One-of-a-kind views of spellbinding scenery. The stories of maritime towns and picture-book villages. Ancient castles steeped in historyand country inns full of character. The further we go into its enchanting landscapes, the deeper you’ll fall under Southern Ireland’s spell.
While we begin the day in Dublin, saying hello to our tour guide and fellow travellers, we quickly say goodbye to the city's One-of-a-kind views of spellbinding scenery. The stories of maritime towns and picture-book villages. Ancient castles steeped in history and country inns full of character. The further we go into its enchanting landscapes, the deeper you’ll fall under Southern Ireland’s spell and cross into Southern Ireland’s spectacular countryside. And we don’t have to go far before we’re in County Kildare. Its jewel-like scenery, criss-crossed with waterways, has been the breeding ground for some of the world’s finest horses. So it’s only right that our first stop is the Irish National Stud, where we’re treated to a private tour, an exclusive jockey’s-eye-view of the horses and the chance to explore the fascinating museum. But this is a stable with a surprise up its sleeve – it’s also home to exquisite and much celebrated Japanese Gardens.The afternoon sees us swap pagodas for the potager garden at Galway’s Portumna Castle, a grand house with roots in the 1600s. At this point, we’ve reached the southwest corner of Ireland and arrived in Ennis. The capital of County Clare is an 11th century market town and the place where we’ll lay our heads for the night. But not before tucking in to a three-course welcome dinner. (D)
Overnight: The Old Ground Hotel (or similar)
Ennis’ character-filled avenues are ideal for meandering. But a walking tour really brings to life the enthralling tales of rebellions and riots, myths and mysteries that swirl around these medieval lanes. When we move on to the UNESCO Geopark of the Burren and Cliffs of Moher, your imagination will really run wild. The best view of these untamed landscapes comes by boat, so we take to the water on a mini-cruise and marvel at the sheer scale of these awe-inspiring, 700ft natural phenomena. The keen-eyed among us – or perhaps just those who packed binoculars – may even spot a resident puffin. Back on dry land and on to Killarney, a chocolate-box town that’s the gateway to the panoramic Ring of Kerry. (B)
Overnight: Royal Hotel (or similar)
Edge-of-the-world seascapes. Rippling green lands studded with ancient forts. Throw in welcoming villages that rub shoulders with mysterious ruins and you have the beguiling Ring of Kerry. At the Skellig Experience we glimpse the lives of early Christian monks that broke bread here. In pretty-as-a-postcard Portmagee, we soak up the sight of tiny boats bobbing before brightly coloured fishermen’s houses. And at Staigue Fort we go back in time to 300AD. Then it’s on to Sneem, a village brimming with traditional buildings, restaurants and craft shops, known as the ‘Knot in the Ring’. It’s an all-round romantic place to end our day in whatever way you fancy. (B, D)
Overnight: Royal Hotel (or similar)
We’re at the mouth of Kenmare Bay, in the town founded by Sir William Petty in 1670, as the morning rays rise. Our first stop of the day is Molly Gallivan’s cottage. At first glance it seems to be a rustic farmhouse in a rural spot, frozen in time. But there’s more to it. 200 years ago, this enterprising widow supported her seven children by brewing illicit whiskey – and her home was in fact a clandestine pub.That brings us to the medieval town of Kinsale. Sea-and-sand views, cosy pubs and brightly-hued houses make this a picturesque port of call – and our final stop today. (B)
Overnight: Actons Hotel (or similar)
The cobbled streets that curve around this pretty bay are just begging to be explored. So we spend the morning on a walking tour of Kinsale. A local guide lets us in on the town’s secret sand maritime traditions, leading us to the 800-year-old Church of Saint Multose and the unique star-shaped Charles Fort. Just a hop, skip and jump away is Cork, the county city. Our whirlwind tour takes in its must-see sights, before we depart for the coast and to Cobh – a maritime hub that’s played a huge role in Irish culture. It was the departure point for the last 123 passengers to board the Titanic and you’ll notice poignant markers of this around the town. It’s also home to the Old Midleton Distillery, where we see how this iconic whiskey is crafted – and sample its smooth character for ourselves. We get a final cultural fix as we absorb the medieval charm of Kilkenny before indulging in a final feast – fit for a king. (B, D)
Overnight: River Court Hotel (or similar)
The trip’s not over just yet. Before heading back to Dublin, we make time to stroll around Kilkenny’s 12th century castle and the charismatic parkland that unfolds around it. Our route to the capital is just as scenic. Keep your camera poised as our coach climbs heather-clad hills and crosses fairytale glens that carpet the Wicklow Mountains. At the heart of that dramatic scenery is Avoca village, where we pay homage to an Irish institution – Ballykissangel. Pull up astool in Fitzgerald’s Pub, made famous in the BBC TV series. Then pick up one final memento of your travels at the Woollen Mills. (B)
Pick-up & Drop-off
This tour commences from The Brooks Hotel, 62 Drury Street, Dublin 2, Dublin, D02 TV06, Ireland at 8.30am. Please ensure you are at the meeting point at least 15 minutes prior to departure.
The tour finishes at 5.30pm at The Brooks Hotel, 62 Drury Street, Dublin 2, Dublin, D02 TV06, Ireland.