First of all, I want to thank you for this wonderful site — I have used it more than any other for planning my upcoming trip to Ireland in early May (May 4-13).
The preamble: I would prefer to go for a longer time period (2-3 weeks) but this is all I have. The reason I am going at this time is for a friend’s wedding which will take place in Cork on Friday the 11th. So in theory I will be free from the 4th (I’ll be flying from Paris into Cork) to sometime in the afternoon of the 11th.
Originally my plan was to rent a car in Cork, and then tour the South West by bike or by car. However, after doing more research, I realized that there is a lot more in the west that I would like to visit (actually, all of Ireland has things that interest me, especially in the North, but since I’m flying in and out of Cork I thought it better to stick to the West/SouthWest).
I don’t want to do a ‘Green Blur’ tour, and although I like the idea of staying in one area and getting to know it well, I would rather see a bit more, since this is my first time visiting Ireland.
Additionally, (and I would have to say this is my primary interest), I am a serious amateur photographer (yes I get up at 4-5 am to catch the sunrise) and am really trying to plan my trip from a photographic standpoint (although I realize that weather can put a big damper on things).
This would mean being in scenic places at sunrise/sunset for photographic opportunities, while doing hikes or scenic drives during the day (which may include driving to the next overnight location).
I’ll be travelling by myself (by car). Although I am used to long drives (I’m Canadian) and slow narrow roads (lived in Japan where there are many) I would prefer to limit my driving to no more than 3-4 hours a day. I would also prefer to stay off the coach tour roads, even though I’m sure they’re faster (and in some cases I may have no choice).
Wow — this is getting long! Anyway, I’ve come up with a couple of itineraries and would like your opinion as to what would better suit my needs. Numbers in brackets indicate the day in May.
1. From Cork catch a flight to Galway. Rent a car, head south towards the Burren and spend my first night there – Ballyvaughn?(4). Next day Burren (all day) – Ennis overnight(5). Drive from Ennis to Tralee or Doolin if possible (6). Dingle — ferry from Dingle to Cahersiveen (not sure how long it takes). Not sure if I’m skipping the best part of the Ring of Kerry -willing to drive instead of using the ferry(7). Skelligs and Skellig Ring(8). From Cahersiveen (or similar) to Kenmare or possibly Castletown Bearhaven (9). Kenmare to Clonakilty/CB to Skibbereen (10). Skibbereen to Cork or Clolakilty to Cork (including Kinsale?)(11). Recuperate on the 12th (and maybe see a bit of Cork) and fly out on the 13th.
2. Fly Cork to Killarney, rent a car. Dingle Peninsula (4-6). Ring of Kerry (including Skelligs) (7-8). Beara Peninsula (9). Sheep’s head and Mizen Head peninsulas (ending in Skibbereen) (10). Skibbereen to Cork (11).
Personally, I know #2 (or something to that extent) makes more sense but I would really like to see the Burren (spend at least a whole day there). I don’t really want to waste a lot of time in traffic around Limerick/Shannon airport, although perhaps it’s not as much as an issue in early May? The Ring of Kerry doesn’t interest me as much (too touristy), but the Skelligs do, so it seems I don’t have much choice. The Dingle Peninsula seems equally photogenic and a bit less touristy but I’m not sure if I should drop it.
Similarly, the extreme southwest could be dropped but I have a friend who lives in Skibbereen whom I wouldn’t mind catching up with, and I’d like to do a little kayaking in that area (1/2 day trip or evening).
The point?: I’m interested in landscapes – both coastal and countryside, ruins and other interesting archeological sites, and wildflowers (I’m assuming May is a good time for them?), and interesting towns. I’d like to stay out of cities – I’m sure Galway, et al, are fantastic, but for this trip I’d rather focus on the more scenic side of things.
I’d appreciate some frank advice about where to go, and if I’m on the right track in terms of driving routes. Please feel free to suggest any changes. Again, the key factors would be great photogenic places, especially in early May, and a reasonable driving schedule that would allow some down time to explore (and not just take some snapshots before setting out again).
I’m so excited about going and I’m already thinking about a second trip (so I’m not worried about trying to see EVERYTHING) — but I want to make sure that if a second trip doesn’t happen for some time that I’ll be happy with this one.
Last question — how long are the days at this time? (sunrise/sunset). I’m an early bird so after (hopefully) getting some good photos in a location I could be on my way to the next place and be able to spend most of the afternoon and evening there. If the days are really long perhaps the first itinerary would be manageable?
Sorry for this extremely long post! I really would appreciate any and all advice concerning my trip.Cheers!