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Northern Ireland

I am planning a trip to explore Northern Ireland in the fall of 2008. I will be traveling alone this time and not sure of the best way to get around. Most of the tours I have found are only partly in Northern Ireland. Can I do this without renting a car? I enjoy traveling by myself but as a 58 year old female, I do prefer some structure.
Any suggestions? Are the railways there a good way to get around? Thanks for any suggestions.

Posted by
32053 posts

Dale, it would help to know exactly where you plan to visit in Northern Ireland? I was there a few months ago, and the trains seemed to be good between the major centres, however a bit sparse in the outlying areas.

If you're planning on getting to more out-of-the-way places, you'll probably have to consider Coach (slower and may not fit with your schedule as well) or rental car. Driving in Ireland can be a bit "nerve wracking" at times, and one also has to contend with parking, damage or other potential problems.

I assume from your Post that you're not really interested in a more complete tour of Ireland? Have you looked at Rick's Ireland 14 day tour? This covers mostly the south, but also several days in various parts of Northern Ireland (Portrush, with brief stops in London/Derry and Belfast).

If you could provide some further information, it would help.

Posted by
3580 posts

In all of Ireland, buses cover the areas not served by trains. Check out the pass that combines train/bus. I bought a pass there when I visited Ireland a few years ago. It was a good deal. About 20 years ago I visited the Giants' Causeway by bus. One problem I remember is that bus service was scarce on Sundays.

Posted by
1806 posts

I travelled through Ireland and Northern Ireland for a month with no car in 2007 and did it on my own as I am not a big fan of organized tours (but to each his own). Check the Irish rail and Bus Eireann websites for timetables to the locations you want to explore to see if the times are convenient to your schedule (especially since you are travelling in the Fall and not during the height of tourist season).

Trains are no problem between large cities and some coastal towns, otherwise, the buses fill in the gaps and are cheaper. I trained from Belfast to Portrush and based from there to explore the Antrim Coast. From Portrush, you could join a coach tour for a day or, if running in the Fall, the cheap hop-on/hop-off shuttle that loops between Dunluce Castle, Giant's Causeway and the Old Bushmills Distillery. I then took a train from Portrush to Derry.

But if you are very tight on time, a structured coach tour will probably whiz you through the sights quicker.

Posted by
67 posts

Thanks for such good information. I am thinking that maybe 1 week might be long enough to see the "best" of Northern Ireland. I think I might do a week also in the Cork / Killarney etc. area. I would love to see Killarney National Park.

Seems like buses and some trains would get me around Northern Ireland ok and maybe stay at 3 different
B & B's around the area. Any suggestions as to the areas I might want to use as my "home" points?

Thanks again for your help.

Posted by
190 posts

I spent a week in No. Ire. summer of 2007. I rented a car and was very glad that I did. Although you could probably see much via train and bus, I think you would be much better off with a car. Much of No. Ireland is rural and public trans is limited because of that. That is, pub trans might get you to the town, but you might still need to walk a long way to see what you want.

And I am a 60 yr old female.

Posted by
67 posts

thanks for your input. My only hesitation about a car is not the crazy road signs or even the sometimes tricky driving but that I can't drive a manual transmission :(
Automatic cars approx $500 for 2 weeks. Have to really think about that.

p.s. I used to live in Vegas....great town!


Posted by
16 posts

Dear Dale: I did a trip in Northern Ireland all by rail/bus and to be honest, it wasn't the best, but it is doable. the one thing you should see in Northern Ireland is the Giant's Causeway, but I would not stay in the nearby town of Portrush. You can actually stay in Bushmills which is closer and from what I could tell, was much prettier. I was in Portrush off season and it was a ghost town.

You can take a train from Dublin to Belfast to the Antrim Coast, and then you can rent a taxi to take you to the Causeway or you can take a bus. If you plan however to go from Northern Ireland to Ireland, please email me directly, because the public transportation can be tricky.

also I HIGHLY recommend Cork and the surrounding areas. I stayed at the most amazing B&B in Cork City where I had the best breakfast of my life--at the GARNISH HOUSE.