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Ireland in One Week
The effects of potatoes on history, beer the color of chocolate, rolling green hills and some of the friendliest people on the planet.
I can only be talking about one place; Ireland. This island is a coveted travel destination for many people and it is clear to see why. There is so much to do and see that it is often hard to narrow down your choices. You could spend months traveling throughout Ireland and still not see everything. Therefore, before you get knee deep into planning, figure out your priorities and timeline. After much collaborating with our travel buddies for the week in Ireland; my parents, here is what we were able to figure out:
- We had about one week total for Ireland
- We wanted a good mix of history, scenery and local culture.
- We wanted to see the famous sites, yet stay away from too many “touristy spots/ traps”
- We wanted to see as much as possible without feeling rushed or stuck in a car more than at the sites
Based off of our “Wants” for the trip, my mom did an amazing job figuring out a perfect itinerary to get a little bit of something that everyone would enjoy!!! (Thanks, MA!!!!) There is honestly very little that I would have changed looking back. I believe we were able to achieve all of our wants and had an amazing time seeing the Green Isle.
Flying into Ireland:
- There are many airports that you can fly in and out of in Ireland, but we chose Dublin for both entry and exit
We were able to arrive by mid-morning, giving us all afternoon to start our Irish adventure.
- There are many horror stories about driving in Ireland. Between the outrageous insurance fees, teeny-tiny roads, sheep traffic jams and driving on the opposite side of the road, it is easy to see why driving in Ireland can be intimidating.
- Despite the rumors, we rented a car at the Dublin airport, payed just a little over $100 for a whole week (not including gas) and had a great time; no rear view mirror left behind! Read more about car rentals in my Tips Before Planning a Trip to Ireland.
Day I: Drive to the County Meath
There are many things to do near Navan. Since we had plenty of time the day of arrival, we went to Newgrange. Due to the fact that this structure pre-dates even the Egyptian pyramids, it is shrouded in countless theories of why it exists. Unlike it’s megalithic cousin, Stonehenge, you can actually get inside Newgrange, making it a unique, interesting and almost other-wordly experience.
Despite all the articles and books we read about the best music and pubs being on the West coast, we ended up all agreeing that Navan was actually one of the most memorable and enjoyable! Since Navan is not a big touristy spot, the “band” we saw (an impromptu jam session with violins, fiddles and more) was authentic and genuine!
Day II: Trim Castle and Cliffs of Moher
Morning: Trim Castle
Living in Europe, we have seen our fair share of castles. However, I was glad we did not gloss this one over. Because the castle is still very much intact, you can wander all around the grounds, including a very well done tour inside. It also doesn’t hurt that you can re-enact your favorite moments from Braveheart, which had several scenes filmed at the castle
Afternoon:Head West to the Cliffs of Moher and the Burren
It will take several hours to drive to the West coast of Ireland (a little over 3 hours, give or take and pending stops).
As you get into County Clare, you will be in The Burren. Appreciate your surroundings and if you want or have time, walk around and enjoy the ancient rocky landscape.
Make your way to the Cliffs of Moher.
How much time you need at the cliffs depend on what you want to do. You can walk the whole path, which would require several hours or go any short distance you want, which could result in maybe spending an hour. There is also a well-done visitor’s center, which I highly recommend spending at least a short while in.
Spend the evening checking out the pubs in Doolin; whether it is for some local life or just good food.
Where we Stayed in Doolin: http://www.atlanticviewdoolin.ie/
Day IV: Make your way to the Dingle Peninsula via Connor’s Pass
We opted for the Dingle Peninsula instead of the Ring of Kerry. If you have more time, you could actually combine these two iconic drives. We chose Dingle over Ring of Kerry for several reasons:
- The town of Dingle is supposed to be full of life and have plenty “real” Irish pubs with traditional Gaelic music
- After much research, it looked like as far as scenery to be viewed, the Ring of Kerry wasn’t that much different than Dingle
- While Dingle has plenty of tourists, we wouldn’t have to fight the traffic and tour busses along tiny, narrow winding roads of the Ring of Kerry
By the time we arrived to the Peninsula, we only had time to do half of the ring (Slea Head). We followed the route and descriptions in Rick Steve’s Ireland guidebook to help give us context to what we were seeing.
We spent the evening “pub crawling” to enjoy various bands and brews.
Where we stayed: http://www.brownesdingle.com/ (The hosts were amazing!! Even offered to take and bring us back from town!)
If you are looking for another great alternative to the touristy Ring of Kerry, fellow blogger, Jennifer, over at Our Family Travel Adventures suggests the beautiful Beara Peninsula
Day V: Rest of Dingle Peninsula
The rest of the Dingle Peninsula can be seen today. You’ll be spending a lot of time in the car, but it will be driving the beautiful ring. So, be sure to make plenty of stops along the way to fully enjoy the scenery around you.
We enjoyed making the Blasket Island Visitor Center apart of our day. It gave great insight into the struggles the Irish have had to overcome throughout the centuries. If you are of Irish descent, it is especially worth your time as there is a great section on the immigration of the Irish to the United States.
Once again, in the evening, enjoy the music (which often doesn’t start until 10:30pm!) and have a few more beers at one of the many pubs.
Day VI: Killarney to Cork
On the way to Killarney, we stopped at the Muckross House, set just outside the Killarney National Park. This was a picture-perfect place to take a break from the car. You can either just walk the beautiful grounds and walk to the waterfall, or also take the tour of the House if you have the time.
After viewing the Victorian styled estate, head over to their Muckross Traditional Farms; a fascinating glimpse into how people used to live in Ireland as early as the 1920s. This living museum has time-period actors ready to give you more details on the hardships of life as well as the fascinating jobs they did to accomplish their daily chores.
Note: While we didn’t actually go inside, this is the part of the trip where most people would stop at Blarney Castle
Where we stayed in Blarney: http://www.blarneyvale.com/
Day VII: North to Cahir and onto Dublin
As we started to make our way toward Dublin, we made a few pit stops. First, we went to the Cahir Castle; a beautifully ruined but restored stone fort.
If you’ve read my tips on Ireland and have bought the Heritage Pass, the Swiss Cottage (just minutes by car from the castle) is worth a short stop. If you have passed on the pass, it probably is not worth the cost.
Get one last castle in for the day by stopping at the Rock of Cashel. This towering complex isn’t actually a castle, but with it’s beautiful stone structures and amazing history, you feel like medieval royalty walking the grounds. Here, it is said that St. Patrick had one of his most important conversions to Catholicism in Ireland with the King of Munster.
There are many legends surrounding St. Patrick’s Cross, depending on which tour guide you have that day. Some say if you can wrap your arms around the cross, you will never suffer another hangover. Others claim that it will prevent you from never having any future dental issues. Some believe that if you are single and perform a special ritual around the cross, you will quickly find marriage. Hey, it’s all worth a try, right??
Despite the myths and legends, you do not want to miss this beautiful complex of 12 century buildings.
Finish up your day by settling into Dublin for the evening.
Day VII: Head to Dublin
Many people may argue with me, but I felt that Dublin could be seen within a day. As always, we love the free walking tours in major cities. Sandeman’s New Europe Dublin tour was one of the best that we have had yet. We were able to hit almost all of the major sites in Dublin plus get the fascinating history of the bloody past of Ireland as well. This tour lasted over 4 hours and is all walking, but was highly worth it.
In the afternoon, there is no shortage of liquor. You can head to one of the world’s most famous breweries: Guinness or go to the Old Jameson Distillery. (Note: if doing the walking tour, plan accordingly if you want to take a tour of either of these as the last tour is early evening).
Once again, you can now head to any of the pubs in Dublin for some last tastes of Irish Brew and stew.
Where we stayed in Dublin: http://www.shantallalodge.com/ (note: this is not IN the city center, but there is a bus stop literally right outside the home. This was one of our favorite B&Bs the entire trip, so it was worth the short bus ride into the center)
Ireland is a wonderful mix of cities, towns, history and nature. No matter what kind of traveler you are, you are bound to find something to love about Ireland.
Where to Stay in Ireland
Read reviews to find the perfect place to stay in Ireland here.
Compare to find the current cheapest accommodation in Ireland.
Stay at your own personal apartment or home while in Ireland.
What did I miss that you loved about Ireland that others need to know? Let me know in the comments your favorite memories of Ireland.
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