Help with 11 day Ireland itinerary

I'm looking for tips and advice on mapping out an 11-day first-time trip to Ireland next month. We are flying from the US, in and out of Shannon, and will be renting a car. We are interested in natural scenery, local flavor and slightly off-the-beaten-path sights. With help from these forums and a guidebook, I have tentatively identified some of the areas we would like to visit but would appreciate help in determining whether this tentative itinerary is doable. I would also welcome your tips and suggestions for specific routes and points of interest.
Places we would like to visit on this trip - Dingle peninsula, one of the Aran islands, the Burren, Ring of Kerry area, Dublin. Also considering a trip to Westport and a loop around Connemara. What would be a good way of covering these areas on this relatively short trip? We don't want to do a mad dash through the country and do want to give the sights and experiences time to steep a little. I was thinking that breaking the trip into stays in 3-5 places might be good. So, a very roughly sketched itinerary would be something like this (please see the rest of my post/question in the comments below)...

Posted by Elena
Westchester County, NY
4 posts

Days 1-3 Take off South from Shannon to explore County Kerry, Dingle Peninsual, and Ring of Kerry, with a base either near Killarney or near Dingle Days 4-6 Drive Northeast to Dublin (best/most scenic route??), with some stops along the way (where??). Stay outside Dublin and take public transport into the city. Spend 1 or 2 days in Dublin. Days 7-8 Drive Northwest from Dublin to Westport (best/most scenic route??) with some stops along the way (where??). Stay in/near Westport, drive south along the scenic coastal loop through Connemara. Days 9-10 Galway area (with or without visiting the city itself) and, perhaps, an overnight stay on Inishmore or Inisheer.
Day 11 - The Burren and Cliffs of Moher. Would need to overnight somewhere near Shannon because our flight to the US is early in the morning. Now that I look at this rough draft, it seems to me like I'm trying to fit too much into the last few days. Would the itinerary improve if I scrap Westport? In Westport, one of the attractions is the long and scenic non-motorist bike path, and just the idea of seeing Connemara, which sounds like it might be less touristy/crowded than some of the Soutwest. When I look at distances and travel times, they all seem quite short and doable but I'm concerned about the length of travel to and from Dublin. Would love to hear your thoughts and suggestions! Thanks so much!

Posted by Nancy
Bloomington, IL, USA
7683 posts

The driving distances and times may seem short, but driving in Ireland is a whole different thing than in the US. I use www.viamichelin.com to determine distance, but you need to add about 25% to their time estimates to get a more realistic number. Particularly in the west, sheep in the road, slow moving farm equipment and narrow roads can make driving unbelieveably slow. As for your last night, the Bunratty area is a good location. It is just six miles from the airport, and there are a number of nice B&Bs along the road behind the castle and folk park.

Posted by Emilie
Burlingame, CA, USA
25 posts

Hi Elena, if you can, stop at Knowth/Newgrange site, north of Dublin near the city of Trim. it's older than the pyramids. really informative docents. I was there in fall, 2010 & the divided highway (easy to cross the country) between Trim & Galway was free. they may charge now. Clonmacnoise is an abbey site/ruin outside of Galway that would be another interesting stop. it wasn't crowded when we visited so you can wander as long or as short as you'd like. there is a small museum with some celtic crosses, inside out of the elements. I'm sure you'll have a wonderful time.

Posted by Mary
Woodside, New York, United States
38 posts

Hi, It will take more time to drive in Ireland than here. Even if you ask a local, double the time. They are used to the roads & go alot faster than you will. If you do go to Galway, Salt Hill is a good base. Outside of the city, along the coast. Dingle was beautiful & very fun town. One of my favorite spots. The Ring of Kerry, was more beautiful, but you may want to skip doing both since they are similar. Going over to the Aran Islands depends on the weather so leave yourself open. Connemara is also a beautiful area. If you are going in the summer, days don't end until 10 or 11 at night.

Posted by Cynthia
Gig Harbor, Washington, USA
1202 posts

We have visited Ireland four times, including 20 days last April. Others will disagree, of course, but IMHO you would have plenty of time for green and beautiful Ireland if you skipped Dublin. Lay out your trip as sort of a figure 8 with a loop south for Kenmare (an excellent base) and Dingle, then a loop north through the Burren up into Counties Galway and Mayo for stunning Connemara and the Delphi Valley. Many of the most beautiful parts of Connemara are the inland roads. Clifden and Roundstone are both excellent bases for that part of your trip. If you want a night at a fancier place, you might enjoy Ballynahinch, near Roundstone.

Posted by Kate
Denver, Colorado
12 posts

How accurate are the RS guidebook driving estimates? We are also taking 11 days in Ireland in June (although using Dublin airport), and we are banking on the RS drive times being pretty close -- although we're padding somewhat for our own stops. For example, the RS guide puts Dublin to Galway at 3.25 hours. We are budgeting 5, which will include a quick lunch along the way. How off will we be?
Thanks!