Hello. My spouse and I will be flying in to Shannon and out of Dublin back to Boston the beginning of Oct. We will have 11 days in Ireland. We will not be renting a car, preferring to use local transportation. Sights we would like to see in Ireland are Cliffs of Moher, Giants Causeway, Rock of Cashel and Trinity College. Would like to really get away from touristy areas on our down time; enjoy a pint, feel like we are locals. I realize we will need to take tours to the areas we want to see. One of the things I don't like about going with a tour group is the herd mentality. Which town on the west coast would benefit us the best to stay in and what town on the east coast also? We don't need to stay in Dublin, we can stay in a suburb of Dublin and take the train into Dublin which I think we would prefer. Any help would be appreciated. Thank you
The train/bus service is pretty good. When I did it several years ago I got a bus/train pass that got me everywhere I wanted to go, but some spots were a little time-consuming to get to. The Rock of Cashel, for instance was a train ride from Killarney to Cork, then a bus to Cahir, then I think I had to transfer to another bus to get to Cashel then walked up to the castle. You can easily book a day tour out of Galway to see the cliffs and some other sights. There are several day tours out of both Galway and Dublin you can do, Killarney, also, but the Giant's Causeway is not one of them. It's quite a distance from Dublin, and is best done from Belfast. With your limited time you may want to skip it this trip. If it were me I would split my time between Killarney, Galway, and Dublin. These are the three main ones that you will be able to do day tours out of fairly easily. I did many day tours from these places and found most of them were using smaller vans, not large buses. On one trip to Dingle Peninsula out of Killarney there were only five of us on the trip. I was there in April so it was shoulder season. You may find the same thing in October. There is not necessarily local transportation to some of the places you will want to go to as only the tourists want to go there. The day tours really do save you time and allow you to see more, and there's always interesting people to meet. Towns like Killarney and Galway are not large places to start with so public transit is limited. The train/bus pass I had could be used as many times as you wanted, but within a certain time frame ( ten days, two weeks, a month etc.) so you have to be organized. I started in Dublin and spent a few days there, then got all of my travelling in, and ended in Belfast for a few days.
Stay at Dromoland Castle (not very far from the Shannon Airport). Check their web site for specials (or email them to inquire about specials if none is posted for the dates you want). Don't miss their walled garden.
Travel thru Adare (a bit touristy, but cute), and then travel down to the Rock of Cashel then down to Kinsale (lovely) for an overnight stay (we recommend the Old Presbytery Inn (first floor room w/ the little balcony on the quiet side overlooking the small private parking area). Then go thru Dingle, Kenmare, etc. see the Caha (sp?) Pass and Connor's Pass (incredibly beautiful). Muckross House is a lovely place to visit, too.
Don't miss a lovely drive thru the Connemara region, a visit to Kylemore Abby, and then do a stay at Ashford Castle (and enjoy their hawk walk...make advance reservations). Like Dromoland, Ashford (which is the original Guinness family home) also offers specials. Easy walk into Cong from Ashford, which will give the quiet village to enjoy a pint or pub meal.
If you are flying home from Shannon (and you clear customs there, rather than back in the US, which is nice), stay in Bunratty the last day, which will also give you a chance to see the charming Bunratty Folk Park (which gives you a feel for what Ireland was like in the 1800s).
If you'd rather not drive yourself, contact Tony McGann with Doolin taxi. We hired him for two day-long drives and then short hops between places (such as from Dromoland to Doolin). He was fabulous, very reliable, great sense of humor, knows everyone, and reasonable.
We stayed at the SeaView House B&B in Doolin (who actually recommended Tony to us). It was a typical B&B, but clean and nice breakfast, but a very nice location...we could walk to the pub down the hill and across the street for dinner.
While in the Doolin area, also see The Burren area. Tony took us to the highlights of The Burren and found a local ranger to tell us a bit about it. Galway is a good lunch stop, if going on to Connemara. Key Street in Galway has some nice shops, restaurants and fun street music.
Enjoy your trip.
On the west we love Dingle, and stay with John at Pax GuestHouse. It's absolutely fantastic. lovely pubs, great music, excellent food and scenery. Don't miss Gallarus Oratory or Connor Pass. In the east, our hands down favorite is Lawcus Farm. Mark and AnnMarie run a delightful B&B, in the country near Thomaston, near Kilkenny. Lots of fabulous things to see, including Kells Priory, Jerpoint Abbey, and more.
For Dublin you might consider AirBNB. We used AirBNB in Dublin the week before last and it was at least half the price of a hotel AND we didn't waste time commuting to and from Dublin. In Dublin we liked O'Briens Pub in the Ferryman Hotel along the River Liffey near Samuel Becket Bridge; we went there 3 nights and were the only non-locals in there. No music though.