8 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 artifacts, 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 – Kilkenny to Cork

What a day in store! 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. 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. Just 10 miles further on stop is Cahir Castle, once an important stronghold of the powerful Butler family, which retains its impressive keep, tower and much of its original defensive structure. It is one of Ireland’s largest and best-preserved castles. Just east of Cork City is the harbour 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. From here travel to Hayfield Manor, one of Ireland’s best hotels.

Day 3 – Cork to Ballyseede, County Kerry

This morning, you will be travelling to the Kingdom of Kerry in Irelands spectacular South West. First stop is Blarney Castle,  where the ‘Gift of Eloquence’ will be bestowed upon you when you climb the Castle ramparts and ‘kiss the Blarney Stone’. Make sure to walk the beautiful castle gardens. 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. From here, travel north to Ballyseede Castle just outside the town of Tralee where you will be spending the next 2 nights. While at the Castle which is just a short distance from our offices, make sure to say hi to their 2 friendly resident canines, Einstein and Mr. Higgins.

Day 4 – 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 colorful 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 5 – 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 6 – 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.

For whatever reason, should you prefer not to take the ferry to the islands, then Galway city is just an hour’s drive to the north. Travel to the university city of Galway via the lunar like Burren Region and the ancient Poulnabrone Dolmen Tombs. Galway, the ‘City of the Tribes’ is 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. 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. 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 7 – To Historic Meath and Bellingham or Cabra Castle.

Todays journey brings you to your Castle north of Dublin and includes a number of Ireland’s most historic and visited locations. First of these is the ancient monastic settlement at Clonmacnoise. This is an early Christian site founded by Saint Ciaran in the 6th century on the banks of the River Shannon and includes the ruins of a cathedral, eight, two round towers, three high crosses and a large collection of early Christian grave slabs. From here, we travel 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’.

Day 8 – Dublin/Belfast or North Antrim Coast

So many options today! Either relax in your luxurious Castle surroundings or travel to any one of a number of intriguing destinations. Spend the day in Dublin City seeing the best the capital has to offer including the Guinness Storehouse, Trinity College and the Book of Kells and if possible historic Kilmainham Gaol. 

Alternatively travel the short journey north from the Castle to Belfast City in Northern Ireland. The world's largest dry dock is here, testament to the building of the Titanic here. Take one of the cities famed Black Cab Tours and let your experienced, impartial and friendly driver acquaint you with the social and political history & culture of Belfast. Well worth a visit is the new Titanic Exhibition and the Cathedral Quarter. 

If you prefer to leave out the cities on your last full day, bypass Belfast and head north to the beautiful Glens of Antrim dotted with quaint villages. From here, make sure to walk the stunning Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge which spans a gaping chasm between the coast and a small island used by fishermen. From here travel to the Giant’s Causeway. The Causeway was formed 70,000,000 years ago by massive volcanic activity is contradicted only by local legend. After the Causeway, travel to the nearby Dunluce Castle. This spectacular 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.

Day 9 – 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 City.