Ireland is country known for its stunning landscapes, vibrant colourful villages, ancient Celtic relics, lush green valleys and abandoned castles. As an ocean ‘outpost’ at the western edge of Europe, Ireland has a natural character quite different to the Continental landmass. Its geology is remarkably varied, with rocks that range back over 2,500 million years. Once, long ago, Ireland was covered by ice, and the track of the glaciers can be read in the dramatic shapes of the mountains and the little drumlins hills of the countryside.
DAY 1 ARRIVE DUBLIN
Cead Mile Failte. Welcome to Ireland!! Arrive into Dublin Airport where you will be met by your private driver and guide and escorted to your luxury vehicle. Your driver will give you an orientation tour of Dublin City before checking into your downtown deluxe accommodation.
Dublin is one of Europe’s most vibrant cities. Over a thousand years old, the turbulent history and rich traditions of the city have inspired writers, artists and musicians down the ages. Today, artists are still attracted by Dublin’s youthful enthusiasms and easy-going lifestyle and the city has become a thriving center of culture and enjoyment. The new wave of cafes and restaurants are meeting places for all ages while traditional Dublin pubs are rightly world-famous for their informal atmosphere and lively conversation.
The city oozes atmosphere, not least in the heady scents that cling to it – the rich aroma of the hops being roasted in the Guinness brewery and the salty tang of the sea. Nighttime entertainment is a rich mix of world-class theater, concerts from classical to rock, jazz clubs, traditional music sessions and old-style cabaret. Above all, Dublin is a small city, where visitors can feel at home after even the shortest stay.
Overnight at The Merrion Hotel or similar.
DAY 2 DUBLIN CITY TOUR
This morning, after a hearty Irish breakfast, your driver will bring you a full day tour of Dublin City.
On your tour you will experience all the wonderful sights and landmarks of this ancient city, the Georgian Squares, O’Connell Street, the Greens and the Phoenix Park, which is the largest urban parkland area in Europe.The president of Ireland resides here.
You can visit St. Patricks Cathedral which is the national cathedral of Ireland and it is also the largest cathedral in the country. Traditionally the place where the cathedral lies today was the place where St. Patrick baptised the pagans to Christianity in the 5th century and there has been a church there since. The cathedral was badly damaged during the Cromwellian invasion in Ireland and it was eventually completely re-furbished by the Guinness family in the 19th century. Jonathan Swift, author of Gulliver’s Travels, was Dean of the cathedral for 32 years and his remains are buried within the cathedral.
You can also visit The Book of Kells, situated within the grounds of Trinity College in the long hall of the Old Library. It is the principal treasure of the library and it is encased in glass in order to preserve this fine treasure. The book is a magnificently illuminated copy of the Gospels designed by unknown hands in the monastery of Kells in Meath about 800.
Overnight again in the Merrion Hotel or similar.
DAY 3 DUBLIN – GALWAY
Today you will depart Ireland’s Capital City and drive west to the City of Galway stopping off en route at The Boyne Valley. Here 5,000 years of history are encapsulated in the megalithic graves of Newgrange, the Hill of Slane where Christianity was brought to Ireland by St. Patrick, monastic remains and aristocratic houses and the site of the Battle of the Boyne.
See Monasterboice, one of Ireland’s exceptional monastic sites.The site dates from the rather obscure St. Buite, who died in 521. The monastery fell into disuse in the 12th century and only ruins remain, except for the most excellent Round Tower and three high crosses.Â The finest of these is the St. Muiredach Cross with its interlaced motifs and carvings; these are thought to depict scenes from the book of Genesis, including Adam & Eve, and Cain and Abel.
Continue to the huge Cistercian site of Mellifont Abbey, which finally fell into disuse in the 18th century; in the 13th century this was the ecclesiastical centre for some 35 other monasteries in the district. Of special interest is the octagonal lavabo (wash room) with its Romanesque features.
The next stop is Newgrange. This massive 5,000 year old passage grave, with its glistening white quartz walls surrounding some 200,000 tons of rock, has been thoroughly excavated . Similar tombs at Knowth and Dowth are still being worked over. Newgrange tomb is rated as one of the most spectacular archaeological sites in Europe.
Onwards to Galway City and check into your hotel accommodation. Galway, the largest county in Connaught, is celebrated in song and story throughout the world and takes centre stage on Ireland’s western seaboard. A spectacularly beautiful county, it is a medley of contrasts – the wildest and remotest of countryside teamed with one of Europe’s most vibrant and popular cities. Drawn as if by a magnet, visitors come again and again, captivated by this most special of Irish counties.Galway City at the mouth of Galway Bay is both a picturesque and lively city with a wonderful avant-garde culture and a fascinating mixture of locally owned, specialty shops, often featuring locally made crafts. Indeed local handcrafts are a feature of the entire region including hand knits, pottery, glass, jewellery and woodwork.
Overnight at Glenlo Abbey Hotel or similar.
DAY 4 CONNEMARA
Today you can explore some of the beautiful countryside of Connemara, with its rolling hills, flowing rivers and coastal landscapes.
Connemara is a wild and beautiful region of mountains, lakes, tumbling streams undulating bog, unspoiled beaches and panoramic views. It is a Gaelic- speaking region and has attracted many artisans, who can be visited at work in their studios.
The centre of Connemara is composed of mountain peaks, the Twelve Bens or Pins which culminate in Benbaun (2388ft-728m). The sharp grey peaks of quartzite rock which is resistant to weathering are too steep and hard to be clothed in blanket bog. The region is now largely uninhabited, although in the past the more fertile lowlands were cultivated and the uplands were used as pasture for cattle and sheep.
Stop and visit Kylemore Abbey. Kylemore Abbey is the only home of the Benedictine nuns in Ireland. The Abbey was acquired by the nuns in 1920. Set in the heart of Connemara, this unique Abbey offers the warmth and hospitality of it’s peaceful environs. It’s enchanting history is interpreted in detail in rooms at the Abbey. It was originally built by Mitchell Henry, M.P. for County Galway (a native of Manchester city) 1864-1868 as a gift for his wife. The Gothic Church, set in the grounds of the Abbey, is the jewel in the crown of Kylemore. It has been lovingly restored and any visit would not be complete without seeing it.
Return to Galway for overnight.
DAY 5 GALWAY – CLIFFS OF MOHER – KILLARNEY
Depart Galway and travel southwards via the Cliffs of Moher and The Burren to Killarney.
The Burren is a vast, bare, eerie limestone plateau which covers much of Co Clare and is gradually being established as a national park. Here the limestone is deeply fissured and most of the rivers have gone underground creating an extensive cave system. 4000 years of farming has largely denuded the country of trees and vegetation but the Burren is noted for the “opposite” contrasts of its flower population with Mediterranean and Alpine species flourishing side by side.
There are seaside resorts at Liscannor, Lahinch and Milltown Malbay. The coast road south of Black Head provides a fine view of the huge boulders, deposited at the end of the Ice Age which rest on the bare limestone pavement, in fine weather the Aran Islands are visible offshore. Some of the many megalithic tombs in the Burren lie on the east side of the road between Aillwee and Leamaneh. Over the ages running water burrowing through the soft limestone of the Burren has created miles of dark caves and underground passages.
You can also stop at the Cliffs of Moher. These are great dark sandstone cliffs (600ft) that rise sheer from the Atlantic Ocean for nearly 5 miles. Screaming sea birds throng the ledges or wheel and swoop about the waves. The best view is from O’Brien’s Tower, built in 1853 by Cornelius O’Brien.
Still traveling south, you can cross the Shannon estuary by ferry at Kilimer into Tarbert. County Kerry in Ireland’s Southwest is a place untouched by time. Hazy mountain panoramas shimmering in the pearly ocean light, rattling streams of sparkling clear water tumbling down wooded slopes. You can spend days just watching and wondering at the splendour of the views.
Check into Hotel Europe or similar in Killarney.
DAY 6 RING OF KERRY
After a hearty Irish breakfast, you will drive out to the Ring of Kerry.This is the name given to the scenic coastal drive around the Kerry peninsula, along the base of the highest mountain range in Ireland. Don’t panic about the narrow roads along the way – your driver will be able to negotiate this famous route – and the general unwritten rule of the Ring of Kerry is that all coaches travel around in only one direction – starting in Killarney.
The 100 mile journey takes you through villages and towns depicting typical rural life in Ireland. As you descend into Killarney, you have a lovely view of the 3 Lakes of Killarney from ‘Ladies View’ passing Killarney’s National Park and the Muckross House Estate. You can stop to visit Muckross House and Gardens.
Muckross House, is a 19th century manor house, beautifully situated close to Muckross Lake, second largest of Killarney’s three lakes. Now a major visitor centre, the House has two main themes, the environment of the National Park and the folklore of County Kerry in the 19th and 20th centuries. Skilled craft workers carry on some of the traditional crafts of Kerry as their predecessors did in bygone days. The gardens informal in size, are noted for their fine collection of rhododendrons and azaleas, extensive water gardens and an outstanding rock garden of natural limestone.
Return to Killarney for overnight.
DAY 7 KILLARNEY-CORK
Say goodbye to the ‘Kingdom of Kerry’ and travel east towards Cork City. Your first stop today is Blarney Castle. The castle is famous for its Blarney Stone, which has the traditional power of conferring eloquence on all who kiss it. The word ‘Blarney’ means pleasant talk, intended to deceive without offending. The battlements crowning the castle keep are typically Irish in form. Having climbed more than 100 steps, the famous Stone is set in the wall below the parapet, and to kiss it, one has to lean backwards from the parapet walk of the battlements. Enjoy some free time to avail of the excellent shopping at Blarney Woollen Mills situated in the village.
You will then travel into Cork city.Cork city is built on reclaimed marsh land and is still dominated by water – The River Lee divides the city in two.The word Cork comes from the Irish name “Corcach” which means “marsh”. The city’s origins lie early in the seventh century when St. Finbarr founded a small monastic community close to where Gilabbey Street now stands. The Vikings came to the city in the tenth century, and the Normans followed two centuries later.
This may account for the distinctly European ambiance. Although a busy industrial city, it is also an important shopping centre. The principal streets are lined with fashion houses and department stores stocking quality Irish goods.
Check into the Kingsley Hotel or similar for overnight.
DAY 8 COBH & KINSALE
Today, visit some of the historic sites of Cork. You may wish to visit the poignant visitor centre in nearby Cobh – Cobh’s past glories and history will be remembered in a splendid presentation which will recall the town’s part in the world events from the American War of Independence to the great liner traffic of the twentieth century.
The sorry plight of convicts bound for Australia will be recalled as will the sad story of the famine emigrants leaving their stricken homes forever. Later emigrants departed from Cobh’s quays on board vessels of the great shipping lines, such as Cunard and White Star.The liners had their glamorous and romantic side, but have left two enduring memories at Cobh of the great disasters of the “Titanic” and “Lusitania”. The “Titanic” sailed from Cobh, never to touch land again. The sinking of the “Lusitania” in 1915 is still remembered in the town which gave its survivors refuge and a burial place for many of its victims at Old Church Cemetery.The Heritage Centre will tell these stories in a way that is fitting and sympathetic of the endeavour and trauma of the people who were involved.
In the afternoon and time permitting you can visit nearby Kinsale. Every visitor to Kinsale is captivated by its beautiful setting, with the long waterfront, narrow winding streets and Compass Hill rising sharply behind the town. The old fortifications of Charles Fort and James Fort guard the narrow entrance to Kinsale from the sea. Not surprisingly the town is renowned for its fresh seafood and gourmet cooking, as well as its numerous ‘cozy’ pubs!!! The town’s fame was established years ago as a quaint seaside town with a delicious restaurants and carefully preserved 18th century buildings. The town has poignant memories of the sinking of the liner ‘Lusitania’ in 1915, off the Old Head of Kinsale, and it was in the courthouse the inquest into the incident took place.
Return to Cork City for overnight.
DAY 9 CORK-WATERFORD
Drive via the coastal villages Youghal and Dungarvan to Waterford City. Waterford is one of Ireland’s oldest and most historic cities. It is a fine example of a walled city. The walled city withstood siege on several occasions in the past but fell to the Normans in 1170 AD. It prospered under the Normans and emerged as the second city of Ireland after Dublin. The city was the chief port of Ireland throughout the middle ages.
Enroute to your accommodation in Waterford, you may wish to visit the Waterford Crystal Factory– this world renowned crystal is made here in the city by a skilled team of workers. Visitors are guided through the production area, where they can see the birth of crystal from a white-hot furnace, and then witness its transformation by dedicated blowers, cutters and engravers into beautiful sparkling crystal.On your return from the tour, visitors are shown around the Crystal Gallery, which houses one of the world’s finest displays of crystal.
Overnight at Waterford Castle. The 5* Waterford Castle Hotel & Golf Club is uniquely situated on a 310 acre island overlooking the estuary of the River Suir, 3 miles from Waterford City. Access to the island is by a chain linked car ferry. Highest standards of comfort, tastefully decorated with antiques and open fireplaces. The 15th century Castle combines gracious living of an elegant past with every modern comfort, service and convenience.
DAY 10 WATERFORD-DUBLIN
Alas it is time to depart. Travel to Dublin Airport and depart for home on your Transatlantic Flight
Slan Abhaile (Safe home!)
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