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boowinnie Jun 9th, 2005 03:58 PM

Suggestions for driving tour of Ireland
Hello all!

I am a new member, and after lurking awhile, I've decided to take the plunge and post.

I have searched other messages, but still have not decided on the best itenerary for a self-driving tour of Ireland. There is so much more to consider than I originally thought!

Here are the parameters:

Staying 8 nights -- arriving Sat. Sept. 3rd (Overnight flight arriving about 7am on the 3rd) and leaving 11 am Sunday, Sept 11th.

Flying in and out of Shannon, renting a car and staying in B&B's.

We are mostly interested in the Southwest, I think. Here are the things we'd like to do/see.

At least two nights in a coastal town.
A horseback ride, hike or cycling day (or a couple)
Beautiful scenery - Cliffs of Moher
Local music in pubs we can walk to from B&B

Would like to:
Visit a castle
Dublin (worth the driving time considering our time limit?)

Some places that appeal to us based on other posts and tour books:
Dingle (scenic drive over Connor Pass?)
Cahir Castle

What we DON'T care about doing:
Going at too fast a pace to take in the full flavor of an area
Kissing the Blarney stone
visiting the Waterford plant

We want to see a variety of locations, but not spread too thin to enjoy any of it. We are thinking of staying 3 or 4 places, 2 or 3 nights each.

Do any of you savvy travelers have any suggested iteneraries?

Also, any advice on renting a car. Preferred companies? Type of car? Words of wisdom?

Thanks so much for your help. I am a generous poster on other boards and promise to give back when I can.

Budman Jun 9th, 2005 04:15 PM

We did similar towns on a 10-day driving tour. You might want to browse my trip report to help give you some ideas.;tid=34503975

There's a farmhouse B&B that we stayed in Killarney in 2001 that you could arrange to go horseback riding. Call the Irish Tourist Bureau in NY and get a free copy of the Town & Country B&B book as well as the Farmhouse B&B book to help in your search for B&B's.

You will have no problem filling up 8 days in the Southwest area -- great decision flying in/out of Shannon.

Car rental - We got a great rate from, but check out others for your timeframe.

Lots of good info on this board by doing a search on Ireland. Others will also chirp in with some great advice. ((b))

boowinnie Jun 9th, 2005 07:06 PM

Thanks Budman!

Your post is quite informative. I have it bookmarked. I have seen in other posts that folks were disappointed with Ring of Kerry. That's good to know.

At first I thought 8 days was generous. Now that we're planning, it seems so short!


mkdiebold Jun 9th, 2005 07:14 PM

Do yourself a big favor and rent as small an automatic transmission car as your luggage demands. Doing so simply avoids as best as possible, the stress caused from the whole driving thing. I like that you are staying within walking distance to the town center. Driving after enjoying a Guinness is not recommended.

Holldoll Jun 10th, 2005 03:20 AM

For my money, I'd skip Dublin this trip-way too much driving. You said yourself you want to take in the full flavor. I'd stay in the west--there's plenty right there. My favorite area is Connemara. You could spend time in the SW--Dingle, Kerry, Kenmare then travel up to Clare--the Burren, Cliffs of Moher, Doolin, then a few days in Connemara. Would be a lovely trip. And evn that is a lot to do in 8 days!! As has been said, you'll get lots of great ideas here. Or you could do the Burren/Cliffs, Connemara and travel farther north to Mayo and Sligo. There's lots of alternatives--all of which are wonderful. Have a great time!!

yesiree100 Jun 10th, 2005 08:18 AM

Here are some of my thoughts.

North of Shannon:
Ennis is a nice walkable town with lots of music. It would make a possible base for The Cliffs of Moher and The Burren (with Doolin in between). Connemara is spectacular. You could also set up near Galway so you are between Clare and Connemara.

Going south from Connemara/Burren/Galway, you could stop in Portumna at the northern tip of Lough Derg and see the castle there (it's very nice), then drive down the western side of scenic Lough Derg with stops in Tuamgraney (some local craftspeople have shops there) and Killaloe (a boat ride on the lake or visit the Brian Boru fort or the Graves of the's only a few stones, but the view is great...especially if you continue up the hill to the Five Counties Lookout).

South of Shannon:
Definitely do the Dingle (at least a day), Killarney town is quite touristy but the area around it is beautiful.

Bunratty can be an convenient spot for your last night, but otherwise, I think the Castle and Folk Park are the only real draws.

I'd suggest Cahir Castle (with a walk to the Swiss Cottage) and then maybe onward to The Rock of Cashel...depending on where you are starting from and finishing at, you could do all these in a day. Between Cashel and Tipperary town, there is a little place called Golden that has a very large ruined priory you can wander around. No admission and it's open as long as the sun is out.

I also have enjoyed Mitchelstown Caves for something a little different.

I've had good luck with Dan Dooley and Irish Car Rentals and using my Platinum Master Card for the CDI insurance. A small automatic will be easiest to maneuver on Irish Roads (the Ford Focus or similar has been great).

Good luck.

boowinnie Jun 10th, 2005 10:37 AM

Well, you both have sold me on Connemara! And thanks, Holldoll for the advice on Dublin. That was my thinking as well, but hubby is feeling obligated to see Dublin. Just makes for a good excuse to go back, right?

Yesiree100, thanks for taking the time to write such a thorough recommendation. You recommended an automatic car. Hubby is leaning toward manual. We both know how to drive a manual, but haven't in a long time. I'm thinking it's hard enough to drive onthe left, much less shift on the right. Does everyone else agree?

I tried to compare the rates a Dooley, but it wasn't working right, so I don't know the cost difference.

I'm going out of town for the weekend, and won't post again until Monday, but I'll check in then to see response and others posts.

Thanks so much! This really helps alot.

Leona Jun 10th, 2005 10:57 AM

We did this very trip last summer, and loved it. We spent the first night in Bunratty, and the last night in Adare. Two nights in Kinsale & 3 in Killarney. (I loved Kinsale & could have spent more time there.) Also 1 night in LaHinch. We rented from AutoEurope, upgraded to a BMW 5 series (expensive but well worth it). That car was packed by the time we left Ireland and we were just 2 people! We wished we had had a couple of days more.

callalilli Jun 12th, 2005 04:55 PM

Hi, just got back.. and drove 830 miles from Shannon to Dublin (via Doolin, Dingle, Killarny, Kenmare, Kinsale, Cahir, Cashel, Athlone). VERY glad that I opted to pay (3xas much) for the automatic. Driving in Ireland is not quite as relaxing (and I love to drive manual shift) as in the States. It was really the craziest thing.. quite the adventure. Though it didnt seem to take too long to get the hang of it, I was very glad to have one less thing to think about. Just my opinion.

Pawleys Jun 12th, 2005 05:17 PM

Don't miss the Dingle Pennisula. In fact, you might want to spend 2 nights there. The Slea Head drive is wonderful and we loved the pubs.

Another thing we loved was hiking the Gap of Dunloe then taking the boat ride through the lakes of Killarney. We much preferred Kenmare to Killarney.

There are sooo many beautiful areas in the SW you'll have a hard time narrowing it down. But, don't spread yourself too thin. Realize you can only count on about 35 mph on those tiny roads.

Doriana Jun 12th, 2005 05:26 PM

For car rental rates with Dan Dooley, I recommend that you call the number listed on Pat Preston's website (see link to her bargains page below), mention her site, and get a rate. I had a tough time comparing prices based on various rental companies' websites because they all seemed to include or exclude different things, but the number Dan Dooley quoted me on the phone was a great rate. (I got a manual, though, which is much cheaper than an automatic.)

mkdiebold Jun 12th, 2005 07:03 PM

I don't know how much more it is to rent an automatic transmission because my husband and I FAILED to do that. We thought it would be no problem to have a manual since we both drive them in the States. Hmmm...let me say this, we'd have given our right arms for that automatic transmission every time we hit a round-about and had to "read signs in Gaelic, stay on the left side of the road, and shift gears all at the same time. The same held true for each tight turn in a city. For a few bucks more I'd definitely go with the automatic.

wojazz3 Jun 13th, 2005 02:00 PM

I drive a manual transmission every time there now, but I've been quite a few times. Drop into second every time you approach the roundabout and you're fine. The thing that I find a bit iritating is that the turn signal and the gear shift are on the same side and usually when you are preparing to turn, you are shifting too. That takes some getting used to.

I think that it is great advice to not visit the Ring of Kerry. It cuts down on the crowds for those of us who enjoy it. The RoK is not really made for taking the main road and oohing and ahing from the car. You need to take some side roads and get out and wander around.


edhodge Jun 16th, 2005 10:56 AM

You will have so much fun! We spent about 8-10 days in the west of Ireland in Sept. '03 and Sept. '04. Click on my name and you will find my trip reports labeled:

Ireland Trip Report/Sept. '03
Ireland Trip Report- Sept. 04 (or How The West Was Wet)

I am warning you though- those reports are long. :)

irisheyes58 Jun 16th, 2005 04:18 PM

Sad to say, Dublin is not worth the drive, save it for next time.

allisonm Jun 16th, 2005 04:31 PM

We have been 4 times, trying to see a different area of the country each time. We have seen parts of the southwest twice. On our last trip, we flew into Shannon and drove down to Blarney to start our circle back to Shannon. We are fans of the Beara Penn over Ring of Kerry, but that is not to say ROK would not be a great trip. We tend to go off the beaten path and end up in weird places, maybe with a farmer's fence at the end of a 3 mile road. So, we back up until we find a place to turn around, and get on with the ride. I think we liked Beara better because it was more remote and a little less traveled.

We really enjoy Kinsale, even though we find it a little artsy. The area is lovely and it has some nice pubs and shops. We prefer Kenmare to Killarney as a jumping off spot, great location, but stayed in Killarney a night as well so we could go to the Park and on to Dingle. I have an unfinished trip report on our last venture in October posted here. I wrote about it all except Dingle. (We heard some great music here this trip.)

If we are in the area, we like to stop in Cork, but traffic is pretty awful and we find the ring roads hard to navigate. But we like to go to the English Market, and the crowded streets can be lots of fun. Blarney is an easy drive from Cork, and you can see it without kissing the stone! The grounds are really lovely, the castle interesting, and there are some nice spots for meals in the town.

We like to spend our last night in Bunratty, but next time I think we will try another location for a change. I like to make some last minute purchases in the shops there, my husband likes Mac's pub for the final pints, and it is a very easy trip to the airport.

If you are like most Ireland afficianadoes, you will go back again and again to see the places you didn't get to the first time!

boowinnie Jun 26th, 2005 03:44 PM

Thanks, everyone for your thoughtful recommendations. I am working diligently and I hope to have a proposed itenerary to post in the next couple of days and would love any feedback.

Sorry I haven't posted, but we had a temporary distraction with a family vacation to the lovely NC coast! I is rough!


NEDSIRELAND Jun 27th, 2005 02:44 AM

Listowel (Co. Kerry) has a 'Horse meet' beginning about Sep 10th. I don't know about horseback riding from there but there are a couple of B&B's near Abbeyfeale (on the Limerick-Kerry border) that feature horseback riding.

NewYorkTraveler Jun 27th, 2005 05:18 PM

If you decide to go to Killarney I have a couple of recommendations for you. Killarney Riding Stables, just outside of town, offers 1,2 and 3 hour rides, as well as trekking and trail riding. I don't know your level of proficiency (I'm a beginner) but you'll certainly enjoy the view of Killarney National Park.

Also recommended is the two hour walking tour of KNP. It's not a hike, per se, but the guide and I walked about 4 miles, while enjoying the fauna, flora and splendor of the park. I'll find their websites if you're interested. Good luck.

amyprib Jun 28th, 2005 09:31 AM

Couple quick suggestions, if you are keeping to the SW, and you head south a bit, try to hit Mizen Head. It's south of Beara Pn, but it's beautiful, esp on a clear sunny day. If you head down to Beara Pn, take Healy Pass, I thought it was pretty neat....

I also highly suggest Cliffs of Moher, esp in the sunset timeframe.

If you are heading onto Dingle Pn, drive Connor Pass (a bit intimidating, but pretty cool) and out to Slea Head.

You might also check out the Aran Islands on the west coast there (at least 1 full day for just one island).

Killarney Natl Park definitely was beautiful to drive through and going through Gap of Dunloe.

Would definitely keep Dublin for another time. With 8 days, you will want to take full advantage of what the W and SW have to offer. I've already forgotten how much there is to do just in W-SW!
btw, I have tons of pictures if you are interested to see some of these places... This is only a third of the pictures I have.

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