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With Itinerary in hand - are we missing any "gems"

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Our family of 3 are leaving for a 2 week stay in Ireland in 6 days (this will be a first as none of us have ever been to Ireland before)

Our Itinerary, with places to stay is as follows:
Dublin (4 nights) - Waterford - Cahir - Cork (2 nights) - Dingle - Doolin (2 nights) - Drogheda (2 nights) - Home
During our round-trip we are staying both in B&B's as well as few hotels and have a small suite with kitchen in Dublin. We will pick up the rental car after our 4 days in Dublin.

Other than tickets for a play at the Abbey theater in Dublin, as well as reservation for a"Literary Pub Crawl" also in Dublin, we have no hard committed plans for activities.

Attractions and locations that we have on our list once we start driving include the monastery near Glendalough, Waterford Crystal, Cahir Castle and Rock of Cashel, Kinsale, Dingle peninsula, Cliffs of Moher and the Burren, one of the Aran islands, finally Newgrange and Knowth in the east. (After some deliberation, we decided to not do the ring of Kerry, but to go to Dingle instead.)

We would welcome suggestions or tips from other experienced Ireland visitors for any other "gems" or places of interest that we may be missing on our drive around the southern half of Ireland.


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    We did a 12 day self driving trip this past May. We were in many of the areas you will be visiting, excluding Dublin.

    As far as gems, that's hard because it's a case of different strokes for different folks. I think the best thing about SW and southern Ireland is the friendliness and warmth of the locals, the beauty of the landscape, which was greatly enhanced during our trip due to all the blooming flowers and Rhodies, and the nightly music, although it usually doesn't start until 9:30ish which often meant 10pm.

    For us, the Ring of Beara was a major highlight. Lots of great scenery interspaced with fun things to do to break up the driving. Healy Pass was amazing, but only because we had great weather. On a fogged in day, Beara isn't going to rate a gem and would be a challenge to drive. The Dingle peninsula was our second favorite. I think doing it instead of ROK is a good choice.

    Our last day, we visited Blarney Castle, Cahir Castle and Rock of Cashel/Hore Abbey. All 3 are worth a visit, especially if your group is into castles.

    That said, they weren't as impressive as I was hoping. The outer walls are still standing and are impressive, but the interiors are a bit lacking, particularly at Blarney and Cashel where they are rather spartan. Blarney does have nice gardens which we really enjoyed.

    So I wouldn't call any of the 3 castles "must sees" or "gems" but they are among the best in Ireland, based on what I'd read beforehand. And if you are looking for something to do to break up the driving, you won't be disappointed you stopped at any one of them.

    In Doolin, the Burren will be a change of pace, big time. We did a walking tour with Mary Howard who is delightful and very knowledgeable. One of our highlights. Don't miss O'Connors pub. Best seafood chowder we had. But get there by 7pm or so to get a table and to make sure they don't run out of some of the entrees.

    We didn't have time for the Arran Islands. Keep in mind that the ferries out there are heavily weather dependent, that is, they don't always go.

    Kinsale might be a bit of a detour for you. We didn't go, and I understand it's pretty, but if you aren't staying there, it might eat up significant time doing essentially a drive by. There are lots of charming towns in Ireland and I'm not sure Kinsale is so unique that it's a must see.

    I think one of the hidden gems for us was the food, strange as that probably sounds. Fresh seafood, beef and lamb everywhere. That said, the food isn't cheap. But we were pleasantly surprised by how good it was. Restaurants are more expensive than pubs, so for those trying to save some money, find the pubs with very good food, like O'Connors. And in some respects, I'm glad I didn't discover Sticky Toffee Pudding until midway through the trip or my waistline would have expanded even more. The name turned me off. I was thinking pudding consistency. Not so! Try cake with a wonderful sauce and usually served with ice cream. Deadly good!

    You might check out the Ireland tripadvisor forums if you haven't already. It is considerably more active than this board.

    Here's a link to some of the pics from our trip:

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    dcd - Many thanks for tips, generous sharing of photos (Beautiful!!!) and tips on Trip Advisor forums.

    I didnt know about those forums - but I see that there is a wealth of information there, I have found some really useful info there already.

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    Ditto on Blarney Castle. The climb to the top is a challenge. Bring your own camera to save about $20 buying the photo they will take as you make the kiss.

    In Dublin I suggest Guinness Storehouse as a must see. It is an old brewery converted into an exhibit. The tour includes a pint of the freshest brew you will ever have.

    One of the best eats I have had in Europe was the sea chowda at Ryan's FXB Grills in Dublin.

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