10 Night Irish Castles and Manors Gold Tour

Day 1 – Dublin Airport to Kilkenny

Upon your arrival into Dublin Airport it’s time to collect your Hertz Car Rental and start your Castle’s and Manor Tour of Ireland. Taking into account your long overnight flight, your first day’s drive is a reasonably short one, bringing you southeast of Dublin City to Kilkenny. Kilkenny, also known as the ‘Marble City’, as well as being the most successful county in Ireland’s national sport of ‘Hurling’, is home to such historic sites as St. Canice’s Cathedral and Kilkenny Castle. As part of your tour, tickets for the ‘Smithwick’s Experience’ are also included. This famous Irish Ale was first secretly produced in Kilkenny by monks in 1231 and this atmospheric tour culminates with a pint of this now world renowned Ale. For those with a love of horses, a stop on route at the National Stud in Kildare is a must, where a Horse Museum tracing the history of the horse in Ireland using artefacts, illustrations and text is located. In fact the famous Californian ‘Breeders Cup Mile’ race has been won by a number of National Stud horses, in the last 9 years.

Day 2 – While in Kilkenny

There are a number of exceptional day trips to be experienced from Kilkenny and all within easy reach. 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 – Kilkenny to Cork

Your first stop today is the Rock of Cashel in County Tipperary. Cashel was once the seat of the Kings of Munster and capital of this southern province. The Rock, which rears above the plain, dominated the land routes southwards. Kings of Ireland as well as Munster came to this spot and St. Patrick is known to have preached on the rock and converted the local King, Aenghus, here in the 5th Century. From Cashel, the small town of Cahir is just a 15 minute drive along the Cork road (the N8). Cahir Castle, once an important stronghold of the powerful Butler family, the Castle retains its impressive keep, tower and much of its original defensive structure. From Cahir, take the road towards Cork. On the eastern side of the city of Cork you will have the opportunity to take a small side trip to visit The Queenstown Story in the small town of Cobh. 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 sympathetically recounts these events and tells the story of emigration from Ireland to the United States and Australia from the time of the famine in 1847 up to the 1950s. 

Day 4 – While in Cork

Today, you have the option of continuing your sightseeing in and around Cork City. Just northwest of Cork City lies the renowned Blarney Castle.  A stop to climb to the castle ramparts to ‘Kiss the Blarney Stone’, said to bestow the gift of eloquence is a must for those who dare. You could also travel about 25 minutes south of the city to the port town of Kinsale. As well as being a charming coastal fishing harbour, Kinsale's International Museum of Wine tells the romantic story of the Irish emigrants who colonised the wine trade throughout the world after being forced to leave their own shores. Also in Kinsale is the 17th century Desmond Castle was turned into a prison. The Charles Fort is a stunning sight and is also very close by. Cork city is also home to Elizabeth Fort and of course the ‘English Market’.

Day 5 – Cork to Ballyseede, County Kerry

Today you have the option of the scenic but longer coastal route or the shorter route via Killarney. The longer route 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. The alternative route for todays journey is a shorter one straight 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 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. From here, travel north to Ballyseede Castle just outside the town of Tralee where you will be spending the next 2 nights. Just a short distance from our offices, make sure to say hi to their 2 friendly resident canines, Einstein and Mr. Higgins.

Day 6 – Ring of Kerry/Dingle Peninsula

Today you may choose to simply relax in Ballyseede Castle and the nearby town of Tralee or take on a days touring of either the Ring of Kerry or Dingle Peninsula to the west. While the Dingle Peninsula is the shorter drive and is graced with more interesting antiquities, historic sites and varied mountain scenery than any other part of Ireland, the Ring of Kerry includes the stunning views over the lakes of Killarney from Moll’s Gap as well as numerous colourful villages on this route. Not for the faint-hearted, you will remember this mountain pass drive forever. The Dingle route includes visits to the lovely fishing town of Dingle and beyond to Dunbeag Promontory Fort, an archaeological site on the from 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 Tralee to relax in the luxurious surrounds of Ballyseede Castle.

Day 7 – To Adare, Bunratty and the Cliffs of Moher

One of the most dramatic days of your tour brings you to the west coast of County Clare. First stop will be the Village of Adare 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 towards Limerick City of ‘Angela’s Ashes’ fame and home to King Johns Castle. Shortly after this, you arrive at Bunratty Castle. Built in 1425, this majestic castle was restored in 1954 to its former medieval splendour. Within the grounds of the Castle is Bunratty Folk Park where 19th century Irish life is vividly recreated. Continue on to the magnificent ‘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 that are close to your hotel.

Day 8 – Ferry trip to Aran Islands

Drive the short distance to Doolin pier and take the ferry to the Inishmore, the largest of 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 Aonghus. The fort is located on top of a 300ft high sea cliff and is one of the finest prehistoric monuments in Western Europe. This evening you will attend the medieval banquet at nearby Dunguaire Castle which was built in 1520 by the O'Hynes clan on the picturesque shores of Galway Bay.

Day 9 – To Dublin via Historic Meath

Today’s journey brings you east to our capital city of Dublin. A slight detour will also allow you a visit to the megalithic tombs of Newgrange. One of the great wonders of the ancient world, Newgrange is older than Stonehenge, Mycenae or even the Pyramids of Egypt and is foremost among the passage-tombs of Europe. Also in this area are the Hill of Tara (seat of Ireland’s ancient High Kings) and Trim castle, featured in the Mel Gibson movie ‘Braveheart’. Depending on whether you took any detours earlier, you may have time to shop or sightsee in Dublin City Centre. Close to your hotel are many of the city’s most historic attractions including The Guinness Storehouse, Trinity College, Dublin Castle and the National History Museum.

Day 10 – In Dublin

Using the Hop-on Hop-off Bus ticket we provide, you will be able to visit many of Dublin’s most renowned and historical locations. Amongst other sites, you may see the Guinness Storehouse, the National Museum of Art and the historic Kilmainham Gaol where all of the leaders of the 1916 Easter Rising were executed. For a more light hearted experience, maybe a visit to the Irish Leprechaun Museum would be worth taking in. In the evening, there are many great Irish plays on in Dublin if that is to your taste. Of course, the authentic Dublin pub is an experience in itself and Dublin pub or literary tours are also freely available.

Day 11 – Homeward Bound

Regrettably, this morning it is time to leave for the airport unless of course you are one of the lucky ones who has planned post night stays in Dublin or Belfast City.