Travel/accomodations/sights in Ireland

I've finally settled on a spot to take my daughter for five days during her study abroad vacation. We are going to go to Ireland...but we only have five days. I've been listening to Steve Ricks' podcasts, etc., and reading online, but am still not sure what I'm doing. I have real dietary restrictions, so I think renting an apartment is my best bet so we can prepare our own food. I want to experience the people, so it feels like a pub is a necessity. I want to get in as many sights as possible, so does it make sense to fly into Shannon, maybe, rent a car, find a spot right in the middle of the country to call home, and then take a day trip every day to go out to the sights we want to see? I'd want to be very close to a pub with music so we can experience all of that, especially with it getting dark by 5:00 p.m. (We'll be there Nov. 19-26.) My other thought is to start in one spot and then just stay in B&B with those vouchers and travel up, around, down, and back again. I wouldn't be able to eat the food, but we wouldn't be tied to one spot. Any suggestions, and what are your top gotta-see sights? I want to see that ARan (sp?) island if possible in November, and my ancestors a couple generations back are from Cork. We're not big into shopping, and after doing Italy and France, seeing lots of cathedrals doesn't feel like a real priority. Can't wait to see what you have to say. Thanks so much. Tami

Posted by Nancy
Bloomington, IL, USA
7683 posts

There are several islands that make up the Aran Islands. Unfortunately, in November, the weather might prevent you getting to see them. The ferries cannot go out if the weather is bad or the water too rough. It is possible that you could get out there and not get back till the next day (or the next). With just a few days to play with, I wouldn't add it to my list. Flying into Shannon is a good idea, since there are a lot of things to do right around the Shannon area. I haven't used the Rick Steves book for Ireland, so I don't know what he recommends. I would make sure you saw the Cliffs of Moher, Bunratty, maybe hear some trad music in Doolin or Galway, maybe drive over to Rock of Cashel or down to Cork/Blarney. I can't imagine what dietary restriction would prevent eating any food. Irish people have dietary restrictions, too, and surely you can find some way around whatever it is.

Posted by Gail
Downingtown, USA
1562 posts

Nancy has great ideas. Suggest Doolin, we really enjoyed trad music there. We also liked Bunratty, not the castle but the park next to it with replicas of homes, stores, etc. Touristy but interesting. Also preferred Cashel over Blarney but you can certainly do both. I would not get one central location, would just go from place to place each night. Look for a B&B with a shamrock on the sign, means they have met certain guidelines from tourist bureau although some are much better than the other. Enjoy.

Posted by Tamera
Kaysville, Utah, Usa
34 posts

Thank you for the suggestions. I will steer clear of the Aran islands. The dietary restrictions are huge, and really affect everything we can do. I can only eat fruits, grains, and vegetables. That means no meat, fish, dairy, cheese, oils. A B&B is going to put on a beautiful spread that includes all of that (and, of course, they have to charge for all of that), and I will be retiring to my room to have oatmeal. It seems as though I could save a lot by just renting an apartment and preparing my own meals and then going to a pub to hear the music and meet the locals. I'll check into those sights that were suggested here. My fear of going someplace different every night is that the apartments usually charge a hefty cleaning fee, and if I stay in one or two places, it's a lot more affordable than paying for a cleaning every night. Back to the internet. Thanks again for any responses and suggestions!

Posted by Nancy
Bloomington, IL, USA
7683 posts

Irish oatmeal is the best in the world, and it was available at every B&B I stayed in. They will also have fruit/juices.

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17789 posts

Tamera, "I've been listening to Steve Ricks' podcasts, etc." Was the name reversal an unintentional typo? Regarding your questions..... With only five days, you could split the time between the Shannon area and perhaps Dublin. It would help to know where you'll be departing to after your Ireland visit? Just about anywhere in Ireland will have good Pubs. Will the "dietary restrictions" allow you to enjoy a pint? Dingle is a great town for both Pubs and local music, although I'm not sure how "active" they will be in November. There are also some interesting sites in that area such as the Gallarus Oratory and the Blasket Islands Interpretive Centre. You could also spend the entire time in Dublin and take a few day tours. That would save some money on a rental car. There are lots of Pubs in the Temple Bar district, and lots of choices in restaurants. I suspect that you'll have an easier time finding "special foods" in a larger centre such as Dublin. Happy travels!

Posted by Tamera
Kaysville, Utah, Usa
34 posts

Ken, Yep, I blew that one. Having two last/first names, I bet he's gotten that before. :} Gosh, I put in another 8-hour day studying sites, mapquest, etc., etc., trying to get this trip down. Glad you just wrote. I'm thinking right now of starting in Shannon and doing day trips to Clare, Cork, Kerry trying to fit in everything we can while in the area, like Ring of Kerry, Dingle Peninsula, Slea Head, Cliffs of Moher, Doolin, Blarney Castle, and whatever I find between now and when I go, plus whatever I pick up in the pub. And no, I can't take in the "spirits" at the pubs, but sure want the music. I've been agonizing all afternoon/evening over whether to go into Northern Ireland and stay there, or go to Dublin. I haven't booked my flight or rented the car because I'm not sure of those details. Your post planted a seed. I wonder if we could land in Dublin, see sights there (although I'm not into shopping and museums and cathedrals as much as I'd like to see the landscape/people/ruins) and not pick up a car for a few days, then get the car and drive to Shannon and finish up there with the sights I mentioned, turn the car in there and leave from Shannon instead of having to come back. Dublin and Northern Ireland I haven't looked into as much and need to study those more to see what would be our must-sees. This board has been so unbelievably helpful. SPeaking ignorantly here, but if Dublin is just big city stuff, we could take our day trips north from Dublin for three days and then head to Shannon. I think I'm going to have to go sleep on this one. Thanks, again, Ken, for the thought.

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17789 posts

Tamera, Regarding your last reply, your list of day trips looks a bit "ambitious" for a five-day time frame. Be sure to allow for adequate travel times, especially when travelling by car. You might consider packing along a GPS unit along with a good Map, as some of the roads are not well marked. I've also observed a few signs in Gaeltacht areas where the English words were covered by black spray paint. Be sure to check the opening and closing times for places you'll be visiting (ie: the Visitor Centre at the Cliffs of Moher is open 09:15-17:00 in November). Some may be operating on reduced winter hours. Cheers!

Posted by Tamera
Kaysville, Utah, Usa
34 posts

Gee, I thought I had this all figured out. I had an apartment figured out and day trips from Shannon. I'm so surprised at the time all this takes. Can't wait to get there!!!

Posted by Tamera
Kaysville, Utah, Usa
34 posts

Do you think Dublin would work as a base camp for Northern Ireland, or am I better off in Belfast or somewhere else? If I don't have to switch to pounds, I'd prefer it, but I'm nervous about driving in Dublin.

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17789 posts

Tamera, IMO, Dublin would not be an "ideal" home base for touring Belfast or other points in the north, due to the travel times back and forth. One of the reasons I suggested Dublin is that would offer a wider variety of day tours, rather than renting a car. There should be lots to keep busy with in that area for five days. As you noted, touring in the north will involve another currency change, so Belfast and sights in that area might be best left for another visit.

Posted by Tamera
Kaysville, Utah, Usa
34 posts

Thanks so much. On of RS's podcasts I think said a trip to Ireland is not complete without a trip to Northern Ireland...but he wasn't talking about a five-day trip!!! So you'd suggest dropping Northern Ireland for Dunlin if we can only dedicate two or three days?

Posted by Diane
Ottawa
1156 posts

Tami, I would second Ken's suggestion about sticking to in & around Dublin for the 5 days and NOT getting a car. Look up a couple of the threads that discuss driving (slow) and car rentals (expensive!) in Ireland. Your 5 days will go by very quickly as it is! One thing you can do is take the bus to Kilkenny from Dublin and overnight there (easy walking for the castle, pubs, a brewery, music, etc.). Or take a bus directly from DUB airport into Belfast & back to Dublin the next day. The buses are cheap and would be a great way to meet locals, too. http://www.translink.co.uk/Services/Goldline/RoutesTimetables/All-Timetables/
http://www.buseireann.ie/inner.php?id=246 Check out a website like Viator.com to see what kind of daytrips you can do right from Dublin; you wouldn't have to pack/unpack your suitcases and give yourself a headache driving. Right off the bat, I can think of the Boyne River Valley as a good daytrip (Newgrange, Hill of Tara, etc,) or the Wicklow Mountains & Glendalough another day. My advice is to bite a piece of Ireland that will be fun and not a huge stress. :-)

Posted by Tamera
Kaysville, Utah, Usa
34 posts

Well, I'm back. We're settled in on Ireland for sure. Bought the tickets. Now I'm starting all over with accomdations/car. Ryanair took us to Shannon as the cheapest route...so is it safe to drive on that side? Seems like it wouldn't be as crowded. I'm thinking we could do Monday - Wednesday seeing the sights on that side, and then Wednesday head to Dublin and park the car and do things in Dublin. Saturday our flight is at 5:00 so was thinking we could get back in the car and head back to Shannon and sightsee along the way. Any opinions on that one? I am getting a little nervous about driving from what a couple of you have said, and originally thought just meandering around that side of the island at our own pace would be relaxing and liberating instead of tying us to bus schedules. Opinions?

Posted by Tamera
Kaysville, Utah, Usa
34 posts

We arrive about 9:30 a.m. (the reason we went to Shannon), so we have the full day.

Posted by John
Dublin, Ireland
105 posts

Driving in Ireland is as safe as houses, just be aware that you're driving on the other side of the road, sure the roads in the West of Ireland (and other country roads as well) can be narrow (you may even be lucky enough to drive on roads that have grass growing up the middle) but unless you're a Sebastian Vettel wannabee you'll have no trouble. There is a motorway (highway?) between Dublin and Shannon, takes 2 hours to drive, you will meet/see the odd car along the way but it certainly won't be crowded. Parking the car in Dublin is probably a sensible idea, driving in Dublin isn't as difficult as its cracked up to be but if you're not used to it why put yourself through the hassle. There is little to see on the drive between Dublin and Shannon (except the countryside of course) so you might want to detour via maybe Kilkenny or Cashel to see some more sights. Arriving in Shannon and heading out west to the Cliffs of Moher and Doolin you will be driving through Clare, Gods own county (thats where I'm originally from so I would say that). Don't be nervous, relax, and above all have a great time over here with us.

Posted by Tamera
Kaysville, Utah, Usa
34 posts

Do you think it would be safe to just find one B&B near Shannon for the first night and then wing it from there as we see where the road takes us? Or during this time is it a better bet to book them all ahead of time?

Posted by Gail
Downingtown, USA
1562 posts

What time of day are you arriving in Shannon? I forgot what you originally said but I think you are going soon, yes? If so, remember it gets dark about five pm. We only booked our first night ahead as were coming from states. Other than that,we would just wing it. First trip there
years ago was in December and we did not have problems finding an open B&B. There is a lot you can do in Shannon area but you need to look at guidebooks and maps to decide what you "must" see and what you want to see. Did not find driving too stressful, just going around traffic circles, if you miss the exit, just go around again. Enjoy.

Posted by Nancy
Bloomington, IL, USA
7683 posts

On my very first trip to Ireland, we arrived at the same time that you will. By the time we collected bags, did the rental car desk paperwork, went to the restroom, waited for the shuttle to the rental car site, got instructions, and hit the road, it was headed toward noon. We drove first to Bunratty, just six miles away. We saw the castle, checked out the little shopping center across the road, and had lunch. We had made a B&B reservation in Liscannor, about an hour away. Once we got there and checked in, we drove to Doolin for dinner, intending to stay for the music later. But we were so tired that we just went back to the B&B and went to bed early. Coming from the UK, you won't have the jet lag issue, but it still might be a good idea to stay fairly near Shannon the first night. There is a lot to see there.

Posted by Tamera
Kaysville, Utah, Usa
34 posts

Oh, thanks! I'm going to see if I can retrace your steps. I am trying to plan this in the middle of work meetings, etc., and can't even find a decent map so I don't know what's close enough to what, and I've been told the driving is slow, etc., so I don't know how close/far to get to sights. Would like to stay in one area for two or three nights and get to sights if we need to book ahead, or if it's safe to gamble that we'll find something, just follow a rough map and find some place along the way. At this point I wish I could throw it in the lap of a tour guide! Sure appreciate your details.

Posted by Judy
Adelaide, SA, Australia
802 posts

Google the AA Ireland site. This will enable you to work out distances, times between various towns. Also it will give you decent directions.

Posted by Elaine
Columbia, SC
749 posts

Is that Alcoholica Anonymous - Ireland? just joking.....