I have been reading the guide books and they recommend a 14 self drive trip that goes from Dublin down to Killkenny, cork, Galway, Donegal, Antrim Coastal Drive, Belfast and back to Dublin. Is there any reason to not go in the opposite direction - north first starting in Dublin? And.. is this really dooable? I've read the posts with the advice to not try to see it all in 14 days, but I have also read the posts saying don't miss the Antrim Coastal Drive! Do you think its possible to go from Dublin, lunch in Belfast, around the coast drive and sleep one night around Derry, and then on to Galway and do the southern loop in a more leisurely pace? Any advice would be greatly appreciated - first timers for a long-anticipated trip!
Use www.viamichelin.com to get an idea of how long it takes to get from place to place, but add at least 25% to their estimates. For example, the drive straight from Dublin to Derry via Belfast (no stops) is about 3 hr 8 min according to viamichelin. Adding in the Antrim coast drive adds about another 30 minutes to that time. Now add 25%, which puts you up to about 4.5 hours. Now add time for lunch in Belfast, seeing some of the city, photo ops along the way, maybe some roadwork or narrow areas, and you will see that it is doable, but it will be a very full day. In general, driving anywhere in Ireland will take you much longer than you can imagine.
We had a very similar plan last September. I'd say you can certainly cover your mentioned sites in 14 days... but I think it will be a rushed trip; others may differ. Having no B&B reservations allowed us great flexibility. I don't see why you couldn't go N first. That was our initial plan, although we wanted to overnight midway between Belfast & Derry to allow time to do the Carrick-a-rede rope bridge, Old Bushmills Distillery, and Dunluce Castle. Although we were keen on driving the Antrim Coast, we're glad we went south first. My husband and I are energetic and well-travelled... but I've gotta tell you - after 12 days we were kind of tired (you end up doing mostly 2- night, sometimes 1-night stays). I took Nancy's advice and added 25% travel time to the Michelin route plans. I'm glad I did. Although my husband is a great driver and navigator - we got forcefully deviated or unavoidably lost a couple of times. In 12 days we covered: Dublin, Glendalough, Kilkenny, Rock of Cashel, Blarney Castle, Kinsale, Killarney Nat'l Oark, Ring of Kerry, Dingle Peninsula, Ennis (forcibly), and Cliffs of Moher. We decided to end our trip in Galway, where we spent the next 3 days decompressing. (The fact there were some bombings in Derry helped us make our decision to leave the NW & N.I. for another time, but nevertheless still very glad we did). The 2-hour drive back to Dublin was cake and we felt totally refreshed before our next-day flight back to USA. BTW - I'd suggest not missing Kinsale & Dingle - we enjoyed some of the best food, music & scenery along the way. Just my opinion. Let me know if you need B&B & restaurant recommendations. Wow - this was a long post. Cheers!
One of my top sites in Ireland are the neolithic passage tombs of Newgrange and Knowth. They are a perfect first stop driving out of Dublin. There are other things worth seeing in the Boyne Valley. You get a short drive and some interesting sites to see. The next morning you can head off to the north or south easily. On a 14 day trip you need to be pretty organized to see and do what you would like to do. I tend to "over-plan" and I pre-book all our B&Bs. Most of our stays are 2 or 3 nights. Too many one nighters wear you out. There's no reason you can't go counter-clockwise around Ireland.