This is a suggested itinerary for the Ultimate Ireland Tour . This has been developed from feedback from Guests like you over a number of years. We can tailor the itinerary for you and we are confident that you will thoroughly enjoy this vacation in Ireland:
Day 1: Wicklow
Upon collection of your rental car, you will be traveling south through County Wicklow, also known as the ‘Garden of Ireland’. First stop will be Powerscourt House & Gardens. Shortly after this, you will arrive at the ancient monastic settlement at Glendalough. 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. 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”.
Day 2: Waterford
Travel down to Waterford today. En-route you will have a number of sightseeing opportunites. First of these would be the Dunbrody Famine Ship just outside New Ross. The Visitor Experience provides a unique, authentic re-creation from a period in history which shaped modern day America and Ireland. Continue to Wexford where you can visit the Irish National Heritage Park. The Park, which is one of the country’s top attractions, features replications of Irish homesteads, burial and worship sites, and takes the visitor on tour through 9,000 years of Irish history. Further down towards Waterford visit The Kennedy Homestead. The Kennedy Homestead, birthplace of President John F. Kennedy’s great-grandfather Patrick Kennedy, celebrates the story of five generations of the Kennedy dynasty and is still farmed today by his descendants. From here you will travel to Waterford where you can visit the Waterford Crystal Factory.
Day 3: Cork & Kerry
Travel from Waterford to Kerry, for a 2 nights stay, on this day. On route you will have to opportunity to see some of Ireland’s best known sites including Cobh & Blarney or take a route around the Beara Peninsula. Cobh, situated on one of the world’s largest natural harbours, was the last port of call for the ill-fated Titanic in 1912. The heritage centre 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. 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 Kerry takes you via the West Cork coastline. The route includes visits to Mizen Head, the southernmost point in Ireland, as well as Bantry House and Gardens. From Bantry, you will be heading north to Killarney via the Healy Pass. Have your cameras at the ready for some of Ireland’s most breath-taking 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. Travel on 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. Other major visitor attractions in Killarney include Muckross House & Gardens & their Traditional Farms, the Torc Waterfall & Ross Castle overlooking the Lakes of Killarney and of course the Gap of Dunloe.
Day 4: Ring of Kerry or Dingle Peninsula
Take this day to travel the Ring of Kerry. At 112 miles long the journey will take you through some of the country’s most outstanding coastal and mountain scenery. This day trip will take you from Killarney to towns such as Killorglin, home of the “Puck Fair”, Glenbeigh, Cahirciveen, Valentia Island, Waterville and Kenmare. On route there are many side trips and sites to see, Cahirciveen Heritage Centre, Bog Village, Staigue Fort and Killarney’s 3 lakes as well as many more. We do recommend giving a full day to this tour especially in the peak season as it can be busy on the route.
You could travel the Dingle Peninsula. The Dingle Peninsula has more interesting antiquities, historic sites and varied mountain scenery than any other part of Ireland. Parts of the area are Gaeltacht (Irish Speaking districts). The Dingle Peninsula is quieter than the Ring of Kerry but offers equally outstanding scenery. There are many locations to stop and take in on the tour including Slieve Mish Mountains, Inch Beach, the village of Annascaul, Minard Castle, Dingle Town, Dunbeg Fort, The Blasket Islands, and Slea Head as well as many more sites.
Day 5: Clare
One of your longest but most dramatic days of your tour brings you from Killarney 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. Within the grounds of the Castle is Bunratty Folk Park where 19th century Irish life is vividly recreated. Continuing on to the village of Doolin from where you can visit the 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. 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.
Day 6 & 7: Galway, Mayo and the Aran Islands
Travel from Doolin around Galway Bay and arrive in Galway city. Galway city is a beautiful small city with great atmosphere and entertainment. If there was an official Cultural or even festival Capital of the country, then it would have to be Galway City. That’s because visitors to the Capital of The West become enchanted by its magnetic combination of youthful energy and enduring charm; they often linger longer than intended. Galway City's main attractions include Galway Cathedral and Eyre Square. A trip to Connemara is highly recommended. The Connemara National Park covers some 2,000 hectares (4,942 acres), consisting of entirely natural and unspoilt terrain. It is an environment which offers the visitor endless sights, experiences, adventure and activity. Lough Corrib and Kylemore Abbey and Gardens in the Connemara area are also worth a visit. You can also take a trip to Westport in Co Mayo or even a day trip to the Aran Islands if the weather and time permit.
Day 8 & 9: Donegal
The most direct route to Donegal will have a driving time of less than 4 hours. On route to Donegal you will travel by Ireland’s most visited pilgrimage location, the Shrine at Knock. Southwest of Sligo Town you will find the Ancient Tombs of Carrowmore. Over 60 tombs have been located by archaeologists to date. Dating back to nearly 5,000 B.C. and centuries older than the Pyramids of Egypt, Carrowmore is Ireland’s largest megalithic cemetery and is considered to be one of the most important in Europe. Shortly after leaving Sligo on route to County Donegal you will arrive at Drumcliff Churchyard, perhaps the most visited graveyard in Ireland. William Butler Yeats is buried here under the epitaph that he penned, “Cast a Cold Eye on Life, on Death. Horsemen, pass by!”. Continue north until you reach Belleek home to Belleek Pottery, where there is an excellent visitor centre that is open from April to October. Other major touring attractions in Donegal include the Railway Heritage Centre, Donegal castle and Donegal Craft Village in Donegal town. Heading west from Donegal Town, on the edge of the Atlantic is Ireland’s premier fishing port of Killybegs. Nearby are the magnificent Slieve League Cliffs which at over 1,000 ft (300 metres) the cliffs are the highest marine cliffs in Europe. Next stop along this route is the Gaelic speaking village of Glencolumbcille where you can take the opportunity to relive local rural life as experienced in 18th, 19th and 20th century Ireland.
Day 10: Derry
Travel to Derry and stop and take a guided tour of the city. The fortified walls of the city are among the best preserved city fortifications in the Western World. They rise to a height of 26ft (8m) and in places are 30ft (9m) wide. Completed in 1618 to defend the Plantation City, the walls have never been breached in three major sieges - even during the 105 day siege of 1689 when 7,000 of the 30,000 population died of starvation.
Beyond Derry, the major attractions in Antrim include The Giants Causeway, Bushmill’s Distillery, Dunluce Castle and the Carrick-a-rede rope bridge. The fact that the Causeway was formed 70,000,000 years ago by massive volcanic activity is contradicted only by local legend that claims the causeway was created by a fabled giant. The Old Bushmills Distillery is the world's oldest licensed Whiskey Distillery. Dunluce 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. Further along the coast near the harbour of Ballintoy the stunning Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge spans a gaping chasm between the coast and a small island used by fishermen. The terrifying eighty foot drop can be crossed via the swinging bridge - not for the faint hearted!
Day 11 & 12: Antrim & Belfast
From North Antrim you will be heading down towards the picturesque coastal villages of Cushendun, Cushendall and Glenarm in the stunning Glens of Antrim. Many monuments can be found in this area from the Stone Age and early Christian period. From Glenarm it's time to travel to Belfast. 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. 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 13 & 14: Dublin
Time to travel south to Dublin. However, if you wish to prolong the return to big city life, 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. The quandary that you will be faced with when you reach Dublin is, not what you should see but that you should leave out. Knee-deep in history and with it’s own unique sense of humour and wit, Dublin is an invigorating city. Take 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, St. Patrick’s Cathedral & why not finish up the day in Dublin’s Temple Bar section and enjoy the wonderful pubs and music it is famous for.