I am asking for any advice on a reasonable 3-day travel itinerary for Ireland September. We would like to see the Dingle Peninsula and the Cliffs of Moher for sure. We will be flying into Ireland from London on the evening of September 10 and then sightseeing September 11-13 (we need to be back in Dublin the evening of the 13th to fly out to the US on the 14th). So question #1: is it best to fly into Limerick or Shannon and renting a car from there? #2: How long should we expect the drive to be from these airports to Dingle on September 11 and how long from Dingle to the Cliffs of Moher? #3: any recommendations on renting a car (ie returning it to a different city than renting it from, getting an automatic car versus manual, etc)? Also, after returning the rental car, we need to get to Dublin since we are flying out of Dublin back to the US. #4: Should we make Dublin more of a priority to see as opposed to more time in Dingle and seeing the Cliffs? Any help on the details of this itinerary is much appreciated!!!
I'm a little confused. Shannon airport is a few miles from Limerick. I am unaware of an airport at Limerick itself. And you say you want to return to Dublin AFTER you return your rental car? How are you planning to get to Dublin, and from where? I would suggest flying into Shannon and staying in the Bunratty area that night (just six miles from the airport). You can see the castle and folk park the next morning, then drive to the Cliffs (slightly over an hour's drive). Then drive to Dingle, via the Killimer-Tarbert ferry (about four hours). Spend the next day in Dingle, driving Slea Head and seeing the town, then spend day #3 driving back to Dublin. Dingle to Dublin will be about seven hours with no stops, but you could easily manage a quick little detour to the Rock of Cashel. Turn in your car at the airport and stay nearby, then fly home the next day. Whether or not you should scrap seeing the two things you "for sure" want to see in order to see a city is up to you. There are great things to see and do in Dublin, but I think most people would agree that the "real" Ireland is somewhere outside the city. It's not a big deal to rent a car from Shannon and return it at Dublin (the fee to do so was minimal the last time I did it). Automatic vs stick depends on your ability to drive a stick in the first place. Shifting with the left hand isn't all that difficult, but getting an automatic would avoid that issue all together (but it would cost considerably more, usually).
With so little time, and since you are leaving from Dublin, I would suggest flying into Dublin as well and exploring sights closer to that city, if not allocating the entire time to Dublin. (My wife and I traveled to Ireland in 2002, though we did not visit Dingle we did visit the Cliffs and Dublin). Dublin is a nice place to visit, not the best of Ireland but a solid three full days type of city. You could theoretically do the Cliffs, Dingle and make it make to Dublin, but it's just way too much time in transit with only three full days. Take the driving times in Google maps and multiply by 1.5. If you do get a car, get an automatic and plenty of insurance. I have driven on the left on several trips, and I can drive a stick, but not both at the same time. Renting a car is pricey in Ireland especially with the CDW, which you will need as credit card coverage generally does not cover. On such a short trip, this just reinforces that it's not worth the trouble.