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3 Days in Ireland

Greetings RS community! We (2 adults and 4 teens) are flying from Paris to Dublin for the final 3 days of our trip at the end of March. Our list of things to do in Ireland is, of course, too long, and looking for some insight to shrink it down to a handful of great memories (and a longing to return to see more). We have 3 full days. The family is interested in:

-the beauty (nature) of Ireland
-walking through charming towns/villages including pastel colored buildings/homes
-see/tour a castle (or lodge in one)
-visit county Clare - task from the grandparents :)
-experiencing a session of traditional music

We are ok renting a car to get around (or public trans if recommended). In my head I can see an itinerary like the following, but open to something totally different):
FRI: charming walks and music experience
SAT: nature drive (while ROK, cliffs of Moher and Dingle are popular destinations, I don't know if they are worth the travel time compared to other sights/experiences)
SUN: County Clare, see a castle (if not part of nature drive itinerary)

We are waffling between making a loop through Ireland over the course of the 3 days and establishing a home base and daily excursions.

Grateful in advance for your insight. I have read several posts to do some homework on my own, and that helped me articulate my thoughts above. Thanks!

Posted by
2391 posts

For that many people and luggage I think you would need a van. Most of the beauty of Ireland is in the west. Have you driven on the other side of the road before? You would need to get an automatic and the roads in the west tend to be narrow and you should be prepared for trucks, buses and sheep coming your way. Have you booked your flight or could you fly into Shannon and home from Dublin? You need to consider this. The alternative would be perhaps basing your group in one area and do day trips. Also you need to be back in Dublin the night before you fly home as most US f!lights leave in the morning or early afternoon and you should allow three hours for departure as you go thru US customs in Ireland and land in U S as if on a domestic flight. Wow so sorry to sound so pessimistic but trying to be realistic.. Best of luck.

Posted by
6 posts

Our travel days bookend the 3 full days fortunately. Already booked to arrive and depart from Dublin. No experience driving in Europe, and definitely considering that and appreciate the insight. We definitely want to enjoy the trip and not stress about the driving part. So how would you recommend first timers allocate those 3 days while soaking up the beauty of Ireland but limiting the driving stress?

Posted by
7578 posts

Gail mentioned Shannon Airport (which is in County Clare), and if you weren’t committed to the Dublin airport, I’d even suggest looking into flying in and out of Shannon. If the historic sights in Dublin and its urban vibe aren’t your priorities, then switching to Shannon, if possible, would be far more efficient for your days. You will need a van or other “people mover,” as cars or small SUV’s won’t accommodate more than 5 people, let alone luggage for 6.

If Dublin is non-negotiable for your flight(s), then arrive at the Dublin airport and immediately hop on a Citilink bus (or “coach” as they say in the British and Irish isles) for Galway. You’ll avoid having to deal with Driving On The Left until the next day, and save one day’s rental costs. Next morning, ideally pick up your vehicle in Galway, then drive to your Clare base, maybe visiting The Burren or Cliffs of Moher enroute. My husband and I have both driven manual transmission cars at home for years, and while shifting with the left arm and hand takes some getting used to, we’ve done OK with a stick in Ireland. Many folks on this forum recommend (or insist) on getting an automatic transmission, and I can understand their point, although it will cost more - likely a lot more. If 7 to 9 passenger vans aren’t available in Galway (I did some looking online, and you may need to look harder), maybe you’ll wind up having to just rent at the Dublin airport. Or take a coach or trains to the Shannon airport, and pick up there. Needing a bigger vehicle makes things more complicated.

So what base? I’d suggest Ennis. We’re staying there in May, and sadly have just 2 nights for this upcoming trip. With Ennis:
-you’re in the Heart of Clare, with natural beauty all around. You’re also a relatively short drive from the Cliffs of Moher and The Burren. If you wanted to drive farther south, you could even drive the Ring of Kerry, but that’d be stretching it for me, with the time you have

-many additional charming towns will be nearby, including Kilfenora, Lisdoonvarna, and Doolin

-castles? There’s the 16th-century Tower House at the Craggaunowen open-air folk museum 20 minutes east of Ennis, Thoor Ballylee Castle farther northeast, and Dunguaire Castle to the north, outside Kinvarra

-do the grandparents have specific other Clare task destinations? You’re right where you need to be to reach them

-the aforementioned Doolin is tops on many visitors’ list for Trad music, but Ennis has several pubs with music, on weekends or even every night.

Posted by
202 posts

Take direct bus from Dublin Airport to Galway. Check-in to hotel, evening pub tour in Galway.
Full day tour to Cliffs of Moher, several operators, will typically include visit to Dungaire Castle in Kinvara, drive through the burrens, visit the cliffs and visit Doolin (pastel colored buildings).
Thus, your check-list is more or less fulfilled.

You might stay in Galway and do another worthwhile day tour to Aran Island or Connemara.
Or you head south per train to Ennis or Limerick to visit Bunratty Castle (and maybe Quin Abbey and/or Craggaunowen park).
From Limerick you could go for a Ring of Kerry or Dingle peninsula day tour.

Posted by
6788 posts

Check the following carefully (and honestly) before you proceed:

  1. What day and time does your flight from Paris arrive in Dublin?
  2. What day and time does your flight home from Dublin depart? (This is to ensure that you really do have "3 full days" and you are not counting your arrival or departure days as one of them.)
  3. You need to spend your last night in Dublin (so you won't risk missing your flight home). Be sure to plan your return to Dublin the previous day and factor that in to your usable time.

You have just a very thin sliver of time to do what you are hoping to do, be careful to keep your plan realistic.

Posted by
7578 posts

We’re currently researching our upcoming trip that includes western Ireland and County Clare, with Rick Steves’ guidebook a primary source. Regarding Bunratty Castle, his tip is to skip it, leaving it “to the jet-lagged, big-bus tour groups.”

Posted by
7578 posts

A rental car “solution,” if a minivan or van aren’t going to work, is renting TWO smaller cars. Twice the luggage capacity, and you don’t have to maneuver or park a larger vehicle. That brings up its own complications, though. Each adult would be driving, with double the cost, double the gas, one follows the other but would need to coordinate logistics and when to turn off, stop, and find double parking spaces.

Posted by
6 posts

Thank you Gail, David, Cyn, and Paul for your input. Our traveling days are Thur and Mon, so we do have 3 full days. Definitely thinking through the rental need and scenarios. Don't want to add stress to the trip. I've also heard of a scenario where tourists went to the cliffs only to see fog, so need to monitor weather and have backup plans.

Reviewing some more recent posts, I read some comments that a trip to the cliffs from Dublin can take the whole day, however, if starting from Galway, like you suggest, and branching out to Kinvara, Doolin, the Cliffs, Ennis, and Limerick would provide a great taste of Ireland over a few days and reduce traveling (by saving the south for another time) while increasing experiences.

Posted by
6 posts

Update on our trip. Ireland was the highlight for our family during our 10 day tour of London, Cambridge, Paris, Ireland. We just wanted to get a taste of Ireland without getting too worn out and enjoy our time together, and that's how it played out.

-Stayed at Jury's Inn, Christchurch Dublin. Everything we wanted to see in Dublin was within 15-20 min walk!
-Breakfast at RoCo Cafe
-Visited St. Patrick's cathedral (no inside tour)
-Grafton Street
-Temple Bar
-Ha'penny bridge
-Trinity College (library tour - Book of Kells - our daughter loves books and libraries so highlight for her, but we all were impressed)
-Dublin castle (no inside tour)
-Gino's gelato
-P.Kearney's pub (family name so stopped in and session was just starting - unplanned perfect experience)
-O'Donoghues Bar on Merrion Row (where the Dubliners formed)

-Travel to Doolin (we rented an automatic van since there was 6 of us, and I picked up the driving without too much trouble - there was definitely some white knuckle moments which I anticipated from reading posts in this forum).
-Gus O'Connors pub for lunch, visited some shops
-Cliffs of Moher (parked at visitor center and hiked south and north for about an hour). AMAZING!
-Drove to Tralee - The Ashe Hotel (to get closer to Dingle and see another town in Ireland)
-Dinner at Kirby's Brogue Room Inn - Great!

-Breakfast at Ashe Hotel
-Drove to Dingle (start of Sleah Head drive)
-Discovered 9-10 stops in about 3 1/2 hours
-Lunch at Dingle Ahoy! Fish and Chips (a stand across from the harbor). The weather was nice and a new experience (everyone loved their food (chix burger, beef burger, battered fish and garlic cheese fries)
-Shopped in Dingle
-Headed back to Dublin

Thanks to everyone for their input. We had a great time and can't wait to go back!