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Would appreciate your thoughts on our planning for our first trip to Ireland

Hello everyone. I've had wonderful success in the past using this forum for past trips to Europe, so I'd greatly appreciate your help again.

My daughter will be studying abroad in Waterford, Ireland this summer. My husband and younger son (15) will be joining her at the end of her session for a 12-night family vacation. We will arrive a few days earlier to see Dublin, since she will see that earlier as part of her study abroad adventures. I've already booked our flights in and out of Dublin using my airline miles.

Our biggest challenge will be transportation. We do not want to rent a car during our stay. Please let me know your thoughts on the plan below - put together from Rick's "Best of Ireland" book and website reviews. Is it feasible? Anything must-see that I'm missing? Any recommendations on transportation - tours, private driver, etc? Any amazing B&Bs or places to stay along the way?

Thank you very much for your input!

Suzette (Atlanta, GA)

Plans:
Mon, July 17 Non-Stop flight to Dublin – arrives in Dublin at 8:45 AM Tue morning

Tue, July 18 Rest & Dublin sightseeing. My son would love to see a Gaelic game (schedules aren't out yet; can anyone tell me if this is the time of year that these games are played in Dublin?). Purchase hop-on/hop-off bus tickets. Sleep in Dublin.

Wed, July 19 Dublin sightseeing. The Brazen Head “Food, Folk and Fairies” dinner show Dublin for birthday celebration. Sleep in Dublin.

Thu, July 20 Pick up my daughter at Dublin airport in 10 AM the morning when her study abroad program ends. Store some of her luggage at airport. Will look for transportation options/private driver for this day to do the following (I used google maps for the timing - are these accurate? Can we do all of this in one dayd?)
Drive 90 mins to Kilkenny; visit Kilkenny Castle.
Drive 1 hour to tour Rock of Cashel.
Drive 90 mins for final stop in Kinsale. Sleep in Kinsale.

Fri, July 21 Don & Barry’s Kinsale Historic Tour in AM. Explore the area/harbor and have lunch. Drive to Kenmare (Need transportation/driver this day - any suggestions?). Sleep in Kenmare.

Sat, July 22 Visit Kissane Sheep Farm & see demo of sheepherding. Visit Muckross House & Farms. See Ancient Stone Circle
Drive to Dingle. (Need transportation/driver this day - suggestions?). Sleep in Dingle.

Sun, July 23 Visit Dingle Town. Take the Sciuird Archaeology Tours (2.5 hour mini-bus tour) and/or the Dingle Bay Charters harbor boat cruise. Does anyone have any experience with these? Thoughts? Sleep in Dingle.

Mon, July 24 Drive the Dingle Peninsula loop (Slea Head Loop Drive). Drive to Dromoland Castle for Falconry experience (near Shannon airport). Drive by Bunratty Castle if time (maybe Bunratty Folk Park). (Need transportation/driver for this day). Sleep in Claire area. Recommendations?

Tue, July 25 Drive to the Cliffs of Moher, then through the Burren – ending in Galway. Considering this tour: http://www.fahertytours.com/tour-prices.php.
Anyone have any experience with Faherty? Any other recommendations? Sleep in Galway.

Wed, July 26 Day trip by plane or boat to Inishmore (Aran Islands). Possibly via another Faherty Tour?

Sleep in Galway.

Thu, July 27 Train from Galway to Dublin (2 hr 15 min), then Dublin to Belfast (2 hr 15 min). Other suggestions for activities this day? Overnight in Belfast.

Fri, July 28 McComb’s Coach Travel daytrip to Carrickfergus Castle, Giant’s Causeway, Dunluce Castle photo stop, Carrick-a-Red Rope bridge, and Old Bushmills Distillery). Second night in Belfast.

Sat, July 29 Drive to Bru na Boinne. Tour the Newgrange tomb. Drive to Trim. Visit Trim Castle. Drive to Dublin. Possibly use: http://www.belfastcitytours.com/bookings.html. Anyone taken this tour before or have other suggestions? Stay overnight in Dublin (by the airport).

Sun, July 30 Return flight home - flight leaves at 10:45 AM.

Posted by
6566 posts

The most efficient way to see Ireland is behind the wheel of a rental car. You'll see many times as much that you'd otherwise miss.
Look at it this way: Driving the rural roads of Ireland cannot be nearly as bad as hitting the Northern Perimeter of I-285 during rush hour for 15 minutes.
We're planning on a week in Ireland in May and another week in Scotland. TripMasters.com has some incredible deals on their website, and have suggested itineraries and names of hotels listed.

Posted by
3477 posts

I'm usually against rental cars, but this trip might be best served by using one. As stated earlier, driving any of the roads of Ireland cannot be nearly as bad as Northern Perimeter of I-285 during rush hour -- but then very few roads are.

Posted by
1171 posts

Definitely reconsider renting a car. Also add extra time to get to your destinations.. in Ireland, driving will take longer....

In Dublin, I highly, highly recommend Kilmainham Gaol (buy tickets ahead) It was the highlight of our time in Dublin

Be somewhat flexible with your schedule... some things got dropped from our schedule this past summer... some due to weather ( Aran Islands) some due to more time spent in the pub talking to the Irish and getting other recommendations

You will have a great time!

Posted by
71 posts

Thanks everyone for their posts. I chuckled when I read the comments about Atlanta traffic - it can be a mess! We're set on not renting a car as we don't drive manual shifts and don't want to have to deal with driving there - but we are planning to hire a private car to take us around in some places, and use trains and bus tours in other places.

Posted by
14323 posts

If you aren't comfortable with the idea of driving on the left, that's fine . . . and why I chose to take a tour to Ireland. If it's the manual shift that's the deterrent, they do have automatic cars for rent and probably not much more money than you'd pay for a manual, since you'll want a fairly roomy car anyway for 4 adults. I do remember reading a post a year or two ago that said hiring a car and driver was not a great deal more money than renting a car - and it's certainly more efficient - no parking issues or getting lost. This would seem to work well for you since you don't need a car all the time.

My only comment on your itinerary is the HOHO bus in Dublin - seems unnecessary. Dublin is pretty easy to navigate by Luas (the tram system) and buses and much of the center is highly walkable. Things I really enjoyed: Dublinia, the National Archaeology Museum (really a wow), the Literary Pub Crawl. I didn't get to see Kilmainham Gaol, my only regret.

Posted by
381 posts

Take the Sciuird Archaeology Tours (2.5 hour mini-bus tour) and/or the Dingle Bay Charters harbor boat cruise. Does anyone have any experience with these? Thoughts? Sleep in Dingle.....

We have done both and they are very interesting and worthwhile. The Dingle Bay Charter is very dependent on the weather as to enjoyability and the Sciuird Archaeology tour is fine regardless of the weather. We spent a glorious day on the Blasket Islands.

Posted by
381 posts

Take the Sciuird Archaeology Tours (2.5 hour mini-bus tour) and/or the Dingle Bay Charters harbor boat cruise. Does anyone have any experience with these? Thoughts? Sleep in Dingle.....

We have done both and they are very interesting and worthwhile. The Dingle Bay Charter is very dependent on the weather as to enjoyability and the Sciuird Archaeology tour is fine regardless of the weather. We spent a glorious day on the Blasket Islands.

Posted by
35 posts

"Thu, July 20 Pick up my daughter at Dublin airport in 10 AM the morning when her study abroad program ends. Store some of her luggage at airport. Will look for transportation options/private driver for this day to do the following (I used google maps for the timing - are these accurate? Can we do all of this in one dayd?)
Drive 90 mins to Kilkenny; visit Kilkenny Castle.
Drive 1 hour to tour Rock of Cashel.
Drive 90 mins for final stop in Kinsale. Sleep in Kinsale."

YIKES!
this is a LOT for one day--especially if you won't hit the road til 11AM (and that's if all goes well at the airport pick-up).

your estimated 4 hours of driving (it will more than likely take longer) plus one hour at both places you want to stop means most likely you'll arrive in Kinsale after dark.

you can do it, but you'll be 1. rushed 2. exhausted 3. stressed.

not to mention staying in a different place almost every night. isn't it supposed to be a vacation?

Posted by
71 posts

Thanks everyone so much for the great tips! We'll actually be meeting my daughter at the airport around 8 AM instead of 10 AM, so that gives us more time that day. We'll have to play it by ear and see if we can fit everything in that day.

We'd much rather pay a driver or take a small group tour than to drive ourselves - to us this is more relaxing and allows to enjoy more of the scenery.

We'd love to do a Literary Pub Tour - but our son is only 15. Is there any out there that will allow a teen to attend?

One more question - I've heard one lukewarm review of the Brazen Head "Food, Folk and Fairies" dinner show that I found in the RS book. Does anyone have any other recommendations for a fun birthday dinner/music/entertainment activity for a Wednesday night in Dublin?

Thanks again.

Posted by
14323 posts

Literary pub crawl - no age restrictions. Kids can enter the pubs, just not drink the alcohol. There are lots of soft drinks to be had. While there was time spent in each of the pub stops, most of the tour was walking and enjoying the narration.