Ireland & Scotland driving tour routes?

Discussion in 'Travel' started by randall cherry, Aug 29, 2005.

  1. Hello,<p>

    My girlfriend and I will be doing a self-driving tour of Ireland and
    Scotland, spending about 10 days in each.<p>

    I'll be packing my Mamiya 7II and Velvia 100 hoping to see lots

    dramatic coastline;<p>
    quaint fishing villages; and<p>
    cozy little cottages.<p>

    My girlfriend will be packing a credit card with a zero (initial)
    balance hoping to find unique local items (sweaters, linens,
    glassware, etc.) to buy.<p>

    We'd prefer to emerse ourselves in the local culture (people,
    architecture, little-travled backroads, cuisine, history, etc.) and
    mostly avoid the standard tourist destinations, but will happily
    make exceptions for noteworthy spots.<p>

    We fly in/out of Dublin/Edinburgh. Anyone have any suggestions for
    good driving routes in Ireland and/or Scotland to hit such locales?


  2. My wife and I did that for our honeymoon, it was great. I'm envious!
    Let's see. I'll have to check my notes when I get home to give you some specific routes/places but a couple things to consider right off the bat:
    Driving. I don't know if you've driven there before so I'll try to throw a couple ideas your way.
    1. We couldn't believe how narrow the secondary roads in Scotland were...that is, until We got to Ireland, where they are MUCH narrower. I'm amazed that there aren't more accidents.
    2. Rent tiny cars, you'll be glad you did. A ford focus will seem big there.
    3. Check your insurance situation carefully. My car insurance doesn't apply in those countries so I got the damage waiver which almost doubles the rental amount. Then I figured out that my MasterCard had damage waiver coverage for international rentals, so it was cheaper in Ireland.
    4. It takes longer than you think to get there. In some parts of Ireland you'll be lucky to average 20mph over the course of a day! This low rate of speed is due to a combination of narrow roads, bad or non existant road signs, 'oops' navigation, roadwork and detours, unexpected beautiful places that you just HAVE to stop for, pubs in small towns that you just HAVE to stop calm your nerves after that near miss on the narrow road?
    • All of this can really be part of the charm of your trip as long as you don't try to over do it. We were there in September and we found that we could usually find a B&B when we felt we were done driving for the day. There are exceptions, like if you pull into a town that has highland games going on, or around some of the particularly touristy areas like Ben Nevis.
      Damn...I'm getting wanderlust just thinking about this. More to follow...
  3. Look up a recent thread called 'Scotland', plenty of suggestions there! It's really worth it...
  4. Hi Randall,
    Very very nice countries. You can find a lot of photos and some travel information on my site: fotografie Wim van Velzen.
    Enjoy! And you can always email me privately.
  5. Thanks for all the help. I am looking forward to the further information.

    I spent a month driving around Wales, so I have an idea of the driving conditions in at least some parts of the UK.

  6. Hi Randall,

    I lived in Dublin for 4 years before moving on to Brisbane, so I will give my 2 cents worth.

    In Dublin the river Liffey is great for sunset/dusk shots as the buildings are very colourful in some places abd there are many bridges. I have never been hassled by anyone for taking photos from a tripod either. You can also drive round Dublin Bay to Howth where there is a great view along the cliffs and towards the city.

    I would probably try to get to Glendalough for great scenery (about 45mins from Dublin in Co. Wicklow). Take a walk arounf the lake or up the mountains and you will find great views and waterfalls.

    From there I would head off to the west coast to Galway (although there are interesting places all along the route) as south of Galway you have the Cliffs of Moher and then the Burren. North of Galway you have the Connemara region. All along this coast you will find wild seascapes and quaint villages. Connemara has breathtaking scenery.

    If you have the time a drive further north west to Donegal and the Antrim Coast (giants causeway) would also give you many opportunities for great landscapes.

    You can look up all these places on the net to see if they suit.

    You are sure to have a good time in Ireland and are sure to meet some interesting and friendly people.
    Cheers, Jon

    PS - It takes about 3 1/2 hrs to drive to Galway from Dublin.
  7. I think I would prefer to fly into Shannon and concentrate on the West and North coasts
    making my way to Antrim to take a ferry across to Scotland. With only 10 days per country,
    this would allow you more time (in Ireland at least) to see areas as you've described. You'll
    love it.
  8. oops, I wanted to add this link to some pics I took throughout County Donegal.
  9. My wife & I were going to do this last year, but decided we couldn't cover everything we wanted to do in both countries in 3 weeks, so just did Ireland. We spent 2 weeks driving in Ireland last year, and it wasn't enough time. I would recommend that you do just one of the countries and make a return trip to do the other at another time. We went in October, after the crowds, but you'd have to be prepared for overcast/rainy/cool weather. If you go at that time you're going to want to bring something faster besides the Velvia, and make sure you have protection for your equipment. Even at other times, there's a reason its called the Emerald Isle. Everything is really green due to the constant rain & mist.

    I found a really good book is Frommer's "Irelands Best Loved Driving Tours" which breaks down the areas into 25 manageble driving tours, but of course, you can break off one tour to another and then back again, so that you don't have to do 25 tours. Another good guide was the "Hunter Travel Guide for Ireland", which gave a lot more detail than the Frommers book.
    As others have pointed out, the roads are extremely narrow, and you will be driving a stick shift on the left side of the road with the steering wheel on the right side of the car. Assuming you're from a "right lane" country, that may take some getting used to. Most of the "highways" are 1 lane in each direction. There are no shoulders (the left side is often a stone wall right at the road's edge) and you will be passing trucks coming the opposite way at 60 miles per hour! No margin for error. One little tip. There are many roundabouts (we call them traffic circles in NJ), which you enter on the left and go clockwise. Usually right before the roundabout, the road widens to 2 lanes. You should be in the left lane and that way you'll be able to exit when you need to. Don't count on covering more than 100-150 miles/day, and that is pushing it. The only exception is you can go from Galway to Dublin on a real highway in 3 1/2 hours

    Basically we flew into Dublin and drove up the eastern coast through Belfast to Antrim in Northern Ireland (or what my Irish friend calls Western England), and the Giants Causeway. It is touristy, however, there is enough room around to avoid the buses and get some great views and IMO is well worth the trip. We then did a counterclockwise circumnavigation of the island towards Derry and Donegal, around the west & southern coasts ending back in Dublin. IMO, don't waste precious time in that city, as it wasn't very interesting other than the Book of Kells at Trinity College if you're in to that type of thing. The far northwest (which we had to skip due to time constraints) and western coasts are the places for small villages and spectacular coastal scenery. Must sees are Achill Island and the Cliffs of Moher. We did the famous "Ring of Kerry" of which the first half was a little disappointing, however the rest was awesome and after we finished, some locals told us about another "Ring", which they said is much better. Unfortunately, I can't remember the name of but think its on the next peninsula south (we didn't have time). Rather than laying out a tour for you, after you have some idea of where you want to go, post back here & I'll try to give you my impressions.

    Definitely try to stay at B & B's. Unless you go at high season, you don't have to worry about reservations. Just get a good B & B guide book which may be available from the tourist board or Google it. You don't need the vouchers for B & B's as they are overpriced.

    If you're going to do a few national parks or castle tours, get the pass which will save a lot of money.

    Have a great time. As you probably can tell, we had a super time.
  10. Here are some places that my wife and I really liked on our trip and a vague itinerary:

    From Edinburgh given 10 days I'd make a route that takes a couple days to head for the west coast. Make a destination of Rua Reidh Lighthouse for really spectacular views of the Scottish highlands, the inner Hebridies, the Isle of Skye. We didn't stay there so I cannnot comment as to quality of lodging but the view alone is worth it. It is past Gairloch following the B8021 past Melvaig to the end of the road.
    From there work your way down to the Isle of Skye, to spend a couple days. Skye is beautiful everywhere you look.
    Take the ferry from Skye to Mallaig and follow B8008 to A830 to Fort William. Allow as much time as you may for vistas along the A830! There won't be much shopping there but the scenery is really fantastic. A Loch Shiel sunset would be wonderful to catch along the way.
    Fort William is the gateway to Glen Nevis and surrounds. Beautiful towns and beautiful mountains all around you here. You could easily spend several days.
    The A82 will start to lead you back to Edinburgh as you will undoubtedly have used up most of your days by now! We stayed a night in Killin (Western end of Loch Tay) which is a sleepy little town with the BEST fish and chips we had on the whole trip, served from a portable trailer that is set up during the summer and fall months. A great place to learn about the "craic" which you may learn more about in Irish pubs!
    If you're a Monty Python fan you'll probably want to stop in Doune (NW of Stirling) for Doune Castle, where much of Monty Python and the Holy Grail was filmed. It's also an interesting castle in it's own right, though not as dramatic as some.
    Lets see. We had a really great time at a regional Highland Games in Blairgowrie, just see if there are any along your planned route.
    Our route through Scotland was much like this except we started out by going up to Stonehaven to see Dunnottar Castle, then across to Inverness. We took 16 days though, so that's why I suggested cutting out that part of the loop.

    Be prepared for even slower navigation through Ireland. Kevin has a good tip in suggesting flying in to Shannon. You might look into spending a day or two in dublin, sans car, then flying on ryanair or easyjet to Shannon. It would save you driving time.
    That said, we went south from Dublin to Glendalough. From that are we headed straight for the dingle peninsula. (Took 2 days)
    The dingle peninsula provides all of what you're looking for in one place. Stay a couple days!
    From there we made our way up to Galway via the Cliffs of Moher. You'll travel through an interesting geologic area known as the burren as you approach the Cliffs.
    We really liked our overnight on the Aran Islands as well. These are small islands you get to by ferry. No cars allowed on the Islands so you walk or rent bikes. Aran Island Sweaters used to come from here, but not so much anymore. Go for the peace and quiet and a break from driving, beautiful scenery, and dun aengus, a spectacular fort poised on a high cliff overlooking the ocean.
    From Galway we made our way to Clifden and spent a couple days there, then back to Dublin. This irish trip took us 12 days.
    What else? Plan to stay up late some nights and enjoy the Irish pub atmosphere. Truly an experience! On the other hand, we missed the whole north of Ireland, Donegal, Giant's causeway...I'm sure you'll get other ideas, but we sure loved our trip.
    Have fun, and share pics!
  11. Some Tips from a native.
    Overall we've had a good summer, and that weather seems likely to continue, so do pack that Velvia. As ever, very early morning and evening are best times for shooting. Again, be prepared for the unexpected. Momentary light changes are the norm, so take your chances when you get 'em. That is not to say you could'nt get days of 100% murky skies and rain - that is certainly possible.

    General tips
    Ireland is not quite as laid back as it used to be a couple of years ago. Increasing affluence has removed some of the old charm. Rural areas, off the beaten track are best. The speed limit is 100kph on most roads except within villages and towns. It is now strictly enforced, (which was not the case a few years ago).
    Needless to say, keep that expensive camera kit out of sight in a locked boot (trunk) when you park your car, unless you carry it with you.
    For Ireland: a useful route planner.
    You're going to have a great trip. Enjoy.
  12. Thanks for all the great information, everyone!!

    The photographs posted and linked are beautiful. I hope I do as well with my camera.

    The route planner link is also very helpful. Especially for a Yankee like me used to U.S. roads and distances.

    For those who have photographed in either Ireland and/or Scotland, any recommendations on film and filters for my Mamiya 7II for landscape scenes? I was planning on mostly Velvia 100 (shot at ISO 125), but a faster film might be a good addition.

  13. Because of the dark, overcast conditions and also indoors shots (castles) I shot mostly 200 and some 400 Kodak UC, on a 35mm, but I was shooting prints, not slides. Would definitely recommend that you mix it up rather than just shoot 100 ISO.
  14. Also, any suggestions for sources of 120 size film in Ireland and Scotland? I would prefer to buy locally rather than carry film from the States.

    I am assumming only the largest cities (Dublin and Edinburgh?). would have a photo store which would sell medium format film. Any retail outlet names?

  15. I shot mostly Velvia 50 @40. I brought a light tripod and used it extensively. Knowing me, I probably brought some provia 100f to rate at 100/200/320 too; I can't seem to find my notes right now so I can't verify that. My wife also brought along a digicam, and we lugged a laptop for download as well. That said, we did it with one medium-small backpack each. We DID ship purchased stuff back at the end of each leg of the trip. One general travel tip that we found invaluable for long vacations: Take a break from your vacation every week to 10 days, basically lay up one extra day somewhere quaint and just relax and kick about town instead of trying to PACK every day full. Makes all the difference. Once again, have a great trip.
  16. If you're used to and comfortable with Velvia 100, then use it. At the risk of being obvious,
    take a tripod and an umbrella.

    The other posts about low available light (at times) are accurate and combined with wind
    (West Coast) can be a problem. Since you are traveling by car instead of walking or cycling
    for example, why not hedge your bet by also taking a 35mm camera or another MF camera
    with say, Provia 400 loaded.

    I took an Olympus Epic (water resistant) to supplement my Contax G2 and was very glad I
    did as this was loaded with faster film and was what was brought out in the rain mostly.
  17. Randall,

    I had forgotten that I'd posted this same question here last year before we went. Here's the link:
  18. Hi Randall,

    I live in Ireland. Strongly recommend the West. Have a look at my site if you want to get some ideas...

    All the best

  19. david_henderson


    I like both locations and try (usually successfully) to spend a week in each every year.

    Ireland first. Having visited much of the Irish coastline, I prefer the north-west to the south-west since the scenery has (my view) more variety and the towns are more interesting. Ten days starting from round Galway and simply following the coastline right round to the Giants Causeway and beyond - maybe as far as Murlough Bay near Ballycastle. Particular highlights include Comnnemara, The northern part of the Inishowen peninsula in eastern Donegal; but the whole coastline is beautiful, beaches and countryside alike. Towns like Westport, Galway, Clifden, are worth a walk. You might come across a conflict between finding stuff to buy and staying off the beaten track. I mean without tourism these shops wouldn't exist. A word too about cottages. The wilder parts of Ireland tend to have a lot more white bungalows than two hundred year-old stone cottages with a peat fire in the hearth.

    Whilst there are interludes further south, serious Scotland starts a couple of hours drive north of Glasgow or Edinburgh with Rannoch Moor on the west and the Aberfeldy/Loch Tay area in the centre. I don't know when you're going but if towards the end of October I'd certainly spend a few days in the area of Aberfeldy but more particularly round Glens Affric;Cannich and Strathfarrar, south-west of Inverness, for what can be some seriously good fall colour. Then cut across to the coast at Ullapool and head south via Wester Ross to Skye ( which I feel is overrated but everyone else likes it so who am I to argue) and then on to Ben Nevis/Glencoe/Rannoch Moor.

    I spent a fabulous week on Harris & Lewis (Outer Hebrides) earlier this year, though i doubt you'll do that with all the mainland yet unseen.
  20. Does anyone have any river drives they would recommend? We are interested in scenic drives along rivers with lots of photographic potential.

    Also, can anyone comment on whether Cork is a city worth spending a few days in and around? We are thinking of starting our drive in Cork and will linger for a few days if it is an interesting/beautiful city.

    Thanks for everyone's input. It has been a big help in planning our trip.

  21. Just a quick note.

    Stick to the west COAST of both, the most scenic.

    Dublin and Edinburgh are both interesting Cities.
    The castle and the Guniess museum.

    Great stuff,

  22. Edinburgh is very photogenic. Try to get onto some of the islands like Iona, Mull and Aran. Oban is a wonderful little place. There is a great hostel in Oban run by an old character called Jeromy (if I remember correctly) he is a traveller and photographer who has retired to the lovely seaside town of Oban. Every room is individual with lots of art and books, price includes a free breakfast. You will see castles every where.

Share This Page