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Ireland Itinerary - thoughts?

Greetings, My husband and I are travelling to Ireland this spring. We will arrive at 5 in the morning in Dublin on Thursday May 1st and our flight out of Dublin is around 11am, Sunday May 11th. This gives us 10 days of traveling and seeing the sights. We definitely lean towards loving small towns and their charm. We definitely like to stay active but we want a little relaxation, too. Here's our rough itinerary based off skimming through Rick Steves:

Day 1: Rent a car, drive north to see Monasterboice, Bru na Boinne, Trim and then south and stay in Kilkenney
Day 2: Enjoy Kilkenney in the morning, see the Rock of Cashel, drive down south and stay somewhere around Cork. I would say we would stay in Kinsale, but there is a rugby event going on and I don't know if it's a good idea or not.
Day 3: Drive along the coastline, stay in Kenmare, enjoy the town
Day 4: Stay in Kenmare, see some of the sights in the area
Day 5: Drive the Ring of Kerry, stay in Dingle
Day 6: Enjoy Dingle
Day 7: Drive the Dingle loop
Day 8: Go see the Cliffs of Moher, explore the Burren, overnight in Galway
Day 9: Drive back to Dublin, explore Dublin
Day 10: Explore Dublin
Day 11: Depart

Does this itinerary seem like a good mix of sight-seeing and relaxing? We wanted to see the Giant's Causeway but I'm afraid adding it will make it a whirlwind of a trip. Also, is it realistic to do one of the islands? Both Skellig Michael and Inishmore are intriguing, but I don't know if they're worth it. We can trim time from somewhere if needed. Thanks in advance!

Posted by
7584 posts

I haven't been to every place on your list, so I will leave that to others. I do want to say that you may be planning too much for your first day. We landed in Dublin, picked up a car and drove straight to Kilkenny. I'm glad I didn't have to drive further. I was beat and the additional challenge of driving on the left was an additional stress. It was too early to check into our B&B, so we parked in town, had lunch, walked around, toured the castle and checked in when it was time. I was too tired to think about getting in the car again so we found a place to walk to for dinner. After a good nights sleep we were good to go by morning and driving wasn't a problem.

For what it's worth, Dingle was my favorite place in Ireland. It's nice you are giving it enough time. Are you returning your car when you get back to Dublin? You definitely don't need one there.

Posted by
9361 posts

WAY too much the first day! I speak from personal experience. Here's what happened with me. My flight arrived, I got my bag, found the rental counter and did my paperwork, then waited for the shuttle to my car. I drove straight to Bru na Boinne, arriving around 11:30, I think. My ticket time for the shuttle to the site was 1:15 (and this was in February, so it could be a longer wait in May), so I killed some time in the little museum at the visitor center, had a drink, and waited. I was out of there by maybe 2:45-3:00, then drove to Monasterboice. Monasterboice is out in the country, so it takes a little winding around to get there. By the time I was done there, I started to head south and ended up spending the night in Navan, 30 minutes from Dublin, because I was getting close to my personal fatigue limit and just couldn't get any farther. The next morning I drove down to Glendalough and Avoca. The drive from Navan to Kilkenny is close to three hours with no stops. Note that I didn't fit Trim into that day, either. Your flight arrives several hours earlier than mine did, so you might be able to do Trim that day, but you will be running out of steam way before you can get to Kilkenny.

You have the same issue on Day 8. The drive from Dingle to Galway is close to five hours, but you aren't going straight there. You can take the Killimer-Tarbert ferry to save a little mileage, but it doesn't save a lot of time. It does put you on the coast road for the Cliffs, though. If you leave Dingle really early, and you don't run into any farm equipment or sheep on the road, you could probably do it, but it won't exactly be relaxing. Driving can be much slower than the distance might make you think, particularly in the west.

Posted by
590 posts

Nancy and Andrea, thanks for the input and the warning about too much the first day! I've been doing a little more reading and some flight research, and I think it might be worth the extra $130 to fly into Shannon and out of Dublin. Sounds like it will be easier to get our bearings driving around Shannon first, too. I'm also looking at adding a day to the trip and made some changes...hopefully for the better!

Day 1: Arrive Shannon 12:30pm, rent a car, explore the Burren, stay in Doolin.
Day 2: Walk Cliffs of Moher, take a ferry tour of the Cliffs of Moher and Inisheer, stay in Doolin.
Day 3: Drive to Dingle, explore Dingle, maybe do the Sciuird Archaeological Tour, stay in Dingle.
Day 4: Shea Head Drive, stay in Dingle.
Day 5: Explore Dingle.
Day 6: Drive to Kenmare, stop and do carriage ride at Gap of Dunloe. Maybe stop and see Kissane sheep farm, stay in Kenmare.
Day 7: Ring of Kerry Drive, stay in Kenmare.
Day 8: Explore area around Kenmare, stay in Kenmare.
Day 9: Drive through Cork, see Rock of Cashel, stay in Kilkenny.
Day 10: Explore Kilkenny in morning, return car in Dublin. Stay in Dublin.
Day 11: Walking tour of Dublin, maybe do Guinness brewery tour? Explore and stay in Dublin.
Day 12: Depart

Posted by
2070 posts

I think your revised itinerary is great, Julie. I don't think Kilkenny is anything special, so you might want to come up with an alternative, perhaps Kinsale, which is a very nice town? (I'm not sure of the driving distances.)

I would not waste time on the Guiness tour. It did nothing for me. I loved the Trinity College Library though. I wanted to go to the Gaol too, but unfortunately, I saved it for our last day and it was closed (Monday).

Posted by
1827 posts

I personally would also drop Kilkenney, did not find it that interesting, suggest you go to Kinsale. ferry to Cobh. we love the view from the cathedral. if doing Dingle, would suggest dropping ring of kerry and maybe add a day in Dublin. Before dropping car, go to Newgrange or Knowth first. Highlight for us in Dublin was the Gaol, but as stated, I think it is closed one day a week. We felt the brewery was too expensive and too boring. Especially if it is a rainy day, you cannot see much from the roof. Enjoy trip.

Posted by
9361 posts

I, too, would not waste time or money on the Guinness Storehouse. Instead, I would see Kilmainham Gaol or one of the National Museums. I'm also not particularly a fan of Kilkenny. Your revised itinerary is better, and you will be happier starting in Shannon.

Posted by
590 posts

Ok...I have spent the majority of my day today trying to do some in-depth research of our potential stops and I've done some more's so hard to know what will appeal to us the most! I'm curious, if we spend 4 nights between Dingle and Doolin, would Kinsale/Cobh seem very different to us? I know they are all coastal towns, so would there be much of a different appeal to Kinsale/Cobh versus staying in a medieval town? That being said, the real reason I selected Kilkenny was because it seemed like a good stopping point after driving from Killarney and making stops at both Cahir Castle and the Rock of Cashel. I'd love to hear your suggestions for a better stop! I did read that Inistioge and Thomastown are both charming, so maybe they would be better? Also, after more reading, we are more interested in the Killarney/Kenmare area then we were at first. We would like to catch the Celtic Steps show in Killarney (has a lot of great reviews). We would stay one night there and then drive on to Kilkenny or another suggested town.

So...round 3! :)

Day 1: Arrive Shannon 12:30pm, rent a car, drive to Doolin. Take a late afternoon hour-long boat tour of the Cliffs of Moher.

Day 2: Walk the Cliffs of Moher in the morning. Take a walking tour of the Burren in the afternoon. Stay in Doolin.

Day 3: Drive to Dingle (which sounds like it will take a few hours) and drive Connor's pass on the way. Maybe relax and take the brewery tour in the afternoon?

Day 4: Slea Head Drive and stop for the Celtic Prehistoric Museum and Kilmakedar Church. Explore Dingle in the afternoon.

Day 5: Explore Dingle in the morning. Drive to Kenmare. Do a carriage ride at the Gap of Dunloe.

Day 6: Ring of Kerry Drive, stay in Kenmare.

Day 7: Ring of Beara Drive.

Day 8: Explore Killarney National Park, hike the Torc Mountain. Celtic Steps show in evening. Overnight in Killarney.

Day 9: Hit the road, stop and see Cahir Castle and Rock of Cashel. Overnight in Kilkenny/Thomastown/other?

Day 10: This is where I feel like I'm really not sure what to do with our time. We could drive on to Dublin, but to be honest, we both like charming, small towns and I don't know if we really want an extra day in Dublin. But, we could use that extra day to drive north of Dublin and see Newgrange. Other options would be adding another stop or just adding another night to one of our other stops...Help!

Day 11: Get up early and drop off car (provided we aren't already in Dublin). See Trinity College/Book of Kells, do a walking tour, and explore and stay in Dublin.

Day 12: Depart

Thanks again! We REALLY appreciate all your help. We are trying to figure out the best trip for us and it's proving a challenge!

Posted by
81 posts

I like your revised itinerary much better. We have done 2 totally different trips to Ireland. I believe you will be much happier with your first experience arriving in Shannon. It's a small airport - easy to get the rental car & it is easier to acclimate yourself to driving on the "left". To the Irish, that is the right side of the road. I can tell you that the Dingle Peninsula has been rated by most travel magazines as one of Europe's Top 10 most scenic destinations. I would recommend that you do the Slea Head drive first thing in the morning before any weather sets in. The drive from Doolin to Dingle will be a pretty full day - IF you like to make unexpected photo stops. Driving from Dingle (thru Connor Pass) to Limerick took the better part of 4 hours with only one minor stop for gas. So the Doolin to Limerick is a couple of hours to add on. We absolutely loved the Lighthouse B&B in Dingle. Before going on to Dublin, you could consider spending the night in Cashel which would break the trip up a bit. If you are selective, Dublin is fairly done in a day. Newgrange and the Hill of Tara north of Dublin are worthy sites. To the south, Powerscourt Estate and the little charming village of Enniskerry are worth the effort. My biggest suggestion is "go with the flow". You will get lost, it will be cloudy and rain about half the time. A cloudy day without rain, the Irish call a "lovely" day. BUT the people are the warmest in all of Europe. Enjoy and have a blast!

Posted by
590 posts

Hi Jerry, thanks for the tips! Good to know to drive Slea Head early -- that's what we were thinking we would do but to know the weather is better, I've made note in our personal itinerary to do so. As for Doolin to Dingle, I hope to take our time and enjoy some photo stops. We have already mentally prepared ourselves that we won't be in a hurry to get anywhere and that we need to take the approach to stop and smell the roses. I hope that attitude will make the driving part of the trip much more enjoyable. We have booked Emlagh Lodge -- I hope we enjoy it as much as you enjoyed the Lighthouse. I have read that Cashel has some tasty restaurants. How is the nightlife?

As for our itinerary, we are thinking we will stay in Cashel/Kilkenny/somewhere and then depart early the next morning, return the rental car in Dublin, and then sight-see in Dublin for the day. For the next day we are considering booking Mary Gibbons tours for Newgrange / Hill of Tara; the reviews sound wonderful and it sounds like you get a wealth of information. I love archaeological history so I think we will prioritize the National Museum of Ireland while we are in Dublin.

We are so looking forward to this trip! :)

Posted by
123 posts

You have a wonderful trip going for you.
All I can say about the Burren area near the Cliffs of Moher is drive the R477 (wonderful costal road) and the R480 (it's the road for the park and the caves). I personally didn't enjoy the day vibe of Doolin, it's very much a night town. They have different music festivals throughout the year, so does Kilkenny. The Cliffs don't take long at all to see, they have a half wall along the edge of the cliff.
I've driven the roads on the Dingle Peninsula many a times, if you don't think you can get to Connor's Pass before night fall don't take it for your first time on it. The northern side of the pass is one lane and they don't drive slow, your horn around the corners is your new favorite thing. That said the other said of the pass is two lane and it's at the top of the pass that has the amazing view. Well worth go up on the Dingle town side for the sunset.
Dingle has great pubs all around. On your way to Slea Head stop off at the Beehive Huts (thousands of years old huts).
For the Beara Peninsula (my favorite place) a must is the Healy Pass (again don't try it in the dark).
I loved my time in Kilkenny, if you do stop there look up the neighborhood local pub called the hole in the wall. :)
If small town/villages are your thing and you don't want to be in Dublin much, take the train/subway to Howth. They have great walks available there. The town is small and so much fun. No car needed to get there. Hope this helps.