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1st time Ireland and 1st DIY trip

Hi- We are in our late 40’s and flying from the US to DUB for the 1st time in early May. We have 12 days in Ireland and want to rent an automatic car as we don’t drive stick. We have traveled countless countries but all were via cruise ship so destinations were set and there was no stress in planning our days on land.

Ireland will be our 1st total DIY trip in another country. We are excited about this new experience but I am super stressed about where to even begin planning this trip. Our day jobs are very demanding and stressful so my goal is to plan as much in advance as possible so we can relax and have fun all while being as stress-free as possible while on vacation. If I were to be honest, I’d say I am nervous about not having a set itinerary like on a cruise ship but am so excited about really experiencing a country vs. only spending a few hours in each location before heading back to the ship.

We are flying into DUB around 10 AM, getting a car and want to go to a location outside of Dublin but are aware that we might be tired and need to acclimate and get used to driving on the other side of the road. We want to explore Ireland by 1st heading south and ending our trip in Dublin for a few days before flying home. The plan is to drop the car off at the airport and to get transportation to to Dublin.

As we travel, we would like to find a ‘home-base’ for a day or two and travel to different places each day before moving on to another ‘home-base’ for a few days. Our possible want to sees are below but please let me know if the order of destinations to visit makes sense, if something is not worth seeing, if there is a good location to stay in for a few nights to create that ‘home base’ and any other details you think would be helpful.

1st possible stop on day 1-

Wicklow- maybe see Wicklow Mtns and Powerscourt Gardens and Waterfall- Is Powercourt closed in May?

Other places we’d like to visit-

Kilkenny- visit Rock of Cashel, Swiss Cottage?
Waterford- Waterford factory? What else is there to do?
Cork- is Kinsale near Titanic Cobh, Blarney Castle- not really interested in Blarney Castle but would like to maybe see a castle.
Killarney- Killarney Nat’l Park, Muckross House and Gardens
Kerry- Ring of Kerry, Torc Waterfall, Molls Gap
Maybe Dingle- drive the Dingle Penninsula (any suggested stops)
Clare- Cliffs of Mohr, Bunratty Castle and Folk Park
Maybe Galway- not sure what to do
Drive across Ireland to Dublin airport to drop off car and get transportation to Dublin for 2 nights stay.

Thank you so much-

Posted by
216 posts


You will have an AMAZING trip! We did a similar trip in 2016 but shorter. I would suggest staying your first night in Dublin and grabbing a B&B for the night. We did, waking up refreshed and ready to go! Honestly, I did not have a set itinerary., we just set the GPS in the car to our next B&B and made stops in between. We ran into so many botanical gardens, waterfalls, and beautiful little towns. Waterford was pretty bland and just so you know “Waterford Crystal” was sold many years ago. I do believe there is a museum on the history of the crystal. Our B&B there made up for our lack of interest and was good downtime. Our next night we stayed in Killarney. This is a really cute place! I would highly suggest Larkinley Lodge for a B&B. The park is beautiful, we did a horse carriage ride which was nice. We did Dingle which had beautiful scenery. I would definitely have snacks in the car for the ride on that one. The Blarney Castle was nice. The gardens are actually really pretty to stroll through. They have an herb garden full of toxic plants. I thought that was pretty interesting. Galway was a busy seaside town. A few small ruins of castles we ran into and great seafood as well! Use RS Book, set your GPS and just roam!

Posted by
242 posts

I agree with NursCyn’s comment about spending time in Dublin to recover from jet lag. Move your two days in Dun=b lin from the end of teh trip to the beginning. You won’t need a car in Dublin

With 12 days you have plenty of time to cover the southern half of Ireland. BUT don’t underestimate how long it will take to drive between places. If using google maps add at least 25% to their drive times AND THEN ADD ON TIME FOR STOPS! Driving in Ireland is slow!

This is my suggested itinerary which leaves out Blarney Castle (an over rated tourist attraction and you have chance to see other better castles) and also Cork , Kinsale, Cobh... This assumes you have plenty of time to get back to Dublin on Day 12 for where ever you are heading to next. If you need to take out a night then delete Day 11. Spend another night in Ennis and then herad back to Dublin on Day 11 if you have to leave Dublin early on Day 12.

Day 1 & 2 Dublin

Day 3 Pick up car and drive to Powescourt (gardens are open all year) . After that visit Glendalough (a wonderful atmospheric early Christian site) and spend the night in or around Wicklow.

Day 4 Drive to Kilkenny and stop the night there for two nights. Spend the rest of the day in and around Kilkenny - visit the castle, St Candice’s Abbey, Rothe House and gardens, Black Abbey etc

Day 5 Drive to Waterford from Kilkenny and return to Kilkenny for the night. As well as Waterford Crystal there is Waterford Treasures which are three museums in what is descrinbbed as the Viking triangle.

Day 6 drive to Killarney for two nights via Rock of Cashel

Day 7 Kilarney National Park. Mucross House, Gardens and Farms, Ross castle, Gap of Dunglow. Overnight in Killarney

Day 8 Drive to Dingle and explore the Dingle peninsula. Overnight in Dingle.

Day 9 Bunratty Castle and Folk Museum - allow plenty of time - can take up to a full day. Spend the night in or around Ennis

Day 10 Drive to cliffs of Moher and then drive up round the coast through Doolin and Fanore, Ballyvaughan to Galway

Day 11 Spend the day exploring Connemara from Galway. Drive out to Roundstone with its small harbour and then to Clifden and do the Sky Drive. On a clear day this is one of the best short drives in the world. Then head for Leenane and think about a cruise on Kiullarey Harbour or else visit Kylemore Abbey. Return to Galway for the night

Day 12 drive back to Dublin via Clonmacnoise, another lovely early Christian Site.

Posted by
453 posts

Nat here are three things that fit the bill for reducing stress on your trip and offering some really awesome travel viewing. Take a couple of days out from behind the steering wheel and pay for a hired private guide. We hired Paul Brown for the Ring of Kerry and he was great. You wont regret it if it works out for your schedule. He picked us up in Kenmare at our B&B and we did a whole day on the RofK and he helped us plan our self drive the next day on the Beara Peninsula. We also did a half day tour in Dingle with Denis Ryan and it was also great, they both share stories and special spots you will have to work hard to find on your own. Also up in Doolin we enjoyed an evening at the Doolin Music House, laid back, trad music, good early evening fun. We also had a blast up in Cong at the Ireland Falconry School near the Ashford Castle.. just some food for thought

Posted by
15 posts

This info is just what I needed!!! Thanks you all so much for your thoughts and shared experiences.

Posted by
35 posts

I find the Rick Steves itinerary is Go-Go-Go. If you look over at TripAdvisor's Ireland forum, people will tell you LESS is MORE. Dont try to change hotels every night 1-2 nights. Ireland is best explored at a slower pace. I would try to do at least 2-3 nights in each location.

Maybe the first night do a 1-nighter. But I would want at LEAST 3 nights each in Killarney and Galway. Probably 2 in Dublin at the end. That gives you 3-4 more nights to add places in.

The RoK is at least 1 day from start to finish. Dingle requires at least 1 full day, so either a day from Killarney, or spend 2 nights in Dingle (remember 2 nights is only 1 full day on the ground).

Posted by
5701 posts

If you haven’t booked your flight you should Fly into to Dublin and fly home from Shannon. No back tracking needed. Spend the night in Dublin after your arrival.

Next morning after breakfast take the shuttle, taxi or bus back to the airport and pick up your rental. Drive Powerscourt then to Glendalough and then Onto the Rock of Cashel. Stay the night Cashel or Cahir or Clonmel. Explore whichever town you stay in.

Forget Waterford.

Next morning head toward Kinsale. Stay the night.

From Kinsale to Dingle. Base in Dingle for at least 2 nights. See Killarney National Park, Gap of Dunloe the Kerry Cliffs of Portmagee, and Sneem.

Posted by
15 posts

WOW! You have all blown my mind with your suggestions....thank you so much! Based on your thoughts, here is my new itinerary. Does this 12 day itinerary seem doable? Thank you in advance-

Day 1 & 2- Fly into DUB and spend 2 nights in Dublin. Relax, get acclimated and ready for a great tour of Ireland.

We need an automatic car rental and I have heard that renting from the airport will guarantee you an automatic. Can someone confirm this please?
Since we aren't renting a car until day 3, can anyone suggest a hotel with a shuttle to take us from airport to hotel on day 1 and then hotel to airport on day 3? If not, are taxi's readily available or is there another less expensive travel option?

Day 3 & 4- Get transportation to DUB to pick up automatic car and drive to Kilkenny. Stay in Kilkenny for 2 nights in same hotel to serve as our home base. Possibly stop at Powerscourt House and Gardens or Glendalough Park on the way to Kilkenny.

Places to visit from Kilkenny- Castlecomer Discovery Park, Kilkenny Castle, Kilkenny walking tour.

Day 5- Drive to Cork and stay for 1 night Visit English Market, Blarney Castle (any other suggestions).

Day 6, 7, 8- Drive to Killarney and stay for 3 nights.

Day trips we are considering doing from our Killarney home base- explore Cliifs of Moher, Dingle Peninsula, Connors Pass, Ring of Kerry driving tour, Bunratty Castle. I know this list needs to be cut down so any suggestions are welcome.

Day 9, 10, 11- Drive to Galway and stay for 3 nights
What day trips are great ones from this home base? Sheep farms might be interesting if nearby.

Day 12- Spend the day leisurely driving from Galway to DUB to drop off rental.

Find a hotel with possible shuttle from airport to hotel and vise versa. Spend 1 night in DUB airport hotel to rest before early morning flight out.

Posted by
580 posts

I'm not sure anyone save the rental agency can "guarantee" that you will get an automatic transmission car. I have rented twice from Conn's Ireland (a Hertz franchise) and have always gotten the car I requested, the smallest automatic available. I rent from the South Circular Road location in Dublin. They also have an airport location.

Re staying in Dublin. A number of folks on the forum have recommended Dublin airport hotels with shuttles. They will probably speak up at some point. I like to stay in Dublin City Center. There is a bus that goes from the airport terminal to the City Center. It's about $7.00 or $8.00 per person. Or you can take a taxi, there are plenty of them, for about $30-$35. There are a couple of nearby villages you could also consider staying at your last night. They include Trim and Malahide. Both have B&Bs and hotels which offer free parking.

Galway is closer to the Cliffs of Moher than Killarney.

Posted by
14 posts

The Aran Islands are a nice side trip from Galway (either for a day, or overnight). You can take a ferry to Inishmore from Rossaveal, or there are flights.

Agreed with the previous poster that Cliffs of Moher is closer to Galway than Killarney. The Burren is also in that general area.