Battle of Clontarf Commemorative Millennium Tour of Ireland 8 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 – 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 3 – 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 4 – 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 5 – In Killaloe

From Killaloe, travel to the spectacular Cliffs of Moher on the west coast of Clare and the Burren region close by.  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. 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. 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. As you return to Killaloe, you come to Bunratty castle. 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, now a five star castle hotel. 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 6 – Killaloe to Armagh

Travel east to Dublin and then on to Armagh City in Northern Ireland and the site where High king Brian Boru (Bryan Boru) was laid to rest. Skirting the city of Dublin, you travel north to the historic County Meath. Among the attractions of this county are the megalithic tombs at Newgrange, the Hill of Tara and Trim Castle. One of the great wonders of the ancient world, Newgrange is older than Stonehenge, Mycenae or even the Pyramids of Egypt. Foremost among the passage-tombs of Europe, Newgrange has long evoked the wonder of archaeologists and laymen alike. The magnificent entrance slab - 'one of the most famous stones in the entire repertory of megalithic art' - is especially satisfying, the confidently executed spiral and lozenge motifs still crisply defined after 5,000 years. Not far from here is Trim Castle. The castle, on the shores of the Boyne, has an area of 30,000 m². It is the remains of the largest Norman castle in Europe, and Ireland's largest castle. Just north of here lies The Hill of Tara. Located near the River Boyne, this ancient contains a number of ancient monuments, and, according to tradition, was the seat of the High Kings of Ireland. 

North to Armagh and visit 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 7 – While in Armagh

Other attractions worth visiting in Armagh include the Armagh Public Library established in 1771 and Armagh County Museum. Another option for today is to travel east to Belfast or even north to the Giant’s Causeway and the Bushmills Distillery on the north coast of Antrim. 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 8 - Armagh to 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.