WHEN TO GO

The guidebooks say April is driest month (not August, like you would expect) so we went in late May, early June and had zero rain for the first week, and then only off an on rain for our last 2 weeks - until last 2 days when there were amazing downpours. The few days we had in Northern Ireland saw heavy rain, but the locals said that the previous weeks had been beautiful. Overall, a couple days of heavy rain during a three week trip isn't too bad, so I am happy with the weather we had. Remember, Ireland is brilliant green because it gets a lot of rain, so be prepared.

Travel during May and early June is also less crowded than the peak July and August time. The guidebooks talk about endless buses along the Ring of Kerry and the Dingle Peninsula, but it was not an issue with us. Our boat trip to Skellig Island only had 9 out of a maximum of 12 passengers - during the peak season it is advisable to make reservations for the Skellig trip well in advance.

Because Ireland is so far north, visiting in June means that you will experience days that are quite long - you can go out after dinner and do more sightseeing. We saw the Cliffs of Moher at about 8:00 PM at night, and sun was still up. It is also light quite early in the morning, but because most of the Bed & Breakfasts did not serve breakfast until 8:00 AM, we did not get earlier starts.


DRIVING

You WILL need a car to drive around in Ireland, unlike most of Europe, public transportation in Ireland isn't great, and most of what we wanted to see was out in the country any way.

Don't drive when you are in Dublin. There is no where to park. We stayed at Anchor House B&B in Dublin, and from Anchor House we easily walked to Trinity College, Museum of Archaeology, St Patricks Cathedral,Dublin Castle and Temple Bar

Roads in Ireland are narrow, and there are walls and vegetation right up to the edge of the road. Shoulders are most nonexistent, especially on the smaller roads. Everyone drives too fast - the posted speed limits seemed quite high to me - 80 KPH for a narrow winding road with blind corners? Despite the fact that the speed limits are high, it takes a while to drive through rural Ireland because the roads are so twisting. I used this site to get estimated distances: http://routes.aaireland.ie/# Traffic circles are unnerving, especially there is more than one lane entering the circle.

Expect that travel times in Ireland will be longer than they are here in the USA. Because of the winding narrow roads, you will be driving slower than normal, so it takes longer than you expect to cover ground. However, there is a lot to see and you are on vacation, so slow down and enjoy!


EXPENSES

I kept a detailed record of where we spent our money on this trip. Thank goodness we bought our plane tickets early, the price of flying in 2012 really skyrocketed with oil embargo of Iran. We kept our food costs low by skipping lunch (we had large breakfasts at the B&Bs) and eating cheap dinners - pizza, fish & chips, fast food.

The biggest expense by far is the car. I was surprised by how cheaply the rental cars are listed on the websites - for example, our 3 weeks rental of a Ford Focus with manual transmission was quoted a price of only 170 Euros! But when you get to Ireland, you find you MUST purchase auto insurance for 25 Euros a day, and that this insurance covers almost nothing (it has a 1200 Euro deductible, so unless you total the car, it covers nothing.) Plan on getting the "premium" auto insurance (which has "only" a 200 Euro deductible) which costs 30 Euros per day. WARNING: your credit card, which normally provides auto insurance when you use their card for an auto rental, will NOT provide coverage in Ireland! We found this out after putting a small dent in the back bumper and got socked by a tremendous bill.

You will need a lot of cash in Ireland if you stay at the Bed & Breakfasts. Most B&Bs only accept cash payment. If you are an AAA member, you can get Euros from them before you leave the USA without paying an onerous exchange rate. You will need Pounds Sterling in Northern Ireland (same currency as England). AAA will also change back your unused Euros and Pounds when you return

Depending on how many sites you visit, you may want to pick an OPW (Office of Public Works) card. This provides discounts or free admissions to a lot of the public places. You can pick these cards up in Terminal 1 of the Dublin Airport. You can also get the Ireland Heritage Card (which is free) from the same information desk in the airport. The Ireland Heritage card covers different destinations than the OPW card.

We bought our plane tickets six months in advance. I never did see prices get much lower than the price we paid, so for us, buying well in advance worked out well. Also, knowing the exact dates of our travel made it easier to plan the rest of the trip.

We stayed in the Holiday Inn Express in Dublin the last night of our trip because it had a free shuttle to the airport, this allowed us to turn in the rental car a day earlier. It had a nice breakfast buffet - eggs, sausage, toast, pancakes, and it is only a couple blocks walk to the Thrifty/Avis/Enterprise car rental lots, so you can turn in the car and walk back to the Holiday Inn.

Item

Price

Description

Plane Tickets$1715 ccardTwo round-trip tickets to Dublin on Delta (via Atlanta)
Airport Shuttle$50 ccardShuttle Express to SeaTac
Waterford Parking2 cash
Cahir Parking2 cash
Amber Gas60 ccard38 liters of diesel in Killarney
Topaz Gas67 ccard41.9 liters of diesel in Ennistymon
Rossaveel Parking5 cash
Texaco 66 ccard42.9 liters of diesel in Kilkenny
Trim Castle Parking2 cash
Top Gas 51 ccard33.2 liters of diesel in Dublin
Derry Parking1 cash
Giant's Causeway Parking6 cash
Ford Focus from Thrifty950 ccard24 per day for CDW auto insurance!

Transport Total

$3290

Anchor House B&B69 cashOne night in Dublin
Ferndale B&B70 cashOne night in Enniskerry
Trooperstown Lodge75 ccardOne night in Laragh
Dunroven B&B50 cashOne night outside of Waterford
Ard Ri House B&B70 cashOne night outside of Cashel
Avondale B&B80 cashOne night in Cork
Larkinely B&B160 cashTwo nights in Killarney
Skellig Side B&B70 cashOne night in Cahersiveen
Cill Bhreac House65 cashOne night in Dingle
Trildoon House65 cashOne night in Doolin
Marless House132 cashTwo nights outside of Galway
Cillcoman Lodge66 ccardOne night in Westport
Treetops B&B70 cashOne night in Sligo
Arches B&B65 cashOne night outside of Donegal
Mountain View B&B60 cashOne night outside of Kilkenny
Abbey House60 cashOne night in Derry
Beulah B&B60 cashOne night in Portrush
Brier's Country House65 cashOne night outside of Newcastle
Holiday Inn Express62 ccardOne night near Dublin airport

Lodging Total

$1843

Food Total

$452

Two OPW cards42 ccardOffice of Public Works cards give discount admission to many sites
Trinity College20 cashWalking tour of college grounds
Powerscourt Gardens13 ccardDiscount using Ireland Heritage card
St Canice's Cathedral8 cash
Waterford Crystal Factory12 ccard2 for 1 Discount using Ireland Heritage card
Cliffs of Kerry8 cash
Kenmare Stone Circle Admission8 cash
Skellig Experience10 ccard
Boat ride to Skellig Michael70 cashJoe Roddy & Sons
Dunbeg Stone Fort6 cashThey charge admission for everything around Dingle!
Gallerus Oratory6 cashThey charge admission for everything around Dingle!
Harry Clarke Stained Glass2 cashThey charge admission for everything around Dingle!
Burren Center10 ccard
Dysert O'Dea8 cash
Ferry ride to Aran Island50 ccardBoat ride to Inishmore
Bike rental23 cashAll day rental 2 mountain bikes
Glenveagh Bus3 cashOne way ticket back to parking when rain began
Florence Court4 cash2 for 1 Discount using Ireland Heritage card
Marble Arch Caves9 cash2 for 1 Discount using Ireland Heritage card
Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge11 cash

Entertainment Total

$416

Grand Total

$5981


RESOURCES

Pick up the Ireland Heritage card and a buy an Ireland Office of Public Works card for 21 Euros. Both are available in Terminal 1 of Dublin airport. The longer you stay in Ireland, the more times you will use OPW card and save money. Try this site: http://www.heritageireland.ie/en/

Get a good map of Ireland. We use maps by Rough Guide for Ireland and for Dublin and they are truly valuable.

I found that the Moon Handbook was the most valuable guidebook. Rick Steves book has some surprising omissions - no mention of Slieve League? Knocknarea? Rick Steve's book skips everything in Killarney National Park except the Muckross House.

Here are the booklets that come with the OPW and Heritage cards. They list all the sites where the cards can be used.


All the graphic images are my own design, but the textured background is taken from a site, EOS development, that offers non-profit users free use of their graphics. Click below to visit their site.

Eos Development