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8 day Ireland itinerary + need tips for County Mayo!

Hi everyone,

Thank you in advance for your help! My fiance and I will be going on our honeymoon in Ireland from April 13 - April 22, 2018. We love being outdoors and think that for this trip, we would prefer to spend more time in villages than in the city. We HAVE to visit County Mayo (Westport) since that's where his ancestors were from but have no idea what to see/do and it's pretty out of the way of the rest of our itinerary. Any tips and advice are appreciated and we're also open to any B&B and dining recommendations!

Also, since we haven't booked any flights yet, we can totally change the itinerary and fly in/out of Dublin or Shannon. We aren't particularly tied to see the south/southwest part of Ireland but that seems like the most common/popular part of the country to see!

Friday (4/13): Overnight flight from Boston --> Dublin

Saturday (4/14): Land early morning in Dublin. The goal is to stay awake for as long as possible.
- kilmainham gaol
- Trinity college + book of Kells
- Grafton street?

Sunday (4/15): Dublin
- Guinness storehouse tour
- St. Patrick's cathedral (Evensong service at 3:15PM) for mass
- Drive to Kilkenny for dinner (recommendations please!) and overnight

Monday (4/16): Kilkenny Castle, Rock of Cashel, drive to Kilnare for the night for dinner at Fishy Fishy

Tuesday (4/17): Stop by Blarney Castle quickly, then drive towards Ring of Kerry
- Options to stop in Cork for part of the day, Torc Waterfall, or Muckross House? Any opinions?
- Hope to start Ring of Kerry mid-late afternoon and stay overnight in Waterville

Wednesday (4/18): Finish Ring of Kerry, including Skellig Road + Part of Dingle Peninsula
- Skellig chocolate factory
- Drive to Dingle and plan to stay at Milltown House
- Any stops along the way? We are worried the Gap of Dunloe/Killarney are too out of the way for a stop

Thursday (4/19): Finish Dingle Peninsula
- Drive to Doonin in the afternoon, taking the ferry at Tarbert
- Any recommendations for the overnight in Doolin?

Friday (4/20): Doolin cave + Cliffs of Moher
- Doolin Cliff Walk which should take all morning/early afternoon
- Drive to Westport in the afternoon --> what should we see? Where should we stay?

Saturday (4/21): Westport
- After dinner, will drive the 2 hours to Shannon airport for overnight

Sunday (4/22): Morning flight from Shannon back to Boston.

If you've made it to the bottom of this post, THANK YOU! Can't wait to read all of your advice.

Sherry

Posted by
1918 posts

Well, first of all I think that doing your trip as an open jaw (into Dublin, out of Shannon) will save you a lot of time and therefore will be the better way to go.
Some general thoughts: To get yourself oriented upon arrival in Dublin the Hop on, Hop Off bus (HoHo) might make sense. The tickets are good for 2 days and many of your points of interest are on their routes. Can google one or more of the companies to see if that might be of interest. Also, you can view a list of "things to do" in Dublin (anywhere actually) on one of the TripAdvisor pull down menus. Helps to see what's out there, and the ratings are usually pretty accurate.
4/16: assume you mean Kinsale since that's where Fishy Fishy is located. There's a pleasant bayside path that winds its way from the town over to Charles Fort, with the added attraction of Bullmans Pub along the way for a quick pint - very cozy little place.
4/17: personally I wouldn't waste any time on either Blarney Castle or Cork. By proceeding directly to Killarney you'd be able to visit Torc waterfall, Muckross House, etc at your leisure without being pinched for time and still make your way around to Waterville for the night. .
4/18: Good call re the Skellig Ring Road. Would recommend including the Gap of Dunloe - it's not too far out of your way and is worth a couple of hours. We've always thought it to be one of the prettiest glens in Ireland. The jaunting cars are fun too.
4/19: If you're up for a nice meander on a sunny day then I'd suggest turning left towards Kilrush once you exit the ferry. The coastal drive up towards Doolin is beautiful and passes right by the Cliffs. You won't make good time but then again you won't really care.
4/20: The Burren is worth a stop too, time and interest permitting.
4/21: If this is a roots quest for your fiance then exploring the area southwest of Westport might be of interest. County Mayo was pretty hard hit by the famine years, and one of the most evocative places you'll visit is the Doolough Memorial near the village of Delphi. Can google the Doolough Tragedy to read about what happened there, and then determine whether it's something that would interest either of you.
You're likely to experience at least one rainy day during the course of your visit - might want to take that into consideration as you fine tune your itinerary.
Safe travels.

Posted by
233 posts

Robert has given you some excellent advice--I agree with all of his suggestions. A few things I would add: 1) The Guinness Storehouse really isn't a must see, especially if you are pressed for time. The display itself is only mildly interesting and the best part of the tour is the view from the bar on the top level, which is great but only if it's a relatively clear day. We found the National Museum of Archaeology to be a much more satisfying experience. 2) We really enjoyed Fishy Fishy in Kinsale and our B&B there (The Old Presbytery) was outstanding. I think it would be a lovely spot for honeymooners. 3) Waterville is a nice little town but if you are unable to find accommodations there I can heartily recommend a fabulous Airbnb cottage (an original stone cottage that's been lovingly restored--right next to a babbling brook) in nearby Cahersiveen. 4) While in Waterville (or Cahersiveen) if you have the time a trip to Valentia Island would be fun. 5) In Doolin we had a tasty meal at Gus O'Connor's--and they have (or did have 5 years ago) good music there too. 6) Westport is a charming little town. Be sure to visit Matt Malloy's for some great trad music. Croagh Patrick is a big attraction in Westport, especially if you enjoy a strenuous (uphill) hike. Westport also has a beautiful and affordable public golf course if you are so inclined.

Whatever you decide to do, it will be a wonderful experience!

Posted by
1918 posts

One afterthought: it really isn't that much farther to drive from Westport to Dublin airport versus Shannon. If there's a significant savings in air fare to be had by just scheduling a round trip via Dublin that might be the better way to go.

Posted by
17 posts

Thank you for your tips! Changes to the itinerary are in bold. I would love some more recommendations on places to stay, particularly in Doolin, Dublin and Westport. PJ- I would love to have your AirBnB recommendation on the ring of kerry. Would love more restaurant recommendations - I've jotted all the ones down you've made already!

Another question - right now roundtrip flights from Boston are ~$800-850. To me, that seems a bit high. I know that no one can predict the future, but what range should I look for to book?

Friday (4/13): Overnight flight from Boston --> Dublin
Saturday (4/14): Land early morning in Dublin. Hop on/hop off tour
- kilmainham gaol
- Trinity college + book of Kells
- Grafton street?
Sunday (4/15): Dublin
- Guinness storehouse tour vs. National Museum of Archaeology vs. continuing Hop On Hop Off
- St. Patrick's cathedral (Evensong service at 3:15PM) for mass
- Drive to Kilkenny for dinner (recommendations please!) and overnight
Monday (4/16): Kilkenny Castle, Rock of Cashel, Quick stop at Blarney castle if time allows then drive to Kinsale for the night for dinner at Fishy Fishy
-Consider staying at the Old Presbytery
Tuesday (4/17): Drive towards Ring of Kerry
- Torc Waterfall and Muckross House
- Hope to start Ring of Kerry mid-late afternoon and stay overnight in Waterville
Wednesday (4/18): Finish Ring of Kerry, including Skellig Road + Part of Dingle Peninsula
- Skellig chocolate factory
-Add Gap of Dunloe
- Drive to Dingle and plan to stay at Milltown House
Thursday (4/19): Finish Dingle Peninsula
- Drive to Doonin in the afternoon, taking the ferry at Tarbert
-coastal drive to Doonin if time allows
- Any recommendations for the overnight in Doolin?
Friday (4/20): Doolin cave + Cliffs of Moher
- Doolin Cliff Walk which should take all morning/early afternoon
-Burren if time allows
- Drive to Westport in the afternoon
- Stop at Doolough Memorial
Where should we stay?
Saturday (4/21): Westport
- After dinner, will drive the 2 hours to Shannon airport or 3 hours to Dublin for overnight
Sunday (4/22): Morning flight from Shannon/Dublin back to Boston.

Thanks again!
Sherry

Posted by
17 posts

PS- do you think this itinerary is too intense? We don't want to feel rushed during the entire trip :)

Posted by
1266 posts

I agree that skipping blarney castle is ok.....it tends to be crowded and is overly commercialised

Posted by
1918 posts

"do you think this itinerary is too intense?"
Well, you've certainly planned the bejeezus out of your 8 day stay, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. Although there's a natural tendency on a first visit to want to cram in as much as you can, there's also a lot to be said for throttling back a little and just taking it as it comes. We've found that our happiest memories of Ireland aren't the places but rather the people...the things that happened in between all of the things we planned. If there's a country that's meant to be savored it's Ireland.
Your itinerary is fast paced, true, but what the heck you're both young an adventurous so why not? My only caution is don't let your timeline drive the experience. Don't be afraid to cross something off your list if it just gets too hard. And assume that you'll return one day - Ireland does tend to have that effect on people.
Regarding your where to stay, eat, and things to do questions, I'd just repeat my advice re TripAdvisor, which we've always used as one of our planning tools if only to get the general lay of the land anywhere we're thinking of visiting. Have found activities, attractions, places to stay, and places to eat that we never would have found on our own just by skimming thru their website.
Side note: I sometimes get the impression that everyone who has ever contributed to the Ireland forum has at one time or another stayed at the Old Presbytery in Kinsale (us too). It really is a terrific property - recommended.

Posted by
233 posts

Our Cahersiveen cottage is now listed on the Airbnb site as Skellig Coast Secluded Country Cottage (previously it was called Rosebud Cottage)---https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/2716515. We stayed there for 4 nights and I would have been happy to move in for a month at least.

We were in Westport twice. The first time we stayed at The Mill Times Hotel. It was fine as hotels go--clean and comfortable--but hotels are not my favorite type of accomodations in Ireland. The second time we were there we stayed in an Airbnb apartment located a bit out of town. There was a wonderful view from the front yard of Croagh Patrick and green rolling hills dotted with sheep and we loved being "out in the country". The hosts are avid cyclists and would be a great resource if that is the kind of activity you're looking for. The accommodations were fairly spartan, but clean and comfortable, with the best shower we encountered in all of Ireland. You can check it out at https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/6168476: Greenway Gateway 2 Bedroom Apartment. We had a tasty dinner in Westport at J.J. O'Malley's.

In Doolin we stayed at Emohruo Farmhouse, a very nice B&B. We were only there one night 5 years ago so I can't necessarily vouch for it now but the owner Margaret was quite a character and we enjoyed her immensely. She was quite proud to be able to offer pancakes for breakfast, something not readily available most places.

We flew out of Shannon--we headed there from Westport the day before our departure. If you decide to do that, there is a hotel (Park Inn by Radisson) just a short walk across the parking lot from the airport. It's a little worn around the edges but SO convenient for a morning flight. You can drop the car off the night before and it will take all of 5 minutes to walk from the hotel to the airport in the morning. And surprisingly, you don't really hear the air traffic so noise isn't a problem. Just a thought...

Posted by
1168 posts

Pre-Purchased your tickets to Kilmainham Gaol. They sell out quite quickly.
Restaurant wise for Dublin, we really enjoy the Brazen Head pub and Gallagher's Boxty house.

Posted by
4 posts

I hope you have a wonderful honeymoon...my husband and I honeymooned there in 2008 and it was wonderful!
A few recommendations: Doolin is cute town with great pubs and close to the Burren and the Cliffs of Moher (a must see!). We stayed at Daly's House which was just lovely. And a few minutes walk to O'Connors Pub! We're going back this January and will stay at Doll's Cottage.

Westport: my favorite town in Ireland! I second Matt Molloy's! It's a fabulous pub with lots of great music. We stayed at the Wyatt Hotel which is right in the middle of City Centre. The rooms were small but charming. Able to walk to pubs and restaurants. And easy parking for our rental car.

Have a great trip!

Posted by
17 posts

Thanks everyone for your tips! If there was something to cut out (that isn't Westport), what would you recommend? That way we can keep it in mind while booking bed and breakfasts and also have an idea of something that might not be as high on the list/we could see next time.

We also want to do some hiking and we're worried that this itinerary has us sitting in the car for most of the week. Any thoughts? Is there a particular hike (3-6 miles, moderate intensity) that you would recommend in any of the areas we are going through?

Great point about the Radisson at the Shannon airport - we will definitely plan on doing that.
Also thanks for all of other accommodation and restaurant recommendations! Keep them coming :)
In the meantime, I'll be MIA for a little bit - we are getting married in 8 days!!!

Posted by
453 posts

Sherry here are my recommends from our last April trip to Ireland. If in Doolin on the proper night attend the Doolin music house. https://www.doolinmusichouse.com/ It is an awesome early evening of music and story telling. We loved staying at "Dalys" B@B in Doolin, Susan was the best host we had during out two weeks in Ireland http://www.dalys-doolin.com/ When you do the RofK be sure to visit "The cliffs of Kerry", they are not as highly mentioned as the Moher cliffs but are very beautiful and easy to access.

Posted by
1874 posts

Just adding another vote for the Old Presbytery Inn -- very nice place and Noreen/Phillip, the innkeepers, are delightful people. Very clean, charming inn, with great breakfasts.

Posted by
1874 posts

I just located Westport on a map, and you are right, it is a far reach. But, while you are in that area, if you would like a really special SPLURGE, take a look at Ashford Castle (which was named a top 5 hotel in the world!!). It really is fabulous, and you could sign up for the Hawk Walk (which is thru the School of Falconry at Ashford Castle, where you each are given a hawk and along with a guide you learn to launch and land your hawks. Great fun!
Even if you don't stay at Ashford (it is pricey), you can still sign up for the Hawk Walk, which would give you a chance to see the castle and the grounds.

A two-night stay (they often run special two-night package prices) would be nice, as that would give you a chance to relax a bit, and enjoy the castle grounds (the Hawk Walk, just a nice walkabout, fishing, taking a boat on the lake, etc.). Similar packages are also available at Dromoland, where we took bikes (no extra charge) out for the day and rode around the lake.

What a lovely honeymoon trip you are taking! Sure beats our 3-hour drive to Gatlinburg, price-shopping hotels from our Red Ford Pinto when we pulled into town (decades ago). At the time, we considered that a BIG adventure and a splurge :)

If your fiance can do some advance research on his ancestors, it would be wonderful to see places where they lived and/or meet some distant cousins. If they came thru Ellis Island, it would be easier to do some tracking. If not, just Google and look up people in Westport with the same last name who might be able to provide some clues, if your fiance knows the first names of his ancestors, etc. Old census reports from Westport might also provide some clues. I found an old census report that showed my grandmother and her brothers/sisters/parents. And, with the help of a B&B owner in Tubbercurry, I was able to find and connect with a cousin (I only had their first names and that they live in Tubbercurry, along with her family's (mother's) last name. it turned into my being able to see the old cottage in which my grandmother was raised (I had an old black/white photo from my childhood), the old family church, graves, schools, even my great-grandparents house. It was pretty remarkable, and walking the fields that were farmed by my ancestors was somewhat spiritual. Long way of saying, it could be worth the extra effort to reach out. People in Ireland love helping us "immigrants" as they still call us find our roots. As my cousin said (even though she has visited relatives in NY several times), we were the first immigrants to come home :)

Posted by
17 posts

Hi again everyone,

Just booked our flights in/out of Dublin (much cheaper) for Friday April 20 - Sunday April 29. We will be landing early AM in Dublin. We discussed a lot of options and realized that we don't want to move at such a hectic pace so we're hoping you can help us condense a bit.

Saturday AM - Sunday PM: Dublin

Sunday PM- drive to Cork (no stops) and stay overnight

Monday- Blarney rock (I know, tourist trap, but we might as well see it!). Drive to Muckross house and then to Kenmare to start ring of Kerry. Stay overnight near Waterville.

Tuesday - Finish Ring of Kerry (Skellig road) + Gap of Dunloe + Dingle Pensinsula (stay overnight in Dingle)

Wednesday- Finish Dingle Peninsula and get to Doolin by way of the Tarbert Ferry + Cliffs of Moher (overnight in Doolin)

Thursday - Day trip to Aran islands, returning to Doolin that night

Friday - Drive to Westport, stay overnight

Saturday - More Westport, leave in the afternoon to stay overnight in Dublin

Sunday midday - flight home

I still feel this is probably a hectic itinerary, particularly the ring of kerry/dingle peninsula days. The other option is to eliminate the ring of Kerry and drive straight from Dublin - Killarney on Sunday night. Then we would do Muckross house + Gap of Dunloe before heading to the Dingle peninsula.

Any thoughts on just doing the Dingle Peninsula vs. both? Or should we do just the Ring of Kerry?

Thanks!

Posted by
69 posts

I second the recommendation to stay at Ashford Castle. It is an amazing property and a short walk to the center of Cong. We stayed there in May for two nights and enjoyed every minute. We also stayed at Dromoland, but do not recommend it because it is in need of renovations (planned for next year). Enjoy Ireland!

Posted by
17 posts

Fantastic thanks! Unfortunately Ashford castle is out of our budget, but we are planning on doing a Hawk Walk.

Question- when would it be better to do the Gap of Dunloe?

We are planning on Staying overnight in Killarney --> Muckross House + Torc waterfall + first half of ring of Kerry
Then overnight in Waterville --> second half of RoK + get to Dingle for an overnight.

Ideally, we would walk either one way or both ways for the Gap of Dunloe, which I understand is 7 miles. Would you do this after the waterfall? If so, would that take the entire day and should we overnight in Kenmare instead of Waterville and just do the entire ring in 1 day? I'm leaning towards this option since it seems like there might be less backtracking.

Thanks!

Posted by
453 posts

here is where we stayed while in Cong. http://www.nymphsfieldhouse.com/ We totally enjoyed the hawk walk at Ashford Castle but we stayed up the road a half mile or so at the Nymphsfield house, nice B&B, great meal, rooms, and manager.

Posted by
4 posts

We just returned and hurricane and all, we spent quite a bit of time in County Mayo. We stayed at, and loved Cashel House Hotel and Ballynahinch Castle. Both expensive. The highlights of our stay there were Ceide Fields, which are WAY out of the way, but amazing, and Kylemore Abbey.

Posted by
4 posts

When in Dingle, the best seafood we had was at Doyle's on John St! We stayed at O'Neill's B & B in Dingle and it was a terrific value, nice room with en-suite and delicious breakfast. It was close to everything, but still quiet and the owners, Steven and Mary, were delightful hosts.