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Planning itinerary for September trip- feedback needed!


I am planning a trip to Ireland for my lovely and wonderful aunts in September (I'm sort of a hobby travel agent!). Please help me make it the best! They love good food and hiking and nature. They are flying into Dublin and then ending up at Castle Leslie in County Monaghan 5 days later- I am planning the 5 days, 4 nights in between.

I have three possible itineraries for them

Option 1: Southwest with a peninsula (which one?! Dingle Peninsula OR the Ring of Kerry OR Skellig Ring OR Beara Peninsula??)

  • Day 1: Leave Dublin and drive through the Wicklow mountains, go to the gardens of powerscourt and ruins of Glenalough, then drive to Kilkenny/Rock of Cashel.
  • Day 2: Pack lunch. Leave early to drive south to do hike to Coumshingaun Lough. Finish by early afternoon. Late afternoon, drive to Kinsale to stay and enjoy a nice dinner.
  • Day 3: Explore Kinsale in the morning, relax a bit, then head to next stop. Stay at Lake hotel in Killarney, Sheen Falls Lodge, or Ard na Sidhe Country House Hotel as home bases either the Dingle Peninsula OR the Ring of Kerry OR Skellig Ring OR Beara Peninsula. Not quite sure which to pick based on the many conflicting opinions on this site comparing them, but I am leaning towards the latter two to avoid the crowds!
  • Day 4: Explore selected peninsula. One aunt really wants to ride horses, we will be seeking such opportunity here.
  • Day 5: Drive to Castle Leslie in County Monaghan. Stop in Westport area to site see on the way.

Option 2: West
- Day 1: Leave Dublin early and drive to Ennis or Doolin/Buren, enjoy some pubs, music
- Day 2: Take a cruise to the cliffs of moher and maybe to Arlan islands. Drive to Galway late afternoon or elsewhere if not to deal with Galway traffic/crowds.
- Day 3: Explore Galway in the morning and then head to Currarevagh House for the night
- Day 4: Explore Westport and Connemara, stay in Westport.
- Day 5: Drive to Castle Leslie in County Monaghan.

Option 3: Northwest
- Day 1: Leave Dublin and drive Donegal, explore and visit castle
- Day 2: Visit Slieve League, Hike Errigal and eat after at Glebe House.
- Day 3: Glenveigh National Park and Croithi distillery for Irish whiskey, Take ferry from Rathmullan to Buncran
- Day 4: Explore Inishowen Peninsula.
- Day 5: Drive to Castle Leslie in County Monaghan in the late afternoon

Posted by
173 posts

I would opt for #3 which has you closer to your destination. (I also love the general Donegal area & peninsulas.) Driving will take longer than expected. Allow time for spontaneous stops (including sheep in the road🙂)

Posted by
399 posts

We just got back from Ireland. Dingle and Killarney were extremely crowded. Are your aunts use to driving on the other side of the road down narrow and sometimes one lane roads? Because Your Day 1 of option one could be a very long day after just arriving. It’s a beautiful country, I hope they enjoy it as much as we did!

Posted by
1597 posts

My immediate concern is if they are coming off a Trans Atlantic Flight and then doing a long drive to where ever the first stop is. All three itineraries will involve quite a long drive, often on slow roads, and not really sensible if jet lagged. Once away from the main town and in the countryside many roads can be narrow, very slow to drive and require a lot of concentration.

You don't say what time they will be landing in Dublin. My advice would be to rethink Day 1 and plan on the first stop a lot closer to Dublin with a lot less driving on day 1. I appreciate this then has a knock on effect on the rest of the itinerary as you effectively have to cut a day out from it.

Don't try and put too much into each day. Ireland is a place to slow down and enjoy.

Posted by
3 posts

Thanks all! To clarify, they will be in Dublin three days before leaving the city, so jet lag will be less of an issue, but the concerns about getting used to driving are valid.

Posted by
1597 posts

Thanks for that clarification Meg - that makes sense!

It is a difficult choice as they all include many worthwhile places to visit... Have you sorted out places where Auntie can ride horses and how that fits into the itinerary as that may clinch the deal. What are their views of the different itineraries and do they have any preference?

Looking at Option 1. I love Glendalough but do tell them to explore further than the main site! Killarney is likely to be very busy with tourists and if they decide on Ring of Beara, then Kenmare or even Glengarrif would be a better base. Also it is less far to drive from Kinsale so woiuld give longer to explore what is a delightful small place. Also do try and include the ferry across to Garinish Island... The Skellig Ring being at the end of the Ring of Kerry can be combined with that. Dingle - I prefer that to Ring of Kerry, but accept that is very much a personal choie. Again if they decide to do this, then Dingle would be a better choice of base than Killarney and would cut down on driving that day. However it is further to drive from Kinsale (Swings and roundabouts comes to mind here...)

Option 2 A suggestion - have you thought about 3 nights at Currarevagh House? It's a lovely location and a good base for circular trips around Connemara and up into Mayo. Don't miss the Sky Drive in Clifden, on a fine sunny day this must rank as one of the best short drivves in teh world. Roundstone with its small harbour is delightful. If they like social history, then suggest a visit to the Museum of Country Life near Castlebar. There are a lot of videos of people talking about their way of life in the 1950s and 1960s which are absolutely fascinating. Conditions in Ireland were really primitive then and some of the customs were decidedly spooky too!

Option 3 Donegal is very much the ignored part of Ireland which is a shame as again there is some very good scenery, especially along the coast. It repays time spent just exploring. Personally much prefer Slieve League Cliffs to Cliffs of Moher, but be warned the drive up them is scary (unless the road has been improved a lot since we last drove it. It wasn't for the faint hearted. On the Inishowen Peninsula day don't miss Grianán of Aileach which is an amazing Ring Fort and well worth finding.

Whic ever they choose, they won't be disappointed. Come back once they have decided what they want to do as we may well have other things to add ...

Posted by
3 posts

Amazing!!!! This is so helpful. I haven’t figured out the horseback riding yet- I was waiting to see where they decided to go- but a great point that it may be a deciding factor. In option 2: I’d love for them to stay several nights at Currarevagh House, but it’s only available on one of their dates.

I’m seeing my aunts to talk to them about the options at the end of the week, so I will post an update then. I’m shocked and delighted to have so much thoughtful guidance via this forum. You all are the best!