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Help me with Itinerary for Ireland!

We are going to Ireland next May for a wedding in Dublin. We will be arriving in Ireland on Sunday and the wedding isn't until Friday. I wanted to spend the first 3 nights somewhere on the west coast. I want to see the Cliffs of Moher, but the towns near them don't seem to have anything else to see. Dingle Peninsula is overrun with tourists according to my Irish friend. Does anyone know which town we could stay in for 3 nights that is beautiful, on the coast and quintessential Ireland? We've never been so I want to really get the whole Irish experience! Rick Steves' book paints a nice picture of Galway, but it's 2 hours from the Cliffs of Moher. Has anyone ever stayed on the Aran Islands? Is that a good option for 3 nights? Thanks for your help!

Posted by
9363 posts

You can base yourself in many places along the west coast and find lots of things to see and do within driving distance. Near Shannon airport is Bunratty Castle and Folk Park, which are well worth a visit. Lahinch or Liscannor are nice little coastal towns. Lahinch has a famous golf course. The Cliffs of Moher are about five minutes' drive from where I stayed in Liscannor (I'd be happy to recommend a B&B there). And beyond Liscannor is Doolin, considered the center for Irish music. It's not much to look at, true, but it's fun. The Burren is just farther on, easily reachable for a day trip. Aillwee Caves is close, too. I think you'll find that just driving around the west coast will give you plenty to see. To reach the Aran Islands you have to take a ferry from Rossaveal, which quite some distance from the Cliffs. I think you would be happier staying on the mainland for that period of time.

Posted by
5 posts

Do you have your plane tickets? You could consider flying into Shannon and out of Dublin - since you need to end up in Dublin for the wedding it would save you driving across Ireland and back. If you arrive in Shannon early in the morning, do the Cliffs of Moher your first day and other sites in the area. You could stay in Bunratty and see Durty Nelly's and Bunratty Castle and even take in an evening dinner performance at the castle. We stay at Ashgrove House, Bunratty with Frank and Sheila Tiernan. Dingle is our favorite town in Ireland. We love the pubs and music. We stayed above Murphy's pub in 2004, and just stayed at "Kirrary" family home with Eileen Collins in October. Pub music with Fergus at O'Flaherty's Pub is a must see. Do Slea Head Drive from Dingle - beautiful coastline. Dublin area - we did the Guinness tour, and Powerscourt House and Gardens south of Dublin was wonderful and very reasonable cost.

Posted by
956 posts

Wow, so much info, thanks! Let me clarify a few more points about our trip: #1, we won't have a car, we're taking bus or train. #2, this is actually only the first leg of the trip, we're going to Scotland and England after the wedding (we plan on flying to Edinburgh from Dublin.)
If we WERE to go to Dingle, should we fly into Shannon? Also, the Irish/British rail system is completely mind-boggling to me. seems a lot less user friendly than From what I can tell, the first train from Ennis (couldn't find a train station at Shannon airport) is 4 hours after we'd arrive, it's over 5 hours and then the closest train station is 30 miles from Dingle. Yikes. And that train ticket is 25 Euro. What about the transport from Shannon to Ennis and Tralee to Dingle? I hate thinking we'd spend our whole first day in Ireland going from bus to train to train to bus to bus, etc and all to just go 90 miles! And then we'd have to do it all over again to get to Dublin!

Posted by
956 posts

Okay, after reading some more in my Rick Steves' book, I'm finding that maybe we'll have to get over our fear of driving and rent a car to do the west coast. Then we can fly to Dublin from Shannon and take the DART in Dublin... I went to Budget and the first rate I got was less than 100 Euro for those 3 days. Is parking a problem at the hotels? Is this a good rate?

Posted by
9363 posts

You're right, rental car is going to be the best way to get around the west. To answer your question, yes, Shannon would be the airport to fly into for Dingle. I haven't found driving that hard, particularly in the west, as the traffic is almost nonexistent (the roads are narrow, however). Parking isn't a problem at B&Bs and such in the area. You won't want to drive into Dublin. The rate you found wasn't bad, but you might want to check with Irish Car Rentals (, too. The past two times I have been to Ireland they had the best rates.

Posted by
956 posts

Even if gas is $100.00 to fill up, that will still save us over 8 hours in traveling to and from Dingle, wouldn't it? We would probably do minimal driving once we arrived in Dingle. I can't imagine spending two full days traveling in versus to 4 total hours just to save $100.00. We only have about 14 days to see Ireland, Scotland and England, so I'll spend the gas money to save us a bunch of time. We definitely wouldn't drive to Dublin from there. We'll probably fly unless there's a quick train that's direct, or close to direct from Shannon.

Posted by
20 posts

Check out Doolin, which is in County Clare, near the Cliffs of Moher. This is the epicenter of traditional Irish music. There are three pubs, all of which have live music. Musicians come from all over the country to play here. Doolin is also near the Burren, which is a stretch along the coast that's geologically related to (get this) Kentucky and Greece--a certain type of limestone. It's a beautiful day trip by car or bike.

The Aran Islands are stunning but I'm not sure about three days.

You might think about renting bikes--drivers are patient and courteous, and the roads are mostly flat and in good shape (i.e., no pot holes).

Bon voyage!

Posted by
8700 posts

I agree with the others who recommend renting a car to see the southwest coast. It will allow you to make the best use of your limited time. For car rental see, a consolidator that finds you the best rate from among the companies with which it has contracts. If you find a better rate on your own, AE promises to either match or beat it. Call their US toll-free number to ask about any specials that don't appear on their Web site.

Posted by
12172 posts

In May the weather will be Great.

I really like Killarney. The town is nice, it has a forest with walking trails, a castle on a lake, nice hotels and trad music.

I like the peninsulas for the ancient buildings, the traffic shouldn't be horrible in May. Maybe start really early to stay ahead of any bus traffic.

Galway is great for music, gaelic language, neat geography in the area.

I would spend some time at each.

I don't know accomodations on Aran Islands. I'm sure you would be one of the few non-locals if you stayed overnight.

In Ireland don't miss the scenery, history, traditional music, pubs, fresh Guiness (truly the best Beer in the world although it doesn't travel well and I don't like it here) and conversation with locals.

Ireland is like going to a family reunion with relatives you haven't seen since you were a kid. Everyone wants to know about you, your family, your home - what you've made of yourself now that your all grown up.

Posted by
12172 posts

Renting a car will be better. Public transport is available but more expensive and not as convenient as the Continent.

The cars get good gas mileage and the miles are relatively short, so the gas won't be that bad.

Flying into Shannon is best for seeing the West.

For travel options, check the cost of the Irish Ferry with a vehicle vs. dropping it off and picking another up in Scotland vs. flying across to Scotland.

Posted by
956 posts

Brad, thanks for the advice! We'll only be in Western Ireland for 3 nights, so we'd like to stick to one town/city. And we will only rent a car for those 3 days solely to save time on transportation to and from Shannon Airport. The cost of a flight from Shannon to Dublin is only 1 Euro through Ryannair at this time. So if we make up our minds quickly, we can get back to Dublin quickly and cheaply!

Posted by
190 posts

Since you are flying Ryanair from Shannon to Dublin check out the Hertz rental link on their website. I have rented cars that way several times and been VERY happy with the service. The offer a discount to rentals through the Ryanair link, too.

Have fun! I wish I was there again, and I just came back in July!

Posted by
45 posts

We stayed at the Strand Guesthouse in Kilkee when we were in Ireland in September. Our room faced the bay, and the view was great. We ate at the Stella Maris around the corner, and had great food. We left from there for the Cliffs of Moher. The owner of the guesthouse recommended we drive to Loop Head. He said it is as beautiful as Moher, without the crowds.
we also drove through the Burren, visiting the Poulnabrone Dolmen, the cathedral and visitor center at Kilfenora, then spent a night in Kinvara, including the feast at Dunguaire Castle. There is actually a lot to see in the area.

Posted by
1806 posts

If you want quintessential Ireland on the west coast, stay in Kinvara. I have relatives who live's only about a 35 minute drive to Galway, right on the water (Galway Bay), has a very small castle (Dunguaire) worth a peek, a great restaurant overlooking the water and a dozen pubs (several playing Trad a couple nights a week) within a 3 block stretch in the center of town.

Makes a good base for driving around Burren, Connemara and the Cliffs (which are just over an hours drive away). Also, if you want to avoid driving in downtown Galway, you can leave your car in Kinvara and take the local bus which drops you right at the train station off Eyre Square in Galway (but check the schedule - this bus only runs a few times a day in the morning and in the evening).

From Galway, take a bus to Rossaveal and a ferry to the Aran Islands. 1 night on the islands is nice, but 3 is excessive-just watch the weather carefully or you could get stranded out there if ferry stops running.

Posted by
32241 posts

Amy, be sure that you'll be comfortable driving in Ireland (on the "correct" side of the road). As Kent alluded to in an earlier Post, there are varying opinions on this.

I was in Ireland in October and had some interesting conversations with a number of people who had rented cars, and regretted that decision. While I'm sure many North Americans use that method of travel in Ireland, it's not the easiest or safest place to drive! During the time I was there, the Garda (Police) had one of their worst days with traffic incidents - five fatalities in an eight hour period!

I'm not trying to dissuade you from the car rental option, but simply trying to make you aware of the realities. If you do rent a car, a GPS would be a really good idea.

Good luck!

Posted by
67 posts

lots of good advice here to choose from.

I loved Dingle and Connemara - I am a nature photog and ocean lover. The entire southwest coast is lovely and well worth seeing. I will go back to both of the above but not again to Dublin or Galway.
I can see cities any time that I want. I did not enjoy the Aran Islands that much although that was a rainy day. Traditional, LIVE Irish music is a must - great music in Dingle and also in Doolan.

I used my Rick Steeves book all the time even tho I had 2 others. It is a fantastic resource for almost anything.
Take a light raincoat with you. I rinsed some of my clothes out each night and so needed to take less with me. (I have the large Rick Steeves suitcase which served as a carry all for all I took with me.
Have a GREAT trip!
I am going back there in September or October for my 2nd Ireland vacation.

Posted by
15 posts

We rented an automatic van (family of five) through and got a great rate. Just make sure you bring your email receipt as they had charged me double at the airport! Eventually, I got the price that was quoted on the internet. My itinerary started at Galway which allowed me to tour Connemara, the Burren, (we also did the Ailwee thing we did) and Cliffs of Moher. From there we drove south, took a ferry heading towards Dingle. But since you have only 3 days, Kinvarra just looked like a wonderful town to stay in. I made lots of notes while we drove so I know which towns to visit in my next trip to Ireland. We drove the West Coast in 2000 and when we went back 2006, we couldn't believe how much the roads improved. Buy a Michelin Map to navigate the roads....they are easy to drive and the signs are well placed too. Good luck. PS Dingle in May should be might be lucky and witness a wedding like I did! It was lovely and so was the bride.

Posted by
16 posts

I liked the DIngle peninsula, but I was there in the off season so I didn't encounter any tourists. I really recommend the Aran Islands, though I didn't stay overnight there. you could stay in Kinvara or Galway though. If you need a rec for a b&B in galway I have some great places. The burren and cliffs of moher are also amazing. don't miss them.

doolin is nice too.

also, closer to dublin is glendalough which is an easy day trip and very pretty.(but not on coast)
have a great trip!

Posted by
29 posts

In 2005 the Aran Island of Inismore was the most olde Irish of our 5 week clockwise loop thru south and north. Its a few blocks from the boat dock (from Roosaveel near Galway) to our overnight with charming Mary Kelly at her Kelly House B&B.
[St Ronans Road, Kilronan, Inis Mor, County Galway] [[email protected]] Slainte!