I'm taking my mom on vacation this fall (3 weeks in late September/early October). Our first stop is Ireland and we've been advised to spend as much of our time as possible seeing the West coast area. We were planning to use Cork as our "base", since we'll be flying out of Cork on our way to the next destination.
Is Cork a good place to stay for three nights or should we look at Killarney? We've also been advised that renting a car might be a better option if we want to explore any of the area (Cork, Ring of Kerry, etc) - thoughts on car hire vs mass transit?
Are there any "can't miss" sights in southern/western Ireland, or alternatively, anything too touristy that we'd be better off taking a miss on?
Distances may look short on a road-map but the travel times can be surprisingly long in Ireland. I remember driving from Rosslare harbour to Sneem which is just 300km; a distance you would expect to be able to cover in three hours or so - took six hours!
The drive round the Ring of Kerry is lovely - there are some great villages and beaches and some wonderful views. The MacGillycuddy's Reeks and the national park just outside Killarney are brilliant and Valentia Island is a nice diversion for an hour or so. And a night in one of the local pubs (the one in Sneem was brilliant) when there's music and singing and the Murphy's is flowing is a great experience.
I like Cork city and actually I spent 5 months there once upon a time, but for a first time visitor on a quick 3 days' visit, I am in two minds... Is it nature you are after, or what? Does your mum have any mobility or other issues? What your/her interests are exactly?
If you decide you want to explore Cork area itsself, I don't think you really need a car. Cork city has limited sight-seen but a very pleasant lively vybe, some great pubs and nice people to chat with. Its city center is compact and easy just to walk around but there is decent bus network too.
From Cork it is very easy to connect to Cobh on train (the former "Queenstown" where thousands of poor immigrants would depart to Americas and last port of call of Titanic too). Cobh is a small but scenic villages with a nice harbour (colored post-card-like houses) dominated by an impressive Cathedral uphill, an interesting visitor center and nice eateries and pubs. On the same train line you could always stop on Fota island with its Arboretum and Garden and of course the Wildlife Park.
There are buses departing from Cork to Blarney with its famous castle and woodmills and buses to Kinsale, which is considered as the fish food capital of Ireland and has a pleasant marina. A few kms outside Kinsale there is Charles fort.
Killarney its self is a very touristed small town, I find it fine but anyway it serves mostly as a base to explore surrounding area rather than be an attraction itsself. A car definately gives flexibility but I have manage to explore the area a lot simply by walking and occasionaly taking an organised tour. There are bus tours "doing" the Ring of Kerry, the Dingle Peninsula etc. There are plenty of trap&horse carts offering rides to Ross Castle, Muckross House etc too. I am an overweight person but I still can walk a lot and I walk even more on my holidays and on one visit in the area on March, I walked and walked inside Killarney national park, taking in Torc waterfalls, Ross, Muckross,walking aimlessly enjoying the setting ...and I realised afterwards that I had walked more than 15 kms (!) I think this is my own personal record and says something about the charm of the area too.
this year Discoverireland (the Irish tourism authority) are really promoting 'The Wild Atlantic Way' and have put together full itineraries for visitors like yourself.
I could give you tons of advice but I think you'll find all your looking for here on this link.
I hope it's of some help in your planning.
PS - Killarney is fine, but you'll be among a zillion other tourists competing for a lot of 'manufactured' Irishness. My advice is to get out there and see the real towns and villages, eat in little restaurants, and have a drink in a 'real' Irish pub.
Whatever you do, I hope you're made feel welcome in my country and you enjoy every moment of you and your Mom's visit.
Thank you all so much for the input and advice!
Borisborough: do the travel times catch up to you due to traffic or just in terms of not realizing how far things are? I think my main concern about renting a car is that I really don't want to spend time stuck in traffic that we could be spending exploring!
Mariha: Loved hearing about your walking through Killarney Nat'l Park - I think that will make it onto our itinerary. My mom is definitely not a city-girl. She's very active, and is a hiker/camper/outdoors sort of person, so aside from seeing some of the sites in the city, I think she'll be most interested to get out into the country and take in the views. How did you get to Killarney Nat'l Park?
zkasame: thank you for that link - what a resource! I'm already in love with some of these towns and scenes... we might not come home.
Again thanks for all the help!
Mainly I just arrived on a bus from Cork (trains are available too), checked in in my accommodation in Killarney, droped my bags and started walking lol
There is lots of info on the park here: http://www.killarneynationalpark.ie/