We are planning our 1st trip to Ireland this summer and I wanted to get some thoughts on our itinerary. We are looking to stay about a week. We are thinking of flying into Shannon, getting a car, and driving to Dublin. Dublin- 2 nights (staying in Dun Laoghaire). We plan to visit Trinity college and the Book of Kells, Guinness Storehouse, Museum of Archeology, Grafton street, and maybe Dublin Castle. Drive to Kinsale- seeing Rock of Cashal and maybe Gardens of Powerscourt on the way. Stay in Kinsale for 2 nights and visit Cork, Midleton Distillery, and Blarney Stone. Drive to Kenmare, seeing Killarney National Park on the way. 1 night in Kenamre Drive the Ring of Kerry over 2 days, staying 1 night in Portmagee or Cahersiveen. Maybe taking a boat right to Skellings. Drive to Cliff of Mohr and stay near Shannon Airport for our flight out the next day. We may be able to add 1 more night so where would be a good place in our itinerary to do that? Also, based on what we are planning, is there anything we are missing or wasting time on? I would also love lodging recommendations in any of these cities and also a recommendation for a castle for an overnight near Shannon. Thanks in advance for your thoughts.
I hope you have not purchased your tickets yet, because my first suggestion would be to fly into Shannon Airport, take your route backward, turn in your car, see Dublin and fly out of Dublin instead of backtracking. You won't need or want a car in the city, so it makes no sense to do Dublin first. Alternatively, you could fly into Dublin but not get a car until you are ready to leave the city. But it is definitely easier to get used to driving on the other side of the road in the Shannon area, since it is out in the country and there is no traffic. You could do the Cliffs of Moher and the Burren, maybe staying in Doolin that first night, then head south the next day, via the Killimer-Tarbert ferry across the River Shannon, to Killarney (saves time from going around through Limerick). Then you could do the Ring of Kerry, and end the day in Kenmare, unless you want to not go that far that day. Then you could do Kinsale or Cobh (Blarney is central to both), Midleton, and Blarney, then head north past Rock of Cashel and Cahir Castle. In Dublin, I would skip the Guinness Storehouse (you see nothing of the brewing process, just a lot of advertising and buying opportunities for the same Guinness souvenirs you can find all over Ireland - and your "free" pint is pretty expensive). I would definitely add Kilmainham Gaol and the Georgian house tour at 29 Lower Fitzwilliam St. Keep in mind that two nights in a place only means one full day, which isn't a lot of time. If you want to see the Book of Kells, you will need to be there early in the day (when they open) so you don't waste a lot of time standing in line. Which ever way you decide to go, don't forget to factor in travel time between locations. You can use www.viamichelin.com to see distances between places, but add about 25% to their time estimates to get a more accurate picture of how long it really takes.
Thanks Nancy. We have not bought tickets yet and I agree that driving from Shannon would be easier as far as getting used to driving on the left. If we went to Dublin first from Shannon, we would leave the car at whatever bed and breakfast we were staying at in Dun Laoghaire and take DART into Dublin. We would have about 2 days in Dublin.
I understand why you are recommending that we reverse the schedule and end in Dublin, and I have read other posts with the same recommendation. However, we are thinking we would enjoy it more if we do the city first and then go to the countryside. Thanks for all the other recommendations.
On my very first trip to Ireland, I did as I suggested to you - landed in Shannon, ended in Dublin. We found it made more sense because we weren't paying for a rental car for the days we didn't need it. If you are OK with that, you can certainly do it the way you have planned (you will also want to make sure you get a B&B with parking - they don't all offer it). Finishing in Dublin, with only a day there, caused me to have to come back the next year to spend more days in the Dublin area. Flying into one place and out of another will allow you more sightseeing time, since you won't be going in a big circle, but it will work either way.
I agree with Nancy, but if you want to go to Dublin first, would rent car after you see Dublin, why pay to park car when using public transit. I did not like Guinness Brewery at all, very commercial for me. Favorite was Kilmainhaim Gaol, for me was highlight and went three times. if you are flying out of Shannon, suggest Airport Manor B&b, maybe ten minutes tops to airport, private car park and super clean.
my 2cents Getting acclimated and recovering from flight has to be easier in Shannon than Dublin. (travel from airport is easier, renting car, seeing a few sights has to be closer in Shannon) Castle recommendation: We stayed in Ballyseede castle in Tralee for a night and it was awesome. Castle itself was not huge, but very fun and unique! We did not do the blarney stone or ring of kerry, but instead enjoyed the dingle peninsula and rock of cashel. We use b&B IReland for all booking except flights. Overall we spent a night in Dublin at beginning and end of trip. Car rental for one week and 7 nights open vouchers with b&b's throughout Ireland. We literally looked in the book at whatever city we wanted to stay in and called people that afternoon to see if they had a room. All places we stayed at we would stay again, all breakfast was good, and hosts were very friendly.
Don't know where Burke is located but you might look into Sceptre Tours, we used them twice and price was fantastic but we flew in and out of Newark, NJ. Anyway, price was less than two thousand dollars per person and included air fare, weekly car rental and six nights B&B using vouchers. It is not a tour, it is a do it yourself vacation.
Inna my husband and I feel that your itinerary is far too ambitious. We have been to Ireland twice...spending nearly 3 weeks each time. the first trip was around the southern part of the country and the second was around the northern part (including Northern Ireland). we skipped dublin both times...preferring to see more of the countryside. Cork is a big city. The second largest inIreland, I think. We used it as a base and visited Cohb, Middleton Distillery, etc. from there. there is a lot to see in this area. The Ring of Kerry is a full day and a great place to stay is the Hotel Sneem in the town of Sneem. Port Magee is very tiny and a bit of a dumpy town. I wouldn't think you could even find a place to stay. Killarney National Park is a difficult drive, windy, narrow roads and we encountered rain and fog during both of our trips there. Our suggestion would be to spend your time seeing either some areas on the West part of the country or on the East. From Shannon you could go to the Cliffs of Mohr, the Aran Isles, and any of the "rings (Dingle, Kerry, or Berra)and your week would be used up. Figure driving no more than about 45 miles an hour unless on a freeway and those are few and far between. It is easy to think that your ca get around a foreign country as fast as you can get around the US. After 20 years of traveling on our own we can tell you that this is not the case.
Sit back and enjoy the experience, listen to some music in the pubs and talk to the locals. You will get far more out of your trip than you would if you spent all your time driving from spot to spot.
Thanks to everyone for all of the great responses. We are still trying to decide what to do but the prevailing opinion seems to be to fly into Shannon and out of Dublin. We want to see Dublin, but does anyone think we will not enjoy it as much at the end of the trip instead of at the beginning? We know this is a lot to do in 1 week, but we have tried to scale it down as much as possible. Please keep up the wonderful suggestions.
There is no reason to not go to Dublin last. The day you arrive I would caution against driving very far. Being jetlagged and driving on the "wrong side" of the road don't mix very well. I think we drove about 2 hours that first day. We only had a week in Ireland. My favorite area was the west coast, and Dingle and the Dingle peninsula in particular. I did enjoy Dublin too. We ended the trip there.
If you have an extra day, I'd suggest the burren. They are amazing beautiful fissured limestone plateaus created by glaciation. Kind of a moon scape feel. When I was there in late May/June, there were huge number of wildflowers in the fissures in the rocks... quite lovely. It also provided a pleasant and fairly enegetic hike.
I think it is great to get a sample of what Ireland has to offer on your trip. When my sister visted me, I picked her up at the Dublin airport in a rental car and we took off to the Irish National Stud and spent the night in Bunratty. The next day, we drove to the Cliffs of Moher then to Dingle. After a night in Dingle, we spent the day touring Dingle and then headed to Cashel for the night. Ended with time in Dublin. You can fit in a lot of sights and a lot of fun in a short trip as long as you have an open attitude that things on your agenda could change. If you are going to be staying out in Dun Laoghaire, Enterprise rental car has a location there that is usually much cheaper than the airport location. They have always been great for me.
If you're flying into Shannon Inna I'd definitely do the west first before heading for Dublin. My own view is that you are probably better off doing Dublin at the end of the trip anyway as you will be used to the country at that stage. As Nancy says Number 29 is a must see in Dublin, a Georgian house/museum restored to reflect what life was like in the late 1700's/early 1800's for an upper middle class family and their hired help. Enjoy your stay with us!!
Hi, I would agree with Cindy and her response. My wife and spent two weeks in Ireland last June flying into Shannon renting a car there and touring the West and taking public transportation to the Dublin airport. We skipped Dublin and concentrated on the beauty of the West. The Dingle Peninisula is a treasure and Dingle is a charming town with great pubs, music and food. Take the time to enjoy the small towns and the people. Kenmare was a delightful town. The Ring of Kerry is just ok. We took a guided tour. The north side is pretty flat and uninteresting. The Cliffs of Moher are seen best from the water by boat out of Doolin. Head up to Galway and get out to the Aran islands; remote and majestic.
We stayed in Inns and B&Bs and encountered wonderful hosts. The Curravagh House outside Outerard north of Galway was wonderful. The Shelbourne Lodge in Kenmare was a treasure. Mount Vernon near The Burrens was disappointing. Tom
Thanks for all of the wonderful advice. Here is our new tentative itinerary: Fly into Shannon.
Day 1- See the Cliffs of Mohr and stay in Doolin 2- Ring of Kerry and stay in Portmagee (is it worth taking a boat out to the Skellings?) 3- Finish Ring of Kerry and stay in Kenmare 4 and 5- Drive to Kinsale, seeing Killarney Park and Blarney Castle on the way. See Cork and Middleton the next day. (2 nights in Kinsale) 6 and 7- Drive to Dun Laoghaire and see Cashal on the way. Visit Dublin. (2 nights in Dun Laoghaire) Fly out of Dublin the next day. Thoughts on this plan would be appreciated.
Hi, Your itinarary looks good. Be aware that the ferry out to the Skellig Islands is very weather dependent and often does not go. I think you are missing something by skipping the Dingle Pensinsula and town of Dingle. We mush preferred Dingle to Ring of Kerry, especially the north side of Kerry- very flat and uninteresting. But otherwise you will have a wonderful time.
IMHO, don't bother with the north side of the Ring of Kerry. Enjoy a leisurely drive to Portmagee along the southern side. Next day, return the same way without extensive stops; use the time you save to drive out and back on the north side of the Ring of Beara. We did both rings all the way around last April - if you follow my suggestions, you will be seeing much prettier scenery!
One more comment on the Guinness "experience". On a sunny day the glassed-in observeration "pub" atop the Warehouse offers a spectacular view of the city, especially since it's already on a hill. It's often crowded, so hardly a comfortable scene for contemplating a pint of the brown liquid at its source. One glass of the product is included in the steep admission (14.85€ on-line at https://www.guinness-storehouse.com/en/Ticketion.aspx ). I drank mine a few floors lower at a pub where an instructor helps you pour your own proper pint. Now that was a genuine Guinness experience!
Thanks for everyone's input. It looks like flying into Dublin and out of Shannon would be less expensive than flying into Shannon. I understand what everyone has said about it being easier to get used to driving on the left coming from Shannon, but now we are looking at a cost savings by flying into Dublin (about $200).
If we fly into Dublin, we would not pick up the car until we were ready to leave Dublin (2 days later), so we would go from the airport towards the Cork area, stopping by Cashal on the way. We would not have the jet lag to deal with but is it really bad trying to deal with driving on the left while leaving Dublin airport? Any other thoughts? Thanks.
Take the train to Cork and pick up the car there...
For your stay in Doolin I can recommend a B&B-the name of it a bit unusual-The Family Activity Center. It is fairly new but built of old stone and our windows had a view of horses grazing in the adjacent field. Breakfast was excellent & they will do laundry for you. Easy walk to pubs and O'Connor's had great music. Great budget rate. We had not seen COM in ten years and it was a shock to see how different it is now-all built up with berms so it is difficult to have good views. For a big splurge near Shannon would be Drumoland Castle Hotel.
Sorry-my mistake-hotel in Doolin is Family Leisure Center. It is in a guidebook-maybe RS.
Hi everyone, First of all, thank you to everyone who has posted. I really appreciate the great advice. We have finally bought our plane tickets and will be flying into Dublin and out of Shannon, picking up the rental car when we leave Dublin on day 3. I know what everyone said about it being easier to learn to drive on the left in Shannon (and we don't disagree), but it made better sense for our schedule to start in Dublin. So our itinerary looks about the same as what I posted in the original post. The only change we might make is instead of doing a boat trip to Skellings, visit the Ring of Kerry in 1 day and stay a night in Doolin and see the Aran Islands instead. I would greatly appreciate thoughts on our original itinerary and on the idea of seeing Aran Islands instead of Skellings. Be honest, I am difficult to offend :) Also, we would love to stay in a Castle near Shannon airport on our last night. Does anyone have any experience regarding Dromand Castle or any other castles in the area? Any other thought for our last night? Thanks in advance, Inna
I would try for the Aran Islands out of Doolin; much better chance of the waeather allowing the ferry to get there. Also, the Aran Islands have more variety/beauty and taking a horse drawn buggy tour is wonderful. Wish I could convince you to do The Dingle Peninsula instaed of north side of Kerry, but perhaps another trip. As far as driving is concerned get an Irish Ordanance map as it is very detailed. Available at most local stores and at the airport. Drive slow and figure on everything taking longer. 40 miles an hour is good time on narrow Irish highways. Pull over if you are being tailgated and let them pass on. Stop and ask for directions- everyone is friendly and helpful. Get a small car with an automatic and "Super CDW" insurance. Your credit card insurance will not cover you in Ireland. "Super CDW" is expensive but worth the peace of mind. I drove for two weeks throughout Western ireland without incident and it was the only way to see the country. Enjoy!!
Inna, I can't recommend the Aran Island of Inishmoor enough. It's restful (no visitor cars allowed), we got around on bikes. Most folks visit for the day so there are few crowds in the evenings. The bike rental companies meet you when you dock and will drive your luggage to your B & B. When you depart, you arrange for a ride to the dock and leave the bike at the B & B. The village where the boats dock has lots of restaurants and tourist shops but once you leave the area, it's a visual wonderland. The cliffs are mind numbingly steep and you can get as close to the edge as you dare. The fort, the stonework, the fields, the greenery, the views...remote, awesome, gorgeous.There's a swimming beach and other sights easily pedaled to. I didn't find the biking at all strenuous. Accommodations can be pricey but, on balance, we compensated by staying at less expensive places at other points during our trip. We stayed at the Man of Aran B & B, run by a lovely couple. I believe we found it thru an RS guidebook. We were there 3 years ago so you may want to check to be sure that it's still run by the same folks or at least in the same way....The real draws here, I think, are the food (they grow much of their own produce and serve a wonderful dinner), the location and views, and the old B & W film they show in the evenings called "Man of Aran" which showed the struggles one small family faced trying to settle and survive there. We loved it. Ireland is an absolutely wondeful place to visit. The warmth and friendliness of its people, whereever we went, was heartwarming. Enjoy it.
Ok Tom, you win :) We have decided to most likely see the Ring of Kerry in 1 day and then drive to Dingle Town for an overnight. The next day (our last full day)we would drive the Dingle Peninsula and then drive up to Doolin for the afternoon and see the Cliffs of Mohr. We would probably then spend our last night at a
B&B in Ennis before flying out of Shannon the next morning. I don't think we will have time for the Aran Islands, even though it sounds beautiful. Does the above schedule sounds too ambitious for the last full day? Thanks again to everyone for their wonderful advice.
Hi, I did not intend to strongarm you into Dingle and I hope you enjoy it::)). Do the south side of Kerry as that is the most scenic. As far as last day; get up early and drive the Dingle Pensinula and then head up to Doolin and see the Cliffs from the water and then over to Ennis the last night. It will be a very full day but doable.
Have fun. It was our best European trip and my wife is bugging me to go back asap!! Tom