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Mini Trip Report

Raleigh, North...
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Mini Trip Report

Hi all! This is a little late, but I wanted to post a quick report on my 11-day trip to Ireland in May of 2013...in case anyone finds our itinerary or general plan helpful!

Day 1, Thursday: Arrive Dublin in the AM; Rent Car; Explore Counties Meath and Louth

Day 2, Friday: Drive cross-country in the AM, County Sligo

Day 3, Saturday: Counties Sligo and Donegal

Day 4, Sunday: County Donegal and Londonderry in Northern Ireland

Day 5: Monday: Causeway Coast Drive, Day 1

Day 6: Tuesday: Causeway Coast Drive, Day 2 + Belfast

Day 7: Wednesday: Belfast + Mourne Mountains; Return Rental Car/Overnight in Dublin

Day 8: Thursday: Dublin

Day 9: Friday: Dublin - Daytrip to County Wicklow

Day 10: Saturday: Dublin

Day 11: Sunday: Dublin - Daytrip to County Kildare/Horseracing at the Curragh

We wished that we had more time, but I would pick the same itinerary over again with the same amount of time (with some slight modifications!). Overall, I liked renting the car first and going to Dublin last (if you have an emergency, you're not going straight from a rental car to the pane) and I really liked heading north straight from the Dublin airport to avoid the city. I wish we could have had more time--particularly in County Sligo and the Mourne Mountains. Unfortunately, we just didn't have it. Anyway, happy to answer people's questions, and I'll eventually get around to posting more specific reviews/comments on the appropriate pages!

Hudson River...
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1. Re: Mini Trip Report

Very interested to hear why you would have wanted more time in Sligo. It is on our itinerary for August, but not sure how much time to spend there. Thanks,

Western Ireland...
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for Loughrea, Southport, Clifden, Connemara
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2. Re: Mini Trip Report

Thanks for the feedback so far,, Refreshing to get input from an Ulster featured trip..

County Dublin...
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3. Re: Mini Trip Report

Many thanks for posting.

San Francisco...
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4. Re: Mini Trip Report

I would also love to know why more time in Sligo as I'm planning a full day and night there.

Also, did you happen to do any of the walks around the causeway along the atrium coast? Was your two days sufficient for that area?

Thx! Glad it was memorable.

Raleigh, North...
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5. Re: Mini Trip Report

More on Sligo:

My adoration of Sligo may be partially due to the weather. We had a perfect afternoon there, and rain for the next 4-5 days (two attempts to visit the Slieve League failed--they were totally covered in fog, so we made it to the top but could only see 10 feet in front of us). Also, the Sligo tourism website is one of the best, and made planning really easy, even compared to other counties: http://www.sligotourism.ie.

I think that we could have seen what we wanted in more-or-less a full day...however, because we also drove from the eastern counties there in the morning, it didn't feel like enough time (we got in around lunch). In Sligo, we started in the downtown area for about an hour-and-a-half, visiting the ruins of Sligo Abbey and walking around (we could have definitely spent more time, as the downtown area was a nice size for exploring). We then drove around Lough Gill for the next 4-5 hours, using a cycle loop brochure from the tourist office as our guide: sligotourism.ie/wordpress/wp-content/uploads… (We considered biking and are so glad we didn't. Unless you're an expert biker, I wouldn't recommend it, because bikers are on the same narrow, curvy road as the vehicle traffic--it isn't that wide and the cars go fast.) Because we started late, we had to rush a bit--e.g., Parke's Castle was closed by the time we made it out there, we searched and searched for Cairns Hill, but never found it and eventually gave up. We stopped at more-or-less everything else marked on the map, and did a few nature walks in the parks--Hazelwood and Dooney Rock Forest Park--both offered scenic views of the lake. There are also a ton of scenic photo points that have pull-over areas to park and take pictures (as a result, a counterlockwise route may be easiest, so when you're pulling over to the photo spots, you're making a left). I'd highly recommend this drive if you have time.

We spent the evening at Rosses Point for the sunset. In May, we got there at 7:30pm and the sun set a little after 9pm. That was plenty of time to explore. We parked by the Beach and walked a few miles towards the town, then back. My photos of the sunset are incredible. Rosses Point also offers nice views of Benbulben (you can also see it from Lough Gill and a lot of other places in the County). If it's a nice night, I'd highly, highly recommend this.

The next morning, we headed north, and on the way we stopped at a few County Sligo sights--Creevykeel Court Tomb (very small sight, right off the road, so it was only a 15- or 20-minute stop) and Mullaghmore (took a 30 minute walk or so along the coast). With these stops, we still made it to our accommodations in Donegal Town by 10am.

To conclude - I really like what we did in Sligo, but we could have definitely spent another hour or two around Lough Gill, and we would have also liked to visit Carrowmore (megalithic tomb site south of Sligo town) and maybe do a hike around Benbulben (looking back, we could have easily done that on our way out of town the next morning instead of rushing up to Donegal). Even so, I feel we saw a LOT in just 3/4 of a day in the County, manly around Sligo town.

Edited: 27 April 2014, 14:44
Raleigh, North...
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6. Re: Mini Trip Report

More on the Causeway Coast:

Although it would have been nice to have a bit more time, we feel like we were able to fit in all of the must-see sights along the Antrim coast in two days. The actual driving time is surprisingly little (maybe 5 hours of scenic driving split over two days--the rest of the time we were out of the car). The one thing we missed was spending time in the villages/small towns, like Portrush, Ballymina, and Cushendall (although we did a good amount of that on other parts of the trip, especially in County Donegal). We didn't do any hiking on the Antrim Coast (did that mainly in County Donegal and the Mourne Mountains), but we did stretch our legs a lot with 20-30 minute walks along the coast. If you want to hike and you're also driving from Dublin to Belfast, I'd highly recommend a stop in the Mourne Mountains (we did a 3-4 hour hike from Newcastle, that was awesome).

Now, more about our Antrim Coast drive: On Sunday afternoon/early evening, we visited Derry/Londonderry--a few hours was all we needed to walk the walls and get a sense of the downtown area. We then spent the night at a manor house on the outskirts of Londonderry. The next morning, we set out on our drive towards Bushmills. We took the slightly longer A2 coastal route, and the whole road has a lot of pull offs to take pictures of scenic coastal views. We stopped at Downhill beach (Game of Thrones filming location) and White Rocks beach for short walks on the beach. I'd highly recommend stopping by White Rocks--the white cliffs going down into the sea were quite dramatic. We missed Portstewart and Portrush--looking back, we should have stopped at one or the other for lunch. Anyway, we stopped at Dunluce Castle, but didn't actually go in for a tour (I read that the best part is just the view of the castle over the water, and it was completely packed full of folks coming off of a huge tour bus when we got there). There are walking paths down to caves below, which we took (spent maybe 45 minutes around the castle without going in). We made it to the Bushmills Distillery in time for a 2pm tour (we were surprised, but we just walked straight in and got the next tour, which started about 10 minutes later). The distillery tour was awesome--definitely a highlight. We made it to the Giant's Causeway around 4pm and stayed there for several hours. You only need to pay to go to the visitor's center--the beach and rocks themselves are free. There are short walking trails around there, and if you're fit, I'd recommend one (took maybe an hour to walk up from the beach the long way on the scenic trail). We spent the night at a hostel a stone's throw away from the Giant's Causeway.

My boyfriend is a Game of Thrones fan, so we also had a Game of Thrones route printed out and we stopped at some of those sites (he says he sees them on the TV show often): causewaycoastandglens.com/Game-of-Thrones-It… Therefore, first thing the next morning, we stopped briefly at Ballintoy Harbour, a Game of Thrones site (it was pretty and I enjoyed it even though I've never seen the show). We then headed to Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge (were there by 10:00am or so). I'd highly recommend going to Carrick-a-Rede early, because it wasn't full of day-tripping tourists yet. We then set out toward Belfast, stopping in some caves (another Game of Thrones site). The Glens of Antrim were beautiful to drive through--we only did one circular Glen route (I believe the loop around the valley of Glenarm), and I would have loved to have more time to explore the Glens. This was some of the most stunning coastal scenery, and we got out of the car often along the coast for picture breaks (may have also been a function of the weather--the sun came out for the first time since Sligo). On the home stretch towards Belfast (after we'd cut in from the coast on the A8), I punctured a tire, and it took about an hour to an hour and a half to deal with that--we still made it to Belfast around 5pm, and walked around the evening to get a feel of the downtown area. If we had the luxury of more time, we could have definitely used it, but I certainly feel that we hit the highlights in between Londonderry and Belfast in two days!!

7. Re: Mini Trip Report

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