On the road: How to drive Ireland’s Ancient East coast in 3 days

Explore Ireland’s Ancient East on a meandering long weekend road trip, discovering jaw-dropping views, fascinating historical sites and charming villages at Ireland’s heart…

Nicola Brady
17 October 2019
Promoted by
Discover Ireland

Chris Hill; Luke Myers

Italian Garden, Powerscourt House and Gardens (Derek Cullen)

Ireland is a country that teems with stories. From old tales of mythological characters to legends that are retold with every generation, this is a land that treasures its folklore. And that gift of storytelling can be found everywhere, whether it’s a tour guide telling you about a fabled Neolithic tomb or simply a fella’ in the local pub spinning a yarn.

But a road trip into Ireland’s Ancient East isn’t just about the myths and legends – it’s about exploring the heartland of the country, where you can really get into the character of the land, whether that comes from delving into its historical sights or simply happening upon Michelin quality food in a charming little village. Explore this part of the country on a meandering road trip and you can pack an awful lot into a short time…

Italian Garden at Powerscourt House and Gardens (Tourism Ireland)

Day one

Powerscourt House and Gardens, Wicklow Mountains and the Glendalough countryside 

View over Glendalough (Tourism Island)

1. After a short flight to Dublin Airport, pick up your car and drive the short distance to  Powerscourt House and Gardens. You’re in for a treat – there are 47 acres of beautifully tended gardens to explore, and lengthier walks if you want to stretch the legs. Hike out to Ireland’s highest waterfall, have a browse in the shops at Powerscourt House and have a morning treat at the Avoca Terrace Café (their homemade scones are exceptional).

The Powerscourt Distillery is newly opened and tucked in between the gardens, where you can learn about the craftsmanship of whiskey making and pick up a bottle to try later on.    

Waterford Quays (Toursim Ireland)

2. From there, make your way along the beguiling backdrop of the Wicklow Mountains to Glendalough. Drive through the Sally Gap and you’ll get the picture perfect view of Ireland that you’ve seen in many a film – this is the countryside that Hollywood dreams of. Make sure you allow plenty of time to pull over and take in the scenery, because this is a drive you don’t want to rush.

3. At Glendalough, you’ll find monastic sites built into an outstandingly beautiful stretch of countryside. It’s a good idea to pack your hiking boots, because the trails all over this national park are spectacular. And don’t be scared of building up an appetite – nearby, you can get amazing seafood at The Lighthouse Restaurant to cap the day off.

Visit the Avoca handweavers (Brian Morrison)

Top tip 

If you love to cook, organise a visit to Ballyknocken House (ballyknocken.ie) – this farm and cookery school is the brainchild of beloved celebrity chef Catherine Fulvio.

Dunbrody Famine Ship (Alex Keys)

Day two

Avoca Handweavers & Mill, Dunbrody Famine ship and the city of Waterford

A viking sword sculpture in Waterford city (Karl Davis)


1. Start the day with breakfast at Avoca Handweavers & Mill in Avoca Village, the oldest surviving mill in Ireland. But this mill is anything but old fashioned – their brightly coloured weaves are found in the most stylish Irish homes, and their cashmere blends are covet-ably soft.

The stunning Copper Coast makes up the lasy 10km of the Waterford Greenway (George Munday)


2. From there, head to the Dunbrody Famine ship, an authentic reproduction of a 1840’s Emigrant Vessel, and learn all about experience of emigration in Ireland through world-class, interactive exhibits.

Cycle the Waterford Greenway (Luke Myers)

3. Then explore the city of Waterford, with a visit to the world’s first virtual reality experience set in an authentic Viking house, at Waterford Treasures and Viking experience. It’s not the only Viking experience in the city – the Viking Triangle is made up of three medieval museums, all within walking distance. Afterwards, take a stroll around the city and take in the colourful street art that decorates the town – it seems like every wall is filled with exceptional murals and portraiture.

Kilkenny City (Aurelie Amiot)

Top tip 

Book a table at Momo (momorestaurant.ie), a hip restaurant that focuses on excellent local produce.

(Smithwick’s Experience)

Day three 

Waterford Greenway, the ancient city of Kilkenny and the Smithwick’s Experience

Wexford-Dunbrody Abbey (Derek Cullen)

1. The last few years have seen an exponential rise in greenways in Ireland – these cycling and footpaths follow the tracks of old, unused train lines. The Waterford Greenway is the latest on the scene, with 46km of beautiful tracks to explore on either two feet or two wheels. The full trail stretches from Waterford to Dungarvan, but if you don’t fancy cycling the whole thing, drive to Durrow and cycle the final, incredibly scenic final 10km along the Copper Coast (a shuttle bus can bring you back to your car).


2. Then make your way to the ancient city of Kilkenny, filled with medieval alleyways and old cobbled streets. It isn’t short of tempting little boutiques, either, so this is the place to pick up a few pieces to remember the trip by. Pop into Kilkenny’s Medieval Mile Museum, a modern museum set in a 13th century church, which brings the city’s history to life.


3. Finish up the day at the Smithwick’s Experience, where you can learn all about the history of Smithwick’s Irish Ale – and those who aren’t behind the wheel can taste a little of the classic brew.

Top tip 

Campagne (campagne.ie) in Kilkenny has had a Michelin star since 2014, and their early bird menu offers exceptional value.

Have more time? 

This part of the country is rife with castles, abbeys and historical sites. If you want to fit a few more in, add a day between Wicklow and Waterford and explore the county of Wexford, from the beautiful Hook Lighthouse to Tintern Abbey.

Practical information 

Return flights and 3 days car hire start from £129pp* with British Airways, including 24-hour customer support and roadside assistance. Flights land into Dublin Airport, less than a 30 minute drive from the city centre.

*Subject to availability. Price stated is per person based on 2 adults sharing, inclusive of all airport taxes, fees and charges, and includes return flights (economy), from London Heathrow to Belfast airport and 3 days group A category car hire for travel between 1- 30 November 2019. Book by 31 August 2019. Price stated based on drivers aged 30-70 years. Price correct as of 10 July 2019. For full terms and conditions, visit ba.com/ireland. Holiday packages are protected under British Airways Holidays Ltd by the Civil Aviation Authority. The British Airways Holidays ATOL number is 5985. British Airways Holidays standard terms and conditions and conditions of carriage apply, please refer to ba.com.

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