My wife and I and our then 22 month old will be traveling to Ireland this summer. We have 10 days and plan to spend 2-3 in Dublin. However, we have learned on our past travels that often our favorite times are spent out of the cities and enjoying the countryside. We will be renting a car, but I don't know which direction we should go. The Rock of Cashel looks interesting, but I'm not 100% committed to that direction. We plan to do the Hill of Tara and other sites right near Dublin, but other than that we're open. We would prefer to go somewhere there is likely to be self-catering cottages since we will want at least one bedroom so we have a place to be when the baby is sleeping. The plan is to make our way out to a larger city, drop the car off, spend a day or two, and then take the train back to Dublin to fly home. But I don't know if we should go in the direction of Waterford, Killarney, Galway, or Cork. Thoughts?
The most scenic parts of Ireland, IMHO and according to most of the guidebooks, is on the west coast. Focus on County Galway for Connemara and access to the largest Aran Island and on County Kerry and County Cork for the five peninsulas on the southwest coast. You might want to split your west coast time between Dingle town and the Sleahead drive west of there and Kenmare from which you can access both the Beara Peninsulas and the Ring of Kerry. Both those towns have several options for music pubs; when we were in Kenmare last April, several pubs had early music sets (around 7 P.M.); the usual start time for music is closer to 9:30 or 10:00. With your limited time I would skip the Rock of Cashel - it takes about 2 hours to see it and the town where it is located is very touristy.,,,,Since you say your favorite vacation times are usually out of the cities, you might even consider skipping Dublin so you have more time for the scenery on the west coast. You could use Shannon airport instead of Dublin.
I wouldn't skip Cashel....the Rock of Cashel was worth seeing. And quite a backdrop for some great photos. We spent our first night there after leaving Dublin. We are skipping Dublin this year and flying into Shannon, because we really fell in love with Western Ireland on our first visit. Dingle and the Slea Head drive were amazing. The Lighthouse B&B in Dingle was so great, we added another night there. They look out over Dingle Bay and the hosts are quite congenial. We also enjoyed seeing Muckross House in Killarney National Park. The grounds there would be perfect for your 22 month old to run around on their own. And there are also pony carts there that will take you on a jaunt through the park.
Of the places you list I would recommend Galway hands down. Not only is the town great but it is perfect place for day trips to other places on the west coast.
I've been to Ireland several times and I second Cynthia's advice. The SW part of Ireland is beautiful. I fly into and out of Shannon.
3 days Dublin, 3 days Galway and 3 days Killarney or Dingle. Plenty to see and explore with these 3 bases.