Vacation in Ireland - any suggestions?

I am working out my travel plans for next summer (step one: renew my passport…), which include three weeks in the Britain/Ireland area, and was considering 3-5 days in Ireland at the end of July. What is on the list of things I “have to” do while I’m there? (Please, don’t everybody say “Visit the Guinness plant” all at once…)

A few “ground rules”:
I’ll be traveling alone
I won’t have a car of my own, but have no problem with buses or trains
I don’t like guided tours, but will tolerate them if absolutely necessary (e.g. if that’s the only way to see, say, Giants Causeway)
I don’t “have to” be staying in Dublin
Please, no “Why don’t you go to Scotland/Wales/France/somewhere else instead” responses - I’ve already seen enough of Scotland and Wales in past trips

Get to Skellig Michael however you can.

It is one of the most beautiful places I have seen in my life, and I’ve seen a lot of places.

I love the Burren, a geologically and culturally beautiful and unique part of County Clare, along the west coast (it includes the Aran Islands, in Galway Bay). Great (easy-ish) hiking, great traditional music in village pubs, and the Cliffs of Moher. Parts have been “discovered” by purveyors of fine international cuisine and luxurious vacation rental homes, but much of it is still funky.

I’ve been on two trips to Ireland and North Ireland in recent years, and the things I remember most fondly are:

[li]Newgrange. If you don’t drive there, you can get a daytrip bus from Dublin. They let you go inside in little groups for about 15 minutes.[/li][li]The Giant’s Causeway. Lots of fun to climb around on.[/li][li]Westport is a very pretty town, and Westport House is less than a mile from it; you can walk to it on the path along the river.[/li][li]The Cliffs of Moher, but beware that it’s very windy on the cliff’s edge. That’s why they have the wall there–to keep people from being blown off.[/li][li]If you manage to get nice weather, a drive around the Ring of Kerry is gorgeous. I was told that Dingle peninsula is even prettier, but it was pouring rain the day I was there so I have no real basis for comparison.[/li][/ul]

Unless you are absolutely determined to climb up Blarney Castle to kiss the stone, you can skip it. You stand in line on the stairs for an hour.

Guinness isn’t all that much either, but the gift shop is great if you have any beer-drinking friends to buy presents for.

The medieval banquet at Bunratty castle, near Shannon Airport, is a hoot. It sounds corny, but it’s great. Well performed music, funny banter, honey mead, and just a good, medieval time (not in the Marcellus sense, thank goodness.)

And the Connemara region (north of Galway) is wild and gorgeous. We stayed at the Glenvalley House B and B – Joe, the owner, is a pleasant, salt-of-the-earth sheep farmer.

I’d actually skip the Guinness tour entirely. It’s overpriced and not really that interesting at all. You can buy the gifts the airport on your way home.

The mummies at St Michan’s Church are my favourite Dublin tourist attraction. Outside of Dublin, I’d recommend Glenveagh National Park and the Gweedore area of Donegal, though this can be tricky without a car. (Not undoable - I’ve done it - but tricky.)

It’s all about perspective, I guess. I just returned from Ireland last week and had a great time, I have to say Bunratty Castle was probably the low point because it felt so cheesy. On the other hand we went to The Merry Ploughboy Pub and had a great time listening to Irish music and watching Irish Dancing.

Some of the other highlights for me were:
Jerpoint Park where you can see the footprints of a deserted 12th Century Medieval town (and the tomb of St. Nicholas), and a dog sheep herding demonstration.

The city of Waterford (Ireland’s oldest city?) It’s a nice town. There’s a Waterford Crystal factory still there. You can tour it, if that’s your thing. It’s pretty neat. While you’re at it, if you’re in Waterford, Reginald’s Tower is pretty cool too… if you like looking at 1000 year old buildings.

Agreed, however if you get dragged there, check out the Blarney Woolen Mill instead. It’s large and they have a large variety of really pretty wool knit clothes. I bought a pullover hoodie jumper (sweater) with “kangaroo pouch” pockets there that I adore.

Also, the OP said he didn’t want to do any guided tours, but if you end up deciding they are the best/easiest option, I can very much endorse the Vagabond Tours. They do small caravans and small groups of around 8 - 12 people. The drivers/guides are knowledgeable and friendly and funny. Our guide tailored our tour by giving us two or three options each day and let us vote on what we wanted to see.

I bought a nice blue sweater there. :slight_smile:

There’s also a lovely park/garden around the castle, but it’s more the kind of thing you choose to wander around for an hour or so instead of spending that time on the castle stairs, than a place you go to just for itself.

Don, I don’t know if you’re interested in stately homes. There are a couple I’ve been to:

Strokestown Park: – The family who lived there were related to Kitty, the Duke of Wellington’s wife, and they were eager to let you know about the connection in just about every room in their house. The house also features a heartbreaking Famine Museum

Muckross House near Killarney: – Victoria and Albert visited here in the 1860s. You can also buy fresh-off-the-loom handwoven scarves and things; my mom loves the scarf I got for her birthday, even though I sent it to her in July.

One more thing I forgot. If you’re up around Derry/Londonderry, there’s the Ulster American Folk Park: – a village made up of cottages of families who immigrated from Ulster, some still in situ (like the home farm of the Mellons of Mellon-Carnegie fame), and others brought in. It was raining heavily the day I went there too, but you can take shelter inside most of the buildings, and have a chance to emigrate to New York about halfway through. If you have family that came from up that way, they also have a research center.

Well, I got back a couple of weeks ago, so I thought I’d follow up.

Ended up staying at the North Star on Amiens Street, across the street from Connolly Train Station. Not much of a restaurant selection; mostly pubs and pizza/kebab/burger places. I was surprised to see Papa John’s Pizza there. Added advantage: there was a laundry service within walking distance, so I could get my unmentionables washed without paying the outrageous prices the hotel wanted.

The hotel was a bit hit-and-miss - what it did, it did well, but there were a few things where it failed miserably. The main one; for some very strange reason, the sink drain was not connected to anything, so when I emptied the sink, it spilled onto the bathroom floor! Also, the sensor that detects my room key card needed a new battery, and the fire alarm went off early in the morning on a couple of occasions.

I ended up staying in Ireland for seven days, and never did get out of Dublin, unless you count riding on the commuter train that surrounds Dublin Bay; although there is a lot to see in Dublin, that was two or three days too many, in my opinion.

Also, it took me a while to figure out what a Euro Store was. “What, is it a store that sells European things?” {insert light-bulb emoji here} “Oh, it’s the Euro-currency equivalent of a Dollar Store!”

Echoing the Burren suggestion. There’s a little bus tour of the less accessible parts of Connemara that makes you feel like you’re on some beautiful alien planet. Also, Galway is a great, young city filled with music.

Edit: ah, see you came back! Sounds like you had a great trip, Dublin rocks. I’ll leave this post for anyone else considering an Ireland trip.