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Please critique a 3-week Ireland/W. Scotland Trip

Please critique a 3-week Ireland/W. Scotland Trip

Old Jul 31st, 2019, 09:45 AM
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Please critique a 3-week Ireland/W. Scotland Trip

Hi, Fodorites!
In September, a friend and her companion are traveling through Ireland with a few days in Scotland and she’s hoping you can critique her itinerary. She’s concerned it might be a little ambitious, so any tips and red flags will be greatly appreciated.

BACKGROUND: My American friend has been to Ireland many times, visiting family. However, she’s not “road-tripped” there before, and she imagines driving times/conditions there may not be what she expects so hoping for some insight. The travelers are in excellent health, and enjoy driving in the US. One lives/drives in Colorado, so drives mountains roads often. He can drive stick-shift and plans to be only driver; she cannot.

DAY 1-2: SAT-SUN
Arrive Dublin from USA in the morning; visit/stay with family. Pick up rental car at airport. (Will be met by relative at airport, and she will either drive/ride in the car to park it at her home 6 miles away.)

DAY 3: MON (Dublin to Belfast; Giant’s Causeway; to Portrush)
10:00 Depart for Belfast – 2+ Hour Drive (Scenic Route)
12:00-14:00 – Lunch/Walk Around City
14:00 Depart for Causeway 2+ Hour Drive
16:00-18:00 Causeway/Hike
18:00/19:00 – Portrush Eat/Stayover

DAY 4: TUE (Portrush to Belfast; Passenger Ferry to Scotland; Drive to Glasgow)
9:00 Depart Portrush for Belfast – 1+ Hour Drive (Non Scenic Route)
Drop off rental car
11:30 Passenger Ferry to Scotland
14:00 Dock Scotland – Rent a Car
Drive to Glasgow – 2+ Hour Drive
Glasgow Eat/Stayover

DAY 5: WED (Scotland)
Glencoe
Fort William
Castle
Portree Eat/Stayover

DAY 6: THUR (Scotland)
Old Man of Storr
Quiraing
Neist
Portree Eat/Stayover

DAY 7: FRI (Scotland)
Cuillin Mts
Five Sisters of Kintail
Loch Ness
Central Highlands
Glasgow Eat/Stayover

DAY 8: SAT (Glasgow to Belfast, to Donegal)
Depart for Ferry – 2+ Hour Drive
Drop off rental car
11:30 Ferry to Belfast
2:00 Dock Belfast – Rent a Car
Depart Donegal – 2+ Hour Drive

DAY 9: Sunday (Donegal)
DAY 10-11: Monday-Tuesday (Galway/Aran Islands)
DAY 12-14: Wed-Fri (Kerry/Dingle)
DAY 14-16: Fri-Mon (Cork/Kinsale – visiting family)
DAY 16-18: Mon-Wed (Tipperary/Glen – visiting family)
DAY 18-20: Wed-Fri (Laois – visiting Family)
DAY 20: Fri (Dublin – visiting Family)
DAY 21: Sat (Depart)

QUESTIONS:
Any recommendations on rental car company and preparation? (2 US drivers who can drive stick-shift)
Is this driving planner site one that is recommended? https://www.theaa.com/route-planner/route
Someone mentioned a paper road atlas is also essential in rural areas. Any recommendations for one?

RESTAURANT RECCOS: Both travelers are vegan, so any recommendations would be great.

Thank you in advance for any suggestions/advice!
ChgoGal is offline  
Old Jul 31st, 2019, 09:57 AM
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Just two quick comments -- leaving for a few hours and don't have time to absorb the whole plan until later today . . .

re rental company -- check Dan Dooley and AutoEurope. DD is an Irish rental agency and AutoEurope is a US based broker that often has the best rates.

I suspect the whole plan is a little ambitious (like I said -- haven't read the whole thing yet). Just taking Day 3 for example. The whole itinerary is about 4 hours car time (not counting and congestion/traffic/parking problems in Belfast City so lets call it 4.5 hrs). Then they want to walk around Belfast and have lunch maybe 2 hours?? Then Giants Causeway + a hike. So all together it would easily be a 9 or 10 hour day
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Old Jul 31st, 2019, 09:59 AM
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Wow that's quite an agenda. To start with all the sight on Day 6 can't really be covered in 1 day. Maybe 2 because you really need to hike a bit to get the real feel - and views at each of those sights. Day 3 also seems heavy to me. We drove from Belfast to Portrush in one day and covered Carrik -a- ride bridge but can't imagine adding Giant causeway as well as the bit about seeing Belfast all in one day. A1 is a very narrow slow road you want to drive carefully and enjoy the spectacular views.
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Old Jul 31st, 2019, 10:00 AM
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Thank you, Janis! I was hoping you might provide your valuable feedback!
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Old Jul 31st, 2019, 10:36 AM
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Thank you, mnag! Exactly the sort of feedback that's appreciated.
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Old Jul 31st, 2019, 10:54 AM
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A one-way flight most days in September from George Best airport (BHD) to Glasgow is under £50. I don't know what the combination of the ferry plus an extra day in a rental car would be, but I'm going to guess the flight would be competitive if not cheaper. Even better, nonstop on Flybe from BHD to Inverness (INV) is only £46. It departs BHD at 11:00 AM and arrives in Inverness at noon. They could be on Skye in time for afternoon tea.

Given this VERY hectic schedule, I'd do everything possible to add hours or days in the Highlands and Islands, rather than spending them in transit (especially a very bumpy ocean transit between Ireland and Scotland.)
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Old Jul 31st, 2019, 04:09 PM
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OK -- back. --- sorry but the whole Scotland leg makes little sense (Gardyloo beat me to it )

In fact the whole first week is sort of a mess.

If it was me I'd fly immediately from DUB to either Glasgow or Inverness and do the the Scotland bits first. Then fly from GLA to Belfast or DUB. Then can visit the family during the final 2 weeks of the trip. They could return to Ireland (or NI) on Day 7 giving them more useable time in BOTH Ireland and in Scotland.

They can do a driving tour out of Belfast and around to Dublin.

This would 1) give them more usable time in Scotland w/o extending the total days. 2) place all the family visit together eliminating extra packing/unpacking, 3) save ££/€€/$$ taking the ferry/car back and forth, 4) eliminate two total wasted travel days Belfast/Glasgow and back

Your job is to get them to slow down and understand how hectic the plan is (hard task, I know )

Over the final 2 weeks they have less time than they may think because they count the same days for two different places - what they've laid out is actually:

DAY 9: Sunday (Donegal)
DAY 10-11: Monday-Tuesday (Galway/Aran Islands)
DAY 12-13: Wed-Thurs (Kerry/Dingle)
DAY 14-15: Fri-Sun (Cork/Kinsale – visiting family)
DAY 16-17: Mon-Tues (Tipperary/Glen – visiting family)
DAY 18-19: Wed-Thurs (Laois – visiting Family)
DAY 20: Fri (Dublin – visiting Family)
DAY 21: Sat (Depart)
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Old Aug 1st, 2019, 09:50 AM
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Thank you, janis and Gardyloo! Ok... she's re-planning based on your experience/feedback, and thanks for the rental car company ideas. She'd made plans to meet friends/family in Dublin those first days, so they're locked in there, but the rental car/ferry TO Scotland is likely going to be nixed in lieu of flying Dublin to Scotland.

One traveler very much wants to do the ferry from Scotland, so they will likely keep the rental car plan in Scotland (rather than do 1-day Rabbies tours, which was my suggestion, as I don't like driving very much, at all, or ever.) It sounds like the passage may be less-than-romantic/calm, but it is something one of them is excited to experience.

@Gardyloo: I've heard that crossing is bumpy. Have you done this? Is it nausea-inducing? Should they be careful NOT to eat beforehand?

QUESTION: With 21-days in Ireland/N Ireland/Scotland, any suggestions on phone data plans? Anyone get like a SIM card for England, and one for Ireland/EU? She could contact AT&T to see what sort of data plan they have, but I know Verizon charges $10/day. Not sure if anyone has an idea on that.

She's so excited and appreciative to get this feedback, so thank you all for your advice!
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Old Aug 1st, 2019, 10:14 AM
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>>One traveler very much wants to do the ferry from Scotland, <<

Does s/he say why??? Sounds like they have some pre-conceived 'romantic' idea about the car ferry? It ain't. Plus it really isn't that practical -- especially since what they want to see/do is in northern/NW Scotland.

They can take a car ferry either to or from Skye and get that out of their system and save a LOT of time and money ditching the Scotland / N. Ireland ferry.
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Old Aug 1st, 2019, 10:19 AM
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Another vote for Dan Dooley. We always use them in Ireland.

My husband can drive a stick shift but always gets an automatic when driving on the left. You have to remember the stick shift will be on your left and takes a lot of getting used to.

Also, if I read the plans correctly...the plan is to pick up the rental car in Dublin (Republic of Ireland) and return it to Belfast (Northern Ireland). There may be a cross-border fee and a drop-off fee. You are dealing with two different countries. In addition, if they must cover all this ground (way overly ambitious) they should immediately go to Scotland as recommended above.
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Old Aug 1st, 2019, 10:25 AM
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I’ve done several ferry trips to Ireland as well as throughout Scotland. They are nothing more than a way to get across the water. Nothing romantic, exciting or even fun about them.
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Old Aug 1st, 2019, 10:40 AM
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The couple of times I've (mistakenly) taken the ferry across it was VERY bumpy and a number of people got sick. I really think that the idea is a poor one given the overall game plan. As Janis says, there are ferry opportunities within Scotland that might serve as pleasant (and cheaper) alternatives.

You're unlikely to face high "one way" surcharges on cars within the UK, so starting someplace like Inverness and dropping the vehicle in Glasgow or Edinburgh is one way to expedite the trip at minimal additional cost.
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Old Aug 1st, 2019, 11:58 AM
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Just a word: I found Dan Dooley very expensive compared to others for car rentals in Ireland. This is especially true if the driver is over age 60. I've read that your have to pay more in Ireland for older drivers, but I've used Kemwel, Sixt, and Enterprise in Ireland, and never had a surcharge for age. (Maybe this factoid is based on Dan Dooley pricing.) I've been satisfied with all three agencies I've used.

In Scotland we used Arnold Clark for car rental, and were also very satisfied with them.
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Old Aug 1st, 2019, 12:08 PM
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Just a word: the first time I rented a car in Ireland, I planned to use Dan Dooley, based on high praise here and on TripAdvisor. However, When I compared prices, I found that agency very expensive compared to others. This is especially true if the driver is over age sixty, because Dan Dooley has an age surcharge, which goes up incrementally the older the driver is. I decided against Dan Dooley when I saw how much less other agenices charged. Since then I've rented from Sixt, Enterprise and Kemwel and been quite satisfied with all three. I've never had a surcharge, even this year when my husband is over 75. I had read of an age surcharge in Ireland, but we've never had to pay one. Maybe this factoid is based on Dan Dooley pricing. I'm just suggesting that you compare prices before deciding to rent from Dan Dooley.

In Scotland we used Arnold Clark, and were very satisfied with them as well.

I usually choose my car rentals from Expedia, but I live in Italy and use the Italian Expedia site, so I don't know if they're the best elsewhere.

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Old Aug 2nd, 2019, 07:27 AM
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You definitely have to compare pricing. We have been to Ireland several times (well over a dozen). Our rentals over the years have included Hertz, Budget and Dooley. The rental from Budget was old and dirty. We do add on options (extra driver, etc). On our last trip we were hit in the parking lot of Cliffs of Moher Visitor Center....the other driver took off. The damage was about 1,500-1,600 Euro. Easy process with Dooley when we returned the car. For this episode alone, I would stick with them. Also, on our last trip we had several people - 3 cars - some of them over sixty and there was no surcharge.

Do the math with all the extras you want and go with the deal you feel most comfortable with.
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Old Aug 4th, 2019, 11:51 AM
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Dan Dooley car rental "aint what it used to be...." It is now owned by Enterprise and is not an independent agency.
I am going with Conn's Ireland Car Rental for my trip this October. They only rent Hertz vehicles and are associated with Hertz. I have never read a bad word about them and if you break down anywhere you contact Hertz. Furthermore, they only rent with super Insurance coverage and I have found their rates to be inexpensive. Once one has a reservation with them you go to the Hertz car rental desk at DUB. to pick up your car.
Something to look into!
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Old Aug 5th, 2019, 07:39 AM
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Also, we recently (late August / early September 2019) used Arnold Clark in Scotland. We were very satisfied.
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