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asa4 May 18th, 2005 11:53 AM

First trip to Ireland: 6/28/05-7/3/05
My father (age 74) and I (age 42) are going to Ireland for the first time this summer. We fly into Dublin on June 28th, and as you can see, we only have about 5-6 days until we fly out on July 3rd.

We are just starting to plan our itinerary and are pretty clueless (but fast learners!). We would greatly appreciate some advice on locations, accommodations, and restaurants. A few things about how we like to travel...

*For us, doing less often means enjoying more. We don't feel we need to do and see everything. We're not in a race. We always feel we can come back. And, we usually do! (It's also nice to have a flexible plan in case you get tired or get an extra burst of energy!)

*We always think it's a good idea to go wherever the locals go, i.e. go a little off the beaten path from time to time.

*We like charming little neighborhood restaurants, delicious food, pretty parks, markets, tea time, antique-ing and meeting interesting people. We're not really pub people, but would love to try one or two. We definitely want the "Irish" experience!

*That said, we're not opposed to a few touristy places. Sometimes you've got to go to touristy places (like Harrods in London) because they're THAT good and not to be missed!

*We don't want to spend too much time driving in a car or looking at scenery through the windows of a car. We also had 2 accidents on a trip to the English countryside and don't want to repeat that!!!!

Here's what we have so far...

*We want to go to Trinity College/Book of Kells in Dublin and maybe do a little shopping on Grafton Street. We hear Chapter One is a really good restaurant. That's really about it. We're thinking a day and a half max. What hotels do people like? Also, any good lunch spots? Pubs?

*We'd like to see the Cliffs of Doher. We've heard it's spectacular.

*We've also heard that Clare, Adare, Tralee, and Killarney national park are quite nice. Ideas?

*One idea is to take the train to Galway City and then rent a car from there or maybe get someone to drive us. But, we're not sold on it. What do you think?

*We also like the idea of planting ourselves, choosing maybe two small towns, and taking day trips from there. Any recommendations?

*Lastly, it seems that a lot of people stay at B & B's instead of hotels. Is that the most fun? We like B & B's, especially when the owners are helpful, breakfasts are hearty/healthy, and the decor is pretty, but we're not big fans of B & B's which are pretentious, stingy, or dusty! Hope that's not the case. Recommendations?

Feel free to put together an itinerary for us! Hee.
Thanks so much for all the help.

Sincerely, Amy from Chicago

justjude May 18th, 2005 01:19 PM

I just returned from Ireland with my daughter. It was my first trip also. We started in Dublin and headed West to Co. Mayo. I had rented a car, an automatic, it was very expensive. Manual transmission is much cheaper but I didn't think that I could shift with my left hand. I also didn't think driving would be that big of a deal because I love to drive. I've driven throughout most of the US, through the mountains, New York City, the entire eastern coast including Boston and even though those trips proved to be daring at times, it was still managable. The roads in the west of Ireland are extremely narrow and the Irish like to drive fast. I have to admit that after the first night, I was ready to call the tour company and have them come and get me and the car. I traded the midsized car we had in for a compact and driving was much less stressful. In June, it will be even worse because the tourist season will be in full swing. If you decide to drive, make sure you get an automatic and make sure it is as small as comfortably possible for you.
We drove from Castlebar in Co. Mayo, to the Cliffs of Moher, down the coast to Limerick, over and around the Dingle Peninsula, through Kerry and back up to Dublin through the midlands. Everyone told us not to plan so much in such a short time but even though we spent so much time driving, I don't regret it. It will help us in planning our next trip. Next time, because we loved the western coast so much, we will fly into Shannon and plant ourselves somewhere in either Co. Galway or Co. Mayo. Then we can go to Co. Sligo, Co. Mayo, Co. Galway and Co Clare and return during the evening. Do not rent a car until you plan on leaving Dublin, if you don't decide to take a bus to Galway instead. There is so much to see and do that because you have very little time and it sounds like you want to relax and enjoy the experience, I would suggest you limit you trip to just one area. Have a great trip. Do some research on the different areas, decide what really suits you and stay there. There is something to expereince in every county of Ireland and we only managed to get through half of it. We are definately planning on returning.

cambe May 18th, 2005 01:39 PM

Hi Amy,

I am Irish and would 100% agree with the previous post. The majority of rooads in Ireland are narrow and the travelling distance is long - you are trying to do too much in such a short time.

I would spend 2 days in Dublin without a car. Take the open top bus, go to Trinity, Grafton Street, Dublin Castle etc.

Then, pick up a car and head for Wicklow (Enniskeery, Greystones, the Wicklow mountains, Glendalough, Vale of Avoca) for 3 days and then head back to the Dublin area again for your final day.

That way you will see a lot but not from a car window and you will not return to the US exhausted.

Have a good trip


Doriana May 18th, 2005 05:38 PM

I just got back from a trip to Ireland with my family (including my 75 year old father) and agree wholeheartedly with the other posters that you would be better off limiting your trip to one area, particularly since you said that you hope to make another trip. If you'd like to go to Dublin, as Helen said there are beautiful areas to the south of Dublin and you could have a lovely 5 day vacation just concentrating on that area. A few years ago I went to Dublin for a few days, then rented a car and went to Powerscourt, Glendalough, Kilkenny, Wexford, and back to Dublin. Even that felt a bit rushed! By the way, if you haven't come upon Pat Preston's site yet, you might want to give it a look. She has a Q&A portion (Ask Pat) and is very helpful with itineraries and hotel recommendations. (I'm a fan, not a plant.)

Edward2005 May 18th, 2005 06:14 PM

There are some terrific walking tours of Dublin (not strenuous at all). They leave from the Grafton St. gate of Trinity College. One tour covers general Irish history with a focus on Dublin, of course. The other focuses on the 1916 rebellion and its aftermath. I highly recommend both. There is also a walking tour of Trinity College itself that includes admission to see the Book of Kells. There are some other walking tours that I have not taken yet: one is a literary pub crawl and another focuses on traditional Irish music (aka, "trad"). TIs have the details.

Also, stop by the Dublin tourist information office and get the 411 on some great guided tours you can take as a day trip from Dublin. One takes you to the Hill of Tara and Newgrange, and another takes you to the castle at Trim (the one used in Braveheart).

With your limited time, I suggest spending the first 2 or 3 nights in Dublin. Then take the bus or rent a car to either Kilkenny or Cashel. Kilkenny is a fun town and Cashel has a kick ass castle. On the way to that region, you can visit Glendalough and/or Powerscourt Gardens.

The west coast of Ireland is great, including the Cliffs of Moher. But it will be a hassle doing it on your limited time. It's 3.5 hrs from Dublin to Galway by train, and another 2 hours to the cliffs by bus from Galway. Save it for another trip.

Finally, here are some photos from my trip to Ireland last year.

NEDSIRELAND May 19th, 2005 05:28 AM

Wife & I did an extended weekend (Thu - Tue) last year: stayed in Ennis (Co. Clare); daytripped to Galway (Sat) and to Lahinch & Cliffs of Moher (Mon). I'm 73 and she's 70 - we had a nice time; but we flew into and out of Shannon. No long trips!

Ireland is NOT 'handicapped friendly.' Very few places have facilities for the handicapped. We stayed at Rose Cottage B&B in Ennis: asked for a room away from the Pub and on ground level and Carmel Daniels was happy to accomodate us: a bit of a 'hike' to the main part of town (700 m) but we usually came back by taxi.

And finally, Cruise's Restaurant & Pub adjacent to the Queen's Hotel has 'Trad' Irish Music every night. Weekends are best! You probably want to be back in Dublin Sat., so Friday night might be good.

Adare, Ireland's Tidy village, & Tralee are south of the Shannon Estuary. You'll be 'stretching it' to go that far from Dublin.

I think you would like Ennis: not as big or busy as Galway but less than an hour by BusEireann (hourly) from Galway. In Galway, the Bus station is co-located with the train station. In Ennis, if James (aka Sheamus) Woods is still driving (he would be pushing 79 this year), he'll take you on a tour to the Cliffs of Moher, Lahinch, the Burren, and Doolin. If you get off the bus in Ennis he is likely to be waiting there with his taxi - he's the guy who looks like Barry Fitzgerald (and he says he was in the 'Quiet Man' movie but I think he was just a utility driver).

asa4 May 23rd, 2005 10:37 AM

Hey, this is Amy (asa4) again. Thanks to all for the wonderful suggestions. A question for "justjude": How long was your trip? We will also keep Ennis in mind as well as an alternative to Galway City.

We are currently considering two potential itineraries for our 5-day trip and would love feedback:

1) DUBLIN (we arrive from London on the morning of June 28th, see Trinity College/Book of Kells, wander around), next morning on the 29th, take the train to GALWAY CITY (drive to the Cliffs of Doher, wander around Galway city), on the 30th, take the ferry out to the ARUN ISLANDS (stay 2 nights, relax, hike, etc.), take the ferry and train to DUBLIN on July 2nd (stay over in Dublin and leave on the 3rd).

2) Explore WICKLOW by car (Powerscourt, Glendalough, Kilkenny, Wexford) as others have suggested.

*Does anyone have any hotel, B & B or food recommendations for the above locales?
*Does anyone know anything about the Claridge or Jurys in Dublin? In the countryside are there manors or cottages like in England? We stayed in several in the Cotswalds and LOVED them.

*Are there restaurants/pubs/delis/tea houses/markets, etc. people would recommend in the above locales?

Thanks, Amy

aggiemom May 23rd, 2005 10:49 AM

Hi asa4: So glad to see a new thread on Ireland. I'll be watching with interest as you fine tune your itinerary. My husband and I have pretty much decided on Ireland in Sept. for our 20th anniv. In the meantime, I'll be following you here...

PS: Less is definitely more. Just returned from 8 nights Amsterdam/Germany with my 77 year old Mom and in retrospect, would have done less and enjoyed more.

cambe May 23rd, 2005 12:44 PM

Hi asa,

Don't know if I can help a lot but the Pembroke Town House in Dublin is a boutique hotel which is really lovely.

Not on your itineraey but Castle Leslie, just over the boarder from NI in Co Monaghan is out of this world (and not that expensive). This is where Paul M'Cartney and Heather Mills had their wedding. I know it more for the Equesterian Centre an mostly the wonderful food, They have B&B acconnodation which I am sure would be wonderful.

Tinakilly House Hotel in Co Wicklow would be my second choice.

Have a good trip


PS I would opt for option 2

asa4 May 24th, 2005 07:00 AM

A quick FYI: My dad is a fairly young athletic 74-year old. Last summer, we hiked all around Mt. Rainier outside Seattle and cycled around Stanley Park in Vancouver with no problem. He's game for almost anything. Just a wee bit of a hearing problem when he chooses!

justjude May 24th, 2005 07:39 AM

Hi Amy,
Our trip was 8 days. We had a wonderful time but wish we could have stayed longer. Is there anyway you can fly out of Shannon instead of Dublin? That's the only way I would venture to the west in that short amount of time. We did not make the Aran Islands because we lost some time exchanging cars in Galway. We drove back to the cliffs of Moher and down the coast to Killmer and took the ferry across to Glin where we spent a much needed two nights at Glin Castle. Glin Castle was absolutely wonderful. The staff was warm and friendly, the accommodations surpassed our expectations and the grounds and surrounding scenery were breathtaking. Shannon is only a leisurely 2 hours from there with Adare situated along the way.

If you can't fly out of Shannon and really want to venture west, I agree with NedsIreland. His itinerary sounds perfect. Stay in Ennis and do day trips from there before returning to Dublin.

If you are searching for Manor Houses, try One of the things I did before we left was to go to the site (equivalent to our AAA) for driving directions. We used that to highlight our routes.

asa4 Jun 1st, 2005 12:21 PM

For Justjude (or anyone else)--Thank you for all the info. We made arrangements to fly directly into Kerry airport from Dublin, so we'll be able to buy ourselves some much needed time.

And, you'll be happy to know that we just made a reservation at Glin Castle. It's very pricey. It's not too snooty? We love gardens and grounds and
beautiful manors, but we're Chicagoans! Not into pretentiousness.

Lastly, we are in a quandary about our last night in the Irish countryside (before heading to Galway). We are deciding between staying in Doolin (Aran House View Hotel) or Ballyvaughan (Gregan's Castle). The towns are about 20 minutes apart, we're told, proximal to the Cliffs and to Galway. Any thoughts on these locations/accomodations?

Thanks, Amy

justjude Jun 6th, 2005 05:49 AM

Glin was absolutely not snooty. We arrived in jeans, sweatshirts and tennis shoes and were treated wonderfully. They do request "smart casual" attire for meals but that's it really. Enjoy your trip.

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