My fiance and I are planning to spend part of our honeymoon in Ireland in Sept 2013. I know its far out but this is our first trip to Ireland and we want to have a great budget set up and be able to enjoy ourselves, so we are planning early. We will have 7 full days (1 travel day on each side) to devote to traveling around Ireland. He wants to visit Dublin and I want to visit Galway. We plan on renting a car but other than those two cities, we don't know what we should try to see on our first visit. We want to experience authentic Irish music, pubs, see the country side, and the coast. I am not trying to rush around Ireland and cram everything in, we know we will be back! But if you had 7 days to spend in Ireland what would you see? Thanks in advance.
Suggest you buy the RS Ireland Guidebook. Will help you decide where to go and what to see based on your interests. Will also help with budget planning as it shows costs for hotels, restaurants, museums, etc. Truly a useful guide full of practical information. Makes itinerary planning very easy and a special benefit to Ireland first time visitors.
If I were visiting Ireland for the first time, I would do what I did the first time. Get a variety of guidebooks and look through them to see what looks interesting (every guidebook covers the "biggies"). Then plot them out on a map, and check out the distances between them on www.viamichelin.com (add about 25% to their estimates to be a bit more realistic). Consider how you are going to get around (rental car? bus? day tour?), and see how everything fits together. If you get stuck, or have specific questions along the way, we will be happy to help you narrow it down. A lot will depend on your own travel style. Do you want to stay in a different place every night, or stay in one or two places and do day trips?
Head for Doolin, County Clare, the "capital" of trad music in Ireland. O'Connor's Pub is the granddaddy, with McGann's and McDemott's a ten-minute stroll down the road. Wherever you go, the west coast is the where you'll find trad and Irish-speaking pockets, in addition to the most dramatic scenery in the country. I'd also pick Galway Town over Dublin any day, then drive the spectacular N59 in Connemara.
Doolin and County Clare are so close to Galway, the Cliffs of Moher are also there. The Cliffs, for me, after having just spent some time on the Antrim Coast in N. Ireland, were a bit of a let down...until we hopped the fence. There are slab stone fences that keep you back quite a distance from the edge in the park, but when you come to the end of the walkway and fence, you'll see where hundreds of others that day who have just hopped over to go for a hike, much closer to the edge. In the States, they'd totally have park rangers posted, but in Ireland, they just have signs. Now, I'm not telling you to do the same thing! I'm just saying we did it, and it made the visit much more memorable... :) We adored our time in Galway. Such a fun little city, great pedestrian areas with wonderful pubs and restaurants and shops, great craic. We never made it to the Aran Islands, but I've heard great things. (Next time!) If you'll be renting a car, consider seeing the Rock of Cashel. Probably my top historic site of the ones we visited. Also consider dipping south of Dublin into County Wicklow to Glendalough and the Wicklow Mountains. We did Rock of Cashel and Glendalough on our day of driving from Dingle to Dulblin (which you could also do if you were driving between Dublin and Doolin and took a much more indirect route to fit these in). Also cool was Bru na Boinne, north of Dublin. But yup, get a guidebook(s) and have fun imagining the possibilities! Planning is always half the fun!
Dingle, hands down. A romantic place to stay, after landing in Dublin on your way to Dingle, would be Kinnitty Castle. I would pick Galway over Dublin anyday (was just there for the 3rd time). In general, the SW coast is wonderful. If you're going to Galway, you could get up to Clifden and stay at Dolphin Beach Country House--a wonderful, peaceful, romantic place to stay. Westport is a great town, too. Happy planning!
There is a great magazine I think they still publish called Ireland of the Welcomes and it has great articles, itinerary, etc. See if you can get it, I think they publish six times a year. I think the west coast is the best and prefer Dingle over Ring of Kerry but that is just us. Doolin is great little, little place as suggested. Do not rent a car until done with Dublin though, no need to have in the city. Enjoy.