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Seeking itinerary advice to round out our August family trip

My family is traveling to Ireland in August, and while we have some of the trip planned, we have some gaps and I'd love advice on how to fill them to round out our experience.

We will first spend a week in Dublin with a group, and while there we will see Trinity College library, St. Patrick's Cathedral, tour the Guinness brewery, and will also visit Trim Castle, the Hill of Tara, and Powerscourt estate, garden & distillery. We have a free Saturday in Dublin - how should we spend it?

After our group time in Dublin, we are renting a car and driving to Portrush. We'll spend two nights there, and plan to visit the Giant's Causeway and Dunluce Castle. No one in my family except me is willing to go on the Carrick-a-Rede bridge, so we'll probably skip that (unless it's worthwhile just seeing it?). I thought we'd also skip the Old Bushmills Distillery, since we will have already seen the Guinness one, and we're neither beer nor whiskey fans. If you have other recommendations of what we shouldn't miss in the Antrim Coast area, or restaurants we should visit, I'd appreciate it. (Glenariff Forest Park? The Dark Hedges?) I'm not inclined to spend time in Belfast, since we will have spent so much time in a city already, but we may eat lunch there, so restaurant recommendations for that would be great.

We check out of our Portrush hotel on Wednesday morning and need to be back in Dublin on Friday night, so I'd love advice on where else we should go to fill those 2 1/2 days. By the end of the trip, I would like for us to have seen a good balance of castles, pretty landscape, cute villages and sheep! We could drive a more western route from Portrush to the Connemara area or to the Galway & County Clare areas, or we could drive down more through the center of the country to see the Rock of Cashel & Kilkenny. Those seem like reasonable distances from Portrush (as opposed to Dingle, Cobh and more southern & western destinations), but if it's reasonable to go farther, please let me know! It's hard for us to assess what destinations would involve too much driving - the distances sound short, but with narrow roads and tour buses to dodge, we don't want to overestimate what we can reasonably achieve and enjoy. If we get stopped by a flock of sheep in the road, we want to be delighted by it, not stressed out that they are delaying us!

Thank you so much for your help!

Posted by
1957 posts

Just a few ideas. Kilmainhaim Gaol to me is the highlight of Dublin. I believe you need advance tickets. I have been there four times already and it is still interesting. Also feel Newgrange is an absolute must but it has been several years since we have been there so not sure if you need advance tickets also. The bridge my son went on I would not but he said it was worth jt. I seem to remember you had to pay a fee to see it even if you didn't cross it but totally not sure. Ireland is absolutely wonderful. As far as Bushmill versus Guinness perhaps someone who has been to both can help. We were disappointed in Guinness but we don't like the beer so that was what turned us off. Also it was a dreary day so couldn't really see anything from the rooftop bar. Enjoy whatever you do.

Posted by
1777 posts

At the Dublin visitor center you can sign up for a day tour to Brú na Bóinne, it’s well worth seeing. From Portrush drive to the Rock of Cashel and sleep in Kilkenny for two nights as you make your way back to Dublin.

Posted by
795 posts

The idea to use your extra time at the Rock of Cashel and Kilkenny is a good one. You could maybe add in Glendalough and Lough Tay as well (history and countryside). If your tour is going to Trim and the Hill of Tara I would be very surprised if it didn't go to Newgrange/Brú na Bóinne. Most of the day tours out of Dublin to Newgrange include the Hill of Tara. I also echo the idea of going to Kilmainham Gaol on your spare day in Dublin - and the need to get tickets in advance. Other things to do in Dublin include the Archaeology Museum and Dublin Castle. I think you can skip Bushmills, not because of the Guinness tour (beer making and whiskey distilling are rather different), but because you will be going to the distillery at Powerscourt.

Posted by
32 posts

The Carrick-a-Rede bridge was a highlight of my last trip. It was breathtaking. I am slightly afraid of heights (or really afraid of falling from heights) and had no trouble by looking around at eye level. It is not very long.

In fact, my friend painted a picture of me on that bridge and it is hanging over my desk right now.

Posted by
39 posts

From my travels in that region following are my highlights on the route from Dublin to Port Rush
- Hidden gem - Tollymore Forest Park
It’s about 30 minutes away from A1 (Dublin – Belfast), leave at Banbridge.
Walk along a small river in a dark and mystic wood with bridges and stone builings.
Even our kids did like it very much.
- Belfast – Titanic Museum, it’s not just about the Titanic but also about the history of Belfast and importance of the H & W shipyard for the town’s development. Very well done in a stunning modern building located where the real shipyard has been.
- Scenic route between Cushendun and Ballycastle via Torr head. Small and winding road along the coast with stunning views.
You will not be able to do all in one day, but Tollymore in the morning and the scenic route in the afternoon would be possible.

Giant’s causeway - be early or late or both to avoid the crowds.
Carrick-a-Rede – even if you don’t walk over the bridge it’s worth going there (you need to pay only if you want to cross the bridge).

In order to fulfil your wishes there is no need drive as far as Connemara or Kilkenny.
My recommendation is to stay in Donegal county. E.g. one night somewhere on Inishowen and one night in Donegal or 2 night somewhere in the middle. See below my highlights:

Inishowen peninsula - Coming from Port Rush you could use the small ferry between Magilligan Point und Quigley’sPoint to reach Inishowen peninsula and drive to the norther most point of Ireland, Malin head.
After exploring that area take your lunch at or go for a swim at Culdaff Beach (for the brave only).
Derry – it’s worth a few hours visit (Of course it’s in Northern Ireland and not in Donegal county).
The Tower museum has a good display of the history and of the town and the Northern Ireland conflict,
The Guildhall and a walk along the Dery City Walls are further must dos. Recommended parking at Foyleside Shopping Centre.
Heading south next stop could be Grianán of Aileach.
Glenveagh National Park – beautiful landscape. You might use the shuttle bus to Glenveagh Castle and do a short walk from there.
Slieve League Cliffs – the highest cliffs in Ireland.

When heading back to Dublin (and you have not been there before) visit Brú na Bóinne. Tickets needs to be reserved well in adcance.