Please sign in to post.

**Update**Newbie Trip- Family of 4 doing a self drive on the Atlantic side

Hello All,
I am trying to plan a self-drive trip with my adult daughters and husband in May or June of 2023 to the Atlantic side of Ireland. Our family has never traveled outside of the U.S. and are primarily interested in the landscape and small towns versus staying for many days in Dublin. Any advice and suggestions will be very much appreciated.
Please share:)

We finally booked our 10 day trip and surprised our daughters with our plans for Christmas. Now I need to book a couple of excursions while we are there. We really want to see a sheepdog demonstration and possibly visit Skellig Michael. Does anyone have any feedback on either activity?

Posted by
1491 posts

Get a good guide book and start reading (and get the rest of the family involved in planning too)!

I like DK Eyewitnes Ireland which has loads of ideas of things to do and see. There are lots of pictures and it also covers many places - the hidden gems - ignored by other guides. There are suggestions of places to stay and eat and the maps are reasonable to help at the early planning stages. Then use the internet to research in more detail. Google image search is great for getting a feel of what a place is like. This is such a lovely part of Ireland, you can't lose. You will love it where ever you decide to go.

Use Via Michelin for routes and driving times - and make sure you build in plenty of time for stops and diverting from the planned route if you see something interesting! Don't try and cram too much in. Driving times can be slow in Ireland and it is a place to slow down and enjoy. May and June are great times to visit as you have long days, the weather is usually good and the wild flowers will be in bloom. It also avoiuds the main tourist season.

Posted by
7786 posts

We flew into Dublin a few years ago, and drove to Waterville--a couple of hundred miles to the SW corner of Ireland. There are a lot of really nice B&B's in the area, and I think we booked ours on The area is quite beautiful, and we did day trips out of there.

I'm very familiar with driving on the left side of the road. But after you get off the main highways, the roads are pretty demanding. Roads are narrow, crooked and they often have hedges and ditches right up to the edge of the road. Better than normal driving skills are really needed.

Arriving and leaving Dublin, we stayed in the Hilton Dublin Airport which is a modern hotel about 4 miles east of the airport. They have a parking garage, and it's across the street from a modern shopping mall. The price was reasonable and the drive to/from the airport was so easy. We found Dublin to be one of our least favorite cities we've visited.

Posted by
1979 posts

My husband and I flew into Shannon, picked up the rental car, stayed a night at Dromoland Castle. Then continued to the Cliffs of Moher, and on to Kilrush for a night. Next day we took the ferry to Tarbert and continued to Dingle. Stayed 3 nights and explored the area. Then on to Kinsale via Killarney. Stayed 3 nights in Kinsale. Then on to Glendalogh for a night (could have stayed two). Then on to Dublin. I prefer the countryside to cities, but learned so much in Dublin. Kilmainham Gaol is a must. Loved Trinity College also. Research a bit into Ireland’s history before you go and you’ll appreciate what you see in the countryside so much more.

My tips: Pack light and get the smallest car you can - streets are VERY narrow in places and you will be pulling in your side mirrors if you meet oncoming cars. Fully insure your car. Plan no less than two nights at each stop. This gives you a full day to explore. Know that you will get lost at some point, it’s part of the adventure. Check out the pubs in the evening. Completely different vibe than in the day. Ask your innkeeper for recommendations, most are happy to share their favorites.

Posted by
3246 posts

It would also be well worth your time to read back through the posts for the Ireland forum, as well as doing a search for Ireland in order to locate Trip Reports. That helps me get an overview from a lot of travelers to see what keeps popping up and why.

Posted by
6098 posts

Consider using Shannon Airport rather than Dublin if you can. There are nonstops from New York and Boston, and perhaps other US cities. That will save you time and driving hassle. If Dublin makes more sense for flights, there's direct bus service from that airport to Galway, a good base for some of the best parts of coastal Ireland. You don't need to go into Dublin at all if you don't want to (though it's a great city), and you don't need to rent the car there either.

From Galway you can easily explore Connemara to the north, the Aran Islands to the west (no car there, take a van tour), and the Burren and Cliffs of Moher to the south. Another good base for two or three days would be Dingle. There's lots of scenic driving, but the advice above to take it slow and carefully is definitely good. Also consider renting a car with an automatic shift, so you'll have one less adjustment to make when driving on the left side of the road.

I suggest researching with some good guidebooks (RS is one), planning your itinerary with stops of two or more nights in most places, and coming back here with focused questions where forum posters can help in more specific ways.

BTW, David's reference above to "Waterville" is probably meant to be "Waterford." I haven't been there so can't help with it.

Posted by
3985 posts

Remember that rental cars are usually smaller in Europe and have little room for luggage.

Posted by
160 posts

also recommend watching Rick Steves episodes on Ireland if you haven't already. I also second flying in/out of Shannon. it's so easy. i highly recommend Dingle and Kenmare and taking in a sheepherding demonstration!

Posted by
2 posts

Thank you everyone! Since we are a little intimidated we are thinking about paying for a self drive itinerary with Nordic Visitor. Does anyone have any feedback on that? I truly appreciate all of the information. Sheep herding demonstration sounds amazing!!

Posted by
771 posts

We used Nordic Visitor for a self-drive tour of Iceland in 2019 and were happy with them. They provided all the support they said they would and made it easy. If you use them, don't go overboard planning add-on activities--one or two at the most. We found it a bit annoying to have to be tied to a schedule. You can always arrange things yourself.

They were especially helpful for us because there were three of us, and triple rooms were almost impossible to find on our own.

I found the communication with them was good. I made several phone calls before we left home to arrange things, and they were always helpful. You don't have to follow their pre-set itineraries. You say you want to spend time in the west, so if you decide to use them, explain what it is you want and they will work with you.

That said, there is a lot of good advice above for planing it on your own, and you might give that a try before turning it over to someone else. This is a website for the west coast that will give you way too many ideas; you'll have to whittle you choices down to a few places. You don't say how long you'll be traveling, but always give yourself lots more time than you will need. Come back here with more questions as you are planning.

Posted by
3985 posts

We did this in 2015 and navigating in Ireland wasn't difficult-I don't think you need guided instructions. I do think you need to get an automatic transmission car, which is expensive and not easy. That way the driver can concentrate on "other side" driving and on avoiding the walls, hedges, and sheep.