Ireland is home to some truly beautiful natural scenery, which you can take in for yourself on a road trip across the country, stopping off at some of its most historic spots along the way in less than few days.
Driving through Ireland gives this summer gives you the freedom to explore the places that interest you most; you can sample its culture, history and natural beauty at your own pace, making sure there’s plenty of time to unwind at the end of each driving day.
Here’s seven of the most fascinating historical places to visit on an Irish road trip over a long weekend with low-cost car hire available from autoeurope.co.uk.
The historic city of Dublin
You can collect your hire car at Dublin Airport straight after you’ve landed, meaning you can begin exploring this beautiful country right away. Start with a drive around the historic capital city itself; did you know that it’s actually a UNESCO World Heritage Site?
The Guinness Storehouse, where you can learn all about the famous drink’s history and manufacture, is a particularly popular attraction with tourists, while St Patrick’s Cathedral is a must-visit if you appreciate fine architecture and want to see the exquisite place of worship dedicated to Ireland’s patron saint.
Dublin is also home to Kilmainham Gaol, a prison that dates back to the 18th century and houses some fascinating stories of Irish history.
Next stop: 31 minutes
Bru na Boinne
Another UNESCO World Heritage Site, Bru na Boinne in Newgrange is Europe’s largest concentration of prehistoric monuments and megalithic art, situated on the north bank of the River Boyne.
Bru na Boinne translates as the palace or mansion of the Boyne and the site is believed to date back 5,000 years. This group of Neolithic tombs provides a fascinating insight into ancient Irish history and is on a par with Stonehenge in terms of its significance. Surrounded by wild, breathtaking landscapes, it’s a must-visit for lovers of history.
Next stop: 1 hour, 48 minutes
Clonmacnoise is home to an historic monastery that dates all the way back to the year 544. Located in County Offaly on the River Shannon, the ancient monastery was an important centre for trade, religion and learning, leading it to become the most famous monastery in Europe at the time.
Visitors to the site today can look in on a religious service for themselves in the more recent chapel building, while the ruins of the historic monastery are there for you to explore for just a small fee. The stunning surrounding landscapes are crying out to be photographed, so make sure you bring your camera.
Next stop: 2 hours, 36 minutes
Blarney Castle and the Blarney Stone
The Blarney Stone at Blarney Castle in County Cork is steeped in historical legend. The castle’s builder, Cormac Laidir McCarthy, is said to have called on the goddess Cliodhna for help in winning a lawsuit he was involved with. The story goes that she told him to kiss the first stone he saw on his journey to court. He won his case and all who kiss the stone are said to be granted the ability to deceive without offending.
Other stories suggest the lump of limestone was gifted to McCarthy by Robert the Bruce, but whatever its origins, it’s well worth visiting this wonderful castle and kissing the stone yourself for a little bit of Irish luck.
Next stop: 1 hour, 13 minutes
The Rock of Cashel (St Patrick’s Rock)
In the lovely County Tipperary, you’ll find the Rock of Cashel, another piece of Irish history steeped in legend. The rock is said to have been procured by St Patrick when banishing the Devil to a cave 20 miles north of Cashel. An explosion followed, causing the rock to land at the site where it has remained for almost 1,000 years since.
Not only can you see the remains of St Patrick’s Rock for yourself at this historic site, but also Cormac’s Chapel, a cathedral that dates back to 1235 and is surrounded by ancient graves.
Next stop: 1 hour, 7 minutes
Just over an hour’s drive away from the Rock of Cashel, you’ll find the ruins of the late 12th century Jerpoint Abbey, which is situated close to Thomastown in County Kilkenny. The sprawling ruins of this Cistercian Abbey include a tumbling tower, crumbling tomb sculptures and ancient stone carvings.
Next stop: 21 minutes
Last on our list is another castle, this time the Norman-built Kilkenny Castle. Positioned on the banks of the River Nore, the castle is one of Ireland’s most-visited tourist spots, thanks in large part to its gorgeous gardens, which make a picturesque picnic spot.
Kilkenny Castle was constructed in 1135 and today is home to a range of fascinating art exhibitions exploring Ireland’s history, which are housed in the castle’s atmospheric basement.
Next stop: 1 hour, 23 minutes
Back to Dublin
When you’re finished at the magnificent Kilkenny Castle, it’ll take you just an hour and a half to get back to Dublin Airport, where you can return your hire car. If you think you might like to spend a few more days exploring all that Ireland has to offer, make sure you plan your trip to the Emerald Isle with this in mind.
Auto Europe found low cost deals on car hire from Dublin airport for as little as £39 for the weekend between 14th – 19th July 2017. Visit www.autoeurope.co.uk for more affordable rates on car hire in the UK and across Europe.