While one week will provide you with a quick overview of many of Ireland’s sights, I would suggest narrowing the area of your visit when planning your itinerary (i.e. the south, west or north of Ireland). When visiting in early October 2015, I decided to focus on the lower half and western side of the country.
Starting and ending in Dublin, I visited the following areas over a week:
- Day 1 – Renting a car from the Dublin airport, drove west to Galway (night in Galway)
- Day 2 – Leaving Galway early in the morning, drove south to the Cliffs of Moher and then onwards to Dingle (night in Dingle) (blog post)
- Day 3 – Driving the Dingle Pennisula, ending the day in the town of Kenmare (night in Kenmare) (blog post)
- Day 4 – Driving the Ring of Kerry (night in Kenmare) (blog post)
- Day 5 – Driving south east to Kinsale, then north to Cork (night in Cork) (blog post)
- Day 6 – Driving to Dubin with a stop at the Rock of Cashel on the way (night in Dublin)
- Day 7 – Day exploring Dublin (night in Dublin)
- Day 8 – Fly home
When planning the Ireland trip, I did a lot of research and came across the following questions that were asked time and time again on TripAdvisor forums.
What is the driving like in Ireland?
Our trip started with a highway drive between the Dublin airport to Galway, which was multi-laned and fairly straight road, which made for very easy driving. The road from Galway south was also fairly easy driving. The areas where we found the driving to be the most tricky, were very rural areas and parts of the Dingle Peninsula and Ring of Kerry, where the road barely fits two cars or doesn’t fit two cars and one driver has to give the right of way. With stone walls bordering both sides, there wasn’t anywhere else to go! We found that by staying alert and constantly being aware of our surroundings and oncoming traffic (and having great depth perception for those roads lined with stone walls), the driving wasn’t too tricky. Though in saying this, my partner drove most of the time and I don’t know how well I personally would have been able to navigate some of those very narrow roads! We returned the car when arriving in Dublin so we didn’t spend any time driving within the city itself.
If I only have time for one, should I visit the Ring of Kerry or the Dingle Peninsula?
The highlights of the trip were definitely the two drives around the peninsulas – Dingle and the Ring of Kerry. I’m not sure I would be able to pick between the two since they were both very different with their own distinctive sights. If you’re stretched for time, I would give up a third destination to be able to drive both the peninsulas, providing the weather is nice. In bad weather, the picturesque views may be dampened by fog and I might lean a bit more to the Ring of Kerry since there are more ‘bad weather’ sights.
Kilkenny or Kenmare as a base for the Ring of Kerry?
I read several guide books while planning the trip and Rick Steves heavily promotes Kenmare as the better base for visiting the area. I would have to agree. Kenmare’s town centre is basically two streets lined with pubs and shops so it’s a very relaxing stopover in the evenings, whereas Kilkenny is a much larger town. We followed Rick Steves’ guide for the drive, which provided tips on beating traffic and not meeting tour buses head on! (link to blog post). He also provides a decent, high level overview of the sights along the drive (using kilometres as a marker) which we used during the drive.
What’s the weather like in Ireland?
From speaking with locals, the weather is very unpredictable. We visited in early October 2015 and the first five days were sunny with not a drop of rain. Most of the people we met were in such a good mood because (and I quote) “summer has finally arrived!”. From what I gathered, the summer was very rainy and the week we visited was one of the best consecutive days of weather all year. We had a rainy afternoon during the stop at the Rock of Cashel, but besides that small bout of rain, we pretty much had sunshine the entire week.
My advice – pack from all kinds of weather and get out and explore the country, wind, rain or shine!
How did you decide on your itinerary. Doesn’t it seem like a lot of driving?
I found that dividing the week as we did made for a lot of driving, but was at a pace that suits our travelling style. This meant that we spent a lot of time in the car, but early morning departures (by 8am), meant we still had time to make stops along the way and it didn’t feel rushed. With lots of stops along the way, the days never felt like we were stuck in the car all day. With that much pretty things to see, the days sped by.
Have you visited Ireland? What were your favourite destinations?