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Itinerary Advice, especially Connemara region

Hello fellow travelers,

I’m planning a trip to Ireland for June/July 2022 with my partner and my parents. It will be everyone’s first time there, and we’ll have about 12 or 13 days. We’ll be touring Scotland first, so we’ll be flying in from Edinburgh. To please everyone in the group, I’m aiming for a mix of scenic coastal vistas, charming villages, must-see places, and off-the-beaten path sights. We want to see as much as we can without overstuffing our itinerary or feeling like we’re spending all our time in the car. Because my parents will be with us, we’re not likely going to go for long, strenuous hikes and such, or do very long drives.

I pasted a couple itinerary options below, with overnight locations in bold and en route stops in parentheses. What I’d love this group’s feedback on is:
1. Is what we’re fitting into each day realistic in terms of time at each place and drive time? Would you recommend stopping at a different place? For instance, should we stay in Westport instead of Galway?
2. Is there anything we should considering cutting to give us more time in other places? Where would you recommend spending more time? Less time? For instance, should we cut Connemara for this trip?

Thank you so much in advance!
Sandra

Itinerary Option 1:
Day 1: fly into Dublin (Glendalough, Wicklow Mountains National Park) Kilkenny

Day 2: (Waterford, Cashel); Kinsale

Day 3: (Lismore, Cobh, Cork, Blarney); Kinsale

Day 4: (Stop in Skibbereen, Glengarriff) Kenmare

Day 5: (Killarney National Park, Muckross, Gap of Dunloe) Dingle

Day 6: (Slea Head Loop) Dingle

Day 7: (Adare, Bunratty) stay near Bunratty/Shannon (OR also do Ennis, Cliffs of Moher and stay in Doolin)

Day 8: (Ennis, Cliffs of Moher, Kinvara) Galway

Day 9: (Kylemore, Connemara, Clifden Roundstone) Galway

Day 10: (Drive from Galway to Dublin, possible detour to Carlingford) Dublin

Day 11: Dublin

Day 12: Dublin

Day 13: Fly home from Dublin

Itinerary Option 2:
Day 1: Dublin
Day 2: Dublin
Day 3: (Glendalough, Wicklow) Kilkenny
Day 4: (Cashel, Waterford) Dunmore East
Day 5: (Lismore, Cork) Kinsale
Day 6: (Blarney, Cobh) Kinsale
Day 7: (Skibbereen, Glengarriff) Kenmare
Day 8: (Killarney National Park) Dingle
Day 9: (Slea Head Loop) Dingle
Day 10: (Bunratty, Adare, Ennis, Cliffs of Moher) Doolin
Day 11: (Galway) Dublin
Day 12: Fly home from Dublin
OPTIONS: Add a stop in Roundstone/Clifden/Connemara or extra day in Dublin or Dingle.

Posted by
2791 posts

Your constant changes of hotel exhaust me. Connemara is beautiful but I think you need to make some major cuts in your itinerary. However, I'm not a fan of Dublin and would cut out Day 2 in Dublin-I found the sights in Dublin to be missable compared to the more scenic countryside. You could easily do a bus tour from Dublin to Glendalough and Kilkenny for the day and not have to transfer your stuff to Kilkenny for one night's stay. EDITED: If you do this, you can wait until you leave Dublin to get a rental car.

Posted by
5 posts

Ha, and this is a slower itinerary than I started with! That’s what I’m wondering, though… whether we’re packing too much in and moving around too much. I think we’re leaning toward passing by Waterford, rather than staying overnight in the area (i.e., Dunmore East), but I was interested to see if anyone thought that was a must-see or would choose that over Connemara.

From pictures and what I’ve read, the Connemara region looks beautiful, and I’m interested in seeing Westport, Kylemore Abbey, Clifden, and Roundstone. I’m just wondering whether it will be possible to fit in on this trip. And whether it’s worth possibly cutting other stops to include.

That’s a good idea about a day trip to Kilkenny rather than an overnight. I’ll look into that. In general, would you recommend staying in a central location and doing longer day trips, rather than driving shorter distances but moving around more?

Maybe we could do option 2, but a day trip instead of overnight in Kilkenny, and then cut Dunmore East and Kenmare and add more nights in the other locations?

Thanks for the input!

Posted by
365 posts

Perhaps as a compromise, you can utilize two base towns, one in the East, the other in the West. That'll afford a good four or five days in each with more localized side trips and less long-distance driving.

In many trips to Ireland, I've found Connemara to be the most beautiful region in the country. If dramatic scenery and more of Irish culture (traditional music, Irish-speaking regions, etc.) are high on your list, then the West Coast offers both in spades. You'll also find castles there. If time allows, I'd toss in a day trip to one of the Aran Islands: either Inishmore or Inisheer.

Posted by
821 posts

Hello from Wisconsin,
Let me recommend an inexpensive book for you, under $10. Ireland Ordnance Survey AA Leisure Guides | Paperback. It doesn't matter what year's edition you get, the topography doesn't change. The maps are in color from green to brown showing altitude. The more colorful the map, the more beautiful you will find the surroundings. Trust me on this for the Republic of Ireland. Northern Ireland is a bit different. When you look at the map of 'Joyce Country' (Connemara) they show the drive west out of Galway as worth it. Not in your life. Look at it pea green the whole way. You have to get into Joyce Country, the east side of Oughterard, before it gets pretty. And one more note on the beauty. The Irish had their nation denuded of trees by the English. A pine plantation to them is pretty. So the "wooded" drives...if you've seen a pine plantation, you've seen them all.

I am pretty jaded as a traveler. Kinsale was captivating the first time I was there, 40 years ago. Everyone in the world is there now. Bunratty/Blarney are famous for the dog and pony shows they provide. I prefer a rural pub with a glass Guinness listening to locals play music for their neighbors.

Doolin is in County Clare. Really, not much there other than a CD shop and a couple pubs. The Cliffs of Moher, that's Clare too. I think that Clare is a beautiful place. The drives between Killinaboy and Bealaclugga are quite nice and offer some looks at what Ireland was before the Irish Tiger. The city of Ennis is a bit crowded but has a lovely medieval high street. Kilfenora, Corrifin, and Ennistimmon are villages in Clare with some life.

Let the book guide you for scenic natural beauty. The most beautiful thing in Ireland...it would be the Irish themselves. Make it a point to buy a loaf of Irish brown soda bread in Kelfenora or Corrofin and ask about where to get the best pint of Guinness. (mind you, they are NOT all the same). That might start a discussion. Go to the other grover and buy a chunk of Irish Cheddar. Ask again. Get into a conversation. The bread and cheese is the excuse to talk to some one. Plus you have lunch for the side of the road.

wayne iNWI

Posted by
5 posts

Hi David,
Thank you for your reply! It sounds like you’d recommend prioritizing time in the Connemara region. Do you think Galway would make a good base for day trips in the area, or would that be too much backtracking? Would it be better to stay somewhere like Clifden for a couple nights?
Thanks again for the insights!

Posted by
5 posts

Hi Wayne,
Thank you very much for the tips! You paint a lovely picture of relaxed days with brown bread, cheese, and a pint. It will definitely be on the itinerary. And I’ll check out the guide you suggested.
From what you said, it sounds like you weren’t too impressed with much of the Connemara. What would you think of a loop from Leenane to Letterfrack, Clifden, Roundstone, and Lough Inagh? What about the drive from Westport to Louisburgh to Aasleagh?

We’ve lived in and near woods much of our lives, so I don’t think we’d be too impressed with wooded drives. We’re more interested in dramatic landscapes and coastal areas with hills/mountains, charm, and/or historic architecture. My mother grew up in the mountains, though, so she’s not thrilled by mountains on their own. I’ll check out the villages you mentioned.

Regarding Kinsale, what you’re saying sounds similar to some other things I’ve heard and read - that it’s a cute coastal village with good restaurants but not much else, and that other places are more interesting to spend time in. Do you think it makes a good overnight stop, or would Cork be a better choice?

Thanks again!

Posted by
365 posts

Sandra,

Either Galway or Ennis would make an excellent base for side trips. Both have a variety of pubs, B&Bs, shops, people-watching opportunities and easy access to Doolin for the ferries to the Aran Islands. A larger ferry departs Rossaveel (west of Galway) for Inishmore, the largest of the Arans. Galway also has a lively pedestrian-only zone. You asked if basing yourselves there would entail too much backtracking. To where? What's your anticipated second base?

Heading westward in a clockwise direction from Galway, the Connemara loop takes you to lively Clifden (with a dip southward to Roundstone before you get there), Letterfrack and Leenane, then back to Galway. In Clifden take the drive along the Sky Road for some nice views of the ocean. Just west of Recess, take the B344 north for an incredibly scenic ten-mile drive through the nearly-deserted and pristine Inagh Valley. It'll drop you just west of Kylemore Abbey.

I also consider Leenane to be in the singularly most beautiful location in Ireland. Set between three mountain ranges at the end of Killary Harbor, which has the country's only fjord, it borders Co. Mayo and the short drive to Westport, another lively town. Along the way you can stop at the National Famine Memorial and climb Croagh Patrick right across the road. Both are in Murrisk.

While in Leenane by all means have lunch or dinner at the Blackberry Restaurant, which serves up the freshest and most delicious dinners we've had anywhere in Ireland. Reservations recommended.

https://www.blackberryrestaurant.ie

You're also not going to encounter many wooded areas in Ireland (they're almost as rare as the snakes!), but you will enjoy a wealth of rugged coastal landscapes, hills and mountains. The Twelve Bens mountain range is the heart of the Connemara region.

Buy Michelin map #712 to get a much clearer idea of all these and other locations, distances and the like. It's detailed enough to use on all our bicycle trips around Ireland.

I agree with Wayne's last observation that the Irish are the most beautiful thing about the country. They're the primary reason we've gone back multiple times. Bicycling through the magnificent coastal countryside is a close second. Then the trad music, the beers, B&Bs and...

Posted by
5 posts

Hi David,

Thank you again! This is really helpful information, and I’ve ordered the maps you recommended. Leenane sounds lovely. As far as backtracking in the Connemara, I was thinking of the loop from Galway to Cong to Westport, Louisburgh, Leenane, Kylemore Abbey, Connemara National Park, Clifden, Sky Road, dipping down to Roundstone and back to Galway. It’s too much to do in a day, so I was wondering if it makes more sense to stop somewhere in the middle for the night or do two smaller loops over two days and stay in Galway. I think based on the feedback here, Galway sounds like a good base.

Thanks, all!
Sandra

Posted by
365 posts

Sandra,

Yes, that loop would indeed invovle a boatload of driving. Dedicate two days/nights to the Connemara loop I described earlier. Take your time to explore its beauty and spend one of those nights in Clifden, itself an attractive, lively town, the other in Galway or even Roundstone. There's little to see in Cong (unless you want to see where John Wayne's "Quiet Man" was filmed in part).

Westport would also make a pleasant spot for an overnight and strolling around. Lively Matt Molloy's pub there (owned by a member of the Chieftians) is the place for trad music. From Westport, it's a short drive to the National Famine Memorial and Croagh Patrick in Murrisk. Both are worthwhile.