Creating an Ireland Itinerary

Joe and I officially began planning our 2014 Ireland Itinerary this past week. Squee!

It’s really hard for me not to be super-duper excited. Planning for Ireland makes me feel like a kid at Christmas—drawing up wish lists, dropping hints and being an extra good girl because Aer Lingus Santa is coming soon!

Aerial Map of Ireland

To Ireland We Go!

Our planning process hasn’t changed much in the last seven years.  We always start by setting aside a few nights for nothing but Ireland research. This is really important to us for a couple of reasons:

  • We give our trip the undivided attention it deserves. With so many things vying for our attention, if we don’t set aside specific “Ireland” time, our trip would never get planned the way we would want.
  • Setting aside time together gives us a better sense of things that the other person wants to see. We often remind each other of those places when one of us had a bad day or needs a pick me up.
  • We get excited about the trip together. It’s great fun to dream, especially together, before, during and after the trip.

So, last Saturday night, we ignored work, dishes and laundry to only concentrate on Ireland. We got out all of our Ireland travel books, popped in some traditional Irish music, and opened our big Ireland road map.

Ireland Road Map

Our very big Ireland Road Map (complete with wear and tear).

Joe and I both went for the Eye Witness Travel Guide first. It has wonderful pictures and short descriptions of all the major attractions. Apparently, Joe has much quicker reflexes than I do, and he quickly grabbed it off the top of the stack. I happily settled for Irish Coastal Walks and an older version of Frommer’s.

We both flipped to the Southeast Ireland sections. We haven’t touched any part of the Southeast yet and it’s been calling us for a while now. Every time we travel to Ireland, we come up with more things to do for the “next trip.” Our never-ending Ireland bucket list contained so many things in the Southeast it’s not surprising we both gravitated toward it.

It didn’t take long before Joe began sharing exciting finds with me, and I asked if he read about this or that yet. Writing in separate notebooks, we began to list all the interesting things we came across.

Powerscourt House and Gardens

Kilkenny

Tintern Abbey

Saltee Islands

Hook Head

Clonmel

St. Canice’s Cathedral

Lismore Castle

And on, and on, and on…

For a software developer and a girl who runs an Ireland travel blog, it’s unlikely that we would stay away from the computer too long. We broke out the laptops to Google images of Glendalough, Kilkenny Castle, Jerpoint Abbey and about a dozen more sites. I have found searching Flickr, websites, and even You Tube to be really helpful for getting the feel of a new place.

Thatched Cottage in Ballyedmond Ireland

Thatched Cottages? Yes, please!

I knew that most of what we were going to discover in our cursory search would be major tourist spots. For this planning stage that was perfect. We’d dig for secret finds, great restaurants, etc. later.

After making notes on our own, we shared our lists and ranked what caught our eyes the most. Not surprisingly, they ended up being very similar. We both love castles, old abbeys, hill walks and scenic views (what’s not to love?). Inevitably different columns emerged like: Yes, Definitely; Might Be Fun; and Ehh… (really scientific, I know).

Making our initial list will often take us a several hours of dedicated research. However, we were on our game this time and had a good idea of our favorites. So, we pinpointed them on our big Ireland road map. Clusters of attractions quickly emerged around a few different regions in the Southeast.

The areas around Kilkenny, Kildare, Waterford, the Wicklow Mountains, and just south of Dublin are certainly frontrunners for 2014. By identifying key locations and the approximate number of things we want to see in them, we can better decide how to spend our precious two weeks in Ireland. This information along with rules we like to follow (i.e. not in a vehicle for more than two hours in a day) shapes the makings of an Ireland itinerary.

Our plans will likely change a few times. It will also get more and more detailed. As we move along, we’ll share our progress with you.  What we will do, where we will eat and stay, and how we made these decisions.

Until then, do you have any advice for us in the Southeast of Ireland? Any suggestions for our “Yes, Definitely” list? We’d love to hear your feedback and integrate it into our planning process.

 

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15 Responses to “Creating an Ireland Itinerary”

  1. Alexander October 23, 2013 at 6:34 pm #

    Hi Stephanie,
    Great that you are looking forward so much to your 2014 trip to Ireland. I note you say South East. Yes, south east is pleasant, Wicklow Mountains, Glendalough, Powerscourt Demesne and so on.
    Being Irish and having been to these locations many times I regret to say I look upon them as being somewhat mundane, sorry, don’t mean to put you off as there are lovely places in the South East.
    However, if you want to see really stunning scenery and Ireland at its traditional best you have to go West and South West to Mayo, Galway and stunning Kerry.
    Beautiful Kylemore Abbey in the heart of Connemara, Killary Harbour, Leenaun, Clifden, Renvyle, Roundstone, Recess, Letterfrack, the Twelve Pin Mountains in the heart of Connemara, Ashford Castle, Cong, (the Quiet Man with John Wayne & Maureen O’Hara was filmed there back in the 50s and the pub is still there) Maam Cross, Ladies View, Connor Pass, Muckross House, Tralee, Inch, Killarney, Dingle Peninsula, Waterville, Bantry, Ring of Kerry, Westport.
    The above are just some of the most stunningly beautiful places in the West of Ireland which can be undertaken leisurely in just a few days motoring and if you like it which I am sure you will you can turn it into a week or more and still have plenty of time to take in the South East.
    It’s not such a big country, East to West (Dublin to Galway is just 135 miles on good motorways)
    B & B accommodation is in my opinion much better than hotel as you are in an Irish family home atmosphere and the breakfast that you get will keep you going all day. B&Bs now are right up there with hotels with excellent on-suite accommodation. I am a Dubliner born and reared and now living in County Meath on the North East Coast about 30 miles North of Dublin City centre, but my favourite people usually come from Donegal, Kerry and Cork but that’s just my opinion. The warmth and friendliness of these people you will never find in Dublin or County Dublin. Dublin holds no attraction for me anymore because it’s not Irish anymore, most likely you will be served in a restaurant, hotel or convenience store by someone with a Russian or Polish accent.
    If there is anything I can be of assistance with or anything which you would like to ask or know of I will be only too happy to give some advice and opinions.
    Whatever your plan I am sure you will have a wonderful time.
    Best regards,
    Alexander. (Not very Irish I hear you say)

  2. Alexander October 23, 2013 at 6:55 pm #

    Hi again Stephanie,
    Regarding South East.

    A must would be Enniskerry in County Wicklow, Sallys Gap and Glendalough absolutely. Avoca, Powerscourt Demesne and Powerscourt Waterfall is a favourite.
    Seaside town of Courtown Harbour is worth a view, Enniscorthy and New Ross are interesting historical towns, lots of forts, castles and ancient buildings.
    Curracloe and Brittas Bay beaches along County Wicklow coastline is also nice.
    Dunmore East in County Waterford is very pleasant too and of course Lismore Abbey and Castle near the Blackwater River would be a must.

    • Stephanie October 23, 2013 at 7:47 pm #

      Hi Alexander! We couldn’t agree more on what you wrote on your first post! The Southwest and West are just amazing places!! We have been a few times and really, really have to resist going back there again. Knowing that we have really neglected the Southeast (and the midlands to be honest), we thought that we should rectify it this time. :-)

      Thanks so much for your suggestions on the Southeast! We will certainly have to check out Courtown Harbor, Curraclow, and Brittas Bay which we haven’t come across yet. So much to do so little time :-)

  3. Liam October 24, 2013 at 1:56 am #

    Hey Stephanie!
    Best of luck with your 2014 travel plans. You’ll love the southeast :)
    I spent a few days in Kilkenny a few years ago. We stayed at Croan cottages there, which were quite nice. The small town of Thomastown is nearby which is worth a stop for some pubgrub etc. Jerpoint Abbey and a stroll around the grounds of Mt. Juliet golf course are worth some of your time. Of course there’s Kell’s priory too. You’ll love it there :) http://gotireland.com/2012/06/23/kells-priory-county-kilkenny-photos-and-facts/

    Chat soon,
    Liam

    • Stephanie October 24, 2013 at 9:49 am #

      Hey Liam! Great suggestions! Kells Priory was on the list, but I think you’ve just convinced me to put it at a much higher priority. :-) Awesome pictures. Getting so excited to go again!

  4. Cormac Ó Donnchú October 25, 2013 at 10:56 am #

    Stephanie,
    Great stuff -your excitement is infectious- when planning a trip to the South East your big problem will be where to leave out!
    Before I share some of my recommends better tell a little about me- I love history, the great outdoors and meeting new people. When I travel it’s normally with my long suffering wife and our brood of four kids – ranging in age from 18-8. We’re all invovled in Gaelic Games, Gaelic Football, Hurling and Gaelic handball. We love travelling around the Island and visiting new places. Our passion is all things Gaelic and uniquely Irish. So we might be a bit bias. We travel the country visiting some of the 2200 Gaelic clubs that populate our Island. Everywhere we go on this magical island we meet people working hard in their own communities who play our native games and queitly promote and protect our indigenous Gaelic Culture and customs.

    So to what to do when you make it here in 2014!

    - As this week we’re celebrating the ancient Celtic Festival of Samhain better known stateside as Halloween lets start with a scary suggestion.

    Loftus Hall on Hook Head – call in and do the tour of the old house and find out how the Devil appeared and played cards in the house. It may sound like a simple story but I know some who didn’t sleep well for a while after their visit. After you’ve been scared, nearly to death, you can grab a bike there and cycle out to the oldest operational light house on the planet at Hook Head. The scenery is beautiful there – park the bikes and go walking around the cliffs. We visited last year with a team of 50 camogie playing girls and we all loved it!
    If you’re planning on staying in the area – Duncannon is a favourite of ours -Check out the fort overlooking the sea and walk the beach at sunset before having a quiet pint in the town.
    For your daily history and heritage intake Tintern Abbey fits the bill for a visit.
    So much to do so little time!

    For the moment that’s enough for one day to digest!
    Before I sign off today – perhaps you might consider researching the place from where all our modern day Halloween traditions began – the holy hill at Tlaghta in Athboy. Co Meath.

    Hope you like some of the suggestions!

    • Stephanie October 26, 2013 at 6:52 pm #

      Cormac, this is just wonderful information! We are going to tuck these suggestions under our hat for our trip. :-) Anndd…we have always wanted to take in some Gaelic games and haven’t done so yet. It seems like 2014 will be our year. I will certainly be in touch when we settle our dates. Also, I just Googled Duncannon and Duncannon Fort. Looks like a great town to settle down for a few days. Oh, I am getting so excited.

  5. Carla October 30, 2013 at 12:22 pm #

    Near to Jerpoint Abbey (which we loved) is Jerpoint Glass, a neat little blown glass studio near Stonyford. http://www.jerpointglass.com/

    Just south of Powerscourt (24 km or so) is Mount Usher Gardens, in Ashford, County Wicklow. http://www.mountushergardens.ie/

    Dunbrody Abbey in County Wexford was a worthwhile stop for us. http://www.dunbrodyabbey.com/

    • Stephanie November 1, 2013 at 3:50 pm #

      All noted! Thanks Carla! Jerpoint glass looks just divine! I’ve got a spot in my dining room that would be perfect for their footed bowl! Mount Usher seems to unfortunately be in the shadow of Powerscourt, but it looks just lovely. And Dunbrody Abbey looks right up our alley. I wonder how many Abbeys we could visit in one trip? :-)

  6. Susan (@VibrantIreland) October 30, 2013 at 3:05 pm #

    Hi Stephanie– yay you’re coming to the Sunny Southeast!! You’ve great ideas there in your post & in the comments section here. Don’t forget the Copper Coast of Waterford, and Dunmore East. (Also rural Kilkenny- I’ve a guest post with a map in the TBEX blog, you may have read that already.) Depending on when you are visiting, there are sure to be a least a couple of fab festivals on in the southeast, big and small. I’ve many posts on the area on my own blog, and do tweet or email me if you’ve any specific questions—happy to help! :-) Susan
    PS if in the more wintery months, do consider a whale watching trip off Hook Head- it was fantastic!

  7. Susan (@VibrantIreland) October 30, 2013 at 3:08 pm #

    Oh yes, and you MUST go to Mrs Meaney’s Traditional Cottage Museum, & have lunch or cake– but it isn’t open all year– check online ( Ballilogue Clochan) or give me a shout for 2014 dates.

    • Stephanie November 1, 2013 at 3:53 pm #

      We will certainly have to get together when we come Susan! I can’t wait to check your suggestions and visit some of the places you are always raving about. Just found your post on Mrs. Meany’s Traditional Cottage–what great fun!

  8. Kevin Markham November 1, 2013 at 10:06 am #

    Sounds like you come this way a fair bit. Good to hear. As you already know, it’s a great place to visit (and live). I live down in the ‘sunny south east’, as so many people call it, so I’ll offer up a few recommendations.

    Loathe though I am to disagree with Alexander, Courtown Harbour is not particularly exciting. You’d be better off driving through the village, over the small bridge and heading down to Courtown Woods, which also takes in the beach.

    Johnstown Castle (http://www.discoverireland.ie/Arts-Culture-Heritage/johnstown-castle-gardens/558) is just outside Wexford Town.

    Curracloe Beach has already been mentioned (where opening scenes of Saving Private Ryan were filmed), but it will be busy during the summer. A beach near us is Ballinoulart (north of Kimuckridge), and it is almost always deserted. You can walk for miles – and probably link up with Curracloe to the south. As beautiful as Brittas Bay is, it will be packed during the summer.

    Food: Powerscourt House, Mount Usher Gardens (both already mentioned) and Avoca in Kilmacanogue serve the same food and it is very good and very good value. Not too fancy and generous portions. And if you have a sweet tooth you’ll be well looked after!

    Greystones in Co Wicklow is a nice small town with excellent restaurants.

    Clonegal in Co Carlow has, for me, one of the best restaurants I have eaten at (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Sha-Roe-Bistro/219698908047952). Stephanie and Henry have a lovely small restaurant and the village is idyllic too.

    If you’re around for the first Sunday of the month, there’s a buzzing food market at Macreddin Village. This is part of the Brooklodge Hotel (http://www.brooklodge.com/) outside Aughrim in Co. Wicklow, which has one of only 2 certified organic restaurants in Ireland (the other being Ballymaloe). It’s tucked away in the valleys of Wicklow so it’s a scenic place.

    Not far away, and also highly recommend is a trip to Avondale House and gardens outside Rathnew, Co. Wicklow (http://www.heritageisland.com/attractions/avondale-house-forest-park/), home to Parnell – one of Ireland’s greatest political leaders.

    You’ll also get some great inspiration from Susan’s (VibrantIreland) site, and also http://www.islemagazine.com/

    • Stephanie November 1, 2013 at 4:11 pm #

      Wow, Kevin! Thanks so much for taking the time to give all of these wonderful suggestions. You know your backyard very well it seems! I had a few of these listed, but certainly not all. You’ve confirmed my hunch about the ones I had and I will definitely be checking out the others. You’ve got me really excited about the food options in the Southeast— And I certainly have a sweet tooth, so I can almost guarantee a sweet stop at Avoca. :-) Thanks again!

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