An Ideal Trip to Ireland

I have found that many of us have 10 days or so available for a trip to Ireland. A mistake we can make (and organised tours seem to take this approach) is to hurry from one sight to another, spending barely a night in one spot.

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An Ideal Trip to Ireland

Many of the emails I receive each week are concerned with planning a trip to Ireland. Often, it is a first trip – and the person on the other end are worried that they are fitting enough in, going to the right places etc. You know yourself how enjoyable – and stressful – holiday planning can be!

The main questions I get asked are of the following two flavours:

  1.  “It’s my first visit to Ireland – should I take a tour bus or rent car? The thought of driving a car in Ireland makes me nervous!”
  2. “I will be staying near Ballyancestry – where my people came from – but I also want to visit The Cliffs of Moher/Blarney/Dublin/Galway – how far away are they?”

My answer to number 1 is – yes, you can always take a tour – but you can also mix it up a bit. For example, stay 3 days in Dublin with no car, take some day trips. Take a small 3 day tour to some further locations. Then rent a car for another 3 days and go where you want. No need to play by other peoples rules (that wouldn’t be very Irish, would it?) I have found that most people who a guided coach tour the first time around – and come back for second helpings – opt for a car on the second trip. Has this been your experience?

The Ideal Recipe For A Trip To Ireland. 

On the second question – well, let’s step back a bit first.


The sea is never too far away no matter where you base yourself.

Most of the people who read this letter have ancestry linked with Ireland. The places your ancestry came from are often the places you want to visit. Along with these essential places, there are sights and landmarks that you would LOVE to see this time around.

I have found that many of us have 10 days or so available for a trip to Ireland. A mistake we can make (and organised tours seem to take this approach) is to hurry from one sight to another, spending barely a night in one spot.

Somehow, I notice that the ideal “recipe” for a trip to Ireland over 10 days/9 nights is to spend 2-3 nights in about 3 separate locations – and use these as bases for exploration. You can often easily explore within 50 miles of these “bases” – and also have the flexibility to absorb more of the local colour. Also, it is definitely less hassle than packing up early each morning and heading on. Here are three examples:

The Southwest And Dublin. 

Diane was onto me. Her ancestry came from the Skibbereen area of County Cork, so she wanted to ensure she visited there. But she also wanted to visit Cobh, Dingle and the Cliffs of Moher.

Exploring the Great Blasket Island

Beautiful Great Blasket Island off County Kerry.

My suggestions were:

  1. Use Bantry town as base number 1. Skibbereen is about 10 miles away. The Beara peninsula is on your doorstep. Kenmare in Kerry is about 15 miles away. The Mizen Peninsula is on your doorstep. The Ring of Kerry is doable in a day. Cork city is about 1 hour drive away and Cobh about 25 more.
  2. Use Dingle town as base number 2. The Dingle Peninsula on your doorstep. In travelling from Bantry to Dingle, you could go around the Ring of Kerry.
  3. Use Dublin City as base number 3. Dublin is Dublin! Good idea to stay local – give back the keys of the car – and take a daytour to Newgrange, Tara or Glendalough.

That’s one example of 3 Bases – 9 nights.

The Northwest and Dublin. 

Kathi was onto me. Her ancestry came from Sligo town – so she wanted to ensure she visited there.

Homelands Pic 5

The Town of Ballina in County Mayo.

My suggestions were:

  1. Use Sligo town as base number 1. The small county of Sligo is on your doorstep. You can drive north to Donegal town, east into Leitrim and Fermanagh, and south into North County Mayo – all on east day trips.
  2. Use Derry City as base number 2. It’s a beautiful, small and safe city – plenty to see. You can also use it as a springboard into the Inishowen Peninsula of Donegal, east along the north Antrim Coast (maybe a day trip to Belfast at a push) and south into County Tyrone and the Ulster American folk park.
  3. Use Dublin City as base number 3. As with my previous suggestion of Dublin.

Another example of 3 Bases – 9 nights.

The West and Dublin. 

George was onto me. His family was from west of Galway City in County Galway as well as County Mayo.

My suggestions were:

  1. Use Galway city as base number 1. Hard to leave this historical small city when you arrive – but if you must you could: Head off into the wilds of Connemara; Visit the Aran Islands for a day; visit the north coast of Clare down to the Cliffs of Moher; Head into historical east Galway to the town of Athenry. An alternative would be to stay for 2 or 3 nights on Inis Mór – the largest of the Aran Islands. It will stay with you for life.
  2. Use Westport in County Mayo as base number 2. Westport is a gem of a town – plenty going on here. However, when you have to leave you can head south into Connemara or north along the Mayo coast
  3. Use Dublin City as base number 3. As with my previous suggestion of Dublin.

A final example of 3 Bases – 9 nights.

Galway City

Look across to Galway City from Claddagh.

These are just some of the three centre holidays I would be happy to go on! But they are personal choices. Now, let me ask you – what would be YOUR ideal three-centre holiday in Ireland if you had 10 days/9 nights?

I know we have SO MUCH experience of travel in Ireland among our readers – so I will do my best to publish all of your suggestions that come my way. But, be sure to limit it to 3 centre holiday suggestions over nine nights.

As always, do feel free to comment below if you want to share a story, ask a question about your Irish surname or just to say hello!

Slán for now – Mike.

  • Bob Prager says:

    This past June, went on a tour based on Irish music organized the way you’ve described. half-size bus (~20 or so), “hosted” by an American folk-singer with a local guide (and a local drive). Everyone flew into Shannon and spent a “recovery day” in Bunratty. Tour went to Westport (County Mayo) the next day, with a brief stop at Coole and a lunch stop at Cong. 3 nights in Westport, local (and flexible — depending on the Irish weather!) tours by day, a concert in the hotel or at a pub after dinner, and then performances in pubs. Next 3 nights in Clifden (County Galway), and final 3 nights in Ennistymon (County Clare). Met some really fabulous musicians; came home with a pile of their CDs and many many photos.

  • Jane Spellane Fasone says:

    We were in Ireland around 1996. We flew into Dublin and stayed in the Mount something hotel in Marion Square. Several of my cousins came to visit and the hotel gave us the downstairs pub to entertain them. I did a double take when I met my grandmother’s niece. She was the spitting image of her and the mannerisms were so much alike. One of my cousins husbands took my two sons out and drove them around Dublin pointing out what we should see so my elders son became our tour guide. We told of our plans to rent a car and drive to Longford where my grandmother was raised. I was warned about driving in the country as farmers with their cattle and wagons take over the road. Here we met more cousins, farm life and walked a town of BallyMahon which basically hasn’t changed in 100 years. Here I saw customs my grandmother brought to America still being followed. Whenever my grandmother and her cousins got together they spoke of home. I had a very good sense of there places and people . My Irish Cousins were shocked that I knew so much family history on both of my grandmother’s sides. I quickly felt like I knew my new found relatives all my life and we had great crack. From BallyMahon I drove all over Ireland, had a wonderful time and even got a sun tan. We took a bus tour (CIE) to Northern Ireland. I was afraid of the English presence there and to drive there. I really think the bus tour let us experience so much more. I think in planning a trip one has to do with what he is most comfortable with. Drive, tour they each have their pros and cons. But go to Ireland, it is the experience of a life time. One you will never forget. After driving all around, we returned to Dublin to say good by to my new found cousins. We spent our last night in Swords at a cousin’s home. He took us to the airport the next day.. Several months later my husband and I were having dinner in a dinner. We knew from her brogue she was Irish and we talked of our trip. When I mentioned that we spent the last night with a cousin in Swirds, she said I an from Swords and was a friend of my cousin’s daughter . How small can our world get.

    • Mike Collins says:

      Great story Jane – thanks very much for sharing – we must also put this into the forum. Mike.

  • Sandy Kennedy LaFerriere says:

    I hope to get back to Ireland again. I get palpitations just thinking about it!! ????. I did spend a few days in Dublin. Wonderful city. I know I didn’t see half of what I should have. Great fun though

    I would like to find a spot to just stay in, someplace with easy transportation. The Cork area would be lovely. Skibbereen would be great . I would know someone !!!! MIke and Carina!!
    I will keep thinking about it. Someday……..someday…..

    Sandy Kennedy LaFerriere

  • says:

    Hi Everyone
    Our trip to Ireland is on we arrive Dublin perhaps 8 or9th Sept. 2016 after landing in Heathrow on 8th Sept then direct to Dublin via Aer Lingus. Have at least 2 days in Dublin any ideas where we could stay cannot walk far so central to transport may be a help. Next we move on to Nenagh Co Tipperary as some of you may know is home to my current cousins and ancestors. We will rent car in Dublin so more help there as to who go with. Whilst in Nenagh for 7 nights our plan is to drive to points of interest.
    When we leave Ireland on 17th hope to catch ferry back to U.K via Wales to down South England .

  • Anita Barfield says:


    Some friends and I are planning a trip to Ireland in August of 2017. None of us have visited there before, and we are so looking forward to it! We are all horse enthusiasts, and plan to end our trip in Dublin for the horse show. It is also on our agenda to visit Coolmore, to see Galileo, and their other fine stallions. We would also like to spend some time in Clifden, and see some of the fine Connemara ponies in the area. Any suggestions would be appreciated!

    My maternal grandmother’s people are Irish, their last name is Dunn. I have not traced them, yet, back to Ireland, so I do not know where they came from, but I hope to do that before our trip!



  • […] Letter 1: Planning Your Ideal Trip to Ireland? […]

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  • Deb Arvidson says:

    My ancesters are from doneraile and mallow in cork.i am thinking about staying a month or two to research the nunan/noonan and tarrant surnames. Is renting a small house the least expnsive option for a long stay? What would be the best time of year and the best location? Mallow ancestors will need the most work, i prefer the country side, but i am not sure that makes sense if i need to visit churches and cemeteries.

    • carina says:

      I would suggest you stay in Mallow town and get in touch with the local tourist board re accommodation. Also you may need a car depending on where you travel to, especially if it is a rural location. Enjoy the trip.

  • Judy Monahan says:

    I’m trying to do more research on the McEnaney name and I’m planning to come to Ireland in the near future. Where would you suggest I should start my research?

  • Gene McKelvey says:

    My wife and I are starting to plan our first trip to Ireland and Scotland. All her ancestry is Southern Irish, while I have two ancestral lines from the Scottish borderlands who were resettled in Northern Ireland and then emigrated to the USA. I’m currently favoring a 14-day bus tour that makes loops around each country. We’re not expecting to visit any specific ancestral homes since all emigration was long ago. Still, I am open to ideas to enhance our trip.