Ireland on the Clock:A Week In The Emerald Isle For The First Timer
It is a harsh reality for those without time on their side. Traveling around Ireland warrants more time than 168 hours. I spent a month driving the whole way around the country, stopping in as many places as I could along the way. Sadly, we don’t all have time on our side. When a friend asked me to list an itinerary for a first timer to Ireland with only one week to spare, I paired down a few of my favorite sights, sounds and classics of Ireland for the quick itinerary. If you are apartment hopping in Ireland for a week, make sure you hop on over to these stops.
London Travel Tips | Day 1: Dublin
Dublin bathes in scenes of Victorian era pubs and rows of Georgian townhouses. You could spend a lifetime appreciating its colored doors and laid back style. However, if you only have a week in Ireland, Dublin is doable in a day for first timers looking to see some of the major sights. The national museums are free for visitors including the National Museum of Ireland: Archaeology and the National Gallery. After seeing Dublin’s interior, its exterior unfolds at St. Stephen’s Green. It seems all of Dublin and its visitors come here to soak up the nine hectares of manicured grounds. Paths weave in and out, presenting an ideal afternoon stroll.
The Guinness conscious of the world will want to cap off a visit to Dublin by seeing the city from above with Guinness in hand. The Guinness Storehouse sets up like a 7 story pint, every beer drinker’s fantasy. At the top of the brewery tour is the Gravity Bar where you are amply rewarded for your journey to the top with a panoramic view of the city and a glass of Guinness.
Day 2: Wicklow Mountains/Glendalough
The drive south of Dublin begins to narrow to sidewalk proportions. The hair-raising thoroughfare is worth the stress for the Wicklow Mountains out the window. Heather speckled moors, bogs and mountains make up this stretch of Ireland. The name is a bit generous for the highest peak is just over 900 meters. Whispering through the desolate peaks and valleys, the Wicklow Mountains downplay their lack of towering mountains. They are peaceful and poetic in their own right without having to be mighty.
Once you reach Glendalough, the trance is complete. Glendalough marks the site of the former monastic settlement to Saint Kevin. The saint came to the area to get away from the world and live like a hermit in 570 A.D. Little did he know, the masses would follow him. What remains today are a series of churches, several hikes and a graveyard filled with haphazard tombstones. Getting the chills due to Glendalough’s eeriness is a mandatory tick on the itinerary.
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Day 3: Kilkenny City
If the peace and quiet of the Wicklow Mountains has you hungry for a bit of noise, Kilkenny City isn’t far away. Bursting with pubs, shops and restaurants, one of Kilkenny’s highlights includes the Kilkenny Castle with its 1100 foundations. The Castle was eventually purchased by the Butler family and sold to the city for a measly £50. A look inside takes visitors through recreated furnished rooms along with the first toilet in the city and the Long Room, thought to be the second longest room in Ireland. Post tour, you can catch Kilkenny from above at St. Canice’s Cathedral.
On the grounds stands the Round Tower, a 100-meter structure from 849. An intimidating wooden staircase invites you to make the climb to the top. The views of classic Kilkenny gray rooftops and buildings make the death-defying climb justifiable. Now getting down is a whole different story.
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Day 4: Castles in Cashel and Cahir
Cahir might look like a small town with nothing more than a few streets of shops, but circling the town is the Cahir Castle, one of the largest castles in all of Ireland. Complete with a moat, massive walls, towers and turrets, it almost seems as though Rapunzel might let down her long hair as you stand in its presence. Also working the Irish fairytale nerve is nearby Cashel. The market town boasts Ireland’s most famous rock, the Rock of Cashel. The archaeological site is made up of a round tower, 13th century Gothic cathedral and a 12th century Romanesque chapel. Long an emblem for kings and clergymen, now drones of visitors roam these ancient fortifications in wonder.
Day 5-6: Western Coastal Drives
The Ring of Kerry, otherwise a circuit of the Iveragh Peninsula, is easily one of Ireland’s most famous drives. It is popular for good reason with mountains, beaches and stretches of road so typically Irish. With celebrity, come tourists by the busload. Once you have traveled the loop, head on up to a more peaceful Dingle Peninsula, right above the famous finger of land.
The peninsula centers on the town of Dingle, home to its own dolphin mascot, Fungie, a resident of the harbor since the 1980s. Aside from colorful authentic pubs, those that still function as hardware stores or bait and tackle shops, the peninsula follows dramatic Slea Head Drive.
The drive is littered with ancient sites, including the Dunbeg Fort. The fortress shows traces as far back as 580 B.C. Close out the western drive tour by cutting through the heart of the peninsula and perhaps your own by driving Connor Pass, Dingle’s true highpoint.
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Weekend In Belfast
Day 7: Cliffs of Moher and The Burren
The Cliffs of Moher require no introduction. Dropping vertically around 200 meters into the ocean, the flanking cliffs make for the classic shot of Ireland. The masses enjoy the view with you, which could cause any visitor to become little jaded about their notoriety. The surrounding landscape of the Burren provides a more intimate look at County Clare. The scenery resembles something out of the Mediterranean, making it easy to see why the area is a Special Area of Conservation.
Have you spent a week in Ireland?
Do you recommend any other doable stops for 7 days?
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