This is long, but: Our 2018 trip, not part of a tour, involved both the Republic and Northern Ireland, last half of September and first week of October. Draw a line between Dublin and Galway, and we drove a clockwise direction north of that line by rental car, plus had 2 nights on Inishmore.
Weather was mostly fair and pleasant, although we got some rain and wind. Never had all-day rain. We learned that violent, sign-destroying storms can arrive in Connemara in August, too! There was certainly greenery (did I mention rain?) on the Emerald Isle, but we weren’t exactly looking for wildflowers. One organized event of note, the Clifden Arts Festival, but also a weekend fair in Londonderry. It was all a wonderful trip, and things were open (except for a ferry that had shut down just the day before we tried to take it), yet clearly not overcrowded. Locations that match with Rick’s 14 day tour include:
Dublin-we were here at the end of our trip, not the start. Bring a jacket, but it doesn’t have to be a down parka. In the first week of October, Dublin was active, but not mobbed. Expect fellow tourists, but you won’t have to elbow your way through a crowd. Restaurants were busy in the evening, but we had no problem getting in - no wait. We got the last 2 slots in the last tour of the day at Kilmainham Gaol, so some popular sights might warrant checking and reserving ahead. Tickets at the Abbey Theatre for Richard III were easy to get after we arrived. We got seats at The Cobblestone for fabulous music sessions, although later arrivals had to stand.
Galway-started our trip here, after flying in to Dublin, that taking a mostly full bus cross country. The city was much less busy than our trip in mid-June a few years earlier, but certainly not dead. Our B&B was full at breakfast the first morning, but had a couple empty tables the next day. Restaurants were busy, but again, we didn’t have to wait or a table. Great music sessions in pubs here, too, in mid-Sept.
Inishmore-right after Galway, and rather than the ferry like an earlier June trip, we flew there. Unless you’re bringing bicycles like we did the time on the ferry, definitely go with the small airplane! It’s fast, and they can usually still fly when rough waters keep the ferries from going. The first day was marvelous weather, and we spent it on a van tour including Dun Aengus for a picnic outside, followed by an adventurous expedition hike to the Worm Hole. Second day was fierce wind and sideways rain, which tore up the beautiful flowers planted in front of our B&B. We spent the morning inside, although the weather cleared up and we took our afternoon flight back to the mainland as scheduled, while ferry passengers were still waiting to see if they could get off the island that day.
Clifden-with rental car, drove there after returning from Inishmore. Attended concert part of the local arts festival. Weather was generally pleasantly cool and sunny for driving to sights around Connemara, although we walked 4 blocks in the rain one night to dinner. We did the Hawk Walk at Ashford Castle, although storms from August had blown down some signs, making for a challenge finding the falconry center when walking through the wooded paths from the parking lot.
Working our way up and around the coast, staying several places in Connemara and Sligo Counties, and an afternoon stop in:
Londonderry (Derry)-There was an unexpected weekend festival downtown with food and music, which was fun in the afternoon. We continued that day to the northernmost part of our trip, to Dunfanaghy. The national forest there had great hikes, and basically no other people, so we pretty much had it to ourselves. (continued)