We know that there are several reasons why some people take packaged bus tours, and we are very thankful that NONE of those reasons apply to us. We enjoyed 11-Nights of totally independent and self-everything travel through much of western Ireland. We needed about another month to do all that we wanted, but still it was an outstanding trip. Again, thanks go out to all of the DE's and others who offered suggestions for this, our 4th visit to Ireland.
FYI - We are all in our mid-60's. Planned the entire trip using TripAdvisor and few websites, everything was self-booked.
Day #1 -
Arrived in Shannon at 7:00am in light rain. Went right to AVIS desk and our full-size, automatic car contract with Full Coverage (Super CDW +) was waiting. Took shuttle a short distance to the car. No GPS (I prefer doing my own thinking and navigation via signs and a good map). Drove to Ennis for Irish breakfast buffet at the West Clare Hotel. Drove to Cliffs of Moher. High winds and hard rain/hail, so we just saw the Cliffs for a few minutes and then hit the gift shop to buy some family history scrolls where I found that my family name comes from County Galway. Drove the Burren around Black Head and the rain stopped before arriving at Dunguaire Castle for some photos. Been 10 years since we were in the Burren and were saddened to see all of the development and therefore destruction of the natural wonder of the burren. Drove on to Galway and Salthill where we checked in at the Galway Bay Sea View Apartments. We arrived at a “bad time” as the door was locked and nobody at the front desk. In typical Irish style hospitality, the snack bar next door allowed us to use their phone at no charge to call the apartment manager and we were soon shown into our fully-equipped 2-bedroom, self-cater apartment. Very clean, well-stocked and a balcony overlooking the Bay. Great location for all of our touring. Dinner at Lohans Café and Bar.
Day #2 –
After a stop at Tesco to buy a mobile phone for 19 Euros plus a 10 Euro “top-up,” Drove to Clifden via one of the Connemara loops. Stopped at Balinahinch Castle for some photos. Drove the Sky Road Loop and stopped often for sites and photos. Back in Clifden, we stopped for lunch at Mitchell’s Seafood. Great Seafood Chowder. Drove on to the Kylemore Abbey where we spent a few hours touring the house and gardens and having tea+. Got “lost” and were about 1km out of our way on the way back to Galway. Stopped at a petrol station for directions where the owner just pointed left and said “go that way.” I asked if that was road #336 and she said, “oh, we do not use numbers here, just go that way.” No passengers harmed, No need to send out the search party, and we arrived in Galway a few minutes later after a lovely day. Dinner and a show at the opening night for the season at Trad on the Prom = wonderful!
Day #3 –
Drove to Ashford Castle for a stroll around the grounds and an extended “Hawk Walk” at the Ireland School of Faclonry. This was one of the highlights of our touring. The wives got to work with and feed the hawks on a walk through the woods, as the husbands took photos and walked along. The 2 guys got a special treat as we were allowed to feed and fly the resident great owl. Drove up to Westport/Newport for sites and photos, and then back to Galway without getting “lost” this time. Dinner again at Lohans where I ate such a large plate of outstanding seafood and drank pints of Guiness that I was sick and could not sleep (my own stupidity and gluttony – great food). Great Craic! Drinks on Quay Street after a walk to and visit of Galway Cathedral. Pints at Tigh Naughton’s was a special treat --and great Craic. Walked along the Salthill Promenade in the rain back to our apartment.
How to Improve the Galway Visit = Add at least 7 More Days
Day #4 –
Left Galway in the light rain and drove through Ennis to Milltown and the Coast Road. Drove to Kilkee and the Cliffs that are just as magnificent as Cliffs of Moher only FREE. We stopped to take photos when a local man drove up and stopped then volunteered advice and pointed us to take a small side road for a better view. We spent about 20 minutes talking to him and then took the road for the better view. He was right and we could now see a sunny coast and the Aran Islands in the distance. Drove on to Loop Head Lighthouse and lunch at a local establishment. Then drove to Killimer and caught the car ferry over to Tarbert. Saw dolphins along the way. Drove to Adare Manor for a castle-light experience, and had dinner and pints at Aunty Lena’s then walked over to Chawke’s Pub for more pints and Trad Music. Fantastic!
How to Improve the Clare / Loop Head Visit = Add at least 7 More Days
Day #5 –
Spent the day walking the grounds of Adare Manor and the town. Then to Bunratty Castle & Folk Park for a visit and the Castle Banquet. Had a wonderful time. Good food and a great show.
How to Improve the Adare Visit = Add at least 1-2 More Days
Day #6 –
Drove from Adare to Dingle via Connor Pass and the spectacular views along the way. Took the boat to see Fungie the Dingle Dolphin, then a great lunch at Fish on the Marina. Drove Slea Head for a few hours. Had Murphy’s ice cream and then shopped at Galway Crystal where Liz helped us choose some lovely gifts for ourselves and the folks back home. Then we drove to Killarney and checked into our apartment at Killarney Park Place. These accommodations were even better than the apartment in Galway.
How to Improve the Dingle Visit = Add at least 7 More Days
Day #7 –
Called Sean at the Skellig Boat Tour and he said yes, the weather and seas were just right for a visit to the Skellig Island (SCORE). We drove to Ballinskellig and took the trip over. Saw dolphins, tens of thousands of sea birds and we climbed up to the top of Skellig Michael (very scary, and we would trade this experience for anything) It was nothing less than a once-in-a-lifetime experience that none of us will ever forget. You must be physically able and not have a fear of heights. Drove the remainder of the Ring of Kerry / Molls Gap and stopped at Lady’s View. Good dinner at Salvador’s in Killarney.
Days #8 & #9 & #10 –
Drove to Kenmare for shopping, hiked some of the Gap of Dunloe, climbed up Torq Waterfall and visited Muckross house and then just took photos at Ross Castle. Pubs, Trad & Craic in Killarney.
How to Improve the Killarney Visit = Add at least 7 More Days
Day #11 –
Drove to Cahir Castle for a walk through the park and castle. Then drove to Rock of Cashel for a tour and lunch at Granny’s. Drove on through Tipperary and then back to Shannon for night’s stay at Oakwood Arms. Dinner and our last pints at Oakwood. Gave the mobile phone to a young man/student who was shocked and thrilled to receive this unexpected gift.
Day #12 –
Early morning flight back home.
How to Improve the Ireland Visit = Add at least 30 More Days
What we loved the most = The Irish People, Bread, Butter, Real Guiness versus that “stuff” they serve in the US, Independent Travel – NO BUSES! ALL The sites, Trad, Craic and again THE IRISH PEOPLE, who despite a long history of adversity are the most warm and friendly people on earth. We have traveled on 6 continents and 25 countries and can safely make this statement.
Total Cost per person just under 2000 Euros per person for everything including souvenirs.
FYI - You could not buy this packaged itinerary, even if it existed for double that amount…and NO HOHO Trip to Ireland. :-)
If "HE" allows, we will return.