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Your top 3 places to visit in Ireland?

Guidebooks are confusing me. One says visit the Cliffs of Moher, one says they are overrated. One says visit Ring of Kerry, one says Dingle is better.

We just have a week, and I've planned to stay 2 nights each in Kinvarra, Kenmare, and Howth. Now I'm second guessing myself and wondering if we should make some changes to our itinerary.

So which are your top 3 favorites? If this tells you anything about me, I've lived in New York state all my life and have never visited Niagara Falls because it seems overrated.

This trip will be just myself and my sixteen-year-old daughter. We have a rental car so lots of freedom to go off the beaten path.

Posted by
3175 posts

We enjoyed a boat tour of Cliffs of Moher. Connemara area is beautiful and Hawk Walk at Ashford was really fun.

Posted by
1935 posts

By Categories:

For scenery: Can't beat Dingle, especially Connor's Pass. Also can't beat the Connemera region (Sky Road).
For a fabulous overnight: Ashford Castle
For fun, unique experience: Hawk Walk (Google it or check it out on TripAdvisor) thru the School of Falconry at Ashford Castle
For a lovely B&B Stay: The Old Presbytery Inn in Kinsale, Ireland
Most under-rated: Bunratty Folk Park (we actually totally enjoyed it)

Nice surprise: you actually clear customs on your return journey to the US as you depart, which saves you time when landing in the US

We did not find the Cliffs of Moher to be over-rated, but one can easily visit the location in 1-2 hours depending on weather, etc. Doolin is a very small little town (I was surprised at how small it is).

Posted by
225 posts

My order would be this:

1) Dingle

2) Bushmills/Portrush (Northern Ireland)

3) Cliffs of Moher

Posted by
337 posts

Is this your first visit? If so, don't worry too much. There are lots more than 3 "best" places in Ireland, so you won't be disappointed. Don't worry about what you miss. Enjoy what you are seeing!

Have fun.

Posted by
697 posts

We truly loved everywhere we went in Ireland but my top 3 was the Cliffs of Moher, Giant's Causeway and Sheepdog trials at Atlantic Sheepdogs in Grange.

Posted by
12 posts

Yes, it's our first trip. Just trying to get an idea of what to definitely not miss. I've got two guide books, Rick Steve's, and Frommers, and they are a little contradictory at times.

As I'm planning this trip, I told my husband I need months to spend in Ireland!

Posted by
1656 posts

When are you going? Weather may impact things like the view at the Cliffs though even in summer you may have rain. Also, since you have a 16 year old, some of the places I would suggest aren't appropriate (pub visits). It seems you are not planning any time to Dublin aside from staying in Howth, but you really should go into the city. I haven't been to Ring of Kerry, but I'd recommend Dingle for sure. And to round out my top three, I loved Kinsale.

Posted by
12 posts

CL, yes, for the one full day we have over in Howth, we plan to take the DART into Dublin for the day.

Posted by
12 posts

I'm also a bit confused about the pubs. Some say that are family friendly, others say not. Since my daughter is a fiddler we'd really like to be able to hear some trad music. Are there opportunities to do that other than late nights in a pub?

Posted by
2225 posts

Best to inquire locally regarding the policy in local pubs about being able to join in on a trad session, hours when the music cranks up, etc. Technically all minors are supposed to be out of the pubs by 9 PM, although some (many in smaller towns) are notoriously lax about that.

Posted by
2256 posts

Great Blasket Island, Dingle, and Aran Islands.

BTW Niagra Falls is NOT overrated.

Posted by
81 posts

Definitely Dingle Peninsula! And, take the 45 minute hike along the bay to the light house. It was one of our very favorite places and hikes.
Skip Cliffs of Moher. Way too commercialized. The Aran Island offered beautiful coastal views. Giants Causeway was another favorite.
But, also LOVED Kinsale!
Too many choices, but you will love wherever you go in Ireland. We would return in a second, and we just came back August 1st!

Posted by
1172 posts

We went to the pubs with our kids aged 11 and 8 last summer. No one batted an eye and they ere far from the only ones. We weren't there super late but still. A 16 year old I am sure would be more than fine.

Posted by
1 posts

IMHO about your two guidebooks issue: I think they represent different styles of travel which might be why you feel conflicted. I'd suggest use the one that fits your style/interests and use the other as an information/details supplement.

Posted by
3988 posts

While stopping at the giant's causeway, visit the carrick-a-rede bridge, since it is nearby. Other than already mentioned places, Cahir castle, Rock of Cashel, Monastic City at Glendalough

Posted by
359 posts

Among the BIG things Newgrange and Knowth are amazing, Dingle you can't miss with, the Arans - the poneycart ride on Inisheer was Awesome. Dun Anghosa and the view - GREAT. South side of the Ring of Kerry - WOW. The Ring of Skellig - tourists or buses....wild Ireland....spectacular. Skellig Islands not overrated. Incredible. Monastic settlement at Glendalough was so amazing. Cashel was fantastic.

Minor disappointments - Cliffs of Moher - beautiful but so commercialized. The Cliffs of Kerry on the Ring of Skellig were for us far more moving and wonderous. Dublin.....wonderful in many ways but to some extent must be a city person. Since we aren't it was far to busy, hectic and touristy .....if you enjoy the bustle of a city though it has lots to offer. Well worth trying just not for everyone.

Really it's hard to go wrong.

One warning - estimated driving times are a joke for drivers new to Ireland. Plan accordingly.

Posted by
247 posts

Regarding pubs: On our last Irish trip we went into a pub on a Sunday afternoon for a bite. Lucky for us, there was a fantastic jam session happening in a corner. We had our lunch and stayed on, moving closer and closer in until we were sitting right among the musicians. At one point a mom and 12-ish year old girl holding a fiddle came in and sat next to us. The girl politely asked permission to play, was given a small nod by one of the players and jumped in with the tune. While they played we talked with the mom. Seems they were Swiss citizens living for a few years in Ireland. Daughter was very enamored of Trad and mom took her out frequently to join in with the locals at various nearby venues & times that were kid-friendly. I think it was in Dingle. For gosh sakes if your kid can play, bring her fiddle with you and give it a shot. Ask around and find a place with locals playing Trad. If they say "no", there's no loss. If they say "yes" she'll have a great memory. And be sure to video it.

Minority report on sights: IMO the most overrated is Giant's Causeway. There are plenty of such formations all around the world that are just as geologically interesting. The most unique things about GC are the humongous visitor center and large crowds.

Posted by
2225 posts

Regarding the matter of minors in the pubs, here's the latest blurb from Rick:
"Pubs are generally open daily from 11am to 11:30pm and Sunday from noon to 10:30pm. Children are served food and soft drinks in pubs (sometimes in a courtyard or the restaurant section). You'll often see signs behind the bar asking that children vacate the premises by 8pm. You must be 18 to order a beer, and the Gardí (police) are cracking down hard on pubs that don't enforce this law."
So, be careful with this one. As was mentioned previously, know what the law is...and then inquire locally to sort out what the local policy (and attitude) may be. Someone else's anecdotal experience may not necessarily be your own.

Posted by
26 posts

Choosing 3 favorites is like picking which child you love best. lol But here are my personal picks.
1. The Hawk Walk @ Ashford Castle. Hands down, best experience and well worth the money.
2. While I really enjoyed my stay in Annascaul, on the Dingle peninsula, I would pick the Ring of Kerry, with the skellig ring, Valentia Island, and Kerry Cliffs. Best food of our trip was at the Lobster Bar in Waterville, halfway around Ring of Kerry. We were supposed to do the Skellig Michael landing tour, but weather was not cooperative and got cancelled. Just as well since we would have missed most of what we did love about Kerry if we did go.
3. Kilmanham Gaol. Personally, I think skipping this would be like going to NYC and not going to 9/11 Memorial. Obviously not nearly on the same scale, and different circumstances. But in terms of defining moments in history and reverence.

FYI, I did this trip also with just my 16 year old daughter, a rental car, and myself. And coming from a born and raised New Yorker, Niagara is not overrated, provided you see it from the Canadian side.

Posted by
31 posts

We just got back from Ireland and had a wonderful time. We found a hidden gem that we just can't stop talking about, Lawcus Farm and Guest house in Stoneyford outside of Kilkenny. RS does mention it in his book but it is worth so much more page space! The owner hand draws you a map to Kells Priory which is just down the road, Kilcree and Kings Cross, and then abandoned ruins. These were some of our favorite sites. They weren't crowded and they were breathtakingly beautiful. The farmhouse and Ann Marie and Mark, the hosts, were the epitimy of welcoming. There is a great pub down the road also, Malzards. We were able to do day trips out to Kilkenny from here.

We did Dingle but Ophelia put a damper on our plans. And I was disappointed in Slea Head Loop. Probably because every site had an entrance charge in euros only and we had ran out so we didn't get to see them. It was still a lovely town.

We are in our late 30s of that helps with your planning, we seemed to be some of the youngest tourists there at times.

Posted by
21 posts

Adding my vote for Dingle (though, I've not done the Ring of Kerry yet). We went in late May/Early June and we had most of the roads and beaches to ourselves as we stopped along the way. No large our buses blocking any views. The drive around the Ring of Dingle and staying in Dingle were hands down my favorite experience in Ireland yet.

My other two? Kilmainham Gaol in Dublin for sure (have been 2 or 3 times....can't recall). And the Aran Islands. Dun Aonghasa on Inishmore sits atop a giant cliff (like a smaller scale Cliffs of Moher), but a lot less people and literally no barrier between you and a very steep drop. The views are breathtaking. And make sure to pick up an wool scarf or sweater in town! The Cliffs of Moher would be a close fourth.

Just a word of advice. Don't let rain deter you. I went to the Cliffs of Moher and Aran Islands on my first trip to Ireland and it was driving rain and wind the whole time. Still an experience I'll never forget. But then I lucked out on my return trip with my parents and had the most beautiful weather. You just never know. Ireland is a truly amazing country and I'm waiting (quite impatiently) to go back! Have an amazing time!!