Planning A Trip To Ireland: Advice From A Local (Lots Of It)

I receive around 80-100 emails and DMs each week asking for advice on planning a trip to Ireland. I try to respond to as many as possible, but I regularly (and unintentionally) miss out on messages.

This irritates me. Greatly.

In an attempt to help more people when their planning a trip to Ireland, I’m going to make this post an ever evolving guide to getting your trip sorted.

The comment section of this post will be used to answer any questions you may have, from what to do to where to stay and everything in between.

Planning a Trip to Ireland

OK, first things first – if you have a question that needs an answer ASAP, scroll to the bottom of this page and leave a comment with whatever you need help with.

As you’ll see for the 20 or so comments that are currently there, I reply quickly and my responses are detailed.

The best time to visit Ireland

cobh houses cork
Photo by Chris Hill

When planning a trip to Ireland, one of the most common questions that tends to arise is, ‘eh, when should I visit?’.

Something that irritates me greatly is when people, and it’s general travel bloggers that have visited Ireland once or twice and claim to know it all, say that you should only visit Ireland during the tourist season.

That is pure and utter shite.

Advice from someone that’s lived here for 29 years and that’s spent a lot of time exploring the island:

It doesn’t really matter when you visit.

north mayo coastline
Photo by Pawel Sadowski

Sure, if you visit during the ‘off-season’ you’ll find that certain tour providers and businesses in more remote parts of the country have shut up shop as the demand isn’t there, but don’t let that put you off.

Once you’ve taken time to carefully plan your trip to Ireland n advance and have thought things through, you’ll be fine.

When anyone asks me when to visit Ireland I’ll generally recommend early Autumn and from April to the end of May.

ladies view killarney
Photo © The Irish Road Trip

They’re my favourite times to travel around Ireland. There’s less tourists milling about the place and the main attractions aren’t as wedged.

There’s also something incredibly special about Ireland in Autumn (see the photo above) when the air starts to get cool and crisp and the leaves slowly start to turn orange.

That being said, summer is still a great to to take a vacation to Ireland.

There’s a chance of decent weather, the days are long and people are generally in a better mood (this is a pretty big generalisation on my part, but I find that people are happier in the summer).

Read our detailed guide to the best time to travel to Ireland. It goes into detail around the different months, tourist levels and lots more.

Driving in Ireland for tourists

driving in county kerry
Photo © The Irish Road Trip

150 people lost their lives on Irish roads in 2018.

Out of these fatalities, 63 drivers were killed, 21 passengers, 42 pedestrians, 15 motorcyclists an 9 cyclists.

Now, I’m not saying these were accidents caused by people driving in Ireland for the first time – I’ve no idea what the breakdown is.

However, If you’re planning on driving during your visit to Ireland, TAKE IT SERIOUSLY.

We’ve prepared a detailed guide to driving in Ireland for tourists – read it before turning the key.

Airports in Ireland

Which airport in Ireland to fly into seems to cause a considerable amount of stress for those planning a trip to Ireland.

There are probably several different factors that are going to come into play when it comes to choosing which airport to fly into:

  • Availability
  • Price
  • Where you plan on visiting

If you follow any of our Ireland itineraries, they generally start from Dublin, but there are plenty more airports that you can fly into, depending on where your departure point is.

which airport to fly into ireland
Map via Irish Tourism

Dublin Airport

Located a 20-60 minute drive (depending on traffic) from Dublin City, Dublin Airport is the busiest airport on the island.

It’s a handy place to fly into if you’re looking to start your trip from the capital, and it’ll be easier to get a direct flight her, if you’d like to avoid any connections.

Find out more info on their website.

Shannon Airport

You’ll find Shannon Airport on the west coast of Ireland.

If you’re planning a trip to Ireland and your sole focus is to explore the Wild Atlantic Way, then I’d recommend flying into Shannon.

You’ll more than likely need a connecting flight to get here, but it’ll save you having to make your way over from Dublin if you fly into the capital.

Find out more info on their website.

Newgrange meath
Photo by Brian Morrison

Cork Airport

Cork Airport is the international gateway to the South of Ireland.

Uniquely positioned at the start of the Wild Atlantic Way and Ireland’s Ancient East, it’s a fine starting point for many a great road trip

Cork Airport is Ireland’s second largest (and best connected) international airport, offering more choice of routes than any other airport outside of Dublin.

Find out more info on their website.

Belfast Airport

There are two airports in Belfast:

  • Belfast City Airport
  • Belfast International Airport

Belfast City Airport is located a stones throw from the city centre and mainly offers UK connections.

Belfast International airport is Northern Ireland’S busiest airport and is a solid option for those of you solely looking to explore Northern Ireland during your visit.

Ireland’s Regional Airports

There are also a number of regional airports in Ireland;

  • Knock (West of Ireland)
  • Kerry (Southwest)
  • Waterford (Southeast)

These airports are pretty small. While you probably won’t end up flying directly into them, you may end up taking a flight to one to cut down on a drive if you’re stuck for time, e.g. flying into Dublin Airport on a 7 day Ireland vacation and getting a flight straight to Kerry or Waterford to save some time.

mullaghmore head
Via Failte Ireland

Planning a trip to Ireland on a budget

Ireland is expensive. There’s no two ways about it.

And costs add up quickly. Especially if you plan on renting a car.

I’ll go into this in more detail in a later guide, but here’s some ways that you can keep your costs low when visiting Ireland:

Flights

These are going to be one of your big expenses.

The way to keep costs low when it comes to flights is to be prepared well in advance.

9 times out of 10, when you book well in advance, you save.

You can set up a price notification on skyscanner to keep yourself up-to-date on any changes, but try and book as far in advance as possible.

If you’re visiting Ireland on a budget, fly during the off season, between late Autumn and March to get flights as cheap as possible.

arranmore island cliffs
Photo by ‎Sebastian Sebo

Accomodation

Accomodation is probably going to be the single biggest drain on your wallet during your Ireland vacation.

Planning ahead is so damn crucial.

Yes, you can keep costs low and stay in a hostel if you like, but that won’t suit everyone.

When I’m travelling around Ireland and looking to keep costs down, I’ll browse booking.com and find a place that’s reasonably central and at a price that’s near my budget for a night.

I’ll then ring the hotel, hostel or B&B directly.

7 times out of 10, in my experience – the most recent of which was with a B&B in Cork, you’ll get a cheaper price than on Booking.com.

eyeries village west crok
Poto by Chris Hill

Eh, this guide isn’t finished…

I know. It’s a work in progress.

It’s going to be updated shortly, but the comments are being monitored from….. NOW!

Keith
Howaya!The purpose of this site is to inspire and guide you on an Irish adventure that’ll give birth to a lifetime of memories.No spam. Clickbait. Or boll*x. Ever.Keith

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30 COMMENTS

  1. Going to do a roundtrip this summer with my girlfriend, to show her the beauty of Ireland! This is going to be our route.. (these are our headlights)
    Any recommendation on what to visit/must see, or where to stay?

  2. Really enjoying the content of the emails as well as on the Instagram stories. I’m doing a solo two week road trip in August and I’ve basically got my plan made but I have one day that I feel I might be over planned and I’d appreciate your advice. I’ll be starting out in the morning from my Aunt’s house about 20km east of Killarney. I’d like to drive round the Beara Peninsula (will be referring to your recent guide!), then stop In Kinsale and Cobh then on to Cashel where I’ll be staying the night.
    Is that too much for one day? Should I think about staying the night in Cobh instead and head for Cashel the following day? I don’t mind a long day of driving – say on the road before 9, and I’d like to be at my b&b by around 6 but This will be my first time seeing Beara, Kinsale and Cobh so don’t want to shortchange myself by trying to see too much in a single day. Would really appreciate your input!

    • God = that’s a good distance you’re covering in one day even if you don’t mind driving.

      I made a mistake of skipping the Beara Peninsula on several visits. It’s a gorgeous part of the country.

      Personally, I’d spend a good chunk of time on the Beara Peninsula (unless it’s raining and you don’t fancy getting wet), then head for Mizen Head, Brow Head and spend the night in Skibbereen.

      Otherwise you’re stretching yourself quite a bit.

      I’m not sure how you’d fit in Kinsale and Cobh – you may have to leave them out.

      Alternatively, you could do a quick spin around Beara, head to Mizen, and then power on towards Kinsale and Cobh.

      Tough one! When’s the trip?

      Glad you’re finding it useful!

      Cheers,

      Keith

      • Thanks Keith. You confirmed what I was already thinking. I’ll be over the last two weeks of August. I like your suggestion of adding Mizen Head and Brow Head and staying in Skibereen.

        I don’t want to be so focused on a checklist that I’m rushing through. I’ve had to skip Beara,Kinsale and Cobh past few trips because of family obligations so I really don’t want to miss them again. So I’ll stay in Skibereen that night and head off in the morning.

        Thanks again for helping with this and just in general with sharing the benefits of your own experiences!

        Karen

        • No worries. Glad it was useful.

          Planning a trip in Ireland when you’re living here can be just as tricky as planning one when you’re visiting from abroad.

          Enjoy the few days and safe travelling.

          Keith

  3. Hey! Can you recommend any nice reasonable hotels with walks/outdoor activities can you can get to from Dublin without a car? Thanks ?

    • Hey Nsyn,

      Does it have to be a hotel?

      I’d recommend staying somewhere near Glendalough in Wicklow, but the hotels out that way can be really pricey. That being said, there are plenty of places to rent for the night on Airbnb. There are also several B&Bs.

      If you do decided to visit Wicklow (handy spin/bus journey from Dublin – here’s a load of info on getting there https://www.rome2rio.com/s/Dublin/Wicklow), there are plenty of walks and hikes in the area.

      Have a look here – http://visitwicklow.ie/all-walks/

      Cheers,

      Keith

  4. Hi! Do you happen to know some good 3-5 day hiking trails in Donegal? I have never been to Donegal so I’m planning to go there this summer.

    Thanks in advance and thanks for the awesome work you’re doing!

  5. I just wanted to ask 1-2 question about a weekend trip that I’m planning with a friend. I’m from Germany, working in Cork for 3 months now. Next week, a friend from Germany is coming over for the weekend.
    We would start Friday afternoon to Galway, spend a night there and go see the Cliffs of Moher early Saturday. From there we want to make our way down on the west coast and I wanted to ask about 1-2 must see’s on the way or even a good place to stay from Saturday to Sunday. If you have any ideas, I would be very thankful.
    Have a good day 🙂

    • Weird – I replied to this yesterday, but the comment seems to have vanished.

      OK, just so I have this right:

      – Galway on Friday night
      – Somewhere in Clare on Saturday
      – Home on Sunday

      Option 1

      – Friday afternoon in Galway
      – Head out to connemara in the late afternoon/evening (the evenings are bright until 8 or so, so you’ve plenty of time to explore)
      – Spend the night in Clifden or Roundstone
      – Here’s a guide to the best things to do in Galway in 48 hours that you might find handy

      – Saturday morning make your way to Clare
      – Spend the night in Doolin
      – Sail below the cliffs and take a ferry over in Inis Oirr
      – Here’s loads of things to do in Clare

      Option 2

      – Spend Friday in Galway City
      – Get up early on the Saturday and head down to Clare to see the cliffs
      – If you have a car, definitely head out to the cliffs at Kilbaha, after, they’re brilliant
      – Refer to the guide in option one for other things to do in the area
      – Spend the night wherever you fancy. I find Doolin is handy as it’s a good base for seeing a lot of Clare’s attractions, but there are other great towns in the county

      I hope this helps.

      Cheers,

      Keith

  6. Hey. Myself my partner and two boys are heading to Clare in two weeks for 4 days. We have a few things we want do, cliffs of moher etc. is there something that you’d recommend that is a must do over that neck of the woods?

    • Hi Brian,

      Thanks for getting in touch.

      If it was me, I’d take a spin out to Inis Oirr island. It’s a handy ferry from Doolin, although I’m not sure how suitable it would be for very young children.

      Definitely take a spin out as far as the cliffs at Kilbaha. They’re a bit out, but well worth checking out. Just be careful with the little fellas as it gets insanely windy out that way and the cliffs are unguarded.

      The Aillwee Cave is another great spot, especially if you’re looking to keep the pair of the amused. The Doolin Cave is another solid shout.

      I’ve a two day guide to Clare here along another one for people looking to make Doolin their base.

      Hope this is useful.

      Enjoy the trip.

      Keith

  7. We are traveling Next Spring 2020 and I am hoping most things will be open. 20th of March to the 11th of April. We are a mixed bunch, my husband and I, out 11 year old daughter, and my 75 year old mom. We have 4 days in Castletown Geoghegan, 5 in Portstewart, 5 in Murroogh, 6 in Nengah and two to finish in Dublin. My two questions right now are, can we get car service from Doolin to Murroogh? For a night out? It’s about a 30 min drive. And can we (mom and I are Hacketts) do a day trip from Nengah (Silvermines) to Baltimore and Schull?

    • Thanks for getting in touch, Jenna.

      Sounds like a great trip in the making.

      On the Doolin query

      I found the below taxis online that service the doolin area. You’d need to ring in advance to ensure that they’ll be able to accomodate.

      – Sean Cullinan +353 (0)864029997
      – Peter Mooney +353 87 2069019
      – John Sheedy Doolin Taxi +353 86 2353100
      – Joe Burke +353 (0)863702652 email: burketaxe@gmail.com
      – Dennis +353(0)86 6066996

      On the Silvermines to cork query

      I’ve never heard of a day trip from Tipperary to Baltimore and Schull – would you be able to rent a car? It’d make things a fair bit easier.

      You could get a train and bus from Tipp to Baltimore, but you’re taking a 6 hour plus journey one way https://www.rome2rio.com/map/Tipperary/Baltimore-Ireland

  8. Hi Keith!
    We love your advice and are planning our trip around it. We have visited Ireland before and loved it but only a week and we felt we were in the car way too much so now we have two weeks and will travel Connemara, Donegal and Northern Ireland. I would love your insight if we are missing something or if it doesn’t make sense and you could speak into our plans it would be greatly appreciated! Our plans are:
    Land in Dublin
    Drive to Galway for the night- Maldron Hotel
    Tour Connemara and stay two nights at the Delphi with
    one day to visit Clifden, do the higher Diamond Hill walk and Sky Road and one day to relax and do the seaweed bath
    Newport for two nights with plans of biking the Greenway and hiking Crough Patrick
    Four nights at Jackson Hotel in Ballybofey and take our time exploring Donegal with our homebase at the hotel
    Two nights at the Marine Hotel in Ballycastle
    One night in Belfast at the Titanic Hotel
    Last night in Dublin and haven’t booked the hotel yet.
    Does this sound insane? Or too laidback?
    Thanks so much!!

    • Hey!

      Haha! That is one long aul comment!

      Thanks for the kind words – glad you’re finding it useful.

      OK, let me trying and organise this in my own head. So, this is your plan:

      • Day 1: Land in Dublin and drive to Galway for the night (sounds good – personally, I’d stay in Dublin that night, as you’ve been travelling, but if it works for you happy days.
      • Day 2 and 3: Tour Connemara and stay two nights at the Delphi (lovely – loads to do in Delphi alone – the zip lining looks great) with
        one day to visit Clifden, do the higher Diamond Hill walk and Sky Road and one day to relax and do the seaweed bath (this all sounds great – you’re giving yourself loads of time to explore at your will)
      • Day 4 and 5: Newport for two nights with plans of biking the Greenway and hiking Crough Patrick (sounds good, too – drop into Brannen’s – nice old pub)
      • Day 6, 7, 8 and 9: Four nights at Jackson Hotel in Ballybofey and take our time exploring Donegal with our homebase at the hotel
      • Day 10 and 11: Two nights at the Marine Hotel in Ballycastle
      • Day 12: One night in Belfast at the Titanic Hotel
      • Day 13: Last night in Dublin and haven’t booked the hotel yet

      All of the above sounds spot on.

      The only thing I’d change if it was my trip is the Donegal section.

      I’d space out where I was staying, so do two nights where you are and explore the area around it and then another two up near Dunfanaghy.

      It’ll save you having to drive so much and it’ll give you a different taste of the county.

      I hope this helps!

      Keith

  9. Keith,
    First off, your instagram (love the vids of you messing with your old man) and this site are both amazing! My mom, myself and a few friends are heading to Ireland for two weeks in late May/early June. I’ve been before (my dad is from Finglas) but my friends haven’t so we have a lot on the itinerary. We are going to attempt to squeeze in a counterclockwise trip around the country. I’ve explored your site and took a lot of suggestions from your guides! I was wondering if you had any must see spots/sites in the Waterford/Wexford area? Or any suggestions in general?
    Thanks!

    • Hi Hannah,

      Haha! I’ll tell the aul lad that he has another fan (he hates the videos, as you can probably tell from his reactions!).

      Wateford has a mountain of different places that you can explore.

      Personally, I love the Copper Coast. It’s regurally missed by people visiting Waterford and it’s one of the best stretches of road in the country.

      Here’s a guide on the best things to do in Waterford if you’re only visiting for a couple of days.

      Fo Wexford, make sure to visit the Hook Peninsula. Hook Head lighthouse is one of the oldest operational lighthouses in the world and well worth checking out.

      Curracloe Beach (used during the filming of Saving Private Ryan) is also well worth dropping by for a stroll.

      There’s a forest right next to it which is great for a ramble through, also.

      I hope this helps. Have a great trip.

      Keith

  10. HI Keith,
    I’m planning a trip along the Wild Atlantic Way starting in Cork – i love walking and cycling but i also really want to experience the pub music and maybe join in on the mandolin. I am wondering if you can offer any advice on some pubs that welcome (or don’t mind) people joining with the music making.
    While in have a mandolin in NZ i am also hoping to buy one in Ireland – a flat back with a pick up would be great. Do you know of the music shop in Cork or the chain of music shops in Ireland
    Thank you Keith,
    Looking forward to hearing from you
    Virginia

    • Hi Virginia,

      I hope you’re well!

      I’ve been to a lot of bars in the past where people have had a quiet word with the barman or one of the band and they’ve been allowed up to play.

      However, I’ve been to just as many where someone just storms up on stage and tries to join in, without consulting those playing in advance.

      My advice would be to google ‘live music in x town/village’ that you’re staying in and ring the pub in advance and check with them.

      They’ll be able to tell you whether or not it’s ok to do.

      Have a great trip.

      Keith

  11. Hey Keith,

    Love your site – always get great inspiration from it! Just noticed Donegal Airport isn’t on the airport map above – flights to and from Dublin and Glasgow Mon, Wed, Fri, Sat and Sun. I have yet to fly into it but the take off is just as spectacular – well worth the price, particularly if you are stuck on time for a visit!

    Keep up the good work!

    Maeve

  12. Hey! Absolutely love your page. We’ve got a road trip coming up in August for 2 weeks and we’re so excited! Love the 25 day guide you wrote and will be taking lots of inspiration from there! We’ve got a few things we have to do (visit family, a wedding) but for the rest of the time, would you recommend planning things properly or going more with the flow? We’re bringing a tent so can be flexible with where we stay! Thanks so much – love your work!
    (Our route at the mo is Belfast – Giants Causeway – visit family in Leitrim – wedding in Mayo – Galway – Clare – Kerry – Cork)

    • Hey! I’d definitely recommend having a decent idea of what you want to do and when.

      It’ll just give you that extra bit of comfort knowing that the trip has a structure and that you’ll see everything you want to see during your time there.

      That being said, I often just head off without any real plan, but I can do that as I live here and I know I’ll have plenty more chances to get out and about and see the places that I want to see.

      When you’re visiting family in Leitrim, definitely take some time to drop into Sligo. There’s a mountain of stuff to do out that way. This Sligo itinerary should help.

      Have a great trip.

      Keith

  13. Hi , I’m planning a trip to Kerry , Monday 28th October , 5 nights , 2 adults & 3 children , adults plan to climb Carrantuohill , can you recommend a cottage preferably, Rossbeigh maybe , needs to have a sea view ,any help would be great , thanks Linda

  14. Hey Keith!

    Going to be traveling to Ireland for 5 days in late August through early September with my girlfriend and it’ll be our first time in the country. Would love to get your thoughts on our rough itinerary and see if you think we’re trying to fit too much in or if there’s something we’re missing that we should really hit. Sorry in advance for the longer comment!

    Day 1:
    – Arrive early AM in Dublin
    – Spend morning in Dublin and take mid-morning bus to Galway
    – Afternoon/evening in Galway

    Day 2:
    – Breakfast in Galway and pick up a rental car
    – Trip to Cliffs of Moher
    – Midday trip to Limerick for lunch and walking around the city
    – Afternoon trip to Kerry to spend the afternoon and night in the area (possibly stay in Killarney?)

    Day 3:
    – Morning in Kerry
    – Midday trip to Cork
    – Afternoon/evening in the area and spend the night near Kinsale

    Day 4:
    – Breakfast in Kinsale
    – Morning trip through Cobh to Waterford
    – Day/afternoon in Waterford
    – Evening/night in Wicklow

    Day 5:
    – Morning in Wicklow
    – Hit Glendalough and Wicklow Mountains National park during the day
    – Return rental car and take bus/taxi to Dublin for the evening

    Day 6:
    – Breakfast in Dublin and departure flight at 11:30

    We really haven’t ironed out the finer details and know that there are days worth of things to do in each place we’d like to stop, but are really just hoping to be able to wander through the south side of Ireland and see what we see while hitting a handful of specific things.

    Any specific areas we should try to plan in or look for? We’ll ideally book our lodging a month or two before our trip so we’ll have some structure to where and when we will need to be at our destinations, but other than that are very open to suggestions.

    Thanks for all the help!

    • Hey,

      No hassle. OK, I’ve had a look through it. It’s definitely way too much squeezed into such a short space of time. I’m not even sure how physically possible it’d be. Yes, you’d visit loads of counties, but you wouldn’t spend anywhere near enough time in them to enjoy them.

      I’ve added comments in beside each day of the itinerary you sent and made some suggestions.

      Day 1

      – Arrive early in Dublin, spend morning there and take mid-morning bus to Galway, afternoon/evening in Galway.

      Verdict: depends how early your flight is, but you’ll be getting very little in in Dublin. That’s cool if you want to get straight out of the city.

      Day 2

      – Breakfast in Galway (GO TO DELA – it’s amazing!!) and pick up a rental car, trip to Cliffs of Moher, midday trip to Limerick for lunch and walking around the city, afternoon trip to Kerry to spend the afternoon and night in the area (possibly stay in Killarney?)

      Verdict: this one has me a little confused – you’re planning on waking up in Galway, driving to Clare, then on to Limerick for lunch and then to Kerry?! This would be craaaaaaaazy. You’ll be driving all day and literally leaving a place as son as you arrive.

      Recommendation: There’s a tonne of things to do in Clare. Spend the day there and enjoy it. You won’t regret it.

      Day 3

      – Morning in Kerry, Midday trip to Cork, Afternoon/evening in the area and spend the night near Kinsale

      Verdict: Same as above. You’ll see a handful of things in Kerry and then you’ll be leaving it. You physically can’t spend this little time there.

      Recommendation: Spend day 3 and 4 in Kerry. Here’s a 2-day guide to help you plan your time there.

      Day 5:
      – Breakfast in Kinsale, Morning trip through Cobh to Waterford, Day/afternoon in Waterford, Evening/night in Wicklow.

      Recommendation: Spend day 5 exploring West Cork. A day isn’t nearly enough here but you’ll get to see some of it.

      Day 6:
      – Head back to Dublin

      I hope this helps!

      Keith

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