2017 Irish Explorer 9 Days / 8 Nights
Your Irish trip starts at 2:00 pm when you meet your tour director at your Dublin hotel. Your hotel is luxurious Clontarf Castle, which traces its origins to 1172. It is a short ride from Dublin Airport and is situated a few miles to the north of Dublin city center in an upmarket suburb. Take a tour of central Dublin to see elegant Georgian squares, public buildings and monuments. Visit Glasnevin Museum, Ireland’s national necropolis, which is a who’s who of modern Irish history and a fascinating insight into life in Ireland. It is the final resting place of Daniel O’Connell, Michael Collins, Charles Stewart Parnell, Brendan Behan and other prominent people. Enjoy a welcome drink with your tour director followed by dinner in your lovely castle hotel.
This morning drive north away from the city and through the heartland of Ireland to visit the Ulster American Folk Park near Omagh. Here you will see cozy cottages depicting a bygone way of life in rural Ireland with demonstrations of traditional crafts and skills, used by country people for centuries. Walk through a replica of a sailing ship and then view cabins as they would have been in colonial America when settlers traveled to Appalachia. Travel on to Donegal town for a tour of Donegal Castle, built by the O’Donnell chieftain in the 15th century. The castle is located in the central square of the town and it was expanded in the 17th century. Today it is furnished throughout in period style and a guided tour will fill you in on the history of the region. Check in to your hotel, which is located a few miles outside the town.
Head to the fishing port of Killybegs and on to Teelin. From here take a minibus ride to reach a point where you can get the best views of the Slieve League sea cliffs. These cliffs reach heights of 1,972 feet making them the highest in Europe. Enjoy breathtaking vistas as they drop to the wild Atlantic waves below. Back in Teelin, sample home-baked scones with coffee or tea. Travel out along the coast to Malinbeg for more awesome scenery and then head inland through the majestic Glengesh Pass for views of mountains and valleys. As Donegal is renowned for its tweed and knitting industries, visit a woolen mill to shop and see demonstrations of spinning and weaving. Enjoy an early dinner at the popular Nancy’s Restaurant in Ardara before returning to relax in your hotel.
Visit the Belleek Pottery Factory to see how the craftspeople shape and decorate clay, creating the world-famous fine china. This industry was founded in the 19th century to bring employment to the region and initially they created utilitarian wares for bathrooms before developing the production of delicate and decorative pieces. Visit Lissadell House, a magnificent country estate, built in the 1830s for the Gore-Booth family. This was the childhood home of Constance Markievicz, one of the leaders of the 1916 Rising. Drive to Galway, check in to your hotel and join a local guide for a gentle walking tour around central Galway.
Today explore scenic Connemara to admire how constantly-changing cloud formations give granite hills, sparkling lakes and peat bogs an added dimension. This region is sparsely populated as the poor land does not support farming but is home to many sheep. You will see many tracts of bogland where people cut and harvest peat for home heating. Stop at the Connemara Celtic Crystal Factory where craftsmen demonstrate fine glass cutting. Drive through the picturesque scenery of hills and lakes to visit Dan O’Hara’s Homestead. See traditional methods of farming as well as Connemara ponies and have a light lunch. Return to Galway and enjoy free time before dinner.
(B, L, D)
Travel around Galway Bay to view the Cliffs of Moher, an impressive wall of rock that plunges to the Atlantic Ocean. The cliffs stretch along the coast for five miles and reach heights of almost 700 feet. Walk to O’Brien’s Tower, located on the highest point, for views of the Aran Islands and Galway Bay. Stop in Bunratty for lunch (on your own) at Durty Nelly’s Pub or the Bunratty Woollen Mills before driving through Limerick and along the River Shannon Estuary. Visit the Foynes Flying Boat Museum, which recalls the early days of air travel, during the 1930’s and early 1940’s, when Pan Am Clippers used to land on the water. Walk through a replica of a Clipper and see memorabilia in the museum. Arrive in Killarney, check in to your hotel and relax before dinner.
Take a drive around the Ring of Kerry, possibly Ireland’s most famous and popular scenic drive. You will see how every bend in 100 miles of road reveals breathtaking views as you travel between the Macgillycuddy’s Reeks, Ireland’s highest mountains, and the heavily indented coastline. Meet a local farmer, Brendan Ferris, for a taste of farm life with a sheepdog demonstration of herding flocks. At the tip of the peninsula visit the Skellig Experience, which explains the history, flora and fauna on the nearby rocky island of Skellig Michael. This was the location for filming part of “Star Wars VII” in 2014. Enjoy a casual lunch and continue around the scenic drive. Pause for panoramic mountain views at Moll’s Gap. Back in Killarney enjoy free time for independent activities and discover some of the excellent restaurants and fun pubs.
Drive through the mountains into richer farming country on the way to Blarney. Climb to the ramparts of Blarney Castle to kiss the famous stone or, if you don’t feel like a climb, take a gentle walk through the lovely parklands and colorful gardens. Shop for Irish-made goods at the Blarney Woollen Mills before traveling north. Pause for photos at the stately Rock of Cashel, a limestone outcrop with picturesque ruins and continue to your hotel in Dublin. In the evening head to the Abbey Tavern for Irish cuisine, traditional songs and music as well as a lively display of step dancing.
Program ends after breakfast.
B: Breakfast; L: Lunch; D: Dinner