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A few good bases on the West?

We will be a group of 4 adults, we all have been to Ireland two times previously, each time for 4 weeks, we all love this magic place!!! We are considering a trip of about 2 1/2 - 3 weeks this time, basing in a small village and doing day trips. We enjoyed time in Dublin before, but this trip we want to concentrate on small, charming, quaint , which we know Ireland oozes with!!! So far our favorite places have been Westport, Dingle, Kinsale.... We love the pubs with the trad music....last trip we were lucky and found the sessions every night! We would like to visit the Aran Islands (one, at least) for a day trip, but aren't interested in hiking or adventure type travel. Any input on which towns would be best for stays of about 4-5 days? And we don't mind returning to places we've been, just wanted some new experiences, I think. Thank you in advance.

Posted by
2009 posts

One suggestion is the town of Clifden in Connemara - located about 50 miles west of Galway. It's a pretty little place in its own right, and is convenient to the Sky Road scenic drive, the ferry over to Inishmore, the ferry from Cleggan out to Inishbofin, and the world class Connemara Loop drive that will take you to Kylemore Abbey, Connemara National Park for pleasant day walks, and eventually out to the village of Cong and Ashford Castle.
We had good luck using this website to find self catering cottages during our last trip a few years ago: http://www.shamrockcottages.co.uk/?mc_cid=090d0399d2&mc_eid=8d0770a4a8

Posted by
191 posts

Thank you, Robert. Will look into Clifden as one of our bases. Any other thoughts? We are thinking of possibly 3-4 bases for our trip, perhaps each about 5 nights.

Posted by
2009 posts

Anywhere along the Ring of Kerry would be an obvious suggestion...assuming that you've not already spent time there. Many here recommend the village of Kenmare as a base. It's a bit more mellow than Killarney and a lot less crowded, and would be a good location for 5 days or so to explore some off the beaten track locations like the Skellig Ring Road between the villages of Ballinskelligs and Portmagee, the Gap of Dunloe, and the rugged Beara peninsula just to the south. You'd also be close enough to Killarney for day trips to explore the National Park, then leave the tourist crush behind you as you retreat to the charms (and convivial pubs) of Kenmare.
Another thought would be to spend time in Donegal. There's a lot to explore in Ireland's wild west, plus you'd be central enough to spend a day in Derry - the best preserved walled city in Europe with an evocative history of sectarian struggle. It's a beautiful place - one of our favorites in Ireland in fact.
Perhaps continue east from Derry to explore the Causeway Coast, then around the northeast coast of Northern Ireland (beautiful) to Belfast - another evocative place and home to the truly world class Titanic Museum. On your way back to Dublin you could stop at Newgrange, the Boyne Valley, the Hill of Tara, and some other locations that figure prominently in Irish history.

Posted by
409 posts

Like Robert I like Kerry, but I'm prejudiced!

I think Kenmare is getting a bit touristy, so I'd suggest someplace like Glenbeigh, Sneem, Valentia Island. Specifically why I think Glenbeigh is a good choice is that unlike dingle or waterville, it's not at the END of a peninsula so easier to get to other places for an afternoon (like Glenbeigh to Dingle; Glenbeigh to Killarney, etc.).

A tip: in ireland there are towns and there are villages. There's a big difference. Cahersiveen is a town; Waterville is a village. It sounds like you would enjoy a village!

Susan
Expat living in Waterville

Posted by
191 posts

Thank you, Robert and Susan, Very helpful information and input! Yes, Susan, we do prefer villages over towns, as long as there is a pub or two. One of our passions when in Ireland is the trad music sessions and we love going to the pubs each night for the music!! I do like the idea of Derry....we have never ventured far into Northern Ireland, just to Belfast and to Enniskillen. We aren't fond of touristy (heavily, I mean...I'm aware that WE are tourists!!) areas so the Ring of Kerry wouldn't work...we've spent a bit of time in Cahersiveen (one of our group had a grandmother who had been raised there...her name is on the parish list in the town!). You both gave me some excellent ideas to pursue and I so appreciate it. Neither of you mentioned either Ballyvaughan or Kinvara, both of which were highly recommended on Tripadvisor.....any particular reason? If you think of anything further to add, I would love to hear it. And I so envy the "expat living in Waterville" part.....would love to make my home in Ireland!!! For now we will be content with trips to savour the magic!!!

Posted by
1878 posts

Kenmare is a winner, although I would agree that it may have crossed the line in being over commercialized. We stayed at the Willow Lodge there in 2002 and again in 2016. Although it's a town and not a village, we really enjoyed Ennis on those two trips as well. The traditional music scene was really good there on both trips. Just a really authentic workaday town. We stayed at the Grey Gables B&B on both trips, easy walking distance into town and quite nice. Both of the B&Bs mentioned have very nice owners.

Posted by
2009 posts

Actually, we love the part of the ROK that is far away from Killarney because it isn't overloaded with (other) tourists. The tour buses still don't go out as far as Valencia Island or the Skellig Ring (roads too narrow and twisting I guess) which might make them attractive alternatives for you. We spent a week in a cottage on Valencia Island during our last trip and loved it - peaceful, quiet, and relaxing, with lots of little off-the-beaten path discoveries to be made. We found, for example, that the open farmers field that fronted our cottage was the place where Charles Lindbergh made landfall during his Atlantic crossing in 1927...little things like that that appeal to us.
Have only driven thru Kinvara so can't help you there. Pretty area though.
One area that usually doesn't make the average tourists "top ten" is the southeast of Ireland. New Ross is a quaint little town (village? city? whatever) and is central to other explorations in and around Wexford. The JFK ancestral homestead is just south of there, for example. One interesting experience for us was crossing the River Barrow on the Passage East ferry one day (takes all of 3 minutes) and reading some of the anti-Cromwellian graffiti as we approached the landing on the other side. It was noteworthy because Oliver Cromwell passed thru this area about 350 years ago...and is still a much hated man because of what happened here. Long time to hold a grudge, eh?
One personal note: we don't like the crowds either but have learned that the best way to avoid them is to get an early start, ie before the tour buses start to arrive (usually around 9:30 AM), in order to have a place all to ourselves. Works particularly well at the Gap of Dunloe, Clonmacnoise, and Glendalough.

Posted by
2009 posts

For what it's worth: the only publication we bring with us (aside from the RS guide) is "Backroads Ireland". As the title implies it describes lots of off-the-beaten path excursions that most of the mainstream guides never get around to. It also provides some terrific insights into the hidden charms of smaller towns and villages that might be of interest to you.
Can usually find used copies for just a few dollars on Amazon. We swear by ours and typically wear out a copy on every trip.

Posted by
191 posts

Thank you so much, Robert! Such helpful information for me to explore and sort through! Funny that it didn't occur to me to pick up a "Backroads of Ireland" guide.....we use "Backroads" guides in almost every country we visit!! I will get one right away!! You must love Ireland as much as we do, and it sounds as if you like to travel much the way we do....away from the maddening crowds!!! I will do some research into all that you have mentioned and see where it takes us!! (I'm the planner of the group...the others just go along happily with whatever I decide so the pressure is on!!) Love the idea of seeing the anti Cromwellian signs.....we all are interested in the history of Ireland.......fascinating and so very sad. Any further thoughts you might have??

Posted by
2009 posts

At this point I'm just cherry picking some favorites that we gleaned from the "Backroads" guide, but here are a few:
On the Beara peninsula is the only cable car in Ireland (capacity: 3 people and a cow) that will take you over to Dursey Island - one of the areas particularly hard hit by the famine years. The island today is nearly deserted, with the ruins of old farmsteads dotting the landscape. It's a sobering experience to walk along the road and see firsthand the impact of the "Great Hunger" on this part of West Cork.
Also on Beara is the deserted famine village of Cummeengeera - accessed via a narrow, one lane farm road. Though you say you aren't hikers, if you're willing to go up and over the hill at the end of the road you'll emerge into one of the prettiest little valleys you'll ever see, a place where about 20 families once lived until around 1848. The stone walls and ruins make it appear that the residents departed just a few months ago. For us it was like hiking down into Brigadoon.
About a half hour south of Derry is the Ulster-American Folk Park in Omagh. Even if your heritage doesn't trace to Ulster it would be a fascinating look at the history of the out-migrations that began around 1715. A lot of early American history is attached to those times. Davey Crockett, Andrew Jackson and a host of other American figures were descended from Ulstermen who left during that era.
The Backroads book really is a treasure trove of information.

Posted by
191 posts

Thank you so much, Robert! Just the sort of information I love! And I did order the Backroads book!

Posted by
409 posts

Robert - I live right near there, was even there this week, and never heard that story about Charles Lindbergh's plane! How cool is that??! I did go to a lecture last week about German plane crashes here in Kerry during WWII. What an interesting night that was!

I do want to mention Donna that Olde Glenbeigh Hotel on the Ring of Kerry ( a much much MUCH smaller place than Killarney, say) has live trad music 7 nights a week in the summer. That could be a great village to base in! Near a wonderful beach; close enough for day trips to Skellig Ring/Loop (as Robert says, too narrow/twisted for buses, THANK GOD); Valentia Island; Beara Peninsula; Dingle, and more.... We have a mobile home there in the summer, so can assure you, the hand full of pubs, hotels, guest houses and B&Bs bring enough activity to make it not boring, but it's a small enough village that it's not touristy. (I say touristy, but actually its a tourist hang out for Cork City folks and Dubliners, so there are tourists, they just have Irish accents!).

Susan
Expat in Waterville

Posted by
191 posts

Thank you, Susan! Will look into Glenbeigh. It may be a great place for one of our bases with the pubs and the craic!! I am trying to sort through all the great information from you and Robert , keeping the needs and desires of the group in mind. Your input has been considerable help!!

Posted by
409 posts

Donna,

Thanks for the kind words!
I was in Glenbeigh this weekend for a memorial which reminded me to tell you - check out the paintings in The Towers Hotel while there. Anthony Simonds-Gooding had a house in Dooks near Glenbeigh, and was very close to the folks, here. He painted lots of them at horse racing on the beach (they do it in August at Glenbeigh Festival) and other horse fairs. You may be able to see one of the subjects in the painting sitting at a stool near you at The Towers! At his memorial quite a few of the familiar faces from the wall were in attendance!

Susan
Expat in Waterville

Posted by
1863 posts

I second Clifden! So many..........Lisdoonvarna is interesting too.

Adare.
Ennistymon.
Cong.
Have fun!

Haven't done the southwest yet, so can't comment on towns there.

Posted by
191 posts

Thank you all! So difficult to choose between so many charming places!! And we actually would be happy returning to the ones we've been to previously, but would also like to stay in different places....not enough time to do it all, for sure!!