If you crave an in depth Irish experience you’ll need weeks on the Emerald Isle but it’s possible to enjoy a great one week vacation in Ireland as long as you think about priorities and make choices before committing to flights and accommodations.
Rick Steves, Frommers and Fodors suggest different itineraries for a one week vacation in Ireland but we all agree that Dublin is the #1 priority and ideal place to begin your Irish vacation. The very diverse sightseeing choices include Trinity College and The Book of Kells, fascinating and sobering Kilmainham Gaol, fun but not so sober Guinness Storehouse and St Patrick’s Cathedral. You can do all four in one full day (start with jail and end at church) but more time will allow you to enjoy an excellent historic walking tour, National Gallery, St Stephens Green and the nightlife in Temple Bar. Most visitors should plan 2-3 nights in Dublin.
My #2 recommendation for first time visitors to Ireland would be County Kerry where you’ll find some of the most beautiful scenery in the country. Killarney is an ideal home base to explore the Ring of Kerry, Dingle Peninsula, Killarney National Park, Skellig Michael, Muckross House and Ross Castle. A 3 night stay will allow you to see most of these sights and stop at the Rock of Cashel or Cork en route from Dublin.
#3 on my list is County Clare with the impressive Cliffs of Moher, Bunratty Castle and other worldly Burren. Then, if time permits, add Galway before returning home after your one week Irish vacation. But a word of caution! Some of the most memorable experiences I’ve had in Ireland weren’t at a tourist attraction. They were listening to live Irish music and sharing tall tales with the locals. So make sure your itinerary includes time for a local pub or two and consider a whiskey tasting tour. You won’t regret it!