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Must sees western/sw Ireland with limited time?

We will have 3 full days and nights to see western/sw Ireland ( after a British Isles cruise where we will visit Belfast, Dublin, Cobh and after a family reunion where we will see the Wicklow Mtns). We will have a car and will be coming from Tinahely, and then flying out of Dublin 4 days later. We are interested in scenery and history but not so much busy cities. We think we would like to see the Dingle peninsula and Killarney National Park. We are open to suggestions as to what else to see and where to base out of. Thanks so much!

Posted by
6782 posts

Unless you’ve got an afternoon flight home from Dublin, I’d have to imagine that part of your your third full day, and your third night, would be spent heading to the Dublin area, in anticipation of that homebound flight. If that’s the case, then your available time for the west/southwest would only be 2 full days, and part of a third.

If you’re wanting a single place for a home base over your 2-3 days, Tralee might be the best bet. It’s a city, but not huge. From there, you could head onto and around the Dingle Peninsula one day. That is, if you’re not spending any nights staying in Dingle Town - which with more time available, staying in Dingle itself would be highly recommended, and you could still do one night, if you’re not staying in a single vase town. Tralee also gets you close to the National Park, while skipping the city of Killarney and its rows and rows of Ring of Kerry hotels.

With a car and all (or part) of a third day, the Ring of Kerry (or at least some of it) is a notable option. Rick Steves recommends driving it clockwise, avoiding getting stuck behind tour buses going counterclockwise. The Skellig Ring on the Beara Peninsula is a particularly scenic (and historical) element, too, but I wonder if you’ve got the time.

For a 3-day blitz with one night stands, stay in Kenmare, then Dingle Town, then Tralee.

Posted by
2635 posts

You might want to check and see if you can do a one-way rental - returning your car at the Kerry airport near Killarney and catching a return flight back to Dublin from there. Would save you quite a bit of time I think.
There are two flights per day via RyanAir from Kerry back to Dublin. The one in the afternoon (departing Kerry around 5:30PM) might work well for you, the advantage being that you'd save a day's car rental ... which would probably pay for the plane tickets. Once back in Dublin you could book an airport hotel to be in place for your return flight the next day.
We prefer to stay along the corridor between Castlemaine and Glenbeigh in order to be central for exploring the ROK, Killarney NP and the Dingle peninsula, not to mention Valencia Island and the very pretty Skellig Ring Road just west of Portmagee. Staying there allows us to unpack once and stay clear of the traffic congestion in the vicinity of Killarney town ... which can be murder during high season when the tour buses are running. Might work for you too.
You'll generally find that drive times in rural Ireland are much longer than the popular driving apps predict, in our experience by about 30%, so you'll want to crank that into your daily planning.