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Itinerary Advice- Help narrowing down some options

We are a family of five (grown kids) traveling late June. We have 11 nights. Need some advice on nights 3-6 and anything else as well!

Nights 1 and 2 - Dublin. (accommodations are set)
Day 3- Leave Dublin (possible lunch in Kilkenny) and head to Rock of Cashel. End in Killarney?
Day 4: ROK. (Muckross House and maybe Skellig Michael) Night in Killarney?
Day 5: Dingle. We would love to see Slea Head loop and enjoy the scenery. Should this be 2 nights? (Someone mentioned going up to County Clare over Conor Pass and ferry from Talbert to Killimer and the coast, stay in Doolin seeing the cliffs from there and stay in Doolin?)
Days 6,7,8: Galway- Leave early to see Cliffs of Moher and the Burrens. Explore area and Aran Islands. Should this be fewer nights?
Days 9& 10: Ashford Castle (golf, fish, afternoon tea, hawk walk)
Day 11: Back to Dublin

Have heard that there are many stops with things worth seeing in County Clare with castles and ruins of interest. Kilkee Cliffs and Doolin were recommended as was Bonratty Castle and the traditional banquet dinner.

I don't want to spend the entire time running around but should we rearrange some of our nights to accommodate things better? Do I have too much time in Galway?

We are thinking of possible using a driver instead of renting a car and need to give them a possible itinerary to get quotes. I also want to book accommodations for Days 3-5 (or 6) asap.

I'd appreciate some input. Thanks!

Posted by
36 posts

After night 3 in Killarney, you could do Muckross in the morning, then drive through Killarney NP to Moll's Gap, doubling back to the northeast from there through the Gap of Dunloe, then on to Dingle. The road through the Gap of Dunloe is a unique experience in a country full of unique experiences. l would definitely suggest more than one night in Dingle, probably take the extra[s] from Galway, whose old town is VERY cool but it is not an easy city to drive or park in [at least in my experience; in fact, we were unable to find anywhere to park the last time we thought we'd just stop for a couple of hours]. I think Killarney to Dingle to Doolin is something you would end up regretting trying to do in one day, if it's even possible. I'd suggest nights 4 and 5 and maybe even 6 in Dingle, then drive north to Doolin for a couple of nights. I personally would not try to fit Galway into this plan, unless you have a specific reason for going. The cliff walk at Kilkee is very much a worthwhile stop on the way to Doolin, IMO; plan your drive so you can catch the ferry across the Shannon at Tarbert if you're going to Kilkee. We found the Cliffs of Moher to have a bit too much of a "Disneyworld" feel for our liking-- though I suppose it is a "must-see" in any case, you might not need to plan on a great deal of time there. We kind of felt like we couldn't "escape" too quickly, but that's just us, maybe. The Burren will probably be as empty of people as the Cliffs are full. Another unique landscape that you could spend at least a few hours exploring on your way north. BTW, we found that adding 33-50% to the drive times given by Google Maps tended to match our actual real world experience, though this probably wouldn't be necessary for planning if you are hiring a local driver. Relax, have fun, try not to rush. You'll be back.

Posted by
5617 posts

Galway’s my favorite city. For your 3 days, at least one should be Galway itself. The Burren and Cliffs could be another day. Third day, fly to Inishmore, the biggest Aran island. You’ll want the extra time the flying allows, rather than relying on a ferry and calm enough seas for that ferry to make it there and back. If you can find a 4th day/night, spend the night on Inishmore.

Posted by
8 posts

These are wonderful suggestions. I am very cognizant of wanting to not rush and taking time to experience Ireland.

It sounds like a night in Killarney is enough. Is that one day enough to see ROK before heading to Dingle?

We can take two days in Dingle (4&5) and one night in Doolin (Day 6) before Galway. or the opposite Would we be able to see Slea Head loop in this itinerary?

Logistically, where does the Conor Pass and ferry from Talbert to Killimer and the the cliff walk at Kilkee fit in? Day 6? on the way to Doolin?

It seems like we could see Cliffs of Moher on the way to Galway. I'd like to see Galway for a number of reasons including that my family has roots there.

Once in Galway, i did not realize flying to Aran Islands was an option. Where do i find information on that?

Posted by
2225 posts

I think you have some logistical problems that need to be addressed:
You're going to need a very large vehicle to accommodate a family of 5 adults plus luggage - at least an SUV if not a van. It'll need to be an automatic too unless you're comfortable with a left-handed manual shifter while driving on the left ... which I wouldn't recommend to any but the most experienced. Given the high cost of rental cars in general, and something that big in particular, it will probably be cheaper to just rent two mid-sized vehicles - more room for everyone and their luggage and will probably give you more flexibility as well.
In order to keep your costs down you might be better off reversing the order of your itinerary by taking the express bus from Dublin airport to Galway upon arrival and basing yourselves there for a few days at the beginning of your trip while you explore the city and take your day trip out to the Aran Islands. You won't need a car for that - the ferry operator offers a shuttle (for a fee) to the landing at Rossaveal, or you can taxi out to the airfield if you opt to fly. You can collect your rental car(s) in Galway for your explorations of Connemara and Ashford, then head south towards Dingle and Kerry.
We're not big fans of Moher - just too crowded and generally underwhelming for us, particularly since there are other beautiful seascapes along the stretch of coastline on the drive south towards Kilkee. The Cliff Walk there is one of our particular favorites.
Killarney is a true tourist trap - especially at the height of the season in June. Just getting in and out of town in a rental car can be a royal pain when the tour buses are clogging the narrow roads. Better (IMO) to base yourselves somewhere midway between Dingle and Killarney so you can visit both on short day drives. Would allow you to unpack once and settle in for a few days rather than moving constantly. The advice to slow it down is good advice - that would be one way to do it.
The Gap of Dunloe is a true highlight but you really don't want to attempt to drive it except in the very early morning before the pony traps and hikers start up around 8 AM. For info, there's signage at either end stating that the road is for local traffic only, though it's not really enforced. The road is extremely narrow with some steep dropoffs, few turnouts, lots of slow traffic from pedestrians and the traps, and would generally be a very unpleasant experience for you.
You could then continue your circuit back to Dublin, dump the car, and spend a few nights there before your departing flight.
Just my 2 cents.

Posted by
8 posts

I so appreciate the response and have been concerned about that. We may decide to use a driver because the cost of car rentals is so expensive, it may be a better alternative. Unless we rent for the entire trip from Dublin, there are very few rentals available. We thought if we used a driver for the middle of the trip we could get the train back to Dublin, but will look at the reverse.

Where would you consider a good place to stay between Dingle and Kilkenny? I have heard Kenmare is lovely. We want to be able to enjoy the music and pub scenes at night.

Posted by
2225 posts

Renting a car only for the middle portion of your trip might be a workable alternative. There are rental car outlets in Galway where you could collect a vehicle (or 2) as you leave town and head towards Kerry, then perhaps drop the car at Kerry airport not far from Killarney Town. For info, there are a couple of flights per day from the Kerry airport back to Dublin, so dropping your car there and flying back might be better use of your time than driving the whole long way, especially since your primary interest seems to be a stop in Kilkenny which is easily reachable as a day trip from Dublin by train ... about 1.5 hrs each way.
One-way drop charges for rentals in Ireland are pretty reasonable. Having your own car really is the best way to see the countryside in Connemara, Dingle, and Kerry but you can minimize the cost and the hassle by streamlining your itinerary a bit.
Kenmare is nice - mainly as a base for a drive down onto the Beara peninsula to the south. We've always thought the northern half of the ROK was prettier, especially if you include the Skellig Ring Road just outside the village of Portmagee - which is where the excursion boats to Skellig Michael depart from.
Afraid I don't know anything about private drivers in the west of Ireland. Other posters here have recommended a local driver based somewhere near Killarney but I've forgotten the name and couldn't locate it during a quick search. Maybe someone more knowledgeable will chime in with his contact info. A simple Google search for chauffeurs in Ireland might yield some hits. Am sure this has probably been discussed on Trip Advisor too.

Posted by
5617 posts

Flying to Aran Island(s);

Our first trip back in June 2011, we bicycled from Galway out to the Rossaveal ferry port, and the boat took us and our bikes to Inishmore. We planned to spend the night, then ferry back to Rossaveal the next day to continue our bike tour. But the weather had other plans, and the water was so choppy that the ferries were postponed for hours. We eventually got the first ferry off Inishmore, but it headed east, not north, and made a pit stop on Inisheer (smallest island), before reaching the mainland south of Doolin. So that involved an itinerary change, and it worked out so we saw another island and got closer to Doolin, Lisdoonvarna, and the Cliffs of Moher, but it also included lots of uncertainty about when a boat would ever get to Inishmore so we could depart.

Second trip, September 2018, we booked with Air Aran, and drove our rental car out to the tiny airport west of Galway. Small plane, very quick flight, and we were on Inishmore for a day with fabulous weather. Next morning, a violent storm had moved in. Ferries were all cancelled, with uncertainty about when they’d be able to start running again after the seas calmed. But we had our return flight already booked for that afternoon, and we flew back to the mainland while ferry tourists were still waiting to see when they could leave. After that experience, the plane’s the way to go. And they fly to all 3 islands, if you’re looking for that option. There are the logistics of getting to/from the airport(s), but otherwise, you’d still need to get to/from the ferry port(s). Check out https://aerarannislands.ie/

Posted by
8 posts

Thank you all. This is incredibly helpful! I have a good idea on what will work best. I may be back for some more ideas.

Posted by
2225 posts

I found the private driver that many here have recommended. Here's the most recent contact info I could find:
Tony McGann
(00353)(0)65-7074790
(00353)(0)87-2422950
tonyscabdoolin@eircom.net

We have no experience with him but others here have raved about his driving services in the past. Use the search function above to read some of his reviews, most of which seem to be pretty dated unfortunately.
Good luck.

Posted by
1934 posts

Kim (and Robert), I am the one that has posted re: Tony many times.

I do not think Tony still has his taxi/driver business. He was fabulous when we hired him, but that was, gosh, 9 or 10 years ago. I have tried to email him a few times over the last year, when I would receive RSForum private messages asking about him, but the email always bounces back as undeliverable. I do not have international calling, so I have not tried by phone. If someone reaches him and finds out he is still driving for hire, please let me know.

My recommendation would be to ask some of your B&Bs and hotels for recommendations for a driver -- that is how we found Tony at the time.

It would definitely be good to have a local driver (especially if you are in a fair-sized vehicle) going thru Conor Pass (which is incredibly beautiful and a must-see in my book).

You asked about Galway. We stopped there for a quick lunch and then spent some time going thru several of the really cute shops and seeing street performers on (I believe the name was Key Street), then on our way to Ashford Castle. You will truly enjoy Ashford. If the web site does not show a 2-night special for when you plan to stay, definitely call to see if you can arrange one. It was incredible when we were there, but ownership has since changed and a lovely update was done to the castle, along with the addition of Irish Wolfhounds. The hawk walk was definitely a highlight.

We stayed in Bunratty our last night, as our flight home was from Shannon. We did not attend the banquet, but walked thru the folk park (and my Irish cousin told me it was as close to what it might be like for when my grandmother was growing up in Ireland). We enjoyed it, and there were two pub-type restaurants just outside the grounds, and we conveniently dined there our last night.

For nights where you are staying put (for 2 or more nights), you can also piece together a series of drivers, or take the train for part and then hire a driver for other times. We used Tony for initial airport pickup, thru Adare, then on to the Rock of Cashel, then on to Kinsale (where we overnighted...and is a lovely sea-side city.....Tony handled his own expenses), then the next morning we drove along the coast with stops along the way, then lunch in Kenmare, the Muckross House (or vice versa..do not recall the order), then on to Dromoland Castle (for a two-night stay). Tony went on home to Doolin to take other fares, then he picked us up the morning we were ready to go, dropped us at the Cliffs to visit, while he took our luggage to the B&B in Doolin, then we had someone simply call him when we were ready go to to our B&B. That night we dined at a pub in Doolin, a simple 2-minute walk down the hill from our B&B, then the next morning he met us to go thru The Buren, lunch stop in Galway, then on up thru the Connemera (which is lovely on Sky Road, and listed in National Geographic's 500 Journeys of a Lifetime book, then he dropped us off at Ashford Castle (as I told him I wanted to arrive there before dark). Had we had more time, I would have like to visit Kylemore Abbey, but we saw it from the road. Then we paid him and said our good-byes. Then after a two-night stay, my cousin (who I was meeting for the first time) took us to see the cottage in which my grandmother was born, other family sites (and we stayed at a B&B in Tubbercurry where the owner amazingly helped me to originally connect with my cousin.....her daughter, it turned out, taught his grandson in a local school...small world), and there we pre-hired a local driver to take us to Shannon (even though my cousin tried to insist...it would have been a really long day for her...so we arrived with it all pre-arranged).

We did not visit Dublin, but I would definitely check into the train, if we were arriving there then heading south.

Enjoy Ireland. It is a wonderful place, and we hope to get back someday for many reason. Safe and fun travels!!

Posted by
1934 posts

One additional comment: When we first contacted our driver, I had a rough idea of my itinerary and had clearly identified the days we would not need a driver. But, for the days we needed a driver, I was very much open to ideas and said, "if you think we should alter times/sights, I am very open to your ideas." He telephoned us (with my permission) and he suggested changes (which were great). Then when we met him in person, along with my must-do things, I just said, "Show us the beauty of your country" and that he did. That resulted in an outcome that was much better than my original "map/schedule" of what we might do between Kinsale and Dromoland Castle.....ditto for between Doolin and Ashford Castle. Tony delighted us with little surprise sites along the way. I definitely had my must-do things, and at Muckross I asked him to keep us on schedule for arrival at Dromoland before dark (as I love gardens and can let hours fly when enjoying them), and he did just that (politely showing up when it was time for us to move on per my request).