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Seeking Itinerary help for mid-September planning

Hi Ireland travel friends - I'm in the midst of finalizing an itinerary for a 11-12 day trip to the Emeral Isle, and could use some guidance for the tail end of the trip, and any tips for other parts of our stay.

Background: My wife and I are in our 50s, enjoy a variety of experiences, including light to moderate hiking, enjoy scenic views, but also like to balance that out with some culture, history, enjoy great food (everything from awesome street food, local cafes, casual and fine dining), getting a feel for the area (like walking neighborhoods), and a mix of local/small villages to large cities. We are used to long car drives (can do 12 hours at a time no problem here on the West coast of USA), and have experience driving on the left (week in Grand Cayman). I have been to Dublin twice for work, but that is about it; it's our first time to Ireland together. What I want to try and avoid is overloading on too much of one activity (such as seeing every scenic cliff view on the west coast)'s why we don't try to catch every single one of the amazing cathedrals in Italy when we travel there, or seeing every major museum in a large's about creating a variety/balance of experiences for us.

Itinerary so far:
Fly into Dublin in the morning (probably coming in from London or Edinburgh), immediately travel to Galway by bus
Galway - 2 nights, then travel to Aran Islands (Inishmoor). We will get a rental car to use at some point in Galway to drive around. May do a day trip to Cliffs of Moher, will definitely explore Galway.
Inishmoor - 1 night, then travel to Dingle (I know this will be a long day, especially with a detour to Cliffs of Moher/Burren - if we don't cover it with a day trip from Galway, then we'll skip this on the way to Dingle)
Dingle - 2 nights, then travel to either Kenmare or Killarney.
Kenmare or Killarney - 2 nights. Would like some input on which to choose, but want to do both ROK and maybe explore some of Killarney National Park or surrounding area like Muckross. Not interested in going to Skelligs...
???? - Could use some ideas on what to do for 1 or 2 nights on our way back towards Dublin. Thinking of Kilkenny or somewhere in that area to break up a trip to Dublin, and drop off the rental car before catching a bus or train to Dublin.
Dublin - 3 nights, then fly home.

Many thanks in advance, and looking forward to your input to help make this trip pop.


Posted by
1488 posts

Don’t underestimate driving in Ireland. It is very different to doing a 12 hour drive in the USA. Distances may not look far on a map, but will take a lot longer to covert than you might expect. Remember 2 nights only effectively gives one and a bit days in one place.

Galway - Spend the rest of the time after you arrive to explore the town. The second day, spend exploring Galway and Connemara To Roundstone, and then Clifden including the wonderful Sky Drive (on a sunny day possibly the best short drive in the world for scenery), past Kylemore Abbey (think about a stop) up to Leenaun, then Cong (with its ruined abbey and fishing station by the river, with a bell to ring to let the kitchen know when they had caught a fish! and also links to The Quiet Man film starring John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara) and back to Galway.

This will give as flavour of Galway and Connemara which is my favourite part of Ireland. It is about 205km and you need to allow 5 hours+ driving time plus any stops.

Do the Cliffs of Moher on the way to Dingle. Rather than go via Ennis and Limerick, think about driving to Kilrush (much nice drive through the countryside) and use the ferry between Killimer and Tarbert.
This is about 235km drive and you need to allow 6+hours plus stops.

Spend any time when you arrive exploring Dingle. Next day do the drive around Slea Head Peninsula.

Kenmare or Killarney? I prefer Kenmare as it is a lot less touristy than Killarney and quieter. Either make a good base for the Ring of Kerry. Spend the full day doing this plus Killarney National Park.

Kilkenny is a good choice for a break on the way back to Dublin. Stop at Rock of Cashel on the way. There’s lots to do in Kilkenny, so you could easily fill 2 nights there. On the way back to Dublin drive up through the Wicklow Mountains with stops at the early Christian site of Glendalough or else Powerscourt Gardens.