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Ireland with a "taste" of Scotland in 2 weeks?

Ireland with a "taste" of Scotland in 2 weeks?

Jan 5th, 2018, 02:19 PM
  #1  
cat
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Ireland with a "taste" of Scotland in 2 weeks?

Hi All. Planning hubby's 50th b-day trip in early June. Having a very hard time narrowing down what to do and where to go. We have a total of approx. 16 days, 2 days for traveling to and from Europe and then about 14 days "on the ground". We are flying from Philadelphia to Ireland. Trying to decide whether to fly into Dublin or Shannon? Dublin is about $400 cheaper, but we have no acute interest in Dublin. Two nights there I think would be enough. I'm also a little leery about driving in Ireland. I'm not sure why since we just went to Australia last year and drove over 1000 miles on the other side of the road. For some reason, I having a hard time shaking the feeling that the roads in Ireland are narrow, winding, scary, difficult to navigate and that there is a high probability of getting lost. Sounds stressful to me. Can someone tell me to just get over it and do it!?!?

If we don't rent a car, my thought is to land in Dublin for 2 nights, then train to either Galway or Killarney and day trip from one base or the other for 3-4 nights. Then train back to Dublin and then on to Belfast for 2 nights so hubby can go on his "MUST DO" GOT tour.

If we do rent a car, then I'm much more open to flying into Shannon and staying in one or two small towns, ending up in Galway for a few nights, dropping the car and then train to Dublin, then Belfast.

Once in Belfast, I'm thinking we could fly from there to Edinburgh, 3 nights there, train to Inverness for 3 nights then to Glasgow and fly home. Thought about the ferry from Belfast to Cairnryan, but that seems to leave you off kind of in the middle of no where and then wasting time to get to "somewhere". Am I thinking about this correctly? Also, open to renting a car in Scotland. The prospect of driving there feels less stressful for some reason.

I hope this all makes some kind of sense. Not sure why I'm struggling with this quite so much. If we do drive in Ireland, any suggestions for towns to station ourselves in to allow for a nice (not too harrowing) drive along the Wild Atlantic Way ultimately ending in Galway? Is trying to fit in a "taste" of Scotland too much? I feel like we must experience Edinburgh on this trip. That's been a long time on the wish list. I know the number of nights I mentioned in each place probably dont add up to 14, but I havent booked airfare yet and could add or subtract a day or two to/from the entire itinerary to make this work.

Our interests are beautiful scenery, historical sites, castles, quaint towns and pubs. A few days in cities like Dublin, Belfast and Edinburgh are ok too, but would like to spend the majority of time outside of cities. Sorry if I rambled on a bit. Any input is greatly appreciated.
cat is offline  
Jan 5th, 2018, 02:27 PM
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"...that seems to leave you off kind of in the middle of no where and then wasting time to get to "somewhere"."

"...but would like to spend the majority of time outside of cities."

Just to get you & us going, I see a major conflict between those 2 thoughts. Could you expand please on your ideas of somewhere & nowhere?
MmePerdu is online now  
Jan 5th, 2018, 02:34 PM
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I should add that what some might feel was nowhere, such as where a ferry left me off, is likely to be of great interest to me as I so enjoy seeing everything between the somewheres. It's all somewhere for me. Not enjoying the journey seems the greatest waste of time. One of my favorite books is one titled 'The Places In Between' written by a Scotsman, by the way.
MmePerdu is online now  
Jan 5th, 2018, 02:38 PM
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If you want to spend most time outside of cities . . . you will need a car. There are trains -- but they mostly serve cities and major towns. There are local buses -- but they are not geared for visitors all that much and are infrequent.

If you are dead set against driving look at small group tours from Rabbies (mostly in Scotland - but also in Ireland) Rabbies.com

These are not typical large group tours but small vans (16 passengers max)

You could do one long tour or 2 short ones in Ireland and one in Scotland and get to all the places you mention. You could fly in to DUB and home from EDI or GLA.
janisj is online now  
Jan 5th, 2018, 03:08 PM
  #5  
cat
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@MmePerdu, I apologize for being vague. I certainly did not mean to offend or suggest that everywhere is not "somewhere". To clarify, it seems that Cairnryan where the ferry docks in Scotland is not particularly close to a larger town where we would easily find a rental car, hotel, or food etc. I could be wrong in this perception which is why I brought it up. It seems we would we need to travel quite a bit to get to a location that furthers our goals of visiting Edinburgh and possibly part of the Highlands. I'm sure the landscape and locale around Cairnryan is beautiful and worthy of a visit in its own right. I'm just thinking about economy of time in getting to Edinburgh etc. on a trip where we, unfortunately, do not have unlimited time. Like you, I do always enjoy any journey and some of the most memorable moments from trips past have happened in between the "somewheres", as you said. I too am interested in most everything about another place that isn't my home. Isn't that why we all travel?

@janisj Thank you for the Rabbies.com suggestion. We do not particularly like group tours and always prefer to be on our own schedule, but if we decide not to drive, small group tour(s) could be very good options. I have a feeling though that to do this trip the way I know we would like to do it, I will face my fear of driving on the other side once again and be glad I did
cat is offline  
Jan 5th, 2018, 03:18 PM
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Cat, I think it's perfectly legitimate to want to just hit the cities, lots of people do. It was the seemingly conflicting goals of your OP making it tough to give advice I wanted to clarify (that and putting in a word for my obvious bias in favor of countryside). No apology necessary, and sorry if I sounded shrill. I am sometimes.
MmePerdu is online now  
Jan 6th, 2018, 09:39 AM
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<>

Get over it and do it.

Happy now?

Fly from Ireland to Scotland.

Note that if you prefer intact castles to ruins, Scottish castles > Irish castles.

<>

Not for Edinburgh, which isn't navigable for non-Scots (or at least non-UK residents), but if you're going to the Highlands, yes. And there are even some decent roads that will take you out of Edinburgh and into the rest of the country. No, really.

You don't need to go to Inverness itself, just the area. But bombing straight up there on the A9 from Edinburgh means you'll miss one or more of the following: Stirling (and its eponymous castle), Perth (and Scone Palace), Blair Castle.

Look into the Scottish Heritage Pass (thinking that's the proper name) - saved about 30-40 GBP on the entry fees for Edinburgh and Stirling Castles for the family. The pass covers far more than just those two properties.
BigRuss is offline  
Jan 6th, 2018, 10:02 AM
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"For some reason, I having a hard time shaking the feeling that the roads in Ireland are narrow, winding, scary, difficult to navigate and that there is a high probability of getting lost."

I would tell you to get over part of it. Some of the roads are narrow. And winding. I wouldn't say scary but I also wouldn't say relaxing, especially with a lorry bearing down on you. Every time I have driven in Ireland or Scotland, which is a lot of times, I have made one mistake about what side of the road I am supposed to be on. Fortunately there has been no one around. As you imply, I do find Scotland easier to drive than Ireland.

Personally I don't think you have to worry about navigating or getting lost.

If you are going to drive, take a look at Google Earth Street View to get a preview of any areas you are worried about e.g. Shannon Airport.
xcountry is offline  
Jan 6th, 2018, 10:24 AM
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Early in my left-of-the-road driving career I discovered in one evening 2 things that make it all easier, having nothing to do with narrow or winding. Ever since, my 2 rules have been:

1. No alcoholic beverages at all when I must drive afterward, not even 1 with dinner.

2. Drive only during daylight hours.

They've served me well. No drinking isn't a hardship or I can always walk to dinner. Or, since I'm usually in left-side places in late spring, dinner before dark which comes relatively late. And other motorists are saved from the experience of the poor fellow who was there when I learned my lessons, though fortunately it didn't take but a minor scare.
MmePerdu is online now  
Jan 6th, 2018, 10:44 AM
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In June you would essentially NEVER be on the road in the dark (or dusk even)

It will be light around 4 AM and sun doesn't set till after 10PM. basically 18+ hours of daylight. So driving is really a piece of cake (a little easier IMO/IME in Scotland than in Ireland because more stone walls in Ireland and in general narrower roads)
janisj is online now  
Jan 6th, 2018, 10:54 AM
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RE: Dublin, we were just there and were unimpressed. I would minimize the amount of time spent there. It's small and you can easily see it in one day.

I'm sure people will disagree, but that's how we felt about Dublin. Meh.
MoBro is online now  
Jan 6th, 2018, 12:21 PM
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I will be following your trip planning, as we are hoping to do a similar one in 2019, also from Philly. Leaning towards B&Bs and self-guiding (trains or car - not sure yet - we have the same trepidation about left-side driving). If we opt for trains between major cities, we'll book small group tours to see sites off the beaten track. No set itinerary yet, but as a rabid "Outlander" fan, there are a few destinations in the Highlands that will be must-sees. Please keep us posted!
piccolomundo is offline  
Jan 7th, 2018, 04:50 AM
  #13  
cat
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@BigRuss, xcountry, MmePerdu and janisj Thank you It may seem silly, but it's always encouraging to hear other Fodorites say "you can do it". I have this same level of anxiety every time we consider driving overseas. I guess that's just how I'm wired after one horrible driving experience in Rome years ago. Once I get over this hurdle in the trip planning process, everything seems to fall into place.

MmePerdu, yes, that's very good advice which we will most certainly heed. Will also avoid driving into or out of airports and cities, if possible, as that always seems to be the most stressful part. If we fly into Shannon, we'll probably do a private transfer to our first location and rent the car from there or, if Dublin, train to our first location outside the city (thinking Galway or Killarney) and rental car from there. Does anyone know if there is direct train service from Dublin to Cork?

@BigRuss, thanks for the pointers on things to see between Edinburgh and Inverness. Based on that, we will most likely drive that leg instead of taking the train. Any suggestions for the drive back down through the Highlands? We intend to do a rough loop back down to Glasgow and fly home from there since there are direct flights to Philly and it's a bit cheaper than leaving from Edinburgh. I'm figuring about 7 days in Scotland. Is that enough time to do a somewhat leisurely itinerary consisting of 3 days in Edinburgh and 4 days at one or two stops in the Highlands? I'm tempted to skip Dublin and allocate more time to Scotland and less to Ireland because, as you said, more intact castles in Scotland.

@piccolomundo, yes, I'll most certainly keep you posted I'm getting more and more excited as our route is starting to come together!
cat is offline  
Jan 7th, 2018, 05:29 AM
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We spent 34 days in Ireland and could have spent more, so I'd recommend skipping Scotland on such a short trip.
abram is offline  
Jan 7th, 2018, 07:28 AM
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I love Dublin, been six times and still have things on my list to see. We love Irish history. So many off the beaten path items there. Last trip I hit most of the Bloomsday stops from Ulysses. Great day trips from there if using as a base but still nightlife at the end of a day. Great theater, concerts and sporting events. Check out lovindublin.com

We did the small bus tour for GOT with McCombs from Belfast. If you fly into Dublin you can take a bus that day to Belfast. Schedule a black cab tour that day and maybe the titanic tour or just walk the city area that is right by train and bus station. We did the GOT tour second day.

Westport and Clifden are nice small places to stay on the west coast.
We have flown out of Dublin early in the morning for EDI. Quick flight and had the day to explore. Very little wasted time. Tram goes into town now from airport so no car needed.
Macross is offline  
Jan 7th, 2018, 11:21 AM
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>>We spent 34 days in Ireland and could have spent more, so I'd recommend skipping Scotland on such a short trip.<<

I've spent maybe 30+ days over all in Ireland and probably in aggregate 5 months in Scotland -- and skipping Scotland would NOT be my recommendation at all. In to Shannon with 4 or 5 days on the west coast, and the rest in Scotland would give you a nice taste of both ( *and let you decide which 'calls to you' more to start planning your next trip)

Re not driving out of airports -- IMO that would only apply to your arrival day after an overnight flight. After the jet lag has cleared and you have been on the ground for a while . . . The absolute EASIEST place to drive out of would be the airports. For instance -- if you fly from Ireland to EDI go in to the city by tram or airport bus tax depending on where you are staying and stay 2 or 3 nights. Then return to EDI and collect your car there. Easy Peasy to get on the road and head north.

Pick the car up at EDI and drop it at GLA -- could not be easier. For your last night - unless your flight home is at 6 or 7 AM, I'd plan on staying somewhere along Loch Lomond - Luss or anywhere south of there. It is an easy drive to GLA and you don't 'throw away' the last night in an airport hotel.

If you want to go as far north as Inverness, I would drive up the A9 and come south along the west side of Loch Ness, through Glencoe and down to Loch Lomond. This would not be an overly ambitious 4 day trip. Of course - one could spend 3 weeks on the same route an not see everything.

OR -- if you are not wedded to Inverness, there are many other areas/routes you could take with just as good or even better scenery.

For instance you could just do Perth/Scone, Loch Tay, Killin, Glencoe, the Trossachs, finishing up either on Loch Lomond or near Callander/Aberfoyle/Drymen (also easy drives to GLA) before driving down to the airport. Me personally - I'd prefer this to Inverness/Cairngorms but either would be a great 4 day trip.
janisj is online now  
Jan 7th, 2018, 01:02 PM
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<>

Go up to Inverness via Perth and the Forth Road Bridge and then via Blair Athol and Blair Castle. On the way to Glasgow, go to Stirling. Glasgow is west of Edinburgh, Stirling is west of Perth and the First of Forth (which is the oversized water inlet that stretches from the east coast to Edinburgh and over which both the Forth Rail Bridge and the road bridge go) so easier to hit en route south to Glasgow.
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Jan 8th, 2018, 04:18 AM
  #18  
cat
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@abram I do appreciate your point. However, we're not trying to exhaustively experience Ireland or Scotland on this trip. It's to get a feel for each, then decide what to go back to see on future trips. For instance, we've been to just London 5 times and many other cities/countries multiple times. Once we fall in love, we have no problem going back again and again. I've no doubt that will happen on this trip

@Macross TY, great info! I keep trying to convince myself it would be okay not to do Dublin this time around, but I know that's not really true, especially if we want to make it to points north. Appreciate the info on the GOT tour and getting to Belfast. This is hubby's choice for his half-century trip and that tour is top priority for him. You mentioned you took the McCombs tour. Would you recommend that one over others? What stops did you make?

@janisj TY, excellent advice and suggestions. You are right, the only issues I've really ever had driving out of airports is trying to do it the moment we arrive somewhere. Returning to EDI to pick up the car when we are ready to move on is a great idea. I will consider all of the places you suggested on the map while planning our route. Greatly appreciate your detailed input.

@BigRuss I did look up the castles and palaces you mentioned in your previous post. They all seem wonderful and just what we're looking to experience. Greatly appreciate the advice on routing. Sometimes it's so hard to tell looking at a map what would be easiest and most efficient once on the ground. Also, looking into the Scottish Heritage Pass you mentioned. TY again!
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Jan 8th, 2018, 04:32 AM
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https://www.mccombscoaches.com/tours...f-thrones-tour

We did it on a small bus and were able to get into Ballintoy harbor which was one of my favorite stops. They had a menu with four or five options for lunch at Giants Causeway Hotel. We decided what we wanted and he pre-ordered for us so lunch was on our table in no time so we could explore. We had plenty of time. Go to the br and get one of their dryer ciders. Excellent, and lunch was very good btw. We had a great mix of travelers on the bus.
Premiere inn in Central Belfast is perfect or if you have the money stay at the Europa hotel. Visit City Hall, it was built by same artisans and craftsmen that built the Titanic. The Crown is a great pub and we ate dinner there twice.
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Jan 11th, 2018, 08:13 AM
  #20  
cat
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Ok, looking for comments, opinions, suggestions etc on the way our itinerary is shaping up. Potential dates of travel 5/29- 6/14. Since this is hubby’s 50 th bday trip, his requests are for it to be slower paced and GOT tour north of Belfast is a MUST. I’ve since learned that the cheapest flights would involve us doing this trip in the reverse (of what I was originally thinking) by flying into Glasgow and home from Dublin. Logistically, I think that actually works out somewhat better too. Soooo, here’s what I’m currently thinking as a very rough itinerary:

Fly PHL to GLA and transfer immediately to Edinburgh
Ediniburgh for 3 nights at Witchery By The Castle, get rental car
Drive to highlands. Taking janisj’s advice and not going as far north as Inverness.
Glencoe for 2 nights at Glencoe House
Drive south and stay somewhere else (maybe Loch Lomond area) for 2 nights, open to suggestions;
Then either ferry from Cairnryan to Belfast or back to GLA and fly to Belfast. Any opinions on this? My thought is if we do the ferry, that will give us additional time to drive and see some sites on the way.
Belfast for 2 nights, take GOT tour or do those sites on our way north and west.
Im thinking we could do a counterclockwise loop through N Ireland and down into Ireland ending up somewhere around Galway for 3 nights where we can base ourselves for day tours. (Maybe Ashford Castle depending on price)
Drive to Dublin with a few stops along the way, again open to suggestions
Dublin for 2 nights and fly home

Any thoughts about timing and pace with this itinerary? Must see stops along the way? Opinions on third stop in Scotland? Hotel recommendations (we are willing to splurge for the special occasion)? Trying to keep it leisurely and not rushed with a day or two here and there to just do nothing if we want. I know we will miss MANY sights and areas in the highlands and Southern Ireland by limiting ourselves to this route, but honestly think we will be back again to all these places. Many Thanks!
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