07 May 2 Days in Galway and Doolin
If you’re planning a trip to Ireland that is less than a week long, and we can’t convince you to extend your stay, you should absolutely head out west. Dublin is a fabulous city, but you can pretty much cover it all in two days. We highly recommend taking two days (or more) to venture out to the west coast and spend nights in Galway and Doolin. Note: If you can find an affordable flight in or out of Shannon airport, this puts you in an ideal location on the west coast and saves you making the cross-country trip both ways. Also, if you can time it to make this two-night trip on the weekend, Dublin has plenty going on every night of the week and these smaller towns are livelier on Friday and Saturday nights.
Every friend or relative who has visited us says Galway is their favorite city in Ireland (over Dublin or Cork) and we get why. Galway is coastal, compact, and loaded with great pubs and restaurants. Then an hour and a half south, Doolin is home to the majestic Cliffs of Moher, which you can’t visit Ireland without witnessing. Doolin gives you a perfect dose of small-town charm, and while it gets packed with tourists in the summer months there’s nothing touristy about the experience. The pubs are as authentic as it gets – all four of them – and Doolin is the mecca of traditional Irish music. You can also take a ferry, or a smaller boat if you dare, directly from Doolin out to the Aran Islands or to see the Cliffs of Moher from the sea.
Buses constantly run from Dublin to Galway, or you can personalize the trip and see a lot more if you rent a car and brave driving on the left. Car rentals are generally very affordable from either airport, especially if you can drive a stick shift, and most companies have drop-off locations in Dublin city center as well as at the airport. Be sure to book in advance for the best deals!
Places: Galway and Doolin
Known for: Stunning beaches and coastal roads, the Cliffs of Moher, traditional Irish music, super fresh seafood, and of course, pints.
Best time to go: Spring or late Summer (April-May or September-October) when it’s not peak tourism season but there’s high potential for a sunny day!
Day 1: Galway
Whether you’ve just arrived from Dublin or from Shannon, you will probably want to check into your hotel or Airbnb and take a power nap in preparation for the night ahead. Then, wander the lovely little streets of Galway. Shop Street and Eyre Square are the most popular areas. There are great shops, buskers lining the streets, outdoor patios, and live music during the day in many pubs, especially on weekends.
If you’d rather spend your day on the sea, you can treat yourself to a yacht tour around Galway Bay or out to the Aran Islands instead of taking the ferry from Doolin. These yacht tours look great for big groups! For the extra brave, you can also drive 20 miles outside of Galway and take an air taxi to the Islands. Note: Trips to the Aran Islands are seasonal, an all-day affair, and need to be booked pretty far in advance.
For eats, John Keogh’s – The Lock Keeper is a great, lively spot with upscale pub fare. The Dáil is good for classic pub food or just for pints. Dough Bros has some of the best pizza you’ll find in Ireland (it’s not generally their strong suit, but this is an exception) and Dela does a showstopping farm-to-table brunch:
If you dare consume your monthly recommended red meat intake in two days, try both and let us know which has your vote.
Salthill is just a five-minute drive or twenty-minute walk from Galway city center and there’s a lovely trail along the beach. Pay a visit to Oslo Bar and Microbrewery while you’re there. We actually discovered Oslo on an award list hanging in a brewery in Prague of the ten best microbreweries in Europe!
The best pubs in Galway for trad sessions are Tig Choili (pronounced “Chig-Coilee”) and Taaffes, both of which get fire-hazardously packed at night for the craic. The Front Door, a seemingly casual gin bar downstairs, is a massive party upstairs if it’s club vibes you’re after.
Day 2: Doolin
Doolin is an hour and a half south of Galway. For the seafood lovers, stop halfway for lunch at Monks Seafood right on the coast in Ballyvaughan. According to the Harbormaster of Galway, Monks shells out the best mussels in the world.
If you aren’t renting a car, buses run regularly from Galway to the Cliffs of Moher and the Doolin Ferry port. You’ll want to spend a couple of hours at the Cliffs, and you can actually walk for miles along the exposed cliffside, far past the point where 99% of visitors turn around.
If you want to take the ferry to the Aran Islands, you could drive to Doolin early in the AM on this day to make the trip and visit the Cliffs the following morning before heading out.
“Downtown” Doolin is tiny and adorable. If you’re wise you’ll stake out a table at McGann’s by 6 pm for pints, dinner, and the best traditional music starting at 9.
McDermotts is the sole other Doolin gem for pints and tunes. Isn’t it nice when life is simple?
If you have a third night to spare, you’ve got to go to Dingle! You can hug the coast straight down to the Tarbert Ferry terminal from Doolin and take a nice little ferry ride on your way. We’ve got Dingle recommendations in this Ring of Kerry itinerary. We hope you enjoy this glimpse of Ireland’s wild west!