Most visitors know of at least a few places and attractions they would like to visit during their travels to Ireland. The Blarney Stone. The Cliffs of Moher. Dublin. Giants Causeway. A general idea of what places most intrigue you is a great place to start, but how do you go about building an Ireland itinerary?
Stick with One Quadrant per Week
First, make a wish list of where you want to go. Then get out a map, mark the locations of all of your top destinations/attractions (I use little post-it-notes).
With your marked up map, roughly split up Ireland into four quadrants (one line north/south, another east/west). Identify the quadrant(s) with the most marks. This is where you should concentrate on visiting.
Each quadrant is good for about a week’s worth of travel. If you have more time, great!
It is likely that you will not get to every single place you marked on the map. That’s ok. (What better excuse to come back?) You will be doing yourself a favor by not “seeing everything” in the limited time you have but really experience Ireland instead.
The country is best absorbed slowly, one day at a time. Travel Ireland any other way and you will be exhausted and miss much of what it has to offer, because you will be in a car headed to the next destination. The best attractions and landscapes are hidden from the main tourist routes.
Two Nights Per Location
Plan at least two nights in one location. This will help you go deeper into the culture and see much more. Also, if you have a “must do” outdoor activity on your list, you will have your pick of better weather days to do it.
Overestimate Travel Time
Underestimating the distances between places is an easy mistake when planning your trip to Ireland. There is so much to see in a seemingly small area (The Republic of Ireland is roughly the size of West Virginia), but the time it takes to get from point A to point B on Ireland’s tiny roads is very deceptive.
Without proper planning, you may spend excessive time in the car. Try for no more than 2 hours of driving in one day. Check AA Roadwatch or Google maps for traveling times and add 20% plus extra time for stopping for the perfect pub lunch or a rest by the sea.
Still don’t know where to start?
If your list is small or you have a hard time identifying an area of focus, pick up the Eyewitness Travel Guide to Ireland. They break down Ireland by region and offer plenty of pictures to help give you a feel for each location and the activities available there. After you’ve looked through it you might find you’re quite smitten with one or two areas, making the decision on where to go much easier.
If you are struggling to decide where to go, go to the Southwest—Dingle, Killarney, Kenmare, the Ring of Kerry. The people are welcoming, the scenery is stunning, and there is a lot to see (so much so, that it is easy to get off the beaten path, yet be near many iconic attractions). You will be so charmed that you will have to return and explore the rest of the country.