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Heart of Ireland

The Heart of Ireland captures the essence and pulse of the picturesque Emerald Isle……. Experience attractive hill and lake scenery, and the gentle rolling, green fields that Ireland is famous for. Explore an abundance of historical artifacts and a deep cultural heritage and in the evening relax & unwind at one of our Select Hotels……

Day 1 – Dublin to Kildare

Arrive into Dublin Airport & at your own leisure travel towards the town of Clane in Co. Kildare.

Clane – is a haven of peace and tranquillity pleasantly situated on the River Liffey, less than 30 minutes drive from Dublin. The town most probably owes its origin to the foundation of an abbey in the sixth century. Clongowes Wood College, a secondary school run by the Jesuit Fathers is located nearby; James Joyce was educated there. Other places of interest include the Wogan Mausoleum and churchyard at Mainham.

Overnight at the Westgrove Hotel – Located on the edge of Clane village in Co. Kildare, the Westgrove Hotel combines effortless accessibility with a feeling of getting away from the bustle of the city. Accessed via the M4 motorway and convenient to the M50 and all major routes. The hotel combines contemporary glamour with old world elegance so that the design of each area is always interesting. A comfortable traditional area quickly gives way to an upbeat gathering point for locals and residents to relax. There are also lots of little seating areas to relax with a book or newspaper so that there’s a style and atmosphere for everyone.

Day 2 – Day around Co. Kildare

There are various attractions around Co. Kildare to pass the day or you might decide to take your ease and remain at the Westgrove Hotel…..

Castletown House – This magnificent stately home is rated as one of the finest examples of Palladian (classical) architecture in Ireland, and makes a trip to Celbridge worthwhile. It was built in 1722 with profits from land-grabbing after the 1691 Battle of the Boyne and has recently undergone extensive restoration. The house is well endowed with the trappings of a Georgian home and the extensive gardens feature clipped yew trees and a folly obelisk.

Irish National Stud & Japanese Gardens – Maybe visit the Irish National Stud to see some of the finest stallions in the world and take a walk around the Japanese Gardens.

The world famous Japanese Gardens are situated 45km south of Dublin off the M7 & R415 just outside Kildare Town in the 1,000 acre Tully estate, now known as The Irish National Stud. The gardens were laid out in their paths of beauty between 1906-1910 by Tassa Eida and his son Minoru, and have been carefully preserved as one of the gems of Ireland’s Heritage. St. Fiachra’s Garden was created to celebrate the Millennium. There are 4 acres of woodland and lakeside walks.

Guided tours are given of the Irish National Stud, which is home to some of Ireland’s finest thoroughbreds. The Horse Museum is where the ‘Sport of Kings’ comes to life.

Newbridge Silverware Visitor Centre – The Newbridge Silverware showrooms are home to the Newbridge Silverware factory where for 70 years craft workers have been producing the famous cutlery and jewellery. Newbridge Silverware Museum of Style Icons is a permanent exhibition dedicated to design and style excellence. The Museum features signature pieces from Ireland’s most notable designers and showcases artefacts associated with some of the most legendary Stars of the Silver screen including Audrey Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe, Bette Davis, Gloria Swanson and many more.

The Curragh – The Curragh plain is the landscape most evocative of County Kildare, much referenced in song and poetry. A glacial formation, whose limestone base produces a mineral-rich sward said to nourish the thoroughbreds for which County Kildare is famous, the plain stretches over 1,977 hectares and contains over 70 recorded earthworks, ritual sites, dwellings and burial chambers. Since the 16th century the Curragh has been used as an army camp and the permanent military camp, now the Irish army’s main training centre, was built in 1858.

The Curragh Racecourse – the headquarters of flat horse racing in Ireland with a history stretching back to the 3rd century when written evidence tells of chariot races at the ‘Cuireach’. All five Classic races including the Budweiser Irish Derby are held here. The racecourse is also the headquarters of the Turf Club which governs flat and national hunt racing in Ireland.

Maynooth – Maynooth is an attractive 18th century ‘planned town’. The recently renovated Maynooth Castle served as the stronghold for the Fitzgerald’s of Kildare for centuries. The castle was finally destroyed during the rebellion in the 1640’s. St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth was founded in 1795. The College, which is Ireland’s largest seminary, has trained thousand of priests over the years. The history of the college is explained fully through exhibitions at the visitor Centre and Museum. Also at the College is the very impressive chapel and gardens – definitely worth a visit!

Kildare Shopping Village OutletsKildare Village outlet shopping, the ultimate shopping destination only sixty minutes from Dublin, features fabulous, year-round reductions on over 40 sought-after designer brands specialising in wardrobe and home luxuries, beauty products and premium accessories. Kildare Village has become a hot spot since its July 2006 opening with an unrivalled shopping experience offering unbeatable bargains on sought-after designer brands within an attractive village ambience.

Return for overnight at the Westgrove Hotel.

Day 3 – Kildare to Tipperary.

After a full Irish Breakfast this morning, travel at your own leisure towards the town of Nenagh, Co. Tipperary.

Kildare Town -takes its name from the church founded in 490 AD by Kildare’s patron saint, Brigid. Today St. Brigid’s Church of Ireland cathedral stands on what is believed to be the original site of the ancient church. The exact age of this historic town is unknown however the Round Tower, with it’s entrance 12 ft above the ground is believed to have been standing since the 10th century. The cathedral has been present in the town since 1223 and remains to this very day thanks to several reconstructions.

Emo Court – located 2.5km from Emo, was designed by the architect James Gandon in 1790 for the Earls of Portarlington and is a magnificent example of this neo-classical style. During the middle of this century it was owned by the Jesuits, it was then acquired and extensively restored by Mr. Cholmeley-Harrison in the 1960s. The house is surrounded by beautiful gardens and parkland which were first laid out in the 18th century and contain formal lawns, a lake and woodland walks with many very fine trees and shrubs. The house and gardens were taken into State ownership in 1994.

Maybe stop off in Roscrea Town and visit Roscrea Heritage Centre, Roscrea Castle & Damer House – The stone castle consists of a gate tower, curtain walls and two corner towers dating from the 1280s. The castle rooms are furnished and some house exhibitions. Built in the early 18th century in the Queen Anne style, Damer House is an example of pre-Palladian architecture. One of the rooms is furnished in period style. Within the complex, there is a restored mill displaying original St. Cronan’s high cross and pillar stone.

Overnight at the Abbey Court Hotel, Nenagh, Co. TipperaryThe Abbey Court Hotel, Lodges & Trinity Leisure Spa is the mid west of Ireland’s 3-star hotel easily accessed just off the N7 Dublin/Limerick Road, 2 hours from Dublin and 30 minutes from Limerick.

The hotel facilities include 83 elegant bedrooms, 25 4 Star Holiday Homes consisting of 3,5, or 8 bedrooms, Cloister Restaurant, Abbots Bar, 20m Swimming Pool and Extensive gymnasium, magnificent landscaped gardens, Creche, Rugrats Kids Club, Hair and Beauty Suites, Wireless Broadband, Extensive Conference & Banqueting facilities and ample free car parking.

Day 4 – Tipperary to Athlone –

Portumna Castle & Gardens – The great semi-fortified house at Portumna was built before 1618 by Richard Burke or de Burgo, 4th Earl of Clanricarde. It was the main seat of the de Burgo family for over 200 years, until it was gutted by fire in 1826. The ground floor of the house is now open to the public. To the north of the house are formal, geometrically laid out gardens. Portumna Castle now includes the recently restored 17th century walled kitchen garden. Following its original plan the garden has been organically planted with fruit trees, flowers, herbs and vegetables, all combining to make it a treat to the senses. Portumna Castle is surrounded by the towns’ local attractions – Lough Derg, the River Shannon and Portumna Forest Park.

Portumna Forest Park – Portumna Forest Park is adjacent to Portumna on the northern shore of Lough Derg. At Portumna Forest Park there are forest and lakeside walks, car park, toilet facilities and observation points. There is a viewing tower along the nature trail where one can get a bird’s eye view of the forest, lake and lakeshore. Adjacent to the Park is a marina giving access to the Shannon waterway system.

Birr Castle Demesne – and Ireland’s Historic Science Centre is host to Ireland’s largest gardens, offering a Winter Garden, Formal Garden, Terrace Garden a River Garden. The beautiful parkland features thousands of rare trees and plants collected from all over the world. The rivers, lakes and waterfalls are all memorable. The Great Telescope constructed at Birr Castle in the 1840’s, the largest in the world for 70 years, is now fully restored and looks and moves just as it did 150 years ago. Ireland’s Historic Science Centre features pioneering achievements in fields of astronomy, photography engineering and horticulture.

Clonfert Cathedral – is one of the oldest continually functioning churches in Ireland. It is now owned and operated by the Church of Ireland. Originally established by Saint Brendan in 563AD as part of a monastic community, the oldest part of the surviving structure dates from about 1180. None of the monastic buildings survive. Perhaps the most interesting part of the church is the Romanesque doorway. The heads (presumably of saints) which rest in niches bear a striking resemblance to ancient Celtic structures used to exhibit the severed heads of fallen enemies. This demonstrates the continuing influence of pagan Celtic religious belief long after the introduction of Christianity to Ireland by Saint Patrick at around 400AD.

Continue to Athlone located in the centre of Ireland is a thriving town on the banks of the River Shannon. It is an ideal destination for a holiday, weekend break or business trip. The town offers extensive choices in quality accommodation, restaurants, shops, pubs, sport & leisure activities and entertainment.

Overnight at the Athlone Springs HotelStanding on the west edge of Athlone town tucked away in its own oasis, Athlone Springs is ideally situated – just off the main Dublin to Galway road and only minutes from the river Shannon. Enjoy cutting edge design that has been translated into its conference facilities and a state of the art leisure complex. The hotel is equipped with all of the contemporary luxuries & technology that 21st century visitors can expect. Designed to inspire a deep, relaxed sleep, all of our spacious bedrooms are approached by futuristic corridors softly illuminated by warm purples and pinks and enhanced by retro-style carpets and original design furniture.

Day 5 – Tour of Westmeath or Offaly.

Possibly spend the day around Athlone Town or exploring the surrounding areas….

In Athlone Town you may decide to take the Viking Boat Tour – Relax and cruise the River Shannon on a replica Viking boat and experience some of the 300 years of Viking history on a voyage into Lough Ree. Hear of the escapades on these waters through live commentary on Viking battles and tales of buried treasure.

Another attractions is Athlone CastleThis Norman Castle dating from the 13th century the castle dominates the town and was central to the siege of Athlone in 1961. The Visitor Centre features exhibitions and audio visual presentations on the siege of Athlone, John Count McCormack, River Shannon wildlife and history with folk and military museums

Outside of Athlone, some of the main attractions would include –

Clonmacnoise – An Early Christian site founded by St. Ciar¡n in the mid-6th century on the eastern bank of the River Shannon. The site includes the ruins of a cathedral, seven churches (10th -13th century), two round towers, three high crosses and the largest collection of Early Christian grave slabs in Western Europe. The original high crosses and a selection of grave slabs are on display in the visitor centre. The long and varied history of Clonmacnoise is recounted in an audiovisual presentation shown in the visitor centre. There are also exhibitions that deal with the flora, fauna and landscape of the region.

Belvedere House & Gardens – The Estate comprises 160 acres of parkland with 6kms of magnificent woodland and lakeshore walks, including the Narnia Trail. Several follies adorn the landscape including Ireland’s largest folly, The Jealous Wall. The restored Belvedere House is an 18th Century hunting / fishing lodge designed by the renowned German architect Richard Castle for Robert Rochfort, later the 1st Earl of Belvedere. A fascinating walled garden, designed by Ninian Nevin in 1857, contains one of Ireland’s finest collections of rare and special plants. The stable block is home to a modern visitor centre with multi- media show, exhibitions and fully licensed cafe.

Tullamore Dew Visitor Centre – Whilst distilling no longer takes place in Tullamore, the Tullamore Dew Heritage Centre will take you through life in a small Irish town from the early 1800s onwards as well as showing how whiskey is made. You will end the tour with a complimentary glass of Tullamore Dew or Irish Mist Irish whiskey liqueur.

Dún na Sí Heritage Centre – is a microcosm of Irish culture. Explore the Folk Park, which depicts Ireland through the ages by means of showing the living conditions of the
people of the particular time, from approx. 2500BC up until the 20th century. The trail through the park has frequent stops whereby examples of a Ringfort, Portal Dolmen etc. can be seen. At the heritage centre, visitors can also trace their family roots with the assistance of qualified researchers.

Locke’s Distillery – Established in 1757, Locke’s Distillery is the oldest licensed pot still distillery in the world. Locke’s produced triple distilled whiskey for nearly 200 years. Now open as a Museum, guided tours follow the process from the grinding of the grain to the casking of the final product. Peer down into the deep solid oak vats where the worts and yeast fermented. Watch and listen as the 19th Century waterwheel drives the machinery. Most of the original machinery is now restored and can be seen working. At the end of the tour you are treated to a complimentary sample of Kilbeggan Irish Whiskey

Overnight again at the Athlone Springs Hotel.

Day 6 – Athlone to Meath.

Today visits enroute from the Athlone Springs Hotel to the City North Hotel may include –

Hill of Tara – the Hill of Tara, known as Temair in gaeilge, was once the ancient seat of power in Ireland – 142 kings are said to have reigned there in prehistoric and historic times.In ancient Irish religion and mythology Temair was the sacred place of dwelling for the gods, and was the entrance to the otherworld. Saint Patrick is said to have come to Tara to confront the ancient religion of the pagans at its most powerful site.

Trim Castle – Trim Castle, the largest Anglo-Norman castle in Ireland, was constructed over a thirty-year period by Hugh de Lacy and his son Walter. Hugh de Lacy was granted the Liberty of Meath by King Henry II in 1172 in an attempt to curb the expansionist policies of Richard de Clare, (Strongbow). Construction of the massive three storied Keep, the central stronghold of the castle, was begun c. 1176 on the site of an earlier wooden fortress. This massive twenty-sided tower, which is cruciform in shape, was protected by a ditch, curtain wall and moat.

Bro na Bainne Visitor Centre -interprets the Neolithic monuments of Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth. The extensive exhibition includes a full scale replica of the chamber at Newgrange as well as a full model of one of the smaller tombs at Knowth. All admission to Newgrange and Knowth is through the Visitor Centre, there is no direct access to these monuments.

Mellifont AbbeyLocated in Tullyallen, Drogheda, Co. Louth, Mellifont Abbey is the first Cistercian monastery in Ireland founded in 1142 by St Malachy of Armagh, its most unusual feature is the octagonal Lavabo c. 1200. The Visitor Centre houses an interesting exhibition on the work of masons in the Middle Ages with fine examples of their craft on display.

Overnight at the City North Hotel, Co. Meath – Conveniently located along the M1 motorway just 15 mins north of Dublin Airport, M50 & Dublin port tunnel, this stylish hotel is an exceptional choice for your stay along the East coast. Visit the local bustling towns, quaint craft shops, stylish boutiques and superb restaurants and bars. Take in the famous Boyne Valley Region, Newgrange or a relaxing coastal stroll. Golf, horse racing, hill walking, karting, falconry, clay pigeon shooting – all on your doorstep.

Day 7 – Depart from Dublin Airport.

Alas it is time to bid farewell to the Emerald Isle. Travel to Dublin Airport for your departure flight to the US.

Slan Abhaile (Safe Home)

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For more Information visit http://www.selecthotelsireland.com/

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