With 2 weeks, your visit to Ireland will be much more relaxed. You can stretch out a bit more in your travels, heading to less crowded counties, with more time to meet the locals. In your second week, head up to Galway, Mayo, and Donegal, taking time to smell the heather along the way.
Days 1 & 2: Arrive in Dublin
If it happens that you're arriving from North America, you start with an advantage: Most flights arrive early in the morning, which effectively gives you an extra day's sightseeing. Check into your hotel, say yes to any tea and scones offered, take a minute to relax, and then head out on foot. Get a map from your hotel and then just start walking. Stay south of the River Liffey, and head down Dame Street to Dublin Castle, which holds the magical Chester Beatty Library with its vast collection of gorgeous illuminated manuscripts. Later take in St. Patrick's Cathedral and the vibrant green quadrangles of Trinity College, before heading down to Merrion Square, with its impressive granite architecture and the ancient gold on display at the National Museum. It's a short stroll from here down to St. Patrick's Green, where you can rest your weary toes and soak up the floral view, before strolling up Grafton Street for a last bit of shopping before collapsing in your hotel.
On Day 2, have a hearty breakfast in your hotel before striking out for the trendy cultural hub of Temple Bar. Stroll down Parliament Street to the river, then take a right, and walk along the noisy, vibrant waterfront to the effervescent arc of the Ha'penny Bridge. Head across and down to O'Connell Street and walk on up past its many statues to the bullet-ridden columns of the General Post Office, where the 1916 Easter Rising was based. After exploring its displays, head farther up O'Connell Street to the Dublin Writers Museum, which bookish types will love for its extensive display of memorabilia. It's a few doors down from the small but mighty Hugh Lane Gallery, where you can marvel that such a strong collection of classical pieces was ever owned by one man.
Day 3: South to Wicklow & Kilkenny
It takes less than 2 hours to drive from the hustle and traffic of Dublin to the peace and quiet of the Wicklow Mountains, and it's well worth the trip. Drive through the town of Enniskerry to the great estate of Powerscourt on the south end of the village. After lunching in its Avoca Café, head on to Glendalough and feel your soul relax in the pastoral mountain setting of this ancient monastic retreat. From there drive on to the colorful village of Kilkenny, where you can spend the rest of the day shopping in its pottery and crafts shops and exploring noble Kilkenny Castle. This is a good place to spend your first night outside of Dublin.
Day 4: West to Waterford & Cork
Set off west to the coastal fishing villages of County Waterford, looking out along the way for the charming village of Dunmore East and the alluring beaches of Ardmore. Stop in for a little browsing and lunch in Waterford Town, stopping on your way out at the Waterford Crystal Factory before heading west to Cork. If castles entice you, stop at Dungarvan, midway between Waterford and Cork, and spend some time wandering through the sturdy walls of King John's Castle. From there, head on to explore the delightful Cork coast. Introduce yourself to busy Cork City and smaller, quieter Kinsale, the self-proclaimed gourmet capital of Ireland. Either one would be an ideal place to spend the night.
Days 5 & 6: From Cork to Kerry
Start Day 5 by heading west to the wilder section of Cork. It's a sprawling, political, complex area, and well worth taking some time to understand. Consider taking a tour of the area in the morning, to get a more in-depth look at it, although foodies might prefer to indulge in a half-day cooking class at Ballymaloe Cookery School. Walkers might want to add a day to their journey, in order to spend some time exploring the countryside on foot. There's plenty to do, and even touristy Blarney Castle is interesting to explore.
At your own pace, move on into County Kerry, at the southwest tip of the island. Here the most popular place to explore -- and one of the busiest tourist spots in Ireland -- is the Ring of Kerry. It is a beautiful drive, but because of the preponderance of tourist buses, not everybody will want to make it. Others will brave the masses to see extraordinary countryside, with its plethora of historic sites and tiny villages. If you've the stamina, the entire Ring is doable at a reasonable pace over 2 days, although you'd have to skip pretty much everything else around here to do so.
If it's quiet you're after, you could instead take the short section of the Ring that runs from lovely Kenmare to the bucolic peace of Killarney National Park, where you can indulge in a buggy ride around its lake and leave only your footsteps. Golfers with a bit of money to burn will want to play a round at the Waterville Golf Links, surrounded by soft sand dunes at the edge of the sea. You can then spend the afternoon shopping in Killarney if you're bored with the car by now, or drive around the Dingle Peninsula.
Day 7 & 8: County Clare
Time is short now, so you won't be able to see as much of Clare as it deserves. But make a promise to yourself to come back someday, and head for the perilously tall Cliffs of Moher where the view seems to stretch all the way to America (although the price to park will make you shiver). You can lunch in the town of Ennis, and then decide whether you'd rather spend the rest of the day exploring the touristy but interesting offerings at Bunratty Castle or marveling at the otherworldly landscape of the Burren. If it's the latter, strike out for the R480 road, which offers the best immediate gratification, as it winds its way through the extraordinary limestone landscape.
After spending Day 7 exploring Clare, you'll discover that you need more time to really get the most out of this big, varied place. Wander the castles of Clare -- Bunratty, Dromoland, and Knappogue -- and consider indulging in one of their medieval banquets held nightly in summer. They're unsurprisingly expensive, but can be good fun for families. Abbey lovers should take the time to visit the exquisite Corcomroe Abbey.
Day 9: County Clare to Galway City
This morning, drive up from Clare to Galway City (it will take around an hour), and spend a relaxing day walking the delightful streets of this artsy, vibrant town. Shop for stemware at the Galway Irish Crystal Heritage Centre, and wander the waterfront. Spend the afternoon relaxing and shopping for locally made arts and crafts, or lingering over pints at the sunny Front Door pub. If you don't need the rest, and you want to stay busy, take a cruise out to the misty Aran Islands, or head down to explore Yeats's old country home, Thoor Ballylee.
Day 10: County Galway
Start early and strike out for the tiny R336, the best road for exploring the craggy Galway coastline. Stop by the pretty little town of Spiddal, where plentiful adorable little shops sell Aran sweaters and other Irish knits -- our favorite shop is Standún. Follow signs to the seaside town of Clifden, which has spectacular views and lots of good restaurants and pubs, making it a good place to break for lunch, and a spot of crafts shopping at Fuchsia Craft. We love to see the countryside from horseback, and Cleggan Riding Centre offers great horseback tours.
Day 11: County Mayo
Driving up from Galway, the scenery is also spectacular in Mayo, where the rocky shoreline plunges to the cobalt sea in glorious fashion. Head to the south Mayo town of Westport, which sits at the edge of a picturesque river, and is a delightful, peaceful place to wander. From there, drive across the flatlands, a strangely empty landscape, toward Achill Island; the drive along the coast and out across a bridge to the island is slow and windy, but the views are fantastic. Spend a relaxing afternoon and evening exploring the island, before climbing into a comfortable bed at the Bervie, where the sea is right outside the door. Alternatively, if you want to see more of Ireland's ancient past, skip Achill Island and spend the rest of the day exploring County Sligo. Our favorite place to stay the night in these parts is Temple House.
Day 12: County Mayo to Donegal
Drive up through Mayo and the quiet farmland of Sligo to the rugged landscape of Donegal. Head up the coast past Donegal Town until you catch the N15 road, and then follow it around the breathtaking coastline to the busy hill town of Ballyshannon, which has excellent crafts shops and glorious views from the top of the hill. The adventurous can explore the Catsby Cave, a picturesque grotto at the edge of the Abbey River. But here the drive is really the thing, so drive on to the darling town of Glencolumbkille. There's an excellent folk park here that's well worth an hour of your time before you head on to the stone-cut town of Ardara at the foot of a steep hill -- it's wall-to-wall arts-and-crafts shops, and is a pleasure to explore. From there it's around an hour's drive to the Fanad, a scenic drive around Lough Swilly. Follow it around to Rathmullan, a quiet, lakefront village, and spend the night there at relaxing Rathmullan House.
Day 13: Donegal
You've been traveling a great deal, so today is a rest day. Spend the morning walking along the lake, or take a horseback tour down its sandy beaches (Rathmullan House arranges excellent horseback treks for adults and pony treks for children). In the afternoon, after you've recharged your batteries, drive around the lake and explore the little villages: Rathmelton is a picturesque town with stone cottages mirrored in the glassy lake, while Dunfanaghy is adorable and has an excellent beach -- perfect for an afternoon swim.
Day 14: Heading Home
If your flight leaves late, you could rise early and spend the morning driving up to Malin Head, the northernmost tip of Ireland; a wild and woolly place just a couple of hours' drive from Rathmullan. From there, expect the drive to the airport to take at least 4 hours, but allow plenty of time in case of traffic backups around Dublin -- they're virtually constant.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.