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ireland itinerary without car

Hello,
I would like to visit Ireland in June. At first I was thinking of doing a long 9 day tour (rabbies) but I think I’d rather travel between cities on my own and do day trips from them. The only problem is to save time, I’m going to try to take buses/trains between cities after the tours (so I’ll have to make sure to book hostels close to bus stations that will let me check in late and let me leave my bag after I check out). I was thinking something like what i wrote below (it'll be 2 nights belfast, 2 nights dublin, 3 nights galway, 3 nights killarney, 1 night cork, 1 night dublin before flight out, with a lot of late check ins)

day 1 – arrive in Belfast

day 2 – Belfast

day 3 – day tour to danluce castle/giant’s causeway/dark hedges (take bus to Dublin after)

day 4 – dublin

day 5 – Dublin (take late train to galway (7:35 PM to 10 PM)

day 6 – day tour to connemara

day 7 – day tour to aran islands

day 8 – day tour to burren/cliffs of moher (take bus or train from galway to killarney after. This isn’t ideal. Train/bus combination would be 5:50 PM to 9:34 PM while bus/bus combinations would be 7:05-11:35 PM. I’d have to find a hostel next to the bus station either way. This is by far the roughest day)

day 9 – day tour to ring of kerry

day 10 – day tour to dingle (take 7:41 – 9:04 PM train to cork)

day 11 – day tour from cork?? any advice on where to go? (train to Dublin after, they leave hourly)

day 12 – leave dublin

I think the obvious criticism is the pain of traveling after the tours but I’d rather do that than waste days just for travel. It’ll be tiring but I’ve done stuff like that before and it was fine.

Here are some questions:
1. Is connemara recommended? Is there some other place I should replace it with?
2. I’ve seen tours that combine aran islands and cliffs of moher in the same day. Should I do that? Or separate the two? I don’t know how much time is needed for cliffs of moher. If I combine them, I have an extra day to work with.
3. what do you recommend for day 11 from cork? I can also go straight from killarney to Dublin on day 10 and do some sort of day trip from Dublin on day 11.

Thanks in advance for any replies and hopefully this plan isn't too terrible. Any constructive advice is appreciated.

Posted by
601 posts

If you leave from Doolin, the combined trip to Aran and Cliffs is pretty compact. They just cruise the length of the Cliffs before resuming the cruise to the Islands - adds less than an hour. I'm sure Dr. Google knows the answer, but doing the same-ish thing from Rossaveal or Galway might be possible. I did read about a newer operator from Galway harbor. The Rossaveal ferry to Aran is a shorter trip and more resistant to weather cancellations than Doolin. The Ring of Kerry tour may stop at those cliffs, so missing Cliffs of Moher from above isn't that big a miss - some say Kerry is better than Moher, although it's largely because of the crowds.

One of the problems with an Ireland trip is the entire country is so dang green and picturesque that everyone likes everywhere. It took us several trips before we got to Connemara or N. Ireland, but they were both fabulous.

Maybe hostels don't suffer the same early-booking issue as conventional options, but if you're talking this June, you better hustle to get your reservations for both lodging and the day-tours.

Posted by
852 posts

You are taking a similar route, via train, to what I did, but I had more time so did not need to head for the train at the end of a day trip. Have you checked what time the day tour gets back to Galway the day you want to leave for Killarney? I did the same three day trips you have listed, and I recall they got back to town around 5pm. My suggestion would be to remove Cork from your list, and use that night between Galway and Killarney instead. After your day trip catch the train to Kilkenny and spend the night there. It’s a pretty little town with a castle. Then from there your train ride to Killarney will be much easier.

Posted by
126 posts

thanks so much for the replies!

jjgurley, the tours I’m looking at for cliffs of moher vs cliffs of moher/aran combined are these two:
1. https://wildatlanticwaydaytours.com/tours/aran-islands-inisheer-cliffs-of-moher-including-cliffs-of-moher-cruise/
2. https://wildatlanticwaydaytours.com/tours/cliffs-of-moher-burren-day-tour-from-galway/

I don’t know anything about the tour company but there are several tour companies to choose from that offer similar tours. It's possible it's a situation where we are all combined together, i don't know. Thanks for the warning on the reservations.

Anita, thanks so much for the info! The first time you mentioned it, did you accidentally write Killarney when you meant Kilkenny? The tours from Galway that I'm looking at actually arrive later than 5 PM. Which tours did you take? If I combine aran islands/cliffs of moher (tour #1 i listed above), then i have an extra day also. What made you decide to take the day tour approach rather than just book a long tour from the same company? Since you did something so similar, if you have the time, any advice and recommendations you have are greatly appreciated.

Thanks so much to both of you!

Posted by
852 posts

What I am suggesting is that on the day you currently plan to travel to Killarney (after your day trip to cliffs/burren) only go as far as Kilkenny, stealing the day you had planned to stop in Cork after leaving Killarney later on. This will mean that when you leave Killarney to return to Dublin you will not have a stop in Cork and will arrive in Dublin quite late. But, I think you will be glad to make the stop in Kilkenny as it will give you a bit of a break in a very busy schedule. Also, looking at your plan to take the bus from Belfast and then switch to the train to Galway, have you checked the train schedule from Belfast? I took the train from Galway straight through to Belfast without having to change. Or is it possible to take the bus all the way to Galway? You have a pretty tight schedule, and it would be best not to have to make any changes to avoid missing a connection if something goes wrong. It’s been a few years since I was there, so I’m sure schedules have changed, but double, and triple check, all of your planned travel. I did so much homework for my trip that on one leg of my journey a very helpful bus driver tried to convince me that what I was trying to do couldn’t be done and called his office only to confirm it could be done. But, on one leg of my trip, one of my connecting buses was an hour late, and almost full by the time it arrived. Which is why I suggest avoiding transfers if you can. In Galway I did three day trips, Cliffs and Burren, Connemara, and Aran Island. I don’t recall which tour companies.

Posted by
126 posts

oh, I get it now Anita. You’re saying to do Belfast->Galway->Kilkenny->Killarney->Dublin (instead of Belfast->Galway->Killarney->Cork->Dublin). Thanks so much for that suggestion, I will look into the bus/train schedules.

You also make a good point in seeing what trips are one way and what trips require a transfer. I don't know how common delays are in Ireland.

So you separated Cliffs of Moher and Aran Islands. I know it’s been some years but if you could recall, could you see those two days being effectively combined? Or do you think it makes more sense for me to do them on separate days as you did. One last question, if you know, what does “burren” entail? Isn’t it just the area you drive through (I might be wrong) and didn’t the aran islands day trip include the same drive through that area (on the map it seems like it would be a lot of the same route to me, but I have no idea what the actual route is)?

Posted by
8367 posts

I wonder if you need to see both Cliffs of Moher and the Aran Islands (which have some pretty impressive cliffs of their own)? If it were me, I would drop Cliffs of Moher/Connemara and spend 2 nights on the Aran Islands.

Posted by
852 posts

I wouldn’t combine the trips because I think you wouldn’t have enough time when you got to sights, or there would be less sights visited. You want to have time to walk a bit when you get to the cliffs, not just jump out of the bus to take a photo. The same goes for the Burren. The tour I took allowed the time to walk out across the rocks, look at the fauna, and the Poulnabrone dolmen. The trip I did also stopped at Ailwee cave, but some tours make other stops. The trip to Inishmore was essentially the bus to the ferry and back, and the ferry over and back. Once on the island it was up to us how we toured. It was fun to see all the locals waiting for the ferry to come in and loudly pitching their tour services to the tourists. A friend and I chose to take a van tour with a local, and it was a lot of fun( you could also go by pony cart, or rent a bike). I like to support the local business if possible. We made a stop at several sights, including Dun Aonghasa, and on the way back to town the driver let us out (by request) out not far from town so we could walk out across the rocks to the cliff edge (where we promptly got caught in a thunderstorm). I think you would have a different experience with a big name tour company. The Connemara tour made several stops to see a guy cutting peat, a traditional stone cottage, ponies, the Quiet Man cottage, and a stop at Kylemore Abbey. It was a very scenic tour. If I could only do two tours I would probably remove Connemara because the Cliffs are so dramatic, and Inishmore was so much fun.

Posted by
126 posts

Carol, I might feel similarly to you after I go but I’d rather get a taste of more things since it’s my first trip to Ireland.

Anita, I think I’ll do all three trips. By the way, did you go to Blarney castle? Cobh? I’m considering going to those sites. Also, what do you suggest doing on the Kilkenny day? Walk around the city?

Posted by
852 posts

I did not go to Blarney or Cobh. Blarney was not recommended to me by anyone I knew who had been (other than the gardens are nice), and Cobh was not on my route as I wanted to go to Kinsale to visit Charles Fort. You have a pretty full itinerary already, and these are locations that are going to take time to get to without a car. In Kilkenny, the castle is nice, and St. Canice’s has a tower you can climb for a good view.

Posted by
202 posts

Hi!

We did that exact tour that combines the Cliffs with the Islands and it was a highlight of our 2022 trip. We were also short on time and just wanted to see the highlights and it was perfect for us. We also did a second tour to Connemara and Kylemore Abbey and that was also stunning. The scenery is breathtaking!

One thing to note about the ferry: the sea can get quite rough and the day we went there was many folks regretting that boat ride with sea sickness. If that doesn't affect you, you'll love it. One of the crew on board the boat saw us unfazed by the huge swells and took us out to the downstairs outside area. Some of the people on the boat thought we were nuts but we went out there and held onto the railing as the boat crashed through the waves. It was foggy and we couldn't see the Cliffs, but that boat ride will forever be one of our favorite memories of our trip.

PQ

Posted by
4071 posts

Have you checked transport times if you go to Cork from Galway, then train or bus to Killarney, then Killarney to Dublin? I looked at this recently and didn’t like the bus change in Limerick when going Galway to Killarney.

Paddywagon offers a fast day tour from Cork you could look at. I haven’t taken it yet but have looked at it. They also offer a Ring of Kerry tour from Cork, which you can take and they will let you take your luggage and then stay in Killarney, in case that helps. (It appears to go from Cork to Killarney to pick up more people.)

In Cork, the train goes frequently from Cork to Cobh, so you could spend any part of a day you want there on your own schedule.

the tours I’m looking at for cliffs of moher vs cliffs of moher/aran combined are these two:
1. https://wildatlanticwaydaytours.com/tours/aran-islands-inisheer-cliffs-of-moher-including-cliffs-of-moher-cruise/
2. https://wildatlanticwaydaytours.com/tours/cliffs-of-moher-burren-day-tour-from-galway/

If it were me, I would take the second option for the Cliffs of Moher from above and if interested in the Arran Islands, use this one.

For the Wild Atlantic tours, read the cancellation policy. I THINK you lose some money if you cancel - but for the same tour booked through Viator, you can cancel for free MUCH longer. I don’t normally recommend Viator over booking direct - but I also don’t usually see the difference in cancellation policies.

Posted by
126 posts

anita, thanks again for the info, you’ve been such a help to me! thanks

theplanning queen, thanks so much for the info on the boat ride! Fortunately, I don’t get seasick. Hopefully, I can have a similar experience of going down also.

texastravelmom, galway->cork->killarney->Dublin does seem to work best since cork to galway is a 3 hour bus ride to cork as opposed to a 5 hour bus ride to Killarney. Galway to Kilkenny, as Anita suggested, is shorter but the latest train leaves at 3 PM. Thanks for the suggestion, I think that does probably work best though it would mean I would miss kilkenny. Thanks for the tip on using viator. From prior experience that typically lets you cancel up to 24 hours in advance so it seems like a great choice. Thanks again.

My plan for ring of kerry is to do it on my own from Killarney using public transportation. It can be done by taking:
bus 270 killarney to kenmare 11 AM to 11:40 AM
bus 281 kenmare to waterville 11:45 AM to 1:07 PM
bus 280 3:15 PM to 5:15 PM back to killarney.

The main potential problem is the 5 minute leeway between when then first bus arrives in kenmare and when the next bus leaves. If I miss that one, the next bus is only at 3 PM so it’s a 3 hour 15 minute wait and that makes the day end much later. I like the idea of doing it using public transportation since it seems more “authentic” and because who wants to take an organized tour everyday. I’m already taking at least 5. Trying to avoid a tour dominant experience is why I decided against taking a long 9 day rabbies tour but sadly without a car many tours are mandatory.

So maybe I should do this:

day 1 – arrive in Belfast
day 2 – Belfast
day 3 – day tour to danluce castle/giant’s causeway/dark hedges (take bus to Dublin after)
day 4 – dublin
day 5 – Dublin (take late train to galway (7:35 PM to 10 PM)
day 6 – day tour to connemara
day 7 – day tour to aran islands
day 8 – day tour to burren/cliffs of moher (take bus or train from galway to cork after, 7:30 PM to 10:20 PM)
day 9 – here I have some options: I can take the tour texastravemom suggested which covers a lot (blarney, cobh, kinsale) or I can self travel and combine one of those places with the Rock of Cashel which is a 1.5 hour bus ride away. Either way, I’ll take a train to Killarney after
day 10 – either ring of kerry via public transportation or perhaps just spend the day at killarney national park.
day 11 – day tour to dingle.
day 12 – early bus to Dublin (arrives 8:19 AM) for flight out.

Any thoughts on day 9, specifically if rock of cashel is a must? If I combine days 7 and 8 using the tour mentioned earlier and planningqueen had a good experience with, I’ll have an extra day and probably can go to blarney, kinsale, cobh, and cashel. Given how aran and cliffs of moher seem to be highlights of Ireland maybe I should make sure to have more time in each place. It’s hard to decide.

And thanks everyone for your help so far!

Posted by
852 posts

I would not attempt to do the Ring of Kerry by public transit if the bus schedule is that tight. It doesn’t take much for a bus to be five minutes late. A simple bit of road construction or a minor MVA combined with the next bus running a minute or two early and you will miss your connection. I took seven different day trips in the three weeks I was there, and I was glad I did. The day I travelled to Cashel from Cork by bus, then on to Kilkenny, one of my buses was almost an hour late, and almost full by the time it arrived. Fortunately, I had lots of time as it was the only thing I had planned that day.

Posted by
2666 posts

I’m looking at your itinerary and I’m thinking “Take the Rabbie’s tour.” 😊

I’m planning Ireland for May 2025 and, like you, have been trying to decide between a tour or doing it on my own. I ruled out the RS tour because that would be way too much people time for me, having to eat together. I took a couple of day tours with Rabbie’s last year from Scotland and you are given plenty of time to explore on your own and meals are not group meals.

I too have concerns about that many days on a tour, but it just seems easier. I’ve been lucky to have taken 6 trips to Europe post-Covid and one thing I quickly learned is that plans are great until there’s a bus or train strike or your train is cancelled or delayed. Missing one of those late night trains could really goof up your plans. And I would be worried about that 5 minute bus connection.

You might have a higher tolerance for schedule disruptions than I do. I wish you good luck!! Would love to hear about the trip once you are back.