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Ireland leg of a European Vacation

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My wife and I (29 & 30, no kids) are headed to Europe in July for 23 days. We plan to spend some time in Ireland and then some time in southern Europe.

We fly into Dublin, so we'll likely be starting with Ireland. We're pretty laid back, as we enjoy both "see everything" vacations and "take your time" vacations. On the Ireland front we're probably leaning more towards the latter. Experiencing the Irish countryside, culture, local fare, local pubs/music, etc. We don't need to fill up some checklist of tourist spots, with the one exception being the Cliffs of Moher and maybe the Dingle peninsula.

That said, a few questions...

1) Right now I'm thinking about ~9 days in Ireland. Does that sound about right? I'm thinking 2 nights in Dublin (starting with the morning we land there), then head over to west Ireland and explore the area for a week, eventually flying out of Shannon down to southern Europe.

2) When going to west ireland, we were considering just renting a cottage on vrbo for the week to both save money and relieve the stress of moving luggage around. Looking at a map and reading about Ireland, it looks like it can actually take a good while to get around and we'd be limiting ourselves to only things within a day trip of there. Is this something that sounds like a good idea? If so, what location would be good to give us plenty of fun day trips and maybe be positioned out with a nice view, but still close enough to a town to frequent some local pubs?

3) As I said, we're not obsessed with checking off a list of tourist sites and are fine just experiencing the country. That said, other than the Cliffs of Moher is there anything that would just absolutely be a shame to go all the way over there and not see? While we would like to return some day, it's unlikely that it would be any time soon (this is our big blowout trip that we've been saving up for).

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