Battle of Clontarf Commemorative Millennium Tour of Ireland 14 Night

While the following itinerary is based on the Self Drive option, a consideration well worth some thought would be to avail of one of our fully qualified and private driver guides complete with luxury transport for the duration of the tour.

Day 1 – Dublin to Cashel

Upon arriving in Dublin Airport and having collected your rental car it is time to take the short journey to Cashel in County Tipperary. Your first stop is The National Stud and Japanese Gardens in Kildare Town. The National Stud comprises three separate attractions. The 1,000 acre Farm at Tully has been in use as a Stud Farm since 1900 when it was owned by Col. William Hall-Walker. It is home to some of Ireland's finest thoroughbreds. There's a Horse Museum tracing the history of the horse in Ireland using artifacts as well as the Japanese Gardens which are situated in the grounds of the Stud Farm and were created between 1906 and 1910. Onwards to Cashel in County Tipperary and the Rock of Cashel. Set on a rocky plateau that rises 300 feet, it is visible for many miles and it is immediately apparent why the location was ideal for a fort or strong hold. For centuries the Rock of Cashel was the seat of the Kings of Munster, the most famous being Brian Ború who was to become High King of Ireland. In the 5th Century, King Aengus was baptised by Saint Patrick on the rock. Understandably the Rock of Cashel is today one of the most spectacular and iconic tourist attractions in Ireland. Located at the foot of the historic rock, you may wish to attend the Brú Ború show of traditional music, song and dance that runs throughout much of the year.

Day 2 – While in Cashel

There are a number of exceptional day trips to be experienced from Cashel and all within easy reach. One of these includes a trip to the small City of Kilkenny.  Long renowned as Ireland’s Medieval Capital, the city’s origins date back more than 1,500 years. Characterized by beautifully restored old buildings, Kilkenny City is small and compact enough to explore on foot, yet full of fascinating, historical buildings. Kilkenny Castle is a 12th century castle remodelled in Victorian times and set in extensive parklands. Also in Kilkenny is Saint Canice's Cathedral, the second longest of Ireland's medieval cathedrals. Built on the site of an earlier church, the major portion of the work that produced the beautiful Gothic structure was carried out in the middle of the 13th Century.  You can then travel on to Waterford where you will see the Waterford Crystal factory. An alternate route would be to visit the county of Wexford to the south east. This would allow visits to the Irish National Heritage Park, the 13th Century Tintern Abbey, Hook Lighthouse, Dunbrody Abbey, the Kennedy Homestead, ancestral home of JFK and finally the Dunbrody Famine Ship. An interactive exhibition re-enacts life on the Dunbrody as she carried her passengers from New Ross to the US and Canada 150 years ago. Visitors will experience life on board an emigrant ship as they explore the authentically recreated decks of the ship. The original Dunbrody was a three-masted barque built in Quebec, Canada, for the Graves family of New Ross, Co. Wexford in 1845.

Day 3 – Cashel to Killarney

This morning, you will be travelling from Cashel to the Kingdom of Kerry in Irelands spectacular South West. First stop is Cahir Castle, one of the largest castles in Ireland. It is sited on an island on the River Suir and was built in 1142 by Conor O’Brien, Prince of Thomond. Once an important stronghold of the powerful Butler family, it was surrendered in 1647 to Murrogh O’Brien the 6th Baron Inchiquin (a descendant of Conor O’Brien). Today it retains its impressive keep, tower and much of its original defensive structure. It is one of Ireland’s largest and best-preserved castles. For those who wish to take a slightly longer route to Killarney, Blarney Castle awaits. Onwards to Killarney. With its three famous lakes and majestic mountain ranges, Killarney has been the inspiration of poets and painters over many centuries. The Killarney National Park is internationally renowned both for its scenic beauty and scientific interest. There are many walks and trails around Killarney including a 2-hour tourist trail around the town itself. You will also have a chance to visit Ross Castle, the Gap of Dunloe with the Black Valley or simply take a stroll through the streets of this quaint town to enjoy the great pubs and enjoy the traditional Irish music on offer. 

Day 4 – The Ring of Kerry

You have a number of touring options today. Chief amongst these is the Ring of Kerry driving tour. 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.

Day 5 – Killarney to Killaloe

Today’s journey takes you to Killaloe in County Clare via Adare village in County Limerick. Adare is regarded by many a seasoned traveller as Ireland’s prettiest village with its charming thatched cottages, manicured public park and ancient church. From Adare continue along the N20 towards Limerick City of ‘Angela’s Ashes’ fame and home to King Johns Castle. King Johns Castle is situated in the heart of the medieval district known as “King’s Island” and sits proudly on the River Shannon . It was originally built by the Vikings, the remains of which were founded during the construction of visitors centre at the site. In 943 the chief of the local Dalcassian clan joined forces with the Ceallachán, King of Munster and the Vikings were overpowered and reduced to the level of a minor clan. The arrival of the Anglo- Normans in 1172 changed everything. Domhnall Mór Ó Briain burned Limerick city to the ground in a bid to keep it from the hands of the new invaders. After he died in 1194 the Anglo- Normans finally captured the area in 1195 under John, Lord of Ireland. A castle was then ordered to be built and named in his honour. Take a short walk to St. Mary’s Cathedral which founded by King Donal Mor O’Brien, the last King of Munster for the Cistercians circa 1180.  

On to beautiful village of Killaloe, birthplace of Brian Boru (Bryan Boru), where you will trace the footsteps of Brian Ború growing up and becoming King of Munster through Battle re-enactments by local groups as well as local theatres. Visit The Brian Ború Heritage Centre in Killaloe where there is an imaginative exhibition that charts the history of Killaloe, Brian Ború and the towns Celtic and nautical significance.

Day 6 – While in Killaloe

There are many local Brian Boru related sites to view today as well as other historical points of Interest in the nearby village of Bunratty and the Viking established City of Limerick. Travel back to Limerick City for a visit to King John’s Castle which has a strong association with the story of Brian Boru and Viking Ireland and close by take the short walk to St. Mary’s Cathedral which founded by King Donal Mor O’Brien, the last King of Munster for the Cistercians circa 1180.

From Limerick travel the short distance to visit the imposing Bunratty Castle in County Clare. Bunratty Castle is where the O’Brien’s ruled as Earls of Thomond from the early 16th century. They ruled the territory of North Munster and lived in great splendour .The castle was surrounded by beautiful gardens and it was reputed to have a herd of 3000 deer. Under Henry VIII's 'surrender and re-grant' scheme, the O'Brien's were granted the title 'Earls of Thomond' and they agreed to profess loyalty to the King of England. The reign of the O’Brien’s came to an end with the arrival of the Cromwellian troops and the castle and its grounds were surrendered. The O’Brien’s never returned to Bunratty but later they built a beautiful residence at Dromoland Castle. Today Bunratty Castle and Folk Park is a must see for visitors. Within the grounds of the castle, the Folk Park vividly depicts 19th century life. It has a restored village street complete with pub, post office school and doctors house. Adjacent to the castle is Durty Nellys, one of Ireland’s most famous pubs, perfect for a thirst quenching pint of the black stuff!

Day 7 – Killaloe to Galway

While there is the direct route to Galway that will take just over 1 hour 30 minutes to drive, there is also a wonderful scenic route via the Cliffs of Moher and the Burren region of County Clare.  The Cliffs lay claim to one of the most astonishing views in Ireland, on a clear day the Aran Islands are visible in Galway Bay as well as the valleys and hills of the Connemara region. The Cliffs of Moher rise from Hag's Head to the south and reach their highest point (214 meters) just north of O’Brien’s Tower. The tower was built on the cliffs in 1835 by local landlord Sir Cornellius O'Brien a descendant of Brian Boru, Kings of Thomond. He built it as an observation tower for the hundreds of Victorian tourists that frequented the cliffs at the time. On a clear day the view can extend as far as Loop Head at the southern tip of Clare and beyond to the mountains of Kerry. Looking north from O'Brien's Tower on clear days, the Twelve Bens in Connemara (also known as the Twelve Pins) beyond Galway Bay can be seen, and typically the Aran Islands to the west. Folklore holds that Sir Cornellius O'Brien was a man ahead of his time, believing that the development of tourism would benefit the local economy and bring people out of poverty. O'Brien also built a wall of Moher flagstones along the Cliffs and it is said in the locality that he built everything in the area except the cliffs. He died in 1857 and his remains lie in the O'Brien vault in the graveyard adjoining St Brigid’s Well.  There are over seventy megalithic tombs in The Burren region of County Clare, the most well known and most easily accessible being the Poulnabrone Dolmen Tomb. Radiocarbon dating suggests that the burials in this tomb took place 3800 and 3200 BC. The Burren lunar like landscape is an area of limestone rock covering imposing majestic mountains, and tranquil valleys with gently meandering streams. Next stop is Ireland’s Cultural Capital, Galway City. The pubs in Galway’s city centre especially in the Quays area are noted for their excellent traditional music and some of the best entertainment in the country. 

Day 8 – While in Galway

The hauntingly beautiful Connemara Region awaits you. Just west of Galway, 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 is located on top of a 300ft high sea cliff and is one of the finest prehistoric monuments in Western Europe.

Day 9 – Galway 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. 

Day 10 – Donegal to Belfast

Travel east to Belfast today. There is the option of travelling north via the Giant’s Causeway and the Bushmills Distillery on the northern coastline, but you will have little time in Belfast as a result if you decide to include this route. Unless you approach Belfast from the sea you cannot help but come upon the city suddenly because of its fine setting: a 'Hibernian Rio' as one writer has called it. A village in the 17th century, this robust northern metropolis now has a population of nearly half a million people. The world's largest dry dock is here and the shipyard's giant cranes tower over the port. More than 30 years of conflict to become one of the safest and friendliest cities in Europe. Take one of the cities famed Black Cab Tours and let your experienced, impartial and friendly driver acquaint you with the history & culture of Belfast. Tours include The Titanic and Cathedral Quarter and other areas of the city including visiting some of the famous murals that represent both sides of the political divide.

Day 11 – Belfast to Armagh

Southwest to Armagh and visit the St. Patrick's Cathedral, the final resting place of Brian Ború. After he was killed at the Battle of Clontarf on the 23rd April 1014 his body was carried to Swords in Dublin and then escorted by clergy to Armagh .He was buried in a stone or marble coffin in what is now St .Patrick's Cathedral. Another attraction for you to visit during your stay in Armagh is the The Navan Centre. This centre interprets one of Ireland’s most important ancient monuments, Navan Fort. The  ancient capital and seat of the Kings of Ulster. From  the ‘Real World’ of archaeology travel to the ‘Other World’ to hear legends of the Ulster Cycle. Visit the unique Iron Age/Early Christian period dwelling and, through Living History interpretation, learn about a past life. Finally, walk the path of history to the Navan Fort, the Ancient Seat of the Kings.

Day 12 – While in Armagh

Other attractions worth visiting in Armagh include the Armagh Public Library established in 1771 and Armagh County Museum. The Bishop's Palace is also worth a visit. Soak inthe atmosphere of the locality and enjoy the excellent range of local pubs with their renowned friendliness, music and atmosphere. Another option is to travel east to Downpatrick to the Saint Patrick's Centre although this is also an option the prtevious day as you travel south from Belfast.

Day 13 – Armagh to Clontarf and Dublin

Time to travel south to Dublin. If you wish to prolong the return to big city life and you did not take the opportunity earlier on your tour, take 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. 2014 marks the 1000th anniversary of the Battle of Clontarf which claimed the lives of over 10,000 people including the 175th High King of Ireland, Brian Ború. The battle took place on 23 April 1014 between the forces of Brian Boru and the forces led by the King of Leinster, Máel Mórda mac Murchada: composed mainly of his own men, Viking mercenaries from Dublin and the Orkney Islands led by his cousin Sigtrygg, as well as the one rebellious king from the province of Ulster. It ended in a rout of the Máel Mórda's forces, along with the death of Brian. Take time out to visit the area where this historic battle took place. 200 years ago Clontarf was a rather isolated coastal village and access to it from the city, other than the sea, would have been along what is now Summerhill and the Malahide Road .The battle was fought along the banks of The River Tolka from Glasnevin to Ballbough.  We can only imagine what a sight it must have been to see 2,000 Vikings land their longboats close to the seafront in Clontarf.

In Dublin, as well as the Dublinia exhibition which here you can learn about Viking homes, pastimes, skills and weaponry, and even get to try on their clothes! You will have 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 and St. Patrick’s Cathedral. 

Day 14 – While in Dublin

Continue your sightseeing in Dublin today visiting the many historical and modern attractions that this cosmopolitan city has to offer. Other attractions include Christchurch Cathedral which was founded in the year 1030 by Sitric, King of the Dublin Norsemen, the James Joyce Centre & the Dublin Writers Museum. Of course, you may wish to take time out to shop in Grafton Street or any one of a number of narrow and quaint streets that the café strewn city centre has to offer. The Dublin Hop On Hop Off Bus is an excellent way of visiting many of Dublin’s most historic locations including the Guinness Storehouse, Kilmainham Gaol and Trinity College and the Book of Kells. This evening, why not spend some time in the Temple Bar area. This small area boasts a dazzling choice of restaurants, cafes, bars and shops to suit all tastes and pockets, all within easy walking distance of Temple Bar's many cultural centres and galleries. Its narrow cobbled streets are pedestrianised and are ideally suited to a leisurely stroll through the quarter. There is also the opportunity to experience an evening’s entertainment at any one of a number of excellent traditional Irish shows.