How many of you want to go to Ireland? Do you see pictures of the rolling hills, the sheep filled pastures, the perfect pints of Guinness, and get excited? Do you have Irish heritage and want to see where your family came from? Does the accent enchant you and fill you with mystery? Maybe you’re a huge Game of Thrones fan and want to see where a lot of the show was filmed?
I have been to the Emerald Isle 5x, my first time being back in 2004. Growing up, I was always mesmerized with Ireland. I have Irish heritage and it seemed like a whole nother world, something out of the medieval times.
I’ve been all over the country, from Dublin to Dingle. From Cork to Sligo. The country is unbelievably beautiful. The green that you see in pictures pales in comparison to seeing those hills in real life. There literally are sheep everywhere! It may not seem like a big deal, but when you’re driving through the countryside with sheep walking through the roads and grazing through the hills it is truly enchanting. Castles, pubs, music, dancing, history, natural beauty. All of these things exist while in Ireland.
The biggest issue people have when planning their European trips are, what should my itinerary be? How will I get to see everything I want to see? I see this as a huge mistake, especially for American travelers who are limited with vacation time.
Whether this is your first trip to Europe or you’ve been before, you cannot do it all at once! I have seen itineraries where people are literally packing up and moving every other day, and never truly experiencing a town or region.
My biggest piece of advice when traveling internationally is to simplify things. You have to be able to realize that you can’t do it all at once. You can always come back. I promise you that you will not enjoy a trip where most of it is spent traveling to the next hotel, getting back in the car or train, and repacking your stuff. This is exhausting, and can really ruin your time and expectations.
A good rule of thumb is basing in one town/city for at least 3 days at a time. So if you have 9 days/nights in Ireland, you pick 3 bases. You can always take day trips from these locations. I would not recommend doing more than 3 bases as it will feel rushed and you will lose out on the experience. Do you simply want to say that you’ve been to Ireland or do you want to actually experience it?
Ireland is a small country and the train system works pretty efficiently. You can rent a car and I will write a separate blog about driving on the other side of the road in both Ireland and Scotland. The two main airports to fly into are Dublin and Shannon. Dublin is the capital and on the east coast. Shannon is much smaller and on the west coast. You could also do an open jaw ticket flying into one airport and out of the other.
For a first timer, I’d recommend doing an open jaw ticket. I would recommend flying into Dublin and spending 3 days/nights there. Dublin is a big city and very busy. There is plenty to see and do, so I would recommend researching your interests. There are a ton of tourist traps in Dublin, the first that comes to mind is Temple Bar. I’ll write a separate blog on Dublin must sees/must avoids. From Dublin, you can either rent a car or take the train to the Kerry region. Kerry is one of the most visited regions in Ireland and for good reason. I personally feel that it’s the most beautiful part of the country. Killarney, Kenmare, Dingle, all reside within the region. Killarney is very busy and extremely touristy. There are a ton of beautiful things to do in the region, including the Gap of Duloe, The Ring of Kerry, The Beara Peninsula, etc. I would personally stay in Kenmare which is a smaller town and far less touristy. Dingle is further out and harder to get to but is by far my favorite town in Ireland. If you’re willing to make the trek, then I recommend Dingle over any other place. It is simply magnificently beautiful and has a ton of pubs and restaurants to choose from.
After spending your 3 nights in the Kerry region I’d recommend traveling to Galway for your final 3 nights. Galway is only 1 hour from Shannon airport and allows you to get closer to your exit destination. Galway is a small city on the bay. It is full of art, street performers, colleges, and natural beauty. Galway is a must see, consistently voted one of the friendliest cities in the world. You can also get to Connemara from Galway as well as the Cliffs of Moher (which I feel are very overrated).
If you’d like to see my must sees/to-do list and what to avoid, in Galway, Dublin, Dingle, Killarney, Kenmare then please subscribe to my mailing list. I’ll be sending out sample itineraries, blogs, travel tips, travel deals, etc.
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