My wife and I are going to Ireland in the beginning of August for 6 days. We've opted to drive our route (first time driving on left, got an automatic transmission in hopes of minimizing driving adjustment):
sites: Trinity college, St.Patrick's Cathedral, Kilkenny castle
Day 2- Waterford--Cork--Kenmare
sites: waterford factory tour, Blarney castle, maybe ring of Baera and rock of Cashel
Day 3- Kenmare--Lehinch--Cong (via tarbert ferry)
Sites: ring of kerry, cliffs of mohr, Ashford castle
Day 4- Cong--Achill Island
Day 5- Achill Island
Day 6- Achill Island--Dublin
sites: new grange
-is this a realistic timetable?
-are some sites too commercial and we'd be better off deleting them
-gas availability and pricing?
-where to find good road map download?
I'll let one of the Ireland natives answer this one, but thought I'd point out that in August you will have nice, long days. Since it won't get dark until 10pm or so (I was there in early July and it didn't get dark until after 10), you should be able to squeeze a lot of sightseeing in those 6 days.
I liked the Rock of Cashel (also liked Jerpoint Abby not far away, try and visit there if it's close) and especially the Cliffs of Mohor! Don't know anything about Achill Island.
The only thing I would say is that you are doing a lot of driving in those days. It's going to be like a whistle-stop tour and you will prob find that you are trying to pack a lot in. It could be hard to fit things in. For example, the Beara Peninsula and the Ring of Kerry are both long drives which are best enjoyed at a more leisurely pace.
I bet you'll end up wanting to stay in Kerry altogether.
Achill is a lovely part of the country and i'm not dissuading you to visit, but if you wanted to shave off some driving time, I'd suggest going out to see the Aran Islands from Galway. You might find there's more to see and do there as well. Achill, while it is strictly speaking an island, really just seems like part of the mainland. The bridge connecting it is very small, and you dont feel like you're on an island really.
Its a beautiful, wild place, and definitely would be less touristy than the Aran Islands, so it depends on what you are hoping to experience. Anyway, just a thought....it might save you some time to take the boat to Aran instead.
If you go to Trinity College, be sure to check out the Books of Kells. In Front Sq, there is a little booth where you can book a guided tour of the campus. It's usually quite good.
St. Patrick's Cathedral is about 20 mins walk from Trinity and also is worth seeing. On the way there, i suggest you pop into Christchurch cathedral as well.
Kilkenny is a great spot, and the castle can be seen in quite a short space of time. When youre done with that, visit the Kilkenny Design Yard just across the road. Lots of fantastic arts and crafts there.
Waterford was founded by the Vikings, and so is a very interesting city to walk around. Check out Reginald's Tower, the Fransiscan church, and just walk around the little cobbled streets for an hour or two. Lots of interetsing little shops. The Waterford Crystal Tour is a must for tourists.
You will drive Waterford to Cork in about 2 hrs. Cork city is a great spot. Its the European Capital of Culture this year, so there's a lot going on there at the moment. Blarney is just outside the city, and is a small little village. Word of advice, dont actually kiss the blarney stone...drunk locals have been known to "relieve themselves" there at night. The Beara Peninsula is one of the most beautiful parts of the country. You would need a day or two alone just to see this.
You mentioned the Rock of Cashel here, but I'm afraid this is about 2-3 hrs drive from West Cork up to Tipperary, and would take you way out of your way if you are heading to KErry. So you might have to forget about this one....
Kenmare is one of my favourite towns in Ireland. Lots to see and do. Very friendly locals. A good place to stop and pamper yourself for a night or two. Great food!
Day 3 is a bit unrealistic - I think you're trying to squeeeze too much in here. Its doable but you'd be driving all day. From Kenmare you can begin the Ring of Kerry. Most of this is along windy narrow roads, and you'll prob be taking it easy driving. PLus, you are going to want to stop all the time in the villages and towns along the way and to take photos. I'd say stop in Dingle - I just spent the wknd there and it is the most beautiful place!
Moving on to Clare, as Travel100 said, you have to see the Cliffs of MOher! They are spectacular. Doolin is great spot if you want to hear some good traditional Irish music. If you're looking for to-die-for food, check out Bruach na Haille restaurant in Doolin. It looks like you walked into someone's house, but its amazing.
Lahinch is a seaside town and is mainly just full of amusement arcades. If you would like a more secluded beach to swim at ask the locals to point you in the direction of Spanish Point.
Lahinch to COng is a really long drive. You'll be heading towards Galway and from Galway towards Mayo. Cong is at the upper end of Connemara - a very beautiful part of the world. You can visit the ruins of an old monastery in Cong. Ashford Castle is nearby as well (Pierce Brosnan was married there a couple of years ago )
Cong to Achill is about 2-3 hrs drive. Achill to Dublin is 3-4 hours drive.
You will have no problem finding service stations, even the remote parts of the countryside. Petrol is averaging about €1.04 per litre at the moment. I would check out the AA (AUtomobile Association) for a good road map. They have an office right beside Trinity College on Suffolk St. in Dublin.
Book your accomodation for Dublin in advance. Try www.failteireland.ie for accomodation recommendations in any part of the counrty.
The weather in August is usually quite good in Ireland, but always keep a brolly in the back of the car anyway.
Hope that helps,
If you need any more help, let me know.