We’re taking the plunge and off the family goes for a 7 night stay in the Emerald Island. We’re staying at hotels & castles but passing on Blarney and cramming in a lot in the time we have.
Flying into Dublin and out of Shannon. 2 nights in Dublin and off to Tara & Newgrange then up to Donegal.Next is Sligo, Westport, Kylemore Abbey and the Connemara Heritage centre before arriving in Galway for two nights. The next day the Cliffs of Moher and the town of Doolin.
Are you taking one of the bus tours that go around Ireland?
I made a similar trip last year. Westport is my favorite Irish town–check out Westport House just outside the town while you’re there. Newgrange is a fascinating experience. If it’s not pouring rain every day, you’ll have a nice time. (Even if it rains every other day, you’ll still have a pretty good time. )
I always say this on here, but if you have some spare time in Dublin city centre, check out the Little Museum of Dublin. It’s exactly what the name says - a few rooms packed with anything interesting they could find that has to do with Dublin over the past hundred years.
Newgrange is awesome, I love going there. You should try and do Knowth as well, and if you have the time you can walk to Dowth as well to see what they would look like unrestored.
I know you probably don’t have the time, but if you’re in to the older stuff like Newgrange there’s a place near Sligo that is really remote but really pretty. It’s called Carrowkeel Megalithic Cemetery. The few times I’ve been there there might have been a person or two wandering around. I took my Irish friend one time who’s lived his entire life in the west and had never heard of it.
I’ve never really had a problem with the weather in Ireland except once, and that was in November and it was cold and rainy. I’ve never had a problem driving there either, though they do not accept the credit card insurance so you’ll have to buy it when you’re there.
We went last summer (one week in Ireland and one week in Scotland) and did one of the Vagabond tours because they have small groups. It was terrific. I adore both countries and their lovely peoples.
One of the most memorable parts of our tour was that our guide had arranged with a local farmer to give us a sheep herding demonstration. We learned that there are collie dogs that herd sheep in the traditional way, and there are also “creeper” collies who herd sheep by creeping around on their bellies. It sounds dumb the way I write it, but I saw in the demo that his creeper collie had more precise control of the sheep.
Good call on skipping Blarney. It’s a load of - well, blarney! However, if forced to go (we had it on our tour) then I can recommend the woolen mill that is there as some damned fine shopping. They have a wide variety of woolen jumpers (sweaters for Americans), scarves and tons of other clothing all made with local wool. I bought a slate gray woolen pullover jumper with a hood and tummy pockets. I still wear it tons now that I’m back home.
Nope, we did part of the Ring of Kerry, and it was down there somewhere. Our guide was a Dubliner and he was funny. He told us a few times “the people of Kerry are MAD!” (meant affectionately, I’m sure).
Seconding the Little Museum, I work very close to it.
Depending on where you want to go the bus and tram (Luas) will probably be adequate. However, be forewarned that there are vast tram works ongoing at the minute that are clogging up the city a lot, so allow a bit of extra time to get around.
Not sure where you are staying but much of what is worth seeing in Dublin is closely enough clustered that you can walk from one to another, Book of Kells at Trinity College, National Museum and Gallery and the Little Museum on St Stephen’s Green are all within 10 minute walk of each other.
For traditional Irish music it is hard to beat the Cobblestone in Smithfield square. However, it can get very packed.
Temple Bar is a sleazy, overpriced and overcrowded cesspit and is best avoided although some tourists do enjoy it. There are traditional sessions ongoing in numerous pubs in that area, the Oliver St John Gogarty being perhaps the most popular one.
I recommend the National Museum at Collins Barracks (built in 1704), IMMA at the Royal Hospital (built 1684) in Kilmainham that has beautiful architecture and gardens, and St Michan’s Church where you can go into the crypt and see mummies.
My wife and I visited Ireland twice and loved every minute of both trips. (Well, maybe not every minute - driving on some of those narrow roads can get a bit hairy!) We experienced a fantastic trad session in Doolin at one of the pubs there (there’s only I think three and two of them are across from each other). The bartender came out from behind the bar at one point and joined the group; it was magic. The lamb stew was quite tasty, too.
It’s too bad your wife is not into exploring piles of rocks because that was some of our favorite stuff - just driving around, spotting an old ruin and exploring, often with nobody else around and no tourist bullshit - really fantastic.
Kylemore Abbey is quite beautiful; you can get some great “postcard” pictures of it from a distance on the approach. Looks like a fairy tale castle.
Galway was fun - a little rowdy when we were there because the hurling championship was on, but small and walkable for exploring.
Some of our favorite parts were a little south of where you’re ending up (Killarney, Ring of Kerry, Dingle Peninsula, Skellig Michael), but I really don’t think you can go wrong. It’s incredibly beautiful country.
If you’re into history, Trinity College runs guided walking tours of the old area of Dublin. The tour guides are history students from the College. When we took the tour, it was about 45 minutes and our tour guide was working on her Ph.D. in Irish history. Very informative and fun.
One of her lines stuck with me: "If anyone tells you they understand Irish politics, that’s a good sign they don’t. "
And, do go see the Book of Kells. I’ve gone to a lot of history displays and seen a lot of old stuff, but I got a tingly feeling looking at it and suddenly thought: “That’s what my ancestors did, a long time ago.”