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2 week Driving tour of Ireland & N. Ireland (mid-September '10)

I've read the posts on this site + read RS guidebook re: Ireland. I've come up with a 13-day schedule. We could add 2-3 days, if necessary, but would rather just add days to already-decided upon destinations instead of adding new places. At the end of the trip, we're off to Scotland for 5-8 days (subject of a separate post). I've gotten feedback from travelers like you in the past, and really appreciated the help. Asking for opinions again! First time in Ireland for my husband & I. We enjoy architecture, mainly through self-guided walking tours, history, food, music, and mingling with the locals at restaurants/pubs. My husband hates to be rushed. GRACIAS!!!

-Arrive mid-afternoon from AMS. (Not counting this as Day 1). NIte: Temple Bar area.

Day 1: Trinity College; Nat'l Museum; #29 Georgian House. Nite: Lit Pub Crawl (Dublin)

Day 2: O'Connell Bridge & RS stroll; Grafton Street; Music pub crawl (Dublin)

Day 3: p/u rental car early; drive to Kilkenny; stop @ Glendalough (Kilkenny)

Day 4: Early to Rock of Cashel; lunch at Cahir; drive to Kinsale

Day 5: Kinsale

Day 6: Kinsale, drive to Dingle

Day 7: Dingle Loop

Day 8: drive to Cliffs of Moher, stay at Kinvarra B&B

Day 9: drive to Galway, 1 nite

Day 10: early start to Portrush, nite

Day 11: drive part of Antrim coast, see: Dunluce Castle, Distillery, Giant's causeway (Portrush)

Day 12: Drive to Belfast, stop at Carrick-a-rede (Belfast)

Day 13: early departure via ferry to Stranraer (then rail to Edinburgh)

Don't necessarily want to spend the nite at Belfast, but have to catch ferry and don't want to combine Antrim coast driving + ferry in 1 day.

Thanks again!

Posted by
9363 posts

This looks like a really well-paced trip!

You'll want to take the Killimer/Tarbert ferry across the Shannon on Day 8 as you drive from Dingle to the Cliffs of Moher. It will save you time over driving around through Limerick, and it's fun. Have a great time!

Posted by
31 posts

Sounds like you've done good research. I noticed you mentioned the National Museum, and since you've read up on stuff you probably know that it is in two different locations (both in Dublin) right? If you visit the location closer to Trinity College on Day 1, and want to see more, you can catch the LUAS light rail on Day 2 after your O'Connell Bridge & RS Stroll. The nearest stop to the bridge is at Abbey Street, then you can take it all the way to the other museum. It stops right in front, at a stop fittingly called Museum.

After you visit Grafton Street, be sure to visit St. Stephen's Green park, which is located at the end of the pedestrian part of the street. It's a nice place to stroll or just sit and people watch.

I'm so glad you are doing both pub crawls. They are fantastic. If you fee like squeezing one more thing in, I would recommend the 1916 Rebellion Walking Tour.

If you have time in Belfast, the Black Cab tours of are worth it. Be aware that things close really early in Northern Ireland, so sometimes finding dinner after 7 pm can be problematic.

Ireland is the perfect place for people who don't want to be rushed because it's so laid back. The only place people rush is on the roads.

Posted by
126 posts

Thanks for the comments!

Chris, thanks for pointing out there's 2 museum branches. I was only concentrating on the archaeology & history branch. I see that the other location covers decorative arts, as well as the history of the Irish at war. Did you visit this location as well? If so, what did you think?

I was wondering about St. Stephen’s Green... hope the weather is not too cold by mid-September.

Awesome to hear about the pub crawls. Was also wondering about the 1916 walking tour. I think I’ll try to fit it in.

Do you think that Belfast merits an overnite stay? Thanks again.

Posted by
588 posts

I was there last September and it was quite warm in Dublin. We walked all over Dublin including St. Stephen's Green on our first day. It was a lovely perfect day.

Belfast tour during the day was enough for me. I don't think it warrants an overnight stay.

If you are going to experience the Giant's Causeway and Carrick-a-red bridge (which is north of Belfast) you need to allot time for both. There is considerable walking to reach both --- you can't see from the road.

The roads in Ireland are narrow and curvy. It is difficult to see sights and drive.

Posted by
2876 posts

We did a similar trip last year and we found out that many car rental companies - Budget and Autoeurope included - DO NOT PERMIT one-way rentals between Ireland and Northern Ireland.

The only one we could find that allowed it was Hertz.

Since you are picking up in Dublin and dropping off in Belfast, this could be a problem for you too.

Posted by
333 posts

Hertz does allow it but it will cost about $300-$500 to drop it off in NI.

Posted by
31 posts

Maria - I did visit both branches of the Museum. I don't remember much of the decorative arts/history branch because we left in a rush when we noticed, while visiting the Sea Stallion viking ship exhibit, that the replica that was being sailed from Denmark was due to arrive within about 30 minutes. We rushed out of there, got on the LUAS and got off near Busaras and high-tailed it down to the quay. We made it in time to see them row in and get off. There was a huge crowd and sort of a festival atmosphere. Next time I'm in Dublin, though, I would definitely go back to that branch of the museum.

We spent the day in Belfast, walking around, taking a Black Cab tour... had lunch in a snug in the Crown Bar, across the street from the Europa Hotel, the most bombed hotel (or was it building) during The Troubles. We got there in the late morning, and had to rush back to the car park before it was locked up for the night, and we all thought perhaps next time spending the night would give us a chance to soak up a little more Belfast atmosphere (definitely different than Dublin).

Posted by
333 posts

You can see the Giant's Causeway and do the Carrick-a-rede bridge in the same day. They are only about 20-30 minutes away from each other.

I'd hate to keep beating up on Portrush but I'm not sure why this is considered a must-see stop on the Antrim Coast. I know Rick recommends it in his book but aside from a nice golf course there are a lot nicer and more interesting places to spend the night in.

Posted by
104 posts

I think you might have time to stop in and maybe overnight in Derry on Day 10 of your trip, and it's quite an interesting place. You can walk the city walls and visit a number of sites of historical (and contemporary) interest. I've stayed in two different but nice places there, and the people I met there were some of the friendliest I met anywhere on the island, and that's saying something! It would also position you well for your Day 11.

Posted by
2876 posts

"Hertz does allow it but it will cost about $300-$500 to drop it off in NI."

Unless you get lucky. When we picked up our car last summer at Shannon airport, Hertz had a big Land Rover from Northern Ireland in their lot. They asked if we'd be willing to return in to Belfast for them, in exchange for a break in the fees. It was a much bigger and more luxurious car than what we had reserved, but we figured hey, let's help them out.:)

By the way, I believe Europebycar also forbids one way rentals from Ireland to N.I. I don't know if there's any other option besides Hertz.

Posted by
333 posts

I tend to promote Derry a lot as it's my favorite city in Ireland but you would certainly miss out on a full tour of the North if you don't add a walk on the walls and a trip to the Bogside.

All can be accomplished in half a day as Derry's City Center is very compact but I suggest staying the night as Derry has some of the best bars in all of Ireland. If you really want to mix with the locals go to the Brandywell for a Derry City football match.

Posted by
126 posts

Thanks, y'all. I really wanted to get some input re: the amount of time I was spending at each chosen site, as well as additional suggestions. So far, I am gathering that maybe I won't have enough time to drive from Dingle to Kinvarra in 1 day, considering I want to spend a little bit of time at the Cliffs and drive thru the Burren. I may have to add an additional nite. In addition, doing the Giant's Causeway & Carrick-a-rede in one day may too ambitious a proposition. May have to break that up. I really don't relish the thought of staying in Portrush for 2 nites - or more. I get the vibe it's not such a cool place, but maybe Derry is a better stop for the Antrim Coast, just a little further west... Thoughts?

Posted by
2876 posts

Portrush has one worthwhile thing, the Royal Portrush golf course, one of the top golf courses in the world.

Unless you're planning to play Royal Portrush, stay in Derry.

Posted by
31 posts

For approximate driving times, try:

aaroadwatch.ie

It's their version of AAA, and you can also get traffic/construction info.

Posted by
239 posts

Cliffs of Moher and the Giant's Causeway stop charging admission at 6:oo pm but don't close so if it is light out you can still visit with no tour buses around. It was great. Also consider a side trip to Slieve League in southern Donegal. Twice the height of Moher and more striking. Awesome.

Posted by
349 posts

FYI there is a preferred direction on dingle so ask first and go with the flow--When you say dam these roads in Ireland are narrow think of me!!

Posted by
668 posts

Does your ferry leave from Belfast or from Larne? Larne has many B&Bs which would avoid overnighting in Belfast. In Belfast, see Stormont, the NI legislative building. The grounds are a large park and if you like dogs, you will quickly have conversations with locals.

As you have been advised, Portrush is worth a miss. Visit Portstewart instead.

Posted by
126 posts

Great tips. I don't know if there will still be light after 6pm at the Cliffs of Moher, since I will be there mid-September... thanks for the heads up, though. I did consider a side trip to Slieve League in southern Donegal, but I am not sure I have enough time with the present itinerary to make it there, as I think I would have to overnight somewhere in Donegal...

I did read about the preferred driving direction on Dingle. I have read and heard a lot about the narrow roads... all there is left to do is experience them!

I did look into leaving out of Larne, but now it looks I will have to drive all the way back to Dublin to return the rental car!

I may have missed this, but it sounds like I could stay in Derry do side trips from there, instead of Portrush, to Giant's Causeway, Distillery, and Carrick-a-rede, which I will break up into 2 days. I guess I will pass through Portrush for a brew, at least.

Anyway, I am revising the itinerary because of the rental car issue. Thanks for your input and if there is anything else you'd like to suggest, please do!

Posted by
9363 posts

"I guess I will pass through Portrush for a brew, at least."

You should be aware that Ireland has really tough "drink driving" laws. Make sure it's only one if you are driving on.

Posted by
126 posts

Jo, thanks! I hope I find a good deal allowing me to p/u car in Dublin & drop off in Belfast. I'd like to stick to my original plan, if I can. Thanks!

Posted by
977 posts

We hired a car from Hertz in 2008 in Dublin city and dropped off at Belfast Intl. airport. One way fee charged was 100 Euro inc. tax. We made the booking through a travel agency in Oz.

Posted by
126 posts

Thanks for the help. Hertz and Dooley rates are competitive; Hertz is $20 more, includes CDW and drop-off fee (Belfast City Airport) of 140 euros. Dooley includes both CDI and LLI insurance, and drop off is at Belfast docks. Rate of $740 (Dooley), 11 days.

Posted by
18 posts

We used Dan Dooley a couple years ago and were very happy with the experience - picked up and dropped off at Shannon so we don't know about drop offs in N. Ireland but they made the rental experience a piece of cake and were the best rates we found - car had a pre-damaged passenger side and mirror so no worries about adding our own "dings". LOL!

Posted by
126 posts

Sherry, good to hear from someone who has actually used Dooley. We have decided to use them in the end because they accept debit cards (although you have to get the full insurance), but it's still less expensive than Hertz and others. Thanks!