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Itinerary help - 2 week trip with wedding in late May/early June

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My mom and I are going to Ireland from May 27 (get in on the 28th) - June 10. We haven't booked our flights yet so can fly out of any city, but currently planning to fly into Shannon and out of Dublin. The primary reason for the trip is a wedding in Clonakilty, where we will be from June 3-4. For the rest of the time we will be touring Ireland by ourselves with a rental car (except for time in Dublin).

Since we will already in SW Ireland for the wedding and we only have 2 weeks, it seems like it makes sense to concentrate there. However, our family is from Donegal, and we'd love to make it up there if possible - just looks tough from a driving time perspective. We also are planning a few days in Dublin at the end of the trip.

I'd love to get recommendations for an itinerary - it seems like there's SO much to do in SW Ireland that it's hard to cut anything. I'm not sure it's worth making the trek up to Donegal, but even without it our itinerary looks jammed pack! We're looking for a mix of gorgeous scenery (I'm very into photography), castles, small towns and historic sites, with emphasis on the scenery in particular. I will be doing most of the driving, so I want to avoid having more than one or two 3+ hour drives if we can. Thanks so much!

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    I looked at your post two days ago and now seeing no one else is going to comment I will add my two cents. From what I can see you have five nights from Clonakilty until you have to fly out. Unless you want to head to Donegal right away I would suggest you leave it for another trip and I would further suggest you fly in and out of Shannon and concentrate on the southwest.
    From Clonakilty it will be easy to hop on the n-71 and work your way up the coast visiting the Mizen, Beara and Sheephead peninsulas. Mostly out of the way and not very touristy. You can do all of this in two nights with a base around Bantry or Kenmare. Two nights in Dingle will be nice and along the way you can drive through Killarney National Park. For your last night you can take a long drive towards the Shannon area and drive up along the coast and visit the Cliffs of Moher and stay along the coast towards Ballyvaughn and the Burren will be on the right. Believe me if you are into photography you will be overwhelmed. Last night In Ennis or Bunratty for a short drive in the morning to the airport for you flight out. I really think trying to spend time in the southwest and then driving up to Donegal and then back to Dublin would leave you exhausted. Just my opinion. Have fun

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    It looks like you have a few days before the wedding, so I would suggest flying in to Shannon and seeing some of the southwest at the beginning of the trip. You can use the remaining days to make your way to Dublin and spend a couple of days there. Between Cork and Dublin you can see several castles.

    Donegal is really too far out of the way for this trip if you don't want to drive more than 3 hours. When you look at a map of Ireland the country doesn't seem too big. But when you take into consideration that most of the roads are two lanes, one in each direction, and pass through the middle of towns and villages, it takes much longer to get to places than you would think. Not to mention stopping for photo ops and other breaks.

    We are headed to Donegal in a couple of weeks, but are only going to be in the northwest corner. We have learned over the years not to try to cover too much territory in one trip, and better to spend two or three nights in one area.

    I hope that if you don't make it to Donegal this trip, that you can go back another time. We have found Ireland to be addictive!

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    I agree with John in leaving Donegal out this trip. As I look at your schedule, you have six nights before and six nights after the wedding (too bad it is right in the middle of the trip or the Donegal part might be easier.)

    If you are considering flying into Shannon, following John's itinerary in reverse would work. Personally I prefer driving out of Shannon rather than Dublin airport. But don't count on driving far on the first day when you'll be tired. However, if you fly into Dublin, you won't need a car for a few days and can walk lots the first day to get a good sleep schedule the first night.

    so maybe you could do May 28-30 in Dublin.

    May 31 pick up the car and head south through the Wicklow Hills. Stop at Glendalough (monastic ruins twelve hundred years or so old.) Good visitor center with good film and 3-D map which explain the history and geology of the region. Pleasant walk among the ruins. Have lunch at the cafe or pick up picnic things on the road. Head to Kilkenny for the night.

    June 1 spend the morning exploring Kilkenny--castle and gardens (roses should be gorgeious then) and wander the medieval streets, visit the Rothe house and Thosal. Head out toward Cashel for the night.

    June 2. Head out via Cahir--short castle stop depending on interest. Head for Lismore and follow the Blackwater valley west. As you come into Lismore there is a terrific photo op of the castle above the river. House still lived in and not open but gardens open in the afternoon. At Mallow drop down towards Clonakilty for the night and wedding festivities.

    Near Clonakilty is Timoleague Abbey ruins--another great photo op, especially early morning. They are right near an inlet of the sea on the main road to Cork.

    After the wedding follow John's advice up to Shannon.

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    Thanks everyone for the input! Super helpful. We ended up booking our flights into Shannon and out of Dublin, so it'll kinda be in reverse. We've been considering the following itinerary - any critiques/advice/help filling it out would be helpful!

    irishface, thanks also for the tip on Timoleague Abbey - looks gorgeous and exactly the kind of more off-the-beaten path thing I'm looking to photograph!

    Monday 5/28: Arrive in Shannon 7:00AM, drive to Galway. Left this day pretty open since we’ll be jet-lagged and one hour only of driving seems like a good way for me to get used to it.

    Tuesday 5/29: Drive the Connemara coast (possibly do a day tour so we can enjoy the scenery). Overnight in Galway

    Wednesday 5/30: Cliffs of Moher, the Burren. Overnight in Dingle.

    Thursday 5/31: Dingle Peninsula tour (likely day tour/hired driver to enjoy scenery and relax). Overnight in Dingle.

    Friday 6/1: Ring of Kerry tour (likely day tour/hired driver to enjoy scenery and relax). Overnight in Kenmare.

    Saturday 6/2: Killarney National Park and area sites. Overnight in Kenmare.

    Sunday 6/3 and Monday 6/4: Drive to Clonakilty in the morning, 2 nights in Clonakilty for wedding festivities and hanging out with friends.

    Tuesday 6/5: Drive to Kilkenny in the morning with stop at Rock of Cashel on the way. Overnight in Kilkenny.

    Wednesday 6/6: Kilkenny Castle, local sights. Overnight in Kilkenny.

    Thursday 6/7: Drive to Dublin Airport; drop off car and head into city. If the weather is good, possibly leave earlier in the morning and add on Glendalough on the way to Dublin.

    Friday 6/8 and Saturday 6/9: Touring Dublin.

    Sunday 6/10: Fly home in the morning.

    Thanks again!!

    Kristen

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    Looks like a good itinerary. One word of advice about not driving yourselves around Dingle, Ring of Kerry, and Connemara. It sounds very relaxing to leave the driving to someone else, however, you won't have the flexibility to stop at will and take photographs. Some of the best photographic sites are a bit off the main road or at least not in a place where nonphotographers want to be. If you can swiwng your own driver, sounds wonderful! He would have to stop where you want, would probably know lots of hidden gems, and have some wonderful stories to tell.

    PS I'd drive you for the price of a plane ticket!

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