The Gathering Ireland Tour

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 Waterford

Travelling the coastal route from Dublin to Waterford you will first arrive at Powerscourt House & Gardens. Surrounding this 18th Century Palladian House in the foothills of the Wicklow Mountains, you will find 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. Shortly after this, you will arrive at the ancient monastic settlement at Glendalough. The monastic settlement has been a centre for pilgrims and visitors since its foundation by St. Kevin in the 6th century. Continue on to Avoca where you will find the Avoca Handweavers factory, the oldest working woolen mill in Ireland who is famed worldwide for the quality of its woven fabrics. Travel onto visit the Dunbrody Famine Ship and Emigrant experience in New Ross, Wexford. This is an essential stop on your tour where you will step back in time to circa 1849 when Ireland was in crisis. With the potato crops failing and food prices at an all-time high more than one million people were forced to leave their homes for an uncertain future abroad. Many of those went on to become great success stories in America. Around this time John Fitzgerald Kennedy’s great-grand father Thomas Fitzgerald left Ireland to escape the famine and as they say the rest is history. 2013 marks the 50 year anniversary of JFK travelling to Ireland to visit his families homestead in Dunganstown, County Wexford. There is a life-sized statue of JFK that stands on Charles street dock in New Ross today so make sure to bring your camera - it’s one for the album!

From there travel your final leg to Waterford Crystal Interpretive centre where you can get an up close and  personal insight into the centuries old tradition of Waterford Crystal making. This is one of Irelands most famous and recognized exports.

Day 2 - Waterford to Cork

The following route includes visits to Midleton, Youghal, Cobh & Blarney. Youghal is famous for its point lace (point d'Irlande) which is distinguished by its vivid patterns as well as the fact that the film ‘Moby Dick’ starring Gregory Peck was filmed here in 1956. After Youghal, you will travel to the village 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 Over 2.5 million people departed from Cobh during this time making it the single most important port of emigration.  A stop to climb to the Blarney Castle ramparts to ‘Kiss the Blarney Stone’, said to bestow the gift of eloquence, and is a must for those who dare. The alternative route to Kinsale takes you via the Rock of Cashel and Cahir Castle 2 of Ireland’s most historic attractions. 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. 10 miles further on and you arrive at the Rock of Cashel. 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. On to Kinsale , which is a delightful harbour town that has retained its old world charm and character despite being well developed from a tourism point of view with its beautiful waterside location, local facilities including a yacht marina and historic buildings such as Desmond Castle and Market House as well as Charles Fort overlooking the sea and town. Kinsale styles itself as the gourmet capital of Ireland, boasting numerous excellent restaurants and atmospheric traditional pubs. 

Day 3 - Cork to Killarney

Today you have the option of the scenic but longer coastal route or the shorter route via Blarney Castle. 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 cameras 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 today’s journey is a shorter one. First stop is the famed Blarney Castle (if you didn’t visit there on your way from Waterford) where a climb to the ramparts to kiss the Blarney Stone is said to bestowe the gift of eloquence, otherwise known as ‘the Gift of the Gab’. From there it is 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. 

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 Galway via Limerick

One of your longest but most dramatic days of your tour brings you from Killarney along the west coast to Galway City, Ireland’s festival capital. 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 along the N20 towards Limerick City home to King Johns Castle. Limerick is also known as the home of “Angela Ashes” a memoir written by the renowned author Frank McCourt who was born in New York to Irish parents who moved the family back to his mother’s native Limerick in the midst of the great depression. Angela’s Ashes was a memoir of the time McCourt spent in Limerick. He returned to New York when he was 19 years old and went onto win a Pulitzer prize and the National Book Critics Circle award for his writing.

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.  Travel on to the magnificent ‘Cliffs of Moher’ , These majestic Cliffs 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. Then it’s on to Galway via the lunar like Burren Region and the ancient Poulnabrone Dolmen Tombs. Galway City is Ireland’s Cultural Capital and the pubs in Galway’s city centre are noted for their excellent traditional music.

Day 6 – Day trip from Galway City

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. This evening, its back to the Quays area of the city for some of the best traditional entertainment in the country.

Day 7 - Galway to Dublin

Today’s journey to Dublin takes in some of Ireland’s most historical landmarks. 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 either to Dublin or take a slight detour 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. From here, we travel south to Dublin City. Dublin city centre is a compact area, with all points of interest being easily accessible on foot. As a result you will find a large number of walking tours available, the most popular of which include the “Historical Walking Tour” and the “Literary Pub Crawl”. You may of course wish to visit many of the sights in your own time either on foot or with the Hop-On-Hop-Off bus service that stops at all of the major attractions including Dublin Castle, Trinity Castle & the Book of Kells, Kilmainham Gaol, the National Museum of Ireland and The Guinness Storehouse to name just a few. Also whilst in Dublin visit the Jeanie Johnston Tall ship & Famine Museum situated at Custom House Quay in the city centre. The Jeanie Johnston Tall ship is an accurate replica of the original ship which sailed between Tralee, Co. Kerry and North America between 1847 and 1855. A tour of the ship enables visitors to understand what a daunting experience it was for the millions who left for North America during the famine, many never to return to the homeland. 

Day 8 – 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. 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 pedestrianized and are ideally suited to a leisurely stroll through the quarter. There is also the opportunity to experience an evening’s entertainment at ‘The Abbey Tavern’ or the more intimate ‘Irish House Party’ where good food combined with exception traditional music and dance, are the order of the day.