The route between Dublin and Killarney is a popular drive that showcases Ireland's history and natural splendor. The most direct route—through Limerick—is roughly 191 miles (308 kilometers) by road, but taking a more southern route to see the Rock of Cashel adds only a few extra miles onto the journey and is well worth the detour. This road trip takes an average of four hours and 15 minutes, not including the time you'll require to sightsee.
The Museum of Style Icons
Your first stop outside of Dublin should be Newbridge, Ireland's silverware capital. Here, you'll find an eclectic collection of dresses and accessories worn by the likes of Tippi Hedren, Michael Jackson, Grace Kelly, Liza Minnelli, Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, Princess Diana, and The Beatles, all housed at the Museum of Style Icons. The museum began in 2006, with the memorable black dress Audrey Hepburn wore in the 1963 film "Charade." Since, the museum has acquired an expansive collection that any movie buff would swoon over.
The Historic Town of Kildare
Next along the M7 highway is the historic town of Kildare, which links to Ireland’s most important female saint, Brigid of Kildare. As you walk around the small town, you'll see many reminders of Brigid in the artworks and installations erected in her memory. However, her presence is most prominent in St. Brigid's Cathedral. Some people may debate the importance of the cathedral, and instead prefer the quaint Saint Brigid’s Well just outside of town, near the Irish National Stud. This certainly is worth a visit, with its modern statue, fine landscaped garden, and living evidence of an almost pagan folk devotion to the “Mary of the Gaels.”
Kildare Village Outlet Center
While in Kildare, take advantage of Kildare Village, an outlet center of epic proportions right off the motorway. If you hoped to do a lot of shopping in Ireland, this is where you'll find the discounts. Kildare Village encompasses more than 100 boutiques—including Levi's, Moncler, Ted Baker, The North Face, Nike, and Barbour—and a number of restaurants, such as Dunne & Crescenzi (Italian). Kildare Village makes for great browsing and dining mid-road trip.
The Irish National Stud and Japanese Gardens
A five-minute drive from Kildare is the Irish National Stud, a government-owned working stud farm with a museum, landscaped woodlands, and a stunning Japanese garden. This is an excellent place for horse and nature lovers, providing insight into the quirkiness of horse science. The exhibition on the astrological influences once heeded here is also hilarious. You can treat this attraction as a day trip from either city.
The Rock of Cashel
The Rock of Cashel is one of Ireland’s most stunning historic places. Stopping here will require you to veer onto the M8, which is slightly longer than the direct M7, but it's worth the extra few miles to see this stony outcrop, once the traditional seat of the kings of Munster. It was donated to the church by Muirchetach Ua Briain in 1101. Today, it's most famous for its collection of medieval art and architecture, with the majority of buildings dating from the 12th and 13th centuries.
The view of the Rock of Cashel is best seen from a distance, but if you choose to go inside for a visit, you might enjoy stopping at Cormac's Chapel. This Romanesque church was built between 1127 and 1134 and is currently completely enclosed in a rain-proof structure. There is also a cathedral, which was built later, and a central tower which connects to another residential castle. From the Rock of Cashel, Killarney is a two-hour drive away.