My wife and I had been to Ireland in 1999 and 2003. Now we have a son (10 years old last summer) and we planned a trip to Ireland last summer - so many years later. Day 1 was a Saturday and Day 15 was Saturday two weeks later (departed on Sunday early Day 16). In between we saw so much beauty, met so many wonderful people and had the time of our lives. I am already planning our next trip, which we hope to take in the next couple of years (fingers crossed). Apologies for the length of this, but I am excited to share our itinerary, which I planned over many months.
Day 1: Dublin, recovering from jet lag, but the weather is great. Basically just walked around.
Day 2: Dublin, City Centre, St. Stephen's Green, Grafton Street, The National Museum, Trinity College, and at an excellent restaurant - the Canal Bank Cafe. We had seen much of Dublin in the past but didn't have time for a few new (to me) places that I'd like to see next time, including the Chester Beatty Library, The Science Gallery at Trinity, and Kilmainham Gaol. Also possibly a trip to Howth.
Day 3: Left Dublin for a drive south through the Wicklow Mountains on the Military Road. I think the Wicklow Mountains are incredibly beautiful and not mentioned enough when people talk about Ireland and places to see. It is a breathtaking drive. We saw the Glenmacnass Waterfall, had a terrific lunch at the Wicklow Heather restaurant, visited the Glendalough monastic site, drove around the mountains some more, saw beautiful Lough Tay, and then on to our AirBnb in Avoca. We didn't go to Powerscourt Estate this time, but have been there many years ago and highly recommend it.
Day 4: Big travel day because our ultimate destination was Cork. Went to the Avoca Handweavers mill in Avoca - the weather continued to be gorgeous and this was a very relaxing place to tour and shop. We would make several stops at Avoca stores during our trip. Then we drove to Kilkenny, where we walked around and toured Kilkenny Castle. Then we drove to Tramore and traveled the Copper Coast, a beautiful and peaceful drive with several interesting stops - Stradbally Cove, Clonea Strand, Dungarven. Finally got to Cork later in the evening and went to sleep pretty quickly. Given the long day of driving, we had to choose a route and picked the Copper Coast, but one day would like to visit other places in this area of Ireland, such as Kells Priory, Instioge, and Graiguenamanagh.
Day 5: Spent the first part of the day in Cork, which is a wonderful, modern, bustling city. Highly recommend The Liberty Grill for breakfast. Toured the English Market and the Cork Butter Museum (we LOVE butter, especially of the Irish variety). In the afternoon, we traveled to one of my personal favorite places in Ireland, Kinsale. It was an absolutely lovely afternoon. Hung around the main part of town and then visited the Scilly Walk and Fort Charles. Dinner at the awesome Bulman Bar. Next morning we were moving on, but I'd someday like to return to the Cork area and visit Cobh, Ballymaloe Restaurant and Cooking School, and make it north to the Rock of Cashel (probably the most famous place in Ireland I've never been).
Day 6: Cork to Kenmare via the Mizen Head Peninsula. I LOVE the Mizen Head Peninsula. So beautiful and we have been there every trip we've ever made to Ireland. After another breakfast at The Liberty Grill, we wound our way along the route to Clonakilty, Skibbereen, Ballydehob, made a stop to see the mystical Drombeg Stone Circle, and had a lovely lunch in Schull at Hackett's. We traveled on through Goleen (previous trips we've stayed at The Heron's Cove, which is highly recommended) and on to Barleycove Beach, which on our first trip in 1999 we found by accident. I think it was the moment I truly fell in love with Ireland, so we always come back. We swam and played for a while. Drove to Bantry, which is another beautiful harbor town. Then on to Glengariff and a stunningly beautiful drive to Kenmare,where we had another great meal at Mulcahy's. Places we missed that I would like to see one day: the Michael Collins Centre in Clonakilty, Lough Hyne, the Schull Planetarium, the Mizen Head Signal Station, Sheep's Head, and Bantry House and Gardens.
Day 7: From Kenmare, we went and spent the day in Killarney National Forest. Started via beautiful Molls Gap (Avoca store and restaurant there!), Ladies View (truly postcard Ireland), on to Killarney. We toured Ross Castle and took a boat ride on Lough Leane. Back to Kenmare and dinner at Tom Crean's. Next time we will be sure to go back to the Gap of Dunloe, which my wife and I have seen before - incredible.
Day 8: Today was Ring of Beara day. So beautiful - often overlooked but it's less crowded than Ring of Kerry and chock full of gorgeous scenery. We took the Healy Pass through to Adrigole. Beautiful views and one of the visual highlights of the trip. We ventured east to visit Garinish Island, which has a beautiful old Italian garden that is worth seeing (and seals galore!). We drove to Castletownbere and had lunch. The rest of the day was just trying to find remote parts of the Ring of Beara, particularly on the north side of the peninsula. If you can find the small roads on the north Beara, you will appreciate the remoteness and the beauty. Then a long drive to Waterville on the Ring of Kerry, the point of which was to hire a tour guide to do an Dark Sky astronomy night (that area is a Gold Tier Dark Sky Reserve). Unfortunately,unlike most of our great weather, that night clouded over and didn't cooperate. Definitely for next time! Another thing I'd like to do on the Beara Peninsula is to visit Dursey Island and the famous cable car.
Day 9: Today was a day to head to Dingle, so we didn't see as much of Ring of Kerry this time as we would like. We've toured it before, but we'll spend more time here next time. In particular, I want to visit the Skellig Ring, perhaps the Skelligs, and Valentia Island. But we did try something different and instead of driving the Ring on our way out, we drove through the middle on the Ballaghisheen Pass. It's very beautiful and there are no tour buses! First stop on Dingle Peninsula was Inch Strand, which is a terrific beach. Then on to Dingle Town, where we had a great lunch at Out of the Blue. Also, this was our first encounter with Murphy's Ice Cream, which is to die for. We would end up eating it multiple times, wherever we could find it. Drove over to Milltown and did a falconry experience, which was great. Then we just hung around Dingle Town, which is one of the very nicest places in the entire country. We'll never go to Ireland without coming here.
Day 10: Drove around the Slea Head Drive during the morning, including a visit to Dunbeg Fort and some beautiful vistas all around the outer parts of Slea Head. This is a must see. In the afternoon my son and I took a long boat tour out to the Blasket Islands, which was amazing. We saw all kinds of wildlife. Unfortunately, no whales, but plenty of puffins, red deer, seals, and many others. Back to Dingle and dinner at Doyle's (yum). Next time I'd like to visit more of the monastic sites on Dingle - we've seen Gallarus Oratory before but there are so many others to check out.
Day 11: Heading to County Clare today. Left Dingle (sad to go) and went through the Conor Pass, which provides a beautiful, panoramic view of lakes, valleys and mountains. Long drive, but went off road to see the ruins of Carrigogunnell Castle, which is on the back cover of U2's The Unforgettable Fire album. Had to view it from afar. Drove on to Ennis in County Clare. In the afternoon we headed to Kilfenora and the Burren Centre there. Drove up through the heart of the Burren to the Burren Perfumery. This place is an absolutely heavenly oasis. Visit and stay for a while, eat at the cafe, and just hang out. Afterwards went through more of the Burren and visited Aillwee Cave and back to Poulnabrone Dolmen. Both were terrific. Back to Ennis for the night.
Day 12: Drove around Southwest County Clare. First rainy day of the trip but we didn't mind. Went around Loop Head and to the Loop Head Lighthouse. Lunch in Kilkee. Then up north through Doonbeg, Quilty, Milltown Malbay and Lahinch (I'd like to return to Lahinch). Eventually took back roads to Doolin and did a one hour cruise to view the Cliffs of Moher (we had visited there before but never viewed from the sea). Back to Ennis again. In this area, next time, I'd like to visit Dysert O'Dea, Dromore Wood, and the Vandeleur Walled Garden near Kilrush.
Day 13: Went to the Burren Perfumery again on our way out to Galway. Weather gorgeous again. Got to Galway and just spent the whole day around Corrib Square and surrounding streets. Ate a really terrific meal at Oscar's. And of course more Murphy's Ice Cream!
Day 14: Connemara Region today. Visited Aughnanure Castle, which was a nice place to tour around. Instead of going to Kylemore Abbey, which we had done before, we decided to get lost in the random roads and bog areas and remote parts. Took the N59, then south on R341, then across the Roundstone Bog. Very interesting and striking place. Then we made our way to Clifden for lunch. Afterwards, we drove the Sky Road Loop, which is well worth it. Then on to the North Connemara Loop and the hidden gem of Glassilaun Beach. Back South past Loughs Muck, Fee and Inagh and then on back to Galway. Next time we'd like to go back to the Aran Islands.
Day 15: Our final full day. We had to get from Galway to Dublin but - knowing us - we decided to make it a longer day than a straight drive. So we headed north to the Sligo area. North of there I wanted to see the Glenniff Horseshoe Drive. I am so glad we made this trip. It is perhaps the most mystical, quiet place of beauty I have ever been to. Then we made a long drive to Dublin, staying near the airport. Flew home the next day.
If you've read this far, thank you for indulging me. I didn't intend this to be this long but wanted to share a lot of details and once I started I couldn't stop. Maybe this can give some good ideas to future travelers. Our next trip we are thinking of starting farther north in the Donegal area and working our way down the West Coast with a bit slower pace, staying longer and more on the coasts. It was a whirlwind trip but two of the best weeks of our lives! Can't wait to come back. Stay safe, Ireland - see you soon!