Ireland in September - new travelers, are we trying to do too much?

Hi all, I've never traveled abroad before, and I'm very excited to explore Ireland with my husband. As a new traveler, I'd love to get some sanity checking on my schedule: Day 1: Arrive in Dublin Days 2 & 3: Explore Dublin, then onward to Kilkenny. Sleep in Kilkenny. Day 4: Drive from Kilkenny to Cork. Explore Cork and Kinsale. Sleep in Cork or Clonakilty. Day 5: Drive to Kenmare. Explore the area and sleep in Kenmare or continue on to sleep in Killarney. Day 6: Explore Killarney. Drive to and sleep in Dingle. Day 7: Explore Dingle town and the peninsula. Day 8: Drive from Dingle to the Cliffs of Moher. After exploring, continue on to Galway. Sleep in Galway. Day 9: Galway Day 10: Galway / Connemara. Sleep in Clifden or elsewhere in Connemara. Day 11: Galway / Islands of Aran Day 12: Drive from Galway to Dublin. Sleep in Dublin. Day 13: Depart Dublin for the US. My questions:
1. Are we trying to do too much? 2. Are we missing any sights worth seeing? 3. Does the number of days and "home base" make sense for each place? 4. Car vs. bus? I like the independence that a car brings, but would be willing to consider busing if it allows us to be flexible enough. 5. Is it okay to schedule everything up front, or should I be leaving some parts open ended? Not having things set in stone makes me nervous as a new traveler, but I want to hear what other people recommend. :) Many thanks!

Posted by Ceidleh
Boston, MA, United States
1173 posts

Did you already purchase airline tickets? If not, would suggest you fly home open jaw out of Shannon and instead of wasting half a day driving back from Galway to Dublin use the time somewhere else or add it to the front end of trip and take a day trip from Dublin. Have alternate plan for Aran Islands day. If weather lousy or seas rough, ferries can be cancelled.

Posted by Kimberly
Seattle, WA
12 posts

Thanks for the response, Ceidleh. I agree that I'd rather not use that half day driving from Galway to Dublin. We found that flying in and out of Dublin was cheapest though -- about $300 less per ticket. I guess it's up to us to weigh whether half a day of extra driving is worth saving $600. Is there a trick to purchasing open jaw flights that would make it about the same price, or does it usually end up being the case that it's just that much more expensive? Thanks for the tip about the Islands of Aran. We will make sure to have a backup plan. :)

Posted by John
Dublin, Ireland
105 posts

Trip sounds reasonable and doable Kimberly. Only one I'd consider changing is Dingle to Galway in one day, seems a bit rushed to me, you could spend that night in Doolin (or someplace local) and you could also do the Aran Islands with a ferry from Doolin. Wouldn't worry too much about travelling back from Dublin, Galway is only 2 hours drive from Dublin, and you would spend the guts of an hour getting from Galway to Shannon anyway. I'd definitely go for hiring the car, far more flexible. Enjoy your stay!

Posted by Carroll
Pittsburgh, PA, USA
1346 posts

I think your itinerary is fine, Kimberly. The only thing I don't like is the Galway, Connemara, Galway part at the end. Seems like three unnecessary one night stands. John had a good idea. Or do two nights in Galway and then head up to Connemara. You may even be able to do Connemara as a day trip from Galway - I forget how long a drive it is. If you can't make it to the Aran Islands, you could explore the Burren. Hope you have a great trip!

Posted by Kimberly
Seattle, WA
12 posts

Thanks for your feedback everyone! I agree that splitting Galway up like that is not ideal. Do you think it's okay to go ahead and book most if not all accommodations in advance? Or do you think it's limiting if we want to linger at a particular location for longer?

Posted by Gail
Downingtown, USA
1554 posts

We have traveled there in September as well as other off times and only thing we booked ahead was our first night. Never had a problem finding a place to stay. We used car but not in dublin, no need for car there. Enjoy Ireland, it is beyond great.

Posted by Carroll
Pittsburgh, PA, USA
1346 posts

Regarding booking ahead... Except for very busy times when booking ahead is a necessity, this is largely a matter of personality and style. I always book ahead. I cannot stand to waste any time looking for a place to stay when I am on vacation. I do a lot of reading and planning and am generally good at guessing how long I will want to stay in each place. Also, I am not a very spontaneous person. Because this is what works best for me does not mean it will work best for you though.

Posted by Tom
Oregon Territory
8 posts

Having just done this trip. I'd reverse the order and start in Galway and finish in Dublin. Galway has a lot of atmosphere and not a lot of big sights. It makes for a good first few days when you're dealing with jetlag (I'm a fellow Pacific Standard Timer). Finish up in Dublin when you are fully acclimated to Ireland because their is a lot of stuff to do in Dublin. Plus if you get a car, you can pick it up at the airport and drop it off just before heading into Dublin. You don't want a car in Dublin (think 15 euros/day parking) and everything is really in walking distance.

Posted by Kimberly
Seattle, WA
12 posts

Thank you Carroll. I do like knowing what my plan is and you're totally right - I don't want to spend my evening hunting for a place to stay when I could be out doing other things! Tom, glad to hear from another Pacific Northwester. :) I've never been severely jetlagged so your perspective is great. I definitely want to enjoy Dublin to its fullest. I'm wondering if you could clarify what you ended up doing: did you fly into Shannon and drive to Galway from there, or did you fly into Dublin and drive to Galway that day? We're trying to fly in and out of Dublin because it's significantly cheaper, but I do worry a bit about driving immediately after a 15 hour journey while jetlagged.

Posted by Tom
Oregon Territory
8 posts

We flew in and out of Dublin. It was a very spur of the moment trip and the roundtrip airfare to Dublin was very attractive. We got in mid morning, rented the car, and drove the 2+ hours on the motorway to Galway. We we're still feeling pretty good and hit Cong Abbey and Ashford Castle before ending the day in Galway. We spent a leisurely day on the Aran Islands the next day. From there we looped north thru Northern Ireland and back down to Dublin. Obviously you would head south past the Burren and the Cliffs of Moher on the way to Doolin or Dingle. With 13 days I think you'll have plenty of time to see the "South Loop" and still enjoy a 2-3 days in Dublin at the end. On our next trip to Ireland (a bit in the future), we'll probably fly RT to Shannon and spend 10 days just on western and southern Ireland.

Posted by Kimberly
Seattle, WA
12 posts

Thanks so much everyone. Based on your feedback, here is my new itinerary (we've added 3 days to spend more time in the various locations, and have started hashing out the sights we'd like to see.) The most difficult decision was to not spend the night in Connemara. The all day walking tour there sounds wonderful but I'm not sure it warrants spending the night. I'm torn on whether we should stay in Cork, Clonakilty, or Kinsale when in that area (days 11 and 12). All seem like nice towns. Any recommendations on which to make our home base for that stay? 1: Fly to Dublin: pick up rental car. Dublin -> Galway with stop at Clonmacnoise (Galway) 2: Galway town (Galway) 3: Connemara day trip: Kylemore Abbey (Galway) 4: Galway -> Doolin: the Burren, Cliffs of Moher, Doolin town (Doolin) 5: Aran Islands day trip: bike ride? (Doolin) 6: Doolin -> Dingle (Dingle) 7: Dingle: Galorus oratory, bike ride? (Dingle) 8: Dingle Peninsula drive (Dingle) 9: Dingle -> Killarney: Muckross Abbey (Killarney) 10: Kenmare day trip (Killarney) 11: Killarney -> Cork: Cork city Gaol, St. Finbar's Cathedral (Cork or Clonakilty) 12: Cork / Kinsale / Clonakilty: Charles Fort, Desmond Castle (Cork or Clonakilty) 13: Cork -> Kilkenny: Kilkenny Castle, St. Candice Cathedral (Kilkenny) 14: Kilkenny-> Dublin: Newgrange, drop off car, Dublin city (Dublin)
15: Dublin: Dublin Castle, Trinity College, Temple bar (Dublin) 16: Dublin / Fly out

Posted by Kimberly
Seattle, WA
12 posts

Of course, please also let me know if I'm totally off base in not spending more time in the Connemara region or elsewhere. :) To summarize the updated itinerary above, here are the nights we're spending in each location: Galway (3) Doolin (2) Dingle (3) Killarney (2) Cork, Clonakilty, or Kinsale (2) Kilkenny (1)
Dublin (2)

Posted by Tom
Oregon Territory
8 posts

Day 14 doesn't really give you much time in Dublin. I'd add another full day in Dublin and take it from somewhere in Days 2- 8. The Aran Islands can be done as a day trip from Galway.

Posted by John
Dublin, Ireland
105 posts

Hi Kimberley, You are doing a fair bit of going back on yourself with your revised trip, from days 7 to 12. The natural route would be Dingle to Killarney, to Kenmare, to Clonakilty, to Kinsale, to Cork and then onto Kilkenny. If you start going back on yourself you are wasting a lot of time and not seeing anything new by way of scenery. I think you could have a more relaxed time by following the route direct or you could save a day there and spend it in Dublin. I hope that makes sense. Also you include Temple Bar as one of your places to see in Dublin. I would certainly replace that with trips to Kilmainham Jail and Number 29.
http://www.ricksteves.com/tvr/dublinrse208_scr.htm Have a great time here whichever way you go

Posted by Dana
Des Plaines, IL, USA
25 posts

I would suggest spending an extra day in Dublin and cutting one out of Cork. Cork is not all that great, it is the areas around Cork that are wonderful. Dublin is magnificent. Lots to do, but one of our best days was visiting Powerscourt Waterfall and Powerscourt Gardens, which are a good 45 minute drive outside of Dublin.

Posted by Sherri
Goleen, Co Cork, Ireland
69 posts

Your trip sounds great! I wouldn't drive to clonakilty though. Kinsale is really nice near Cork city. Right on the water with lots if restaurants and pubs with music. Wouldn't stay in Cork City either as you'll be staying in a city in Dublin. Have a great trip!

Posted by Kimberly
Seattle, WA
12 posts

Hi everyone! Thank you so much for all of your helpful advice and feedback. We just got back from our trip last week and it was amazing! Some of the choices we made: - 16 days instead of 13 - Rent a car. (Exception: we took the bus and LUAS in Dublin.)
- We scheduled everything up front for our accommodations. We made two restaurant reservations in advance because we knew there were two places we absolutely wanted to eat (Out of the Blue in Dingle, and Fishy Fishy Cafe in Kinsale.)

Posted by Kimberly
Seattle, WA
12 posts

Our final itinerary (home base in parentheses): Day 1: Fly to Dublin Day 2: Arrive in Dublin (Dublin) Day 3: Pick up rental car. Dublin -> Galway via Clonmacnoise (Galway) Day 4: Galway town exploration (Galway) Day 5: Connemara scenic drive: Clifden, Inagh Valley, Kylemore Abbey Day 6: Galway -> Doolin (Doolin) Day 7: Inisheer, Cliffs of Moher (by ferry and by land), Doolin town exploration (Doolin) Day 8: Doolin -> Dingle with Conor Pass scenic drive (Dingle) Day 9: Dingle town exploration and Slea head drive (Dingle) Day 10: Dingle -> Kenmare via Killarney: Muckross House (Kenmare) Day 11: Kenmare -> Kinsale: Kinsale town exploration (Kinsale) Day 12: Charles Fort, Desmond Castle, Kinsale town (Kinsale) Day 13: Kinsale -> Kilkenny via Cobh and Clonakilty (Kilkenny) Day 14: Killkenny -> Dublin, but first stopping at Kilkenny Castle, St. Candice Cathedral. Drop off rental car. (Dublin) Day 15: Dublin town (Dublin) Day 16: Newgrange with Mary Gibbons tours (Dublin)
Day 17: Fly out I can't emphasize enough what an amazing trip it was. Incredible food, wonderful people, beautiful scenery. If you're interested in reading about how our trip went, I'm writing about it here: http://sixteendaysinireland.blogspot.com. I'm doing a day-by-day account, plus I've posted (or will be posting) about Irish food, driving in Ireland, more about our itinerary and planning process, and also where we stayed. :) Thanks again for your help!

Posted by Steve
Great Falls, MT, USA
42 posts

Kimberly, Thanks for sharing your blog. Reading it brought back many memories of our trip in 2010. I am looking forward to reading about the rest of your trip.

Posted by Kimberly
Seattle, WA
12 posts

Thanks so much, Steve! I'm having a great time writing it. It's easy when there's so much to write about. :) Edited to add: One person messaged me to say that posting my blog link here may be a problem. I just wanted to say that I am strongly against advertising on blogs and have no desire to make money, just to share my story. For this reason I made the decision to not allow any advertising on my site. However, please let me know if it is a problem and I will happily remove it. :)

Posted by Leslie
Colville, WA
252 posts

Love reading your blog - brings back lots of memories. Glad you had a great trip.

Posted by Kimberly
Seattle, WA
12 posts

Thanks so much Leslie. We can't wait to go back. Until then, I figured I might as well capture the memories so I can look back and read about all we did. :)

Posted by Wendy
Winston Salem, NC, USA
1 posts

Kimberly Please tell us about the rest of your trip to Ireland. Thanks Wendy