Ireland Vacation - help me plan it please

So the wife and I need to get away and neither of us have been to Ireland. We’re thinking about going at end of April/early May.

In looking into it, there seems to be so much to do/see that I’m having trouble even laying out a rough itinerary. So thought I’d see what recommendations people have.

Here’s some rough background info.

We’ll plan on 8 to 10 days (including travel).

We’d prefer to pick 3 places as base camps, with day trips in those locales (this is what we did in our vacation to Tuscany last year, which worked extremely well for us). So the problem we’re having is picking those locales.

Will probably rent a car (except for when in Dublin). So thinking about flying into Dublin, spending 2 or 3 days there, then heading out.

We’re not into nightlife. Both into scenery, I lean towards history (I hear Ireland’s got a slight bit of history, no? :slight_smile: ), she’d like to do some shopping. Oh, and food. But not drinkers.

I’m a terribly photographer, but love to take photos.

That’s about it. Any advice on which areas we should put on our list of places to see?

I can tell you my personal experience. My wife and I spent 14 days in Ireland in 1999.We flew into Dublin and stayed 2 days (similar to your plan,) then rented a car and drove ourselves the rest of the time. We did not make it to the north. Our route after Dublin was directly west, to Galway, then south along the edges, back to Dublin.

Random tidbits:

  • Driving, particularly along the southwest coast, can be an adventure. The roads can be narrow, and without guard rails on high sea cliffs, somewhat treacherous. We had never driven in a “drive on the left” country before, so it took some getting used to, but after a few hours you acclimate.

  • Definitely try to get to the Cliffs of Moher in Galway. Stunning views.

  • There is scenery all over. Ruins and old castles you just stumble upon.

  • Blarney Castle. We expected kitschy, touristy crap. It’s beautiful. The grounds are gorgeous to walk around, and kissing the Blarney Stone was one of my all-time favorite “super tourist” things to do.

  • It was truly the prettiest landscape we’ve traveled. We’ll definitely go back, and try the north next time.

ETA: I’m envious!

Last summer we got to Blarney, Kinsale, Dublin, and Belfast.

I second Southern Yankee. Kissing the Blarney Stone is hokey, but do you seriously want to go to Blarney then spend the next 10 years wondering and explaining to people why you didn’t do it? Do it even if the line is long, check it off the Bucket List.

If we had more time, we definitely would have spent more time in Belfast and Northern Ireland. We used most of our limited time to visit Giant’s Causeway (Pictures: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5).

We also would have taken the time to see the Book of Kells at Trinity College in Dublin. Instead we walked right past it. :frowning:

Blarney Castle. Castle grounds. More castle grounds. Warning: Steep stairway in the castle isn’t for the faint of heart. Kinsale.

On the East Coast of Ireland, about an hour’s drive north of Dublin is the lovely Carlingford, with its lough and mountains.

South of Dublin you’ve got Glendalough, and other areas of scenic beauty in Co. Wicklow, not too long a drive either.

FWIW I started a thread over at Mellophant about visiting Ireland you might find useful.

They are beautiful but in County Clare. Also, if planning to visit make sure to check the predicted visibility. The day myself and my partner went it was impossible to see a thing. :frowning:

Galway is a good base for the Cliffs of Moher and the surrounding countryside. It’s also a very pretty town in and of itself.

Definitely go to Glendalough. Gorgeous scenery.

I loved the West of Ireland. Specifically, the Ring of Kerry, the Dingle Peninsula, Galway and take the ferry to the Aran Islands. Around Dublin, Glendalough was awesome, and don’t miss Newgrange. About Dublin - if you’re into cities it’s cool; I’m not really a city person so I’d skip it for the smaller towns and villages. I visited Giant’s Causeway, but it was so cold and windy that day I didn’t take a lot of time there. I’d love to see it on a milder day. Donegal was nice. Cobh is a must if you’re a Titanic fan, the museum there is interesting even if you’re not.

Have fun! Ireland is beautiful!

Ireland remains my favorite vacation ever (both times). I would definitely pick Killarney as one of your bases. You can see the Ring of Kerry and Dingle Peninsula from there, and the National Park is definitely worth visiting.

Since you’re into history and scenery, you MUST try to find your way out to Skellig Michael. It’s a tiny island thrusting out of the sea, with old beehive huts at the top that monks used to live in centuries ago. You have to get there by boat and climb a LOT of stairs to get to the top, so you need to be able-bodied (and not being afraid of heights helps). A limited amount of people are allowed on each day, and going is weather dependent. It’s soooooooooo worth it, I cannot recommend it highly enough.

Cliffs of Moher are definitely worth a stop, as others said. If you do make it to Galway, make sure you drive out to Connemara. Lots of sheep and the scenery is amazing.

I know you said you are not much for nightlife, but don’t visit Ireland without going out to a traditional music session (and not one of the cheesy tourist ones). I recommend going to Dingle for that - it’s a tiny town on the west coast, pretty close to the Cliffs of Moher, but had the best music we heard while there. We literally sat 5 feet from the musicians and the entire pub was grooving along. Exquisite.

I am fresh from my trip, two weeks ago. Be sure to spend the extra for an automatic rental, it’s just too weird to shift left handed, and since the whole world is driving backwards, it’s one less distraction to have an automatic. The new dual carriageway to Galway from Dublin is two lanes, wide, and an easy drive. I would like to suggest a stay of one night in Doolin, which is just north of the cliffs. Maybe stay in Galway the day before, it’s a nice town that has exploded in size in the last decade, but there is a nice ‘old town’ pedestrian mall that is pretty nice. But really, it’s a big city, and the funnest part of Ireland are the small towns. Take the N67 to R479 and R478 to Doolin to see some cool rural Ireland. Old castles and abandoned stone homes, lush green fields, old stone walls, etc.

After Doolin, if you’re up for a 4 hour drive and a short ferry ride in Donogrogue, Dingle is one of my favorite towns in Ireland. And the Connor Pass road running from Ballyduff south to Dingle is an absolutely amazing drive, if you aren’t afraid of heights. I am, and I still take it, because it is breathtaking. And the benefit coming from the north is you’ll be on the side of the road huggin the mountain, and not hugging the ancient stone crumbly wall and precipice to certain death.

The ring of Kerry is always a popular tourist spot, it’s a road that goes around the Kerry peninsula. I wasn’t impressed, and found Dingle peninsula to be far more charming, but I’ve known others that disagree.

Guinness in Ireland is actually better than here. Be sure to have some. And if you get good and rip roarin’ drunk in Galway or Gort, be sure to swing by the Abacababra and pick up some taco fries. mmmMmmMmm. Grease.

And if you are in a grocery store, be sure to go to the cookie (bisquit) aisle and get some Penguins and Polos. You’ll thank me later.

I love north Galway Bay myself, but it is still very rural up there, and doesn’t have as many tourist amenities. Some of the B&Bs didn’t look very appealing, and some were downright amazing looking. Do your research. Swing by Rossmuc and see my Great Great Grampas house and say hi to Great Aunt Kate! Well, probably not, but there is a ferry from Rosaveel to the must-see Aran Islands. It’s worth a visit. Considering your plan, you could continue to use a Galway home base and see North Galway bay area. And by April/May the Ferry from Galway to Aran Islands should be running, if you want to go from there.


Just some thought from an occasional tourist:

If you have to chose between the Ring of Kerry and the Dingle Peninsula, go with Dingle.

North of Dublin is the Boyne Valley. It gives you the best of landscape, ruins, prehistoric monuments and history. It will surely take a full day to do it right.

While nightlife may not be your thing all sorts of pubs and restaurants have music in the evenings. There are several places in the hills (mountains?) outside Dublin that are a delight for both food and traditional music. Same for the West – Ennis and Doolin and Galway.

The Bunrady Folk Park outside Tipperary is worth the visit although you may well chose to skip the “medieval banquet” at the castle. If you go there the adjacent pub, Dirty Nelly’s, is a great place for lunch and a half pint.

Driving is an experience what with unlit farm implements on high speed carriage way in the dark, narrow primary roads, eons old stone bridges built for carts and wagons. You will notice that there is a grove routed in the roadside hedges that the side view mirror just fits into. It is all too easy to turn the wrong way at round-abouts and at multi-lane city intersections.

On Eating, the full Irish breakfast will keep you going until evening. Most hotels serve a short breakfast as part of the room rent but for a little more money you can have a repast that will have you stuffed for the day.

This is essentially what we did when my wife and I visited this past September. We stayed at a different bed and breakfast each night, but if we go back I’m going to lobby for longer stays at fewer locations.
Based on your scenery and history (the whole island has lots of both) I’d recommend staying in a smaller town in the southwest, like Kenmare, and touring the peninsulas (Dingle, Kerry, Beara).

I’ll add my vote for the surprisingly non-lame Blarney Castle. The tour of the Rock of Cashel was also cool. And, even when packed to the gills with sun-starved Dubliners on weekend holiday, the Cliffs of Moher were spectacular.

Newgrange was awesome, don’t miss it. If I the time, I would have liked to go to Knowth, too.

Here’s my incomplete album of my trip. I could start up a thread on how to take good pictures on vacation if you think you could get something out of it. (I had a photography class going at Mellowphant, but I don’t really post there anymore.)

True about the mirror marks in the hedges. I didn’t find roundabouts too bad; for me it was turning out of parking lots and such.

I’ve done Ireland two ways - I’ve rented a car and stayed in B&Bs, and I’ve participated in a full coach tour with nice hotels. The B&B’s are an economical alternative and IMO, a much better way to see Ireland. It’s like staying in someone’s home. Look for board rated B&B’s; they are inspected and are held to a certain standard. The B&B’s full Irish breakfast will keep you going all day and are included in the price of your room. Hotels are nice, but staying in the B&B’s felt more authentic. There’s nothing like getting up in the morning and chatting with your hosts over breakfast. When I did it in 2003 most B&B’s weren’t more than $30 (US) per night.

Yes, unfortunately that happened to several visitors when I was living in County Clare. If the weather does get nasty in and you are in that area then give Bunratty Castle and Folkpark a shot. Yes, it’s touristy, but is it quite nicely done. For the folkpark bit they actually moved a few traditional cottages stones by stone. It does tick the history box.

And yes, I do suggest to base yourself in Clare or Galway for a least part of your trip. Don’t miss The Burren, which is an area of rocky beauty just south of Galway. I guarantee this is a failsafe photography situation, especially the dolmen (see link) makes for beautiful atmospheric pics, different every day depending on the light and weather.

Oh and even though you say you don’t like nightlife, Co. Clare and Co. Galway have an incredibly rich traditional music tradition which it would be a real shame to miss out on. If you really don’t fancy the pub scene then ask a the tourist office as they often put on lunchtime concerts in Summer.

2 Days in Dublin and then get to the country.

In Dublin I’d definitly go to Kilmainham Gaol

. It’s got a guided tour and an audio-visual show. The place in radioactive with Irish history. You stand in the area where Pearce, Connolly and the rest of the 1916 leaders were executed and lots more. It was also in lots of movies.

Another must do is the Dublin Literary Pub Crawl, Don’t worry it’s more literary than crawl. You have two actors bringing you on a walking tour of central Dublin with stops in street locations to act out sections of works by likes of Wilde, Yeats, O’Casey, Behan and Joyce. The also tells lots of great stories. It’s very funny and VERY popular so book early. I’ve brought about 20-30 tourists on the tour myself over the years and every one of them loved it. You stop off at about 2-3 pubs on the way for 15-20 mins stops. It takes about 2-3 hours and is a great way to spend a nice night in Dublin.

The Guinness tour is alright but there are other things to do. The building is impressive but the tour is very heavily based on their advertising.

The National Museum and Art Gallery are very central and free.

The Tourist Busses are a great way to get to nearly all of the stops you’ll be looking for and some you may not know about. They are the usual deal. Buy a ticket and hop on and off all day.

I’d then head for Head for Kerry, do the Ring of Kerry and then head for Galway. Go for a drive around Galway Bay, stunning senery and great people. The Cliffs of Moher and the Burren are stunning. The Islands are great fun as well.

Donegal is also beautiful and full of good music and people.

Don’t get bogged down in Dublin. It’s a city. See it and move on. The Ireland I’d guess you’re looking for is outside the cities.

Have a great time.

Wow, some fantastic information and ideas here. Definitely leaning towards the Galway area now (Aran, Moher, etc) and Dingle/Kerry. Probably will limit Dublin to 2 days now based on these comments.

There’s also Cork, the second biggest City in the country. Flying into Cork Airport you’re a short drive from Blarney and Kinsale, as well as a slightly longer journey to Kerry.

Cork City itself is much smaller than Dublin so its easier to get around, both on foot and by car, and has an atmosphere and culture different to anywhere else in Ireland. Its still big enough to have the feel of a city though. It has a pretty good night life, not just packed clubs with young people. Theres pubs to suit every taste. I’m biased but the people are more laid back down here. You just have to learn that we stick “like” at the end of every sentence like. Cork was also voted one of Lonely Planets top 10 cities to visit.

Also there is Cork Harbour which is full of truely outstanding views, like the area around Crosshaven and Blackrock castle. Theres also Cobh which is great during the day.

The Dublin to Cork motorway is almost finished so driving between the two no is a much more pleasant experience and only takes around 3 hours, with dual carraigeway all the way except for a short gap halfway. This should be finished towards the end of the year. The roads to Killarney, West Cork and Waterford are for the most part easy to drive. The only truely bad road in these parts is the road to Limerick/Galway. Making your way up to Dublin and then across to the West might be the better option.

Oh and one thing unique to Ireland that you can do, and as a rugby fan this pains me, but catching a game of Hurling would be a great idea. Especially if your visit coincides with the All-Ireland Championship, although tickets for those matches can be hard to come by. Fastest field sport in the world apparently.

I have just planned a two week plus holiday to Ireland. Basically what you intend to do- a few days in Dublin then two weeks of driving.

We have chosen two bases for a week each- self accommodation cottages- and will drive from there. I have started planning each day and put that into a spreadsheet so we have all the closest “must sees” listed. The bases are Clonakilty and Achill Island.

I was in Ireland in 1999 and did much the same thing then. If you have any questions please ask or PM.

I second this advice (of course, if you look at my Location field, you might spot a posssible source of bias ;)).

Even though Cork is Ireland’s 2nd biggest city, it’s of a much more manageable size than Dublin, and has much less of that “big city feel” that Dublin does. In addition to being worth seeing in its own right, there’s plenty to see and do within a 2-hour drive of Cork.

Others have mentioned Blarney and Kinsale, there’s also also Kilkenny (has one of Ireland’s largest and best-preserved castles, more of a mini-palace than a military installation), Youghal (old, walled seaport with great old architecture) and Mizen’s Head (spectacular cliff views off Ireland’s SW tip - as impressive as Cliffs of Moher in its own way). My own personal favorite place to take friends who visit is the Rock of Cashel (fascinating history and magnificent views).

Personally, if I were you, I’d make Dublin, Cork, and Galway my bases and venture out on day-trips from there. You can get to pretty much all the standout sights within a 2-hour drive from any of those cities.

Yeah but it’s full of langers.