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Fly into Dublin and rent car there, or train to southwest?

We're heading to Ireland Oct 18-25 with our daughter (age 4) and trying to decide how to make the best use of our first day. We'll be arriving in Dublin at 8:30 a.m. after an overnight flight from Canada (will feel like 3:00 a.m. to us). I know from previous experience that a few hours to nap as soon as we can manage it will make a huge difference in our jet lag. Our daughter is a great sleeper - I am expecting she'll be able to nap on plane/train/car.

Option 1: Our original plan was to book a hotel in Dublin that would offer early check-in, head straight there, and nap for a bit. Spend a low-key Day 1 in Dublin, then rent a car on Day 2 and head for the southwest, where we planned to see Dingle, but otherwise explore as the mood takes us. The down sides of this plan are that it splits our time in Dublin so we have only the first and last day there, plus there's the drive across the country to get to the southwest (a 5-7 hour round trip without stops).

Option 2: Then we thought perhaps we'll just rent a car at the Dublin airport straight away and aim for a not-too-tough drive, perhaps to Kilkenny (1.5 hours according to Google Maps), pre-book accommodation there (again with early check in), nap, and spend the first day there to break up the drive. On Day 2, we'd head for the southwest with a stop at the Rock of Cashel in the morning. The downsides here are this plan involves driving while jet-lagged (I've driven in Ireland before and didn't find it too hard but it was years ago and I do worry about driving before I've had a chance to sleep) plus I am not sure it makes the best use of our first day.

Option 3: Take the train from Dublin to a southwest destination (hopefully permitting a bit of a nap along the way), rent a car there, and head for our hotel. We are thinking of Tralee (3hrs 55 min by trail, sleep Dingle), Killarney (3hrs 16 min by train, sleep Kenmare), or Cork (2 hrs 45 min by train, sleep Kinsale). I just checked car rental locations and it seems like the most choice is available out of Cork. Only Enterprise and Budget serve Killarney, and only Enterprise serves Tralee. Option 3 gets us right to where we want to go on Day 1, avoids the 5-7 hour return cross-country drive to/from Dublin, and allows us to spend 2 consecutive nights in Dublin at the end of the trip, but involves at least 30-60 min of driving on Day 1 and adds a train ride to an already long travel day. It will make it harder to see the Rock of Cashel and we'd probably skip Kilkenny. If we rented a car in the southwest, we'd consider dropping it off at a different location. From what I can tell though, it looks like it would cost about 50 Euro and save us only a couple of hours of driving, so it might not be worthwhile.

Our only must-sees are Dublin and the Dingle Peninsula. Also interested in Kenmare, Killarney National Park, Muckross House, Kinsale, Cork, the Rock of Cashel, possibly the Ring of Kerry though deterred by the 5+ hour drive when we're already planning the Dingle loop. We aren't planning to see Galway, the Cliffs of Moher or The Burren on this trip.

Do you have any advice as to which option would be best? I am leaning toward #3 so particularly interested in thoughts/practicality of that option. If we can secure a car rental out of Tralee, I'd probably choose that - it's an hour's drive over the Conor Pass to Dingle (which I've done before) and I think it would be a spectacular introduction to Ireland for my husband; if not, Cork seems the next best place to start.

Posted by
760 posts

Seems a taxi to the train station...then where would that train take you and are car rentals available there and at what price?

Driving across Ireland is a pain. But the flight plus a train ride...maybe a night's sleep and then the train if car rental is ok at train destination.
wayne iNWI

Posted by
191 posts

It is kind of a pain to get to the train station from the Airport so I would actually get the car at the airport and head out. An idea (and what I have done with people coming to visit me) for a first stop is Bunratty. Bunratty has a castle dinner (which could be fun after a nap) and the Bunratty folk park which is fun for an hour or two (they had the cutest Irish Wolf Hounds there!). Then you are set up for a short drive to Dingle the following day.

Posted by
12 posts

Thanks Wayne and Stephanie - much appreciated. Stephanie, I was thinking we could get the Airlink bus, which stops at Heuston. Can you be more specific about the complications to watch out for? We'll be a bit zombified from jet lag?