Welcome to Dublin! You will be met at the airport and transferred to the Dylan Hotel. Our adventure begins with a festive welcome lunch in Nancy Hands authentic Irish pub and restaurant, including a flaming Irish Coffee demonstration. Continue with an afternoon walking tour of the city. Experience the 2,000-year-old capital city by exploring some of its beautiful architecture, ancient city walls, and backstreets alive with history, heritage and culture with a local expert. Today’s tour includes a whiskey tasting at the Old Jameson Distillery and tonight’s welcome dinner will be at the Dylan Hotel. (L/D)
This morning, visit Ballyknocken Farm and Cookery School, home to celebrity chef Catherine (Byrne) Fulvio. Here, you’ll have the opportunity to prepare your own lunch in a hands-on cookery class, using one key ingredient: Guinness.
This afternoon, we head to the monastic ruins of Glendalough. Established by St. Kevin in the 6th Century, its ruined churches are scattered around two lakes. One of Europe’s finest examples of Round Tower architecture can be found here, as well as a Cathedral, stone churches and decorated crosses. Return to Dublin for a dinner together at Peploes restaurant. (B/L/D)
Travel to the Boyne Valley in County Meath. This river valley was the cradle of Irish civilization and supported a sophisticated society in Neolithic times. Take in the sights at Mellifont Abbey, the ruins of the old Cistercian abbey date back to 1142, when the first Cistercians were invited to Ireland by St. Malachy, the archbishop of Armagh. The newer abbey building is still in use by the Cistercian community of monks today. You will also visit the Hill of Tara, the ancient seat of the Celtic High Kings of Ireland. The ring patterns left on the hill are all that remains of the great fort of kings. Then on to Trim Castle, a Norman castle built for the first Lord Viceroy to Ireland, Hugh de Lacy. Although it is probably more famous now for being the filming location of the Mel Gibson film, Braveheart.
On arrival in Belfast, enjoy a Black Taxi Tour of the city, including Shankill and Falls Road, and learn of how things were during The Troubles. See the wall murals that are known all over the world. Every mural tells a story, which will be explained in great detail. Then, we will take you to the famous peace wall that separates the Protestant and Catholic communities, where you’ll get a chance to sign your name on the wall. Tonight, we enjoy dinner together at Deanes Meat Locker, before settling into the Merchant Hotel for a relaxing night. (B/L/D)
Our first stop today is at the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, which is suspended almost 100 ft (30 m) above sea level, and was first erected by salmon fishermen 350 years ago. Today it is a popular attraction for thrill-seekers and birdwatchers. If you are bold enough to cross the 65 ft (20 m) bridge, stretching from the mainland to ‘Rocky Island’, you will be rewarded with fantastic views of Rathlin Island, Scotland and the Causeway Coast. Get a bird’s eye view of the clear, green water flowing around the ancient caves and caverns far below – if you dare to look down.
Next, we explore the unique Giant’s Causeway. Flanked by the wild North Atlantic Ocean on one side and a landscape of dramatic cliffs on the other, for centuries the Giant’s Causeway has inspired artists, stirred scientific debate and captured the imagination of all who see it. Experience the famous basalt columns with our knowledgeable guide. Climb the Shepherd’s Steps and take a hike along the cliff-top trail for bird’s eye views of the causeway coastline – famed worldwide for its beauty.
Next, we stop in the pretty town of Bushmills where you will enjoy lunch at Bushmills Inn.
We continue to the walled city of Derry where you can have dinner at your leisure tonight before settling into a restful sleep at the Shipquay Boutique Hotel. (B/L)
Drumcliffe, County Sligo is set against the striking backdrop of the Benbulben Mountains. It is best known as the final resting place of W.B. Yeats. Found in the churchyard, his grave is marked with a simple headstone with the inscription, “cast a cold eye on life, on death, horseman, pass by.” This was Yeats’ self penned epitaph together with the instructions that the grave consist of “no marble, no conventional phrase”. The graveyard also contains a high cross and nearby is the site of a 6th Century Columbian monastery.
Continue to majestic Ashford Castle, the jewel in the crown of Ireland’s most iconic hotels. The estate is set on 350 acres, including the picturesque shores of Lough Corrib. Dating back to 1228, the castle now enters a new chapter in its history, as part of the prestigious Red Carnation Hotel Collection. Hear about the illustrious history of the castle and about the Castle’s recent refurbishment, with guest rooms and public areas restored precisely to their former glory. Tonight we enjoy dinner together at Cullen’s
in Ashford Castle. Jackets and ties are required for gentlemen after 7pm. (B/L/D)
Cycle the Greenway/Cruise Lough Corrib
Today we escape the bustle of urban life on the 42km Great Western Greenway, the longest off- road walking and cycling trail in Ireland. The World Class Great Western Greenway is a traffic-free cycling and walking trail which follows the route of the renowned Westport to Achill railway. You’ll have the option of a leisurely 2 – 2.5 hour bike, or you may also take a walk on the Greenway. As an alternative, you may spend the morning relaxing at Ashford Castle or take in one of the many daily activities offered on the grounds.
Following lunch, we have a two-hour cruise of the Lough Corrib, to explore the beautiful lake shore, with a guided stopover on the Isle of Innisfree. This evening, dine like royalty in Ashford Castle’s George V Restaurant. Jackets and ties are required for gentlemen after 7pm. (B/L/D)
Cliffs of Mohr/Limerick/Killarney
Today’s highlight is a visit to the Cliffs of Moher in County Clare, which are Ireland’s most visited natural attraction. With a magical vista that captures the hearts of one million visitors every year, the Cliffs are a Signature Discovery Point in the heart of the Wild Atlantic Way. They stretch for 8km (5miles), as the crow flies, along the Atlantic coast of County Clare in the west of Ireland, and reach 214m (702 feet) at their highest point at Knockardakin just north of O’Brien’s Tower. Here, you can have a world class, one in a million visitor experience.
Next, the Burren is an area of karst landscape in County Clare. The word “Burren” comes from an Irish word “Boíreann” meaning a rocky place. This is an extremely appropriate name when you consider the lack of soil cover and the extent of exposed Limestone Pavement. However, it has been referred to in the past as “Fertile rock” due to the mixture of nutrient rich herb and floral species. Tonight, we check into the boutique Ross Hotel, and you have the opportunity to enjoy dinner at your leisure. (B/L)
Ring of Kerry
Today, enjoy a full-day Ring of Kerry Tour. Travel the road that winds around the beautiful Iveragh Peninsula, better known as “The Ring of Kerry.” It is undoubtedly one of the most magical places in all of Ireland. Perhaps choose an optional excursion to meet a local specialist for a half day of hiking. Enjoy a beautiful walk out of Killarney to follow an old “Butter Road” and climb Torc Mountain and soak in the incredible views. Return to Killarney, and this evening, enjoy a dinner in the Ross Hotel at Cellar One. (B/L/D)
Gap of Dunloe
The Gap of Dunloe is a narrow pass between Macgillycuddy’s Reeks and the Purple Mountains near Killarney. It begins at Kate Kearney’s Cottage and ends with a descent into The Black Valley, a distance of approximately 11 km (7 miles). As one travels through the Gap from Kate Kearney’s, five small lakes are passed: Coosaun Lough, Black Lake, Cushnavally Lake, Auger Lake, and Black Lough; in turn, these lakes are connected by the River Loe from which the gap gets its name. Between the first two lakes is an old arch bridge called the “Wishing Bridge”, so named because it is said that wishes made while upon it are destined to come true.
This is more of an adventure than a tour. It includes a bus ride to Kate Kearney’s Cottage, then a journey of 7 miles (11.2 km) by jaunting car through the famous gap – a glaciated valley – to Lord Brandon’s Cottage, where a barbecue lunch will be prepared for us.
Tonight, enjoy dinner and entertainment in Jarvey’s Rest, an award-winning Irish Pub and the perfect venue for a genuine pub experience, with gastro pub style food, a choice of Irish drinks and live entertainment. This famous Irish pub still contains original wooden floors, stonewalls, beamed ceilings and open fires. Overnight at the Ross Hotel.
Today’s touring includes Garnish Island, located in the sheltered harbor of Glengarriff, in Southwest Ireland. Garnish is world renowned for its beautiful gardens known to horticulturists and lovers of trees and shrubs all around the world. Following the visit to Garnish Island, we will have a traditional pub lunch en route to Cork. The evening and dinner is at your leisure. Overnight at the River Lee Hotel. (B/L/D)
After a hearty included breakfast at the River Lee Hotel, we travel to the medieval city of Kilkenny. Kilkenny’s rich medieval heritage is evident in the city’s treasure trove of historical buildings and landmarks, exemplified by the magnificent Kilkenny Castle. Kilkenny is arguably the pre-eminent medieval city in Ireland, with the current layout of the city clearly grounded in its medieval roots. However, the city’s origins predate the medieval landmarks existing today. Saint Canice founded a monastic settlement in Kilkenny in the sixth century; unfortunately, the sole remaining landmark from this settlement is the round tower positioned alongside the cathedral. Strongbow, the legendary Norman invader, built a fort in the twelfth century on the site where Kilkenny Castle stands today. Subsequent to this event, William Marshall (Strongbow’s son-in-law and Earl of Pembroke) oversaw the building and maintenance of fortified city walls, thus consolidating the Norman’s position of power in the city. However, it wasn’t until the seventeenth century that Kilkenny really entered its golden age. The parliament, known as the Confederation of Kilkenny was founded in 1641. One of the parliament’s main objectives was to unite resistance against English persecution of Irish Catholics. With the emergence of this parliament, Kilkenny entered a period of unparalleled success. Over time, however, the influence of the Confederation of Kilkenny diminished. Oliver Cromwell’s arrival in Kilkenny heralded the dissolution of the parliament, and the city never quite regained the prosperity it had previously been celebrated for.
Following lunch, we will head back to Dublin for free time or a visit to the Guinness Storehouse. A farewell dinner is planned tonight at the legendary Beef and Lobster. Overnight at the Dylan Hotel. (B/L/D)
They say all good things come to an end, and this morning your wonderful Ireland experience concludes. After another delicious breakfast, you will be taken to Dublin Airport for your onward journey, or return home. As you wait for your flight, sit back and relive the magical memories of your trip to the Emerald Isle.