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First-time Trip to Ireland! Seeking helpful advice...

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First-time Trip to Ireland! Seeking helpful advice...

Old Aug 2nd, 2015, 09:03 AM
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First-time Trip to Ireland! Seeking helpful advice...

My husband and I are planning a 3 week trip to Europe in March 2017. Our first stop will be in Ireland, where we will spend the first 7 days of our trip. We have never been anywhere to Ireland and are trying to plan the whole thing on our own to add to the adventure of it all! As much as we would love to see it all while we are there, we simply don't have the time and are well aware of this. We know for certain we want to go to Belfast as we have friends there that we would love to visit. Hoping to get some advice from people who are locals or have been here before. Here are some questions I have:

1)We would love to see some of the Irish countryside but are unsure if renting a car is practical. Does anyone have experience with this or recommend it? Not sure how easily or affordable it is to get around in Ireland without a car.

2)Is it best to make one city our "home base" for the duration of our stay and then go where we please from there or is it best to spend a couple days here and a couple days there and just book different accommodations for each place we intend to visit?

3)Are there any cities or sights you would recommend over others? As I mentioned before, Belfast is a must but we would also love to visit Dublin, tour the Ring of Kerry, visit the Cliffs of Moher, etc. but I realize one week may not be (and probably isn't) possible to achieve all of this unless we feel like being in a car the entire time. I need to narrow it down so I don't go crazy trying to plan it all! Any advice?

Any additional thoughts or tips are welcome so please share! We are novices when it comes to traveling overseas and would like to make this a smooth and enjoyable trip!
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Old Aug 2nd, 2015, 09:23 AM
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You could easily see both Belfast and Dublin by train. If you want to see parts of the countryside you need to either take a bus tour - or day tours - or rent a car. getting around the countryside by train is a major PIA.

Frankly I love Dublin and would want at least 3 days there but I know many people want to spend most of their time in the countryside - which means staying in different places and driving.

If you do want to drive and need an automatic rent the car far in advance since they tend to run out. And do realize that most of the roads in the countryside are narrow, often with limited shoulders and there tend to be lots of sheep running around - so assume your average speed will be about 30 mph.
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Old Aug 2nd, 2015, 09:27 AM
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Where to start? March will be cold and the daylight hours short. I loved Belfast and you have friends there so would do that after landing in Dublin. The bus from the airport is the easy way. Are you doing a flight to another country after Ireland? If so then a flight from Dublin is cheaper if you were flying to London or Paris normally. The coastal road in NI is beautiful and the cliffs of Moher are on par imo so having to go there is not that important. I am thinking of March, timing will make a difference. Many will say St Patrick's Day is not a big deal but March 17, 2017 is a Friday so hotels will be pricey in Dublin for the parade and party. It is a big jump to go from Belfast to Kerry but you could do a train. If driving you need to pick up a car in Dublin.

I would do Belfast and Dublin. Day trips from both on smaller day tours. Glendalough/Wicklow area. You can go to Newgrange via a tour with Mary Gibbons http://www.newgrange.com/tours.htm

Dublin has a lot to see and easy day trips. You can always take a Galway/Cliffs trip, it is a long day though. I have found so much to do and see in the city and at least once it is dark you can go to the theater, see a show, enjoy the pubs etc. During the day take the dart to Howth or to Dalkey.
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Old Aug 2nd, 2015, 09:59 AM
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flpab - Those are some great ideas! I realize March isn't the best time to visit with the shorter days and all, but we are planning the trip after my husbands graduation so it is the only time we will be able to go. I was wondering about seeing the countryside during that time of the year as well. Another poster a while back told me that they didn't recommend it. Not sure what their reasoning was though. Poor weather? Not a lot to see during that time of year? And we will be missing St. Patrick's Day by about a week or two so that shouldn't be a problem. Although part of me wishes we could be there to experience it! And we will be flying to London at the end of our 7 days in Ireland so it would be nice to stay close to Dublin towards the end of our trip to make flying out a little easier! Having said that, maybe starting north and working our way back down is the way to do it!
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Old Aug 2nd, 2015, 10:00 AM
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No need to rent a car if you don't want to.

Standard 1 week itinerary to fit your requirements:

Land DUB get the bus to Belfast. Day 1 and day 2. Visit friends take one of the full day tours Antrim/Causeway or Game of Thrones.

Day 3 bus from Belfast to DUB (Dublin Airport) change onto express bus to Galway. have the afternoon in Galway. Day 4 Cliffs and Burren tour,

Day 5 bus to Killarney, see Killarney and National park. Day 6 either the Ring or Ding tour from Derros tours. get the train to Dublin for the night (last train is 20 to 8pm gets in Heuston station about 11pm)

Day 7 Hopper bus tour of Dublin.

For more Dublin time something has to give elsewhere or you could possibly get the onward flight from Belfast? that would reverse things
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Old Aug 2nd, 2015, 10:54 AM
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If you want to see countryside and don't want to be constrained by being part of a tour then absolutely hiring a car is the best thing to do. It will be entirely up to you whether you are comfortable with tour groups - others have given great advice on how to do it - I almost always prefer hiring a car. Generally the roads will be fairly free of traffic and March will not see tourist hoards.

I'm a huge advocate of moving from place to place. I have no problem with it whatsoever but given what you have said it would make great sense to split your stays to 3/2/1/1 with Dublin having 3 nights and Belfast 2. Then I'd have one night in Kerry somewhere and 1 night in Galway after you have seen the Cliffs of Moher.

You have picked four great cities/sights and you have a mix of city and countryside, which is always good I think. You also get the bonus of a night in Galway.
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Old Aug 2nd, 2015, 11:07 AM
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You might consider combing your threads as this is one trip...it will get confusing dealing with all the advice on several threads.
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Old Aug 2nd, 2015, 11:08 AM
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I meant combining..not combing!! Sorry!
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Old Aug 2nd, 2015, 12:13 PM
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I thought that keeping them separate was a good idea as it would probably lead to better responses.
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Old Aug 2nd, 2015, 12:28 PM
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>>March will be cold and the daylight hours short.
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Old Aug 2nd, 2015, 12:29 PM
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I did post a thread at one point a while back concerning all three places but it was a bit overwhelming and time consuming trying to sort through all the responses and pick and choose what worked for me. I figured posting about each location separately to its respective forum would be the better way to go. I'm still in the early planning stages and won't really be able to start booking anything until mid-next year but any advice helps. I know I ask a lot of broad questions but I guess I'm worried we will get to our destinations and have no clue what to do or how to go about doing it once we get there. Maybe once we nail down an itinerary, I can come back and get more specifics of where to go and what to see.
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Old Aug 2nd, 2015, 02:00 PM
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I am watching the Women's British Open in Portrush right now, and the ladies are wearing toques, long sleeve shirts and down vests. And it's July!
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Old Aug 2nd, 2015, 02:35 PM
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Ignore my previous post. I made two mistakes. Women's British Open is in Turnbury, and it is August not July!
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Old Aug 2nd, 2015, 07:42 PM
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I would say renting car might be a good idea. That way you are on your own time table and really see the places that you want to see. My husband and I had so much fun just pulling over and taking pictures on the road. My advice for the car is bring a couple of CDs for the road to listen too, radio stations are few and far between.
If you are already going to Belfast, I would cruise up to the Giant Causeway and the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge. Northern Ireland is so gorgeous. Dublin is a must of course, but like an hour or so south there is Newgrange and Glendalough. Glendalough was just breathtaking.
Hope this helps, have fun,Ireland is amazing!
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Old Aug 6th, 2015, 11:11 AM
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I'll speak to Dublin and its environs, as that's what I know best.

First things first, March is generally quiet and not terribly crowded because the usual tourists who favor Ireland are not on their holidays, but there is one special day in March when Dublin is a true circle of hell! (I'm sure you know what day that is...) Luckily, you've said above that you'll be missing it, so that's probably for the best. The parade is big, but the drunk and disorderly tourists are bigger.

Using Dublin as a base for a few days, you could do a few day trips:
1. Glendalough, easy to get to with St. Kevin's Bus leaving from Dawson Street. http://www.glendaloughbus.com/ It's a beautiful location; even when you arrive with a busload of people in tow, it somehow remains tranquil and mystical. I think this is a must-see for anyone visiting Ireland as it's quintessentially "ancient Ireland" and yet nothing like you expected.
2. Howth and Malahide. Howth has brilliant cliff walks and a quaint Irish seaside village. The cliff walks can take you an hour or a full day, depending on which ones you choose. I have been in all seasons, and if you can catch good weather (a rare wonder), it is still very worth it. If the weather is shite, though, skip it. The last thing you want to do with a day of sideways rain is walk up and down very high slippery cliffs. You can take the short train up the bay from Dublin, or take another train from the same station (Connolly) to Malahide. Malahide has a castle - if you're visiting Ireland, you'll have to make room for the castles - and an Avoca, a great place to pick up non-cheesy gifts for everyone. Their blankets are divine.
3. Bus tours to places like Newgrange and the Hill of Tara. There are a number of bus tours that will take you here for the day and get in a few other sights too - Trim Castle, etc. Newgrange is amazing to see, but if you're less of a history buff and more on the pubs-and-shopping side of things, get a bus tour to Kilkenny instead.

I think Dublin is a fantastic city (I have to, as I live here!) but I also think that dedicating more than two days to what's actually in the city is a little much. We are a wonderful town but we are a touristy one, and not everything that caters to tourists is worthwhile to tourists. We have incredible food - rely on Yelp for that, not TripAdvisor - and some great things to see, historical and otherwise. The people are the best part, though.
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