5 Specific Questions

My wife and I are bursting at the seams as we begin the preliminary stages of planning our first trip to Ireland! Full disclosure: Rick's guidebooks helped us plan our first two trips to Europe so we're not exactly rookies, but this will be our first trip overseas since we've had children (they'll be 4 and 2). It will be crazy but it will be worth it! Instead of posting our first draft itinerary I thought I'd ask some specific questions to help us fill in some of the gaps, so here we go:

1 - Has anyone taken a bus tour to Glendalough? It is a must-see for us but we'd like to only rent a car when we leave Dublin if we can help it.

2 - The Rock of Cashel is another must-see for us. Having our young children with us will lead us to want to stay overnight at places rather than cram a lot into a single day. However, we're also intrigued by Kilkenny. If we possibly have 2 nights to spend would they be best spent in Cashel with a day-trip to Kilkenny or in Kilkenny with a day-trip to Cashel? ORRR should we consider spending one night in each town? That would go against our desire for multiple night stays everywhere we visit, but if it's the best idea then that is what we'll do. Follow-up bonus question: Is it really only an hour drive between the two towns?

3 - Has anyone ever visited Leap Castle outside of Roscrea and what did you think?

4 - We also want to build "vacation" time into this trip. Consequently, we are considering spending THREE nights at a lovely b&b in Kenmare. Is this town and Killarney National Park too good to be true?

5 - Here's the big one tripping us up. From all the flights we've looked at so far, it appears that RT tickets into/out of Dublin for all of us are $400-$500 cheaper than open-jaw tickets into Dublin/out of Shannon. Our last night will be spent at whichever airport we fly out of and we'll have to drop off our rental car as well. Looking at the maps it seems like driving from Dingle across the country to the Dublin airport would take at least 5 hours. It looks like the Drive to Shannon would be about half as long. Are those estimations remotely close? I don't want to spend our last day in Ireland stuck in a car, but I also don't want to spend that much extra money that we could either save or spend elsewhere during our trip. Thoughts?

Thank you all in advance for taking an hour out of your day to read this novel and for any insight you may give us.

Posted by Sherry
San Jose, CA
1852 posts

I'm going let others address most of your specific questions, but I'd like to maybe complicate your plans with one additional suggestion.

Given your interests, have you considered a stop at Clonmacnoise? Glendalough is lovely, and I'd definitely include it. Clonmacnoise is a little more out of the way, and consequently, quieter to wander around. It's also a more extensive monastic complex. You might want to read a little bit about it and decide if it fits your interests.

Regarding your Glendalough question – I'm not sure you need to take a bus trip there. You could rent a car in Dublin as planned, and simply drive south to Glendalough as your first stop. We arrived at Dublin airport in the morning, and it was a very manageable drive.

I've spent several days in a tiny village right outside of Kenmare, and it's a great area for scenic drives. For example, you can do the Cork coast from there, the Ring of Kerry, and the local mountains. And it's a cute town with some good restaurants, etc, and is typically less crowded than Killarney. Regarding your question about Killarney Natl Park – I think it's a beautiful area, but I'm assuming you realize that it's in Killarney, not in Kenmare? You could certainly day trip there from Kenmare.

Posted by Brian
Fort Lauderdale, FL, USA
213 posts

Hi Josh, Ireland is the best. I admire your courage going with 2 little ones!! WOW!!!

  1. Have never taken that trip but trips are easily found from Dublin sometimes in concert with Powerscourt Gardens. Make sure you take the hop on hop off bus in Dublin. Takes you to all the sights and the kids will love the double decker bus.
  2. Kilkenny is more of a town and is a better base. Day trip to the Rock of Cashel. About an hour. Don't forget Cahir Castle near Cashel about 20 minutes away. Cashel is basically a ruin. The other two are restored. All worth the time. Cashel is dramatic from afar.
  3. No clue.
  4. Kenmare is nice but small and very, very quiet. Killarney is more touristy but in a good way and also has a lot more to do, and would be much more family oriented. I would definitely stay there. Also better for a day trip to Dingle which you would enjoy. Muckross Castle is also a nice place to visit as well as Torc falls just outside Killarney near the Park. The kids would love the horse and buggy ride. The whole area is spectacular!!
  5. It is odd about the open jaw issue. I have flown many times both ways and the fares are usually within $100. Keep looking. A 5 hour plus drive on the last day is tough and Shannon is way much easier to leave from. If you fly out of Shannon stay in Bunratty, an easy 10 minute drive away. There is Bunratty Castle next door to Durty Nelly's Pub and a bunch of B&Bs on that street. I always stay there at Parkhouse which is very family friendly with very nice hosts. It is a piece of cake to get to the airport and car drop off from there. Can opine some more when you know itinerary, length of stay and objectives. Brian
Posted by doric8
325 posts

I've been to muckroos and powerscourt and I think the 'folk park" at bunratty castle is a much more interesting choice for kids.....animals to pet, restored cottages to snoop in.....ice cream, etc. the national stud is also interesting if you are a particularly horsey family. I've been thru rosecrea, but I don't think we stopped at the leap castle. if you do rock of cashel there is a cool bronze sculpture of dancing children on the grounds that might make a great photo op with your kids......

Posted by Nancy
Bloomington, IL, USA
8507 posts

One suggestion that might be helpful to you is to check out http://www.viamichelin.com. On this site you can check driving routes and times, estimate fuel costs, etc., from anywhere to anywhere. Add about 25% to their time estimates to get a more accurate picture of what driving is like in Ireland. If you check Dingle to Shannon airport, and add "stops" at Killimer and Tarbert, it will route you on a ferry across the River Shannon, which saves some time (and is fun) if you end up leaving from Shannon.

Posted by Starla
Tijeras, New Mexico, USA
25 posts

My sister and I visited Leap Castle a couple of years. Since it's been said that Leap is one of the most haunted castles in Ireland, we just had to see it. It's recommended that you contact the owner of the castle, Sean, and make an appointment for a visit. I called him from here in New Mexico and we agreed upon a day when we would be traveling near there. It was a little hard to find, but it was one of the best experiences I've ever had in Ireland. Sean is a great storyteller and he even played his whistle for us. He's pretty famous in Ireland and plays with other musicians quite a bit. He gave us a tour of the castle and told us all about the history of the place. There was one other small group there, but we waited until they left and had the place all to ourselves. Sean charges 20 euros per person for the tour, but it was well worth it to us.

We've also visited Glendalough and it was such a fantastic place. You won't be sorry you went, but we had a rental car and drove there so I don't know anything about a tour. But driving there was easy and believe me, if I can do it, anyone can!

The Rock of Cashel is another favorite place I've been. The first impression when you get close to it is so dramatic and I've been back more than once.

You might also like to visit the donkey sanctuary in Liscarroll. It's a pretty short drive from Shannon and is also not that far from Kenmare. I've adopted a donkey there and go to see her whenever I'm in Ireland.

It's impossible to have a bad time in Ireland, it's my favorite place in the whole world, just go and see as much as you can and plan on going back again. Hopes this helps.

Posted by Josh
Spokane, WA
42 posts

Thanks everyone!

I'm impressed by Clonmacnoise, but I'm not sure we'll have enough time for the detour. We might be able to combine it with our stop at Leap Castle if we have extra time.

@Starla - Is there an option to tour the castle ourselves or is a Sean-guided tour the only option?

@Brian - Thanks for all the great information! We're going to try to put together a solid first draft of an itinerary soon, once we can figure out for sure where we're flying out of. We'd appreciate your feedback again once we get that together.

IF we fly out of Shannon I guess we'll have a decision to make whether we want to take the ferry or go the longer way and stop at Bunratty and the folk park. I think we'd all be happy with either :-)

Thanks again for all your insight. We really appreciate it!

Posted by Starla
Tijeras, New Mexico, USA
25 posts


Leap Castle can only be toured with Sean as it is his family's residence as well. It's not a very big place but has a lot of character. I think it may be possible to just show up and knock on the door, but he may not be home and you would have wasted a trip.

Posted by Andrea
Spokane Valley, WA, USA
34 posts

My daughter and I spent 2 nights in Kilkenny and loved it! It is a very friendly, tidy town and would be very child friendly. The castle grounds are huge and would be a lovely place for your young ones to run around and blow off steam. Shannon Airport is a wonderful place to fly out of. It is not huge and you go through US customs and immigration there instead of in the US, making your connection in the US hassle-free. It's just like any US to US connection. If you opt for the Shannon Airport, I would suggest the Radisson Park Inn. It is literally a 3 minute walk across the parking lot (on marked sidewalks) from the hotel to the airport. I dropped my car the night before (saving time in the morning), walked back to the hotel and then walked over the next morning to leave. The rooms were clean, comfortable and very reasonable (more like a US hotel).

Posted by Josh
Spokane, WA
42 posts

Thank you Andrea! Good to see another Spokanite on here :-) I think we have decided to stay both those nights in Kilkenny and we're very excited! Where did you stay? We're leaning towards PineCrest B&B as recommended by Rick. I think we may get an early start the day we leave and visit the Rock of Cashel on our way to Kenmare. The more we learn about Kilkenny, the better we're feeling about our decision. Any other specifics about your visit to the town would be greatly appreciated!

Posted by Andrea
Spokane Valley, WA, USA
34 posts

We stayed at the Club House Hotel in Kilkenny ( a Rick Steves recommendation). I thought it was very nice. The room was clean and neat and the bathroom was also very clean (things I look for in a good hotel). By European standards the room was also fairly large (we had a 2 twin bed room). The breakfast was good and relatively quick. We actually asked for 1/2 portions the 2nd day. The staff was extremely friendly and helpful. We were only there one full day and that day we took a morning cycling tour through the backroads to Nicholas Moss Pottery factory then an afternoon bike town tour all through Kilkenny Cycling. That was a lot of fun but I'm not sure it would be too feasible with little ones. I don't know if they have child seats. You could contact them if you are interested as they are very helpful. There are also some nice walks in the area if you are so inclined. In addition to the castle grounds, your little ones might like a walk along the canal. It's an unfinished irrigation canal that been turned into a park/walk way (kinda like the Centennial trail but more grass) with lots of room to run and explore. We enjoyed music in the Kylter Inn that night. The bar music starts around 9 but at 6 or 7 they have a family music time in the upper part. We caught the tail end of a man teaching kids to play the Irish drum. We also went to St. Candice Church -- interesting Cathedral and climbed the round tower--not recommended for your little ones as it's basically a sturdy ladder all the way up; Roethe House a fairly interesting merchant's house and local museum. Across from the Club House Hotel is the Royal Spice Indian restaurant--super good Korma chicken! Also ate dinner at La Trattoria Italian restaurant at which we had good carbonara but the service was a little slow. Hope your trip goes well. You are brave to travel with young ones!

Posted by cchewter
7 posts

Josh, when you finalize your itinerary, would you consider posting it? We'll be in Ireland with our 4 year old from Oct 18-25 so am very interested to hear what you've come up with.

Posted by Josh
Spokane, WA
42 posts

^Absolutely^ Just playing the flight price game right now, then I'll be posting our preliminary itinerary about ten seconds after that! Kudos on taking the little one with you. It will certainly be an adventure!

Posted by deblentz
2 posts

Here's another Spokanite in the mix... well, former. Anyway, I'd be interested in the final itinerary as well. My hubby and I are going to Ireland in late March for a week with another couple; they've never been there, and we are returning after spending our first few days of our first European trip ever in Dublin (side trip to Cork/Cobh/Blarney). Ireland kind of grew on us; we would love to spend a lot more time there.

Have fun!

Posted by Claudia
Land of La
2584 posts

Killarney National Park is amazing. Add a trap ride up the Gap of Dunloe to the itinerary. The drive from Dingle to Dublin is about 5 hours. I'd fly into Shannon and out of Dublin but that's just me as I prefer seeing rural before urban in Eire.

Posted by Steve
139 posts

I know this reply is very late.

For #1 and #2: my wife and I spent two nights in Dublin, without a car (I wouldn't recommend having one). We picked one up on our way out of the city and drove to Glendalough (after a stop at Powerscourt). We continued on to Kilkenny for two nights. We then drove from Kilkenny to the Rock of Cashel, on our way to Dingle. I would highly recommend doing the trip this way. It was great for us.