Music filled pubs, scenery to inspire odes and lauds, a people as welcoming and enchanting as the place they call home, Ireland is truly a magical nation. From Dublin to Galway, from Waterford to the Cliffs of Moher, you’ll need only a week before falling in love with this remarkable country.
Discover the landmarks of Dublin, including the National Gallery, Grafton Street, and the famous Book of Kells
Check out Kilmainham Gaol, the temporary home of the leaders of Ireland’s Easter Uprising, before settling down for a pint at the Guinness Storehouse or one of the many pubs in Temple Bar
Tour the jaw dropping gardens and estates at Powerscourt and purchase some of the finest wool in the world in County Waterford
Head west into County Kerry for unbelievable landscapes and into County Cork for a kiss at Blarney Castle
Drive the singular Ring of Kerry and explore Limerick, one of Ireland’s best-kept secrets
Marvel at the majestic Cliffs of Moher and the romantic Aran Islands, and spend the night in a castle-cum-world class hotel
Day 1: Dublin (Arrival)
Day 2: Dublin (Hitting the Highlights of the Capital City)
Day 3: Counties Wicklow and Waterford (A Country Estate, an Ancient Monastery, and the Breathtaking South of Ireland)
Day 4: Counties Kerry and Cork (West Into Kerry and Cork)
Day 5: Counties Kerry and Cork (The Greenest Face of the Emerald Isle)
Day 6: Munster and Connaught (The City of the Tribes and the River Shannon)
Day 7: Western Ireland (The Haunting Glory of Ancient Connemara)
Day 8: Country Clare (The Cliffs of Moher and an Evening for Royalty)
Ireland is a small nation – only slightly larger than the state of West Virginia – but only in terms of land mass. Everything can be found on this enchanting island, and this eight-day tour will introduce you to the best that this one-of-a-kind country has to offer.
Take a walk through Dublin, the country’s capital and greatest city, where you’ll feel an intimate connection to the men and women who lived and laughed and loved here. Soak in the south, as you walk the spectacular gardens at Powerscourt and shop for fine crystal at Waterford. Get lost in the beautiful countryside in County Kerry, and witness the mighty collision of sea and shore up and down the entire length of Connacht and Munster.
The lush green valleys and the sharpstone of Celtic crosses; the tranquility of a country estate and the pounding pulse of an Irish pub band at full bore; the finest food and drink, and the friendliest people: all of it can be found in this singular country of poets and warriors, lovers and rogues. Erin awaits with open arms; there’s never been a better time to embrace her.
Your Irish journey commences in Dublin, a one-of-a-kind world capital that is renowned for its beautiful Georgian architecture, its varied entertainment, and its kind and personable people. Despite the hustle and bustle that comes with being the primary city in the Republic, you’ll find Dublin remarkably easy to navigate and indescribably fun to explore. Shop on Henry Street to the north of the River Liffey, or on elegant Grafton Street to the south, where no motor traffic is allowed and where jewelry, accessories and haute couture are on prominent display. The walk down O’Connell Street, the city’s main thoroughfare, takes you past the stunning statute of Daniel O’Connell himself, then onward past the General Post Office sporting a bronze statue of the folk hero Cuchulain and bullet holes from the fighting between Irish Nationalists and British police in the early twentieth century. Crane your neck as you reach the Dublin Spire, the tallest sculpture on Earth, or turn towards street level to catch a glimpse of Dublin’s most prominent literary export, James Joyce. While Dublin is full of incredible sights, your favorite moments in this charming capital might be the ones of aimless rambling.
Today is dedicated to exploring one of Europe’s gems: incredible tours of Dublin can be had by just about any mode of transportation, but one of the easiest and best ways to explore this unique city is on a Hop On/Hop Off tour bus. These tour buses extend to the outer limits of Dublin proper, and gives you an opportunity to check out some sights further afield without wearing a hole in your shoe.
You can start your day at Trinity College, the only constituent college of the University of Dublin and one of the finest in Europe. Stroll through the verdant courtyard on campus and you might catch students playing football or rugby. Trinity College’s library is one of the most spectacular of its kind and houses Ireland’s preeminent national treasure, the inspiring Book of Kells, an illustrated copy of the four Gospels that is more than twelve hundred years old. Further south takes you to Kildare Street and Leinster House, home of the Irish Parliament; Merrion Square, where you can see the birthplace of Oscar Wilde and the National Gallery; and Saint Stephen’s Green, Dublin’s Central Park, bounded on all sides by beautiful Georgian townhomes and to the north by the timeless Claremont Hotel, where most foreign dignitaries stay while in Dublin.
The tour continues on to Dublin Castle, an imposing complex in the heart of the city that served as the seat of British power in Ireland for more than five hundred years. From here, you can visit the impressive Chester Beatty Library, housing some of the rarest manuscripts on Earth, or the Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, the national church of Ireland. The buses reach their furthest point at St. James Gate, the home of Ireland’s most famous export: Guinness. Tour the storehouse to learn the history of this iconic beer, discover the ingredients that make it so unique, and head up to the Perfect Pint Bar to grab a draught of Dublin’s finest and a full-circle view of Dublin and the scenery beyond.
On the way back, be sure to check out Collins’ Barracks, the former headquarters of the Irish Army and now a museum dedicated to Irish history; Kilmainham Gaol, the temporary home of some of Ireland’s most noteworthy patriots, including Charles Stewart Parnell, Michael Collins and Eamon de Valera; and Phoenix Park, one of the largest walled parks in Europe, featuring the enormous Papal Cross, the Wellington Monument, and the Dublin Zoo. Should you have time, a quick nap or hearty meal will prepare you for the best part of life in Dublin: pub crawling. The Bank on the Green near Trinity College features beautiful vaulted ceilings and a stunning white marble bar and is perfect for the first stop or a night-cap; The Stag’s Head is one of the oldest pubs in Dublin and pours one of the best pints in town; and the best Irish music scene is found in the lively neighborhood of Temple Bar, with The Quay and the Oliver St. John Gogarty’s being two of the best.
Today takes you down the southeast of Ireland, through the picturesque counties of Wicklow and Waterford. Your first stop is the spectacular gardens at Powerscourt in the heart of the Wicklow Mountains. The eighteenth century mansion serves as the visitor’s center and offers an inviting welcome to the estate before exploring the immaculate grounds. A dazzling array of flora awaits you, as well as tasteful statuary and a comforting curtain of green. Climb to the top of the Pepperpot Tower to survey the gardens, or browse through the miniature pagodas and fabulous foliage in the Japanese Gardens. Further from the estate is the Powerscourt waterfall, a scenic spot for photo-ops and the tallest waterfall in Ireland.
Next is Glendalough, a valley carved by the inexorable trek of glaciers and home to the ruins of one of the oldest monastic settlements in Ireland. Climb to the top of the Round Tower to look over St. Kevin’s Church and the Cathedral, or catch a glimpse of the Upper Lake, one of the most awe-inspiring views in Ireland. Further south is the famous Avondale House, birthplace of the political leader Charles Stewart Parnell, a man who was at the forefront of Irish nationalism and who was widely regarded as one of the greatest statesmen of the nineteenth century.
Your final stops showcase the finest of Irish handicrafts. The Avoca Handweavers have been weaving wool, tweed and other fabrics for nearly three centuries, and the mill is the oldest woolen mill in Ireland. Here you can find ceramics, soaps, perfumes, books, and of course textiles, including a tweed weave that was used for a waistcoat of King George VI and baby blankets for the children of Queen Elizabeth II. Visitors might also be interested in the Dunbrody, a recreation of a ship used in the nineteenth century and the location of a fine museum detailing life aboard an emigrant ship, complete with interactive exhibitions. Your voyage ends in Waterford, home to some of the finest crystal – and scenery – in the world.
Today brings you to the southwest of Ireland, to the heart of the island and the center of its soul: the unforgettable landscapes in Counties Cork and Kerry. Some travellers might choose to start at the castle and gardens at Lismore in County Waterford, the ancestral home of Irish nobility and one of the most staggering of all Irish castles. An impeccably restored fortress dominating the valley of the River Blackwater and offering a view to the rolling Knockmealdown Mountains, Lismore Castle might best be known as the home of Robert Boyle, the father of modern chemistry. And in the town of Lismore can be found St. Carthage’s Cathedral, a seventeenth-century structure with an intricately carved ceiling in the nave and a soaring steeple.
You next visit the coastal town of Cobh, a site dominated by Cork Harbor and the arresting St. Colman's Cathedral, featuring the only carillon in Ireland and one of the largest in the British Isles. The maritime history of this port city is as long and illustrious as it is tragic, and the best museums in the city are dedicated to remembering and exploring this hallowed past. Plaques and exhibits commemorate the voyage of the Titanic, which departed from Cork Harbor in 1912; the sinking of the Lusitania in 1916 and the arrival of the survivors and victims of that tragedy in Cobh shortly thereafter; and the immigrant Annie Moore, the first person to be admitted to the United States at the immigration center in Ellis Island.
Fortunately, your next destinations are less somber than tragic Cobh: a quick jaunt west takes you the Jameson Distillery, the birthplace of the best selling Irish whiskey in the world. The original Jameson distillery can still be found in Dublin (and vatting still takes place on Bow Street), but here in County Cork whiskey connoisseurs can learn about the distillation process and sample some of the finest Irish whiskeys in the world, including aged blends and brands not commonly available in the United States; the locals swear by Powers, and have made it the most purchased whiskey in Ireland. Once you’ve imbibed of the local delicacies, head to the top of Blarney Castle, where a gentle but firm-handed stranger will help you dangle over the ramparts to kiss the famous stone. Irish legend holds kissing the stone will give you the gift of free and easy speech, though a quick peek at the locals prove that such favors are not hard to come by! Your final destination is the scenic town of Killarney, where you’ll be sure to find a great spot for dinner, drinks and traditional Irish music: Danny Mann’s and The Laurels are particularly popular spots.
Today begins with a ride around the famous Ring of Kerry and the Dingle Peninsula, with views of the most beautiful scenery to be found. Wind your way along the rugged Irish coast into Killarney National Park, where your eyes will be treated to the best of man and nature: sit atop the viewpoint known simply as the Ladies View to take in the magnificent Lakes of Killarney, marvel at the peaks which surround the Black Valley, and discover Derrynane House – the ancestral home of Daniel O’Connell – and Muckross Abbey, one of the oldest buildings in the area and the home to Observant Franciscans for almost six hundred years.
Perched between two of the famous Lakes of Killarney lies Muckross House, an elegant Tudor estate that once hosted Queen Victoria in 1861. The main façade is clean and artful, reflecting the aristocratic leanings of its former owners, and the front entryway contains an impressive collection of mounted trophy heads, including a gigantic pair of antlers from a specimen of the now-extinct Irish Elk. You will also get the chance to visit three traditional farms, each of which will demonstrate traditional farming and harvesting techniques and which feature a variety of farm animals and early farm machinery.
Today takes you up the western coast of Ireland, through the ancient province of Munster and into Connacht, which offers a fascinating perspective into life on the “other side” of Ireland. Ride through the quaint and charming village of Adare, one of the most colorful in Ireland with thatched-roof cottages, brightly painted storefronts, beautiful public grounds and the commanding structures of the Adare Friary and the Trinitarian Monastery. Then it’s own to what might be the capital of western Ireland, the oft-neglected and under-appreciated city of Limerick. Situated on the River Shannon and made famous by Frank McCourt’s prize-winning memoir Angela’s Ashes, Limerick is a vibrant port city that has undergone substantial reclamation in recent years, becoming one of the top tourist destinations in Ireland. St. John’s Cathedral boasts the tallest church spire in Ireland, and St. Mary’s Cathedral boasts beautifully carved misericords in its choir as well as an attractive altar. King John’s Castle sprawls majestically along the riverfront, and the city center provides ample evidence for why Limerick was the first to receive a designation as a City of Culture.
A short drive takes you from Limerick to Bunratty Castle, a structure more than a millennium old and filled with incredible sights. Lovingly and painstakingly restored in 1954, the castle offers a remarkable collection of medieval furniture and Celtic architecture, and vividly recreates life in Ireland during the Middle Ages. Then you head north to Galway, a cultural gem in northwest Ireland and a boisterous seaside town with exciting nightlife, delicious food and truly Irish entertainment.
Today you leave the urban areas of western Ireland to venture to the region of Connemara, where Irish is still the primary language and where the wind whispers legends of Erin’s heroic past. Beaten by the Atlantic Ocean, the rough yet handsome coast is clean and well-kept, and the famous Twelve Pins tower over the coast and dare the sea to encroach. There are also impressive feats of human achievement here as well: Kylemore Abbey, on the site of what used to be Kylemore Castle, includes the stunning walled Victorian Gardens as well as a scenic perch overlooking a lake, one of the geographic features of this captivating area.
Further west, in the bosom of the Atlantic herself, lie the romantic and mythical Aran Islands, where Irish culture is not only alive, but thriving. This archipelago of three islands is one of the last remaining vestiges of life in Ireland before the colonization of the island by Great Britain, and features some of the most awe-inspiring scenery and highest quality crafts on Earth. The Iron Age fort Dun Aengus offers some of the most impressive views, as well as an excellent example of some of the earliest habitations in Europe. More recent additions to the Islands include the wreck of the Plassey, a steam trawler that ran aground in 1960, and a proliferation of shops selling Aran jumpers, worn by fishermen in the area for centuries. The evening features a return to Galway, giving you a chance to revel in the unique Connacht nightlife.
Your final day in Ireland begins early, so as to give you plenty of time to explore the incredible Burren region in County Clare. This karst landscape – one of the largest in Europe – is home to some of the rarest animal species in Ireland, and the only place to find the Brown Hairstreak butterfly, the Burren Green butterfly, and a variety of others besides. The vegetation in the Burren is sparse, leading to spectacular fissures in the limestone that create flowing streams and an indescribable backdrop for sunlight. You can also find more than 90 megalithic tombs in the area, a Celtic High Cross, and the impeccably preserved Caherconnell Stone Fort.
Right past the Burren lie the breathtaking Cliffs of Moher, one of the most photographed areas in all of Ireland and, perhaps, in the entire world. Climbing nearly 400 feet above the surface of the Atlantic Ocean, the Cliffs are so striking that they have been used as a set for a number of popular films, including Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and The Princess Bride, where they served as the real-life version of the “Cliffs of Insanity.” The bravest among you might choose to climb to O’Brien’s Tower, more than 700 feet above the ocean’s swells, to catch a glimpse of Galway Bay, the Maumturks mountain range, and the lighthouse at Loop Head.
You’ll spend the night in Dromoland Castle, a remarkable structure more than 500 years old, now one of the finest hotels in the entirety of Ireland. The castle’s enormous 375-acre estate includes a beautifully maintained golf course and areas for hunting, fishing, riding and more. The Castle’s interior is as elegant as one could expect, with intricate wood carvings and sophisticated stone statuary throughout. The hotel’s restaurant, the Earl of Thomond, is exquisite, having earned a Michelin star in 1995, the only restaurant in Ireland outside of Dublin to earn such a distinction. More festive fare can be had at the nightly Medieval Banquet at Bunratty Castle, a mere minutes away.
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