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Western Ireland - Best Central Location

Our family of 5 will be in Ireland in mid-June for 14 days. The first 3 days will be spent in the Southwest - near the rings of Kerry and Dingle and the last three days will be spent near Dublin. For the week in between (Saturday-Saturday), we prefer to rent a cottage and do day trips to various points reachable by car within a reasonable amount of time (2 hours each way or 4 hours total is usually our max). We're looking for dramatically beautiful vistas more than beaches or pubs. The occasional cute village or castle is always a plus, but it's more about the vistas and potential for great photo-ops and rewarding short hikes. I don't really feel like I have a handle on where a good central location would be for the cottage rental that would maximize the scenery without creating too much driving time. Of course, given six full days to drive in different directions over various loop routes, we also want to touch upon as much of Western Ireland as is practical. Somewhere near Galway seems logical, but which offers the most "reach" as a base - North of Galway or South, Near the coast or inland?

I can read a map well enough, but any opinion based on personal experience would be greatly appreciated. Thank you...

Posted by
9363 posts

Donegal is in the northwest, not the southwest. Galway seems a bit far north for what you want to do. Because the driving can be SO slow, particularly in the west, there really isn't one good central place to base yourself. You might have to choose a couple. Otherwise, you'll be spending way too much time in the car.

Posted by
1437 posts

If your priority is -in fact- dramatic scenery, then I'd say to shift your thinking a bit: start with your 3 days in the south-center somewhere - i.e. near Cahir or Cashel (quick drive if you're coming into Shannon), then spend your week of cottage rental either in the south-west or in the north-west, near the coast.

Look for a one week rental near ONE of these:

The Burren - my personal choice - (the Burren, Cliffs of Moher, Loop Head drive, plus the rich archeological and monastic sites are fabulous for short hikes ie. the area around Dysert O'Dea!)
North of Galway (the Connemara, the northern part of the Burren, Inagh Valley, the area around Clifden, the Arran Islands)
County Donegal (Slieve League, Leghowney Loop, Horn Head)
Near Killarney (Rings of Beara and Kerry, Dingle Peninsula)

Don't underestimate the driving times - the roads with the dramatic scenery photo ops are very slow going...

End in the Dublin area as planned.

I don't envy you, as you have very hard choices to make: Ireland is one country where you can't see everything that you'd like the first time! ;-)

Posted by
1525 posts

Oooops. I meant Dingle, rather than Donegal. It's now fixed in the header....

If logistically practical, I would like to see a bit of Donegal in the Northwest, however.

Posted by
1888 posts

I agree with Burren, we are looking to rent a cottage there in May, love the area. Beautiful scenery.

Posted by
1437 posts

OK - the corrections to the header and in the text make more sense to me now for your overall post.

To be more precise, I would recommend a one week rental somewhere between Lahinch and Ballyvaughan, in County Clare (south of Galway). There's lots of stuff in/near the Burren that would interest families (caves, ringforts with sheep dog demonstrations, dolmens, boat excursions, etc.), in addition to the beautiful scenery. Loop Head is a must!!!

Your first 3 days would make sense where you want. I would recommend the 3 days near Killarney, or Kenmare if you decide to include the Beara Peninsula (which we enjoyed much more than the Dingle, last June).

Posted by
1525 posts

The thing that is giving me the most trouble is this;

Galway (or just South of it) would seem to be the ideal point to branch off from as it would allow realistic driving times to most points in both County Galway and Clare (and maybe even a bit of Southern Mayo). But I definitely don't want to rent a place in Galway. I want something more rural. And given the bay that divides much of County Galway and Clare, any location on either side of the bay makes driving to the other side very time consuming.

We're definitely going to get a good look at the Cliffs of Moher one way or another, but once that is done, I'm wondering if County Clare has so much else to see that really merits a whole week there at the expense of elsewhere vs. the somewhat larger area of County Galway and Mayo that would be rather easily accessible by car from a central location there.

Thanks for the suggestions so far...

Posted by
794 posts

North west Mayo would be my choice for dramatic, wild Irish beauty - But then I'm a Mayo man! Google some of the images for Achill, Belmullet, and Blacksod for a start...

Posted by
8 posts

one thing to think about with a short trip like this: unless you have really dialed the jet-lag thing, be prepared to be really out of it for about three days, minimum. i don't know what the right answer is, but what did NOT work for me was "arrive in ireland by plane then stay up until normal bedtime."

if you have a good solution for jet lag, please share! my future trips will be long ones (a month or more) just so i don't get sidelined by being really screwed up time-wise.

Posted by
1525 posts

We're actually on a 30-day trip covering as much of Ireland and Scotland Highlands as possible with a short re-visit to London (3 nights) and the English Lakes District (2 nights).

If I were by myself I would do the stay-up-'til-bedtime thing and just stumble through. But with the whole family, we have a typical routine that works for us; We arrive mid-morning and find our lodging, take a 2-3 hour nap until 4PM or so and then get out and do as much as possible until 9PM, then settle in for what we hope to be a normal night's sleep. Sometimes I wake up at 3AM and have trouble getting back to sleep and sometimes I wake up at 6AM and I'm pretty much good to go for the rest of the trip. The children seem to adapt faster. But this is our 7th such major jet-lag trip and this system - while not foolproof - works well enough for us.

Posted by
1525 posts

I appreciate all the suggestions and links everyone provided. I just wanted to let everyone know we have chosen our location for our 1-week rentals in both Scotland and Ireland on our trip this summer. You can read about it if you wish on our travel blog.

Posted by
81 posts

Randy, we just completed our 2nd visit to Ireland. The first time we tried to kill ourselves with one and 2 night stays. So this time we stayed just outside Donegal town off the N15 toward Letterkenny. One day we went to Glenveagh National Park. The 2nd day we went to Slieve League Cliffs (much more amazing than the tourist popular Cliffs of Moher). We absolutely loved Donegal town. We then drove to Clifden and spent 3 nights there. On the way, we stopped in Westport and Kylemore. So we turned a 3-4 hour drive into and all day trip. While in Clifden, one we hiked up Diamond Hill in Connemara National Park - absolutely breathtaking. The Sky Road drive out of Clifden is AMAZING and about the scariest drive I've ever done in Ireland!!! The drive to Roundstone and the little town are great as well. Our final day we drove to Galway for the Galway Christmas Market. On the way to Galway, we stopped and did some photos at the "Quiet Man" bridge of John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara fame - from the 1952 movie.

With all that said, Dingle is amazing and great as well. Trip 3 in a couple of years, just may be a "D & D" trip - Donegal & Dingle!