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2 weeks in and out of Shannon: itinerary suggestions needed

Heading to Ireland for 2 weeks Mid July with wife, mother-in-law, and my 10 year old son. Looking for Irish culture, not too touristy or crowded, beautiful scenery with hiking and biking. What do you think of this:
Land in Shannon on red-eye. Drive to Galway.
2 nights Gallway (jet lag recovery time primarily in old town)> drive along coast stopping to explore The Burren to drive to
2 Nights Doolin (cliffs, possible ferry to aran island)> scenic drive along coast including ferry (not thru Limerick) to
3 nights Dingle> ring of Kerry drive to
3 nights Kenmare (Kilarney National Park, Ring of Beara)> drive to
2 nights Kinsale
1 night Ennis prior to flight departing Shannon

Open to any and all suggestions. Thanks!

Posted by
2949 posts

Pretty much everyone on this forum will advise you not to drive after a red-eye flight, especially in a country that drives on the left. Shannon airport has easy bus connections to Limerick as well as Ennis. Since you're headed north toward Galway at the beginning of your stay, how about spending your first night in Ennis, then picking up your car? At the end of the trip, stay in Limerick and turn in your car?

Posted by
8 posts

My last Europe trip to Germany picked up a rental car after all night flight, grabbed a coffee, drove an hour, and was not tired until later that day. I understand driving on other side of road a different ballgame. I’ll explore the bus to Galway then pick up rental car on day 3 good advice. What about the rest of the itinerary?

Posted by
2212 posts

Brian, it’s really a broken record around here about people driving after a long flight. At least respond to the man’s questions if you are going to lecture. You are an adult, you know your own capabilities.

I have been to Ireland two times, not all the places on your itinerary, but we loved Dingle and we stayed in Agrahadoe just outside Killarney. Don’t miss Gap of Dunloe and head to the Dingle Music shop for great, intimate Irish music concerts.

Here is my trip report.
https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/trip-reports/trip-report-7-nights-in-impish-ireland

Posted by
2272 posts

I agree. Looks like a well planned itinerary.
My two cents regarding the matter of driving immediately upon arrival: the general advice here, with which I happen to agree, is to avoid doing it if possible, mainly because most people tend to arrive in Europe after the long overnight flight sleep deprived, jet lagged, and are generally unfit to tackle unfamiliar traffic patterns when they step off the plane. Some people, on the other hand, are able to sleep quite well and arrive rested, refreshed, and ready to go. It's up to you to determine which of those categories you're likely to fall into and make your plans accordingly.

Edited to add: you can pretty much see what there is to see in Dingle in a day. The drive around Slea Head is only about 35 miles and even with stops along the way can be accomplished at a leisurely pace in a few hours. Might suggest taking one of your nights there and adding it somewhere else. Then, too, there are a few off the beaten path excursions from Dingle town that I can suggest if you're interested and are looking for something else to do with the extra day.

Posted by
1204 posts

Looks like fun to me. I've visited Doolin and Ennis and both are nice. BTW - it's my understanding that ferries to the Aran Islands from the Galway area are larger and less weather dependent than from Doolin. We went from Doolin to Inis Oirr and got lucky because the day before it didn't run due to high seas.

Posted by
2272 posts

Although it may be hard to resist booking a ferry called the Happy Hooker, another option for getting over to Inishmore from Galway is to fly: https://aerarannislands.ie/. Haven't yet done it ourselves but it does look like a great way to go. Would bypass any concerns about potential ferry cancellations due to rough sea states, plus it adds a scenic flight into the mix for the crossing.
At any rate we have it bookmarked ourselves for a future trip.

Posted by
8 posts

Since I'll be spending first 2 days in Galway, won't plan on doing the Aran islands from there as will be focusing on acclimating and hanging out in Galway. We will also be in Doolin for 2 nights after and, if the weather is nice do this: https://www.doolin2aranferries.com/islands-cruises/combo-aran-island-cliffs-cruise/

If we don't make it to the Aran islands due to weather so be it.

Been researching the Ring of Kerry and it seems to be a bit of a big tour bus touristy miserable situation. Instead thinking of skipping it to do Ring of Beara instead out of Kenmare. Thoughts on skipping Ring of Kerry for Beara? Also looking for lodging recommendations everywhere. Just had a 3 night air b and b in Dingle cancel due to covid not being able to find enough cleaning help. They are only doing full week bookings in the summer. Seems like the worker shortage is affecting Ireland too!

Posted by
2272 posts

Much as we love the Beara peninsula I wouldn't suggest skipping the ROK for it - especially as a first time visitor. The Ring is famous (and popular) for good reason - it's gorgeous and worth at least a day of your time.
Killarney town is to be avoided. It's something of a tourist trap anyway, and getting in and out of there when the tour buses are running can be a real hassle. Better IMO to stay somewhere along the stretch between Glenveigh and Castlemaine - well away from the tourist hordes yet still in a central location for a day trip up to Dingle, over into Killarney for a day exploring the National Park, the exquisite Gap of Dunloe, and the very pretty Skellig Ring Road out near the village of Portmagee - the tour buses don't go out there so it's a pleasant, scenic drive with lots to see along the way. Portmagee is where the boats depart for the trip out to Skellig Michael.
The congestion that you seem to be worried about is mainly in and around Killarney. Once away from there things mellow out quite a bit. Ireland used some EU Economic Development money years ago to improve the roads around the Ring so there are no more bottlenecks and blind curves that used to make a drive around an adventure reserved only for the stout hearted.
If you can still fit in a day out along the Beara peninsula by all means do. It's beautiful, and without the crowds usually associated with the attractions along the ROK.

Posted by
836 posts

I haven't done Beara but have done Dingle twice and Kerry once. I definitely like Kerry better - I'm the outlier on this forum on the Dingle vs. Kerry debate. You are correct that the main pullouts on the ROK can be overrun with tour buses. But if you leave the parking lot, literally, walk 50-100 yards out of the parking lot, you will find yourself all alone. I also found Kerry to have a much more diverse terrain and scenery for walks, hikes and exploring. If you are interested in hiking, look at the Kerry Way, https://www.kerryway.com/.

As for where to stay, if you decide to do either Kerry or Beara (and not Dingle), consider Sneem or Kenmare. From Sneem you can actually see the north side of the Beara Peninsula.

Posted by
2 posts

In 2018 we did Shannon to Aren Island 2 night, Galway 3 nights, Sligo 2 nights (visited queen Maves tomb) and stayed at an outstanding B&B called Castledale. Mayo (Ashford castle) 5 nights then back to Shannon area and stayed 1 night at Dromoland castle and last night at airport hotel for early morning flight. My spouse has Fibromyalgia so we have to allow more between stops

Posted by
508 posts

Great itinerary. (Ring of Beara was among our favorites. Beautiful scenery; far less traffic than Ring/Kerry.)

An activity suggestion: If you haven't done this before, taking in a sheep dog demonstration might entertain the whole family. Your itinerary will likely take you right by the Kissane Sheep Farm between Kenmare and Killarney National Park.

www.kissanesheepfarm.com The schedule is a bit haphazard; if interested, be sure to study the calendar on the website.

Another option. We saw the Cliffs of Mohar lit up by the sunset via a cruise from the Doolin docks. I think it was this outfit: https://www.cliffs-of-moher-cruises.com/

Posted by
1797 posts

What’s your plan in Galway because there is nothing there worth seeing unless you’re using it as a jumping off point to go to Inishmore or Connemare. Furthermore, it's a heavy traffic area and confusing to navigate in. Take a bus to Ennis the day of arrival and recuperate there for a couple nights. After your first night in Ennis rent a car and drive to Doolin for the day.

Posted by
20 posts

We took the red eye. Husband slept on plane and felt fine to drive from Shannon to Galway. We did first get a meal after the airport in Limmerick before the drive. We went with our three kids who were between 12-15 at the time and loved Galway. So prettty in Salt Hill, enjoyed walking the promonade and saw a great show Trad on the Prom one night ( Irish music, dance). Went to Ashford Castle from Galway, was nice drive. Your itinerary looks good to me, busy but definitely doable. Have fun .

Posted by
465 posts

The ferries now operating out of Doolin accommodate 194 passengers each. That's two companies and some 388 fellow travelers all heading to the islands. Gone are the days when the Happy Hooker and its brethern could only handle about a dozen passengers and five or six bicycles, which had to lowered down by hand some six feet from the dock to the deck. Tells you a lot of what to expect once you arrive. The good news is that, hopefully, most will be day trippers, lessening the competition for B&B rooms.

I'd also vote for the peaceful and lightly-traveled Beara Peninsula over the Ring of Kerry. We were disappointed when we biked around the Ring because the ocean was out of sight most of the time. Other than that, however, it was worth doing once.