Early planning stages for Ireland trip
2 middle-aged couples
We have a week during our son's spring break, so we are looking at traveling in early April 2013. We want to go to Dublin, Kilkenny, and Limerick, because that's where our ancestors came from. (I don't know that we would try to meet any relatives who currently live there. I haven't had any contact with them, although I think that one of my mother's cousins has.) If we had to slight one of those three places, we would most likely reduce our time in Dublin, because my brother and his girlfriend have been there once before. They only had a few days, though, and they haven't seen any other part of Ireland. The rest of us haven't been to the country at all.
We're all in good health and like seeing museums, castles, and outdoor sights. The teenager isn't a very adventurous eater, but the rest of us are. Some of us would want to sample Guinness and other local beers, but none of us are party animals.
Do you have any advice for us as we begin planning our trip? We will involve our mom in the planning eventually, but we'd like to have at least a vague plan in mind before we tell her about it. Does it seem feasible to see those 3 cities in a week? Are there other locations that we absolutely can't miss and, if so, what should we reduce or give up in order to fit them in? How easy is it to rent a vehicle that will hold 6 people and maneuver some of the backroads? (We're American and so we're used to driving on the other side of the road.) It looks like there are some vacation rental options. Does anyone have any experience with renting a place and cooking some of your own meals? Please let us know if there are particular companies you would recommend...or recommend we stay away from.
Thanks for any advice you can give us at this stage. I'm sure I'll be back later with more specific questions.
If you are running a tight schedule, try to arrange an open jaw ticket that flies into Dublin and out from Shannon, and you'll be able to save yourself about a half day driving back accross the country.
Car rental is definitely a tradeoff if all 6 of you are there together. The Irish have minivans, just like we do (and at least when I was there, they were having a north-american style affair with SUVs) but it's definitely a larger vehicle than is ideal for most roads. I drove the smallest economy car I could get while in Ireland, and still felt like passing was a close call every time. I'm sure it's doable, but driving off the main routes will be stressful. Your only other real option is to split the family up.
Left hand driving isn't difficult at all, but occasionally you'll need a reminder when you're turning out from a parking stall. Once you're going, it's pretty self-evident what you're supposed to do.
I can't give you much advice on your specific destinations. I spent very little time in Dublin, and only drove through Limerick, so I'm not really up to speed on what there is to see. I will say that the best experiences I had in Ireland were the spontaneous ones, running into a local festival or going to a live concert at a middle-of-nowhere pub. Don't overplan yourself, and I'm sure things will work out fine.
Circle of Life - The Lion King
Ireland is fairly compact so covering the distances shouldn't be too much of a bother but as suggested, you might like to make the drive one way rather than have to waste half a day doubling back. (if you can't buy open-jaw tickets, you should be able to get a flight back across to Dublin fairly cheaply on Aer Lingus or Ryan if you book plenty in advance.)
Limerick is not very lovely. Unless you really want to go there for family reasons, I'd suggest Galway as far nicer alternative (great live music scene (both trad and contemp), buzzy atmosphere and far less stabby).
The main highways are all pretty good but the smaller country roads aren't always in very good condition and have lots of pot holes - we found the roads round Ring of Kerry particularly awful. As mentioned, the roads can be very narrow and twisty but as long as you drive carefully, it really shouldn't be a problem; plenty of locals navigate them with SUVs and large family cars without issue.
Traffic on the main road in and out of Dublin can get quite bad so try to avoid peak times.
Circle of Life - The Lion King
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