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Flexible & Stress-Free Adventures – Self Drive Trips in Ireland

Posted on Dec 13, 2018 by Patricia Doe

Want flexibility without worry on your next trip to Ireland?

Choose to do a five-star self drive trip around Ireland to have the flexibility to go at your own pace while interacting with Ireland’s landscapes and cities through the eyes of local guides.

Cliffs of Moher

The stunning Cliffs of Moher.

How do self drive trips work?

Self drive trips are ideal for those who want flexibility without worrying about planning or reservations. Our range of 5 week-long trips have been designed by our expert travel designers to encompass the best of each region visited, both iconic and off-the-radar destinations. You can choose any of these trips, or you can combine 2 or more, with a transfer day built in between.

While you will have your own car (and the independence to explore that comes with this) on your self drive trip, you will meet a Wilderness Ireland guide every second day for a fantastic guided hike. On other days, you’ll meet up with a charismatic local expert for an amazing experience such as biking, sea kayaking, or island exploration.

Our self drive trips are really the best of both worlds and you will come away feeling as though you’ve discovered people and places in Ireland that you wouldn’t be able to access without a guide, while also visiting some ‘bucket-list’ locations and must-see parts of the country while flying solo. Of course, staying in some of Ireland’s best castles, hotels and enjoying lots of creature comforts in the evenings goes without saying. While you’ll be driving yourself, we’ll offer insider recommendations, maps and insider’s ideas of interesting and off-the-beaten-track places to stop and visit as well as easy hikes to stretch your legs. Throughout your entire trip, you will also have 24/6 in-country support, just a phone call away.

All trips are designed to start and end in Dublin. If preferred, we can help organise extra nights in Dublin to allow you to explore the famous city.

What are the trip options?

Why not fully explore all that Ireland’s southwest has to offer on our trip through Kerry, West Cork & the Haven Coast? Or perhaps you prefer to uncover the secrets of Northern Ireland on our Belfast, Giant’s Causeway and Donegal self-drive adventure. For those looking to explore vastly differing landscapes, head to Connemara, Dingle & the Cliffs of Moher. 

Giants Causeway Causeway Coast

Blue skies over the dramatic Giants Causeway.

Learn more about our 5 self drive trips that follow the coastline of Ireland and Northern Ireland:

  • Belfast, Giant’s Causeway & Donegal – Highlights include: hike to the Giant’s Causeway on the Causeway Coast – Lonely Planet’s top 2018 destination – a boat trip to an island to spot puffins, Glenveagh National Park, and Slieve League Cliffs – among the highest in Europe.
  • Ireland’s Surf Coast to Westport – Highlights include: off-the-beaten track hiking, kayaking on a lake that inspired Ireland’s national poet, cycling along Ireland’s first car-free greenway, and the market town of Westport.
  • Connemara, Dingle & The Cliffs of Moher – Highlights include: Killarney Fjord – Ireland’s largest fjord – Connemara National Park, a boat to an island, Galway city, Burren National Park, stand atop the Cliffs of Moher, a boat trip to the haunting Blasket Islands.
  • Kerry, West Cork & The Haven Coast – Highlights include: Killarney National Park, the Ring of Kerry and a coastal foraging expedition, foodie experience in West Cork, colourful Kinsale, and kayaking the Cork coast.
  • Ireland’s Ancient East – Highlights include: Visit one of Ireland’s little-known regions, medieval Kilkenny, hike the beautiful Comeragh Mountains, visit the ancient monastic site of Glendalough and explore the privately-owned Saltee Islands to spot puffins!

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Is it tailored to my group?

sheepdogs sheepherding Irelan

Watching the sheepdogs at work!

Yes and no. While each of the five self drive trips are fixed itineraries, they have been designed with flexibility in mind. We suggest you take a slower pace, with less driving and more opportunity to get under the skin of a particular part of this beautiful island – and we’ve designed our ready-made, self-drive trips that you see on our website with this concept in mind. Of course, all of the guided experiences can be customised to fit the group ability levels and preferences. For example, each day of hiking includes several options depending on how challenging you wish your hike to be – your guide will help find the best option for you.

On the unguided driving days, you’ll be provided with a few options. These might include lovely walks, local points of interest, distilleries, museums, neolithic sites, scenic vistas, quaint towns, ancient ruins, or more. Your itinerary will specify each day’s options – a little about each option, their location, opening hours/visiting info, etc.

However, we know that everyone has their own must-do list for their trip to Ireland and we realise that you might prefer to explore some parts of Ireland a little less deeply in order to experience more regions throughout the ever-changing and diverse Irish landscape. Or perhaps you don’t have a full 6 nights to enjoy of one of our ready-made itineraries in its entirety.

Therefore, we’ve made it possible for you to pick and chose elements of each of our self-drive vacations for you to create a customised trip to Ireland that is perfect for you. Simply pick out some of your favourite aspects of each of our self-drive trips and combine them together, working from north to south, to make your perfect Irish vacation. Our travel designers are always here to assist you, and will happily put together a perfect self-drive itinerary based on your Ireland wish-list.

Before getting in touch, feel free to have a look at our itineraries for a little more information on the self-drive trips we offer, in order for us to best assist you in putting together a great trip based on our conversation.

Alternatively, if you prefer a fully customised trip built specifically with your and your group in mind, please contact our team of trip designers at [email protected] or simply fill out our Interactive Trip Builder.

When can I travel?

Connemara National Park - Twelve Bens mountains

Connemara National Park’s famous 12 Bens mountain range.

Anytime! The best time to come to Ireland is April – October, though you may choose to visit in the off-season as well. The so-called “shoulder” seasons are sometimes the best time to visit Ireland as the weather is often still mild, but there are far less other tourists and far more availability.

Do keep in mind as well that some of the activities are weather-dependant and/or seasonal, notably any boat trips. Some experiences, restaurants and accommodations may close in the winter as well. If you do choose to travel during the off-season and an activity is not available, we will of course find an equally exciting replacement activity!

Who are self drive trips right for?

Sligo sunset Knocknarea

Enjoying a beautiful in Co Sligo over the myth-ladden Knocknarea Hill.

Our minimum number is 2 people, and there is no maximum! Our self drive trips are for those who prefer a little more flexility and privacy and who don’t mind driving and navigating on their own but who don’t want to organise trip planning, logistics, destination research or make reservations.

These self drive itineraries can be ideal for most group types: couples, multi-generational families, groups of friends, etc. There are no age requirements on our self drive trips. Keep in mind that these itineraries will require a car, but that any car hire/car rental, car ferries and all driving is left up to you to organise as you see fit.

Will I have a guide?

Burren National Park guide

Enjoying a guided walk of the Burren, just one of Ireland’s amazing landscapes.

Yes and no. No, you will not have a private driver/guide that stays with you for the duration of your trip like on our scheduled hiking and biking trips or our fully-guided private tours. That said, throughout your journey across Ireland, you will be met by various local guides – be they hiking, kayaking, cycling or other outdoor guides, culture/heritage guides or a combination of both! In general, there are three guided experiences on each of the 5 itineraries, with the other days self-guided, allowing you the flexibility to travel at your own pace and choose your own stops from the various options along the way.

What’s included in my self drive trip?

Luxury bedroom

Relax in comfortable and luxurious surroundings on your self drive adventure.

When you book a self drive itinerary, you’ll get: route maps and suggested driving routes, deluxe-standard accommodations including breakfasts, guided activities, suggested self-guided experiences or points of interest as well as all necessary info and 24-hour assistance. (Please note that car rental is not included).

What kinds of activities will be on my self drive trip?

Kayaking under Knocknarea

Kayaking under the magnificent Knocknarea Hill in Co Sligo.

Depending on what trip you choose, physical activities may include hiking, biking, kayaking, foraging and more.

Culture and nature activities may include: visiting sheep farms, bird-watching, boat trips, perfumeries, distilleries, castle visits, city walking tours, food tasting, traditional Irish music, seaweed baths, megalithic monuments, and more.

Can I do more than one trip?

Yes of course! If you want to spend 2 or more weeks in Ireland, feel free to combine 2 or more self drive trips. We can help build in a transfer day from one trip to the next so no need to choose trips in any particular order. If you’re not sure which place is best for you, our friendly office staff can help out!

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See our 5 self drive trips below:

About the author

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Patricia Doe

A Sligo native, Patricia spent several years in the upscale hospitality industry and knows everything there is to know about luxury accommodations in Ireland! A keen cyclist and runner, Patricia has travelled the world - including a honeymoon road trip through Middle America! Patrica is Wilderness Ireland's General Manager, having joined the team in 2015.

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