), which has been aiding pedestrians over the river since 1816. 200 years ago you would have paid your dues (a ha’pennies worth to be exact) to William Walsh, who built the bridge when his ferries went into disrepair, but nowadays you’re free to come and go as you please. It’s also a great place to whip out your camera and get snap happy with stretching views down the river that are just begging to be captured on film.
Taking a break from sight-seeing, Grafton St. (Dublin’s favourite shopping district) has every thing you need to relax. Visit Bewley’s Café and enjoy an Irish coffee in a favourite venue of many of Dublin’s literary greats. Venture down Wicklow St. to find quaint bistros and the Powerscourt Shopping Centre, which boasts the perfect combination of variety and a stunning setting or maybe go alfresco with a picnic in St. Stephen’s Green. Once you’re refreshed, it’s back on the trail again seeking out all that Dublin has to offer.
As the day draws on you might find yourself hankering for that pint of Guinness, but fear not because the Guinness Storehouse has got you covered. During the tour you’ll discover all the history behind this famous brand and get an insight into the magic behind the “black stuff”. Or maybe you’d prefer a hot drop of Whiskey? The Jameson distillery has got just what you need. Learn about John Jameson and the inspirational story behind his world-renowned whiskey, topped off with a tasting session.
The sun may begin to dim as it tucks in for the night, but that doesn’t mean your fun has to end there. In fact for the full Dublin experience you have to witness the thrilling ambience of its nightlife. So it’s off to Temple bar - often referred to as Dublin’s cultural hub. As you walk around the narrow cobbled streets (a feature which has been preserved from medieval times), lilting Irish melodies will waft through the air beckoning you into one of the many Irish pubs with regular sessions. Or maybe you’ll get a sniff of some steaming fresh Irish grub. Either way, Temple Bar is a great place to while away the evening whether you’re in The Old Storehouse at one of their daily sessions or sharing a pint and a story with one of the friendly locals.
Your visit to Dublin will be packed with fond memories, unforgettable sights and sounds, but you still have the treat of a full Irish breakfast ahead of you the next morning, as well as two full days to explore the capital.
Day 2: Dublin's North
There is so much to do in Dublin City Centre that you could easily spend your entire stay exploring every nook and cranny. Chances are on your first day you’ll have made note of certain attractions that you may not have had time to visit, whether you were just passing by something that caught your eye or received a tip or too from a helpful local. Luckily you’ll have plenty of time to tick everything off your list before bidding adieu to our “Fair City”.
Venturing into the outskirts of the centre you’ll find the likes of the Phoenix Park. Established as a Royal Deer park in the 17th Century and twice the size of Central Park in New York, this historical landscape is sure to keep you enthralled. The Phoenix Park visitor centre is a great place to start and here you can enjoy an audio-visual presentation on the history of the park and of course it’s most famous residence – Áras an Uachtaráin.
The Áras is the official home of the President of Ireland. It’s open to the public every Saturday and sees over 5,200 visitors a year. Another famous residence in the area is Farmleigh House, which is situated just to the north-west of the Phoenix Park. Visitors to the house – the former home to the famous Guiness family – can enjoy the stunning landscaped gardens, classical architecture; and intricate historical tapestries, which Guiness collected on his travels.
If you find yourself in Glasnevin, the Glasnevin Cemetery Tourwill give you the chance to learn more about Ireland’s complex history, including a visit to the crypt of Daniel O’ Connell, the cemetery’s founder. Onsite you can also enjoy a number of interactive exhibitions, which delve into the social, historical and political development of modern Ireland.
Of course, if you fancy a break from the hustle and bustle you can leave the city centre behind for a day and venture into Dublin’s north. We can either arrange car rental for you or you can simply hop aboard the DART – Dublin commuter rail system – a quick an efficient way to get around Dublin’s north. Heading along a coastal route, you’ll see fantastic castles, stunning beaches and learn more about the expansive heritage of Dublin City and the surrounding county.
To start off you can head to Clontarf, a scenic coastal suburb, which is famed for its historical links (namely the Battle of Clontarf – 1014), famous sons (such as Bram Stoker – creator of Dracula) and of course its arresting views out over the Dublin coastline. To best enjoy the panoramic landscapes head along the promenade where you can make out the spectacular Dublin Bay and Wicklow Mountains. Wind, rain or shine, the locals of Clontarf take to the promenade on a daily business, probably because it’s easily the most beautiful way to get around the area.
From Clontarf you can also easily access the North Bull Island Nature Reserve, which became a designated bird sanctuary in the 1930’s, and later a national nature reserve in 1988. For bird enthusiasts Bull Island is a must see with the number of bird species, which have been recorded on the island surpassing 180. If bird watching isn’t you thing however, that doesn’t mean a visit to Bull Island is a waste of time. The island also boasts a fantastic beach stretching along its length not to mention two fantastic golf courses to get stuck into. Both links course - the Royal Dublin Golf Club and the newer St. Anne’s Golf Club - provide a hefty challenge and are definitely worth a visit if you want to get a round in early in the day.
From Clontarf, Howth is just a short train ride. Howth is the first of many fishing ports along Dublin’s northern coastline, where you’ll be afforded spectacular views. You’ll also find a number of historical attractions here from Howth Castle, “Aideen’s Grave” (an ancient collapsed dolmen) to Bailey Lighthouse and St. Mary’s Church. While you’re in the area you can check out the National Transport Museum where you’ll find 60 different vehicles, some extremely rare or one of a kind, that will take you on a journey through the history of public transport in Ireland, right back to 1883. You’ll find five different categories within the museum (Passenger, Commercial, Fire and Emergency, Military; and Utility), each with carefully maintained and antique wonders.
Continuing up along the coast, your next stop is Malahide, where you’ll find the phenomenal Malahide Castle. This is one of Ireland’s oldest and most historic castles boasting over 800 years of family history centred around the Talbot family. Along the castle’s guided tour you’ll hear the various tales and folklore, which surround the castle, not to mention the rumours of five ghosts who haunt the structure. Also contained within Malahide Demesne, is Malahide Regional Park, which demonstrates a fine example of an 18th Century landscape park.
Just off the Malahide Road in Marino, you’ll find the Casino at Marino. This 18th Neo-Classical structure was designed by Scottish architect Sir William Chamber for James Caulfied (the 1st Earl of Charlemont) and is widely considered to be the most important piece of architecture of its kind in Ireland. The Casino (meaning “small house”) features a deceptive exterior, which gives the illusion of an interior made up of only one room. In reality, the Casino houses sixteen rooms over three floors. This truly exceptional structure is a must see for any tour around Dublin’s north.
Next up on your route is Donnabate, where you’ll find Newbrigde House and Gardens. Newbridge House is an exceptional example of a Georgian House, made even more impressive by the fact that it still contains most of its original furniture. Also within the Newbridge Demesne you’ll find Newbridge Farms, where you can see Shetland and Connemara ponies, piglets, goats and baby chicks all reared in an environment where they can move about freely. For a spot of relaxation, head to the Peacock Tearoom for some refreshments or take in one of the woodland walks around the demesne, where you can enjoy the stunning parklands, a deer parka and the ruins of Lanistown Castle.
Venturing into Skerries, a small, but picturesque coastal town, you’ll find a whole host of attractions. This thriving fishing town is home to the Skerries Mills, which is made up of two windmills and a watermill. Taking the guided tour you’ll be transported back in time as you learn about stone-ground milling and its importance throughout Skerries’ history. You’ll even get the chance to have a go at grinding for yourself. You might be feeling a bit peckish at this stage and the Watermill Café is the perfect setting to put your appetite at bay. Fronted by Head Chef Mark Bolger, the Watermill Café’s menus serves up a whole host of hot and cold dishes as well as home baked delights.
A mere 5 km outside of Skerries, you’ll come across Ardgillan Castle and Gardens. The area takes its name from the Irish “Árd Choill”, which means “High Wood”. From its perch upon an elevated coastline, the views from Ardgillan Demesne are truly breath-taking. Visitors can join guided tours of this magnificent house, as well as its equally impressive gardens, which boast an astonishing collection as well as a Victorian Conservatory.
Whether you decide to take the route north or continue your adventure through Dublin’s city, your second day in Dublin is sure to be packed with excitement and surprises around every corner. That evening, before you head back to your accommodation to rest up for the night you can check out one of Dublin’s many central theatres, all of which feature an extensive and constantly updated catalogue of shows, covering a broad range of genres. Many of these theatres also boast lengthy and illustrious histories, making a trip to the theatre all the more alluring. From the Abbey Theatre (the first state-subsidised theatre in the English speaking world) to the Gaiety Theatre (also known as The Grand Old Lady of South King Street) you’re bound to find something that takes you fancy.
- The Brazen Head - Food, Fairies & Folklore Night
- Famine Memorial
- Garden of Remembrance
- Butlers Chocolate Experience
Day 3: Dún Laoghaire, Powerscourt and Glendalough
The sheer amount of things to do and see in Dublin could keep you busy for a week, but you're also never far from the luscious green landscapes of Ireland’s countryside. So today, once again, if you’d like a break from the city, or if you didn’t venture out from the capital on day two, then why not head south and explore some of Dublin’s neighbouring county - Wicklow.
On your way to Wicklow, you’ll pass through Dún Laoghaire – a delightful coastline resort, which is perfectly located just far enough outside of the city lending it the perfect balance between the vibrant capital and unspoilt countryside.
Many come to Dún Laoghaire just to walk along the two piers (the East Pier and the West Pier), both of which end in a lighthouse. They are the perfect vantage point to gaze upon Dublin Bay in all its majesty and after experiencing these views, you’ll understand why this hidden part of Dublin is so loved.
Dún Laoghaire also has it’s fair share of attractions to keep you occupied, from Dalkey Castle and Heritage Centre (which dates back to 1429) to the Martello Tower (former home to James Joyce and now a fulltime museum displaying various letters, photographs and first editions belonging to the man himself).
You could quite easily spend an entire day whiling away the time as you kick back in the relaxed atmosphere of Dún Laoghaire, but you also have the option to continue on to Wicklow where Powerscourt Estate lies in wait just a short drive from Dún Laoghaire.Upon arrival you will find yourself heading up the mile along avenue leading up to the Palladian house, flanked by some 2,000 beech tress.
Ahead of you lies 47 acres of magnificent gardens and a glorious house, which rose from the ashes back to its former glory after a fire in 1974. Within the walls of the house you can view an exhibition which covers the history of the estate in its entirety, whilst outside you can meander through the various gardens, all delicately maintained. Just down the road from the estate you’ll find Powerscourt Waterfall. This is Ireland’s highest waterfall standing at 121km (75 miles) and truly a sight to behold.
While you’re in the area, drop by Enniskerry village. You’ll find tiny local pubs like Ye Olde Bray Inn and acres of green in this relaxed village. Also on you way back to the Capital you’ll be brought through Bray - a quaint seaside town with calming promenades, beautiful beaches and even a scenic cliff walk along the eastern side of Bray Head.
Taking the Sally Gap, you’ll be making your way towards Glendalough. On this route you can enjoy spectacular views of the Wicklow Mountains and the dark waters of Lough Tay and Lough Dan. The valley of Glendalough was carved out by glaciers during the Ice Age, and the two lakes from which the area gets its name were formed when the ice eventually thawed. During the 6th Century, St. Kevin founded, what is now one of the most impressive monastic sites in Ireland. The remains of some of the building and structures from this site are still standing, including St. Kevin’s Church and a stone cross.
If sight seeing has worked up your appetite, head on to Johnnie Fox’s Pub - a slight diversion as you head back to Dublin but well worth it. Johnnie’s serves up a delicious meal with a side of traditional Irish music. Getting from Wicklow back to Dublin is a short drive (less than an hour), so you should be back in the capital in no time. Who knows there might be time for one more session before you head back to your accommodation for the night.
Day 4: Departure from Dublin
Your whirlwind trip around Dublin is coming to an end. Depending on when you’re flying out, you may have enough time to do one last sweep around the city and visit those attractions you haven’t seen yet. Or maybe just take a relaxing stroll and enjoy this immense urban city scape one more time, keeping an eye out for a few final souvenirs to bring home. And with that, you’ll be heading back soon, with your luggage to hand and a heart full of fond memories, content in the knowledge that you’ve experienced so much of Dublin in such a short time.
Optional extra day trip: Newgrange and the Boyne Valley
The Boyne Valley is only a short trip away from Dublin City and there is plenty to do and that will keep you occupied for a whole day, so it’s the perfect day trip if you want to extend your stay to 5 days. We’ll accommodate you with a rental car so you can take things at your own pace and enjoy all that the cultural capital has to offer.
Meath (or the Royal County as it is more affectionately known) was once the territory of the High Kings of Ireland. The area known as the Boyne Valley houses the largest and most decorated megalithic sites in all of Ireland. These sites were erected before Stonehenge in England and the great pyramids in Cairo. They contain great passage tombs, standing stones, barrows and other impressive structures.
The most famous of these is Newgrange. From this passage grave’s elaborate stone carvings to the tomb itself it’s hard not to be in awe of the mystery, which surrounds this massive structure. Besides the scale of this megalithic monument there is another reason why so many visitors flock to Newgrange every year. A phenomenon of sorts happens here annually during the winter solstice: There is an opening above the entrance to the passage of Newgrange, called a “roof-box” and from December 19th – 23rd each year, with the rising of the sun, a beam of light penetrates this “roof box”.
As the sun rises higher, the beam widens within the chamber until the whole room becomes dramatically illuminated. This jaw dropping spectacle lasts a mere 17 minutes, beginning around 9am on these specific dates. There is no denying the strangely mythical air which hangs in Newgrange making this one daytrip, which will leave a lasting impression.
Access to the structure is available by guided tour from the Brú na Bóinne visitor centre, which is worth taking time out to enjoy in its own right. The visitor centre has been ingeniously constructed to blend in with tis surroundings, preserving the natural scenery, which surrounds it. A broad range of audio/visual presentation, exhibitions and replicas (including a full scale model of the chamber at Newgrange) are available here so you can dissect every aspect of the fascinating megalithic monuments, which populate the area. There’s also a great little café here so you can refresh before you continue exploring.
There are also numerous other Cairns (passage graves) from the megalithic period dotted around Loughcrew near Newgrange. Divided into two groups Carbane West and Carnbane East, these cairns feature many excellent engravings. Loughcrew gardens on the other hand provides the perfect setting for a stroll with its 6 acres (2.4 hectares) of magnificent landscaping including St. Oliver Plunkett’s family church and Tower House at its centre.
Don’t think that just because you’ve seen Newgrange that it’s time to head back to Dublin. There are a whole host of fantastic historical structures in the Boyne Valley that will keep you busy all day. Slane Castle for example is just a short trip away. Set on an estate of 1,500 acres (607 hectares), this castle was the setting for a famous historical romance between King George IV of England and Elizabeth, the first Marchioness Conyngham. Guided tours of the castle now offer a unique whiskey tasting sessions, where you can sample some of Slane Castle’s very own Irish Whiskey.
Before heading back to Dublin for the night, drop into the Battle of the Boyne Visitor Centre. In 1690 the Battle of the Boyne was fought between two rival claimants of the English, Scottish and Irish Thrones. The battle raged across the River Boyne and in many regards has gone down in Irish history as one of its most famous battles. The centre is located in the recently restored 18th Century Oldbridge House and houses a number of displays, exhibitions and replica 17th Century weaponry to give you an insight into why this is one battle which will be forever etched in the annals of Irish history.
Meath is an experience in living history. The mystery of these monuments still draws us to them, to trace the spirals they carved, to stand in these sacred places and to share for a moment an ancient view of the world: the world of “the island of Saints and Scholars”. After a good night’s rest, look forward to the following days of your tour which will take in the rest of Ireland’s fascinating past.