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Juniper1979 Feb 11th, 2013 10:11 AM

Solo Trip to Ireland
Hi! I am a 34 year old woman from Canada and I am finally going to be booking a trip to Ireland this year. I will be going in September or October and for 2-3 weeks depending on how cheaply I can plan this trip for. I really don't have any set plans so far and I'm feeling overwhelmed about what to see, how to travel etc. I'd love any suggestions or thoughts on the best way to spend two or three weeks in Ireland. I've heard a lot of good things about Galway so I'd like to spend a bit of time there but other than that I don't know where to start. Because I will be travelling solo, I would love to find a safe way to travel and meet people along the way, or find a tour that might help with that sort of thing but honestly, I just don't know where to begin.

I do know that driving for the whole trip doesn't seem like an option on my budget. As much as I would love to travel that way, It seems like it will add quite a bit of unecessary cost. Anyone have any thoughts on that? Maybe I'm wrong?

amer_can Feb 11th, 2013 10:30 AM

You know we had a drive and stay package with Dan Dooley which worked very well for us. A car and B&Bs around the country. Don't know if they still exist but it is worth checking out.

amer_can Feb 11th, 2013 11:06 AM

Apparently Tenontours does this. Looks like $360 there abouts per person..

Rastaguytoday Feb 11th, 2013 11:51 AM

I'll be renting a car from Dan Dooley in August for 2+ weeks. The comment about drive and stay got me curious.

Here's their current blurb on this option.

Below are some self drive tours of ireland. Look to the right for various areas to tour.

Although I've driven in the UK many times, I decided this time to get an automatic. The combination of left side of the road and stick shift can be confusing, and it's the first time there with my wife.

One thing to remember about driving in Ireland/UK... DO NOT TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS. It's almost got me into a wreck or three.

amer_can Feb 11th, 2013 01:17 PM

Rastaguy, I couldn't find the info about the drive and stay that we experienced with Dan D. but as stated above I did find tenotours that allows for a car and accom. juniper1979 automatics are so much easier altho more $$. Using your left hand for shifting and right foot for clutch and right brake is very frustrating.

bobthecow Feb 11th, 2013 03:27 PM

ameri_can, "right foot for clutch and right brake"??????????? What kind of car were you driving? The pedals are in the same place no matter what side you are driving on or sitting on. You may find yourself turning on the windshield wipers when you try to signal but the gas pedal is on the right.

Juniper1979 Feb 11th, 2013 04:07 PM

Thanks so much for the info you guys. I'm going to check out these links!

amer_can Feb 11th, 2013 04:55 PM

Where is my head...??? Must have lost it completely!!! sorry.. Does it still shift with the left hand?? Maybe it was a pony cart or maybe too many pints!!! Basically I just wanted to give the suggestion for an auto and drive and stay.. Sorry that I got carried away on mechanics.

allisonm Feb 11th, 2013 05:17 PM

Glad to get those pedals sorted out! I wracked my brain earlier to try and remember how DH shifted that darn car last time!

Juniper, I think if you can manage to rent a car, perhaps you can find some day tours to take so you don't have to do all the driving yourself. As an example, if you base yourself in some place like Galway for a few days, you can take a boat to the Aran Islands, where you can then rent a bike for an afternoon. You might then be able to find a small tour group for the Connemara area for another day. Galway itself is a very interesting and walkable city with a fairly young vibe.

Bed and breakfasts are good, economical places to stay and the proprietors are usually very helpful.

We love Ireland but have always rented a car.

Juniper1979 Feb 11th, 2013 06:48 PM

Thanks Allisonm. I was wondering if maybe that was the way to go, to make Galway my home base and do shorter trips from there. Ive had a hard time deciding because I've been wanting to do this trip since i was 20 so I feel like i have to see everything! Since my budget is tight, I'm thinking some shorter tours might be the way to go. So much to see and do! If any of you have any "must see" places, i would love to hear them! :)

Juniper1979 Feb 11th, 2013 06:52 PM

Also, should i have all of my b&bs and hostels (where possible). Booked beforehand or is it easy enough to just see where i end up and try and find something when im there?

bobthecow Feb 11th, 2013 09:07 PM

The shift is always in the middle. If you are sitting on the right (for driving on the left) you shift with your left hand.

indy_dad Feb 11th, 2013 09:10 PM

We took a week to tour the southwest (Killarney, Dingle and Galway) and really enjoyed it (except for the one wash out day).

allisonm Feb 12th, 2013 08:48 AM

If you have 2 to 3 weeks, you can easily base yourself in several different locations for a few nights each. If you fly into Dublin, you can base yourself in one of the towns on the outskirts (Malahide to the north, Dun Laoghaire to the south.) Then you are positioned well to take the DART into the city or south into the Wicklow area. You can easily get over to Galway by train.

Killarney would also make a good base (or the smaller Kenmare) for the Southwest area, which we love.

I can't help at all with the logistics of travel by public transportation.

In September or October (maybe we will see you there!) you probably don't need to have your B&Bs booked. Personally I like to have mine all lined up because I just don't like not knowing where I am going to sleep that night. If you don't want to pre-book, I would suggest at least knowing the names of some recommended in the areas where you plan to be.

Juniper1979 Feb 12th, 2013 02:12 PM

No i think I will likely prebook most of the nights. I like knowing that its taken care of too and given this is my first time outside Canada i dont want to make things overly complicated. I just wasnt sure if i would need to have every night locked down beforehand. Thanks for all the great tips, nice to hear from someone whose been there before. Have you gone in October before? Everyone keeps telling me I'm crazy to go at that time and that I'll freeze but its the only feasible time for me to go.

allisonm Feb 12th, 2013 03:14 PM

We like to go in the spring and fall! We generally have cool weather with not much rain. Last spring we chose to go the northwest area where we had some light rain, while at the same time, Dublin and Cork were dealing with flooding from very heavy rains.

Good advice that you will hear over and over is to dress in layers and be prepared for rain.

If we go back this year, it will likely be around Columbus Day.

RobIm Feb 12th, 2013 03:34 PM

The mantra is "short left wide right".
Do B&B's if possible. You will meet some people and get friendly advice.
In a standard shift car I drove and my wife shifted "First","Second"…
Here is an old trip report. We didn't go to Northern Ireland but will next time.

We've had good luck with Trafalgar Tours. You don't have to worry about driving, finding your place, schlepping your bags, where to eat, etc. Also most meals, friendly traveling companions plus professional guides everyplace you go. Beware of the extra tours they can get expensive.


GreenDragon Feb 13th, 2013 06:06 AM

My first trip to Ireland (well, to anywhere!) was solo, in 1996. Do rent a car, if you can, as the best places to discover aren't accessible by public transport.

I'm a fan of basing myself in one place at least every 2-3 nights. The fuss and muss of packing, unpacking, checking in, checking out, finding the new place, etc., takes a lot of time. is a great resource, and Michele runs lovely forums for travelers.

You won't necessarily freeze in October if you dress right. There is no bad weather, just poor clothing choices! :) It will likely be windy and cool and rainy - but not every day, not all day. We went in April, and it was misty in the morning with highs of 50-55 every day, and sunny most afternoons, rainy all day one day in the week. You never know, just be prepared for what does come.

Do be prepared for short days, as the sunsets come more quickly as October goes on, cutting in on sightseeing.

Best place I've learned for meeting folks is to go to the pub in the evening, sit at the bar (rather than at a table), and bring a book or a project (I bring my notebook and write the day's trip report notes). Usually you will be included in the conversation pretty quickly.

I preferred Westport to Galway, personally, but I'm not a fan of big cities. I grew up in Miami, and I would rather the smaller towns. Westport isn't a SMALL town, but it's charming enough and entirely walkable. Plenty of pubs and restaurants to keep you busy at night. And well situated for exploring the Sligo/Mayo/Galway region. Achill island, Connemara, etc.

What do you like doing, and want to see? My personal faves are stunning landscapes, sea cliffs, beaches, charming villages, castles, stone circles and ruins of any type, and trad music. For me, shopping is not a priority (though I like locally crafted art items). I don't care for the 'city life buzz'. That means I like the north and west coast the best - plenty of all the above. I have all four Ireland trip reports here on Fodor's, have a look and see what you might get from it.

Juniper1979 Feb 13th, 2013 05:09 PM

Wow some amazing tips. Thanks you guys, I've been having such a good time planning things out and checking out all the links you've all provided. Green Dragon, where can i find your trip reports? Id love to read them!

Juniper1979 Feb 13th, 2013 05:24 PM

Oh and as for what i want to see... I want to see a little of everything. Id like to catch some of the out of the way spots, remote villages, lots of scenery, but I'm also a sucker for some of the really touristy spots. I feel like i cant be in Ireland and NOT kiss the blarney stone lol. I want to hear some good traditional music. Shopping isnt a huge priority although a bit of it would be nice. Really at this point i need to narrow things down. I really want to see all of ireland (and frankly some of scotland as well) but I'm not sure how realistic that is.

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