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Ireland Itinerary Feedback

Hi Ireland Forum-

My husband and I are being overly optimistic and have booked refundable airfare into and out of Dublin in September. Yes we know it might not happen but thought we would try. We really loved Scotland a few years ago and wanted to give Ireland a try. We like natural scenery, castles, historic homes, day hiking, and other outdoor pursuits. Ireland offers so much it was hard to choose but we have settled on mostly the West coast for now. We do not mind moving every few days. I have always found the feedback on Rick's forums to be helpful so I am hoping to get some feedback here. We will have a car that is already booked and refundable for the nights outside of Dublin. We have been reviewing previous threads and after a ton of mulling things over have come up with the below ROUGH itinerary. Please let me know what you think we should toss, keep, or change. Thank you!!

Dublin 3 Nights

Kilkenny or Glendlough 1 Night : Thoughts here. We plan on stopping at the Gardens of Powerscourt, drive through the Wicklow Mountains and try and stop at Glendalough. I know Rick suggest Kilkenny but I wasn't sure. Any thoughts?

Kinsale 2 Nights : After stopping at the Rock of Cashel head to Cobh and end up in Kinsale. The second day will be spent in Kinsale.

Kenmare: 3 Nights: Not sure on the order here but interested in Killarny National Park with a visit to Muckross House and possibly the Kissane Sheep Farm. Part of the R.O.K and possibly Beara. Had thought we could do the ROK and head to Dingle. Any feedback? Do we need more time here?

Dingle: 4 Nights Relax some. Slea Head Loop Drive, hiking, maybe Great Basket Island etc.

Doolin or Galway 2 Nights: Not sure on a stop here. Some say the Cliffs of Moher shouldn't be missed others say it is a must do. When I mention tour buses my husband cringes so we typically like to hit places like this early or late. I have heard that the cliffs on the ROK are just as amazing.. Still deciding on the Aran Islands and which one.

Westport or Clifden 3 Nights: Explore Connmara, possible hawk walk at Ashford Castle, hiking..

Dublin Airport or near 1 Night

And.. That is a wrap!! Please let me know what you think. I will look forward to your replies and I am so thankful for your help.

Posted by
1835 posts

In general I think you've put together a pretty good looking itinerary.
Just a few comments: the first thing that jumped out at me was the 4 nights in Dingle. IMO you can pretty much satisfy your curiousity about the town and enjoy a leisurely trip around the peninsula in one day ... or two nights, maybe 3 if you want to add a trip out to the Blaskets. Better (I think) to use that extra day in Kenmare. The Beara peninsula is worth a day on its own, your trip up to Killarney to explore the NP will use up another, and just meandering around the ROK will make for a very pleasant day - maybe two if you want to explore the Gap of Dunloe, either on foot, by bike or by one of the jaunting cars.
My advice is to get an early start from Dublin in order to arrive at Glendalough well before the tour buses start to roll in at 9:30. If you're there early when the place is empty it's a whole different experience than when the crowds show up. You can get an early start by booking your rental car at the airport versus from one of the offices in the city. The airport concessions open around 6 AM, the ones in the city not until 9 AM or later. Easier to guarantee an automatic vehicle from the airport too, which I'd recommend.
Another possible place to spend that extra day is Connemara - our favorite part of Ireland. The ferry from Rossaveal isn't far from Clifden ... for the daytrip out to Inishmore. Others here have suggested flying which does look like a good way to do it if you're at all concerned about rough seastates and the off chance of a cancellation if things get too rough.
Some of the best hiking and day walks in Ireland are out on the Beara peninsula. The only cable car in the country connects the tip of the peninsula with Dursey Island, pretty much deserted now except for some grazing sheep and cows, and replete with a number of famine era ruins. There are nice shoreline hikes from the little terminal if the line is backed up ... they only take 3 or 4 people at a time.
And I can give you directions to an old deserted famine village dating from the 1860's if you're interested.

Posted by
107 posts

Hi Robert-Thanks for your feedback. I appreciate it. I was using Rick's itinerary he has in the book and tweaking it for our liking. With him giving Dingle 3 nights I felt that maybe we could use the extra day but I would totally consider adding night to either Kenmare or Connemara. Another thought would be to stop in Doolin for just one night and skipping Galway altogether so giving us again another night. If we wanted to visit the Aran Islands I suppose we could do it from Clifden. Not crazy about one night stays but it would break up the Dingle- Clifden leg. We are picking up the car at the airport but have interest in Powerscourt and a drive through the Wicklow Mountains where Viking was filmed so we will not get to Glendlough until later in the afternoon. That was the reason I was trying to decide on over nighting there or Kilkenny. So the itinerary could look like below perhaps. .. If you have any other thoughts let me know..

Dublin 3 Nights
Kilkenny or Glendlough 1 Night
Kinsale 2 Nights
Kenmare: 4 Nights
Dingle: 3 Nights
Doolin or some where around this area.. 1 Night
Clifden: 4 Nights
Dublin Airport: 1 Night

Posted by
1835 posts

We try to avoid one night stops ourselves but will do them occasionally if it helps to break up an otherwise long driving day.
We're personally not great fans of the Cliffs of Moher. We stopped there on our first visit to Ireland many years ago and thought it underwhelming given all of the hype that guidebooks give to the place. Add the fact that at midday it's a congested mess and we vowed never to return. Others here have suggested taking a late afternoon/evening boat ride from Doolin, with the light of the setting sun illuminating the cliffs from the perspective of sea level. That does sound like a better way to do it, followed by a a convivial pint listening to a good trad session at one of the local pubs.
We love the area around Clifden. Along with the very pretty Connemara Loop drive that connects the National Park (nice hikes), Kylemore Abbey and the village of Cong (Ashford & the Hawk Walk) there's a hidden little gem nearby - the short ferry ride from the village of Cleggan over to the island of Inish Bofin.
Just a thought, but another evocative monastic site is Clonmacnoise - on your way from Clifden back to Dublin on your last day. Would be a good stopping off point to stretch your legs without the crowds of Glendalough and maybe grab some lunch. It's located along the banks of the Shannon and it doesn't take much imagination to envision Viking longboats cruising up the river to raid the place in the 11th & 12th centuries.
In September you'd miss the gardens of Powerscourt in all of their glory but the house would still be open. By skipping Glendalough you could make an easy day of it from Dublin by driving down to Powerscourt via the Old Military Road thru the Wicklow Mountains, then proceeding on to Kinsale from there.
No matter how you organize your trip you'll love it. I wouldn't agonize too much over the odd day spent in one place or the other.

Posted by
107 posts

Hi Robert-

Thanks again for your feedback. You have given me a lot to chew on. Each vacation day is so valuable to us that we like to try and get the most out of it. I was going to ask about stops back to Dublin On our last day in a separate thread so thank you for sharing your insight. That sounds like a great stop. Thanks again!

Posted by
58 posts

We did a very similar itinerary in fall of 2019 in reverse order. I will find my itinerary and notes and get back to you. Most things I would have kept same and a few I would have tweaked. I can also give you my B&B recommendations if you are interested.

Posted by
456 posts

I agree that your itinerary looks good. As an FYI, we were at Glendalough during the first week of September 2019 while University College Dublin was there on their annual "dig". We ended up spending more time there than allocated because we started talking to the students. it was quite fascinating. Regarding Powerscourt, my memory is that there isn't much in the house itself but offices and shops. But the gardens, even in September, are lovely. If you are into whiskey the Powerscourt Distillery opened last year. The master distiller is Noel Sweeney who is a legend in Irish whiskey.
I personally prefer the Kerry Peninsula over Dingle but that's just a personal preference. For hiking suggestions and maps in Kerry look at the Kerry Way. It's a point to point 200 km hike but you can do parts of it as day hikes. Portions of it abut the southern end of the Gap of Dunloe. This is the Black Valley which is fairly isolated and quite stunning. I haven't been to Connemara in 30 years. Time to go back.

Posted by
107 posts

Hi Trotter- Thank you for your feedback. It is looking more and more like we need to add more time to the ROK area. Happy to know that the gardens of Powerscourt should still have some life in September. We do like whisky so this will be a great bonus. We will be there mid month so not late. I expect we will see a bit of a change in season while we are there. Good to know you enjoyed Glendlough. I have been told the area around there is really nice which is why I was struggling with staying near there or pushing onward to Kilkenny. It is so hard even with multiple guide books to decide. So many beautiful places and so little time. What a lovely problem to have! If you think of anything else we shouldn't miss please let me know. We have been working on this for several weeks and scrapped trying to get up to Donegal etc. in favor of slowing down a bit and having a few three to four night stays. Thanks again.

Posted by
66 posts

On our last trip to Ireland, we included a trip to Skellig Michael, and it was absolutely magical. We were there in June when the puffins were everywhere and very curious, so Sept. would be pretty archeological. The Cliffs of Kerry are similar to Moher, and several people we saw there thought it was more satisfying, mostly because of the no crowds.

Our second favorite place, again because of the solitude, was Carrowkeel. Lots of chambered cairns to scramble into and nice hiking - again, Sept. scenery might be quite different than June.

Although we liked Doolin, we think Galway has more music choices, which is a priority for us. Haven't been to Doolin for a long time, and plan to include it next trip on the way from Galway to Dingle. A one night trip to Inishmor from Galway (or Doolin) is a nice chance to bicycle for a day. The Rossaveal ferry is the shorter and less weather affected route.

Posted by
689 posts

We spent 3 nights in Doolin back in 2018. The Cliffs of Moher are spectacular but shouldn't take longer than 2 hours. If the weather is good/seas not too high you can take a ferry to the Aran Islands (Inisheer) from Doolin Harbor (maybe 30 minutes each way) and it was great. Kilkenny was a fun afternoon stop on our way from Waterford to Dublin and I'm sure a night there would be enjoyable. The Rock of Cashel was impressive and should take less than 2 hours. When we landed we drove out from Dublin Airport and then returned to Dublin for the last part of our trip. Suggest you consider doing the same rather than start in Dublin and then waste your last night there at an airport hotel.

Posted by
107 posts

Hi KBK- Thank you for your input. I found the times given at locations particularly helpful. We normally are able to fill in a lot a day on trips but it will be a bit later in the year and our days will be getting shorter and shorter. As far as driving out from the airport it was discussed. My husband is the main driver and has always preferred a few days to get used the time before hopping into a manual transmission car on the wrong side of the road. Seeing he is my chauffer I am not going to argue with that one. :)

Posted by
1868 posts

A few thoughts. Can you fly into Dublin and out of Shannon? Also I think an automatic car is well worth the extra money. Lastly you did not mention Newgrange which I think should not be missed. Whatever you miss you can always return it is the kind of place to me that is worth a return. We keep going back. Enjoy the planning.

Posted by
689 posts

Happy to be a bit of help. After we landed in Dublin we drove right out of the airport and on to the main highway to the west coast. I had never driven on the other side of the road before and was a little nervous - but getting used to it on the "interstate" was the way to go. By the time we got off on the 2-lane I was used to it - and then my wife would help by screaming every time I started to forget on which side of the road to drive.

Posted by
1656 posts

I just wanted to chime in that I concur with Robert that Inishbofin island is a hidden gem. We rented bikes at the pier and had a wonderful day biking around the island. Remember that Irish weather can be unpredictable and be flexible! We had to change planned hiking days because of rain. Some people might like hiking in the rain, I do not.

Posted by
52 posts

Sorry that I'm so late to the party on this thread, but since we're not able to travel yet, I thought that I would share a few thoughts as well.

My wife and I have been to Ireland twice in the last five years, with September of 2019 our most recent visit.

If you're going all the way to Ireland, and will be making your way from Dingle to Galway, it would be a shame to miss the Incredible view from the Cliffs of Moher (even if it's socked in with clouds and raining like it was on my last visit.) Rather than going to the visitor center, where all of the buses and the majority of visitors will be, drive 2km to the south and take in the Cliff's from Guerin's Path instead. (Guerin is a local farmer who happens to have a farm with the most incredible view around.) He charges 5 Euro a head, and you get the same experience, but with a fraction of the people. (http://www.guerinspath.com/)

I also agree with those who recommend taking your time in and around Kenmare. Killarny National Park is stunning. You can catch a jaunting car from Kate Kearney's Cottage, or even walk the Gap of Dunloe.

Funny story about our B&B owner in Kenmare (the Limestone Lodge.) She was not a fan of Rick Steves. Not. One. Bit. When she saw my guide book, she was not bashful about telling me how wrong he is about sending people counter clockwise through the Ring of Kerry, and that he causes more harm than good. A few minutes later, she went on again about how he sends everyone to Dingle, and that Kenmare has just as much to offer, etc. My wife and I chuckled over her while eating dinner that night, as we think that she was more upset about the later than the former. :)

You seem to be taking the same stops we did. It's a beautiful country, and the people are even better.

Enjoy!