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Should 2 sisters take a tour or drive themselves around Ireland?

Should 2 sisters take a tour or drive themselves around Ireland?

Old Mar 24th, 2006, 08:33 AM
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hi everyone-
my sister and i really want to thank you so much for all the help so far. we have been trying to put together some kind of route and we were hoping you might be able to help us figure out where we have gone right and where we have gone wrong. we're mostly just guessing here. any suggestions about what else to see or what to leave out would be great!

arrive in shannon, stay 2 nights
drive through limerick and the cliffs of moher
stay 2 nights in galway and see connemara
drive through westport, sligo, belleek, donegal (stay 2 nights somewhere here?)
drive to derry and stay 2 nights. see the giants causeway
drive through belfast and stay 2 nights in dublin
drive through waterford, kilkenny
stay 2 nights in cork. see the blarney castle and kindale.
drive through killarney and kenmare
stay 2 nights in dingle
drive to shannon and depart.

we are so very open to any suggestions or changes, as we really have no idea if any of that makes sense. thanks so much!
Old Mar 24th, 2006, 10:45 AM
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I just got back from Ireland and we rented a car. I think absolutely you should drive yourselves and absolutely you will be safe. I also think you should rent an automatic because you're not going to want to have to deal with driving manual on top of driving the left side and the narrow roads and so on.

Lastly, definitely get the Ordnance survey (I think I spelled it wrong) Road Atlas. Absulutely priceless! Easy to use, great detail, and the same price as a foldout map (13$ roughly). I picked mine up at the TI in Kinsale but I'm sure they have them all over.

Hertz is the most expensive car company so I wouldn't go with them. I used auto europe. I had a 15% discount (5% for no reason, 5% corporate though they never confirmed who I worked for and another 5% if I paid the deposit up front). It was $150US for 3-days including insurance for a compact automatic. Trust me, you don't want bigger than a compact and I'm 6"3. They did get us for another $8 per day for the added driver and $50 prepaid gas which meant we had to turn it in empty (which thankfully we pretty much pulled off). Gas is expensive as hell there but the car didn't seem to guzzle too fast. I think I filled it up once and added another quarter the last day. Just be sure to double check what time they close the day you want to return it at the lcoation.

Enjoy yourselves. And don't be intimidated either. I'm a sucky driver and I managed.
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Old Mar 24th, 2006, 11:00 AM
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It's an ambitious itinerary, but doable. You're young, so you have the resilience -- at least you are staying in each place more than one night! Otherwise it would be all a 'gree blur' tour

You say you are going to Limerick and Cliffs of Moher? Those are in opposite directions from Shannon, though certainly not impossible. If you like unusual natural spots, I'd skip Limerick and take the day for exploring The Burren, or the Aran Islands, which are both near the Cliffs of Moher

You've a couple of very long driving days, such as Galway to Donegal, Derry to Dublin, and Dublin to Cork (very long!) Remember that the roads there don't allow much more than 35mph -- that's not a speed limit, its as fast as you CAN go on those roads! So the mileage from Dublin to Cork is 160 miles -- which will be 4.5-5 hours. Do you really want to drive that much in one day? My recommendation for that would be to stay in Kilkenny those two nights, and then go to Killarney/Dingle from there.

Remember, you're young -- you can always come back to Ireland again, and explore those areas you missed this time!
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Old Mar 24th, 2006, 11:19 AM
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my son (19) and i went to Ireland last jun and rented a car... here are a few things i learned (both here from helpful Fodorites, and by experience)
-Go for the additional expense of an automatic - one less thing to think about.
-Have your navigator continually remind you to "stay left, stay left"
-Drive around the parking lot a few times, figure out the knobs/switches/reverse.. the good thing is that you will probably arrive at Shannon early in the morning so not much traffic to deal with right away.
-Stay more than one night in each place so you can enjoy where you are, not think about the place you need to be later.
-You may want to think about flying into Shannon and out of Dublin.. if you want to make a big sweep and not have to backtrack.
-Driving there isnt as difficult as some think. You'll get a laugh when reading the speed limit signs.. many places its impossible to go as fast as they suggest.
-The car you rent will be tiny.. and the roads just a wee bit tinier!

have a blast!
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Old Mar 24th, 2006, 11:34 AM
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oh.. wanted to share our itin with you.. if you follow it on a map, you'll see its kinda a sweep.. (we did all this in 6 nights.. too much moving around.. and 830miles of driving.. but i think it would have been perfect in 2weeks)
arrive Shannon.. visit Burren, Cliffs of Mohr
night 1 Lisdoonvarna.
night 2 Castlegregory -
Dingle Peninsula
night 3 Kinsale - a fave. (there is lots btw Dingle and Kinsale)
night 4 Cahir - hung out at Cashel
night 5 Athlone - check out Clonmacnois
night 6 Malahide (near DUB) Howth is very pretty coastal town.

like i said.. much too much for the time we had.. but will be going back to spend more leisure time someday.
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Old Mar 24th, 2006, 12:35 PM
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A long-time resident and tour organizer in Ireland, I agree that the automatic car is a good idea for a newbie. There's nothing like wandering along the roads in a car to encounter the wonderful serendipitous events that befall you in Ireland. However, driving times in the country tend to be longer than a map suggests, so driving can be tiring.

Have you considered a 'hybrid' trip? As the summer is very busy on the roads, I recommend this to many first-timers as a good way to acclimate to Ireland without too much stress:

Fly to Shannon; take the everyday bus outside the terminal to the town of <b>Ennis</b>; stay there 2 nights at a B&amp;B or hotel such as the Temple Gate; explore the town, take a day trip to the Cliffs of Moher, recover from jet lag.

Then bus up to <b>Galway</b>, staying in a Salthill B&amp;B or splurge at the Radisson SAS hotel. Two or three nights there with a day tour by one of the Connemara tour companies - you can go around Connemara and Mayo, nobody glued to a steering wheel having to miss the scenery. Then from Galway, train to Dublin, a city I avoid driving in....significant crime such as car break-ins, plus horrendous traffic deters me, and I'm from Boston.

From Dub you could rent a car for a couple of days and travel to the North, or take a day bus trip to Glendalough and Wicklow mountains - there are many nice day tours from the Dub Tourist office that aren't regimented and give you plenty of time to wander around the parklands, etc. Mount Usher Gardens is another good place to visit.

Bus or train down to <b>Cork</b>, pick up a car and tour Kinsale, Blarney, etc. then head through West Cork (fabulous), and drive over the mountains from Glengariff to Kenmare (not difficult unless it's foggy). If time permits see Killarney Lakes and parkland, Dingle peninsula, then up through Adare (many nice B&amp;B's there). A great last-night stop is Bunratty village, with many great B&amp;B's on Low Road behind Bunratty castle (I love Dunaree &amp; Bunratty Villa). You could take in the Medieval banquet or country dance show, browse the woolen mill shops, or find Mac's pub in the historic village and have a few final pints. In the AM, drop the car back in Shannon &amp; head home, but you will be back! Enjoy the trip.

carefreecelt is offline  
Old Mar 24th, 2006, 12:58 PM
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One last tip I wanted to pass on regarding rental car, no matter what the country: Be SURE TO FILL UP THE GAS TANK before turning the car into the rental agency. You will not believe the amount you'll be billed for that tank of gas if the rental agency fills the tank!
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Old Mar 24th, 2006, 01:27 PM
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Dear Joanna,
My husband and I have been going to Ireland 2-3 times a yr for the last ten yrs. I have driven myself to many places alone - yes, most cars are not automatic - but they are always available if you request ahead of time.
Driving on the left is no big deal -- just remember to yield to your right on the round-abouts and you should be fine.
GO FOR IT - It's beautiful and you will
find the Irish people to be very friendly. Have fun - we will be there in May - can't wait!
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Old Mar 24th, 2006, 02:46 PM
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It's only March. You have lots of time to learn to drive a stick. Not only will you save money but it will be a good life skill.
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Old Mar 24th, 2006, 02:52 PM
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i just wanted to thank everyone so much for all of the incredibly valuable information so far. it has been so helpful!!!!
Old Mar 25th, 2006, 01:16 AM
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I agree in principle with carefreecelt. You can do a number of one day tours from the Galway Bus/rail station; you can do others from Cork City (Ring of Kerry, Killarney, etc.); and more from Dublin (Glendalough, for example).

My 2-sisters and 2-first cousins rented a Volvo (automatic); and I have hitch-hiked a ride to Carne Golf links in Belmullet, County Mayo with a pair of couples from Texas in a Mercedes Van that was automatic.

Aside from the fact that many rental companies won't rent to a 75-yrar old, I enjoy travelling on BusEireann. The Irish are a curious lot: they all ask where your people are from. It's a good way to strike up a conversation (you don't get when you're driving) and sometimes they can steer you in a direction you never thought to go.

Italian_Chauffer mentioned my name in the same sentence as the Queens Hotel in Ennis. The Queen's puts out an excellent Carvery lunch and it is next door to Cruise's Restaurant &amp; Pub BUT they advise people at check-in that it has 3 night clubs on the property and it can be very noisy. The one time I stayed there, I asked for the room on the Abbey Street side, far end. There was some noise when Cruise's closed but that's about all. Our most recent Ireland trip we stayed at Rose Cottage B&amp;B in Ennis. I thought the Temple Gate was getting just too expensive.
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Old Mar 25th, 2006, 04:35 AM
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Thanks so much for all of your help so far. We have come up with a plan and we were hoping you could let us know what you think. here it is (it's been changed several times)

-arrive in shannon (rent an automatic car!!! practice practice practice in the parking lot)

-stay 2 nights in ennis-see the cliffs of moher, the burren, the aran islands?
probably stay at the old ground hotel

-stay 3 nights in galway and see connemara, mayo, cong (westport, sligo, belleek?) would you all recommend staying in galway or in salthill?

-stay 2 nights in dublin-should we stay in dublin or trim or dun laoghaire? im a little concerned about driving in the city.

-stay 2 nights in kilkenny-see waterford, cashel, cahir (or should we stay 1 night in kilkenny and 1 night in waterford?)

-stay 2 nights in kinsale. see cork, glangarrif, blarney (or should we stay somewhere else during this time?)

-drive through kenmare and killarney, stay 2 nights in dingle

-spend our last night at the bunratty villa, go to a banquet or traditional irish night and go to the castle and the folk park before heading to the airport.

truly any suggestions would be appreciated. i have about 10 travel books in my den and am getting a bit overwhelmed.

thanks thanks thanks again so much for your help!
:0) joanna
Old Mar 25th, 2006, 09:18 AM
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Overall, a good plan.

-Ennis: a crowded town, lots of traffic.
Old Ground is nice, but above the town is the Woodstock hotel, quiet area and I found the staff very helpful; has a pool &amp; health club; also Auburn Lodge, slightly out of town, is nice. Temple Gate is right in town center but could be noisy. Try Knox Bar &amp; Restaurant.

-Galway: for hotels, Radisson SAS on Lough Atalia is very central; for a more traditional place the Ardilaun House on Taylor's Hill, between the city and Salthill; avoid the Great Southern or anything near Eyre Square - construction is ongoing and noisy.

In Salthill there are great B&amp;B's right on the ocean, such as the excellent
Sunrise Lodge; or along the coast road:
Mandalay House or the Connemara Coast Hotel are within close range of town.

-Dublin: places like Dun Laoghaire, Sandycove or Killiney are all on the south side and on the DART train route; much easier to leave the car &amp; hop on train into Dub. Traffic is scary, and a time-waster. Try Fitzpatrick Castle hotel, Killiney. South side of Dub to Bray in Wicklow is a beautiful coastal area.

-Killkenny: I'd opt for 2 nights there vs Waterford - more to see &amp; do, especially the design centre and castle.
Waterford could be skipped &amp; saved for another trip.

-See Blarney on the way to Kinsale, or spend one night there or in Cork and one in Kinsale (not that big a town), then drive along the coast road to Glengariff. Blarney itself is a nice village, with the castle and woolen mills (busy tourist stop) &amp; great B&amp;B's such as Ashlee Lodge and the White House. Cork has B&amp;B's along the Western Road that leads to Kinsale, such as Garnish House. Also Lancaster Lodge is an excellent guest house (more like a hotel), with Cafe Paradiso -superb vegetarian restaurant - right across the street. The wonderful <b>English Market</b> in Cork City is something to see.

-The Kenmare/Killarney/Dingle trip might be a tad ambitious for one day, if you're driving from Kinsale. You might stop one night in Kenmare &amp; then 1 night in Dingle after seeing Killarney. Coast of West Cork is stunning; driving can be slow.
Kenmare: O'Donnabhain's or Virginia's Guest Houses; Park Hotel or Landsdown Arms.
Dingle: Heaton's (outstanding B&amp;B with gourmet breakfast), or Benner's hotel (old style right in town). While in Dingle don't miss Dingle Crystal, and Lisbeth Mulcahy weaver's shop; on the peninsula, Louis Mulcahy's pottery is incredible.

-The Bunratty Villa - terrific choice ....Jack &amp; Jackie are great &amp; their bucolic view of the cow pasture is a lovely way to end your trip. You will love Ireland!
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Old Mar 25th, 2006, 09:44 AM
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Hi jhg,

I think you'll have a great trip to Ireland. I rented a car five or six years ago and second the suggestions to get an automatic and drive around the parking lot a few times before getting on the road. I rented from EuopCar and got some kind discount or special. A small car is better because so many of the roads are quite narrow.

Staying on the left side of the road was not as hard for me as having the steering wheel on the right and all the space beside me on the left; I really felt disoriented for a while. I clipped a lot of bushes and fully expected to smash into a couple of walls on those narrow roads before I returned the car, but I adjusted to the space after a couple of days by constantly using the rear and side view mirrors.

Driving from the Cork airport the first day, I came around a curve and saw a lovely old church and pulled over to park. I drove right over the curb onto the sidewalk and missed a tree by inches. I looked around to see if anyone noticed but no one paid any attention. Probably thought &quot;an American just come from the airport.&quot;

Someone suggested the Beara and it is definitely worthwhile. I also like carefreecelt's suggestion of mixing public transportation/day tours with renting a car. Might give you a break.

Have fun planning.

Luisah is offline  
Old Mar 25th, 2006, 11:22 AM
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thanks so much carefreecelt!!! i will look into all of your suggestions, they are very much appreciated!
Old Mar 25th, 2006, 12:38 PM
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what do you think of these hotels?
ennis-old ground hotel
galway-marless house
dublin-not sure yet... something in dun laoghire?
kilkenny-butler court or berkeley house? or something else?
cork-garnish house or lancaster lodge? or something else?
kinsale-gallery bed and breakfast
kenmare-the lodge
bunratty villa

we want places that are nice, but not too expensive. maybe around $100 per night or less if possible?
Old Mar 25th, 2006, 01:12 PM
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-- best meal we had in Ireland was at the White House in Kinsale!
callalilli is offline  
Old Mar 25th, 2006, 07:42 PM
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well, unfortuantely the old ground hotel is not available for our dates and the marless house in galway isnt either. so i wrote to a few of the other places you all suggested, and am waiting for a reply.
i could really use some suggestions on where to stay outside of dublin, in cork and also, im now confused about our last night in bunratty. should we stay at bunratty villa, bunratty woods, bunratty lodge, dunaree or headley court? are any of them within walking distance if we wanted to to go the banquet or the traditional irish night?
planning for 9 different hotel stays is hard!!!!!
Old Mar 25th, 2006, 08:31 PM
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I'm a little confused ...

You are planning on flying in/out of Shannon? If you haven't yet bought your tickets, seriously consider an into Shannon, out of Dublin and save a Day of travel returning to where you came from. Generally no more expensive and also, most rental cars don't charge a 'drop off' penalty, either.

ALSO -- I like the over-all spread of your newest itinerary (other than the returning to Shannon part), BUT ...
SURELY, you aren't planning to do that route, in that order??? Doesn't look to be the best use of your time, to me.

Also, since both of you are in your 20's I based my recommendations on the assumption that you would prefer somewhat livelier evening than older people (such as myself).

Also, again, what is it that the two of you WANT to see and do? Look at scenery, explore ancient ruins, mingle with the locals, or ... ?

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Old Mar 25th, 2006, 08:56 PM
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Hi jhg

My sister and I rented a car and traveled around Ireland for 10 days in 2003. We were a little bit older than you and your sister (47 and 49!) but we adapted very easily to driving on the left. In the beginning one of us acted as the guardian of the left side of the car. We rented an automatic from Sixt rental car company and they were very forgiving of some minor starches. We reserved well in advance on their web site. I do not remember the automatic being much more than the stick.

We picked up the car after a 10 hour flight, and I immediately drove across the country to Galway, piece of Cake. When looking at a map, figure twice as long as you think it should take.

Word of warning! Drive as little as possible in Dublin. If you must take the car into the city, park it in a garage and walk or take the bus.

My sister and I had such a wonderful time in 2003, that we went back for 11 days in 2004, again renting a car from Sixt. Have fun!
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