January travels to Ireland
Replies: 9 - Last Post: Aug 12, 2012 10:28 AM Last Post By: Frida1
Aug 3, 2012 3:40 PM
January travels to IrelandI am planning a solo trip to Ireland in mid-January where I plan on staying for two weeks. I am flying into Shannon and then from there I don't have an itinerary. The purpose of the trip is to really see Ireland, not the commercialized parts of Ireland. I want to experience the heritage, the people, and the scenery more than anything. Can anyone help providing me with ideas as to where to go, where to stay, and what I should look out for when I am there? I don't really have a strict budget, but would still like to stick to around $120 US per day. As I said, I will be flying into Shannon and will be departing from there as well. Any and all help is appreciated.
Aug 4, 2012 4:21 AM
1Hello, Hope you enjoy your stay here, if i were you i would try to hire a car, it will allow you to see alot more of the scenery aswell as stopping off wherever you want. otherwise you will be reliant on the local trains buses tours etc which will be more tourist orientated and slower and probably dearer than hiring a car..Down south go around the pennisulas ie dingle, ring of kerry and beara, beara being the best especially healys pass (go up it) stay in the little town of eyeries. the ring of kerry is best if you see the gap of dunloe which requires a little walk.dingle is also nice more remote at the tip(slea head), you can get more of sense of culture here, religous settlements etc.the conors pass is also pretty. that would be a nice trip, then i would head to small town of unionhall towards cork. all of this would be easily done in a relaxed two weeks, allowing you to go off the beaten track a little.again hope this helps, and enjoy your stay here, hope the weather is good to you but unlikely. nev
Aug 4, 2012 12:24 PM
Due to work restrictions, I always travel off season. Ireland is not a place that you go for its sunny weather, as even on summer you may experience all 4 seasons in a day. So I would be prepared for lots of rain and cold, and if I meet better conditions, even better! Ireland has a very special place on my heart, but there are some restrictions traveling there on January that you need to take in consideration when planning.
1) Day light hours are sorter.
This means you can fit in less activities in a day, if you decide to drive it is important to consider if you want to drive in the dark or not and on my opinion a reason that supports slow traveling style.
2)Many sites are closed or have limited timetables.
I understand you are more focused on meeting locals or to scenery, but there are some very nice places worthing a visit. It is wise to investigate if they'll be accessible or not and when.
3) Accommodation options might be limited on some places, especially the smaller ones.
This is an important thing to consider, you may want to explore an isolated area, but if there is no overnight option then what ? On some areas it might be a good idea to prebook, and in general it is an important factor to decide on locations. Of course the more limited the options, the more pricey accommodation might be. So important aspect cost-wise too.
4) In general train serves intercity routes while bus is the way to explore smaller towns. Very small/ not popular towns are not served at all or have very infrequent bus service. Even more limited service on winter on some areas.
I always use public transport in Ireland, so I can't advice on driving, of course I guess this will give you more flexibility. If you rely on PT, one more reason to slow down due to travel logistics. Some points of interest have no public transport at all, and private tours cover them in season. This might be an issue on winter when this option is not available and a private tour might not be an option due to budget. I know you want to see not commercial Ireland, but on the other hand, popular places are popular for a reason. And off season might be the time to enjoy those. Still careful planning is necessary. Furthermore, on my experience rarely people who want it quiet or plan to see non-commercial mean really quiet and can deal with very isolated areas for more than a few days. Locals might live on a non-described tiny village dealing with agriculture and farming, dealing with their business and stay at home on winter days, while you as a visitor with no bonds in the area have nothing to do all day. Locals live in larger cities and towns too, and although I agree that in general people on rural areas are more keen to socialize, this is largely up to you and this can happen on cities too. Irish people are friendly, hospitable and love chatting in any given occasion. I am Greek, we Greeks are social animals too, but Irish people seem to amaze even me every time lol
I think it is important to mention if you plan to drive or rely on public transport and what your traveling style is... For example how many hours on a car/bus per day are you comfortable with, would you like to see many different areas or peak a couple and explore in depth/take it slow and so on... Do you have any ideas your self, for example some place you'd like to visit or an activity you'd like to do?
Aug 7, 2012 11:51 AM
3I am more of a public transportation kind of person as well. However, I don't want public transportation to dominate the trip and interfere with things that I could possibly be doing. The idea of hiring a car or a driver really isn't all that appealing to me. I would like to see some historical sites, but nothing too commercial. Also, I would really like to meet some local people and spend time understanding what it's like to live in Ireland. That being said, I would like to visit some local villages and pubs in and around Ireland. I am fairly young, so going out and experiencing the life would be something that I really would like to do. I am really in for a relaxing trip that doesn't require much stress. Where would you recommend I look for places to stay? If there are rooms to rent for the night I would definitely do it in advance, I just need to know where to start looking.
Aug 7, 2012 8:18 PM
4When I first started traveling in Ireland I found http://www.discoverireland.com and http://www.heritageireland.ie/en/ useful to get some ideas of where to go and what to see.
I think that arriving/departing Shannon, co Clare might be one of your areas of interest, and then I would go either north to co Galway either south to co Kerry. Actually maybe I would head out to the furthest destination and save co Clare for the end of the trip, to be close to the airport of my home bound flight. Unfortunately I am not familiar with Clare, although it is high on my list. I have only been on Doolin which is a tiny village with a couple of great pubs with live music and visitors blend in with locals in a nice way. Doolin often serves as a base to hike around the area and explore Cliffs of Moher, and of course to reach Aran Islands in season. Aran islands are on my opinion one of the most interesting areas in Ireland, but the Doolin ferry runs only on summer months. You can reach Aran through Galway/Rossaveal though. Those are Gaeltacht areas-Gaelic is their first language, English coming as second language, and people keep a very traditional way of life (many houses with thatched roofs etc). There are interesting forts to see,and church ruins and stuff and various birds and seals can be seen too. I have been to Inishmore which is the largest and it was very quiet even on early March, day trippers from Galway left on the afternoon and only a few visitors overnight there. It was a very nice feeling, but note that those islands are sole rocks on the Atlantic and weather conditions are rough. Getting the first ferry of the season running from Doolin once, the tiny boat was rocking as hell, I am used to travel off season in Greece and I rarely get sea-sickness, and I think it was me and an other lady the only persons who left the inside area that day! The few people that were on board-minus the ferry staff of course- were feeling nauseous and you get the picture (I'll spare the details...) When up on Dun Aeonghasa/Dun Aengus fort , wind was so strong at times that I had then to walk very carefully or even try to catch tight from somewhere and of course keep away from the cliff (no railing up there and some people have been actually killed falling of the rocks). On January you may want to investigate carefully what accommodation options are there, and if there will be any food option available.
Anyway, assuming you peak co Galway as your second base, Connemara is the place to go. http://www.connemara.ie/en/ Kylemore Abbey is found maybe one of the most scenic locations I have ever been and is quite a sight its self. Problem here is that to really explore countryside there in Connemara a car is required. that said, public bus reach some places, and usually there are some bus tours departing Galway too (I am not much of a tour person, but a day tour here and there might be necessary if there are no alternatives). Galway is a very vibrant city that feels like a large town rather than a city. It has a university, so many young people around, I think it is on Erasmus list so many nationalities to meet, but still has a great combination of traditional and cosmopolitan. Very reasonable rates and great pubs. Salthill sea side area features...yes, you guess it, one aquarium, and it is nice to take a stroll and many B&Bs around if you want it really quiet. City center around Eyre Square might be more suitable location though.
If you decide on the famous Kerry area instead of Galway, I think that Killarney might be a good base on January. Yes, it is somehow touristy, but on the other hand you may not find a better base to explore the area, especially off season. I am an overweight person, not particularly fit, but on one of my trips in Killarney I found my self walking and walking and at the very end of a day I found out I had walked nearly 15 kms (!) inside Killarney National Park. My feet was hurting for next few days, but I wouldn't had change this day for the word. Absolutely gorgeous area, and some of the friendliest people. Locals were taking their daily exercise to the paths among town and Ross Castle (jaw dropping fairy tale site) and even Muckross Abbey and almost everyone was greeting me with a smile and a kind "Good morning" or "Have a nice day", horse cart owners were often making good humor compliments even when they were having passengers and obviously I was walking in the middle of the route, so not interested to use their services. Just good natured honest people most of them! In general easy to start a talk and I do not know how many dogs I cuddled when talking with their pleasant owners who were taking them out for their walk. I am not an extreme hiker and although I love everything "nature" I have no experienced knowledge or have never take a trip to watch wildlife or something. But I very much enjoy to take my time and deer watch when I happen to meet those crazy sight of local red deer and Japanese dark deer grazing side by side a few metres away from you, especially around Muckross! http://www.kerrytourism.ie/ is good for a sample of this area. I know some people might suggest Dingle instead, but I somehow found Dingle more touristy and with less things to see and do in the actual town. A tiny aquarium and Fuggi the dolphin statues all around, but off season not much to do in town itsself. Dingle peninsula was very scenic with cliffs dropping down to a foaming sea crashing on the rocks, a rather roughed scenery. Beehive huts all present here and there and of course the view to the Blasket Islands. There are tours departing Killarney to the "Ring of Kerry" and "Ring of Dingle" or maybe you could arrange to stay a couple of days somewhere along those areas for a change...
I find the official Irish intercity bus site, especially their journey planner section a very handy one to get an idea of what is possible to do or not traveling wise.
http://www.buseireann.ie/ . the railway site is a good one for traveling among cities, Killarney, Galway, Limerick have train stations and those might come handy somewhere along your itinerary.
About accommodation, I like to stay on small B&B hotels or guesthouses. There are listings on most links I provided per area, and I find that nowdays all kind of accommodation is listed in http://www.booking.com/ . Sites such as http://www.hostelworld.com have some options that are not hostels and might worth to check. There are sites such as http://www.bandbireland.com http://www.irishfarmholidays.com http://www.bnbireland.net/ that might be handy to have a look too, but I would avoid getting into the trick to obtain B&B vouchers (not so widely accepted as you think) or to book before checking with hotel directly. Often better deals dealing with owners directly rather than through third parts. If on the spot, when there is a visitor center and it is open, on my experience they can land some very decent deals for you too. Maybe the best source to check for accommodation before hand is the various traveler forums though. Someone might have discover a room over the pub that is not advertised on line, or an other someone might have a story to tell about the X guesthouse which is highly rated and gets raving comments in season but was not as expected off season and so on.. Although review section at sites such as Trip Advisor are not always to be trusted, forum section is great to seek assistance, and there are both visitors and locals contributing, so you may get a better picture and great ideas, not on hotels only, but on your travel plans in general.
http://www.failteireland.ie/ is supporting and control accommodation in Ireland and it is a good idea to check if a guesthouse/hotel is member of the association (look around for the sign with the Shamrock...) if you want an extra reassurance for quality of a place. On my opinion you have to try hard to find a bad place to stay in Ireland.
http://www.failtehotels.ie/ is one more link to check!
Just some ideas and pointers to get you started!
I hope I helped a bit : )
Aug 7, 2012 8:24 PM
Irish rail link somehow didn't come up on previous post. Here it is:
Aug 9, 2012 5:07 AM
6Unfortunately we are not the easiest country to get around by public transport unless you stick to the main towns and cities. Try www.buseireann.ie for bus timetables to give you an idea on the logistics between each destination. Bear in mind they are not the easiest things to follow but it should give you some idea.
Hitching a ride would also be an option in more remote areas. Car rental would really be the best option for getting off the beaten track as such.
As for where you go, given that you like heritage , scenery and people I would stick to the west coast. From Shannon maybe spend a week north in the Galway / Mayo region and then a week south in Cork / Kerry (Killarney / Dingle) region. January will be quiet tourist wise so although places like Dingle / Killarney might be slightly commercialised I think they still retain an authentic Irish charm. And you can always travel to a smaller town / village in the area that will be quieter.
Enjoy your trip either way!!
Aslo a trip to the Aran Islands off Galway is highly recommended, beautiful area with some great history behind it!!
Aug 9, 2012 4:28 PM
Aug 10, 2012 2:48 PM
Aug 12, 2012 10:28 AM
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