10 Days in Ireland

 

 

Ireland is the first European destination many Americans visit, but it took 12 years (and as many trips to Europe) for me to check the Emerald Isle off my bucket list. In fact, Ireland was the only country in Western Europe I’d never been to before I landed there last month.

My 10 days in Ireland saw me travel the “long way” between Dublin and Belfast, driving a 1,000-mile clockwise journey between the two cities. As my trip unfolded, I wondered how different it would’ve been to see the island as a 20-year old amateur, rather than a seasoned (and occasionally jaded) 32-year old.

The good news, so far as I can tell via introspection anyway, is that you’ll find Ireland’s pot of gold no matter where you are along the rainbow of life.

Need help planning your trip to Ireland? Hire me as your Travel Coach!

Practical Matters

When to Visit

An Irish person once told me that “summer [in Ireland] is not a whole lot warmer than winter.” Or maybe it was the other way around? Anyway, while you’re never going to have sustained warmth (or sunshine) in Ireland, summer is a great time to spend 10 days in Ireland if only because of its plentiful light, even if that means more tourists and (probably) higher prices—more on those in a second.

How to Get Around

While Ireland’s main cities offer public transport options, as well as plentiful taxis (and, increasingly, Uber), you ultimately need to rent a car if you want to experience Ireland to the fullest. Before doing this, you should keep in mind that the Irish drive on the left side of the road, and that roads on many parts of the island are extremely narrow. Another reason I’m glad I came to Ireland as a more experienced person!

Where to Stay

Georgian houses on the outskirts of Dublin (among other trendy accommodations throughout Ireland) are becoming increasingly sought after. But unless your budget is stratospheric (again, more on that in a second), you should expect to stay in B&Bs, and you should expect them to be average at best. Indeed, while I was impressed by the homey place I stayed outside of Belfast and this one along the Wild Atlantic Way, most of the places I ended up sleeping during my 10 days in Ireland were unremarkable, or worse.

Money, Costs and Communication

Ireland uses the Euro, but even a favorable exchange rate can’t obscure the truth: Ireland is an expensive place to travel, especially considering the quality of what you get.

From €15 Irish stew in Dublin, to an atrocious guesthouse outside of Galway’s city center that still managed to work out to almost $100 per night, Ireland boasts prices similar to posh destinations in mainland Europe, but doesn’t offer facilities with even half the quality. Wi-Fi in Ireland is also slow, although local data plans are cheap, and mobile data is fast enough.

Spending 10 days in Ireland is still a magical experience, of course—I just don’t want you to be surprised with the poor value (at least tangibly speaking) of traveling here. Speaking of which, let’s get started with the itinerary!

Dublin, Cork and the Southeast

My itinerary for three days in Dublin (where you’ll almost certainly begin your trip to Ireland) devotes about two days to the attractions of the city center, then a day to the countryside just south and east of the city. Specifically, after spending the first and second of your 10 days in Ireland seeing key Dublin attractions like Temple Bar, Custom House and the Trinity College Library, you’ll move away from the River Liffey and eventually toward a smaller and more quaint city outside the capital, such as Delgany or Killarney.

 
 
 

From there you’ll continue heading south, most likely into County Cork. I had high expectations for County Cork (my former favorite singer has a house there, where she’s shot several album covers), but I was mostly disappointed, particularly by the tourist trap of Kinsale. In fact, with the exception of picturesque Cobh (which almost reminded me of San Francisco), I wish I hadn’t wasted any of my 10 days in Ireland in County Cork.

The Ring of Kerry and The Wild Atlantic Way

I suspected that Western Ireland would be where the true magic of the country resided, and I wasn’t wrong. To be sure, while I didn’t see any pots of gold or Leprechauns (or even many shamrocks) along the Ring of Kerry, it was full of slam-on-the-brakes level beauty, from towns like Killorgin and Kenmare, to historical sites like Ross Castle and Muckross Abbey, to panoramas like the ones offered at Ladies View.

 
 
 

Western Ireland got even more beautiful when I finally reached the coast—seeing the Dingle Peninsula for the first time was a revelation, particularly since I was blessed with bright sunshine. I spent a day there, then a day on the Iveragh Peninsula (although I sadly couldn’t get on a boat to Skellig Michael), then spent an additional day each on the following drives: The Cliffs of Moher and the Burren; between Galway and Donegal; and from Donegal across the (non-existent) border into Northern Ireland.

Northern Ireland and Belfast

As I discussed in my article on the Wild Atlantic Way, its scenery continues into Northern Ireland, scenery-wise, even if the name changes. To be sure, the towns Portstewart and Portrush were highlights of my 10 days in Ireland, not to mention the iconic Giant’s Causeway, Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge and the Dark Hedges, even though I’m not really a “Game of Thrones” fan.

 
 
 

I am, however, a big fans of the BBC Series “The Fall”—and I’m not ashamed to admit my love of the show inspired my trip to Belfast, even if said inspiration was more esoteric than tangible. Indeed, Belfast was a fitting place to wrap up my 10 days in Ireland, if only because it allowed me to park my car for a couple days.

Is 10 Days Enough to See Everything in Ireland?

In short, no. While I got a taste of all the scenery and cityscapes I wanted to see in Ireland, I had to skip a lot, from natural attractions like the Inishowen Peninsula (and, most of the Connemara), to cities like Derry and Letterkenny, to experiences like the aforementioned boat trip to Skellig Michael island, which my schedule simply wasn’t flexible enough to accommodate. If you can spend longer than 10 days in Ireland, you should.

The Bottom Line

Ireland is a magical destination, albeit not a perfect one. But the overall experience of traveling there is dramatically more impressive than the sum of its parts, to a greater extent than perhaps anywhere else I’ve ever visited. 10 days is a perfect amount of time to discover Dublin and Belfast, as well as to discover the 1,000 miles of coast that line the clockwise route between them, although if you can spend (and afford!) longer than 10 days in Ireland, you should.