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12 Days in Ireland - too ambitious?

Hey there - I've created an itinerary for 3 of us for 12 days in Ireland and our goals are to see as much as possible and enjoy the locals as much as possible - though I'm not sure how possible it will be to do both! This is what I've secured for our itinerary:
Day 1 - we arrive in Dublin at 8am and will drive to Kilkenny to see the castle, St Canice's, and Rothe house. From there we will drive to Rock of Cashel (how much time should we allow for this?) and continue to our first overnight in Dingle. Hoping to spend some time in a pub or two before crashing for the night.
Day 2 is in Dingle also where we will drive the Dingle Peninsula Loop Trip (from R Steves' book - anyone know how long this might take?) Also considering Windows of Diseart, distillery, and walking exploration - and also hanging out in some pubs
Day 3 we drive to Doolin (anything to stop and see/do on the way?) - where we will see the Burren and Cliffs of Moher and hang out in some pubs
Day 4 we drive to Rossaveal and ferry to Inishmore where we will stay the night and do some island exploring as recommended in Rick's book
Day 5 we leave island on 5pm ferry so we have some time to relax and explore some more on Inishmore - and end up in Galway - hoping to catch the arts festival (anyone know the dates for this?)
Day 6 Connemara Driving Tour from Galway (how long should we allow for this - I know it's an all day event but I'm curious about a ballpark number of hours?) - overnight in Galway
Day 7 drive to Donegal (is there anything to stop and see/do along the way or do you have any tips?) - Slieve League Cliffs maybe?
Day 8-9 staying in Donegal and considering these sights/activities: blo karting, Northern Ireland coastal sights such as Giants Causeway, Bushmills Distillery, Carrick a Rede rope bridge and Dunce Castle - in Inishowen itself, visiting the most northerly part of the country - Malin Head and then touring around scenic drive "Inishowen 100". Also in the peninsula you could visit the Doagh Famine village which takes you back it time to see how people survived in this area from Famine times till now. Also have numerous ancient monuments and crosses to visit, and if the Irish weather holds up, lots of beautiful beaches to explore.
And of course Glenveagh National Park (Please, I would love some recommendations :)
Day 10 we drive to Dublin (
can anyone recommend anything to do along the way?) At 7:30 that night we are doing the Traditional Irish Musical Pub Crawl
Day 11-12 we are scheduled for a Pat Liddy walking tour, St. Patrick's Cathedral Evensong, and Book of Kells/Trinity College. (
What are some other MUST SEE/DO things?*)
Day 13 our flight leaves from Dublin at 9:35am

I would love to hear anything you have to share - I know this is an ambitious schedule, but I try to do as many things as possible since I may never be back! Thanks for your time and consideration :)

Posted by
1705 posts

I'm no Ireland expert so hopefully others will weigh in. But you ask a specific question - is this too ambitious? Well, there's any easy answer for your first day - yes...that's a plan that sounds miserable.

You don't say where you're flying in from but I'm assuming you're from the US. So you're coming from the US on a flight that's at the very least 7 hours. Then you're renting a car, driving on the "wrong" side of the road and heading out to Kilkenny...130 kilometers and stopping to three 3 sites. Then you're heading out another 70 kilometers and stopping at another site. Then you're driving another 200 kilometers to Dingle and hoping to hit a pub or two before you crash for the night.

I cannot imagine doing this. I would slow this trip way down....you'll enjoy yourself much more if you're not moving around this much. But at the very least slow down your arrival plans.

Posted by
7 posts

Thanks so much for responding, Valerie. I appreciate your input and its exactly what I'm looking for. I'm wondering now which would be the best to cut out from my too ambitious Day 1? Anyone? :)

Posted by
9361 posts

Driving from Dublin to Dingle, via Kilkenny and the Rock of Cashel, will take you a minimum of eight hours driving time with no stops of any kind - photo ops, lunch, tours, pubs, etc. And you propose to do this on your arrival day? Are you arriving from the States? Have you driven on the left before?

You have some great ideas but you really need to look at a map to see what is where (www.viamichelin.com is your friend - add 25% to their drive time estimates). There are tons of things to see along the routes you are proposing, but you have no time to stop. What do you mean by Connemara Driving Tour? Are you talking about driving the whole of the Connemara region and back to Galway in a day, or what things did you intend to see?

Posted by
1878 posts

This seems way to ambitious right from the start. You are planning on arriving and seeing three sights in Kilkenny, then the Rock of Cashel, and driving all the way to Dingle—according to Google maps that is over five hours of driving alone on the day of arrival. It will take time to be processed into the country and pick up the rental car, too. My wife and I just returned from a fourteen night trip to Ireland (not including travel days). We drove into Kilkenny and it can be confusing and congested, plus parking is very difficult. Very nice town to visit, just don't think that zipping in and out is a snap. For the sake of safety alone driving from Dublin airport to Kilkenny on the day of arrival is risky.

Posted by
7 posts

Hi Nancy - thanks for your reply and valuable feedback. Yes, we are coming from the states. No, I have not driven on the left before. I was talking about the Connemara drive mentioned in Rick Steve's 2016 Ireland book which he mentions as a full day which takes 5 hours driving, not including stops.

Perhaps we should just plan to drive straight from Dublin to Dingle?

Thanks for the map link - I'll be checking that out right away!

Posted by
9361 posts

You didn't mention if this is your first visit, but if so, you should be aware that driving in Ireland can be maddeningly slow in some areas. It's not like you can assume that 60 miles will take an hour - possibly more like 90 minutes, or more. That first day, you will be tired early, even if you got some sleep on the plane. If it were me, I would skip Kilkenny all together, but that's because I don't care for Kilkenny. The castle is more like a mansion than a castle. Parking was tough to find and expensive. But if you want to see Kilkenny, I would plan on spending your first night in Cashel. The Rock of Cashel will take a couple of hours if you want to see the little film, too (you should).

Posted by
9361 posts

Just curious, if you knew how long the Connemara drive was, why did you ask? I don't know what route it talks about in the book, so I can't say whether that is accurate or not, but I think it would be more, particularly if you intend to stop, say, at Kylemore Abbey, or Connemara National Park, or in Clifden.

Posted by
950 posts

That first day sounds dreadful. After arriving in Ireland, give yourself a day to recover from jet lag before heading out. I would suggest spending a night or two in Dublin first not last. Then venture out by car to see the countryside. You will find that driving there is a bit disorienting especially when you come to a roundabout. My husband is used to driving in Ireland, England and Scotland and even he is disoriented when he first gets behind the wheel in those countries. For your sake and for the sake of others, don't do it. As others have said, getting from point a to point b in Ireland will take you longer than you think. Some of those country roads are extremely narrow with barely enough room for two cars to pass each other so you have to take it slow. I also think you shouldn't try to see so much that you don't have time to appreciate what you are seeing.

Posted by
7 posts

Mary, thanks so much for the feedback. You are so right - it's important for us to take the time to enjoy the things we experience in Ireland - more than the number of things we get to see. Valuable!

Posted by
7 posts

Nancy, I was just curious if anyone had actually driven that route. The book mentions a drive time, but nothing of the time it might take for stops (at least that I saw).

Posted by
7 posts

VS, thanks so much for your input. I can see that I need to modify my first day and probably just need to make it to Dingle and get some rest. All of this is very helpful to me so I appreciate your time and wisdom in responding.

Posted by
9361 posts

Stops would be dependent on what your needs are, so it's doubtful that someone else's experience would be the same. For example (though not in Connemara), some people might spend a few minutes stopping to take pictures of Rock of Cashel from the road. Some others might might spend longer going up to walk around, and still others might want to see the museum and film. All choices are equally valid, but they take different amounts of time.

Posted by
1878 posts

Also, I should have mentioned consider flying into Shannon if you want to spend your first night in Dingle. There is so much great to see in Ireland, you are going to places we have not even seen over 25 nights on two different trips! At the same time there is very little that you really absolutely must see. It's not like going to Rome and missing the Colosseum, if you miss the Rock of Cashel (though try hard to see it). The country is the sight, in so many ways. The magic is in the small moments of interaction with the locals and not in the magnitude of the sights themselves. We had only one one night in Kilkenny this last trip, and had a great evening out followed by a morning of walking the town. About all we did was a quick return visit to the castle and walk the town center on that morning, but we had a very nice visit. That's said, it would not be the end of the world to miss Kilkenny entirely. It's a country more conducive to blitz travel than most, but don't push it too much. Realize that weather can and will ruin any given day, and if you are blasting through your itinerary too fast you lessen your chance for that one good weather day in a region. Our days at the Cliffs on our recent trip, it was pouring rain. We did have a day of glorious sunny weather in Dingle though! Last bit of advice, super CDW on the rental car for sure.

Posted by
7 posts

Everyone, thank you so much for your input. I really do appreciate all of your feedback and will apply it to my revised and more relaxed itinerary!

Posted by
1878 posts

Super CDW is zero deductible collision damage waiver. Technically it's not insurance, the rental company just agrees to take the hit for any damages. On our recent (May 2016) Ireland trip there were scratches on the underside of the left front bumper that I must have missed upon initial inspection.. or someone scraped the car, because I know I did not hit anything. The pictures they had from before the rental were of course low resolution and the underside obscured by shadow. Did not cost me a dime, but the rental agent said "we could have charged you whatever we want if you did not have the super CDW." Charge me "whatever they want"? Glad I had the super CDW.

Posted by
330 posts

Not to hijack this thread but I never purchased the Collision coverage on vacations usually because my credit card (Capital one) as well as my insurance company will cover the damage.

But I've never rented a car in a foreign country either.

I take that back. Rented cars on Caribbean islands. But I've never had an issue with a rental car company giving me a hard time upon return. This could be interesting.

Posted by
785 posts

Some (many?) credit cards specifically exclude Ireland from their coverage. Be sure you call and ask if you're not sure about the particular country in which you'll be driving.

Posted by
381 posts

Two quick comments:
1) In the fall of 2014 car insurance was not covered by any of our credit cards in Ireland.
2) Just looking at your schedule, I am exhausted. We did a two week trip to Ireland in 2001 (much younger then!) and we moved every day or do. When we got home we were sick we were so tired.

Posted by
1145 posts

Have to agree with the other responses. Your days 8-9 seem to be almost impossible. From Donegal to Giants Causeway is about a 4 hour round trip. We spent about 3 hours at the Causeway Visitor Center and walking down to the sea to see the columns. This is a full and tiring day without including Bushmills and Dunluce Castle. You should use google maps and input your driving itinerary for each day to see the time involved. Then add in time to stop to enjoy the sights. This is one way to determine which are "must visits" and which are "drive-bys" and which might have to be cut. A rushed trip will not be enjoyable.