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Ireland by herself: need help with itinerary and recommendations

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Ireland by herself: need help with itinerary and recommendations

Old Apr 18th, 2009, 04:05 PM
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Ireland by herself: need help with itinerary and recommendations

Hi everyone! (This is really long, so I appreciate your reading this.) I'm celebrating my Masters Degree (and my 3rd annual 30th birthday) by going to Ireland by myself in September (8-24) - well, I did have a friend who was going to join me, but she's not able to make it. After reading Mina's adventures, I got inspired to not cancel, fly over there anyway, rent a car, and traipse around. But I could use some help with my itinerary (guide books make everything sound wonderful - I'm using Fodor's and Rough Guide), and recommendations for accomodation, rental car companies, and if anyone has ever gone to a Lisdoonvarna Matchmaking Festival event, PLEASE let me know!! I'm not really a party animal, but would love to explore some walking loops, farmer's markets, and gardens. For accomodation, I'm hoping to do a mix of hostels and less-expensive B&Bs, with at least one night in something ridiculously expensive (for my budget) at Sheen Falls Lodge or Dromoland Castle. If I'm paying a lot, then I'm sticking around to take advantage of the amenities, etc. Thoughts and advice are very welcome.

Day 1 (Tuesday): arrive in Dublin at 10:00 a.m., get my bearings, observe the pattern of traffic to determine how people make right turns? Get the Ordnance Survey Road Atlas. Maybe visit Book of Kells. Overnight in Dublin.

Day 2 (Wednesday): pick up rental car early and visit Powerscourt House and Gardens, drive to Glendalough, Glendalough to Avoca (I own the first 3 seasons of BallyKissAngel - I sort of feel obligated), Avoca to Waterford. Overnight in Waterford.

Day 3 (Thurs): visit Wexford in the a.m. or Kilkenny in the a.m.? Back to Waterford to do the Crystal Factory tour. explore Waterford, overnight in Waterford.

Day 4 (Fri): leave Waterford early to visit Rock of Cashel (and bypass large buses). From Rock of Cashel to Ardmore (fan of some books that center around Ardmore). from Ardmore to Cork. Overnight in Cork.

Day 5 (Sat): Cork to Midleton for Ballymaloe House and the Farmer's Market in the morning. Back to Cork for the English Indoor Market. Explore Cork. Overnight in Cork.

Day 6 (Sun): Leave early for Blarney Castle (kiss the stone? don't kiss the stone? I do media relations for a living - I already have the gift of gab, unfortunately). Or skip Blarney Castle and head straight for Kinsale. Enjoy walking tour, visit the harbor, eat fabulous dinner. Overnight in Kinsale.

Day 7 (Mon): Leave Kinsale for (apparent) scenic coastal drive to Mizen Head, with a stop in Skibbereen for a hike on the trail. OR Leave Kinsale and head straight to Kenmare for a visit/hike to Gleninchaquin Park in the a.m. Stay in Kenmare - possible go broke and stay at Sheen Falls Lodge.

Day 8 (Tues): From Kenmare to the Gap of Dunloe/Killarney. Visit Muckross House in the a.m., Gap of Dunloe in p.m. Overnight in Killarney.

And from here on out, I got stuck...

Day 9 (Wed): From Killarney to Dingle - Blasket Islands tour? (skipping the Ring of Kerry because of traffic and time) Explore Dingle for the music. Overnight in Dingle.

Day 10 (Thurs): Leave Dingle and go to Limerick? Stay in Dingle for an extra day? What do I do with myself? Leave Dingle, finish the peninsula, head straight to Galway?

Day 11 (Fri): (provided I've stayed in Dingle for the extra day) Dingle to Galway - stop at Adare for lunch and to take pictures of how pretty it is (according to guidebook). from Adare to Dromoland Castle? Overnight at Dromoland? Or stay in Galway?

Day 12 (Sat): from Dromoland to Galway OR already in Galway... check out the Lisdoonvarna Matchmaking Festival near Doolin. Overnight back in Galway.

Day 13 (Sun): explore Galway and shop. overnight in Galway.

Day 14 (Mon): Day trip to the Aran Islands! Depart from Doolin. Visit the Cliffs of Moher and grab dinner in Kinvarra after. Overnight in Galway.

Day 15 (Tues): drive from Galway to Dublin really, really early. Stop in Clonmacnoise. Get rental car back to Dublin by 11:00 a.m. Explore more of Dublin. Overnight in Dublin.

Day 16 (Wed): Explore Dublin. Overnight in Dublin.

Day 17 (Thurs): Depart Dublin at 10:00 a.m. OR extend my trip an extra day and do more visiting/touring stuff.

Day 18 (Fri): Depart Dublin at 10:00 a.m.

I've budgeted about $125 U.S. per day for 18 days for gas, food, and lodging. I pack my own lunches. The rental car (automatic or manual? I drive an automatic here, but can drive stick) will be pre-paid (I'm thinking about using Insurance for Car Hire and denying the excess CDW), but I'm not 100% sure of the company I'll be using. I've priced out Nova Car Hire and Thrifty.ie and both have good rates. I got a great "deal" from expedia.com for a car rental through County Car (EZ Rent a Car), but am waiting for the rental company to tell me if this includes any taxes or fees or if it's just the base rate for the car. Has anyone used them?

Also, how good is Insurance4CarHire? Has anyone filed a claim with them?

Thank you in advance for your help! I'm really, really excited about this trip!
skspaz is offline  
Old Apr 18th, 2009, 05:10 PM
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Just a few comments:

Waterford Crystal went bankrupt a few months ago. I don't think you can do the tour anymore.

Those Ardmore books wouldn't happen to be a trilogy of Nora Roberts, would they? Guilty pleasure of mine!

If you're going to be in Galway, why not go to the Aran Islands from there? There's a company on Eyre Square (bottom floor of the building that houses Kinlay House Hostel) that sells tickets for a bus to Rossaveal and the ferry to Inis Mor.

BTW, since you mention staying in hostels, my daughter spent about a week at Kinlay House while she was looking for housing in Galway. She really liked it.
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Old Apr 18th, 2009, 05:25 PM
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We picked up our rental car in Dublin and headed for Newgrange. Then to Northern Ireland. Loved it. Giant's Causeway, Bushmill tour, rope bridge, Enniskellin, Belleek Factory and down the coast to Ireland. We visited the usual sites in Ireland and then back to Dublin. The Book of Kells was interesting as was Trinity College itself.

We found the Rock of Cashel more interesting than the Blarney Castle. We found the banquet dinner at Dunquaire Castle to be very good. Good food and entertainment.
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Old Apr 18th, 2009, 07:23 PM
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I've done Ireland by myself a couple times, plus a couple more trips with groups or friends. My first thought is that you are moving around too much. It was easier to put for three or four nights~you'll make more connections with the locals that way, and won't be packing and unpacking everyday.

First realize that you can't see everything, so you're better off concentrating on a couple areas. I'd skip Waterford and Blarney Castle and even Dublin. Spend more days in Dingle and Cork~they are beautiful areas that deserves more time. Definitely visit Mizen Head.

Double check the ferry times from Doolin~they don't sail in bad weather or winter, so if you're set on going, build in a couple days in case of weather, or plan on taking the plane from near Galway.

It's a stretch to get from Galway to Dublin airport with a stop at Clonmacnoise by 11am. For the most part driving averages 35mph, so allow more time to get places, and just enjoy the countryside.

As for driving, unless you drive a stick regularly, I'd suggest an automatic, even if it is more expensive. Trying to adjust to driving on the left, plus navigating on your own demand great attention. I enjoyed driving in the country, but hated driving in larger towns such as Galway & Cork with the added pressure of stoplights and more traffic.
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Old Apr 18th, 2009, 07:40 PM
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Thank you so much for the advice!!

Yes, those would be the books by Nora Roberts. =) I read those books when they first came out and have wanted to visit Ireland ever since! If you get a chance, check out the Irish Trilogy - Jewels of the Sun, Tears of the Moon, and Heart of the Sea. TOTAL guilty pleasure!

Thank you again on the advice of what to skip. I really would prefer to visit more "off the beaten path" places, and this helps me feel not guilty about skipping the "big" sites.

Since I can cut out some stuff from my list above, I'll see about working in some Northern Ireland magic. The photos I've seen are amazing.

Anyone have advice on a good rental car company?
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Old Apr 18th, 2009, 08:00 PM
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Actually, skpaz, those were the ones I was talking about. Did she set an earlier trilogy in Ardmore?

Car rental companies are a big subject here! My daughter is getting married in Ireland in June and I still haven't rented our car. Mostly because every time I think I've got it down, someone tells me something that sends me back to square one! But we're probably going to go with Dan Dooley. We used them three years ago and had no problems.

You might want to do a search here to get as much info as possible. If you click on my screen name, you'll find a couple of threads I've started recently about car rental.
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Old Apr 18th, 2009, 09:50 PM
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I agree that you're moving around a lot and trying to fit a bit too much in. For example, the Gap of Dunloe can easily take most of the day. We took the Deros tour of the Gap (which was great, by the way); we left Killarney around 9:30 and didn't get back until 3:30 or 4:00. So it would be hard to do that along with Muckross House. Also, you don't need to move from Kenmare to do the Gap of Dunloe; they're less than an hour apart. I'd just stay in Kenmare.

I think Dingle is definitely worth two days. I haven't been to Limerick, but my impressions are that it's just a city without much of interest for tourists (perhaps someone more in the know can confirm or deny that). With two days in Dingle, you can spend one day driving the Slea Head loop, and one day on the Blaskets tour, the dolphin trip, or exploring the rest of the peninsula.

As far as car rentals, we rented from Irish Car Rentals and had no problems at all. They were easily the least expensive we found. And I agree with Katie that unless you drive a stick constantly in the States, an automatic is a good idea. You're already adjusting to a lot, so removing one more obstacle could help.

Could you fly into Dublin and out of Shannon, moving your Dublin touring days to the beginning? That would save you one long day on your current day 15.
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Old Apr 19th, 2009, 01:31 AM
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skspaz wrote: "Since I can cut out some stuff from my list above, I'll see about working in some Northern Ireland magic."

Do you really love driving? You start with too much, cut a bit, and treat that as a basis for putting in another massive lump at the other end of the country. Don't; you'll make your trip into a marathon.

Ardmore is nice; Waterford, most people would probably agree, is not. Why not do an overnight in Ardmore, and perhaps have a look at a couple of attractive places nearby, like Lismore and Dungarvan?

I don't know why Muckross House is such a big attraction. It's nice, but not special, just another manor house that speaks of the life of the wealthy in Victorian times. Ross Castle is more interesting.

Take the extra night in Dingle. I have never found a reason to go to Limerick for pleasure.

Adare is postcard-pretty, but is not an authentic Irish village -- more a proto-Disney venture in putting a Cotswold village into a remote Irish location. But if you ignore the thatched cottages, you can find some good and more authentic built heritage around.

To go to Galway and not visit Connemara looks to me like an opportunity wasted.
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Old Apr 19th, 2009, 08:25 AM
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"Mostly because every time I think I've got it down, someone tells me something that sends me back to square one!"

I just realized that may not come across the way I intended it. Believe me, I appreciate every bit of info I can get before I make the car rental decision!
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Old Apr 19th, 2009, 08:27 AM
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As always, I think Padraig gives some very good advice.
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Old Apr 20th, 2009, 10:40 AM
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This is great! Though I must say, you guys should have seen the itinerary before I pared it down to what is posted above. Oh well, the key to good anything is to edit, edit, edit. =)

Padraig, jent and kate: thank you, especially for the honest assesments. I just spent the day at Disneyland yesterday so the description of Adare is funny. Padraig, you are so correct in that I tend to overbook myself.

Caph: yes, we're talking about the same books. I should have clarified that I was recommending the titles to other folks who may read this thread. And I completely understand the car rental statement - it's the most nerve-wracking aspect of my trip. The idea that the car rental is going to cost more than my flight, and almost as much as accomodations for the entire trip is disheartening, but then I think about all the things I'll get to experience having my own transportation. It also almost squelches the terror of driving on the left side. By myself. Myself who gets lost with the talking GPS and printed directions. Right. I will think of this thread when I pass the same sheep for the third time trying to find Ardmore or Dingle.

I'll re-do my itinerary in the next few days using these bits of advice and others I find, and re-post, just for the heck of it. =)

Though I'm still very curious about that Lisdoonvarna Matchmaking Festival. It just seems like a really fun (or funny) event to check out. Anyone?
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Old Apr 21st, 2009, 03:00 AM
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skspaz wrote: "I will think of this thread when I pass the same sheep for the third time trying to find Ardmore or Dingle."

If you get to the point of recognising individual sheep perhaps you should get to the Lisdoon matchmaking and find yourself a travelling companion.
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Old Apr 21st, 2009, 06:45 AM
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I have no additional comments, but just wanted to tell Padraig that he made me laugh out loud this morning.
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Old Apr 21st, 2009, 06:48 AM
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Me too! Always appreciate a good laugh to start the day!
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Old Apr 21st, 2009, 03:16 PM
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Padraig, compared to some of the men I've dated, that sheep is probably a better travelling companion! =)

FYI: here's the newly updated itinerary in case anyone is interested:

Days 1-3: overnights in Dublin, with day trips to Powerscourt/Glendalough and maybe Newgrange.
Days 4-5: overnights in Ardmore via Rock of Cashel from Dublin
Days 6-8: overnights in Cork, with visits to Kinsale and Cobh
Days 9-11: overnights in Kenmare, with visits to Gap of Dunloe.
Days 12-14: overnights in Dingle, with day trip to Blaskets and Slea Head.
Days 15-17, possibly 18: overnights in Galway, with a visit to Connemara and Aran Islands.

I will be flying into Dublin (to visit friends-of-a-friend), and flying out of Shannon. Renting a one-way car.

So that's it. I'm planning to take little side trips (Lismore, Gap of Dunloe half-day walking tour). Hopefully it is a more relaxed pace. I took out the mad dash to make it to Lisdoonvarna... if it works out, great; if not, then I will make googly eyes at sheep.
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Old Apr 21st, 2009, 03:31 PM
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When I saw your title I opened this to tell you to be sure to look for Mina's trip report. I'm so glad that reading it encouraged you to take this trip on your own. I don't have any advice to add, having not been to Ireland. But bravo you for the Master's AND venturing out on your own. Mina's solo adventures brought her a very nice husband and now a baby!
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Old Apr 21st, 2009, 04:40 PM
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skspaz, I think that's a nice programme.

Enjoy.
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Old Apr 21st, 2009, 07:03 PM
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Skspaz - no advice for you as we are just planning our own first trip to Ireland, but I wanted to say CONGRATS on your Master's! My husband, son, and I are taking our trip to celebrate my finishing my Bachelor's (after um... 18 or so years... LOL).
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Old Apr 21st, 2009, 07:30 PM
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Here's another solo female travel thread with lots of useful links:

http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...and---help.cfm

On the drive from Dingle to Galway, assuming you take the Tarbert Ferry to catch the Cliffs of Moher and a bit of the Burren, you COULD do a MINOR detour to Lisdoovarna, if you find the sheep resisting your advances ...

Bob
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Old Apr 22nd, 2009, 07:06 AM
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I've been to the Lisdoonvarna Matchmaking Festival and thought it was horrible. People are drunk from 11am in the morning. I couldn't get out of there quickly enough. You're making the right decision not to go there.

If you go to Kinsale and like seafood, try to have lunch in the Fishy Fishy Cafe (but be warned - they don't take bookings or any credit cards). The food is gorgeous.

For what it's worth, your newer itinerary sounds much more doable. Congratulations on finishing your Master's!
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