Make a Plan and Get to the Must-Sees
Long a do-it-yourselfer when it comes to traveling, I am a bit overwhelmed trying to put together an itinerary for a week-long stay in Ireland. So many castles, bluffs, beer tours. Sifting through a stack of guidebooks, it quickly becomes clear that I cannot accomplish everything I might like to on this inaugural trip. Here is how it works out:
Day 1: We land at Dublin Airport early in the morning and pick up our rental car. We make two of the wisest decisions of our trip within the first hour of our arrival: we opt to rent a GPS, even though our iphones offer multiple services, after the rental agent tells us that the global positioning systems in American smartphones often do not work quite right in Ireland, and we pay a bit more for a vehicle with automatic transmission. Navigating a country new to us while driving on a side of the road new to us is sufficient challenge.
A Walking Tour of Dublin
From the airport, we head to our hotel with the convenient name and location: the Dublin Central Inn on Talbot Street. We are fortunate to be able to check in early, and we crash for a few hours after our long flight from New York. Our heads still a bit musty, we start getting to know Dublin simply by heading out. High points of this first day include the Customs House, the General Post Office, and a convenient stop at Insomnia Coffee Co. After one more quick nap, we dine at Le Bon Crubeen and follow our visit with a Guinness or two at the pub next door, the Celt.
Going to Whiskey at Midleton
Day 2: We head south and west to Midleton to tour the distillery after a quick and tasty lunch. Along the way, we pick up a keen appreciation of Jameson’s Whiskey and a fondness for the Redbreast. From Midleton, we head toward Killarney, where we spend the night at the Dromhall Hotel. After dinner onsite at Kayne’s Bar & Bistro, we will be ready to discover Killarney.
A Walking Tour of Killarney
Day 3: Walking to downtown Killarney is an easy walk from the Dromhall Hotel. Managing to go past the Killarney Brewing Company, we aim for more lofty goals: a visit to Saint Mary’s Church followed by a bit of windowshopping and a stop at the Franciscan Friary. Kicking back, we stop at the Laurels Pub for some more of that Guinness and an early dinner.
On to Galway
Days 4 and 5: The weather determines our schedule as we skip past Limerick due to rain and head straight for Galway, where we drive around town for a bit to see the Spanish Arch before heading to the the Huntsman Inn for dinner. Staying at Flannery’s Hotel, we stop in at the bar for a nightcap before calling it a night. In the morning, we are up early and head for Cong, the setting for the John Wayne film, The Quiet Man. While here, we walk around the grounds of Cong Abbey and then visit the very deluxe Ashford Castle, which would be the perfect setting for a wedding at any time of year. On the way back to Galway, we discover Ross Errilly Friary, an impressive and slightly spooky place that does not appear in any of our guidebooks—all the better. We finally make it back to Galway for a quick dinner at the Trapper’s Inn.
Back to Dublin
Day 6: On our last full day in Ireland, we decide to optimize our adventures by randomly following ‘castle’ signs we see posted here and there. Thanks to our whimsy, we get to visit Athlone and discover the oldest pub in Ireland, Sean’s Bar, which happens to be open even though we arrive before noon. Next, we go to Trim Castle, where Saint Patrick was active, and see what remains. On our return to Ireland’s capital, we visit everything we breeze by on our first day here: the Book of Kells at Trinity College and Saint Mary’s Pro Cathedral. We so enjoy Le Bon Crubeen and the Celt that we visit each one again.
Heading to New York
Day 7: We rise early before dawn to return our rental car before flying back home.
Tips for Bashful Adventurers
- Bring your boots! Ireland can be a bit muddy.
- With hindsight, we would have stayed overnight in Midleton, which is a charming little town.
- We skip the Blarney Stone without regret—I just do not see myself contortioning to bus the stone, especially considering my squeamishness about cleanliness.
- We have the best time when we stray the most from our schedule and turn down paths not on our agenda.