TravelFilter: Ireland
February 15, 2010 9:20 AM   Subscribe

Suggestions for an Irish road trip?

I'm helping to plan a trip to Ireland for this Spring, and could use some advice, ideas, and suggestions. Basically, we'll be there for a week, and the general plan is to start in Dublin, and drive along the southern coast, and end up in Shannon. So -- ideas for places to go, things to do, sights to see? We don't have a lot of time, so I want to make sure we make the best of it. As a group, we enjoy music, food, drink, shopping, history, architecture, art, and general fun and entertaining things to see and do. There's four of us, and none have ever been to Ireland before.
posted by spilon to Travel & Transportation around Ireland (15 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
If you go a bit more west, I enjoyed my stay in Dingle. Music every night and nice rock circles and monuments to see.

Out of your way I know, but if you end up near Westport the driving through the Doo Lough valley was one of the most beautiful drives I've every taken.
posted by beowulf573 at 9:33 AM on February 15, 2010

Forgot to add, I had great luck with Rick Steve's Ireland book, I'd suggest taking a look at it for recommendations on places to see and stay.
posted by beowulf573 at 9:34 AM on February 15, 2010

Check out the beach town of Tramore. It can be pretty touristy if it's nice outside, but it's an interesting place not much like other places in Ireland, I felt.

I also enjoyed both Kilkenny, Cork, and Killarney -- the latter of which is quite beautiful. Clonmel is also interesting because it's very non-touristy and you get the sense of what "real" Ireland is like. Galway was probably my favorite place -- you should make that your destination instead of Shannon.

Seconding Steves' Ireland book; it's top notch.
posted by nitsuj at 9:42 AM on February 15, 2010

Definitely go west. Hit Dingle, and do either the Ring of Kerry or the Ring of Beara. The former is pretty well-traveled and touristy, but very accessible, while the latter is basically empty, only slower going. As in "Get out of the road, you damned sheep!" Happened to me twice in one afternoon.

Note that there's almost no place to stay on the Ring of Beara, but if you start your day on one end you can easily make the whole drive and end up in Dingle.
posted by valkyryn at 9:44 AM on February 15, 2010

Not sure if you'll have a car, or what, but as I note in every Ireland thread -- plan a bunch of extra time for driving.
posted by inigo2 at 9:52 AM on February 15, 2010

In addition to extra time, plan for extra insurance costs. I rented a car in Ireland and was surprised at the airport by insurance fees that weren't included when I booked online before leaving the states.

That said, nthing Rick Steves' book and Kilkenny.

I stayed in, and can recommend, the Lurraga House B&B in Tralee. It's a bit out of the way, but the owners are so friendly and it's in a lovely part of the country.
posted by apricot at 10:02 AM on February 15, 2010

If you opt for the Ring of Kerry, for the love of all that is holy, do it backwards to avoid the tour buses. Skip Killarney town; it's Irish Disney for tourists. See also.
posted by DarlingBri at 10:34 AM on February 15, 2010

I did an Ireland road trip last year. My route was Dublin-Belfast-Galway-Dublin, so I can't tell you about specific destinations. I can tell you about car rental and insurance.

There were six people in our group. We reserved two compacts from Europcar. The plan was for me to rent one car and my friend to rent the other. When we arrived at the rental car counter at the Dublin airport, we encountered the extra insurance fees apricot mentioned above. The fees would more than double the cost of the rental. We checked with every counter in the airport and the story was the same. Apparently, the CDW you usually get from your credit card is not valid in Ireland, Jamaica or Israel....unless you have a World Mastercard.

Luckily, I have a World Mastercard. My friend did not. I rented one large van instead of the two compacts and had a great trip. I didn't do anything special to get the World card, it was just the one I happened to have. I recommend that you do the same.

This article (specifically point 4) goes into more detail.
posted by Uncle Jimmy at 10:42 AM on February 15, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks for all the great ideas so far. I will check out each and every link. But yes, Dingle is already very much on the shortlist.

And yes, we do plan to rent a car, so thanks for the practical pointers on that one, apricot and Uncle Jimmy!
posted by spilon at 11:21 AM on February 15, 2010

Another recommendation for Rick Steve's Ireland (I used to work answering phones for his publisher and Rick was always pleasantly chatty). I also recommend the West Coast.

Our 2006 trip was from Shannon Airport to Kinsale to Kenmare to An Daingean (Dingle) to Doolin to Galway and finally taking the bus to Dublin. That (plus our stop in London) was a full 2 weeks. An Daingean was my favorite thanks in large part to the folks at the Milestone House who were very helpful in suggesting what to see. We did the Slea Head Loop near An Daingean. The Burren near Doolin is also very nice.

Driving wasn't much of a problem but I wouldn't want to do it in a big city like Galway or Dublin. And the smaller the car, the better, especially if you want to take a side trip in the country on some of the lesser traveled, narrow roads. When we picked up our car at Shannon, we noticed that every car on the lot had side mirror damage or scratches on the doors so remember to note it on your rental agreement.
posted by jabo at 11:31 AM on February 15, 2010

Three trips to Ireland, and after the first one, we decided we like The West the best.

That said, a slightly better plan (IMO) would be to head straight to Galway (or the Galway area) from Dublin. It's easily do-able in a day, even allowing for a few stops. Then you can go south from Galway and catch the Cliffs of Moher (near Doolin), any of the Kerry/Cork peninsulas (Kerry, Dingle, or my favorite - Beara), the Burren, and oh so many other distractions.

Near the Beara are two towns that I love - Bantry and Glengarrif - don't know why, but I find them charming, maybe it's the great mussels I've had both times we've been there.

Personally, I'd skip the Ring of Kerry, and drive either the Beara or Dingle - both are stunning, much emptier, and prettier.

The center of Galway is lovely, if you like cheese, be sure to stop in Sheridan's Cheesemongers. Unfortunately, Galway has sprawled a lot, so the outskirts are bland, but heavily populated, which makes driving through/around Galway a pain, and somewhat harrowing.

Near to Shannon is the beautiful town of Ennis. If you like trad music, make sure you leave time for a stop at Custy's Music Shop.
posted by dbmcd at 11:49 AM on February 15, 2010

A couple of tips for enjoying your trip that it took a few days for my companion and I to figure out.

We had the best time in pubs when we stayed in the attached bed and breakfasts. I guess we felt more like we belonged.

Also, if you want people to talk to you in the pubs, sit at the bar. Then you are inviting conversation. If you sit at a table, the Irish will assume that you want to be alone with your party. And talking to the Irish is the best.
posted by Duffington at 12:15 PM on February 15, 2010

Another vote here for the Dingle Peninsula.

It been almost 10 years since I was there, jet-lagged and wedding weary, so please make allowances for my memory...

My husband and I flew into Shannon, rented a car and drove to the Dingle Peninsula. We stayed at a lovely B&B, Beal Atha, in Dún Chaoin. Slea Head has lovely walking trails with fabulous views of the Blasket Islands. Stop for lunch at Tig Aigne, which is quite near the trail, IIRC. The Louis Mulcahey Pottery Works is interesting, if you like pottery. An acquaintance runs the The Blue Zone Jazz Wine Bar, "live jazz & blues, gourmet pizzas, great atmosphere, Green Street, right opposite the church" in Dingle proper. (If only I had known him where we were there!) This page has great suggestions for walking the peninsula.

Cliffs of Moher and the Burren are well worth seeing, but, at least for me, they were better at part of a day than a full day. The scenery on the Dingle is much more stunning, anyway! We did not make it to the Blasket Centre but the views of the islands from Dún Chaoin were outstanding.

Enjoy your travels!
posted by MonkeyToes at 1:09 PM on February 15, 2010

Nthing Dingle. (Amazing memories by bike.) Oh, and: the actual lake isle of Innisfree...!
posted by progosk at 1:24 PM on February 15, 2010

You will probably be passing through Limerick on your way to Shannon, and depending on your timetable, perhaps stretch the extra 2 hour drive to Galway and spend your last night there. I love the Burren, and it could be worth a visit on your way back to Shannon airport.
posted by doozer_ex_machina at 8:01 AM on February 16, 2010

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