I'm just starting to plan my fifth trip to Ireland. (Of course, I haven't gone on my fourth one yet...that's in October!) This time a good friend and co-worker from church will be coming with me. I'm looking forward to introducing him to some of my favorite places and for us to explore places that are new for me as well.
SOME PARAMETERS AND GUIDELINES
- Our trip dates are Sunday, 15 May, 2011 (we arrive on Monday morning, 16 May, 2011) through Tuesday, 24 May, 2011. That gives us 7 full days plus the jet lag day, so almost 8 days. These dates mean of course that we'll have huge amounts of daylight...even if we never see the sun (sunsets range from 9:20 to 9:31pm while we're there). Also these dates are set and can't be expanded due to other commitments at home.
- We'll be flying in and out of Dublin...and no...before you say it...in or out of Shannon is not really a good option for us with flying from Chicago. ;-) Which leads us to yet another circle itinerary here on TA.
- We will be renting a car (for all but Dublin) and I'm very comfortable driving on the left with a stick shift (by that trip, it will be my sixth time, including a trip to the UK). I'm also pretty aware of how jet lag affects me on the first day.
- I love pretty much everything I've experienced in Ireland. So besides my favorite places, we're using my friends 'want list' to guide the trip (and all these are on my own list as well.) In particular he wants to see at least some of the Southwest (and of course, so do I, not having been yet), the Cliffs of Moher and Trinity College/Book of Kells. As far as the kinds of sites and activities he wants to see and do, in rough order they are: 1) Scenic beauty with some hiking of the 3-4 hour variety, 2) Nightlife especially in the pubs, some with trad music (but not all) and possibly some clubs, 3) Christian heritage sites such as monastic ruins, high crosses AND current but historic cathedrals and churches, 4) Historic sites such as castles and 5) museums and art galleries, but only to a limited extent.
- We want that elusive trip that is balanced between seeing a lot and having a chance to relax and enjoy it. We're willing to have a couple days that might be long, doing a lot and traveling far, but definitely not the whole vacation.
- We'll have a plan, but will actually be flexible and adjust, drop, skip, add as needed when in Ireland.
- We do want to meet people as we go. That's always been my favorite part of visiting Ireland.
- We have no interest in shopping. None. Other than my friend buying the requisite presents for his wife and kids.
THE PLAN - TENTATIVE FIRST DRAFT
Monday, 16 May - Pick up rental car and drive to Co. Wicklow. Wicklow Mountains. Mount Usher Gardens. Glendalough. (Note that I'm very familiar with this area and so this day is sorted.) Stay in Laragh (hopefully at Glendalough Hermitage where I've retreated before).
Tuesday, 17 May - Drive to Dingle with stops at Jerpoint Abbey, Kells Priory, Rock of Cashel, Athassel Priory, Cahir Castle and a drive through the Glen of Aherlow. Ow! Stop throwing things at me. I know what I just typed! Yes, this is a very, very long day. But there's lots of stops to break it up. We'd be at Jerpoint Abbey when it opens at 10am and then work through the various possibilities as time allows. Cahir Castle closes at 5:30pm so that's the end of seeing the sights. If we can't fit everything in we simply won't. We'd also be sure to arrive in Dingle by sunset...which of course is not until 9:21pm. The real reason for doing this is just to bite the bullet and get to Dingle. Then we could for sure have 3 and possibly 4 nights in the same place, rather than changing lodging each day. Stay in Dingle (thinking about Pax Guest House).
Wednesday, 18 May - Spend time on the Dingle Peninsula, basically Slea Head and a possible trip out to Great Blasket Island. Stay in Dingle.
Thursday, 19 May - Head over toward Killarney. We have interest in Killarney National Park including Torc Waterfall, Ladies' View and hopefully some hiking, Muckross House and Gardens (not the Farms), Ross Castle and the Gap of Dunloe. We know we can't possibly do all of these things. Any advice on how to sort through them would be great! Stay in Dingle.
Friday, 20 May - This is a hinge day. We might stay one more night in Dingle or head up to Galway. If we stay in Dingle, options would include doing the Ring of Kerry (with a sub-option of visiting Skellig Michael weather permitting), doing part of the Ring of Beara or staying on the Dingle Peninsula and perhaps doing some hiking there. Maybe kind of just doing nothing this day. Any thoughts? Stay in Dingle for 4th night if we choose one of these options.
Friday, 20 May OR Saturday, 21 May - Drive to Galway. After Tuesday, this is the other LONG day in the plan. We would drive via the Conor Pass (weather permitting) and the Tarbert Ferry to the Cliffs of Moher. Following the Cliffs would be a drive through the Burren with lookouts for and short visits at some or all of the following: Kilfenora High Crosses, Leamanah Castle, Caherconnell Stone Fort, Poulnabrone Dolmen, Gleninsheen Wedge Tomb, Cahermore Stone Fort and Ballyalban Fairy Fort. Depending on just how full we want to make this day, we might add in Ardfert Cathedral, Carrigafoyle Castle, Scattery Island (unlikely) and the Loop Head scenic drive. Would definitely like some advice here on how to make some decisions. We do want to be in Galway for dinner (at least a late one) and the great nightlife. Stay in Galway (would appreciate some advice here).
Saturday, 21 May - If we came up to Galway on Friday, then options for this day include, returning to the Burren for deeper exploration and hiking, Connemara for the day including hiking or taking a day trip to Inis Mór, where we'd...hike. The day will end, of course, with more great Galway nightlife. Stay in Galway.
Sunday, 22 May - Drive to Dublin. We'll stop at Clonmacnoise on the way and then return the car to Dublin airport. By mid-afternoon we hope to be in Dublin. I've spent a lot (a LOT) of time in Dublin, so this portion of the trip is sorted as well. Stay in Dublin (The Townhouse).
Monday, 23 May - Dublin. Stay in Dublin.
Tuesday, 24 May - Fly home with me planning my next trip and my friend probably doing the same, but with his wife.
KEY QUESTIONS AND COMMENTS SOUGHT
- What about that long day, Tuesday, May 17? Anything a waste of time on the tentative plan?
- Any specific recommendations other than Pax Guest House? We do want to be in reasonable walking distance of Dingle for the pubs.
- Any advice on how to make choices in the Killarney area for Thursday, May 19?
- Would you choose 4 nights in Dingle and 1 night in Galway or 3 nights in Dingle and 2 in Galway?
- If choosing the 4 nights in Dingle, would you recommend the Ring of Kerry? Skellig Michael? A shorter Ring of Beara? More Dingle Peninsula? Nothing?
- If choosing 2 nights in Galway, would you recommend more Burren? Connemara? Inis Mór?
- Any specific recommendations for Galway lodging that is in reasonable walking distance of the nightlife? (I am considering a private room at Sleepzone Galway City Hostel where I've stayed before.)
- Any other thoughts?
- Are you still reading?
Thanks for any and all help!