Ireland - Antrim/Donegal

I will be traveling to NI and the Republic at the end of May, 14 nights total on the ground with a car. I am looking for assistance on the best way to split the time, specifically with Antrim coast (Portstewart as base) and Donegal (specific base TBD). I don't want to rush too much in these areas and want to take my time exploring Giants Causeway, the rope bridge etc and wonder if 2 or 3 nights is best. Also want to take my time throughout Donegal and have the same question, 2 or 3 nights (or more?). I know this seems minor and it's all personal preference but I would like opinions/experiences on if one area needs more time than the other.

Currently plan:
Belfast - 2 nights
Portstewart - 2 nights
Derry - 1 night
Donegal - 3 nights
Clare - 1 night
Dingle - 5 nights

Thanks very much,
Lisa

Posted by Stephanie
Seattle
48 posts

You can do a lot, especially with a car.

In Belfast, I got a great rate at Days Hotel which also had good parking and is centrally located right by Sandy Row.

Since you will be in Donnegal, I would reccomend a trip out to Slieve League. I thought these cliffs and scenery were exceptional.

I think 5 nights in Dingle may be a little much. I've had fun staying there 2 nights and seeing eveything I wanted. You may be able to experience a little more like the Ring of Kerry or Killarney National Park.

Be sure to carry a good map and have a great trip!

Posted by Jerry
Carrollton, Texas, USA
76 posts

Lisa, I can't speak to the NI part of your trip. But I can talk to Donegal, Clare & Dingle.

We just spent 3 nights in Donegal this past November. We stayed at The Arches B&B about 6KM north of Donegal town on Lough Eske. It is an awesome place, hostess and gorgeous view of the Blue Stack Mountains. We took a day trip up north thru Letterkenny to Glenveagh National Park. Gorgeous scenery and castle. Another day trip we did was over to the Slieve League Cliffs. I think they are more remote and rugged than the Cliffs of Moher. If you go to Youtube, there are several good videos of Slieve League.

From Donegal, it's a pretty good drive 3 - 4 hours south to County Clare. We stayed at a farmhouse B&B between Doolin and the Cliffs of Moher. We arrived at the Cliffs at sunset - the views were breathtaking.

From the Cliffs of Moher, it's a 4 to 5 hour drive to Dingle. There is a ferry you can take to avoid driving thru Limerick that will save serious time.

We stayed at The Lighthouse B&B in Dingle and loved it! You might cut back to 4 nights and go to Cashel your last night. If you're flying out of Shannon, it's an easy drive from Cashel to Shannon. Maybe an hour and half. The Rock of Cashel is a definite must do and the Abbey very close to it. It's cute quaint little town.

While you're in Dingle be sure to do the Slea Head drive. Well documented in RS' guidebook. With all the stops, it's about 4 hours of gorgeous scenery. You can also venture over to Killarney and tour the Muckross House and then it's a short drive to Killarney National Park and the Torc Waterfalls.

One last note. You didn't say if you've ever driven in Ireland. The road signage is nothing like we have here in the states AND I usually got lost everyday. But I finally decided I was getting to see something I hadn't planned on.

The people are the best! We are already planning a return trip to just be Donegal and Dingle.

Safe and happy travels!

Posted by Amy
Clarksville, TN, USA
862 posts

Hi Lisa! I can't speak for much of your itinerary, but I can answer your question about Portstewart. We stayed there for three nights. But we did almost all the sights in one day. We used the public bus that serves almost all of the sights, so if you have a car, this will be even easier for you! We did the Bushmill tour, Carrick-a-rede Bridge (hiked all the way to the end!), ate lunch at the Carrick-a-rede Bridge visitor's center, did one of the hiking trails down to the Giant's Causeway (beautiful views!), then we got a taxi that let us off at the castle, but we were too late for the tour. We had to wait a while in between each site for the bus to come. If we'd had a car, we would have had less wait time in between each site and would have easily been able to fit the castle in... On our other full day in Portstewart, we just walked around the town and enjoyed the views and ice cream! It's a lovely town and you'll love it. We didn't run into any Americans in Portstewart! It seemed like more of a weekend getaway for people close by!
We did one night in Belfast, because we were going from Portstewart to Edinburgh and we couldn't time the flight out right. We did the hop on/off bus tour and saw the highlights of the city. We are going back to Belfast in April and will spend three nights this time so we can do more exploring!

Posted by Lisa
Albany, NY, USA
37 posts

Thanks very much for the replies and advice.
I have been to Ireland twice before (and have driven there) but have not ventured into the (N)north so I wasn't sure how much time to focus there.
I will check out some of the accommodation suggestions and sites.
Appreciate the assistance.

Lisa