The Gathering Tour Self-Drive Tour 8 Days
7 Night Tour From $1,090 pps
This tour arrives into and departs from Dublin, but can be customised to include Shannon as an arrival/departure point.
Destinations / Itinerary
Day 1: Dublin City
You will arrive in Ireland’s capital Dublin, a bustling, dynamic and cosmopolitan city. A heady mix of the old and new where you will be swept along by the blending of the two as you walk along the cobbled stones of Temple Bar and take in the River Liffey which divides the city north and south. Dublin has so much to offer a visitor, so whatever tickles your fancy, Dublin has it all! The best way to acquaint yourself with the city is the take the Dublin Bus Hop On Hop Off Tour. The bus will take you to all the main attractions and once you get your bearings you can decide where you would like to “hop off” and then pick the bus back up again for your next destination. Or you can always choose to stay on and enjoy the whole tour – the choice is yours!
If you would like an alternative way to see the city and even a chance to embrace your inner Viking – then the Viking Splash Tour is the one for you. You will enjoy Dublin on both land and water and have more than one opportunity to let out a Viking roar! This is a fun tour, with a twist to a traditional city bus-tour, but still taking you through Dublin’s Viking, Medieval and Georgian histories
Dublin is a very navigable city, so you can always ramble her streets on your own steam with the aid of the Dublin Tourist Board who have a whole range of free iWalks that you can download to your smartphone and listen as author and historian Pat Liddy gently guides you through Dublin’s streets and her fascinating history.
While in Dublin, you should certainly take in Trinity College founded by Queen Elizabeth I in 1592. Walk those hallowed grounds and visit the Old Library where the famous illuminated manuscript the Book of Kells is housed. It is a magnificent manuscript dating from the 8th century, containing the four gospels, and embellished with intricate designs and elaborate calligraphy.
Or why not take in Christ Church Cathedral which was founded in 1028. The building practically reverberates with a thousand years of history soaked into its walls! What this building must have seen! It is a gorgeous building right in the heart of Viking Dublin, with one of the largest Medieval crypts in Ireland or Britain. Today – it even has a café! If you visit here, you should also head to Dublinia – just across the road as their superb interactive exhibition retells the story of Viking and Medieval Dublin in an unique and compelling fashion along with artefacts from Dublin’s Viking Age.
After this you may like to take a rest and where better than the Powerscourt Townhouse a renovated Georgian house with lots of the original features still visible today and located just off Grafton Street. It houses a veritable melting pot of shops –from antique shops to florists, jewellers to cafes. It is a real buzzy place and perhaps a hidden jewel to many, but a great spot to indulge in a bite of lunch in one of its sumptuous cafes or restaurants.
As the evening draws in you will have a multitude of dining options. Head to Temple Bar where there are numerous eateries and culinary options from the four corners of the world to tempt you. Perhaps you want to dine like a Dubliner and sample some traditional fare in Leo Burdock’s Fish and Chip Shop – a hallowed institution and revered by Dubliners. Situated opposite Christchurch Cathedral, Leo’s first shop opened in 1913, and continued serving food right through the 1916 Rebellion and even our War of Independence! Sample the best fish and chips in the world, best eaten in the traditional way – piping hot right out of the paper bag, the vinegar watering your eyes and giving a whole new meaning to dining al fresco!
Energised after your dinner, Dublin’s vivacious night life awaits you. Famous for our pubs, you are certainly spoilt for choice. Temple Bar is probably your first choice, but George’s Street and Camden Street also have numerous pubs and clubs. Undertake your own pub-crawl and sample the Dublin night-life at your own pace. Paint the town and look forward to your next day’s adventures on the road-trip of a lifetime!
Enjoy your first Irish nights sleep in your Dublin hotel and Gather your thoughts for tomorrow. What not check out if there are any Gathering events in Dublin during your time here or indeed if you can plan your visit to the other cities around one!?
St. Patrick’s Cathedral
Day 2: Cork via Kilkenny and Cashel
After a hearty breakfast, head southwards towards Kilkenny – an inland city just over 90 minutes from the capital. It was once the Medieval capital of Ireland and its legacy can be still be seen today in the architecture and winding streets of this lovely city.
The presence of Kilkenny Castle dominates the city and is really a great place to start your Kilkenny adventure. Built in the early 1200’s and remodelled in 1830 a castle has stood on this site for some 9 centuries – a testament to the both the power and the influence of her residents. A visit takes around an hour (including a short audio – visual presentation) but it is a popular attraction, so do allow time to fully enjoy and appreciate this amazing castle – one of the best of its kind in Ireland. Within the grounds of the castle stands the Kilkenny Design Centre with a wide array of Irish handcrafted products from a number of Irish craftspeople and designers such as Oral Kiely, Waterford Crystal and Newbridge Silverware, not to mention several local producers and such goods as jewellery, home-wares and clothing - it will certainly be difficult to resist temptation!
If perhaps you would like to mix your history with some ale then the Smithwick’s Brewery Tour is the one for you. This Irish red ale has been brewed by the Smithwick family in Kilkenny since 1710 and a tour will take your around the site, including a visit to the St. Francis Abbey which dates from the 12th century – certainly a unique sight to see a brewery built around an old abbey. Perhaps that is why the Smithwick’s ale tastes so heavenly!
Having had you fill of Kilkenny, head further south to Cashel as your final destination of the day Cork – looms brightly in the distance. The Rock of Cashel in County Tipperary is just under an hour away. This magnificent site with over a millennium of both religious and royal power in its foundations is still an awesome sight today and as it comes into view, you can only imagine the power it wielded in days gone by. Today the site contains several 12th and 13th century buildings - the most famous of which being Cormac’s Chapel with its superb and indeed best preserved examples of Romanesque architecture in Ireland.
Perhaps grab a coffee and a bite to eat in Cashel town , a designated Heritage Town not only because of its most famous attraction but also because it has the former Bishop’s Palace now the Cashel Palace Hotel dating from the 1730’s and a 12th century castle now converted into Kearney’s Hotel. The Cashel Palace Hotel also has a most important link as it here, in its gardens, that the first hops plants were used by a certain Mr Guinness and son in the 1740’s to brew “the first wine of Ireland”…. With lots of shops and eateries, you can certainly enjoy your time in Cashel.
Just 20 minutes down the road from Cashel is the town of Cahir with its majestic castle. Often used as a film set, this formidable fortress dates from the 13th century and is one of Ireland’s largest and best preserved castles. A guided tour and audio-visual are available to visitors and as you wander through the site, you can only dream what it would have been like in its heyday.
As you leave Cahir, Cork is just under an hour away and as you settle into your accommodation for the night, this beautiful county awaits you to discover her in the morning……..
St. Canice’s Cathedral Kilkenny
Swiss Cottage, County Tipperary
Day 3: Killarney via Cork City and the Blarney Stone
Awakening in Cork, feast yourself on a sumptuous Irish breakfast before setting off to discover bustling Cork city! This is Ireland’s second capital and an energetic and dynamic city. The area was first settled by St. Finbarr in the 7th century and derives its name from the Irish word for marsh – corach. As the settlement grew into a city, many bridges and roads traversed the River Lee on which the modern city now stands. Today, however, it is almost impossible to imagine that the centre of Cork city is actually built on several small islands.
With so many attractions in Cork – where to start!? Perhaps the lively English Market could be your first stop? Situated in the very heart of Cork City, the market was founded in 1788 by the English, Protestant elite of the city. Initially only known as “The Market”, it became the English Market when in 1840, several Irish Roman Catholic merchants set up a similar market nearby which came to be called the “Irish Market” and so the earlier market to differentiate between the two, was hence forth called the English Market. There is a great hustle and bustle to the English Market, with numerous traders both well established and new comers selling everything from meat to t-shirts, fruit and vegetables to novelty gifts.
Next, head to the Shandon Bells – one of Cork’s most revered attractions. So named because of their location of the north-side of the city in the Shandon area, the bells are in St. Anne’s Church while whose form today dates from 1722, but in actual fact a religious connection to the site dates from the 6th century. Cast in Glouchester in 1750, and recast twice since then, most recently in 1908, there are 8 bells in total with a combined weight of some 6 tonnes. Each bell has its own description, such as this particularly charming one “When us you ring we’ll sweetly sing”. Climb the clock tower to enjoy a birds-eye view of the city.
After touring Cork city, you are off to get the gift of the gab by kissing the Blarney Stone! Located in Blarney Castle which was built by Cormac MacCarthy over 600 years ago, there is so much more to see here than the Stone of Eloquence otherwise known as the Blarney Stone. However, the famous stone will be your main attraction here – so limber up, get those lips ready and give it a kiss……
After all that excitement, you may like to visit the other parts of the castles’ grounds – and with such intriguing names as the Wishing Steps, the Witch’s Stone and Badgers Cave, you are certainly in for a magical visit!
Next to the castle is the Blarney Woollen Mills Store, one of five such shops in Ireland. With a plethora of Irish produced goods to choose from – Aran jumpers to Irish Lace and Belleek China - you certainly won’t come away empty handed!
After a busy afternoon, make your way to Killarney in County Kerry around an hour and 15 minutes away where you will be staying for the next two nights.
Cork City Gaol
Day 4: Killarney OR The Ring of Kerry
Waking up refreshed, it is time to enjoy some of the wonders of County Kerry. Why not visit the the Killarney National Park today and pay a visit to the magnificent Muckross Park and Gardens situated just minutes outside of the town.
This stunning Victorian house has undergone extensive restoration and visitors can see many of the rooms in their original form and learn how the upstairs and the downstairs inhabitants co-existed in this commanding house. Just outside, visit their award winning gardens with such delights as the Sunken Garden, Rock Garden, Stream Garden and Arboretum all providing much eye candy for your viewing pleasure! If you are visiting between the months April to July you are in for an extra treat as the gardens blossom with the vibrant and vivacious reds and pinks of Muckross’s 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 – a real glimpse into the past.
Why not rest your feet and see even more of the grounds (which just happen to be part of the Killarney National Park) with a jaunting car ride (horse and cart) and soak up the incredible views before you!
Or perhaps you wish to travel the the magical Ring of Kerry (or the Iveragh Peninsula) packed with spine-tingling views, expansive beaches and ancient sites where the winds through the trees seem to whisper the secrets of the past, you will be enthralled by all that you can see and do. To truely enjoy and appreciate the Ring, a day should be dedicated to it's many treasures! There are numerous places to visit and stop off at such as the resplendent MacGillycuddy’s Reeks – Ireland’s highest mountain range – where you can admire the beauty of Molls’ Gap and traverse the Gap of Dunloe with its majestic lakes.
Why not take in Cahersiveen – the main town on the peninsula with amazing views over Valentia harbour, wander its streets, peruse its shops and markets, and take in a traditional music session! Historically the town has much to offer too, with 1,000 year ring-forts located nearby, a beautiful 19th century church and arguably its most famous connection – being the birth place of Daniel O’Connell – a 19th century statesman, who lead the way for Catholic emancipation.
Visit the Bog Village just outside of Glenbeigh which has re-created how people lived and worked in the Ireland of the 18th and 19th centuries. It gives an insightful and dignified glimpse of how people both lived and survived in the Ireland of yesteryear and great care has been taken to ensure that it has been recreated in a honest and historically accurate way.
As you are just outside of Glenbeigh, visit this lovely town with it’s 6 miles of golden beaches at Rossbeigh Beach. Visit Glenbeigh and see why this town is often called “the jewel in the Ring of Kerry”.
Return to Killarney partake in dinner and a well-deserved pint in any number of eateries and pubs. This is a great town, buzzing with a mix of tourists and locals alike. So, whether you would like a quiet drink to reflect on all that you have seen, or if you would like to immerse yourself fully in Killarney’s animated night-life – you are sure to find it in this exciting town!
Killarney National Park
Muckcross House and Gardens
Day 5: Cliffs of Moher and The Burren
You may feel overwhelmed by the sheer natural beauty you witnessed yesterday but hold on tight as today promises more of the same! Travelling in a northerly direction from Killarney you will travel by both land and water today as you make your way to the Cliffs of Moher a designated UNESCO site standing on the precipices of Europe at some 702 feet. Make your way to Tarbert in north Kerry and take a ferry, crossing the mouth of the River Shannon on a pleasant 20 minute sea journey to Killimer in County Clare and onto the Cliffs of Moher and the Burren – your destinations for the day. However, if you didn’t pack your sea-legs, not to worry - you can travel through Limerick and onto Clare that way – either way your destination is the same and whichever way you travel the scenery will be nothing shorty of spectacular.
The Cliffs of Moher are an arresting sight – enjoy the glorious air at the Cliffs and be astounded at the beauty before you. Take in the Aran Islands, the Twelve Pins, The Maum Turk Mountains and Loop Head. However, beyond the islands in wild Atlantic Oceans – there is nothing only the sea horses – it is truly an awe-inspiring sight and feeling that takes your breath away.
Leaving the Cliffs behind, travel to the Burren Centre to learn about this unique limestone landscape, the regions megalithic tombs which predate the Roman and Egyptian civilisations, the astounding display of flora and fauna and how this rocky landscape likened to the surface of the moon came to be, with their multi-dimensional exhibition.
A mere 10 minutes from the Burren centre is the Burren Smokehouse, where you can indulge in their delicious, locally sourced smoked salmon, mackerel or trout or even sample some of their cheeses? They have a lovely shop as well, were you will find an assortment of goods from jewellery to jam, knitwear to pottery. You can also view an audio-visual about the smoking process and see their first kiln!
Heading northwards towards Galway, why not visit Lisdoonvarna a small, town in north Clare, famous for it’s matchmaking festival held in September each year. Perhaps you are lucky enough to be passing through during the festival, but if not this pleasant town will provide you a great-stop over for lunch as you meander your way towards Galway.
After lunch, you could visit the Aillwee Caves – one of thousands of such caves on the Burren. View the underground caverns and marvel at the stalagmites and stalactites and thundering waterfall.
Leaving Clare behind you now, you will make your way to Galway just over 40 minutes away. Galway is a charming city – full of character and characters!
After a busy day relax and unwind in any number of restaurants and pubs in the city itself. Perhaps you would like to see Trad on the Prom (seasonal show) just a few minutes away in Salthill – an energetic and lively show comprising of traditional song and dance in an electric mix. Whatever you do and wherever you go, you can be guaranteed of an amazing night in vivacious Galway city!
Doolin Cave, County Clare
Bunratty Castle, County Clare
Day 6: Connemara
Tuck into a delicious Irish breakfast and set yourself up for the day – Connemara is awaiting you! Taking the spine-tingling Sky Road which will lead you up to Kylemore Abbey and Victorian Walled Gardens, there is a lot to see before you reach this magnificent castle – often called the most romantic castle in Ireland – you will soon see why!
Along the Sky Road take in your wondrous surroundings –with amazing views of Inishturk and Turbot Islands and the looming Twelve Bens behind the town of Clifden – your fist stop of the day. This 19th century market town is friendly and lively and well worth a visit – just to experience a typical Irish town with all the hustle and bustle that entails! If you have room after your breakfast, spoil yourself with a treat from one the local cafes, before you head on up to Kylemore Abbey –a 20 minute drive away.
In the sheltered slopes of the Twelve Bens lies the breath-taking Kylemore Abbey, originally built in 1867 by Mitchell Henry for his wife Margaret as perhaps one of the greatest romantic gestures. After visiting the original small hunting lodge which stood on the grounds of the estate, Mary fell in love with the sheer natural beauty around her and so Mitchell decided to build a castle for her, so that one day they could live on the estate. Blasting out a part of the mountain, taking four years to build and costing some £18,000, today, the castle is just as striking and impressive. Stroll around the grounds and go into sensory overload, as you see the beauty before you, hear the winds whispering through the trees and smell the delicious scents in the Victorian Wall Garden. Visit the castle and learn its histories, full of romance, intrigue, grief, royal connections and engineering initiatives! There is much to see and do on the estate aside from the gardens and castle such as the Gothic Church, extensive craft-shop complete with a café, and numerous walks. The lake is truly spectacular so make sure you get a picture of it to remember your visit by!
Within the Connemara region, you will also find the Connemara National Park with a surface area of 2,957 hectares or 7,304 American football fields. With mountains, heaths and megalithic tombs you have a wealth of things to behold. Perhaps take one the many walks and enjoy the fresh air in your lungs…..
From here to you can travel to Leenane, situated at the head of Killary Harbour and Ireland’s only fjord. With spectacular scenery, partake in a cruise of Killary Harbour with Killary Cruises and drink in your surroundings.
After a busy day’s touring just some of the jewels of Connemara, head back to Galway city for a well- deserved rest. Perhaps, you will revisit your “local” pub from the previous night or simply enjoy a delectable feast in the one of Galway’s many restaurants - but whatever you do; you will be revelling in all that you have seen today in this glorious region. Have you checked out The Gathering's website?
Day 7: Clonmacnoise & Kilbeggan and return to Dublin
Today, you will be leaving the west behind you as you make your eastwards towards Dublin. This is your penultimate day, so stock up on a mouth-watering breakfast, as you leave Galway behind. Perhaps you would like to walk her streets one last time before you drive towards Dublin and soak up the atmosphere – or just jump straight into the car for your first stop of the day - Clonamacnoise in County Offaly – an hour away.
This impressive early Christian site dates from the 6th century and was founded by St. Ciarán, a son of a major craftsman and is located on a remote part of the meandering River Shannon – Ireland’s longest river. It flourished from the 7th to 12th century and was known as a both a centre for learning, piety, politics and craftsmanship.
It’s fortunate position both at the an intersection of River Shannon, and lying in between the 2 great provinces of Meath and Connaught meant that it was ideally situated to gain the patronage and indeed protection of these powerful kingdoms - clearly evident in the fact that they successfully halted both Viking and Normans onslaughts. Sadly, however, it did eventually succumb to an English invasion in 1552 and fell into decline.
Today, you can walk through the ruins of the once great a cathedral and seven churches, gaze at the imposing round-towers – (2 in total) and admire the intricate skills of the stone-masons who created the striking and towering high crosses. If you happen to be passing through on September 9th St. Ciarán’s feast day – you should (as per tradition) walk around the site three times!
The site has an excellent visitor-centre housed in 3 buildings including a timeline for the site, with the original crosses and several grave-slabs on display inside to protect them from the elements. Excellent copies are instead located in their original locations around the site. An audio-visual is definitely worth a look and an on-site café will provide you with subsistence for your next part of your journey!
Kilbeggan in County Westmeath is the home of Kilbeggan Whiskey and also your next stop – just 40 minutes away. Whiskey first came to Ireland with a band of French monks in the 6th century, and while the French may have given it to us – we have certainly perfected it and made it our own! Learn all about the history of whiskey in Ireland, the processes involved in its production and if you are lucky enough, you may be able to indulge in a little sample! The Kilbeggan Distillery is the oldest licensed whiskey distillery in the world, dating from 1757 and it’s tumultuous history is both lively and entertaining. The distillery has its own restaurant The Pantry, so you can enjoy a coffee there before heading onto Dublin just over an hour away.
Arriving back in capital, you have will have seen all the very best that Ireland has to offer. Perhaps there are some attractions you would still like to visit or last minute souvenirs to buy. Or simply you are just craving to wander the streets of this wonderful city. Enjoy your last night in Dublin and indeed Ireland as you prepare for your visit home, make sure to pack everything including all of those sensational memories!
Chester Beatty Museum, Dublin
James Joyce Centre, Dublin
Day 8: Departure from Dublin
It’s your final day in the Emerald Isle but we are sure you are clutching a lifetime of memories and an Irish reel in your heart. Bid slán go foil (goodbye for now) and depart for the airport. When you return home, Gather your friends and family and share the magic of Ireland with them and the wish that your next vacation will be together and on the green green grass of Ireland……