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7 Days to visit Southern and Northern Ireland, HELP!

Me and my husband are looking to travel to Ireland in September. Our flight departs from Chicago on Friday September 7th to Dublin and then we will be in Ireland till Saturday September 15th.
This is our first visit and not sure the best options in order to see the most of Ireland. I have looked into guided bus tours and thought about renting a car, however it is a bit intimidating to have to drive on the different side of the road and I wasn't sure about parking and gas.
I really would like to travel to the Southern part of Ireland to see Rock of Cashel, Blarney Castle, The Skelligs, Ring of Kerry, Cliffs of Moher, Aran Isles, Ashford Castle, Kylemore Abbey, Possibly Glendalough, Galway, Connemara Park. As I know only having minimal time I will not be able to see all of this.
In Northern Ireland, Belfast, Giant's Causeway, abd the Carrick-a-rede Rope Bridge. Then in Belfast maybe the Black Taxi Tours. Maybe the Dark Hedges.
Like I said we have minimal time. Looked into doing a tour of the SouthWest attractions of Ireland and then returning to Dublin to do like a day tour or 2 day tour to Northern Ireland.

Looking at CIE 6 day Taste of Ireland Tour D
Nervous about the hotels or B&B's, don't know what to expect.

I need help and appreciate any suggestions anyone can offer. Thank you.

Posted by
3322 posts

You have made a great first step of thinking about what interests you and realizing you have severe time constraints. Now you need to prioritize and edit.

I suggest that you pick one region to focus on. You simply can't do it all and admitting that is the first step to a great vacation. If you don't want to drive, then focus on areas easily reached by the rail lines. Hotels and B and B's are not that difficult to arrange, but you need to start with with a true plan of what your top three priorities are.

Posted by
52 posts

Your plan is probably too ambitious, but I can offer you some information on N Ireland. I based myself in Belfast. From there I took a day tour to the Giant’s Causeway. So no need to book other lodging on the Antrim Coast. I also did not want to drive in Ireland. Instead of taking the Black Cab Tour I took the HOHO buses. They cover approximately the same area and you get great live commentary on the Belfast HOHO tours, as opposed to a canned recording you get on most of those buses. I took three HOHO tours with a 48 hour ticket. I got off and hopped back on several times during each tour.

You should absolutely see the Titanic Museum in Belfast. To me it is a must-see. You can easily get to Dublin from Belfast too.

I would suggest basing yourself in Belfast and seeing the city itself, as well as the Antrim Coast and even Dublin. I would save the west of Ireland for another time. I just don’t think you will have time to do everything. I understand this is probably not the answer you wanted. But I also had visions of seeing the whole of Ireland in a week. I decided to slow down and enjoy what I could. I had a wonderful vacation. Sometimes less is more.

Posted by
1916 posts

Good advice from the others. Given the limited time you have available you probably ought to pick two places and concentrate on those, ie Dublin & Belfast, Dublin and Galway, or Dublin and Killarney.
There is another option versus going on an organized tour. Belfast, Galway and Killarney are easily reached by train from Dublin. From any of those you can book day trips to nearby attractions that appeal to you, and for probably a lot less money than a 6 or 7 night organized tour. Would give you more freedom of movement to explore on your own too.
For a first time visitor there's enough in Dublin and the surrounding area (Newgrange, the Boyne Valley, Powerscourt, Wicklow Mtns, Glendalough) to keep you busy for several days.
Our particular favorite area is Connemara. From Galway you can easily find day tours, and a trip out to Inishmore from Rossaveel is easy to organize on your own - Aran ferries even have a pickup point right in the city.
There's nothing especially daunting about reserving accommodations in Ireland. Start by looking at the offerings on www.booking.com for the specific areas you're interested in and go from there. Use the filters on the website to narrow down the choices to hotels, B&B's, etc. depending upon your particular interests. Most of the B&B proprietors are glad to share their local knowledge of attractions, pubs, restaurants, etc.

Posted by
552 posts

As others have mentioned there is no way you can do all of this in just seven days so you should narrow your focus to one or two places. Even staying in two places you are going to lose some time to travelling between two cities. For this reason I would suggest either Dublin/Belfast, or Dublin/Galway. They are closest by train, and probably offer the most variety for guided day tours. My personal favourite was Galway. But, as someone else mentioned you could spend the entire time in Dublin, see the city, and do several day trips that would give you a pretty good look at the country. From Dublin you can also just get on the train and go to Belfast or Galway for the day if you want to take a look around those cities. Staying in one place actually allows you to see more as you aren't having to pack up and use up time to get to your next location. If you google day trips from Dublin you will come up with a wide variety of options. I would try to avoid the ones that want to take you all the way to the Cliffs of Moher, or Giant's Causeway from Dublin as those are just going to be long days on a bus. But there are many day trips that stop as several places in one day that are a great way to see the country. I think I must have done a total of 8 or 9 in the three weeks I was there without a car.

Posted by
608 posts

Again, you have received good suggestions. Please be aware the the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland are two distinct countries, with different currencies (ROI uses the Euro and Northern Ireland uses British pounds.) So "Ireland" and "Northern Ireland" are the usual names. If you are looking at the CIE site, when they say the south of Ireland, they mean the southern part of the Republic.

We used CIE many years ago our first trip to Ireland for one of their B&B and car self-drive packages, and things went well. The tour you mentioned covers a lot of territory and you would probably on and off the bus a lot. Ireland is pretty easy to navigate on your own, and if you narrow down your choices and figure out what you want to see, people here will usually chime in to help. No one sees everything they want in one go, so just plan on seeing some things next time.

Posted by
2 posts

Wow, thank you for all the information. Looks like I have a lot to think about. I think most flights fly into Dublin. We were thinking about day trips from Dublin to Northern Ireland and then day trips from Dublin to Southern Ireland. I am going to try to research more into the day trips. Really appreciate everyone taking the time to give me information.

Posted by
2 posts

I’m just concluding a trip of that length. The best hidden gem we found was a new B&B in Trim, an hour outside of Dublin. It’s called The Old Rectory. The house was built in 1751. Sandy, the owner, is extremely friendly and knowledgeable about the history of the house and area. The room is gorgeous, extremely large and the furniture feels regal! Only two rooms so it feels very personal. It only recently opened so hasn’t been discovered yet. If you are a Braveheart fan, the movie was mostly filmed at the castle in Trim right down the street!