My husband and I are heading to Ireland for the first time soon. We fly into and out of Dublin. We would like to take the train to Belfast and stay for a night. Then it is open. Ideally, we'd drive to the west coast and do Dingle, but that seems like too much. I'm looking for suggestions. We definitely want to get into the country, would love some scenery, and are beer nerds who'd love to visit at least one distillery and one brewery. I'd like one good castle as well. Pubs, local culture, and countryside are on the agenda. Please, offer suggestions and share your knowledge.
First thing to do is to buy the RS guidebook. VERY helpful and chock full of information you'll need while in Eire and NI. One of the first things to understand is that you can get from Dublin to the West Coast in about 4.5 hours on the main highway. But Eire is all about meandering in MHO. It isn't a large island. Personally I'd drive from Belfast to Dingle. Depending how many stops and which route you choose can take from 5 hours to..... Great way to see the countryside though. When in Belfast see the new Titanic Museum. You might also enjoy the uniqueness of the Giants Causeway. Dingle peninsula is so worth the drive it would be a shame to miss it.
You might think about going on the Guinness and Jameson tours while in Dublin. The Hop On Hop Off bus will take you right to these places. Another thought is to drive from Dublin, after your trip to Belfast, to Glendalough which is a beautiful monastic site with lots of scenery. There is Smithwicks Brewery in Kilkenny and Old Midleton Distillery in Midleton near Cork between Waterford and Kinsale. You could stop at these on your way to Dingle with perhaps a stop overnight along the way-I'd recommend Kinsale if it's scenery you want. Or stay a night in Cashel (not far from Kilkenny) and add the Rock of Cashel and Cahir to your itinerary and then a night in Kinsale. Ideally, it would be great to stay in Dingle for 2 nights before you head back to Dublin. Yes, purchase Rick's book-it is most helpful when planning your trip. Enjoy!
You can't really go wrong no matter where you go in Ireland, but I personally would not make the drive all the way to Dingle from Belfast on a five day trip. There is plenty to see and do much closer, and you could spend more time enjoying the pub, the castle, the brewery, etc., once you got there instead of spending more than half of a day on the road (and another half day getting back to Dublin). With five full days, you will have to be headed back that way on Day Five, anyway. You could see quite a bit on the west coast without getting as far south as Dingle. Right now your plans look like this: Day 1: Arrive in Dublin (morning?), get to train station and take train to Belfast (town = 30 min., train = 90 min.), so you might be in Belfast by early afternoon. Night in Belfast. Day 5: Allow time to get back to Dublin from wherever you are (are you planning on spending any time actually IN Dublin?). If you want to see a brewery, stay away from Guinness Storehouse in Dublin. You will see nothing of the brewing process, only lots of advertising, chances to buy the same Guinness souvenirs you can buy all over Ireland, and a very expensive "free" pint at the end. There is a Jameson whiskey distillery in Midleton, but the Jameson place in Dublin is no longer a working distillery. There are great castles in Bunratty, Trim, Cahir, Blarney, and lots of other places, and of course, there are great pubs everywhere.
We went to the Titanic Museum, last June, with our Tauck tour. It wasn't anything to write home about. I wouldn't waste my valuable time. The brewery tours are a real waste of time, as others have mentioned. Ireland is ABSOLUTELY gorgeous and the people are beyond wonderful. We actually loved southern Ireland more than northern Ireland. If you judge Ireland by Belfast (northern Ireland) and Dublin (Trinity college and the Book Of Kells), you will go away without seeing the best that Ireland has to offer. The Cliffs of Moher, Kylemore Abbey and the Giants Causeway are definitely worth the drive. We also absolutely loved the Ashford Castle. It is a castle that was converted to hotel. It used to be the summer home of the Guinness Family. The castle and the grounds are breathtaking. Our tour stayed there for two nights; not enough time. You will adore Ireland. Everyday the scenery was more beautiful than the previous day. Our Tauck tour was for 14 days. We spent an additional three nights at the Old Ground Hotel, somewhat near Shannon airport. Our tour began in Shannon.
I am going to have to agree with Nancy about drivng to Dingle. With just 5 days, I don't think you want to experience Ireland behid the windshield. Our only trip was 8 days and I stressed big time on narrowing down the list of "must do's". Our package was in and out of Dublin (which next time I won't do.). We basically did a circle of the island from Dublin to Cashel to Killarney to Dingle to Doolin (Cliffs of Moher) and back to Dublin. With 5 days, you will be more than enticed for more trips. I can tell you that in 2012, Dingle was rated as one of the top 10 most scenic European destinations. You will have a great time! Safe travels!
Thank you everyone. I'm still conflicted, but have made some decisions about how much time to spend in Dublin based on your suggestions. Keep 'em coming! I still really want to get to Dingle, but am really concerned about the time in the car being "wasted"--it seems the responders are conflicted as well. Some say the drive is worth it, even on such a short trip; others suggest saving it for "next time". I appreciate the different perspectives a lot.
If you really want to get to Dingle in that length of time, you should fly into Shannon instead. One other issue to check into - if you are planning on renting a car in Belfast, you might be faced with a sizable drop-off fee for leaving it in Dublin. N Ireland is a different country than RoI, and cross-borderdrop-offs can be expensive.
I would not recommend trying to do Dublin, Belfast, and Dingle in one trip over five days. I suggest either dropping Northern Ireland entirely, or instead of Dingle do the Antrim Coast. We were in Ireland in 2002 when it was still inexpensive ($50 a night for a nice B&B!). We spent too much time in Dublin (five nights) tacked on a worthwhile side trip to Edinburgh (wonderful), but that left us with only six nights for the rest of Ireland. Our next trip is a return to Ireland and I must confess, based upon travel times and Rick's descriptions of the various places, I would really like to visit the Giant's Causeway but otherwise prefer to do the Republic of Ireland at a saner pace than our 2002 trip and skip the north. I think we will stick to the Republic, and even then I find it very hard to squeeze it all in. Two full days are good for Dublin on a short trip, after that if you really was to see the coast, then Dingle sounds like a good choice (we did Kenmare/Ring of Kerry instead). I say pick two out of three and drop Belfast unless there is some personal reason that is a must see.
Just spent 7 days in Ireland. Spent the whole time in the South. I wouldn't miss the a trip to Trim castle about 30 minutes north of Dublin. I was disappointed with the Guinness tour. The only redeeming value is having a pint up in the viewing bar with an unobstructed view of Dublin. I would spend a day seeing Trim, New Grange and Monasterboice. The Rock of Cashell was also another great tour and a highlight of our trip. Kinsale was a great town to stay in with its tiny port and quaint streets. Food was fabulous. WE drove the Ring of Kerry and were a little disappointed. Pretty views but nothing that the west coast doesn't have.