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Northern Ireland and south west Ireland in 7 non-flying days?

Hello! I will be traveling to Ireland for the first time in late September in a group of 4 adults between the ages of 29-55, all physically fit. We prefer nature and small towns over cities and museums. We are looking for places where we can have peaceful walks in nature enjoying the beauty, but then also walk from our lodging to restaurants, shops, and pubs (ok if there are just a handful of options). We don't like big crowds and are hoping that they will be light based on the timing of our trip.

One member of our group really wants to visit Giant's Causeway, Glens of Antrim, and Carrick a Rede Bridge, so that is a non-negotiable. I am trying to figure out how to connect Northern Ireland with Republic of Ireland in a relatively short trip. We want to be able to relax and enjoy our trip and not rush around too much, but are also excited to see so many things!

Here is an itinerary that I am contemplating:

Day 1: Arrive in Belfast in the evening. Sleep in Belfast
Day 2: Drive to Antrim area. Explore Antrim. Sleep in Antrim area.
Day 3: Explore Antrim. Sleep in Antrim area.
Day 4: Drive to Dublin. Visit Guinness Storehouse (my husband's one request). Sleep in Dublin or outside of Dublin
Day 5: Drive to Dingle. Possibly stop at Rock of Cashel on the way (Worried this will be too long of a driving day. Perhaps stay the night somewhere along the way?). Sleep in Dingle.
Day 6: Explore Dingle. Sleep in Dingle.
Day 7: Explore Dingle and surrounding areas. Sleep in Dingle.
Day 8: Explore Dingle and surrounding areas. Sleep in Dingle.
Day 9: Drive to Shannon. Fly out of Shannon airport

The alternative is to stay in the north west. Fly into Dublin, then drive to Antrim, then drive to Donegal. If you think this is the better options, what are the small villages that are the best home base on County Donegal?

Thanks for the help and any other suggestions!

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6334 posts

From Dublin to Dingle is about 4.5 hours on the M7 with a pit stop.

If looking for alternatives consider this itinerary.

Instead of taking a rental car from NI into Ireland (adding to the cost ), fly into Belfast and spend the night.

Next morning secure the rental and head out to see your NI sites. Start with the Causeway, then the rope bridge (making certain its open) and the Glens of Antrim. Lunch along the way then drive back to Belfast. Long day but doable. Drop off the rental. Spend another night in Belfast and the next morning take a 2 hour bus or train ride to Dublin. Easy way to travel. Arrive Dublin, drop off your bags, tour, then spend the night.

Next morning get your rental car and visit Glendalough. From there pleasant 2 hour drive to the Rock of Cashel. Then off to Cahir to spend the night. Small town. Cahir House Hotel. Out the door 200 yards W. H. Irwins pub. Except for Cahir Castle the town is not on the obvious tourist must see list. Thus a pleasant less crowded addition to your trip.

From Cahir go through Mallow not Tipperary on your way to Dingle. 3 hour ride. 3 nights. Early the morning 2.5 hour drive to Shannon airport, drop off the rental and take your flight home.