So much to see and do...only have 9 days...will do self drive from Dublin down south and back up. What are the must sees? So much info and it's all says something different. Any thoughts on doing a rail tour for a day?
We only had 8 days on our trip but did the following.
Landed in Cork and drove to Kinsale for a few hours, to get used to the driving and have lunch. Then drove up to Kenmare via the southern "scenic" route for the night. Got up real early and did the Ring of Kerry, finishing up at Dingle. Three nights there and on to Galway, driving thru the Barren, see the Cliffs. Spent two nights, dropped off the car and took the train to Dublin for the remaining nights. Only regret was we didn't have time to visit Rock of Cashel, but figure it's a great excuse to go back. In Dingle, we biked the ring, in Galway, we took one day and visited the Aran Islands.
Okay well we only had six (full) days there, and I'll just say that the best one thing that we did was hire a guide to take my wife and I for a half day drive around Slea Head-beehive huts, spectacular beaches, ogham stones, the Gallarus Oratory. All in the company of a delightful native who has made sharing his country with others his life's work. Worth paying for so you can watch and listen to the narration. A great great day.
We did Ireland in 9 days two years ago to and from Dublin - we were pretty happy with our trip/plan I'll post it here for your consideration with my suggested changes I would make:
1) Land in Dublin
4) Car from Airport - Newgrange/Knowth, Trim (castle) to stay in Galway (Would do Doolin instead)
5) Drive Burren, Cliffs of Moher, ferry to stay in Tralee (okay for overnight not mush more)
6) Drive over pass to Dingle
8) Visit Muckross house, Cashel
9) Rock of Cashel, abbey and the return car to Dublin airport fly out
We had a great time and saw everything we wanted to see. Dublin is a big city and has the attendant issues but I think it deserves some time despite the appeal of rural Ireland. Depending on what you're interested in but I recommend the Archeology Museum (amazing building, amazing exhibits and free), Christchurch (don't miss the crypt), Trinity college tour with Book of Kells, walking around the city and meeting people. The Dublin "Castle" was OK - read Rick's description and I found food in Dublin expensive so it takes some looking and that's coming from England (but not London). If you have any interest in pre-historical stuff I can't recommend Newgrange/Knowth enough and Trim is cute and the castle is impressive and restored enough that you can get a good tour from a local.
We found Galway to largely be a pass and there are NO street signs so driving into the city was frustrating and confusing at the end of a long day. I would have opted for another rural day by switching it to Doolin instead. I would definitely recommend two nights in Dingle to get in touch with the rural vibe and do the peninsula drive. Make time for the Blasket Island Museum on the drive. I know Cashel is a "must see" for many people and it was impressive but it was so packed and touristed that it diminished the site somewhat. The castle at Cahir got rave reviews and I'm sort of sad we missed it.
If you list your specific interests people might be able to recommend more specific sites.
Hope that helps - have a great trip!
The lkast two summers we've made 9 day trips and from the two, I'd suggest:
1, Arrive Dublin as early as possible, drive to Kilkenny with stop in Glendalough or Cashel
2. Drive to Dingle with stops (Jerpoint Abbey/Cahir Castle)
3. Dingle Loop stay in Ennis or Limerick
4. Cliffs of Moher/Burren and drive to Galway (if time allows, make a slight diversion enroute to Galway via Corcomroe Abbey and/or Kilmacduagh)
5. Galway (not sure it's worth 2 nights and a full day)
6. Meandering drive through Connemara to Westport
7. Drive to Dublin with stops (Hill of Tara, Newgrange, etc)
Getting early starts each day makes this schedule less hectic and gives you more time in the evening wherever you are staying.