Ireland – September 2010

A week or so ago I posted about the great opportunity to utilize British Airways Avios miles for redemption on Aer Lingus flights to Ireland. I wanted to share my family’s itinerary in case anyone wants a little direction on where to go and what to do while in Ireland.

In September of 2010 my family (Mother, Aunt, Cousin, etc.) headed off to Ireland. It had been on our destination list for some time, but we had put it off knowing that it would be a good destination for when we had young children and didn’t want to travel to less developed areas with them. So, with our 15 month old in tow, we spent 9 days on the Emerald Isle. And I can say it was one of the best vacations we have ever taken. Below you will find our itinerary, developed with the help of Sarniagirl’s recommended itinerary on TripAdvisor.

Day 1-2 – Dublin

Arrive Dublin airport in the morning, pick up rental car.
Explore Dublin on foot, or by hop-on, hop-off bus.
Places of interest: Kilmainham Gaol; Trinity College; Guinness Storehouse; St Stephen’s Green; Christ Church Cathedral; Grafton Street.

Overnight Conrad Dublin Hotel

Day 3 – Dublin – Glendalough – Glendalough – Kilkenny (approx. 175km, 3.5hrs drive)

Head south from Dublin to beautiful Glendalough: an early Christian monastic settlement nestled in the Wicklow Mountains. Aim to spend 2-3hrs at Glendalough.
Continue to Kilkenny for the night (Lyrath Estate Hotel).

Day 4 – Kilkenny – Rock of Cashel – Kinsale (approx. 185km, min 3hrs drive)

It takes just over an hour to drive from Kilkenny to Cashel, where you will find the awesome site of the Rock of Cashel, which rears up from the surrounding rural countryside. Although once Seat of the High Kings of Munster, the Rock is more well-known for its religious buildings, most of which date from the 12th and 13th centuries.  Not to be missed! Allow approximately 2hrs in Cashel.

From Cashel drive to Kinsale, a very popular harbour town on the coast of county Cork. You will find a good selection of hotels, guest houses and b&bs, plus a good choice of restaurants, pubs and cafes. Kinsale is a maze of narrow winding streets, many of them one-way. Recommend you find accommodation with private parking, and explore the town on foot.

There’s a very nice walk from Kinsale to Charles Fort, which affords lovely views of Kinsale Harbour.

Overnight Kinsale (Carlton Kinsale Hotel).

Day 5 – Kinsale – Bantry – Beara Peninsula – Kenmare (approx. 230km, min 5.5hrs drive)

Get an early start and drive via Clonakilty and Bantry to the Beara Peninsula.
Once outside the small town of Glengarriff, look for signs to Adrigole and Castletownbere (R572).
On through the pretty villages of Allihies and Eyeries, and along the northern side of the Peninsula through Ardgroom, Lauragh and across the bridge into Kenmare town.

Kenmare has a super range of accommodation, and pubs and restaurants that equal any Kinsale has to offer (my opinion!).

Overnight Kenmare (Brook Lane Hotel).

Day 6 – Kenmare – Dingle (approx. 100km, min 2hrs drive)

You’ll be driving along a section of the Ring of Kerry on your way from Kenmare to Dingle (Kenmare – Moll’s Gap – Ladies View – Killarney), and the scenery is gorgeous! Allow enough time for a few stops along the way.

You might even want to spend a couple of hours in/around Killarney, maybe visit Torc Waterfall, and Muckross House and Gardens.

Spend a couple of hours wandering around Dingle town late afternoon. Dingle has some superb shops selling quality locally made items: crystal, linen, woollens, leatherware, art.

Overnight Dingle (Castlewood House)

Day 7 – Slea Head Drive and Great Blasket Island
Take a full day to explore the western end of the Dingle Peninsula. Jaw-dropping scenery on the Slea Head drive and many places of interest along the way: Dunbeg Promontory Fort; Dunquin (departure point for the ferry to Great Blasket); Gallarus Oratory, and Kilmalkedar Church. There are many sandy coves and rocky headlands where you can enjoy a picnic lunch if the weather is fine. If not, head to the Blasket Centre, just beyond Dunquin, where you can learn all about life on the Blaskets.

Overnight Dingle (Castlewood House).

Day 8 – Dingle – Connor Pass – Doolin, co. Clare (approx. 170km, min. 3.5hrs drive)

From Dingle town head over the Connor Pass to the northern coast of the Peninsula, and via Tralee and Listowel to the car ferry at Tarbert. This is a simple drive-on, drive-off ferry that will take you across the Shannon to Killimer, co. Clare. It’s a short journey, and if you’re lucky, you’ll see dolphins in the estuary.

Once in co. Clare, drive via Kilrush and Kilkee up the west coast to the Cliffs of Moher, which are just 10 minutes drive from Doolin.

Doolin is a hugely popular destination for music lovers, as it has a reputation of offering traditional music in the pubs. It is a very small village, with several pubs, and guest houses, b&bs and hotels spread out along country lanes.

It does get incredibly busy during the height of the season, and at weekends and public holidays. If you’re looking for somewhere quieter, then head to Ballyvaughan on the north coast ofClare (approx. 30 minutes drive from Doolin).

Overnight Doolin (Ballinalacken Castle)

Day 9  Aran Islands
Take the ferry from Doolin to one of the Aran Islands (seasonal from Easter to end of October)

Overnight Doolin (Ballinalacken Castle)

Day 10 – Flight Home

Doolin is approx. 75 minutes drive from Shannon airport.

Overall, we had a fantastic time. Our favorite spot was Dingle and our favorite B&B/hotel was the Castlewood House in Dingle. We loved everything about it from the size to the breakfast. It was all great. Next time we probably would only spend a day in and around Doolin. There wasn’t much going on and our trip to the Aran Islands, while nice, was not something we’d necessarily recommend. And the Ballinalacken Castle, although it had quite a bit of “charm,” wasn’t really our cup of tea.

But Ireland quickly became one of our “must see” destinations. We have so many more new places to see on our list, but one day, we will go back!

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