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Ireland--small-town base without a car

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I will be meeting two Bulgarian friends in Ireland in late July 2014. (Yes, I know that's the most crowded and expensive time of year, but it's also when we have time off together) They do not drive, and I am not able to drive distances because of physical limitations, so we will be using Ireland's bus and rail system. My mother and I traveled that way in 2004 by using Dublin, Killarney, and Galway as bases, but we have a glitch this time.

My friends have been to a variety of European cities for work reasons and would like to be based in a village or smaller town. We are amenable to two bases, but we only have a week in Ireland and don't want to spend huge amounts of time in transit, so I am looking for suggestions for places to stay to access good walking (we are in our late fifties and like rambles with a small daypack, not heavy backpacking kits), interesting archaeological sites, and a reasonable selection of pubs/restaurants.

We don't know yet if we're flying into Dublin or Shannon (the choice of airport will be determined by price and connections as I will be accompanying my friends to Bulgaria after our week in Ireland), so ideas for towns and itineraries for any part of the Republic of Ireland are welcome.

Also, has anyone used Footfalls Walking Holidays? Their Wicklow Mountains walks are all based out of the Glendalough Hotel, which seems isolated (no villages near the Visitors Centre, if I remember correctly) but nice for perhaps a three-day stay.

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