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21 day itinerary critique needed- public transportation

Hey all-- my husband and I (75 & 66) are traveling in Ireland August/September. After a rather harrowing experience driving in Scotland a few years ago, we fell in love with the less- stress option of using buses and trains. Obviously, the logistics are more cumbersome and this is where I'm struggling with our itinerary. With 3 weeks, we can see a large part of both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. My question: is the following itinerary too much? This gives us at least 2 nights in each locale and allows us 1.5 - 2.5 days to hike and sightsee before moving on. (The plus of sleeping in 8 different towns is it prevents backtracking, therefore less time traveling).

Aug 27 (arrive)- 31- Dublin; day tour from Dublin of Glendolough, Wicklow Mts, Kilkenny
Aug 31 -Sept 2- (bus 3 hrs) Rock of Cashel; Kinsale
Sept 2-4- to Killarney (3 hrs)- Killarney National Park (bike/hike); day tour of Ring of Kerry
Sept 4-6- 3.5 hrs to Dingle - day tour of Dingle Peninsula/Slea Head loop
Sept 6-8- 4 hrs bus to Ennis; Doolie; Cliffs of Moher hike; The Barren
Sept 8-11- 1.5 hr bus Galway; ferry to Aran Islands; tour or bike in Connemara
Sept 11-13- Bus to Derry- 5.5 hr; Derry, Antrim coast by bus & hiking
Sept 13-16- to Belfast- 2 hrs; Belfast; flight out of Dublin

Thoughts and suggestions appreciated!

Posted by
852 posts

Your trip has some similarities to what I did many years ago, but you seem to be sticking to just buses no train. The bus network is pretty good, but making use of the train system, also, could make some of you travel quicker and easier as the train won’t be subject to any unexpected issues that may creep up on the roads. I bought a combination bus /train pass, though I’m not sure if it is still available I would recommend checking it out if it is. I found it best to get the longest stretch of my journey out of the way up front, so after spending a few days in Dublin I took the train all the way to Killarney. From there I took the train back to Cork and caught the bus to Kinsale. From there I went back through Cork, caught the bus to Cashel, then did a bus/train combination to Kilkenny. This was the least straightforward part of my journey, but at the time going by bus alone was going to take a lot longer. After Kilkenny I took the train to Galway, with a stop in Athlone along the way. Then after Galway I took the train to Belfast. So I really relied on the train more than the buses because it was faster, and the train was never full. On my trip from Cashel to Kilkenny one bus was quite late, and a lot of people were waiting for it. It was almost full, fortunately, I got on. I opted to do a day tour to Dingle from Killlarney as getting there by bus was going to be too time consuming (I’m surprised you show it as only 3.5 hrs). At this point you are spending over 20 hrs on a bus on your various treks, if it were me, I would take a second look at making use of the trains to speed things up some, or opt to see some places from larger larger towns ( such as seeing Dingle from Killarney). Of course, I like train travel far better than sitting on a bus, so maybe I’m biased.

Posted by
11 posts

Thanks Anita. I'm in total agreement on trains-- we much prefer them over buses. And 20 hours on the bus does sound horrible! We are actually doing a combination of trains and buses. The 2.5 hr trip from Killarney to Dingle is a train/bus combo, for instance. I guess I was going for efficiency to save time but it's worth a second look to see if I can cut down on travel time.

Posted by
852 posts

I was originally going to take a similar path that you are contemplating because looking at the map it didn’t make sense to backtrack towards Dublin. But, when I really dug into the schedules, and the amount of time I was going to spend on buses instead of sight seeing, I began to realize it made more sense to change my route so that my transit times were as short as possible. Which is why, in the end, I removed some smaller places from my list, and spent more nights in towns that had great, and frequent, rail service. I removed staying in Dingle from my list, and stayed an extra day in Killarney to fit in the day trip to Dingle. This meant I was able to add another couple nights somewhere else, and my transit times from Killarney back towards Galway were all short hops, meaning I got to the next town with a good portion of the day left so I could still fit in some sight seeing. I also removed Doolin from my list, and stayed more nights in Galway, again allowing me to fit in more sight seeing from there. The problem with some of the smaller towns is that, yes there is bus service, but it might be only one bus a day, and may not be at a great time. And it made me nervous when I was looking at having to make too many connections (from bus to train to bus again). I just felt there were more opportunities for something to go wrong.

Posted by
11 posts

Thanks for the insight of your experience. Those were some of the changes that I was considering. I'm shifting to stay in Cork rather than Kinsale and extending stays in Killarney and Galway as bases. That feels much more relaxed. We'll be backtracking a bit but as you said, there is less time spent en route the next day (and less shlepping of luggage) and focuses more on the train system. On that same note, I'll also base out of Belfast and doing Derry and Antrim coast as day trips-- staying in 5 locations rather than 8. Much saner itinerary!

Posted by
852 posts

Sounds like a great plan, and there are many great day trips you will be able to take advantage of if you want to. I think I did one or two from each town, three in Galway. Look up the Crane Bar in Galway for some great music.You will have a great time!