My Ireland Travel Guide // Part 1 of 4: Dingle, Killarney, & Galway
In 2 years, I’ve taken 12 trips around Ireland, totaling 84 days. I’ve been in all 32 counties in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. Spending significant time in 19 of the 32 counties. And I’m not even including my 2 trips to Ireland before the move.
I did not have those numbers memorized. I actually clicked back through my calendar month by month to count. It sparked some really fun memories. Like our cross-country adventure to Dingle after only 2 weeks here. While driving the peninsula I remember thinking, wow, we are definitely in another country. I’ve never seen views like this! Or our journey to Donegal, Ireland’s most remote county, during a 3-day weekend. That was a lot of car time, but hey, we had to hit all 32 counties!
It’s a gorgeous island. One I feel I’ve embraced. I’ve explored so much of Ireland, to be honest… should I say it? I’ll say it, I have Ireland-beauty-fatigue. Rolling green country sides? I’ve seen ‘em. Cliffs and oceanic views? Yep, kilometers and kilometers of them. Pub after pub after pub…I’ve been in A LOT. Aren’t I the luckiest person on the planet?! This is the sort of ‘problem’ people dream of. It’s not lost on me. And while I need a little time off from traveling Ireland I hope this post inspires you to travel here!
Today I am starting a series featuring spots I will return to one day. This post began as a single post but it was so long and had so much information it was overwhelming me. So, I broke the original post down into 4 posts. The posts will cover the following destinations:
- The West Coast: Dingle, Killarney, & Galway
- The Big Cities: Dublin and Cork
- Northern Ireland: Belfast, Giant's Causeway, Bushmills, & Derry/Londonderry
I will be wrapping this series up within 2 weeks, as I am only in Ireland for 1 more month and I’ve got a lot more content to share! I hope these posts are referenced time and time again and that my opinions make your adventure to Ireland better than you could have ever imagined!
The West Coast
Heading west is a must on any trip to Ireland to truly experience all of Ireland’s beauty. It's why we brought all our visitors west. It’s why we continued to return to these spots. And it’s why I’m starting my series covering these destinations.
My 3 favorite west coasts spots allow you to cross off a lot of ‘must sees’, while keeping drive-time to a minimum and allowing you to stay at 1 hotel for multiple nights. Because let’s be real, travel becomes exhausting when you’re moving daily. Wasting time packing, unpacking, checking in and out, no thanks!
Located in County Kerry, the town of Dingle and the entire Dingle Peninsula is my favorite west coast destination. The views are stunning and the town is quintessential Ireland, with local shops, restaurants, and pubs galore!
Where to Stay
I’ve traveled to Dingle 4 times. 3 times I stayed in Dingle overnight (and can't recommend any of my accommodations. I think that says A LOT about Dingle. I never liked where I stayed yet it's still one of my favorite spot, ha), the last time I stayed in Killarney, just a 50-minute trip from Dingle. I liked staying in Dingle and I liked staying in Killarney. I think your accommodations should completely depend on your plans for the day. Both Killarney and Dingle have great nightlife. So whichever city you stay in I recommend being within walking distance to main street. Being able to park and be done with your car for the night is key! In Killarney and Dingle (actually all of Ireland) the roads are narrow and windy, many are not illuminated at night. Night driving is not ideal… Dad, I won’t bring up that time you almost drove us off a Dingle cliff…oh wait. But seriously, on my last trip to Dingle I organized the day according to the sunset. I was not driving in the dark, it’s unnecessary stress.
Pubs & Food
The best pub in Dingle is Dick Mack’s, it’s located ‘across from the church’. Most summer nights there is a late-night cheeseburger stand right outside! It’s a fun atmosphere, with many pubs on the same street, perfect for pub hopping.
Day Time Activity
Slea Head Drive
So, you’re set for the night. But the actual peninsula, or the Slea Head Drive on the Wild Atlantic Way, is what makes this trip worth your time. It’s stunning. The driving loop around the peninsula is about a 40-minute drive, but budget half a day on the loop. Allowing plenty of time for pictures and a walk down to the beach.
Lastly, dress warm in Dingle. I've been to Dingle in July, December, February, and March. The best day weather wise was my February trip and I was still cold.
I’m going rouge here, my favorite travel guidebook (Rick Steves) advises travelers to avoid Killarney, and I completely disagree. The guidebook warns that the town is swarming with tourists and coach buses, and while that’s true, the tourists are there for a reason! Killarney is an excellent home base for many exciting day excursions. Plus, the town of Killarney has some great shopping, restaurants, pubs, hotels and B&Bs.
Pubs & Food
JM Reidys is the best pub in Killarney. Traditional music and drinks plus a fun speciality drink bar at the back.
Lunch at Cafe du Parc has a chic vibe and great portion sizes.
Bombay Palace is great Indian food
Noelle's Retro Cafe for a coffee and treat!
Day Time Activities
Killarney National Park
Entry to the park is free, and the scenery is breathtaking. You could spend an entire day walking and hiking all around the park or just as easily spend an hour viewing the Muckross House and snapping some photos by the lake. I have entire post about this park. For more click here.
The Ring of Kerry
The Killarney National Park would also be considered the start of the Ring of Kerry. Ireland’s famed, 4-hour drive (it is a 2-way road, you can turn back at any time), a literal ring shape, boasting even more stunning views of Ireland. With plenty of spots to stop for pictures and to stretch your legs.
We’re heading up the west coast to Galway. The energy in Galway is unlike any other city in Ireland. It's a college town, so it's young with trendy restaurants and nightlife. Tons of live music everywhere. I’ve always enjoyed my stops in Galway. It makes for a great home base, like Killarney, then you can venture off for the day from there.
Pubs & Food
The above image is at Kai's. I love this restaurant, the seafood is amazing. And the experience is one of the best, you can truly tell the team of people working at Kai's really care, from the service and ambiance to the chefs. It's wonderful. Make a reservation!
56 Central, a fun lunch spot in the middle of all the hustle and bustle.
Day Time Activities
The Cliffs of Moher
The Cliffs are Ireland’s most popular natural tourist attraction. And they’re gorgeous. Are you sensing the trend with Ireland yet? It’s really pretty here! And windy and cold, see below. Dress accordingly.
The Aran Islands
I have an entire blog post on the Aran Islands! Check it out, it was a fun and memorable excursion going from one island (Ireland) to an even smaller one!
And there it is! My favorite west coast spots. I will see you soon with the second post in the series.
Still have west coast questions after reading this post? Don’t hesitate to comment or email me. I’m happy to connect one on one to answer any additional questions.