Planning a driving trip in Ireland

By Louise Messner
This item appears on page 14 of the June 2018 issue.

The Burren at Black Head, north of Doolin. Photo by Louise Messner

Editor’s note: This letter will be presented in two parts, one about the planning and one about the trip.

Early in 2017, my husband, Bob, and I started to plan our annual fall trip to Europe. We had been receiving a weekly email from Travelzoo (www.travelzoo.com/top20) listing the week’s top 20 deals. This newsletter gives us an idea of what’s available. We decided that we wanted to explore the west coast of Ireland: the Wild Atlantic Way. 

One of the deals listed was for a B&B vacation in Shannon offered through the Aer Lingus Vacation Store (Rockville Centre, NY; 800/495-1632, www.aerlingusvacationstore.com/vacations/bb-vacation-shannon). 

The package included round-trip economy airfare (Boston-Shannon); rental of a manual-shift economy car with unlimited miles; one night at The Inn at Dromoland (Newmarket-on-Fergus, County Clare; www.theinnatdromoland.ie) and an open voucher for five nights at Irish B&Bs; full Irish breakfast daily, and all local taxes, hotel service charges and flight taxes/fees/facility charges. 

We booked our trip on March 9 for Sept. 12-20,  2017. The total cost of the 7-night package was $2,162 for two people. 

Of course, we added onto this basic price.

From Aer Lingus, we preselected exit-row seats for an additional $220 for the two of us, round trip.

We decided to upgrade to a car with automatic transmission, given our ages of 78 and 86. This was recommended by various people I spoke with. (In 2007, on a previous similar package trip that we took to Dublin, Ireland, anyone over 70 years of age was unable to rent a car. This time, apparently, the same car rental agency had relaxed its rules.)

One representative I spoke with at the Aer Lingus Vacation Store recommended that I directly contact Dooley Car Rentals (in US & Canada, 800/331-9301, www.dandooley.com) to reserve the upgrade to our car rental. The automatic upgrade offered by the package included a larger car, and we definitely wanted a small car.

I contacted Dan Dooley in Ireland via email (info@dan-dooley.ie). I was given a confirmation number, and we were to pay $190 for the eight days upon our arrival at Shannon. We also paid for a full tank of gas, which allowed us to return the tank empty. We were given a 4-door Nissan Micra — quite adequate for our purposes.

The other thing I did was charge the rental to our Chase Sapphire credit card, which offered the benefit of being eligible for the Collision Damage Waiver (where the rental company waives its right to make the renter pay for specified damages) on rentals worldwide. (This coverage now included the previously excluded countries of Ireland, Israel and Jamaica.) 

I contacted Chase by email (benefits@eclaimsline.com) and received confirmation of our CDW coverage, a printout of which the car rental agency accepted.

Also, we requested that all charges to our credit card be made in euros, as the credit card’s exchange rate was more favorable than having the rental agency do the conversion to dollars.

We purchased our usual no-trip-cost medical and medical-evacuation travel insurance (the “Betty James Policy”) through Dan Drennen at Travel Insurance Center (402/343-3621, dan@travelinsurancecenter.com). The cost was $202 for the two of us for this one trip. Our plan was with TripAssure, and, by purchasing within 15 days of making our reservation, we obtained the preexisting-condition waiver. 

We took along a portable TomTom GPS to use in the rental car and obtained the current software map of Ireland for $60. I was able to load all the coordinates of where we’d be staying, which was a big help!

We live in central Vermont, so traveling to Boston is a monetary factor. We paid $124 round trip for the two of us on the Dartmouth Coach (dartmouthcoach.com) from Lebanon, New Hampshire, to Boston Logan International Airport. (Lebanon is 75 minutes from Warren, Vermont.) Parking was available for a maximum of 14 days at $4 a day.

Our major additional expenses would be for gas, lunches and dinners, entry fees and tipping.

Now the time-consuming part of planning the trip had to be done: deciding where to go. I sketched out a tentative route. We wanted to see the Cliffs of Moher and as many of the peninsulas as we reasonably could. 

I used B&B Ireland’s website (www.reserveabandb.com) to locate B&Bs that would accept our vouchers. The website was easy to work with, and we were able to immediately learn whether our selected B&Bs had vacancies for our requested dates. 

I used TripAdvisor (www.tripadvisor.com) to get more information on the B&Bs plus general travel tips from contributors.

We worked out a reasonable itinerary and booked our lodgings directly on B&B Ireland’s website. Confirmation was quickly received from the individual B&Bs, and in September, prior to our departure, I sent an email to each confirming the approximate time of our expected arrival. All responded. (All check-ins were between 4 and 6 p.m.)

Our departure date finally came. After a comfortable flight, we arrived at Shannon Airport on Sept. 13, picked up our rental car (with no snags) in the morning fog and drove to The Inn at Dromoland, arriving at 8 a.m. The receptionist was quite welcoming and said that, yes, we could check into our room. We did so and took a nap. 

Afterward, we drove to Bunratty, with its medieval castle and a store called Blarney Woollen Mills (www.blarney.com). We also had an ale at The Original Durty Nelly’s (Bunratty West, Co. Clare; www.durtynellys.ie). Enjoyable! 

The next morning, we were off to the town of Doolin and a ferry ride to the Aran island of Inisheer, where we walked to the wreck of the MV Plassy. On our return, the seas were a little rough as we sailed by the Cliffs of Moher, but it was a scenic and worthwhile trip. The round-trip cost of the Doolin2Aran Ferry was $71.50 for the two of us.

We then drove north of Doolin through the Burren awhile before arriving at our B&B.

In the evening, dinner and drinks cost us around $60 at Fitz’s Pub & Eatery in Hotel Doolin (Doolin, Co. Clare; www.hoteldoolin.ie). A nice restaurant, it had live music in one room, while guests could dine in a smaller, cozier room.

LOUISE MESSNER
Warren, VT

Next month: B&Bs and sights in western Ireland.