We are planning a trip to Cong next September and I want to learn what I can about getting there from the airport. If we fly into Shannon we will likley drive to Cong. I hear driving is a pain due to the left side of the road, the low speed limit and the super CDW insurance. Is there a better way to get to Cong? A bus maybe? Thanks.
The drive to Cong from Shannon airport, with no stops, is about 2.5 hours. You may have misheard a little about Irish driving. It's not that the speed limits are low, it's that on many regional roads the road can be narrow, you can encounter sheep or farm equipment, and things like that, so you can be delayed or have to drive slowly. The route to Cong, though, is mostly on National roads, which are like our US highways. Much of it is in wide open territory with little traffic. It's less likely that you would encounter those things along the way (though not impossible). The other side of the road thing is something you get used to very quickly, and I don't consider driving in Ireland to be a "pain" at all - I enjoy it. But if you want to investigate bus travel, you can do that at Bus Eireann. I did a dummy book for Shannon Airport to Cong for a random date in September 2014, and it looks like it would be around 32 euro per person for one way.
Can't tell you about bus but we did not find driving on left any problem. A couple of times we rented a manual and did find that difficult, just could not get used to shifting with left hand. Now we rent automatic and find that much easier. With Shannon I think it is easier than starting out in Dublin. The more rural areas you go to the roads are narrower but drivers are so polite it is not a problem. Enjoy.
We evaluated the same issue for our late summer trip to Ireland. We went from Shannon via Adare to Cashel then down to Kinsale for an overnight, then via Caha?, Dingle, and Connor's Pass, then up to Dromoland for overnights (had a day we didn't need a driver), then to Doolin for an overnight, then along the coast via Galway and up to the Connemara region (don't miss), then over to Ashford (in Cong) for overnights. Then a cousin met us for the rest of our trip.
By time one rents a car (automatic transmission), buys all the extra insurances (which exclude tires), buy petrol or diesel, rents (or take) a GPS, make sure you have a cell phone (that works in Ireland) in case of a breakdown or other issue.............we determined it would be more enjoyable to just hire a driver. We made the absolute best decision in doing that. It was a relaxing trip for my husband, and we totally adored our driver, who had a great sense of humor and was a wealth of information.
We not only had someone who knew the roads thoroughly, but someone who loved Ireland and acted as a tour guide along the way. It allowed both my husband and me to enjoy sightseeing without the stress of driving, map reading, etc. If we decided to see something on a lark, there was great flexibility and we had someone to take photos of us.
The person we hired called our home in advance (he asked if he could via email) and made a suggestion for slightly altering our itinerary, which was a really good suggestion. He was very flexible, took care of his own meals (he turned down our repeated offers), entry fees (I think tour guides get into sights w/o charge), and his own overnight stay(the one night it was not practical for him to return to his homebase in Doolin). He was always at our accommodation about 15-20 minutes well before the agreed-upon departure time and he was generous with very, very full days. In some towns, he gave us an hour or two to tour on our own or have lunch on our own, with suggestions of what to see, etc. His vehicle is a nice commercial size VW van, which was in great condition and very clean.
Just send me a private message if you would like contact info, etc. If you need just a straight shot from Shannon to Cong, it would cost much less than a full-day daily driving rate.
Just curious, but why " a trip to Cong"? We stopped there on our long trip to Ireland last year - it was a two hour stop including lunch. Connemara, including Delphi and Lake Nafooey, was gorgeous and well worth lots of time, but there really isn't that much in Cong IMHO. The ruined abbey is pretty but we found others in Ireland which were far more atmospheric.
I'm also curious about one point. Are you planning to stay in Cong, perhaps in Ashford Castle? Are you fans of The Quiet Man (might be an idea to watch the movie before you go). If that's your first stop in Europe, it would be a great place to get over jet lag for a few days, wandering the scenic shores of Lough Corrib.
Regarding driving on the "correct side of the road", I suppose some people consider it to be a "pain" but I don't really find it too difficult. It does require some concentration though to make sure one doesn't revert to old habits. I'd suggest asking for an automatic (although they may or may not be able to provide that). Be sure to get the best CDW possible, as roads are narrow and not always in good repair. A GPS along with a good map might be prudent.