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Solo Female Exploration of Ireland Nov '16

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I'm flying in to Manchester in a week to stay with a friend for a few days then take the ferry from Holyhead to Dublin and fly out of Dublin at the end of my trip.

The majority of my stay (2+weeks) will be in Ireland and I will not be renting a car. So, I'll be exploring solo, am a middle aged woman who has traveled internationally, and after quitting my job has decided to take my dream trip. I'm on a limited budget and booked the trip using frequent flyer miles a week ago. I've done research and have some places in mind. Here are my questions

1. I've always had a great time talking to locals and getting the scoop as well as getting lost in wandering. Will this work for Ireland or must I excessively plan?
2. Since I'm traveling during off peak, in the rainy season, with an early sunset, are there hostel options in places like Galway?
3. Should I simply take day tripsfrom a hostel based in Dublin?
4. Are there any serious concerns as far as safety? I plan on hanging out in pubs and listening to live music?

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