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17 days in Scotland, Ireland and a bit overwhelmed

17 days in Scotland, Ireland and a bit overwhelmed

Mar 5th, 2015, 06:01 AM
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Join Date: Aug 2011
Posts: 58
17 days in Scotland, Ireland and a bit overwhelmed

Hi everyone! I'm planning a ~17 day trip (19 days - 2 days for travel) to Scotland/Ireland in September, and I've read books, poured over forums, read reviews, and looked at group tours to see what they fit into about two weeks. I'm just overwhelmed.

I feel a bit silly really, because this is the longest trip my husband and I have ever taken, having been able to cobble together a whole 19 days of vacation this year in contrast to our usual 8-10 day trips. For some reason having MORE time just makes this even more daunting.

We're big fans of the open jaw flight as we like to waste little time in transit to our vacation as possible, so we're flying into Edinburgh and out of Dublin. Looks to me that the best way in between countries is an EasyJet or some other matter of low-cost carrier, though I'm open to suggestions. We plan to rent a car in both places and we actually really enjoy driving as a means of travel during vacation. We took a trip to Iceland in 2012 and spend a good portion of our time just wandering around in the car, enjoying the scenery, and pulling over whenever something looked interesting. Which was often. Sometimes we didn't move to quickly

So plane and car. That's just about as far as I've gotten. Well, that and we're skipping the Blarney Stone, at least we've decided that. I'll think I've decided "let's focus on the West in Ireland", and then I read something really fantastic about Belfast, and it's just... blarg. Really I'd just love any advice anyone has about the resource they found most useful when planning a trip to either of these great countries. Books, websites, anything at all that you found helpful for planning. I'm not sure how we are going to split the days between Ireland and Scotland either, so if you have an opinion on that, certainly let me know.
LNWC is offline  
Mar 5th, 2015, 07:08 AM
Join Date: Feb 2003
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i will start with a bit of shameless self promotion and link you to my trip report of our 7 nights in scotland.


part one of our trip wasn't ireland but 7 nights belgium-amsterdam. add the overnight plane journey, 2 n in london, the n following our return travel day, and one has 18 nights (i prefer to count nights, not days.)

so for you:
1 n for flight
8 n for scotland part
9 n for ireland part incl. 1 day flying between (i assume)
1 n for return day and night

is 19 n

you wisely are realizing that with trips like this, you have to be very selective.

i'd start by finding google maps to tell you distance between belfast and dunlin.
Sue_xx_yy is offline  
Mar 5th, 2015, 07:31 AM
Join Date: Oct 2013
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If you want to visit the west of Ireland, it might make more sense to fly home from Shannon. Have you already bought your tickets?

There's a ferry between Scotland and Northern Ireland, which doesn't take too long, and which brings you close to Belfast. I took it a long time ago, so I hesitate to say much about it. I enjoyed the view from the deck, both arriving and departing.

Wild horses couldn't drag me to the Blarney stone, or any of those castle meals, or other tourist traps. Both countries are very beautiful, and you don't need any frippery to have a wonderful time there.
bvlenci is online now  
Mar 5th, 2015, 10:43 AM
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Sue - Your trip report is SUPER helpful, bring on the self promotion I've already used google maps pretty extensively to check out distances and times, and none of those distances bug me at all. The distance between Belfast and Dublin is a blip compared to the distances we drive to visit relatives (12-14 hours). And we're weird and really enjoy time on the road. Our problem would probably just be we don't know how often we'll want to pull over and check something out.

Bilboburgler - That's a lot of islands!! Anything specific you think is can't miss?

bvlenci - we already bought tickets, cost was a factor in our choices for airports and we figured we could fly from Scotland into Shannon and work our way back to Dublin.

I 100% agree with you about the Blarney stone, it's not really our style. We pay attention to the big draws for sure, we like museums, we enjoy castles and historic sites, but we also tend to have the most fun when we just have time to wander around a place and get really lost. I don't feel bad when someone says "you went all the way to _____ and you didn't see the ________?!" I have less fun on vacation when we have a checklist. Perhaps that's why I'm having trouble? We'd probably much rather wander around each country with a skeleton plan and get last minute lodging, but our budget wouldn't allow for that as I can imagine any place that would happen to have a room would be $$$$ last minute.
LNWC is offline  
Mar 5th, 2015, 11:30 AM
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Actually, I think that places that have empty rooms at the last minute are inclined to offer them at a discount. It's not like airline tickets, where they assume that last minute travelers are businessmen spending the boss' money.

The last time we were in Ireland, I think seven years ago, in June, we didn't reserve most of our rooms in advance. The exception was the room for our first night, and a place where we wanted to spend almost a week, visiting relatives. We had no trouble, except in one town (Westport), where we had to try a few places before finding a room. In most places we saw lots of places advertising rooms to rent that were not on the internet at all. I don't know if things have changed since then.
bvlenci is online now  
Mar 5th, 2015, 11:33 AM
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That's really interesting - I would have assumed it was a lot more tough to find an open place last minute! That makes me wonder if we're better off making the reservations in the cities we have to fly out of and then being a bit more mobile...

But then, I worry that we won't be able to find something if we travel to somewhere a little more far flung. Hmm. Even more to consider
LNWC is offline  
Mar 5th, 2015, 11:33 AM
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I find that one or two castles is more than sufficient for me. I do like historical museums and art museums, but I don't necessarily visit the big-name museums, because they are often crowded far beyond my tolerance level. Fortunately, I've seen a lot of them years ago when they were less crowded, and if I happen to be in Paris, let's say, on a midweek afternoon in late January, I'd be happy to see the Louvre again.
bvlenci is online now  
Mar 5th, 2015, 11:39 AM
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Two resources for Scotland...

Have a look at the itineraries in Secret Scotland as it will give you some idea what you can do/achieve in the time available.

Once you have begun to decide what areas you want to visit, use the Undiscovered Scotland website to find out what there is to do and see there.

Deciding on the time split between the two countries is up to you - do you want to spend the same amount of time in each?

Ireland - if you are wanting to concentrate on the west them flying out of Shannon at the end of the trip makes sense. The other alternative if you are commited to both Dublin and Belfast is to arrive in one, do a loop and then fly out of the other.

For convenience I'm starting from Dublin but it doesn't make any difference which way you do it. From Dublin visit Newtongrange (neolithic monuments) and Glendalough (lovely ruined Celtic Priory). From Dublin, head to Galway, visiting Clonmacnoise on the way. Think about a day trip to the Arran Islands. Do the drive from Roundstone along the coast to Clifton and the sky Drive. On a fine day this is possibly one of the best short drives in the world. Go for a cruise on Killary Harbour. Then head north to Donnegal visiting Slieve League, some of the highest cliffs on the coast of Ireland (and much niccer than Cliffs of Moher on the usual must see list). Spend a day around Donegal possibly visiting Glenveagh Castle and gardens, before heading for Northern Ireland. Drive round the coast with a stop at Giant's Causeway, Dunluce Castle and Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge. If you are interested in history, consider a side trip to the Ulster American Folk Park which covers the history of emigration from Northern Ireand to America and the lives of some of the families. There are reconstructed houses and a ship used to carry emigrants. On the way back to Belfast stop off to explore some of the Glens. Glenariff is one of the nicest and if you have time, the waterfalls walk is well worth doing.
ESW is offline  
Mar 5th, 2015, 11:39 AM
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My husband and I like pretty scenery, good food, interesting architecture (especially castles), so we sound somewhat similar. I also love gaelic music - the west of Ireland is great for that.

In Ireland, I love the Giant's Causeway. As an American, I found Belfast very interesting, because our Revolution was so long ago and all the neighborhoods in Belfast are still very obviously living through history NOW. It may be farther south than you want to go, but in Killarney, we took a (long) walk from our hotel to Muckross Abbey and Muckross House. We didn't love the house, but we really enjoyed the falling-down abbey. Some people love the Ring of Kerry and the Dingle Peninsula; we did the Dingle Peninsula and felt like the scenery we saw in Scotland was better - and there were far fewer people around.

In Scotland, we loved the Isle of Skye and Eilean Donan Castle (although the inside is not impressive).

I often start planning for trips by looking up long tours and checking out pictures of the places they go and deciding whether I'd like to go there too, but guidebooks may provide the same thing. Good luck!
margotheangel is offline  
Mar 5th, 2015, 02:02 PM
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ESW - I've been seeing the Arran Islands a lot in a few itineraries - it sounds like it can be weather dependent? Any tips on visiting?

Margotheangel - Sounds like we have VERY similar tastes. I've been waffling on whether we make it up to Northern Ireland, mostly in my case because I would love to see Giant's Causeway. Sounds like there's plenty to do up north in addition so I'm going to have to add it back in.
LNWC is offline  
Mar 5th, 2015, 11:35 PM
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Well Orkney looks like a lot of islands but the main area have been linked by causeways so you could drive the main ones in a day, there are a bunch of types of visit you can make, some amazing archeology (some of it 5000 years old), jewellery/crafts, wildlife, climbing, diving, etc. You easily visit some of the other islands by local ferry for a few hours (last we did we spent the time seal watching).

Basically the population is Viking and British which makes them very indepedant (as does the oil terminal).
bilboburgler is online now  
Mar 5th, 2015, 11:36 PM
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If you follow my name back a couple of years to about March you'll see a report I wrote
bilboburgler is online now  
Mar 6th, 2015, 02:10 AM
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I have two TR's for Scotland. They cover the highlands (Skye, Applecross) and Glasgow (which is in my opinion, a much underrated city). There are lots of photos and a good list of eateries and bars and pubs for both. Hope they help you plan


RM67 is offline  
Mar 6th, 2015, 03:30 AM
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I think you have a good handle on a lot of this, but there are a couple of places where I can help, though this advice has been offered many times.

Don't pick up a car until you leave the Edinburgh-Glasgow corridor. Driving in or around either city is somewhere between unpleasant and a nightmare, and you will simply pay to leave it parked in a garage.

It will take you far, far longer to drive a given distance in Scotland than in the US except on a motorway. There are very busy routes that are only two lanes, and there are many not so minor roads that are only one lane with wider passing places. In some places you will find sheep and/or cattle wandering on the road, like Utah. None of this is really difficult, but you have to learn the rules, and you have to understand that it limits the distance you can cover.

Some places with picturesque names are not picturesque: Inverness and Dundee come to mind.

Much of Scotland is very, very empty. Make sure you have plenty of fuel and cash and an empty bladder before you venture forth each morning.

The West Highlands and Hebrides can be very, very quiet on Sunday. Like nothing open outside the biggest towns.

The Scottish people are wonderful, crusty but warm, with a terrific sense of humor if you can understand what they are saying

The West of Scotland is warmer and wetter than the East, so there are gardens with palm trees quite far north.
Ackislander is offline  
Mar 6th, 2015, 05:10 PM
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Bilboburgler - thank you!! I hadn't seriously considered Orkney and now it's on the list. The archaeology especially appeals to me - I've actually taken preservation and field archaeology classes just because I find it fascinating, so 5000 year old sites sound pretty amazing. My husband and I are also big hikers, and this looks like a great spot to spend time outside.

RM67 - Thank you, just looked at your photos of Skye and definitely am going to have to look into the pub suggestions once we know where we're going

Ackislander - thanks for the tip about the car rental, we were going to pick it up at the airport, but you said makes total sense. Where would you suggest picking one up? I know there are a few scenic train routes in Scotland, maybe taking one of those out and picking up a car at the end would be good?
LNWC is offline  

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