Shannon to Kinsale

Travel to Kinsale via Limerick City, Blarney and Cork City with optional detours to the Tipperary towns of Cahir & Cashel and Cobh in Cork. Among the most interesting attractions in Limerick are King John’s Castle and The Hunt Museum. From there, the direct route to the small coastal town of Kinsale will allow you to ‘Kiss the Blarney Stone’ at Blarney Castle and visit the Cobh Heritage centre near Cork. Cobh, situated on one of the world’s largest natural harbours, was the last port of call for the ill-fated Titanic in 1912 and was the closest port to the site of the sinking of the Lusitania in 1915. The Heritage centre also recounts the story of those Irish who left Ireland during ‘The Famine’. An optional detour includes visits to ‘The Rock of Cashel’ and ‘Cahir Castle’, both in Tipperary and both are amongst Ireland’s premiere historic attractions. Kinsale is a delightful harbour town that has retained its old world charm and has a myriad of old Irish pubs and excellent restaurants as well history laden attractions such as the Desmond Castle Museum and the star shaped ‘Charles Fort’ from the 17th century.

Kinsale to Kenmare

Today you will travel the scenic  coastal route which includes visits to Mizen Head, the southernmost point in Ireland, as well as Bantry House and Gardens and the French Armada Centre, also in Bantry. From Bantry, you will be heading north to Killarney via the Healy Pass. Have your camera’s at the ready for some breathtaking scenery across the Caha Mountains that divide Cork from Kerry. After the mountain pass, you come to the town of Kenmare. The town was founded in 1670 by Sir William Petty and has a history of lace making, demonstrations of which can be seen at the town’s Heritage Centre.

Kenmare to Dingle

We travel to the fishing town of Dingle today as well as the dramatic Dingle Peninsula. The Dingle Peninsula has more interesting antiquities, historic sites and varied mountain scenery than any other part of Ireland. Dingle is the most westerly town in Europe and attracts large numbers of visitors each year, many of whom come to learn the Irish language in the surrounding ‘A Flor-Gaeltacht' – Irish speaking district. On route stop in the village of Annascaul, the birth place of Jerome Connor, the famous sculptor, and Tom Crean, a local hero who accompanied Scott and Shackleton on three Antarctic expeditions, including Scott’s doomed attempt to reach the South Pole. On his return to Annascaul Crean opened the "South Pole Inn", which is still in business today. Minard Castle is also well worth a visit. The castle is said to have been built by the Knight of Kerry and is the largest fortress on the peninsula. Continue on past Dingle and visit Dunbeag Promontory Fort. What makes it one of the most dramatic archaeological sites on the peninsula is that results show that it was begun in the late Bronze Age, 800 BC. Continue on to Slea Head and here you will see Dun An Oir (Fort of Gold. Here in 1580, after three days siege, over 600 Irish and Spanish soldiers surrendered to Lord Grey only to be massacred by his troops. Nearby is the Gallarus Oratory, one of the best preserved early Christian church buildings in Ireland. Back to Dingle for the evening. Here you will find among other great pubs and restaurants, Dick Macks, possibly Dingle’s most famous pub, which is half a leather shop and half a pub so you can buy a pint and a purse at the same time! Foxy John’s is a hardware store and pub combined – an unusual arrangement to say the least.

Day Trip to Killarney from Dingle

The journey from Dingle to Killarney can take as little as 90 minutes without stops. However, we suggest the following route and stops. If you decide to get an early start and forego stops at some of the initial locations, then you will be able to commence the Ring of Kerry section of the tour instead of heading straight to Killarney. First stop is the village of Annascaul. This small village is the birth place of Jerome Connor, the famous sculptor, and Tom Crean, a local hero who accompanied Scott and Shackleton on three Antarctic expeditions, including Scott’s doomed attempt to reach the South Pole. On his return to Annascaul, Crean opened the "South Pole Inn", which is still in business today. Close by is Inch Beach, one of the most beautiful beaches in Ireland. The Ring of Kerry is a journey through some of the country’s most outstanding scenery around the Iveragh Peninsula. Stunning mountain and coastal scenery combined with colourful towns and villages will make this one of the highlights of your tour. For those who wish to take a break from driving we can arrange a bus tour through this route. Following the peninsula drive, you then arrive at Muckross House. Muckross House is a magnificent Victorian mansion completed in 1843 for Henry Arthur Herbert. The location of the House is spectacular, close to the eastern shore of Muckross Lake and set beneath the impressive backdrop of Torc and Mangerton Mountains. As an alternative to the Ring of Kerry tour you may prefer to take a wonderful tour by pony and trap that takes you through the Black Valley in the Gap of Dunloe. After a snack at Lord Brandon’s Cottage, you will return to Killarney by boat via the beautiful lakes of Killarney.

Dingle to Clare

After an early breakfast depart Dingle in the direction of Brandon to drive over the renowned Conor Pass, Ireland’s highest mountain pass. At the summit Brandon and Tralee Bays can be seen to the north, with the sandy Castlegregory peninsula separating them and to the south lies Dingle Bay. Continue to Tralee and Tarbert where you will take a ferry crossing on the Shannon Estuary to County Clare. Continue north to the Cliffs of Moher. The majestic Cliffs of Moher are without doubt one of Ireland’s most spectacular sights and overlook the Atlantic Ocean on the coast of West Clare. You then arrive at the village of Doolin. Doolin is world-famous for its wealth of Irish folk music and in recent years has been attracting crowds to spontaneous sessions in any one of its excellent pubs. Just north of the Cliffs you then have the lunar like Burren region and the ancient Poulnabrone Dolmen Tombs as well as the Aillwee Caves.

Doolin to Connemara

From there travel west of Galway to the hauntingly beautiful Connemara Region. Situated on the most western seaboard of Europe, this unspoilt region boasts breathtaking scenery. The characteristic features of Connemara include its rugged, unpolluted coastline, dramatic mountains, numerous lakes and rivers and woodlands and the renowned Connemara National Park. Visit Kylemore Abbey and the Lough Inagh Valley as well as the spectacular Sky Road near the town of Clifden. You can also visit the fishing village of Roundstone and see how a ‘Bodhran’ (traditional Irish Drum) is made. Alternatively, you may prefer to take the ferry to the Aran Islands. Aran will take you back to an Ireland of Celts and Early Christians. Take a pony and trap, or a guided tour from the pier up the island to the stone fort of Dun Aengus. Dún Aengus fort is located on top of a 300ft high sea cliff and is one of the finest prehistoric monuments in Western Europe.

Connemara to Westport

Touring north from Connemara, you will also be able to walk along the fjord at Killary harbour or indeed take the catamaran cruise through Ireland's only fjord. From there travel just south of Westport to see Croagh Patrick, otherwise known as Ireland's 'Holy Mountain' upon which St. Patrick (according to Irish folklore) spent 40 days fasting. The area around Croagh Patrick is rich in archaeological remains which provide an interesting insight into life in times past. Findings date back to 200 B.C.  Just north of the town of Westport in the county of Mayo is Ireland’s least populated region where you can walk the open countryside for miles with no company other than the local sheep. The amazing geology, archaeology, botany and wildlife of this region of North Mayo is interpreted for us at The Céide Fields Visitors' Centre with the aid of an audio-visual presentation and exhibitions. You may also wish to visit Westport House - Designed by the famous architects Richard Cassels and James Wyatt in the 18th century, Westport House is located west of the Shannon and is one of Irelands’ most historic homes open to the public.

Day Trip from Westport to Galway City

Heading south from Westport, you reach Galway, the ‘City of the Tribes’ also known as Ireland’s Cultural and festival capital. With its street entertainers and traditional pubs with great music, Galway and in particular, the Quays area of the city centre will enthrall you particularly in the evening time. Other sites in Galway include Ireland’s largest medieval parish church, the Collegiate Church of St Nicholas of Myra dating back to 1320. Christopher Columbus reputedly worshipped in this church in 1477. Also nearby are Galway Cathedral, the Spanish Arch and Eyre Square.

Mayo to Donegal

On route to Donegal you will travel by Ireland’s most visited pilgrimage location, the Shrine at Knock. Shortly after this, you can take a slight detour to the Coleman Irish Music Centre is a celebration of Irish Music, Culture and Heritage as expressed in the South Sligo style of music played by Michael Coleman and other musicians of his time. Southwest of Sligo Town you will find the Ancient Tombs of Carrowmore. Over 60 tombs have been located by archaeologists to date. Dating back to nearly 5,000 B.C. and centuries older than the Pyramids of Egypt, Carrowmore is Ireland’s largest megalithic cemetery and is considered to be one of the most important in Europe. Shortly after leaving Sligo on route to County Donegal you will arrive at Drumcliff Churchyard, perhaps the most visited graveyard in Ireland. William Butler Yeats is buried here under the epitaph that he penned, “Cast a Cold Eye on Life, on Death. Horsemen, pass by!”. The Churchyard stands in the shadow of the magnificent Benbulben. Continue north until you reach Belleek home to Belleek Pottery, where there is an excellent visitor centre that is open from April to October. Set up in 1857, the factory is famous worldwide for its ornate fine Parian China. Other major touring attractions in Donegal include the Railway Heritage Centre, Donegal castle and Donegal Craft Village in Donegal town. Heading west from Donegal Town, on the edge of the Atlantic is Ireland’s premier fishing port of Killybegs. Nearby are the magnificent Slieve League Cliffs which at over 1,000 ft (300 metres) the cliffs are the highest marine cliffs in Europe. Next stop along this route is the Gaelic speaking village of Glencolumbcille where you can take the opportunity to relive local rural life as experienced in 18th, 19th and 20th century Ireland.

Donegal to Derry

Today travel to the ancient territory of the Inishowen Peninsula is the most northerly part of Ireland. Monuments of an earlier age seem to grow from the landscape as castles, towers and ancient churches shimmer in the sunshine. Your tour begins at Grianan an Aileach, the ancient Temple of the Sun that was Christianized by St. Patrick. Founded by the Druids, this ring fort dates back to some 2,000 years B.C. On to Dunree Head and Fort Dunree, constructed in 1798 by the English as a defensive measure against Napoleonic invasion. At the top of the Inishowen Peninsula is Ireland’s most northerly point, Malin Head. The area is steeped in history and folklore. Continuing around the peninsula, you arrive at the pretty village of Culduff with its stone circle. Deep in the heart of County Donegal is Glenveagh National Park and is considered by many to be Ireland's finest national park. At the core of the park is the Glenveagh Estate, originally the home of the notorious landlord John George Adair, much despised for his eviction of Irish tenant farmers in the 1860s. In the south of the county, you will find the magnificent Slieve League Cliffs. At over 1,000 ft (300 metres) the cliffs are the highest marine cliffs in Europe. You will find touring around the city of Derry to be a multi-layered experience that takes in all periods of its tumultuous history and vibrant present. The fortified walls of the city are among the best preserved city fortifications in the Western World. They rise to a height of 26ft (8m) and in places are 30ft (9m) wide. Completed in 1618 to defend the Plantation City, the walls have never been breached in three major sieges - even during the 105 day siege of 1689 when 7,000 of the 30,000 population died of starvation.

Day Trip to The North Antrim Coast

The major attractions in this area include The Giants Causeway, Bushmill’s Distillery, Dunluce Castle and the Carrick-a-rede rope bridge. Many of these sites are located close to each other which means minimal between each location. The fact that the Causeway was formed 70,000,000 years ago by massive volcanic activity is contradicted only by local legend that claims the causeway was created by a fabled giant. The Old Bushmills Distillery is the world's oldest licensed Whiskey Distillery. King James I granted the original licence to distil 'Acqua Vitae' in April 1608, and since then Bushmills has been making the finest Irish Malt Whiskey for almost four hundred years. Dunluce Castle was shaped when the sea cut deep into the land, exploiting cracks in either side of the rock. The early Christians and the Vikings were drawn to this romantic place and an early Irish fort once stood here. Further along the coast near the harbour of Ballintoy the stunning Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge spans a gaping chasm between the coast and a small island used by fishermen. The terrifying eighty foot drop can be crossed via the swinging bridge - not for the faint hearted!

Derry to Dublin for your departure flight

Time to travel south to Dublin. However, if you wish to prolong the return to big city life, a slight detour by way of Ireland's most visited attraction, the megalithic tombs in Newgrange. One of the great wonders of the ancient world, Newgrange is older than Stonehenge, Mycenae or even the Pyramids of Egypt. Also in this historic county of Meath, you will find the seat of the ancient kings of Ireland at the Hill of Tara as well as the splendid Trim Castle, just north of Dublin. The quandary that you will be faced with when you reach Dublin is, not what you should see but that you should leave out. Knee-deep in history and with it’s own unique sense of humour and wit, Dublin is an invigorating city. Take the opportunity to visit some of Ireland’s most history laden locations, including Trinity College and the Book of Kells, Dublin Castle, Kilmainham Gaol, The National History Museum and not forgetting The Guinness Brewery, St. Patrick’s Cathedral & why not finish up the day in Dublin’s Temple Bar section and enjoy the wonderful pubs and music it is famous for.