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Tips and Opinions Welcome - 11 Day Itinerary

I've planned this itinerary around visiting the places that my parents/grandparents came from. I'm aware of the good advice to draw a line from Dublin to Galway and confine a trip to either north of the line or south of it. However, my father's family is from Kerry and my mother's from Donegal, so their lack of foresight can't be helped at this late date (!) Here's what I'm thinking I'll do with 11 days in mid to late May:

DAY 1 - Arrive at Shannon in the morning from New York. Pick up car and drive (2 hr) to village near Castlemaine, Kerry.
DAY 2 - Drive the Dingle Peninsula and have dinner in Dingle Town. Return to same B&B as last night (30 min from Dingle).
DAY 3 - Drive the Ring of Kerry finishing up with the stretch through Killarney National Park and returning to the same B&B.
DAY 4 - Castlemaine to the Cliffs of Moher via the Tarbert ferry and then on to Kinvara. Dunguaire Castle banquet at 5:30.
DAY 5 - Kinvara to Cong (1 hour drive) for Hawk Walk at Ashford (11:30 reservation) and then on to Donegal Town. (3 1/2 hr.)
DAY 6 - Donegal (I have a ton of family here in a very small village about 15 minutes from Donegal Town.)
DAY 7 - Donegal (more visiting with family and seeing some of the sights)
DAY 8 - Drive to Portrush via Limavady area (to stop by an old family cottage and cemetery). Sleep in Portrush.
DAY 9 - Antrim coast sights - Dunluce, Giant's Causeway, Carrick-a-Rede, and then drive south and overnight in Hillsborough.
DAY 10 - Drive to New Grange with a short stop at Monasterboice and then on to spend the night/late afternoon in Trim.
DAY 11 - Drive to the Dublin airport, drop rental car and fly to the next leg of our trip (Norway).

I am trying to keep some balance between sightseeing and visiting the places that are meaningful to me because of personal connections. I'm not interested in Dublin, Belfast or Galway. I do regret having to blow through Derry and not having an extra day or so to see Connemara properly but I can't fit everything. I am a bit worried that Day 5 may be a lot of driving but the break for the Hawk Walk should help. Ideally I'd like to stop in Westport that night but I just don't have the extra day. I'm stopping in Hillsborough only because I wanted to get south of the Belfast traffic to make an early start the next morning. There is a very nice inn there but I'm not interested in Hillsborough itself. Am I making any glaring mistakes or miscalculations? Thanks for reading my too long first post and thanks for any opinions, tips or advice.

Posted by
1832 posts

Lots of driving, but I’m guessing you know that already. Otherwise, it seems you will accomplish what you desire with this very fast paced itinerary!

Posted by
1971 posts

Lots of driving indeed, but I suppose it would work for you as long as the weather cooperates. Suggest having an "option B" in reserve in the event of a bad weather day. Some of your sightseeing excursions could quickly change from very pleasant days motoring along in the sunshine to wet slogs thru the rain if you're unlucky.
Consider too that estimated drive times shown on the popular mapping apps (ie Google maps, etc) are notoriously understated, usually by 30-40%, especially once you exit the modern motorways and start working your way along the more rural N and R roads, so be prepared for that.

Posted by
1800 posts

Have you ever driven in Ireland?

I just ask this because until you do it is really hard to understand the intensity and time it takes. We drove Dublin south along the coast and back up the west coast to Connemara then back to Dublin over 15 nights on the ground this last summer. Our 3 hour drives turned out to be 5 hours and our 4-5 hours were more like 7 hours. The speed limits are way faster than you can drive, so the maps and GPS times are not accurate. Roads are very narrow, fast, winding, with no room for error with oncoming traffic.

So, just keep this in mind with your planning.

That being said, we LOVED Ireland! The beauty and the people are amazing!

Posted by
16 posts

Thanks very much for the input. I realize that 3 1/2 hours on google really means about 5 or so. We've driven on the left in Australia, Malta and various places in the Caribbean and my husband said it didn't really phase him after a few right turns. We drive daily in an urban environment with high speeds and significant traffic. I have several friends that have moved to New York from rural areas and absolutely will not drive here even though they did it all the time where they used to live. I plan to sacrifice scenery for motorways (ouch! I know) whenever possible when we are changing locations. My plan does have 3 nights in the same place in Kerry and 3 nights in the same place in Donegal and we are staying out of any cities entirely. I think that's the best I can do to mitigate the driving conditions.

I hear you about bad weather days but I can't control the weather and it would make it difficult to manage hotel reservations. We usually use the trains in Europe and Asia but Ireland is not suited to that except for connecting major cities. Given that we no longer have any interest in hiking or adventure sports, it does seem like road tripping would be our main activity in Ireland anyway. I could drop the Hawk Walk and drive straight up as Cong is a detour but I'm thinking we have lots of daylight at that time of year and it breaks up the longest drive. Please feel free to chime in.

Posted by
67 posts

Don’t drop the Hawk Walk! It was definitely the highlight of our trip! It’s out of the way but worth it!

Have fun!

Posted by
16 posts

Thanks, Kristen. I've seen people say that about the Hawk Walk so many times. I won't drop it. We're older now and it's a genuinely exciting activity that we can both still do. So that's a consideration too. The worst that can happen is we don't make it all the way up to Donegal that night. Not the end of the world.