I got a request this weekend to suggest what someone should see on a first time trip to Ireland. While I don't claim to be an expert on Ireland, I have visited four times and what I can do is to give you some suggestions on how to decide what to see.
In case you are not aware, the island of Ireland contains two countries, The Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. In the Republic, the currency is the Euro, in the North it is the British Pound. Knowing this will help you to decide what type of currency you want to bring with you.
Most people will fly into Shannon (SNN) or Dublin (DUB). Shannon is on the west coast of the Republic and Dublin on the east. No flights go directly to Belfast in the north so you will need to take a connecting flight.
Driving in both countries is on the left side (British style) so it requires a little extra thought and care to travel around. Driving however, is the best way to be able to see some of the more rural parts of the country.
When it comes to accommodations you have the same choices that you have anywhere else. Hotels and bed and breakfast abound. Another option is self-catering (rental cottage or apartment). If you like to move everyday then you will choose hotel or B&B. If you like to have a base and return there every night self-catering is great.
If you are nervous about driving, you can take an organized tour or you can hire a driver by the day. Our tour driver took us for 10 hours for $200 and it was so worth every penny.
For some people seeing all the tourist sites is important, I am not going to tell you that since it is not something I do. I go to places that most tourists miss. Sorry, but it is just the way I am.
Kerry is one of the most popular places to visit it Ireland. It does have the Lakes of Killarney which are massively popular, the Ring of Kerry, and the Dingle Peninsula. I did visit Killarney but only because it is where my Donahue family is from. I visited in December when we were just about the only tourists in town.
If you like lakes, Cavan has more lakes than any other county and it is very untouristy. For a relaxing visit and a good base I highly recommend it.
Beyond that, decided what a visit to Ireland means to you. Do you want to see where Waterford Crystal is produced or Belleek China? Is kissing the Blarney Stone a must? Do you want to be impressed with the Rock of Cashel or discover Ireland's past at Newgrange?
I am happy to help, answer questions or share about some of the places we really enjoyed, just drop me a line.
I suggest finding a good travel book about Ireland and let it help you to decide what you want to see. You certainly can just visit Dublin and feel as if you have had the Irish experience or use it as a base for day trips.