Ireland Travel Question: Which Side of Ireland for a First Vacation?

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Reader Question: If you had to choose one side of the island for your first visit, which would it be?

Ireland vacation question: Which side of Ireland for a first vacation?
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This is a great question, though it is much like asking a parent which child is their favorite. I love it all!

So which ‘side' of Ireland for a first vacation?

That may be entirely dependent on your flight. The majority of flights to Ireland land in Dublin, on the eastern side of the country. Dublin is a terrific base for day trip to places like Newgrange, Glendalough, and even as far as Kilkenny.

If your flight arrives in Shannon you are perfectly placed to explore the western side of Ireland – the Burren and Cliffs of Moher, Galway & Connemara, and down into the Ballyhoura Region of Limerick & Cork.

If you are very fortunate, you have planned your flight into Dublin and out from Shannon (or vice versa) and can cross the center of the country with stops like Birr Castle and Clonmacnoise in County Offaly.

But still, I'm evading the question, aren't I?

My Recommendation for a First Time Ireland Vacation

For first time visitors who do not have Dublin listed as a ‘must visit', I recommend the west of Ireland, in particularly the Southwest- Counties Clare, Limerick, Kerry & Cork. Everything visitors come to Ireland for can be found in these counties.

  • Castles
  • History
  • Culture
  • Stunning coastal vistas
  • Great food
  • Traditional Music
  • and lots of craic!

A Sample Ireland Itinerary in the ‘Sunny Southwest'

10 Days Based on flights in/ out of Shannon Airport

Day 1: Arrive Shannon early am. Pick up rental car and drive to the Burren. Get out and explore to combat jet lag. Visit the Cliffs of Moher in the evening (if possible) to miss the crowds and view a great sunset. Turn in early tonight!

Day 2: More explorations in County Clare. Be sure to enjoy live music in a pub!

Day 3: Leave County Clare via Shannon Ferries, entering Kerry, and drive toward Killarney. Explorations in/ around Killarney this afternoon.

Day 4: Choose a peninsula – either the Ring of Kerry or Dingle Peninsula. You'll find plenty to keep you occupied!

Day 5: Leave County Kerry for Cork. Choose a country break or a city break.

Day 6: Exploring into the southern regions of County Cork along the Wild Atlantic Way.

Day 7: Head into the Ballyhoura Region of Cork & Limerick. So many outdoor activities to keep your family entertained.

Day 8: County Limerick explorations – Adare village, Lough Gur, Foynes, Limerick City.

Day 9: A few more Limerick explorations this morning, then head to Bunratty Castle this afternoon. Enjoy the castle & folk park then close your Ireland vacation with an evening at the Medieval Banquet, Traditional Irish Night, or great food and craic at Durty Nelly's, just outside the castle walls.

Day 10:  Depart Ireland – and plan your return on the flight home!

Use the interactive map to help plan your trip – from lodging to attractions to dining, you'll find loads of tips and information.

Do you have a question about Ireland travel? View the Ireland Travel FAQs page or email your question to Jody(at)IrelandFamilyVacations(dot)com. I will reply directly to you as well as add your question to this page- because if you need an answer, it’s likely someone else does, too!

5 COMMENTS

  1. We visited Ireland on our 15 year wedding anniversary. Wow what a trip. We covered both Northern Ireland and s. West part of the country. We landed in Bellfast and drove north. The A1 coastal road was stunning. Saw crack-a-rede bridge, giant causeway, sleve league, Sligo, Achill island, Galway, burren, cliffs of moher, dingle peninsula, ring of Kerry and Berra peninsula before flying back from Shannon. If I had to pick 3 of my fav sites it would have to be Giant causeway, Sleve league and of course the Dingle peninsula. We drove quite a bit over 12 days but it was well worth it. Came home with some amazing memories. Since then we have been to Italy, Switzerland, Austria and Slovenia. All gorgeous places but there is something just so special about Ireland. The friendliest people we have met in all of our travels.

      That is a lot of driving over 12 days- I’m so glad you have terrific memories! You’re right- there IS something special about Ireland!

    I’ve sadly only been twice. My 1st trip in 2012, second trip 2015.
    I fell fully in love with Killarney which we used as home base and every day traveled to different areas.
    Dingle Peninsula, Slea Head Drive, Gap of Dunloe, we drove the entire Ring of Kerry, spent a day at Blarney Castle and over to Cobh for the Titanic Experience with dinner at the Titanic bar and grill. We toured the lakes of Killarney, went to the Killarney national park and visited Ross Castle and the Muckross house and gardens.
    We flew in/out of Shannon and spent our last night in Bunratty for the Folk Park and the medieval banquet.
    This trip was absolutely perfect and the scenery so much more amazing than what we experienced our trip in 2012 when we went to Dublin, Waterford and Belfast.
    I would truly recommend anyone do the southwest portion of Ireland before any other areas for their 1st trip.
    The views are exquisite!! I cannot even explain the magnificent purple heather, and green covered mountains, the calm still lakes, the cliffs, the lambs walking down the road….it was so beautiful.

      Hi Tricia and thanks so much for weighing in on the question! It’s wonderful to have confirmation that my advice is spot on!

        Our 1st trip to Ireland, we did Scotland also. I fell in love with the Scottish highlands and wasn’t so sure what the huge love for Ireland was, even though I was expecting to like Ireland more then Scotland. So I was very surprised how much I liked Scotland over Ireland.
        I did think Ireland was very lovely, especially the County Wicklow area with the Sugar Loaf Mountains.
        I wanted to do my bucket list of Ireland and let me tell you, wow, just wow!! 🙂
        I still love the Highlands but South West Ireland is as close to heaven as you can get!

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