Once upon a time, when Jon and I were first dating, he invited me out to a family vacation that was going to be in Ireland. “We’ll ride across Ireland by horseback,” was pretty much exactly how he described it.
The time has come, but it’s just the two of us by car rather than horseback, which is A-Okay by me. We have too much luggage for that. Also, did you see our 2-day horseback riding experience in Chile?
So where does one start when planning a road trip in a foreign country? How long should we stay? What sights do we need to see?
The most logical starting point for us, is the cheapest point of entry: Dublin. We were traveling in on a Tuesday and decided to stay in Dublin until Saturday because it would help with Jon’s work schedule (plus recovery after a family vacation in the Scottish highlands/isles). I had no doubt we’d find plenty to do in Ireland’s capital, and if all else failed, we had lots of sleep to catch up on.
Then began my furious read of just about the entire Lonely Planet: Ireland, along with many excerpts from Rick Steve’s guide to Ireland (and Dublin), a bit from Frommers, and Google galore.
LOTS of research later, we had a 2 week itinerary pretty much set. We’d do a tour of the south, and make our way toward Ennis, a music capital, to enjoy a traditional music festival. Our route looks something like this:
We planned it this way to allow for 7-8 hours of internet access in the weekday evenings for Jon’s remote job, enough time for driving between destinations + sightseeing, as well as some down time.
We chose our sights based on personal interests (keeping in mind we’ve seen many castles, ruins, and churches in our travels). Part of the Ireland I think Jon imagined was enjoying traditional music and local pub life. By happy coincidence, Ennis—a city known for its strong tradition of Irish music—was holding a festival this week, and this really shaped our itinerary. We cut Kerry/Ring of Beara and Galway due to our preference to stay in Ennis for the music festival, and our goal of making this a 2 week trip (car rental costs add up!). Kerry and the Wild Atlantic Way can be an entire vacation in itself; a future visit would be needed to do it justice.
One of the bartenders we met today mentioned that he knows/has met a lot of people that come to Ireland on a weekend trip. From NYC to Shannon airport (west coast Ireland), it’s only about a 4 hour flight, with plenty of budget airlines serving the area, making it a surprisingly realistic trip. As more and more airlines become competitive, he’s told us of trips his friends have taken to the USA for between $200-300 for a return flight. Flights out of Ireland to other parts of Europe can be as cheap as 20 euro for a return ticket; he told us he and his wife made a day-trip to London for this price, and did a walking tour of the Tower of London, the River Thames, the Southbank/Eye area to Buckingham at a relaxing pace. How much closer the world can be than perhaps we realize!
In case you’re curious to know how I broke down our two weeks in Ireland, here is a day-by-day with some of the major sights in each:
- Tues, May 16 – Sat, May 20: Dublin
- Trinity College, Long Hall + Book of Kells, Chester Beatty Library, Number 29 (closed for renovation, but there’s a pretty awesome virtual tour on their website)
- Sat, May 20: Dublin to Kilkenny (via Glendalough + Wicklow Gap)
- Glendalough monastic site, scenic Wicklow walk, drive through Wicklow Gap (known for its beautiful landscape), Kilkenny’s pub/music scene
- Sun, May 21: Kilkenny to Waterford
- House of Waterford Crystal, Medieval Museum
- Mon, May 22: Waterford to Cobh/Cork City
- Copper Coast by car, Titanic Experience, English Market
- Tues, May 23: Charles Fort
- Kinsale, Charles Fort tour
- Wed, May 24: Cobh/Cork City to Ennis (via Limerick)
- Lough Gur (archaeological site), Limerick as a pit stop, Craggaunowen
- Thurs, May 25 – Sat, May 27: Ennis
- Fleadh Nua Music Festival!
- Sat May 27: Inisheer (Aran Isle)
- Walking tour of the island, explore the Gaeltacht (Irish speaking) region
- Sunday: May 28: Inisheer, Cliffs of Moher
- Cliffs of Moher (of course); live music at our hotel
- Monday, May 29: Lisdoonvarna to Dublin
- Explore the Burren, Drive back to Dublin to prep for flight
- Tuesday: Dublin to Bologna, Italy
Will keep you posted!