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Recommendations for travel North of Galway-Dublin Imaginary Line

We are still building our full itinerary for a visit to Ireland in May/June 2020. We have already been twice and rented a car, driving from Dublin southeast out to Kinsale via Kilkenny, spent time exploring Killearney and Dingle on both visits. We have also seen the Cliffs of Moher, The Burren and once did a quick visit to the Kylemore Abbey in Connemara.....This visit we want to see many new sites including Northern Ireland. ((Which I previously posted specific to Northern Ireland) We also would like to go out to the Aran Islands if the weather cooperates.

Drawing an imaginary line from Galway across to Dublin, we would love to hear your top recommendations for interesting sites, towns and lodging recommendations for everthing and anything "North" of the imaginary line.

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Our September 2018 trip did just that. We flew to the Dublin airport, and immediately caught a bus for Galway. It passed thru downtown Dublin en route, so we got a mini tour of Dublin before continuing west. The bus allowed a nap, and we got to our Galway B&B in time for a short walk and a visit to the city museum, which had been closed for remodeling on our previous trip, in 2011.

That prior trip, we’d rented bicycles, and took them on the ferry to Inishmore, biggest of the Arans. This time, we rented a car, and drove it to the small airport west of Galway, marveling that we’d earlier braved the narrow, busy road on bikes! We found this second trip that the fast flight to Inishmore is the way to go (unless you have bikes with you), as it’s so convenient, quick, and when the weather’s fierce and the seas are rough, the plane flies when ferries sometimes don’t depart. Both trips, ferries were delayed because of a too-rough crossing, but the plane departed on schedule. We parked our car at the airstrip (free) and upon our return the following afternoon, headed for Clifden.

After a few nights in the Buttermilk Lodge B&B in Clifden, having driven the Sky Road loop and other scenic parts of Connemara, we continued northward. But first, pre-reserve a Hawk Walk at the Ashford Castle. The castle’s now a fancy manor house hotel, but Hawk Walkers at their falconry take a guided stroll through their woods, flying a Harris Hawk, which goes up to tree branches and then lands back on your gauntlet for a treat. Do the extended walk, which includes their cool owl, too.

The Killary Fjord boat tour shouldn’t be missed. It cruises up and back on Ireland’s only true fjord, past mussel farms, with a narrated tour. We had delicious steamed mussels onboard (late lunch), which had just come from the farm - none fresher!

We skipped Westport and Newport this trip, and drove to Achill Island, connected to the mainland by a bridge. The island offers a tidy, secluded beach at the western end, hiking opportunities, and a sobering famine village ghost town.

Farther north, the Ceide Fields archaeological sight was a surprise find. We then made our way past Sligo and Donegal, to the Slieve League cliffs. By all accounts, these are even higher than the Cliffs of Moher, but the low clouds and rain made it impossible to see upwards, but the crashing waves and rock formations close to shore were interesting.

Up to Dunfanaghy for several nights, really away from it all. Their outstanding restaurant’s dinners were included with our stay. The tiny “town” has a surviving workhouse, now a museum, from Ireland’s difficult past.

Into Northern Ireland by way of Derry (Londonderry). There was a surprise festival downtown, and we arrived mid-afternoon, so did a 45 minute walk before heading onward. Derry could be worth a stay for a night or more. From a high vantage point, we could see across the River Foyle into the mural-clad buildings that had seen troubles during The Troubles, but didn’t go into the neighborhood, needing to reach our B&B outside Bushmills.

The Seaview B&B was welcoming and comfortable, and served as a great base from which to explore the Antrim Coast. We hiked from a parking lot just up the road from there to the Giants Causeway, but you can drive, or take the Rambler Bus. We skipped the Carrick-a-Rede bridge, but other folks clearly did that sight. We observed it from a picnic table just down the road, while having lunch. That afternoon, we did The Gobbins, an adventure started 100 years ago, when steel walkways, ramps, and stairs were built into the otherwise inaccessible rocky coast. This steel framework fell into disuse and disrepair over the years, but has now been resurrected and brought up to full safety standards. Led by a guide, it’s unique. A seal followed our group around, swimming just offshore.

We had a night just outside Belfast, but opted to skip the big city, in favor of:

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(Continued) . . . Neolithic sights back in the Republic of Ireland. We left the Belfast area during morning rush hour, heading the opposite direction of commuters heading in for work. The traffic jams on the other side of the roads made us glad we weren’t in with them, although Belfast has a lot of big city attractions.

We spent the next few nights staying in Trim, using it as a case for amazing Neolithic burial tomb sights and other historic places in the Boyne Valley. We hired Anthony Murphy, expert researcher and author of several books on the subject, as a guide for 2 days at many sights. Trim has a huge castle, too, and the excellent Khan Spices Indian restaurant. Turned in our car at the Dublin airport, caught the bus into town, and finishhed with a few nights in Dublin.

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The Antrim coast is well worth a few days . I highly recommend the Bayview Hotel at Port Baliintrae. We walked to the Giant’s Causeway, Bushmills, Dunluce Castle, and Port Royal from this base. The bus stops right at the door as well. A good restaurant, lovely views right over the small harbor and great hospitality make this hotel a very nice experience.

If you haven’t already done the hawk walk at Ashford Castle near Cong, I also recommend it.

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832 posts

Hi from Wisconsin,
From Sligo north and up over the top of Ireland along the coast is all worth the trip. Getting inland is less dramatic.

One spot we found entirely enchanting was Ramelton. Google that. Maybe we were lucky but what a choice little place. Tommy, the doctor, said my wife was the picture of health and she has carried that with her ever since. Paul, the pharmacist, tried to get us to vote in the local elections, even quoting Mayor Daly, "vote early, vote often". The McDaid boy, served up delicious lamb chops. Mrs. Scott, the rector's widow, insisted we stay two nights with her.

Good luck.

wayne iNWI