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Ten Days in Ireland: Belfast, Dublin, Galway?

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Hello fellow travelers -

I'm headed to Dublin for a conference December 1-10, and will base myself in the city for site visits and business December 2-6. As an education abroad professional, I'm intrigued by the Troubles - and seeing both Northern Ireland and Ireland. We have students that travel to the country, and I'd like to get a broader perspective outside of Dublin proper.

Here's my itinerary as it stands:
Saturday - arrive Dublin, travel to Belfast, stay Belfast (1 night)
Sunday - return to Dublin, stay through Friday
Friday - travel to Galway, stay through Monday (3 nights)
Monday - travel to Dublin, fly out

My original plan is to do the first weekend in Belfast, although it's a quick one. The second weekend in Galway, with a day trip to the Cliffs.

Please note, I will not have a car and will be relying on public transportation.

Here are my questions --
1) Is one day & night in Belfast enough? Is it worth it? I arrive 9 a.m. to Dublin on Saturday, would take the bus/train to Belfast (2-3 hours?) and spend the afternoon/night there, and head back to Dublin on Sunday (afternoon, depending on transport schedule). The alternative is to skip Belfast, and stay in Dublin until the following weekend.

2) Should I plan for an entire day at the Cliffs? My host in Galway recommended tours leaving from the area - both to the Cliffs and Connemara.

3) My students have been to, and continue to rave about, the Aran Islands. Does it make sense to try to get there while I'm in Galway? Worth the trouble? Bearing in mind it's also December and I'm not anticipating pleasant weather.

4) What are Sundays like in Ireland (North, South or otherwise)? Living in Spain I always faced the non-event of Sunday and as a traveler was always slightly stymied by the issue of everything being closed. I see that there are some abbreviated transportation schedules; should I anticipate store / site / business closings?

Thanks for your help as I plan this whirlwind tour. Any and all tips welcome (this includes good food stops :)).

Best,
Kelly

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    1) You can see/do a lot in Belfast in one day and night. A few years ago, we made a similar whirlwind visit to Belfast as our daughter was doing a semester abroad at Queen's University. We drove to Belfast (2 hours) immediately after arriving at Dublin Airport and in that first day we: 1) had lunch in a snug at the Crown Bar--recommended, 2) did a comprehensive tour of the city on the open top HO/HO bus, 3) did further sightseeing in the CBD, e.g. Victoria Square, 4) walked through the Botanical Gardens, and 5) did a short tour of the Queen's University campus.

    You may want to consider doing a Black Taxi tour in Belfast rather than the HO/HO bus due to your interest in "The Troubles". We considered doing that, but I wanted an objective tour through the area (which we got with our HO/HO guide) and my understanding is that some of the Black Taxi driver/guides can have a strong partisan viewpoint.

    With an extra day in Belfast, you might enjoy visiting the new Titanic Belfast.

    Finally, I can highly recommend the guesthouse where we stayed in Belfast, Avenue Guesthouse. It's located near Queen's University and is only about a 20 minute walk from the CBD. The house and the owners are fantastic.

    2) A visit to the Cliffs of Moher will be weather-dependent. If the weather is rainy or foggy, there's not much point in going because you won't see anything, so have a back-up plan for that day just in case. Even if you do go, I can't imagine your needing to be there more than an hour or two at the most. I would look for a tour that includes stops in the Burren which I found much more interesting than coastal cliffs.

    3) The Aran Islands are worthy of your students' raves, but I'm not sure that's someplace I would go in December. All of the attractions of Inishmore, e.g. Dun Aengus, the Seven Churches, etc., require being outdoors. In fact, we thought the best thing about Inishmore was being able to rent a bike and ride around the island, something you wouldn't want to do in December. Unfortunately, Inishmore is probably not worth a visit at that time of year.

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    Thanks, longhorn55 (TX fan?) - this is very helpful. That's also a very ambitious day in Belfast .. big shoes to fill :)

    Thanks as well to my email correspondent, Stuart T.

    Have secured a place in Salthill for my three nights in Galway, and will stay with a friend for my quick night in Belfast.

    Onward to the Emerald Isle,
    K

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    Here's my input. We visited Belfast one day last Sept. while on a port stop. I arranged a private tour for 27 of us from the ship. We had a wonderful day in Belfast. Visited the "Troubles" area (definitely a must see), then headed north to visit the The Causeway (again a must see), stopped at various scenic places along the way, stopped in Ballycastle for some shopping and lunch in a pub (wonderful), and then headed back to Belfast where our driver dropped us off at the ship. We had a whirlwind but wonderful day and loved our visit to Belfast. The scenery heading north was among the most scenic we have seen anywhere and Belfast was one of our favorite days. Do see if you can include in your visit.

    As far as Aran Islands, it is truly an experience that should be seen by anyone visiting Galway area. We took the local bus and met a cousin of mine who lives in Galway. She escorted us on the ferry to the Aran Islands (Inishmore). It was truly like going back in time. My dad was born in Ireland and I felt his presence on the island. We were there in October and it was very chilly, drizzly, and not a nice day there so can't imagine visiting in December. It is truly an outdoor experience there. We couldn't wait to get back on the ferry.

    Have a great visit, you will enjoy.

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