My partner and I have a couple of days in Ireland in May following a trip with my mom and sister, so we're very much looking to toodle around and see the sights that interest us. We love castles, markets, and old towns. Before this time we'll be in London, Dublin, Belfast, Derry, and Galway. Our original plans were to go down to Cork for two nights, then to Kilkenny, then back to Dublin for two nights (we have daytrips planned before we fly out). Our only focus in Cork was a bit of a trip out to the Rock of Cashel, and maybe Cobh, but the hostels in Cork seem 1. Potentially iffy for two young women, and 2. Very expensive on the weekend. I'm okay with spending that amount of money, just would prefer a welcoming environment for it.
So, I was wondering if anyone had recommendations for other places to stay instead of Cork (or strong recommendations to visit Cork anyway!). We won't have a car for this period (non-negotiable), so the place we choose has to have fairly easy transportation options from Galway and to Kilkenny. We're okay with long bus trips.
I've been playing with the idea of going from Galway to Shannon or Limerick (no hostels there on our dates but hotels are cheap enough that I can consider it), then spending a night in Cashel (since the Rock is our main draw to the area anyway), then up to Kilkenny (a long bus trip, but we're happy enough to do it).