If beer is not your only passion it is very likely that you will need a car to explore Ireland. Otherwise you could just stay in Dublin and enjoy Guinness ;) So if you decided to go around Ireland first thing is to get used to driving on the left side of the road ;) It is not that difficult as it look like. Well… if you would like to rent a car with automatic transmission it might be about twice expensive comparing to the stick.
Let’s assume that you’ve rented a car… what’s next… plenty of small cozy towns and villages, Dingle Peninsula, Cliffs of Moher, Gap of Dunloe, Glendalough… The distances are not very big taking into account whole size of the island.
Let’s start with Dublin. It was last place on my itinerary but most likely it will be the first place you come to in Ireland. Dublin is the capital and the biggest city in Ireland. It will take about a day, maybe two to explore Dublin. It is nice city just to walk around and enjoy its streets, pubs and spirit. Comparing to many European capitals it is pretty small and walkable. One of the most vibrant places is Temple Bar. Despite the name it is not a single pub but a district with plenty of places.
About 70 km from Dublin you can find Glendalough. Wikitravel says that it is important monastery and village in Wicklow County. However I would say that it is not only that. The monastery and village sit are located within or near to Wicklow Mountains National Park. And it is just a nice place to drive around. My impression of whole Ireland was that it is a nice place to drive around. Not specific spots to take pictures of, but more of a place to see and enjoy… valleys, rivers, some old ruins of monasteries and castles… You just fill the spirit of this old historically reach country…
Going further from Glendalough I reached Kilkenny. The name known to many due to brewery. It is said that Kilkenny has the oldest brewery in Ireland founded in 1221. However as of 2012 all main facilities were relocated to Dublin. Nowadays you can still have a tour of the brewery and even enjoy a pint of Kilkenny beer there.
Aside from beer experience you can take a walk of Kilkenny Castle, Black Abbey, St. Canice’s Cathedral and rest of old town. With about 25000 people living in Kilkenny it is relatively small town. It is a good stopover point on a route.
Rock of Cashel
And further to the west. On a way to Killarney I made one more stop at famous Rock of Cashel. According to local mythology, the Rock of Cashel originated in the Devil’s Bit, a mountain 30 km north of Cashel when St. Patrick banished Satan from a cave, resulting in the Rock’s landing in Cashel. The Rock of Cashel was the traditional seat of the kings of Munster for several hundred years prior to the Norman invasion.
Unfortunately due to strong winds the castle was closed for visitors, so I had only few shots of this huge castle from its foothills ;(
After unfortunate weather conditions in Cashel I’ve continued to Killarney and Gap of Dunloe. I think that Killarney is a must do if you are in Ireland. It has plenty to offer. The town itself is similar to other small towns, but it sits near to Killarney National Park which has glorious scenery. Ross Castle, Muckross Abbey, Torc Waterfall are all located within the park and shouldn’t be missed. Go early to avoid most of the tourists and you’ll have a chance to fill hundreds of years coming through you…
Gap of Dunloe
Just 10 km from Killarney lays Gap of Dunloe, a wild gorge about 12.8 kilometres long with Macgillycuddy’s Reeks and Tomies mountains on either side. A walk through the Gap is a great experience if you are well fit and have time. Another option is Jaunting Car ride.
Wikitravel says that “The road is not suitable for most vehicles, but 4WDs or other cars with a high clearance could get through”. However as I was pretty limited in time I decided to go there with Skoda Fabia and hadn’t had any problems. The road itself is pretty narrow, for one car passing at the moment, however it has multiple side pockets where you can pass around other cars. During about hour and a half I’ve met a dozen of other cars.
Further from Killarney lays another place the is kind of must do in Ireland — Dingle Peninsula. Like many other places in Ireland it is good to drive around, explore the nature, enjoy the views. Best views are in the second half of the day when sun is lower and light is softer. In a good weather you probably can enjoy a sunset near to cliffs of the peninsula.
The next stops after Dingle Peninsula were Cliffs of Moher and Galway. Similar to what we had in Iceland — when weather gets worse, the views of the cliffs get better. You can physically fill their greatness. The cliffs rise 120 m above the Atlantic Ocean at Hag’s Head, and reach their maximum height of 214 m just north of O’Brien’s Tower, eight km away. The cliffs boast one of Ireland’s most spectacular views. On a clear day the Aran Islands are visible in Galway Bay, as are the valleys and hills of Connemara.
All in all I had just 4 days in Ireland. It wasn’t easy to fit all of this in 4 days and many will say that 4 days is not enough. I can not argue… but still the itinerary is below ;)
RyanAir [€17 one-way]
Budget, Skoda Fabia, 4 days, €21 total
Sally Gap, The Gateway, The Cathedral, The Round Tower, Hiking around the lakes
24 Vicar Street, Kilkenny [€17 / person / night]
Black Abbey, High Street, Kilkenny Castle
Old and famous castle, dated approximately 1100 AD
Inch Beach, Minard Castle, Dingle Town, Cross at Slea Head, Conor Pass
68 New Street, Killarney [€14 / person / night]
Ross Castle, Muckross Abbey, Torc Waterfall, Ladies View
Excellent scenic road, drive with care – 13 km are taking 1 - 1.5 hours
Great scenic viewpoint, if weather is good – arrange it for sunset time
Doolin, Doonagore Castle, Poulnabrone Dolmen, Aillwee Cave
Frenchville Lane, Eyre Square, Galway [€35 / person / night]
High Street, Shop Street, etc
Dublin Spire, Temple Bar Area, Guiness Storehouse
RyanAir [€15 one-way]