Meegan had some questions for me, and my response ended up being too long for a comment. So, Meegan, here are my answers – I hope this helps!
From your hotel list, it looks like you drove from Dingle back east and up to Dublin. No overnights near Killarney?
We spent a night in Kenmare, and ended up regretting it (sorry, Kenmare). We passed through Killarney on our way to Kenmare and stopped at Muckross House and saw bits of the national forest. We also went to an incredibly delicious restaurant called “Pay As You Please” in the downtown area, before heading on to Kenmare.We didn’t much care for Kenmare because it was loud at night (lots of hen and stag parties below our window), and there wasn’t much to do other than walk the circular loop that is the main downtown road. Killarney is much more urban (think lots of shops and restaurants) and many people prefer Kenmare because it feels less touristy, but we honestly felt the opposite. If I were to go back and do it over again, I’d stay in Killarney (and spend more time at the national park).
Our trip is pretty much the same as yours up to Doolin: Dublin, drive to Galway, onward to Doolin, then Dingle, then we were going to spend a few nights around Killarney before dropping off the car and catching a train back to Dublin.
That sounds amazing! You’re going to have such a good time. :)
Like you, I’ve been killing myself on the research for this trip, paranoid that I’m going to miss something, and I should probably just relax and play it more by ear, but alas…
I know what you mean! I am the queen of agonizing about trips. One thing that helped me was to view our trip as a “sampler” of Ireland – we’d go, sample many different places, and then have a better idea of where we’d like to go back to again (or what gaps we’d like to fill) on a return trip. There are a lot of things we didn’t get to see, but when we put it all down on paper, it was remarkable to realize all the things we did get to see! So, that helped me re-frame things a bit in my mind. Hopefully it might help you, too. :)
We have two nights in Galway. We were thinking we could only fit in one of these two: a day trip to Connemara/Kylemore OR a day trip to Inishmore. Weather permitting: Which would you recommend?
I see below that you’re spending time in Doolin. If you aren’t set on visiting Inishmore, you could visit Inisheer very easily from Doolin and fit in your Aran Islands experience. I think we spend about 3 hours on the island, and that was perfect for us. They offer combined tours where you can see the Cliffs of Moher by sea and then they take you to Inisheer. Obviously it isn’t the same is Inishmore (Inishmore is much larger, you can rent bikes and travel the island), but you still get a lovely Aran Islands experience in a more compact package.
In my opinion, Connemara is not to be missed. There’s nothing quite like zipping along country roads where there are more sheep than there are cars. The mountains and hills are magical – like nothing else we saw on our trip – and Kylemore Abbey is also beautiful. Sky Road is stunning, even if we did get accosted by flies when we were up there. It has a peaceful, verdant beauty to it.
On a return trip to Ireland, though, I would spend a night in Clifden, experience more of Connemara National Park, and also do a bike ride on Inishmore. Remember what I said about making that list of things to do next time? ;)
We were planning to drive from Doolin to Dingle via Limerick, and stop at Bunratty. Do you recommend taking the ferry instead?
We took the car ferry on our way from Doolin to Dingle and used the time we saved to take Conor Pass, which was extremely beautiful. It depends what you want to see at Bunratty. You can also be flexible on the day of. Toward the end of our trip, we were very “meh” about castles because we’d seen so many! ;) If you’re feeling gung-ho about seeing Bunratty Castle on the day you’re leaving Doolin, then I say go for it! If you want to maximize your time in Dingle, then I think the ferry was a great option and let us get into Dingle sooner to maximize our time there. We were also a bit tired of being in the car at that point.
Do you recommend at least two overnights in each place? We wanted to try to get away with just three nights split between Doolin and Dingle. How would you allocate?
In general, I’d recommend two nights just because you’ll be less strung out. Vacations need some down time. :) We had two “one night stands”: Kenmare (which we regretted) and Kilkenny (which was fine). It’s more hectic because you’re arriving, checking in, and leaving with your bags the next day, but it works well in a couple circumstances:
- There’s something you want to see in that city and you’ll be arriving later in the evening
- You need to break up a long drive and don’t want to spend an entire day driving
I think having those two one night stands was a good number because it broke up some otherwise-lengthy drives and gave us an opportunity to see a bit more than we would have passing through.
Personally, while I loved both Doolin and Dingle, I would spend more time in Dingle. Doolin is lovely, rural, and bucolic, but it’s also quite small – think one main road and a couple of pubs.
We used our time in Doolin to see the Cliffs of Moher by sea, Inisheer (on the same ferry ride), and then drive to the cliffs and see them from the top (later that day). You could probably get all of this done in one day if you arrive in Doolin early. If you don’t want to kill yourselves (i.e. arrive in Doolin and be more leisurely about it), you can cut the Aran Islands trip and just see the Cliffs of Moher and spend some time in a pub. Go to both McDermott’s and O’Connors if you can – McDermott’s had the best hot toddy I’ve ever had (I kept trying them throughout the rest of the trip and none came close), and O’Connors has this amazing crab claw dish that dreams are made of. Okay, it’s my lunch break and I’m clearly hungry. Enough about food.
Some people use Doolin as a jumping off point to see the Burren, but we took a winding route through the Burren on our way to Doolin from Galway, so we took care of that on the way there. Doolin was beautiful and peaceful, but I have to say that Dingle is my favorite of the two: wandering Dingle’s winding streets, going to pubs, eating delicious Murphy’s ice cream, packing a picnic for the Slea Head drive… (I broke my promise; I’m talking about food again). Anyway, if it was up to me, I’d allocate a bit more time for Dingle. There is, in my opinion, a bit more to do because it’s a larger city, so I’d err on the side of more time spent there.
No Killarney? That scares me. :) We were allocating four days in that area! Biking the Gap. Day trip to Skellig Michael. Hiking the Park…
Do it! I would have spent more time in Killarney if I could have. The only thing is if you want to get more out of your time in Doolin and Dingle, you might consider subtracting a day from Killarney and adding a day to Doolin. It sounds like you have a lot planned for Killarney, though. I’ve found Rick Steves’ recommendations to be very helpful, by the way.
I went off and made my own itinerary, came back, and found out I’d basically come up with what he’d already recommended. Go figure; guy knows his stuff.
Anyway, we’re in our early thirties, from Boston, first time Ireland trip. Like you, looking for a B&B experience even though we’ve never had one. Sprinkling in Hostels and maybe one Luxury stay. Looking for a good pub every night w/ craig. Good local food, especially seafood. And some driving, biking, hiking, riding, eating, eating, eating, drinking, drinking. (general exhaustion for 2 weeks).
I’m so excited for you! It is going to be such a fabulous trip. We didn’t have any previous B&B experience and with the exception of our Kenmare stay (which was no fault of the proprietor – we just didn’t care for it, personally), I’d recommend every single one of them without hesitation, especially Roadford House in Doolin; Beans the dog is the best. :) We met so many interesting people on our trip, the hosts were absolutely lovely, and we had many delicious breakfasts (black pudding and white pudding are fantastic, by the way).
Any tips/recommendations you have are appreciated. Thanks in advance. I’ll be following your blog from now on :)
Thank you! I’m honored to have a reader. :) I’ll wrack my brain and see if I can think of any other suggestions for you (this was typed up during my lunch break, so I’m sure I forgot something.) Hopefully this was helpful and doesn’t cause any further indecision for you. To sum up, my recommendations (throwing in some extra tidbits here) would be:
- Connemara over Inishmore, and consider Inisheer as part of your time in Doolin
- If you have to pick, more time in Dingle rather than Doolin
- Eat lots of crab claws in Doolin
- Killarney = very yes!
- Eat lots of Murphy’s Ice Cream in Dingle and Killarney (Guinness, honeycomb caramel, and brown bread were my favorites)
- Go to Dick Mack’s in Dingle!
- Depending on how much you have planned, consider taking a day away from Killarney and adding it to Doolin (but it sounds like you have a lot planned – I’d look at Rick Steves’ recommendations here as well)
- If you can, go to “Pay as you please” in Killarney!
- Try not to make yourself crazy with agonizing over options. You can always decide to go to a castle while you’re there, or decide that you are sick of castles and just want to hit the pub. :) And if worse comes to worse, prioritize and add the options that you have to rule out to your list for your future Ireland trip.
- Definitely eat at Avoca and Cornucopia in Dublin (we also got a beautiful blanket and scarf from Avoca, and they’re hands down my favorite purchases from any trip we’ve been on.)
Edited to add:
I dug up our itinerary from our Ireland trip and posted about it here!