Ok get ready, I’m taking you on an awesome trip. Well, not literally, but as close to literally as possible. Wes and I spent 8 days travelling in Ireland exploring the countryside and taking a lot of pictures of sheep, the ocean, and ruined castles and I’m going to tell you all about it. The country is greener than green, the countryside and coasts are gorgeous, and there are a lot of sheep. Not a day went by that we didn’t see at least a few sights that made us say WOW.
Planning your own trip? It’s not cheap, let’s be real. Anytime you fly across an ocean, there’s a lot of investment, so stay at least a week (plan for spending two days travelling). We rented a car and stayed in BnB’s throughout out trip (BnB’s are actually cheaper that hotels in Ireland, unlike in the US, where they’re often considered more luxurious). I’ve shared a few planning tips below and our overall itinerary. I’ll be back with the day by day details and tons more pictures in later posts, so check back.
Book airfare. I suggest using kayak.com, especially if you know you want to travel in a certain window, but don’t care exactly which days you fly. It saved us $200 or $300 to leave on a Monday as opposed to a Saturday.
Hire a car. We used Alamo, but they were a little incompetent, so maybe try your luck with another company. Definitely book in advance. Remember, they drive on the left in Ireland, so if you’re going the car rental route, you’ve got to be bold. It’ll be worth it-we saw so many more places, many of which were very rural, than you would if you were on a tour bus. GET THE GPS. No really,a lot of the streets aren’t labeled. Do it.
Buy the guidebook. Buy Rick Steves’ Ireland. You can thank me later. My best friend Kathleen told me, “Take it with you everywhere and do everything it says. He is always right.” She wasn’t kidding, best $14 I ever spent.
Decide where you can reasonably travel to each night. The guidebook has a nifty map showing the driving distances between each town. Make a list of your must-sees and figure out where you’ll spend each night. We decided to arrive at our destination cities late-7pm or later. The only down side to this is that when you arrive most everything will be closed and a lot of shops and attractions don’t open until 10am-ish, so if you want to get an early start it sort of throws you off a bit.
Book accommodation. Using the guidebook recommendations and trip advisor, I picked BnB’s for each night and a hotel in Dublin. We didn’t spend much time in any of our BnB’s since we arrived so late, so we didn’t stress about picking the fanciest accommodations possible since we never unpacked our suitcases!
Loosely plan a day to day itinerary. You don’t want to miss any of your must-sees, so you’ll want to lay out your general itinerary below. My general itinerary for our trip included all the stuff between each evening destination that we might possibly be interested in seeing. As we went along we had to pick and choose between some of the minor attractions, but we never compromised if there was something we really wanted to see. Make sure you’re not too ambitious, or you’ll be so stressed about trying to see everything that you won’t have time to enjoy anything. And you really don’t want to miss the cheese, trust me.
Our trip was pretty packed and we got an early start each morning, but we never passed up a waterfall or a scenic view or an interesting shop (or another pint) for the sake of getting to the next place. Below you’ll find a quick summary of all the stuff we visited and a map. Pink is our general route of travel with places we stayed the night in blue. It was quite a whirlwind, but we’re so glad we got to see so much of the country in such a short time.
Monday, June 18
Tuesday, June 19
Land in Dublin at 0530, pick up car. Visit Powerscourt Gardens, Glendalough monastic ruins, take the military road over Sally Gap, visit Kilkenny castle, and sleep in Waterford.
Wednesday, June 20
See Waterford sights including crystal tour. Visit Rock of Cashel cathedral ruins. Sleep in Kinsale.
Thursday, June 21
See Charles Fort in Kinsale. Stop in Macroom. Take boat to Garnish Island and travel through the Healy pass on the Beara Peninsula. Stop in Kenmare, an adorable market town and visit the ancient stone circle. Pass through Killarney National Park. Experience traditional music and sleep in Dingle.
Friday, June 22
Visit Minnard Castle, right on the beach. Explore Dingle town with great shopping and a nice farmers’ market. Spend most of the day on the Dingle Peninsula and visit the Great Blasket Center. Pass through Tralee, take the Tarbert Kilimer ferry over the Shannon River and sleep in Ennis.
Saturday, June 23
Visit Cliffs of Moher and the Burren. Explore and sleep in Galway.
Sunday, June 24
Explore the coastline northwest of Galway up to Clifden and travel to Mullingar (just to have somewhere to stay that’s close to Dublin).
Monday, June 25
Return car in the morning in Dublin. Tour Dublin Castle. Visit National Library, the archaeology museum with it’s bog mummies. Explore shops and squares. Free comedy show. Sleep in Dublin.
Tuesday, June 26
Guinness Storehouse tour. Tour Number 29 Fitzwilliam Street Visit Book of Kells and the amazing Trinity College Library. Tour of Kilmainham Gaol (Jail). Traditional music pub crawl. Sleep in Dublin.
Wednesday, June 27
Coming up, I’ll share all the details for each day of the trip, so check back.