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Backpacking around Ireland is a definite bucket list item for many keen travelers. And rightfully so! There’s an abundance of breathtaking places to see on the Emerald Isle. However, one problem many travelers often encounter while organizing their trip is not knowing how to slim down their options and create a packed but doable backpacking itinerary for Ireland for a weeklong stay.

If you’re in the same boat, look no further. This article will provide you with a handy itinerary for Ireland to help you organize a 7-day trip around the country.

Don’t forget, this is a backpacking itinerary that includes a LOT of walking, so you’ll want to travel light. You’ll stay at a different accommodation almost every day and use public transport, so I recommend taking only the essentials. We, for instance, opted for having only one regular-sized backpack each. This way moving around was a breeze.

If you also want to travel light and need some help organizing your carry-on, here’s a useful checklist and some tips to check out.

So let’s see what stops are included in this weeklong trip and what sights are worth seeing at each place.

backpacking itinerary for Ireland on a map

Day 0: Arrival

Depending on when you arrive in Dublin and how long your journey is, you might want to take this day easy. Find your accommodation and check out some nice bars or restaurants around the area. You’ll need to get some energy, as the following days will be quite the exercise. 🙂

We, for example, arrived quite late, at almost 11 p.m., so after taking a double-decker from the airport to the city center, we checked in, took a shower, and went right to bed.

Though hotels and hostels are quite pricey in the middle of the city, I still recommend booking one there, so everything will be easily accessible on foot.

Backpacking around Ireland 7-day itinerary for hikers. Pinterest pin.

Day 1: Dublin

Having only 1 day to look around in Dublin means you’ll need to make sure to plan every stop well. When planning our day, we checked out countless websites for lists of what sights there were to see, but in the end, we ended up doing our own thing.

Most itineraries you’ll find online will include several museums and the Guinness Storehouse, among others. However, to tell you the truth, we are not big on beer and museum visits. If you also want to go an alternate route, here are my recommendations.

After a filling breakfast, start at the Leprechaun Museum. Make sure to book your entrance ticket well in advance.

sitting on a giant chair at the Leprechaun Museum in Dublin
Leprechaun Museum
(taken with a potato, sorry)

Then take a bus to Malahide Castle just outside Dublin. Check out the castle and then take a stroll around the beautiful gardens. Have a quick lunch at the café, and head back to Dublin.

Malahide Castle near Dublin from the front
Malahide Castle

The next stop is St. Stephen’s Green Park, which is a huge park in the heart of Dublin. A nice touch of nature right in the middle of the city.

For admirers of stunning architecture, a walk around the city will provide countless spots that are worth a visit. Make sure to stop by St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Christ Church Cathedral, and Dublin Castle.

christ church cathedral and dublinia in dublin
Christ Church Cathedral

Day 2: Galway

map of train ride from Dublin to Galway, Ireland

The second leg of the trip is Galway, right on the opposite side of the country. Taking the train there is the best option, as it’s the quickest and most comfortable choice if you don’t want to rent a car and drive. Make sure to book your tickets in advance. You can book them here on Irish Rail’s website.

It’s a good idea to book a hotel room close to both the train station and the sights, so everything is within walking distance. My recommendation is to book a room close to Eyre Square.

After checking in at the hotel, head into town right away. Take a leisurely stroll down William Street to the Latin Quarter and experience the lively atmosphere while looking around the plethora of shops and pubs down the street.

buskers and pedestrians at the Latin Quarter on High Street in Galway
Latin Quarter

Continue down to the Spanish Arch and River Corrib to take in the spectacular sights of the rapidly flowing river and the houses neatly lining the bank.

River Corrib and colorful houses on the river bank and some smaller boats on the other side in Galway
River Corrib

After crossing Wolfe Tone Bridge, follow along Claddagh Quay and Grattan Road and walk down to Grattan Beach. Along the way, you’ll find the Famine Ship Memorial too.

Grattan Beach and houses in the distance in Galway
Grattan Beach

Make your way back to your hotel and prepare for the next day’s travel.

Day 3: Cliffs of Moher

Bus ride map from Galway to the Cliffs of Moher, Ireland

From Galway, you’ll need to take the bus to the Cliffs of Moher coach park. You can buy your tickets in advance on Bus Éireann’s website. The ride along the coast is spectacular too, so keep your eyes peeled.

At the cliffs, you can take a nice, long walk along the coast taking in the stunning view of the ocean below.

rainy and windy weather. Standing on top of the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland with the ocean below
Irish weather in action at the Cliffs of Moher
The Cliffs of Moher and the ocean

When we visited the Cliffs of Moher, our accommodation was in Liscannor. You can take the bus there, but we decided to get a bit more adventurous and walk the distance as it’s about 6 km (3.7 miles). It was a great opportunity to see the countryside.

Day 4-5: Portmagee: Skellig Islands or Valentia Island

Bus ride stops on a map from Liscannor to Portmagee, Ireland

The next day will entail quite a bit of traveling, as the next destination is a small village in County Kerry, called Portmagee. From Liscannor you’ll need to take several buses to get there, so plan for some extra time between them to make sure you don’t miss any of them. We bought all our tickets beforehand.

You’ll go from Liscannor to Ennis, from Ennis to Limerick, from Limerick to Killarney, and finally from Killarney to Cahersiveen. There’s no bus from there, so you’ll need to take a taxi to Portmagee. We chose Maureen’s hackney service. I highly recommend her! Such a lovely lady. 🙂

Most of your day will be spent traveling, so after arriving you can rest up a bit for the next day. I recommend looking around the town and taking it easy for the remainder of the day.

Portmagee harbor with boats and houses lining the coast

Plan A: Skellig Michael landing tour

Of course, as most tourists arriving in Portmagee, we also wanted to visit the Skellig Islands. Booking your tickets for the tour WELL in advance is a must, as it’s a very popular destination, and tickets are limited and run out very fast. You can book yours here. Unfortunately, having your tickets doesn’t guarantee that you’ll be able to visit the island, as it is completely up to weather conditions.

Sadly, we had no luck due to stormy weather in the morning. Our tour was canceled and the price was refunded afterward. We had known of this possibility of course, but we had hoped it wouldn’t happen to us. But this is exactly why it’s advisable to have a plan B.

Rain or shine, you can still learn about the Skellig Islands if you visit The Skellig Experience Visitor Centre, where you’ll find exhibitions, film presentations, models and others. It’s just across the bridge from Portmagee.

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Plan B: Valentia Island hike

Our plan B was to go on a hike to Bray Head on Valentia Island. We spent the whole morning inside, but then luckily the weather cleared up by the afternoon, so we got going after lunch.

Walking up to Bray Head from Portmagee is about 5 km (3.1 miles) uphill, so it’ll require some fitness, but it’s well worth the climb, as you’ll be welcomed with a spectacular view of the ocean. Moreover, in the distance, you’ll even be able to get a glimpse of the Skellig Islands. On the way, depending on the time of year you visit, you’ll also meet free-grazing sheep and cows.

The view from Bray Head on Valentia Island. In the distance the Skellig Islands can be seen
Valentia Island at Bray Head
Skellig Islands in the distance

Day 6: Killarney

Next morning you’ll have to get back to Cahersiveen by taxi, and then take the bus to Killarney, where you’ll have stopped on your way to Portmagee.

Here the destination is the Killarney National Park. It’s a huge area, so pick your choices. You can opt for a bus ride there or do like us and walk.

We decided to stop by Muckross Abbey and then headed to Muckross House. Another spot worth a visit is the Torc waterfall, however, we skipped that one because we were exhausted.

Muckross Abbey behind a tree
Muckross Abbey
Muckross House entrance
Muckross House

Day 7: Back to Dublin

Train ride map from Killarney to Dublin, Ireland
Option 1: Straight back to Dublin

Depending on when your plane leaves from Dublin, you’ll have more options for how to spend your last day in Ireland. If your flight is scheduled for the evening, you can take the train back to Dublin from Killarney, and spend the remaining time before your departure chilling in Dublin.

Train ride map with a stop at Mallow on the way from Killarney to Dublin, Ireland
Option 2: Stop at Mallow

If your flight is only next morning and you have a whole day to spend, as was in our case, it’s a good idea to make a little detour on the way back. We decided to do exactly that and stopped in Mallow for a bit before continuing our journey.

There you can visit the Mallow Castle Grounds and take in the beautiful sights.

Mallow Castle on a sunny day
Mallow Castle

After that, take the train back to Dublin and find your last accommodation. It’s advisable to book one from which the airport is easily accessible.

Get some rest, and now it’s time to go home with all the new experiences you’ve gathered on your weeklong backpacking trip around Ireland.

Safe travels! <3

Have you been to Ireland before? What did you see? Where would you like to go next?

If you did this trip, what places would you include that weren’t mentioned?

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