One of the most difficult parts of planning a trip to Ireland is deciding what to do and where to go in the time that you have. That’s why I am so excited to bring you another Reader Trip Report installment. This time Kevin and Mary share their adventures driving the Irish coast from the end of September through mid October.
There are so many ways to travel Ireland. While I am I am partial to renting a car and staying a couple of nights in each place, many visitors like to move every night to fit in as much as they can. Kevin and Mary did the latter and their detailed itinerary offers a great template for those of you looking for a coastal trip around Ireland. :-)
A little background on Kevin & Mary:
Kevin and Mary had each visited Ireland individually, but never together. Kevin traveled to Dublin for work and Mary stayed with friends and visited the country during a few trips several years ago. After 16 years, their dream to travel together had finally come together.
They decided to complete a coastal drive after Mary wanted to visit Dingle and Kerry, and Kevin wanted Giant’s Causeway and Waterford (Dublin City was excluded this time as they both had visited before). They moved each night and covered 2400 km in two weeks (Steph’s note: whoa that’s a long way!!). Let’s see where they got to!
Day 1, September 28
Arrival in Ireland; Picked up rental car; Traveled to hotel
- Ordinance Survey Atlas: We purchased one from the bookstore at Dublin Airport and found it very useful for when our GPS went a tad wonky! See if they sell one that has names in English rather than Gaelic as that became confusing at times.
- We used a Chase credit card, so we did not have to purchase any car insurance. We only needed to give the rental car company with a letter noting that the credit card company covered Ireland or that they provided car insurance to all European countries without exception. Chase emailed us the letter within 5 minutes of the request.
- Dan Dooley charges 10 euro per day or 100 euro per trip for GPS. Their online site only permits the 10 euro per day charge, so if your trip is longer than that call them and they’ll charge the lesser amount.
Car Rental Charges:
- €3000 hold on the credit card in case of accident.
- €90 for tank of gas was charged immediately upon rental and fully refunded if we returned the car with full tank – which they did. However, the exchange rate was different when they refunded the cost of fuel on departure day, so we lost a little. It’s not a fortune, but going forth I would try to negotiate to have them put a hold for the €90 rather than submit the charge.
- €100 for GPS.
Accommodations & Dinner:
Hilton Dublin Airport, Dublin: This was a nice hotel with a restaurant that was very reasonable. Parking was €5. We had dinner here to make matters easy as we had traveled from LA and were trying to adjust time zones.
Day 2, September 29
- Peter’s Roman Catholic Church Drogheda is a lovely medieval cathedral with parking lots outside the main city center. Use the atlas to avoid M1 toll.
- Monasterboice was a wonderful cemetery with fantastic Celtic crosses and free parking.
- We highly recommend the Belfast City Hall tour. Sign up for the 45-60 minute tour on first floor table under the dome.
- Agree to the price of the Black Cab Tour with the driver before you begin the tour. Unfortunately, the tourist information office would not book a tour for us, so we asked our hotel concierge to book it. Doing my research beforehand, I knew the cost of the tour should be £25 for two persons. The tour was fine. However, when it ended the driver asked for £10 more for the concierge’s commission. When we returned to the hotel, the concierge denied the commission charge. Moral of the story: know which company you are dealing with and negotiate the price before you start.
- Northern Ireland uses British pounds for currency.
Belfast Hilton, Belfast, Northern Ireland
The Crown Bar, Belfast. The dinner was fine, but forgettable – the real destination is the bar downstairs.
Day 3, September 30
- Dark Hedges: Go very early. We arrived at 9:30 AM and already there were about 30-50 people there. We heard during the high tourist times there can be up to 2000 people per day.
- Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge: Highly recommend. Be aware there are many stone steps involved before you get to the bridge and that during a windy day it can be “challenging” to walk across the bridge. Parking is free, and they have a gift shop and toilets.
- There is a parking spot with picnic tables about 1 mile east of Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge with great views. There is also a picnic area at Dunseverick Castle grounds (free grounds admission and parking).
Ardtrabane House, Bushmills, Northern Ireland (Editor’s Note: no longer in operation): We highly recommend this B&B. The B&B itself is lovely. The hosts are welcoming and very helpful.
While check in starts at 4 PM, you can email with them before arrival to arrange to park at their home prior to that time. They will give you directions to walk to Causeway via farm road (maybe 10 minute walk?) that puts you right on the Red Path. In fact, they will give your directions to/from the Causeway and explain what you are seeing the entire way. By doing this, we saved two admission fees and parking.
The Nook, Bushmills, Northern Ireland: Adjacent to Visitors Center and within walking distance to Ardtrabane B&B. It was fine, except for the flies. But you’re in the country!
Day 4, October 1
- Derry City Parking: Foyleside Shopping Center Garage opens at 8 AM, cost £1/hr.
- The Tourist Information Office is right across the street from Folyeside Garage, and they were among the best staff we met the entire trip
- Toured Derry gates/walls using the Rick Steves’ guidebook.
- Guildhall is an incredible building. I think they offer paid audio tours, but we just explored on our own. Chatted with one of the workers, and he wound up taking us to other rooms and explaining so much history – past and current.
- Slieve League: We highly recommend this. Gorgeous views of the cliffs with picnic tables and benches available.
- There is a path to climb even higher for viewing.
- Bring bug spray!
- The closed gate does not mean meant you have to hike to and from the views. You can drive, just open and close gate. Driving is better as there are several spots to stop and park.
- There are boats nearby available for tours.
- Republic of Ireland uses Euro, so the rest of our trip was using this currency.
Ocean Spray B&B, Kilcar, Donegal: Good basic B&B with a lovely family. Located 4km off the main road, so it was a bit challenging at times. Ocean view and near beach head.
Cooks Pantry, Carrick, Donegal: After finding several of the places we researched before arrival closed, we found Cooks Pantry– a lovely option.
Day 5, October 2
Drove to Galway City stopping along the way to view peat bogs and peat stackings; Explored Galway City
- Galway City benefits from advanced research: the city is more of a tourist/college town, while Salt Hill offers the beach and promenade.
Balcony House B&B, College Road, Galway: An OK B&B with small rooms and tight parking, but WiFi was ok and it had a good breakfast. The best part was that it was within walking distance to downtown.
Dinner & Drinks:
The Cellar Bar and Restaurant, Galway: Reasonable, good food & selection, a step up from pub food.
Drinks at The Kings Head, Galway: Go for the two chairs next to the fireplace with a coal fire. Lovely.
Day 6, October 3
- We drove from Ballyvaughan to Corkscrew Hill to Poulnabrone Dolmen to Lisdoonvarna to Doolin. It was a unique experience and we are glad we did it.
- Doolin: You can drive down to the water where the boat tours depart, park for free, and walk along a unique stone beach (a mini Causeway). The town and its pubs have a lot of character.
- If you are not staying within walking distance to the Cliffs of Moher, the only option to park is at the paid lots across the street.
- Sunset at Spanish Point is just lovely.
Berry Lodge, Spanish Point, Miltown Malbay, Clare: An absolutely lovely experience. Great stay, large comfortable room that was really a suite.
Cogan’s Bar, Main Street, Miltown Malbay: Close by with very good food and good service.
Day 7, October 4
- Killimer Ferry: It was a very fun experience as we took an early ferry and shared it with a small coach of “under 10 year olds” from Clare who were off to play Irish football match against the Kerry boys. Talk about energy!
- We booked online in advance and did not have to reserve date/time as the ticket was good for up to one year from the date of purchase.
- Inch Beach, Kerry: A large wide beach, good for walks and shells! They even offer surfing lessons! Free parking, restaurant, gift shop and toilets.
Milltown House, Dingle, Kerry (2 nights)
Dinner & Drinks:
Lord Bakers, Main St, Dingle: Good fixed price options and lovely seafood.
Drinks at the Marina Inn, Strand Street, Dingle: Drinks during one of the Ireland games for the Rugby World Cup!
Tell us what you think of the first week of Kevin & Mary’s coastal trip around Ireland in the comments below. Did they see a place on your Ireland bucket list? Or are you waiting for the next week’s installment when they share the rest of their adventures in Kerry, Tipperary, Waterford and Wicklow?