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5 day trip - first time - advice needed

My wife and I are heading to Ireland for the first time in early June. With only 5 nights, trying not to plan too much and become too worn out to enjoy ourselves (also want quality time in the pubs for dinner and a few beers before bed). Planning to rent a car and travel down to ROK (Waterville looks like a good location) and Dingle. Flying into Shannon from here in Charlotte NC is the same price as Dublin. I’m thinking that may be a nice option to avoid traffic and a busy airport, but Dublin looks like a good option for arrival day before renting the car to explore. So 2 options. Thoughts and comments on either plan.

  1. fly into Shannon and then drive to dingle that day? Is this too much driving for being jet lagged (we’d probably land at around 6:30 am) in a new country diving on the opposite side of the road? I do plan on taking a half of an ambien (sleeping pill) for the flight, so I should have about 4 hours of sleep in me. Any suggestions for a good halfway stop for a nice chance to get out and stretch and see something interesting but not invest too much time and energy?
    Stay 2 nights in dingle and 2 nights in Waterville. Thoughts on a spot for a 5th night on the way back to Shannon. Flights home are at about noon.

  2. fly in and out of Dublin. Then we could stay first night in Dublin, and then drive down to dingle in the am of our second day (2 nights in dingle). But if we then did 2 nights in Waterville, the drive back to Dublin to catch a noon flight would be basically impossible. I’d maybe do a night in Waterville and the 5th night somewhere north of cork (I haven’t researched the east side of Ireland though). It looks like cork is 3 hours from Dublin airport.

Thanks for reading and possibly commenting!

Posted by
5019 posts

Start by being honest with yourself. You can not count the day you arrive, nor the day you leave - those days are consumed with adjusting to the effects of flying overnight to the other side of the world, and the tasks required to get yourself on the flight home. If I'm reading your post correctly, you actually have just 3 or 4 full days in Ireland.

First advice: on your arrival day, do NOT plan to get off the plane and do much of anything that requires a clear head and your attention. Do not arrive in Europe, jump in a car, and drive off. That's asking for trouble. Your arrival day you will need to struggle to stay awake, by getting outside, get some fresh air, walk around and get oriented. Stay up until after local dinner time, then sleep. Next day is actually the first day of your trip.

Second advice: Try hard to make your trip longer. IMHO it's not really worth the cost and hassles to go to Europe for just 3 or 4 days (unless you get to do that all the time and you're good at it; or if you're flying business class and can sleep easily in a plane). Try to eek out some more days for your trip.

With just 3 or 4 days there, I'd stick to one city, maybe squeeze in a day trip, but avoid moving from town to town - that burns time, and you don't have any of that to spare.

Others may have different suggestions, but I would work hard to find more days for your trip.

Posted by
228 posts

I second David's sage advice. Jet lag is a real nuisance and, for me at least, can last several days. I really would try to at least double the length of your stay. If that's not possible and you are determined to go anyway, fly in and out of Dublin. With so little time available, even the drive from Shannon to Dublin uses up very valuable time - and you'd be doing that twice.

Also think about being a little less adventurous and staying the whole time in Dublin, for which you don't need a car. At the most, just hire for one day if you must and explore local to Dublin - it's a nice region. The Wicklow Mountains are nearby and would give you a very representative rural Irish experience.

Posted by
359 posts

If your desire is to see the west under no circumstances fly to Dublin. Dublin to Dingle is 6-7 hour drive without major stops - you lose a whole day driving to Dingle and another day back. Shannon only.

I would somewhat disagree on driving. If you can be well rested going into your flight and sleep on the flight....moderate slow driving is possible but not ideal. Driving in Ireland is a challenge at best and doing it at all sleep impaired is a bad idea. But I have rested, taking it easy and driven a bit, safely. Problem is its 3-4 hours to Dingle from Shannon. At best you'd need to be super careful but that flight, like it or not, self confidence or not, does take a toll. Best option stay somewhere nice in the middle...maybe Castlemaine and head the rest of the way down early next morning leaving you tons of time to explore Dingle and Slea Head.

Another problem on such a short stay is switching from Dingle to Waterville. That without stops is about 3+ hours so you're burning a lot of another day. Throw in a stop or two and a lot of that day is gone, somewhat productively, but gone.

You can do both but you're in for a lot of driving. Doable and fun but a lot of road time. Personally on such short time I'd, if I got enough rest drive to Castlemaine and enjoy the first day w a good restaurant, pub and recupperative rest, making the rest of the trip better. Then head down to Waterville for the remainder of the time.

It's an awesome base for so much, FAR more to do then 3-4 days allow. The Skellig Ring, Skellig Michael, ringforts, insane scenery, great restaurants and pubs, being in a dark sky preserve for awesome star gazing, castle ruins, hikes, boat rides, bike rides, horseback riding, awesome towns, villages and national parks and Best of all the warmest, nicest people you'll ever run into. You'd get to really experience wild Ireland rather than be car bound.

If you have your heart set on Dingle AND the ROK it can be done but will be a LOAD of car time. Recommendation - maximize your trip by scaling back. It truly works.

Also unless for some reason you want a city experience avoid Dublin. It's nice but it's a city and a brief trip to Glendalough and Wicklow is great but not going to give you much exposure to wild Ireland.....and you'll have a fast CITY visit. If you love that - great. But for wild Ireland the west is best.

Posted by
1165 posts

I agree with others that I would first try and extend your trip if you want to fit in Dublin as well as the West coast. If you cannot, then I would either Fly to Dublin and to Dublin and surrounding areas ( Howth, Glendalough etc) maybe even take the train and venture to Belfast for day OR I would fly into Shannon and concentrate on Dingle and ROK

Have a fabulous time!

Posted by
2 posts

Thanks everyone for honest feedback. I’ll see if I can squeeze out an extra night. But definitely realize I need to remove either Dingle or ROK. Maybe just do the ROK, and stay 3 nights in Waterville as a home base.
So now thinking we fly into Shannon and at least make it to Adare (35 min from airport per google maps) or even Castlemaine as a stretch (thanks for that suggestion, at 2 hours).
Thanks all!

Posted by
1713 posts

Good advice from the others about the need to slow it down a bit and not stretch yourselves too thin on a first visit.
With an early arrival in Shannon (and at least a few hours sleep on the plane) you should be good to go as far as driving is concerned. Adare is a beautiful little village (with emphasis on the little) and has become a victim of its own popularity ... it fills up in a hurry once the day trippers start to arrive around 9:30 AM and goes into near gridlock shortly thereafter. Suggest a quick pit stop to fortify yourself with coffee, do a quick walkabout to stretch your legs, and then be on your way.
In the short time you have available I'd suggest finding one centrally located town that isn't Killarney and basing yourselves there. Either Castlemaine or Glenbeigh would be good choices for easy access to both the Dingle peninsula and the ROK ... particularly the exquisite Skellig Ring Road and the Gap of Dunloe.
Also, pay a little extra for an automatic ... the default rental in Ireland is a manual, and you really don't need the extra fun factor of shifting with the wrong hand while you're trying to sort out everything else. And take a look at the street view feature on Google maps to preview the sight picture of your route - helps me a lot before every visit and might be of benefit to you too.