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Ireland Itinerary - September 2010

My husband and I are traveling to Ireland for about a week then later to Germany for another week. We plan to fly into Shannon and depart from Dublin. We want to see a lot, so we are going to rent a car. Here are a few attractions we would like to see:

  1. Cliffs of Moher
  2. The Burren
  3. Glendalough
  4. Castles (Blarney, Bunratty, Kilkenny, Dublin - which are recommended?)
  5. Guinness Store House

Are there any other must see attractions?
Any suggestions for an itinerary that includes all of the above?
How much time should we alot per destination?
What is recommended for lodging (i.e., BnB)?
Should we reserve ahead of time or upon arrival?

Posted by
9363 posts

B&Bs are definitely the way to go for lodging. You probably won't need to worry about booking ahead in September - they are everywhere, and even the ones that close over the winter will still be open. I have just picked one when I was ready to stop for the day, knocked on the door, and asked if they had a room available. You can also get a directory of B&Bs from the Ireland Tourism website or at the Tourist Information booth at the airport.

On our first trip to Ireland our flight arrived around 9:00 a.m. in Shannon. By the time we got our rental car and got away from the airport, it was around 11:00. We first drove to Bunratty Castle, which is only 6 miles from the airport, and we saw the castle then had lunch at the little shopping center across the road. We stayed that night in Liscannor, about five minutes from the Cliffs, had dinner in Doolin that night and saw the Cliffs and the Burren the next day. Does that give you an idea of how you could arrange your first day?

In my opinion, the Guinness Storehouse isn't worth the high price of admission. You see nothing of the brewing process, just a lot of advertising and lots of chances to buy the same Guinness merchandise that you can find everywhere else in Ireland. Of course, there's that "free" pint at the end, but even the view of Dublin from the Gravity Bar isn't all that thrilling. If you want to take a more interesting brewing tour, and you're going to be in the Cork/Blarney area, you might think about visiting the Jameson distillery at Midleton instead (complete with "gourmet" whiskey tasting at the end).

A couple of other things you might want to see along the way are the Rock of Cashel (north of Blarney), Cahir Castle (on the way to the Rock), and Newgrange, in the Dublin area.

Posted by
588 posts

My family loved the Guinness tour and included is a half pint and a pint of the good stuff. I learned how to draw a pint of Guinness and I got to demonstate my knowledge back home in one of our local bars. There are also Guinness souvenirs available there that are not available elsewhere. I agree the Gravity Bar isn't that exciting. I did enjoy the historical facts about Arthur Guinness and how he treated his employees. We need more companies like Guinness! We also enjoyed Jameson's and Bushmills tours.

The Rock of Cashel is great. Dublin Castle --- not much but a great gift shop.

You didn't mention the Giant's Causeway and the Bridge of Carrick which was were my favorite sights. Of course you have to go to the North.

The people of Ireland are great. Enjoy!

Posted by
319 posts

Tammy,

You're off to a good start (kudos on the open jaw Shannon-Dublin flight plan). Here are my thoughts:

  1. I skipped the Guinness tour and didn't miss it. Almost any bartender could show you how to put a shamrock in a Guinness, so it basically amounts to $20 for a pint and a view. Jameson tour at Midleton is great if you're in the Cork area (I don't think the Dublin tour shows you the distilling process).

  2. If you like ruins as well as opulent castles, then the Rock of Cashel is fantastic. Also great if you're interested in Irish or Church history. Newgrange is another great ruin if you're into ancient Celtic history.

  3. In Dublin, I'd also recommend the Book of Kells (at Trinity College), Kilmainhaim Gaol if you're into Irish history and the story of the fight for independence, and the Musical Pub Crawl if you're into traditional Irish music.

  4. I'd head to Cty Clare upon arrival and stay in one of the small towns there like Doolin. From here you can see the Cliffs and the Burren on Day 1 or 2. On Day 2 or 3, you could head to Dublin or towards the rock of cashel/Blarney castle area for a day or so.

  5. Definitely drop off the car BEFORE heading into Dublin. Even if this is out of the way, you're much better off heading right to the dropoff location and taking public transit to your Dublin hotel/B&B (I def recommend B&Bs throughout Ireland). Driving in the city center of Dublin is a nightmare and it's not necessary.

  6. We stayed in Dun Laoghaire, a pleasant suburb about 15 mins from Dublin by train. We stayed at Ophira House, and would highly recommend it, but there are lots of good B&Bs here with good rates.

  7. Let us know where your interests lie and we can provide better advice on sites to see. The SW (Dingle, Ring of Kerry, Killarney National Park (not town, which is very touristy), and Kinsale) is amazing, but it would probably require a two day commitment to see even one of these sites.

Enjoy your trip!

Posted by
5 posts

Thanks for the advice!

We have 8-9 days to travel (including an additional 2 days for flying in and flying out). Would you recommend traveling straight from Shannon to Dublin(seeing Clare, Tipperary, Laois, Wicklow) or visiting the south (seeing Clare, Limerick, Kerry, Cork, Waterford, Tipperary, Wexford and Wicklow)? We would prefer to do the south route, but would 8-9 days be enough?

Here are our two options for day 1:

Day 1: Arrive at Shannon Airport - County Clare

OPTION 1: Bunratty Castle, Cliffs of Moher, The Burren, stay overnight in Ennis, Ballyvaughan or Doolin (Any B&B suggestions?)

-OR-

OPTION 2: Cliffs of Moher, Bunratty Castle, stay overnight in Limerick. (Has anyone stayed at the Woodfield House Hotel?)

Any suggestions?

Posted by
5 posts

I also forgot to ask if anyone has advice on renting a car. I've been shopping around and it looks like Thrifty is the cheapest. Should we buy the insurance? Is there a better way to get coverage (e.g., credit cards)?

Posted by
319 posts

Tammy,

I don't think there's much reason to spend the night in Limerick. So I'd choose Option 1.

In terms of route, all else equal I'd prefer the southern route, but you'll have to make some choices as you won't have enough time to see all the areas you list.

For example, you'll get a ton of people here urging you to go to Dingle. And they're right; it's a great town to visit. But it takes a while to get out there, and you really should devote at least 2 days to it. So you just have to decide what places to skip so you can do that.

You want to be conservative in your planning. It's fun to think that you can do it all but it will stress you out when you're rushing through Ireland. Driving time is very slow, so give yourself extra time to make each drive.

Here are two possible "southern route" itineraries to give you an idea of how they might go:

  1. Day 1 Doolin Day 2 Drive thru Killarney Nat Park. Stay Kenmare Day 3 Drive Ring of Kerry Stay Kinsale Day 4 Kinsale Stay in Kinsale Day 5 Rock of Cashel Stay Cashel Day 6 Dublin Day 7 Dublin Day 8 Dublin Day 9 Fly home?

I would skip waterford as the crystal factory is closed to visitors and there's not much reason to go there otherwise. You can see Glendalough and Wicklow Mtns as a day trip from or on the way to Dublin.

  1. Day 1 Doolin Day 2 Dingle Day 3 Dingle Day 4 Drive thru Killarney Nat Park Stay Kenmare Day 5 Kinsale/Cashel Day 6 Dublin Day 7 Dublin day 8 Dublin Day 9 Fly home?

The major difference here is skipping the Ring. I personally love both, but given your limited time I think it makes sense to do one or the other.

Best of luck.

Posted by
2210 posts

I think either of Michael's itineraries would be excellent.

As far as I know, no credit cards will cover collision insurance in Ireland. This is one place you need to get the insurance the car rental company offers.

Posted by
8700 posts

When I rented a car in Ireland in 2005 my World MasterCard provided collision insurance. (At that time it was the only card that did.) I don't know if that is still the case, however. If you have a World MasterCard, check the Master Rental Agreement.

Posted by
5 posts

I think we are going to skip Ring of Kerry, so that we can spend more time on the Dingle Peninsula. What is the preferred route? We were thinking that we could drive half-way around, stay the night and then drive out the next day. The AA route planner directs us through Dingle on the way in and then back through Dingle to get out. Is that correct? Any recommendations on places to stay under $100 US?

Posted by
8645 posts

I would stay in Dingle. The peninsula is not very big and can easily be done in half a day. Then you would have the rest of the day to explore Dingle. It would be even better to spend two nights if you can. We had a great time there and they have some places with great live music.

I highly recommend the Milestone B&B. Barbara and Michael were fantastic. If you stay there be sure to go there before you do the Slea Head Drive (Dingle Peninsula). They provide hand drawn maps of the peninsula and the town. Very detailed with suggestions of where to stop, what to do, etc. The map of Dingle shows the different restaurants, pubs, etc. and they will recommend the best places to eat. And if that isn't great enough, they have the best breakfast of any B&B I've stayed in anywhere!

Posted by
319 posts

Tammy,

Dingle peninsula is much smaller than the Ring of Kerry. Basically, you'll want to stay in Dingle. It's a fantastic small Irish town with great restaurants, pubs, traditional Irish music, and lots of charm.

The Irish name for the peninsula is Slea Head. The drive begins and ends in Dingle. Most people drive it, but some people bike part or all of the peninsula.

I've also stayed at Milestone House and can vouch for Barbara and Michael's hospitality. There are lots of great B&Bs in town so you really can't go wrong.

Posted by
1357 posts

We rented our car this summer through e-car rentals Ireland, they're a consolidator, the car was through Thrifty. For a compact car with the basic CDW we paid about 150 euro for the week.

The basic CDW comes with a 1100 euro deductible. To cover that, you can either opt for the super CDW through the rental company, which will about double the cost of the rental, or, as was suggested before, go through insurance2carhire (you'll actually go to another website, dailyexcess.com). We did that and paid about $60 for the extra coverage.

We did get a HUGE scratch down the side of the car. So here's what the rental company did -- we were charged the 1100 euro, since our additional coverage was through another company, and we had to file a claim through them. We had a copy of our policy with us, so we knew what paperwork we needed to have. It took about a month to get the money from the insurance company.

I have a World Mastercard, but was nervous about getting coverage through them, as they didn't cover liability.

As far as accomodations go, you should be okay just finding rooms as you go, but I would book your place in Dublin before you go. Then you can drop your rental car off at the airport and go directly to where you are staying, and know how you're going to get there, taxi or bus.

I think trying to do Bunratty, the Burren, and the Cliffs is a lot for one day. I'd cut out either the Burren or the Cliffs, get a place to stay in Doolin or somewhere close by, and go see whatever you missed in the morning.

Posted by
11798 posts

From Shannon it's a bit of a zig zag. I'd start with Cliffs of Moher, the Burren and Galway.

You can then head straight to Dublin stopping at Clonmacnoise monastic settlement on the way (eliminating Glendalough later).

Alternatively you can turn south and see Rock of Cashel, then head north to Dublin.

For castle ruins, I really liked Blarney castle but the best are probably Rock of Cashel toward the South and Castle Trim, north of Dublin.

In the Dublin area you can see Glendalough, if you missed Clonmacnoise, Newgrange and Castle Trim plus sites in Dublin.

I'm not a big fan of either Ring of Kerry or Dingle (probably because scenic drives aren't my favorite, especially when you are in a slowly moving line of scenic drivers). If you go, be sure to stop and see the sites on the routes (chapel on Dingle, Ft. Staig on Kerry).

Posted by
1035 posts

Don't take a chance -- get the insurance! Driving in the RoI is a real experience. Should you have the misfortune of destroying a tire (into a curb for instance), you will probably be on your own in paying for it though.... Other than that, you should be covered (assume you and the car may get some close encouters with branches).

Consider some time in the North of Ireland. Great beauty and fascinating people. Very safe these days too (although it has always been fairly safe for Americans). I did a semester at QUB during the height of "the troubles" and despite the armed patrols, I never once felt in danger.

Posted by
5 posts

Thank you all for the great advice! I have been able to start a new itinerary which includes the Cliffs, The Burren, Dingle, Cashel and Dublin. However, we are still not sure if we should drive straight to Dublin from Cashel or go to Glendalough first.

We will definitely be getting insurance for our rental car! Sounds like its a must!

We found a few B&B's and hostels along our path that we are interested in. Some will not allow us to book until 4-5 months in advance and some appear to be already booked! We are afraid that if we wait until we get there, we might have limited options and pay more. What is the best time to book (to get the best prices) if we are traveling the 2nd week of September?

Posted by
9363 posts

You won't pay more for a B&B in September just because you book at the last minute. I've traveled to Ireland several times and on all but the first trip I have booked on the fly and never been turned away. It's very unlikely that you will have trouble finding a place.

Posted by
416 posts

One bit of advice--unless you have nerves of steel, I do not recommend leaving Dingle Peninsula by way of Conor Pass. It IS absolutely gorgeous scenery, but the road narrows to a single lane at the same time you are negotiating cliff-hung switchbacks. We were very fortunate not to meet any traffic coming from the opposite direction, but even still the very narrow road and steep drop-off were unnerving.

Posted by
4 posts

I agree with Nancy--tho no doubt you're there and back by now. Conor Pass was exactly as she described. I drove it solo back in 2000...big sigh of relief when I was down!