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8 Night Romantic Ireland Self Drive or Chauffeured Tour of Ireland
Itinerary for your 8 night Romantic Tour of Ireland Self Drive or Chauffeured Tour of Ireland
In order to give you an idea of the detail that we at IrishTourism.com place in our itineraries, below is the first 5 pages of the 56 page detailed itinerary that we have painstakingly put together for this tour. Regardless of the depth of information that is contained within these itineraries, your dedicated agent is always a quick phone call or e-mail away should you require assistance in any way, whether it be before your arrival in Ireland or during your time here.
Overnights: Luxury 4 Star Manor House Option
Overnights: Luxury 5 Star Castles & Manors Option
- Waterford Castle, Waterford for 2 nights
- The Park Hotel, Kenmare, Kerry for 2 nights
- Dromoland Castle, Clare for 2 nights
- Ashford Castle, Mayo for 2 nights
Dublin to Wexford
Waterford via Wicklow with Kilkenny route option – The scenic route described below is considered a full days driving tour while the most direct driving route to Waterford will take you in the region of 2 hours to drive (depending on traffic).
Departing Dublin, it is time to discover the splendour of the South East of Ireland. The South East has something to interest all ages and tastes: historic monuments, colourful gardens; well-maintained and sign-posted walking and cycling paths; abundant fishing locations; numerous golf courses, equestrian centres and exciting festivals. Taking the N11 in the direction of Wexford, join the R117 for 1.5 miles to Enniskerry. At Enniskerry, take a left turn on the R760 to the Powerscourt Gardens (signposted). One of the world’s great gardens, Powerscourt is situated in the foothills of the Wicklow Mountains. It is a sublime blend of formal gardens, sweeping terraces, statuary and ornamental lakes together with secret hollows, rambling walks and over 200 varieties of trees and shrubs. The 18th Century Palladian House now incorporates an innovative shopping experience, terrace cafe and house exhibition. Facilities include specialty shops, interiors gallery, garden pavilion and two 18-hole, championship golf courses.
Powerscourt House & Gardens
Even the avenue leading to the Palladian house echoes the magnificence of the whole estate, being a mile long and lined by over 2,000 beech trees. In addition the 47 acres of gardens are remarkable for their grandeur of scale, at the same time combining great delicacy and refinement of detail.
The house was gutted by fire in 1974 but recently has been reborn as an exceptional tourist destination. The entrance hall now features an exhibition bringing to life the rich history of the estate, while the double height Georgian ballroom has been restored and hosts weddings and corporate events. The house is now home to the best of Irish design in gifts, clothes, and furniture in the Avoca Stores and the Interiors Gallery. You can also treat yourself to a dish from the Avoca Cookbook in the Terrace Cafe.
The gardens at Powerscourt were laid out in two main periods. When the house was rebuilt in the decade after 1731, the surrounding grounds were also remodeled. The design reflected the desire to create a garden which was part of the wider landscape. To the north formal tree plantations framed the vista from the house, while a walled garden, fish pond, cascades, grottos and terraces lay to the south. Walks wound through the wooded grounds and a fine tree lined avenue was created. A century later the 6th Viscount Powerscourt instructed his architect, Daniel Robertson, to draw up new schemes for the gardens.
Robertson was one of the leading proponents of Italianate garden design which was influenced by the terraces and formal features of Italian Renaissance villas and perfected in gardens in France and Germany. Robertson designed the terrace nearest the house. He is said to have suffered from gout and directed operations from a wheelbarrow, fortified by a bottle of sherry. When the sherry was finished, work ceased for the day!
The death of the 6th Viscount in 1844 meant that alterations to the gardens ceased until his son resumed the work in the late 1850s. Using a combination of Robertson's designs and the plans of the other landscape experts, the terraces were completed, enormous numbers and varieties of trees were planted and the ground adorned with an amazing collection of statuary, ironwork and other decorative items. By the time of his death in 1904, the 7th Viscount had transformed the Estate. Further generations of the Wingfields maintained the grounds, adding the Japanese Gardens, Pepper Pot Tower and continuing to plant specimen trees. In 1961 the Estate passed to the Slazenger family, under whose aegis the Gardens received much more care and attention.
Today the public continue to enjoy the gardens which first began to take shape over two and a half centuries ago. The charming walled garden, the striking terraces, fine statuary and varied trees are linked by carefully designed walks and set in the magnificent surroundings of the Wicklow Mountains.
As you leave Powerscourt Gardens, turn left for the 4ml (7km) journey to Powerscourt Waterfall, Ireland's highest waterfall. Turn left as you leave the waterfall towards Glencree. As you come upon open moorland, take the first turn left for the 5ml (8km) uphill drive to the summit of Sally Gap. Sally Gap is one of two east-to-west passes across the Wicklow Mountains and the narrow road running through it passes above the dark waters of Lough Tay and Lough Dan. It also passes over the Luggula Estate, which covers most of the valley as far as Lough Dan and the area forms part of the famed walking trail, known as the Wicklow Way. Take the R115 to Laragh and here you follow the signposts to Glendalough for just a short distance.
Glendalough “the glen of the two lakes” is a truly spellbinding place - an ancient monastic settlement and two clear water lakes beneath the sheer cliffs of a deep valley, which was carved out by glaciers during the Ice Age. The monastic settlement has been a centre for pilgrims and visitors since its foundation by St. Kevin in the 6th century. Kevin is thought to have come from the more fertile lands of County Kildare and like many other men of sanctity in early times, desired solitude for his life of prayer and contemplation. Thus he withdrew into the thinly peopled mountains and set up his hermitage at Glendalough. It is said that Kevin lived as a hermit sleeping in a cave - St. Kevin's Bed - overlooking the Upper Lake. The settlement expanded and flourished for many years before being finally destroyed in the 16th century. The present remains, some of the most important of their kind in Ireland, tell only a small part of the monastic story. The buildings which survive - round tower, cathedral, stone churches and decorated crosses - probably date from between the 8th and 12th centuries. The famous Round Tower, about 100ft (34m) high and 50 ft (16m) in circumference at the base, is still in near perfect condition even though it is almost 1,000 years old.
The excellent Glendalough Visitor Centre provides regular exhibitions, informative guided tours of the monastic site as well as an audio-visual show about the rich heritage of the area. Elsewhere around the upper and lower lakes there are a number of well-known walking routes, which allow visitors to take in as much or as little of the surrounding scenery as they wish. Once the monastic capital of Europe, Glendalough attracts up to 500,000 visitors annually. This early Christian monastic site was founded by St. Kevin in the 6th century. Set in a glaciated valley with two lakes, the monastic remains include a superb round tower, stone churches and decorated crosses. The Visitor Centre has an interesting exhibition and an audio-visual show. French, German, Spanish and Swedish guided tours are available all year by advance booking. Visitor Centre is fully accessible for visitors with disabilities. Access to the graveyard is very difficult for wheelchair users.
After Glendalough return to the village of Laragh where you turn right and south to the village of Rathdrum, whose main street is lined with Stone Cottages. Here, follow the signs for Avondale House. Built in 1779 Avondale House is set in the spectacular surroundings of Avondale Forest Park, now a museum to the memory of one of the greatest political leaders of modern Irish history, Charles Stewart Parnell, who was born in Avondale on 27th June, 1846. Parnell spent much of his time at Avondale until his death on 6 October 1891. The House has been refurbished to the decor of 1850 and a specially commissioned video has been produced to introduce visitors to Parnell and Avondale. Additional features on site include a restaurant, coffee shop, and gift shop. Set in a magnificent forest park of over 500 acres with tree trails and walks ranging in duration from one to five hours. This beautiful Georgian House designed by James Wyatt and built in 1777 contains fine plasterwork and many original pieces of furniture. The American Room is dedicated to Admiral Charles Stewart - Parnell’s American grandfather who manned the USS Constitution during the 1812 war. Visitors are introduced to this wonderful historical house by a specially commissioned audio visual presentation. Other facilities include a restaurant, book shop, picnic areas, children’s play area, two orienteering courses and large car/coach park.
Leave Avondale to the left and soon the main road that will take you through the beautiful Vale of Avoca to the “Meeting of the Waters”. At the Meeting of the Waters, 3km north of Avoca, the Avonmore and Avonbeg rivers come together to form the river Avoca. The adjacent pub and the area around this landmark is renowned for traditional music and ballad sessions. Continue on to Avoca where you will find the Avoca Handweavers factory, famed worldwide for the quality of its woven fabrics. As well as visiting its shop, you will be able to take a tour of the factory in this most picturesque of villages. The village was also the setting for the top television series “Ballykissangel”.
The Vale of Avoca & Avoca Handweavers
Inspired by a visit with friends to the Vale of Avoca, Thomas Moore wrote the song "The Meeting of the Waters" to an old Irish air, The Old Head of Dennis. The Meeting of the Waters is where the Avonmore and Avonbeg rivers come together to form the river Avoca the dark wooded river valley of the Vale of Avoca begins. The Vale begins at a confluence between the Avonmore (Abhainn Mór - Big River) and Avonbeg (Little River), where they form the Avoca. This new river is forded about three miles downstream by a wee village of the same name, where you can visit the famous Avoca mill and see an example of the handweaving craft which has made the place famous. The village makes an ideal place to make your base while you hike through the vale, and this is by the far the best way to get a sense of it. You can stroll along the riverbanks, or take a detour up the valley and see if you can catch a glimpse of some of the small furry creatures (no, not the Wicklow natives…) who get to wake up every morning and live there.
Avoca Handweavers was founded in 1723 in an isolated village called Avoca in County Wicklow, Ireland. The valley of Avoca was rich in minerals such as copper, lead, zinc and gold. The little Mill was at the heart of the community, spinning and weaving blankets from the wool of the local sheep as well as grinding corn for bread. Because the valley was so isolated and travel so difficult, a barter system prevailed. The valley also made its own gold coins, samples of which are in the National Museum in Dublin.
From Arklow, you can join the main road, the N11 to Enniscorty in the neighbouring county of Wexford. Enniscorthy is an old Norman settlement and is situated on the banks of the River Slaney overlooked by the old 1798 battle site of Vinegar Hill. Dominating the town is the Norman Castle which was completed in 1205 and now houses the County Wexford Folk Museum. The museum gives special emphasis to the part played by the local community in the battles fought against English Rule.
Just thought I would drop you a line or two following our trip to Ireland and our CIE tour (Taste of Ireland Sept. 8 to 13th 2008)
We had the most wonderful driver, Harry Crofton on our trip. He was not only personable, charming (and very handsome,) but his knowledge of the history of Ireland and his general sense of pride in the country and its achievements was most impressive. Everyone on that bus was ‘educated’ in such a wonderfully positive way, it helped us all forget the terrible weather outside! Nothing Harry could have done about that.
I thought the tour was very worthwhile, marvelous accommodations, terrific food and amiable hosts. An unexpected visit to Jameson’s where my husband was chosen as a taster was a nice surprise.
I would certainly recommend this Taste of Ireland to anyone with limited time to spend. I was very impressed with the new and improved Ireland, lovely roads, food and accommodations. Unbelievably expensive though, but for our part, well worth it.
I did phone Paul O’Neil in CIE Dublin to tell him how much we had enjoyed Harry Crofton, but thought it would do no harm to mention it to you as well. If there are commendations out there, Harry should get one.
Thanks Liz for all your help in setting up this trip. Now if I could just get rid of the jet lag I would be fine!
Take care and may you enjoy the golden colours of Autumn in Ireland
Pat & Chuck Benedict, Calgary, Alberta