Are you heading to the beautiful city of Dublin, Ireland?
Then we recommend renting a car!
There are so many incredible sights to see within driving distance from the Irish capital, and having a car is the most convenient way to reach some of the best attractions near Dublin.
Continue reading for the 17 best day trips from Dublin by car.
1. Malahide Castle and Gardens
Located just north of Dublin Airport, Malahide Castle is a must-visit while in the area.
This historic castle is an Irish institution, dating back to the 12th century.
The estate was originally home to the Talbot family (Henry Talbot was a knight who accompanied Henry II to Ireland in 1174).
Although the Talbot family resided in Malahide Castle for nearly 800 years, there was a brief period when it was the home of Oliver Cromwell.
Today, the castle is open to visitors year round.
Take a stroll and see furnishings and decor from the Victorian period.
Or sign up for a haunted ghost tour to meet the castle’s many supernatural residents.
(Malahide is rumoured to be the most haunted castle in all of Ireland).
Finally, don’t miss out on the Talbot Botanic Gardens or the Butterfly House, where real butterflies will flutter around you.
Whether you’re a history buff or just a fan of the royals, you’re sure to love this Dublin day trip.
- Location: Malahide Demesne, Malahide, Co. Dublin, Ireland
- Distance from Dublin: 17.3 km (10.7 mi) via N1
- Duration: 20 min drive from Dublin
Howth is one of greater Dublin’s hidden gems.
This seaside locale is a great place to go if you’re looking to relax and enjoy nature while in Dublin.
Howth is a small Irish village on a peninsula.
It is a beautiful place to watch the sun set or have a picnic with your friends.
You’re sure to be mesmerized by the turquoise waters, green hills, and quaint harbour.
Beyond the natural scenery, Howth also boasts many historic sites.
It is home to the grounds of Howth Castle, which dates back to the 15th century.
The medieval ruins of St. Mary’s Abbey and the 19th century Martello Tower can also be found here.
Lastly, there are plenty of spots to enjoy a glass of wine or a gourmet dinner right along the water.
- Location: Northeast of Dublin city centre
- Distance from Dublin: 17.3 km (10.7 mi) via R105
- Duration: 25 min drive from Dublin
3. Castletown House
Feel like you’re part of the cast of Downtown Abbey at Castletown House!
This historic estate is conveniently located just 25 minutes from Dublin, which makes it a perfect spot for a full day or even a half day trip.
Castletown House dates back to 1722, when it was built for William Conolly.
Conolly was the Speaker of the Irish House of Commons at the time.
The estate is over 550 acres in size and has beautiful parklands all around it.
The country house was owned by the state until 1965, when part of it was sold to developers.
Today, part of Castletown House is owned privately and the other part remains with the state.
Visitors can tour the house and marvel at the beautiful Palladian architecture.
Or they can take a stroll through the Parkland and spot many historic sites, including The Wonderful Barn and The Conolly Folly.
- Location: Celbridge, Co. Kildare, Ireland
- Distance from Dublin: 21.8 km (13.5 mi) via R148 and N4
- Duration: 25 min drive from Dublin
4. Wicklow Mountains
For all nature lovers, taking a day trip to Wicklow Mountains is a must.
This region of Ireland is widely considered to be one of the most scenic areas in the entire country.
When you get there, you will quickly see why.
Pristine lakes surrounded by rolling green hills is what awaits.
There are plenty of hiking trails to suit all levels of hikers.
The highest elevation in Wicklow Mountains National Park is Lugnaquilla, which reaches an elevation of over 3,000 feet.
Aside from hiking, Wicklow Mountains are a great spot for climbing, bouldering, fishing, hang gliding, water sports, and horseback riding.
It’s also a beautiful place to simply go for a walk and have a picnic.
Experience Ireland’s rugged natural beauty at Wicklow Mountains.
- Location: Laragh West, Co. Wicklow, Ireland
- Distance from Dublin: 38.0 km (23.6 km) via R115
- Duration: 1 hour drive from Dublin
5. Hill of Tara
Hill of Tara is an ancient Irish site.
If you love both history and mythological stories, this is the day trip for you.
The Hill of Tara, also referred to as Temair in gaeilge, is an ancient ceremonial and burial site in County Meath.
It is only 35 minutes away from Dublin by car, and yet you’ll feel like you’ve entered the set of Outlander.
According to legend, Hill of Tara was once an inauguration place of the High Kings of Ireland.
It is believed that over 142 kings reigned in prehistoric Ireland.
It is often mentioned in Irish mythology as a sacred dwelling of the gods and an entrance to another world.
Today, travelers can walk around this sight, marvelling at various ancient monuments, such as a passage tomb and a standing stone.
There is also a church and graveyard on-site.
- Location: Castleboy, Co. Meath, Ireland
- Distance from Dublin: 43.0 km (26.7 mi) via M3
- Duration: 35 min drive from Dublin
6. Brú na Bóinne (Boyne Valley Tombs)
Enter another world at the Boyne Valley Tombs.
This ancient Irish complex was deemed a UNESCO World Heritage Site for a reason.
Boyne Valley Tombs features three passage tombs that are known around the world – Newgrange, Knowth, and Dowth.
The tombs on this prehistoric landscape date back over 5,000 years to the Neolithic or Late Stone Age.
Boyne Valley Tombs make up the largest collection of prehistoric megalithic art in Western Europe.
This mystical site is located on a ridge between Boyne River and Mattock River.
Not only does it offer visitors the beauty of the Irish countryside, but it will teach you about Ireland’s long and rich history.
Boyne Valley Tombs is open seven days per week all year and it is only 38 minutes by car from Dublin.
- Location: Glebe, Co. Meath, Ireland
- Distance from Dublin: 50.6 km (31.4 mi) via M1
- Duration: 38 min drive from Dublin
Head out of Dublin for a day to the medieval town of Kilkenny.
This unique Irish town is less than an hour and a half southwest of Dublin.
There is so much to do and see in Kilkenny.
But the main attraction is undoubtedly Kilkenny Castle.
Kilkenny Castle was built in the 12th century by Norman occupiers.
It is now part of Kilkenny Castle Park and is open to visitors.
Other activities in Kilkenny range from golfing and cycling to shopping and dining out.
In Kilkenny City Centre, you’ll find the famous Medieval Mile (Ireland’s best preserved medieval street).
There is also The Black Abbey, St. Mary’s Church, The Shee Alms House, and the MacDonagh Junction Shopping Centre.
Slightly outside of the city, but still in Kilkenny County, lies plenty of beautiful outdoor space for you to take a walk or hike.
- Location: Southwest of Dublin
- Distance from Dublin: 129.3 km (80.3 mi) via M9
- Duration: 1 hour 24 min drive from Dublin
The capital of Northern Ireland will not disappoint!
Belfast is a city rich in history and culture.
It offers travelers a totally different perspective on Ireland than you’ll get in Dublin.
And yet it’s less than 2 hours by car from Dublin, making it ideal for a day trip.
Belfast is most famous for being the birthplace of the Titanic and as the site of many IRA attacks, during the period known as “the Troubles.”
Although “the Troubles” was a prominent part of the city’s recent history, Belfast has largely left its past behind.
Today, it is a delightful place for tourists from all over the world to visit.
Some of the best attractions include the Titanic Belfast (a museum all about the famous sunken ship), Belfast Castle, and Belfast City Hall.
Belfast Market is another must-see, thanks to the eclectic range of goods you can find here.
- Location: East coast of Northern Ireland
- Distance from Dublin: 165.6 km (102.9 mi) via M1 and A1
- Duration: 1 hour 45 min drive from Dublin
9. Rock of Cashel
In County Tipperary lies the Rock of Cashel.
For those that do not know, the Rock of Cashel is one of Ireland’s most famous historic landmarks.
It is sometimes called Cashel of the Kings or St. Patrick’s Rock.
The Rock has rather mysterious beginnings which is what attracts so many visitors each year.
Legend has it that the Rock of Cashel originated 20 miles north of Cashel.
But when St. Patrick banished Satan from a cave, it resulted in the Rock landing in Cashel.
For hundreds of years prior to the Norman occupation, this site was the seat of the kings of Munster.
Today, what’s left includes Cormac’s Chapel, The Round Tower, Irish High Cross, a grave site, and the ruins of the Rock of Cashel.
The complex is considered to be one of the best examples of Celtic art and medieval architecture in all of Europe.
- Location: Moor, Cashel, Co. Tipperary, Ireland
- Distance from Dublin: 166.5 km (103.5 mi) via M7 and M8
- Duration: 1 hour 45 min drive from Dublin
10. House of Waterford Crystal
Explore over 200 years of crystal manufacturing at the House of Waterford Crystal.
This attraction is based in Waterford, Ireland, less than 2 hours by car from Dublin.
Visiting this crystal factory will allow you to be part of this site’s incredible story.
Watch as expert craftsmen make crystal stemware, gifts, and more right before your very eyes.
Guided tours are offered, which show you the inside of the factory and allow you to witness the crystal making process.
Tours include an inside look at the noise and fire of the blowing room, as well as the process of cutting and engraving crystal.
After your tour, head to the Waterford Retail Store for a truly stunning collection of handcrafted crystal.
The Crystal Café is also on-site if you wish to grab breakfast, lunch, cake, or a hot beverage.
- Location: 28 The Mall, Waterford, Ireland
- Distance from Dublin: 170.3 km (105.8 mi) via M9
- Duration: 1 hour 49 min drive from Dublin
11. Giant’s Causeway
Even if you’ve never been to Ireland, you’ve likely heard of the Giant’s Causeway.
This famous natural site is known around the world, mainly due to its unique geological structure.
The Giant’s Causeway is made up of 40,000 interlocking basalt columns, which creates an incredible effect you’ve likely never seen before.
It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1986 and is considered to be one of the greatest natural wonders in the world.
Today, the site is managed by the National Trust and is free of charge to visit.
Nearby the Giant’s Causeway, you’ll find another can’t-miss spot: the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge.
This suspension rope bridge is not for the faint-hearted (especially those scared of heights).
Make your way across the bridge, and don’t forget to look down at the waves crashing beneath you.
Both the Giant’s Causeway and the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge make for great photo opps!
- Location: 44 Causeway Rd, Bushmills BT57 8SU, United Kingdom
- Distance from Dublin: 261.9 km (162.7 mi) via M1
- Duration: 2 hours 49 min drive from Dublin
Dublin is on the east coast, so to see another part of Ireland, we recommend hitting the west coast.
And there’s nowhere better than the west coast city of Galway.
Galway is a harbour city that sits on the Atlantic Ocean.
The city is bursting with charm, from its historic castles to its colourful row houses that line the water.
You will also love exploring Eyre Square, which dates back to the 18th century.
Eyre Square is where you’ll find Galway’s best shops, pubs, and restaurants.
There is almost always traditional Irish folk music being played in this bustling spot.
The Latin Quarter is another must-see, thanks to its abundance of art galleries, cafes, boutiques, and medieval city walls.
Galway is only 2 hours by car from Dublin, which makes it totally doable for a day trip.
- Location: Ireland’s west coast
- Distance from Dublin: 208.4 km (129.5 mi) via M6
- Duration: 2 hours drive from Dublin
13. Blarney Castle & Cork
Drive your car to southwest Ireland and explore both the charming town of Cork and the historic Blarney Castle.
Blarney Castle is yet another piece of Irish history.
The castle was originally built in the 12th century but was destroyed and rebuilt in the 15th century.
Today, the castle is now a partial ruin due to its long history of being conquered.
Only a handful of the rooms are accessible, but it is nonetheless a fascinating spot to visit.
Something fun for tourists is to kiss the Blarney Stone while hanging upside down (legend has it that if you do this, you will be given the gift of eloquence).
From Blarney Castle, continue driving to the university city of Cork.
This vibrant city has all kinds of attractions, from the English Market to the Cork City Gaol.
It is a great place to spend an afternoon exploring.
- Location: Monacnapa, Blarney, Co. Cork, Ireland
- Distance from Dublin: 263.2 km (163.5 mi) via M7 and M8
- Duration: 2 hours 47 min drive from Dublin
14. Cliffs of Moher
Along with the Giant’s Causeway, the Cliffs of Moher is another famous natural site in Ireland.
These sea cliffs are located in southwest Ireland in County Clare.
Their majestic beauty spans over 14 kilometres, the highest point being 509 feet.
They overlook the Atlantic Ocean and are one of the most rugged yet mesmerizing coastline regions in all of Ireland.
From the cliffs, visitors can spot the Aran Islands, Twelve Pins mountain range, and the Maumturks.
The Cliffs of Moher are also home to a O’Brien’s Tower.
O’Brien’s Tower is a round stone tower in the middle of the cliffs that was built by Cornelius O’Brien in 1835.
Fun fact: Fans of the Harry Potter film series will be excited to learn that the Cliffs of Moher was a filming location in the sixth film, Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince.
- Location: Lislorkan North, Co. Clare, Ireland
- Distance from Dublin: 267.0 km (166 mi) via M6
- Duration: 3 hours 5 min drive from Dublin
Become one with nature at Connemara National Park.
This stunning region in western Ireland faces the Atlantic Ocean and offers natural beauty in spades.
The park is known for its mountains, bogs, and lakes and is a great spot for hiking.
Meanwhile, the district of Connemara is famous for its picturesque coastline made up of tiny coves.
The region also has the prized Connemara ponies.
Clifden is the main town in Connemara, and it is here where you will find pubs, restaurants, and bars, as well as traditional Irish folk music.
Clifden even has the ruins of Clifden Castle, which was built in 1818 in the Gothic Revival style.
Cycling, fishing, hiking, golfing, and horseback riding are all popular activities in the area.
Other attractions include Kylemore Abbey (more on that below), Glengowla Mines, The Station House Museum, and The Marconi Station.
- Location: District in Western Ireland
- Distance from Dublin: 269.7 km (167.6 mi)
- Duration: 3 hours 7 min drive from Dublin
16. Kylemore Abbey
While in Connemara, make sure you drive past Benedictine monastery of Kylemore Abbey.
This abbey was founded in 1867 on the grounds of Kylemore Castle.
Its scenic location drawers visitors from all over the world.
The Abbey is located on the foothills of Druchruach Mountain and on the shore of Lough Pollacappul.
Its isolated locale makes it one of the most beautiful and romantic sites in all of Ireland.
The estate itself is home to much more than the abbey.
On the property, visitors will find the Gothic Church, the Craft Shop, a Pottery studio, a restaurant, and tea rooms.
There are also plenty of lakeside and woodland walks for guests wanting to go on a short hike.
Strolling around the Victorian Walled Gardens is another must.
The Gardens were the last walled gardens to be built during the Victorian period in Ireland and are uniquely located in the centre of a bog.
- Location: Kylemore Abbey, Pollacappul, Connemara, Co. Galway, Ireland
- Distance from Dublin: 284.2 km (176.6 mi) via M6
- Duration: 3 hours 22 min from Dublin
Drive southwest of Dublin and you’ll eventually reach Kerry.
First and foremost, County Kerry is known for its natural beauty which consists of the Lakes of Killarney, sandy beaches, dramatic cliffs, and the highest mountain in Ireland.
To get yourself acquainted with the region, the best thing to do is go for a drive on the Ring of Kerry.
This circular drive will take you along the Iveragh Peninsula, and through the towns of Killarney, Kenmare, Sneem, Waterville, Cahersiveen, Glenbeigh, and Killorglin.
The route is 179 kilometres long and will not only show you Kerry’s different towns, but also its varied landscapes.
Another must-see is the Dingle Peninsula.
The Dingle Peninsula is famous for its Atlantic Ocean beaches, rugged cliffs, and rolling hills that include Mount Brandon.
Also be sure to visit Killarney, which is home to Killarney National Park, Muckross House, and St. Mary’s Cathedral.
- Location: Southwest region of Ireland
- Distance from Dublin: 296.1 km (184 mi) via M7
- Duration: 3 hours 15 min from Dublin
As you now know, Dublin is a great starting point for exploring other parts of Ireland.
The country’s small size lends itself well to road trips, which makes having a car a must.
From a short trip to the coastal region of Howth to a cross-country trip to Galway or Dingle, we hope this list has inspired you on your upcoming trip to Ireland.