The Ireland Experience Self-Drive Tour 8 Days
7 Night Tour From $984 pps
This tour starts and ends in Dublin but can be adjusted to suit other arrival points such as Shannon.
Destinations / Itinerary
Day 1: Arrival in Dublin and Dublin City
It’s time to start you Ireland Experience and what better place to embark on your journey than Dublin City – the Capital of Ireland. Arriving in Dublin airport, your first port of call will be to collect your rental car and then it’s on to your city central accommodation.
The sights and sounds of Dublin City are an absolute treat. This is a city bursting with history and culture, which is amplified by the friendly people who live here. Whether you’re looking for directions, or a piece of advice, in Dublin you’re never far from a helpful smile – and the same applies to all of Ireland.
With so much to do and see, you’d be forgiven for being daunted by the task at hand, but included in your Ireland Experience tour is the Dublin Hop on Hop Off Bus Tour(included in package price). This fantastic tour departs regularly, starting at 9am and once you decide to hop off at one of the many stops around the city, you’re free to hop on the next bus that comes around at no extra charge. Not only that, but you’ll be treated to some expert commentary from the on-board guide along the way.
The route will take you by some of Dublin’s most famous monuments and attractions including: Christ Church Cathedral, The Dublin Writers Museum and The National Museum of Decorative Artsto name but a few.
Also along this route are the Guinness Storehouse and Trinity College Dublin. Trinity College is one of Dublin’s premier visitor attractions and not without reason. Within the grounds of Ireland’s first ever college (established in 1592) you’ll find stunning architecture, The Douglas Hyde Gallery, The Oscar Wilde Centre, “The Book of Kells” and arguably the “greenest grass in Ireland”. There are also regular walking tours around the campus where you’ll discover all the history and intricacies of this esteemed university. “The Book of Kells” resides in Trinity’s Old Library. This book, which is a 9th Century gospel manuscript contains lavish illustrations and is accompanied in the library by an exhibition – “Turning Lightness into Dark”.
As for the Guinness Storehouse – no trip to Dublin would be complete without a visit to this famous brewery. The Guinness Storehouse has been welcoming millions of visitors since it opened its doors in 2000. As well as a fascinating tour, you can also visit the Gravity Bar (the highest bar in Dublin) and enjoy a pint of “The Black Stuff” in true style.
Touring can be tiring stuff, so if you need a pick me up, then venture down to Grafton Street – Dublin’s premier shopping district. Asides from numerous fantastic shops, where you can pick up a little souvenir from your trip to Dublin, Grafton Street is also home to a plethora of restaurants and coffee shops. Probably the most famous of these is Bewley’s Café. Bewley’s has been one of Dublin’s favourite coffee houses for over 100 years, with more than a few of Ireland’s literary greats dropping in over the years. So for a delicious coffee with a side of historical importance, then Bewley’s is the place to be.
That night, there’s another treat in store for you at the Arlington Hotel, where you’ll be attending their nightly Traditional Irish Show(included in package price) with Irish music and dance from the world famous Celtic Rhythm troupe.
After an action packed first day in Ireland, it’s back to your Dublin City accommodation for a sound night sleep before you hit the road west towards Galway.
Day 2: Galway City via Newgrange
Today will be a day of firsts – your first glimpse at the Irish countryside, your first experience in the west of Ireland and of course your first truly Irish… Full Irish Breakfast. After a hearty meal it’s off west, but before you head out on the road to Galway, we suggest you visit Newgrange.
Ireland has long been called the “Land of Saints and Scholars”, but there are clues on this humble island of ours that hint at a past, which stretches back years before even Saint Patrick. In fact, archaeologists will attest to the fact that the Megalithic tomb at Newgrange predates even the Egyptian pyramids. This is a place of astrological, spiritual, religious and ceremonial importance. You can tour the structure itself and glimpse into the mysteries, which surround this fascinating monument.
Back on the road, it will take you roughly 2 hrs. and 30 mins. to reach Galway, but there will be plenty of scenery to keep you entertained along the way. Fields upon fields of green Irish pastures will stretch out into the distance and quaint rural villages will dot your route.
Arriving at Galway City, you’ll have a world of heritage and traditions to explore.From the Connemara Celtic Crystal Heritage Centre to the Connemara Marble Factory, the artistry and pride in the west shines proudly through this delicately worked craft pieces, which have deservedly gained praise the world over.
Another symbol, which is synonymous with Ireland and indeed Galway is that of the Claddagh Ring - two hands clutching a crowned heart. Whilst in Galway, you can visit the very region from where this icon originated – The Claddagh Village. This was once a fishing village, which lay just across the river on the western edge of Galway City. With its own king, this distinct community and its fishing fleet could be distinguished by their own type of boat (called a Hooker). The fish, which they hauled in would then be sold at market, beside the Spanish Arch.
During the months mid May to mid September, you’ll be attending the Galway Bay Hotel’s Trad on the Prom Dinner and Show(included in package price), where a host of seasoned Irish professionals take to the stage. From Riverdance to session musicians for The Chieftains, these performers’ credentials are very impressive, but actions speak louder than words, and you’re in a spectacular show.
However when Trad on the Prom is not on, you have your pick of exciting pubs in Salthill and Galway city itself where the sounds of the West will beckon you and get those feet tapping....
That night it’s back to your accommodation in Galway City. Let the spirit of the west ease you off to sleep preparing you for the trip ahead, where you will witness the beauty of the Connemara Region.
Day 3: The Connemara Region
The Connemara Region awaits you with the rising run, so now is your chance to discover why Oscar Wilde once referred to this region as a “savage beauty”.
Setting out upon the Sky Road cruising towards Kylemore Abbey and you’ll find yourself surrounded by breath-taking views of the islands Inishturk and Turbot along the coastline; the moss covered walls of the Old D’Arcy Castle and the towering twelve Bens jutting into the skyline behind the town of Clifden. Clifden is itself a jewel in the scenic delight that is Connemara. You’ll find it nestled amidst rugged peaks and elegant coastlines making it well worth the visit, if only for a jaunt or a spot of lunch in a picturesque setting.
Continuing on your expedition around Connemara, at the foot of the Druchruach Mountain (529m/1,736ft), in the very heart of the Connemara Mountains, you’ll find Kylemore Abbey & Walled Gardens (included in package price). An aura of romance surrounds the estate. Explore the illustrious and spectacular grounds, which were originally built in 1867 by Mitchell and Margaret Henry as a means to fulfil their wish to someday live in Connemara (which they visited numerous times after their honeymoon there).
In the Connemara region you’ll also find Connemara National Park – a captivating expanse that covers some 2957 hectares (that’s roughly the same surface area as 7,304 American football fields). You’ll find mountains, heaths and woodlands in this scenic domain, alongside megalithic court tombs, a 19th Century graveyard and Tobar Mweelin - a well which was Kylemore Castles main source of water in the 1800’s.
Discover the flora and fauna of this spectacular park or venture up to the heights of the mountains with the four walking trails on offer. Learn about this vast and beautiful area In the Connemara Landscape exhibition or just breathe in the nature and relax in one of the parks many picnic areas.
From here you can visit Maam Valley. In the shadow of the Maamturk Mountains, Maam is a quaint wooded town land which is beside some great fishing lakes. Dotted around the area you’ll find many pre-historic and early historic sites and Killary Fjord – the only one in existence in Ireland. The Western Way is the perfect way to soak up all the area has to offer as this walking trail takes you from the southern end of the Maam Valley right up to the ancient site of Mámean. Around this area you’ll also find “Leaba Pháirc” (Patrick’s bed), a rock recess and “Tobar Pháraic” (Patrick’s well), which mark a place of pilgrimage.
If you have time, we recommend a visit to Rathbaun Farm. This 80 acre farm is run by the Connolly family, who have opened their doors to the public allowing them a special insight into life on an Irish sheep farm. From the enchanting thatched cottage home to the burning turf fire and stonewalls, you’re in for a real treat during your visit to Rathbaun and there’s even a number of activities to enjoy including: scone making and sheepdog demonstrations.
After that it’s back to Galway City where you’ll be spending the night once more. Tomorrow begins your trip south, where there will undoubtedly be more surprises in store.
Day 4: The Cliffs of Moher and the Burren Region
You’re now approaching the mid-way point in your Ireland experience but there’s no fear of the action slowing down as you make your way from Galway to Killarney via County Clare. This will be by no means a fly by visit though as there are a number of attractions to check out in this scenic western county.
Probably the most famous of these is the Cliffs of Moher (included in package price). Driving south from Galway, you can hit the coast and enjoy the spectacular views on your way to see the Cliffs. From your coastal vantage point you can take in views of the Aran Islands, The Twelve Pins, Loop head and the Maum Turk Mountains – each more beautiful than the next. Standing on the cliffs, with a gentle Irish breeze on your neck, you can’t help but feel a hint of that Irish Magic as time seemingly stands still around you.
The stunning scenery doesn’t end there though – Clare is also home to the Burren Region. The Burren Visitors Centre in Kilfenora will supply you with all the information you need on this spectacular and mysterious area, before you venture out to witness it for yourself. The Burren Region is unique in many ways from its remarkably diverse range of plants and animals to the limestone pavements. It is an area of true natural beauty, but is also home to a number of ancient man made wonders like Poulnabrone Portal Dolmen, which dates back to the same era as Newgrange.
Adding to your repertoire of Irish experiences, we recommend a visit to Carrigaholt in the southern tip of Clare. This small fishing village is full of charm and history, nestled on the mouth of the river Moyarta, which flows into the Shannon Estuary. Carrigaholt is also home to Dolphinwatch – a family run business, which allows visitors to observe the local dolphins in their natural habitat. Geoff and Susanne Magee head up these truly unique excursions, which offer stunning views as well as the chance to engage with the various coastal species. (we recommend you pre-book)
Next you’ll be visiting Bunratty Castle, another of Ireland’s premier visitor attractions. The entertainment at Bunratty comes two-fold: Bunratty folk Park and Bunratty Banquet. The Castle was originally built in 1425, and after being restored in 1954, it is now one of the most authentic and impressive medieval castle structures in Ireland. As you walk through the gates of the castle you’ll be transported back in time as you are surrounded by 19th Century living in Bunratty Folk Park, with locals you can interact with as they go about their daily routines.
Bunratty Banquet (included in package price) offers up another medieval treat, harking back to an era of extravagant banquets hosted by the castle’s original owner – The Earl of Thomond. Seated at long wooden tables you can enjoy a sumptuous candlelit dinner, whilst the resident performers keep you enthralled with a selection of Irish medieval and traditional songs.
Alternatively, you drop into Durty Nelly’s and follow in the footsteps of many travellers down through the ages. Without doubt, one of Ireland’s most famous pubs, Durty Nelly’s coloured history dates back to 1620, and the party has been going every since. There are a number of dining options at Durty Nelly’s as well as the chance to step behind the bar and try your hand at pulling the perfect pint of Guinness.
Day 5: The Ring of Kerry
You will no doubt have heard about the Ring of Kerry before coming to Ireland. You may have read about it or seen other visitor’s attempts to capture the scenic region’s beauty on camera… and although some of these are very impressive, nothing can compare to witnessing this remarkable region first hand.
There is so much to do and see in this area, that you really need to give yourself a full day to truly feel satisfied that you have thoroughly explored the region, so today it’s all about Kerry. So rise early and hit the day running with another delicious Full Irish Breakfast.
From expansive beaches to rich heritage links to ancient Ireland and some of the finest scenery in Ireland, there are few other places in Ireland that offer as much as the Ring of Kerry. Venture along the pass through the majestic MacGillycuddy’s reeks, visit the restored Bog village, admire the roaring Torc Waterfall or take in the panoramic views from Ladies View. These are but a handful of attractions that will literally stop you in your tracks as you make your way around the Ring.
Within the confines of Killarney National Park, you’ll also find Muckross House and Gardens (included in package price), another of Kerry’s most popular attractions. Intensive restoration work on this stunning Victorian house, means that today many of the rooms exist in their original form. To give those walking feet a rest, rent out a bike and zoom around the rest of Killarney National Park, taking in all the sights and sounds of this wonderful setting, which is bursting with nature and enchanting scenery.
A Sunken Garden, Rock Garden, Stream Garden and Arboretum all provide for beautiful viewing in Muckross Gardens and those who visit during the months of April and July are in for an extra treat as the gardens blossom with vibrant red and pink Rhododendrons. Right beside Muckross House you’ll also find Muckross Traditional Farms, which portray a working recreation of traditional farming methods and the day to day habits of a rural community in 1930’s Ireland.
This day will continue to surprise you as you move from one scenic area to the next and there’s an extra special treat in store today as well with Tangney’s Jaunting Car Tours (included in package price). This is the ultimate way to experience the Ring of Kerry. This family run business has been delighting visitors to Kerry for generations and now it’s your turn with a whole host of tours to choose from covering everything from Killarney Lake to Ross Castle and the Gap of Dunloe. Once you’ve decided, which route you’d like to go for, all that’s left to do is sit back and enjoy the view.
If you’re looking to get your fix of traditional Irish music whilst in Kerry then you can take a trip with the Killarney Music Pub Crawl, which promises “Craic and Ceol”, just the cure for a weary traveller. You’ll be lead on the tour by a couple of local professional musicians as you’re shown around two of Killarney’s most loved pubs: O’ Connor’s Pub and Courtney’s Bar. Discover the local folklore, sing along to all your favourite Irish ballads and enjoy a pint Kerry style on this engrossing tour.
That night, you can rest easy in your Kerry Accommodation knowing that you can finally say that you’ve truly experienced the Ring of Kerry.
Day 6: Blarney Castle and Waterford Crystal
Today you make your way from Kerry to Kilkenny, but once again there will be an action packed route to get you there. Starting on your way east you’ll be travelling through Cork before you reach the “Medieval Capital of Ireland”.
The Blarney Stone (included in package price) is probably one of Cork’s best loved and well known attractions. In fact no visit to Cork would be complete without a trip out to the resting place of this mystical stone. It is said that all those who plant a wet one on the stone will be granted the gif of the gab and many will attest to the truth behind this myth. But whether or not this stone still contains magical properties, one thing that cannot be denied is the multitude of things to see once you arrive at the castle – The Wishing Steps, the Battlement View, Badgers Cave and Rock Close are just a handful of the features at Blarney Castle, which will keep you enthralled long after you’ve kissed the stone.
Blarney is also famed for its woollen mills, which is now home to Ireland’s largest gift store, stocking the best of the best in quality Irish gifts, stocking Waterford Crystal, Belleek China, Aran Sweaters, Celtic Jewellery, and Irish linen and lace. So if you’re looking for some gifts to bring home or even a souvenir or two for yourself, it’s the perfect one stop shop for all things Irish.
Just down the road from Blarney is Cork City - a culturally diverse city with a wealth of attractions. The history of the city can be dated back to the 7th Century when it was founded by St. Finbarr. You’ll find excellent examples of centuries old architecture around every corner including St. Anne’s Church (complete with its 300 year tower and home to the Shandon Bells) and St. Finbarr’s Cathedral. The imposing castle like structure of Cork City Gaol is a must see for any visitor to Cork. Back in the 19th Century, this building acted as a prison and through a unique exhibition experience, visitors can peer into the past and see what life was like in Cork from both sides of the prison walls.
After taking in some of the history of Cork, why not visit Fota Wildlife Park which is just fifteen minutes outside of Cork City, nestled in the heart of Cork harbour. The park is a mixture of free roaming animals and birds from all over the world and highly endangered species such as the European Bison, so every trip is sure to conjure new and fond memories.
Hitting the road for the last time today, it’s time for the last leg along your route to Kilkenny City. This will take roughly 1 hour 50 mins. so you won’t have too far to go before you can rest your head for the night.
Day 7: Kilkenny City and Wicklow
It’s time to greet the morning once more on your last full day in Ireland so breath in the fresh Irish air and get ready to discover all that the Medieval Capital of Ireland has to offer. You may be wondering why Kilkenny is so often referred to as the medieval capital of Ireland but visiting Kilkenny Castle you’ll know why. Dating back to the 18th Century this intricate structure boasts a variety of contrasting styles of architecture.
You will find the structure towering over the “high town” of Kilkenny City and a crossing on the river Nore, daring you to come and explore its many secrets. Room by room, the Castle Tour (included in package price) delves into the castles history punctuated along the way with a whole host of unique paintings and furnishings.
If you’re looking to take a break from urban Kilkenny, Kilfane Glen and Waterfall is a short drive from Kilkenny (30 minutes drive), and it’s the perfect place to relax. Let the serenity of this 18th Century romantic era garden wash away your troubles. Or if you’re looking for a more natural attraction Dunmore Caves are again a short trip away from Kilkenny (45 minutes drive), complete with a visitor centre to compliment the quiet beauty of the caves themselves.
Visitors to Jerpoint Park can experience estate country pursuits in a unique heritage setting from pony and trap rides, sheep dog demonstrations, fishing for salmon and trout on the River Nore, horse riding across open countryside with breath taking views, before soaking up the regal atmosphere of Belmore House Tea Rooms and sampling the delicious homemade delights.
The time will eventually come to start making your way back to Dublin for your last overnight in Ireland but depending on how much time you have we suggest you take a more scenic route and make your way through Wicklow, which is more affectionately known as “The Garden of Ireland”.
Wicklow’s most historical asset comes in the form of Glendalough or “the valley of the two lakes”. The sight not only boasts some stunning scenery, but also a world famous Monastic Site with Round Tower and a selection of walking trails, including The Wicklow Way.
The valley was carved out by glaciers during the Ice Age, and the two lakes from which Glendalough gets its name were formed when the ice eventually thawed. During the 6th Century, St. Kevin founded, what is now one of the most impressive monastic sites in Ireland. The remains of some of the buildings and structures from this site are still standing, including St. Kevin’s Church and a stone cross.
Finally arrive back in Dublin City, you’ll most likely want to enjoy the thriving music scene one last time before you settle down in your hotel for the night, so make the most of your last hurrah in Ireland and savour a night full entertainment.
Day 8: Departure from Dublin
You’ve come full circle and what a trip it’s been. Depending on what time you’re flying out at you may have time to fit in one last round of sightseeing or a spot of souvenir shopping before you head for the Airport. Either way as you set off on that flight, bidding farewell to Ireland, you can be happy in the knowledge that you’ll be taking home the most important piece of Ireland – the experience.