Ancient Ireland Self-Drive Tour 11 Days
10 Night Tour From $1,253 pps
This tour arrives/departs from Dublin but these arrival/departure points can be customised to include other airports such as Shannon.
Destinations / Itinerary
Day 1: Arrival in Dublin
Your ancient adventure begins in Dublin City – Ireland’s capital and home to numerous historically important sites. Once you’ve left the airport, picked up your rental and checked into your accommodation it’s time to take to the streets of Dublin to discover the atmosphere and culture that this fantastic city is so famed for.
Dublin’s charm is evident no matter where you start and from the cobbled streets of Temple Bar to Dublin’s elegance of Georgian Dublin, you’ll find historical gems around every corner. This captivating city urban scape is also where you’ll meet the people of Ireland for the first time. From bustling crowds making their way around the capital to friendly faces going about their day-to-day you’ll find something special in the upbeat charm of this proud nation.
Ireland’s capital city has over 1000 years of history and originated as a Viking township on the banks of the River Liffey. The place is teeming with sites and attractions with historical importance taking you from the Viking and Norman times right up to the modern day. One of the quickest ways to get around but also see Dublin’s most famous attractions is the Dublin Hop on Hop off bus tour and what better place to start than The Book of Kells - a lavishly decorated 8th century manuscript, which now resides in Trinity College Dublin. The college itself boasts much significance in its own right as Ireland’s first university (established in 1592) and is worth a visit for its exceptional architecture alone.
Another great way to get an overview of the City and enjoy some of its famous attractions is to jump aboard the Viking Splash Tour. Traversing Dublin in these unique vehicles, on land and in water, you can admire the fantastic architecture of Georgian Dublin, Christ Church and St. Patrick’s Cathedral; and plethora of other significant historical landmarks.
Although for the authentic Viking experience, a visit to the Dublinia exhibition is essential. Situated in the heart of Dublin city at a crossroad where old Dublin and contemporary Dublin collide, you’ll find fascinating exhibitions covering Viking Dublin and Medieval Dublin, all brought to life by magnificent artifacts.
Taking to Georgian Dublin by foot, you can visit the Irish Museum of Modern Art or the beautiful greenery of the Phoenix Park (home to Arás an Uachtaráin – where the President of Ireland resides). Walking tours along the cobbled walkways in Temple bar will bring you back to its medieval routes and a visit to Kilmainham Jail will see you exploring its unique links with the Easter Rising of 1916.
Breaking up the day with a little refreshment, drop by the Guinness Storehouse for a sip of the “black stuff” or treat yourself to a sample of hot whiskey at the Jameson distillery. During both of these fascinating tours, you’ll discover the intriguing histories behind these two famous brands.
If shopping is you’re preferred way to relax, the Powerscourt Centre has just what you need. Just off Grafton St. Powerscourt Centre is home to a fantastic variety of shops, restaurants and cafes. As an added bonus, the centre itself is one of Dublin’s most loved Georgian townhouses. The elegant architecture and design of this townhouse’s wonderful interiors can be explored through one of their guided tours, taking in its grandiose ballroom and gallery to name but a couple.
If you’re on lookout for some entertainment that evening Dublin will not disappoint. The rich culture that Ireland is know for is at its strongest in the capital and you’ll be spoilt for choice: theatres like the Abbey, the Gaiety, the Olympia and the Gate feature calendars packed with a contrasting array of plays and musicals; pubs serve up sumptuous Irish grub with a generous helping of traditional Irish music; and you could even find yourself at a storytelling sessions like the Brazen Head’s Food, Fairies and Folklore night.
As the night stretches on and your first day in Ireland comes to an end, you can rest easy knowing that you’ve already traversed several centuries and discovered some of Ireland’s riches.
Day 2: Newgrange
Take a break from the city on your second day in the capital and head to the Irish midlands on a day trip to Newgrange. From the Cultural Capital to the heritage Capital – Meath (or the Royal County as it is more affectionately known) was once the territory of the High Kings of Ireland. The area known as the Boyne Valley houses the largest and most decorated megalithic sites in all of Ireland. These sites were erected before Stonehenge in England and the great pyramids in Cairo. They contain great passage tombs, standing stones, barrows and other impressive structures.
The most famous of these is Newgrange. From this passage grave’s elaborate stone carvings to the tomb itself it’s hard not to be in awe of the mystery, which surrounds this massive structure. Besides the scale of this megalithic monument there is another reason why so many visitors flock to Newgrange every year. A phenomenon of sorts happens here annually during the winter solstice: There is an opening above the entrance to the passage of Newgrange, called a “roof-box” and from December 19th – 23rd each year, with the rising of the sun, a beam of light penetrates this “roof box”.
As the sun rises higher, the beam widens within the chamber until the whole room becomes dramatically illuminated. This jaw dropping spectacle lasts a mere 17 minutes, beginning around 9am on these specific dates. There is no denying the strangely mythical air which hangs in Newgrange making this one daytrip, which will leave a lasting impression.
Access to the structure is available by guided tour from the Brú na Bóinne visitor centre, which is worth taking time out to enjoy in its own right. The visitor centre has been ingeniously constructed to blend in with tis surroundings, preserving the natural scenery, which surrounds it. A whole range of audio/visual presentation, exhibitions and replicas (including a full scale model of the chamber at Newgrange) are available here so you can dissect every aspect of the fascinating megalithic monuments, which populate the area. There’s also a great little café here so you can refresh before you continue exploring.
There are also numerous other Cairns (passage graves) from the megalithic period dotted around Loughcrew near Newgrange. Divided into two groups Carbane West and Carnbane East, these cairns feature many excellent engravings. Loughcrew gardens on the other hand provides the perfect setting for a stroll with its 6 acres (2.4 hectares) of magnificent landscaping including St. Oliver Plunkett’s family church and Tower House at its centre.
Don’t think that just because you’ve seen Newgrange that it’s time to head back to Dublin. There are a whole host of fantastic historical structures in the Boyne Valley that will keep you busy all day. Slane Castle for example is just a short trip away. Set on an estate of 1,500 acres (607 hectares), this castle was the setting for a famous historical romance between King George IV of England and Elizabeth, the first Marchioness Conyngham. Guided tours of the castle now offer a unique whiskey tasting sessions, where you can sample some of Slane Castle’s very own Irish Whiskey.
Before heading back to Dublin for the night, drop into the Battle of the Boyne Visitor Centre. In 1690 the Battle of the Boyne was fought between two rival claimants of the English, Scottish and Irish Thrones. The battle raged across the River Boyne and in many regards has gone down in Irish history as one of its most famous battles. The centre is located in the recently restored 18th Century Oldbridge House and houses a number of displays, exhibitions and replica 17th Century weaponry to give you an insight into why this is one battle which will be forever etched in the annals of Irish history.
Meath is an experience in living history. The mystery of these monuments still draws us to them, to trace the spirals they carved, to stand in these sacred places and to share for a moment an ancient view of the world: the world of “the island of Saints and Scholars”. After a good night’s rest, look forward to the following days of your tour which will take in the rest of Ireland’s fascinating past.
Day 3: Kilkenny
Departing from Dublin you will witness the landscape transform around you the urban city scape of Dublin is replaced with miles of green fields and picturesque villages on your way to Kilkenny.
Before venturing into this fantastic city you can visit Kilfane Glen and Waterfall - the perfect place to relax before exploring all that the “Medieval Capital” has to offer. 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, 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.
There are also a number of walking tours and trails for you to choose from in Kilkenny from the Tynan Walking tour (an adventure of all things medieval in Kilkenny) to the Castlemorris Wood Walk (just one of a whole range of scenic walks available to visitors of the area).
Once you arrive in Kilkenny City, it’s off to enjoy one of Kilkenny’s main attractions: Kilkenny Castle. The structure is almost 18 centuries old and stands dramatically over a crossing on the River Nore and the “High Town” of Kilkenny City. A tour of the castle is a must for any visitors to Kilkenny. This complex structure features many varying styles of architecture and just as varied a history too. Starting at its gateway, the Castle Tour will take you from room to room providing you with insights into the architecture, furnishings, and paintings which make this castle so special.
The Smithwick’s Brewery tour offers another taste of the rich heritage in Kilkenny. This brand of ale originated with John Smithwick in 1641. John, who was left orphaned after the Irish rebellion, carved out his story with determination, courage and loyalty. The success of Smithwick’s local family brewery, which began producing ale in 1710, gave John a sense of what is important in life. His experience and trade secrets have been passed down over 300 years, 9 generations of Smithwick men, and you have the chance to take a tour of their working brewery in Kilkenny. The tour also includes a visit to the remarkable 12th Century St. Francis Abbey, which is on the site of the brewery.
St. Canice’s Cathedral is another monument in Kilkenny City, which is bares more than a fair share of heritage and historical importance. Founded in the 6th Century by St. Canice, this early fantastic structure comes complete with a round tower – the oldest standing structure in Kilkenny City and one of only two round towers in Ireland, which people can climb up. And if you do opt for ascending the tower, you will be treated to mesmirising views of the city from your lofty vantage point. Just outside the city in Thomastown, you’ll find Jerpoint Abbey. This Cistercian abbey dating back to the 12th Century features Romanesque detailing as well as 13th and 16th Century tomb sculptures.
You’ll be back in Kilkenny for the night s why night tag along on the Kilkenny Traditional Irish Music Trail for some evening entertainment. Hosted by two musicians, you’ll be brought along a session tour of some of Kilkenny’s legendary pubs. Over the course of two hours you’ll experience the warmth of the local music scene, learn about the history of traditional instruments, share in the chat and of course get treated to a few of your favourite songs. You’ll know doubt have soothing Irish melodies floating through your mind that night as you drift off to sleep.
Day 4: Waterford
Waterford City is only a short drive from Kilkenny at around 48km (30 miles) and you’ll be able to take in all its rich history and be back in Kilkenny for a well deserved nights sleep. From Megalithic tombs and Ogham stones to the Vikings and the Normans, the county of Waterford has it all. In fact, Waterford city is Ireland’s oldest city, founded around the 850 BC by Viking traders: the city has an exciting medieval flavour and riverside bustle. The city is a mix of old and new, with medieval walls, elegant Georgian houses, cobbled alleyways and modern thoroughfares.
Besides its many sites of historical significance Waterford is also famed for the House of Waterford Crystal - home to the elegant crystal ware, which is known the world over for its beauty and craftsmanship. Taking the factory tour you’ll get an up close and personal look at the various stages of the process, which results in these intricate works of art. Watch the professional glass blowers and cutters at work and marvel at the miraculous transformation of glowing hot balls of galls into diamond cut crystal - an art form, which they have perfected since the companies humble origins dating back to 1783.
After a short meander along Waterford’s quays, taking in the panoramic views of a port where merchant ships once unloaded their cargo, you’ll come across Reginald’s Tower, (part of the Viking Triangle), which was once used as part of the city’s defenses. This structure is one of Waterford’s trademark buildings – a round tower, housing a Viking exhibition. The displays feature many intriguing artefacts dating back to the Viking era in Waterford’s long and celebrated past.
Jumping forward through time and into Georgian Waterford, the Bishop’s Palace covers the history of Waterford from 1700 to 1970. Here you can really get a feel for what it was like in Waterford during that time. In fact, outside of Dublin, Waterford boasts the most impressive displays of 18th Century architecture in all of Ireland. The Bishop’s Palace is also home to the oldest piece of Waterford Crystal in the world – a decanter made in the 1780’s.
Before leaving Waterford City, swing by the People’s Park – Waterford’s largest and most impressive park. This relaxing and picturesque setting is the perfect place to unwind, take a relaxing stroll or to enjoy an open air picnic so you’re refreshed before hitting the road again.
If you’re up to another short trip, from Waterford city you can drive out towards a small fishing village called Dunmore East, which is approximately 10km (6.2 miles) from the city. Thatched cottages line the streets in this pretty village with colourful doors and whitewashed walls. You will also find some of Ireland’s best seafood restaurants, which are definitely worth sampling.
Alternatively, the heritage town of Lismore is roughly an hour drive from Waterford but still well worth the visit if you don’t mind being taken out of the way a little before returning to Kilkenny for the night. Rows of welcoming shop fronts and cafés line the streets of this pleasant rural town. Here you’ll find Lismore Castle and St. Cathage’s Cathedral, two of the town’s main attractions. Back in 636 AD a monastery founded by St. Cathage once stood on this very site and today you’ll find the Cathedral, a monument to the saint who dwelt here so long ago. Set atop a hill and with stunning greenery on all sides, this majestic building is well worth the visit.
Just down the road is Lismore Castle. This recently renovated structure dates back to 1172 and was built by Prince John of England. You’ll be treated to something really special in this magnificent castle, whether you explore the expansive cultivated gardens of the estate or head inside to the west wing, which houses a contemporary gallery space.
Make sure to drop into Lismore’s heritage centre before you head back to your accommodation. Here you’ll find a craft shop that has everything from Irish knitwear to recipes, so if you’ve been looking for a gift or souvenir, you’re bound to find something that takes your fancy here. The friendly and knowledgeable staff who run the centre are also on hand to fill you in on the various walking trails in the area and the history of the town.
Day 5: Cork City and Blarney
Today you will begin your journey around Cork. Cork is Ireland’s largest county and its locals (or Corconians) have some of the biggest personalities in Ireland. You’ll feel instantly welcome in the south-west of Ireland as the people of Cork win you over with their charm and wit.
Aside from the local hospitality, you’ll also find some of the most breath-taking and rugged scenery in the whole of Ireland. The City of Cork itself is rich with history. Much like Venice, the city is constructed upon water with some of the main streets being built over channels. Despite the fact that the city centre is built on an island in the River Lee, the whole city is completely accessible by foot.
The city dates back to the 7th Century and was founded by St. Finbarr. Many examples of centuries old architecture still exist including the 300 year old tower of St. Anne’s Church (home to the Shandon Bells) or St. Finbarr’s Cathedral (a monument to its namesake featuring stunning French Gothic spires). For a snippet from the city’s more recent history, you need look no further than the English Market, whose stalls have been packed with foods from the world over, since Victorian times.
One of Cork’s most memorable tourist attractions is Cork City Gaol. Steeped in history, this building is a castle like structure and once acted as a prison back in the 19th century. Today this unique heritage centre see visitors stepping back in time to discover what life was like in Cork from both sides of the prison walls.
The second attraction you’ll find here is the Radio Museum. Situated in the former Governor’s House, this unique experience incorporates a restored 6CK Radio Broadcasting Studio along with a plethora of archived reels from the RTÉ Collection (Radio Telefís na hÉireann – Ireland’s national television and radio broadcaster).
You’re coming up to the midpoint of your ancient tour of Ireland and what better way to mark the occasion than with a kiss. Whilst kissing a stone may not sound like the most romantic thing you’ve ever done, this is the Blarney Stone – the endower of the gift of eloquence, so it may be more special that you’d anticipated. For years this stone has been attracting visitors from around the world, hoping to sneak a smooch and test the legend that those who kiss the stone will acquire the “gift of the gab”. And whilst they may have come for the stone, many leave with fond memories of the castle and its surrounding grounds.
Within this ancient site, built over 600 years ago by one of Ireland’s greatest chieftains: Cormac Mac Carthy, you’ll find plenty to explore with the Battlements View, the Wishing Steps, the Witches Stone, Rock Close and Badgers Cave. These are just a handful of the other attractions for you to explore at Blarney that will give you plenty to talk about with your new found gift of eloquence.
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 under a 45 minutes from Blarney is the charming medieval fishing village of Kinsale. If you’re looking to sample some gourmet seafood then Kinsale has some of the best seafood restaurants in Ireland. If you’re not in search of something fishy, the narrow streets of this quaint village are also lined with shops, galleries and plenty more to keep you entertained before you head towards Blarney Castle.
Staying in bustling Cork city, enjoy all she has to offer! With so many restuarants and pubs you are spolit for choice, so enjoy the Rebel County's capital city and make sure you get a good nights sleep - Kerry is only one sleep away!
Day 6: The Ring of Kerry
Waking up in Cork - you are spurred on by the prospect of more ancient wonders to unravel, the Kingdom of Kerry is your next destination and here is where you will discover The Ring of Kerry (or the Iveragh Peninsula as it is also known). This area is famed for its stunning views and the sheer amount of attractions that you’ll find located all within this single scenic drive. You’ll want to fit in as much as possible so it’s always best to dedicate a full day to exploring the ring.
The sheer scale and wonder of the Ring of Kerry make this one of the most magical and intimate places in Ireland. The more you explore the more you will come to understand why this wondrous place inspires so many as the echoes of words spoken long ago resonate within the hidden crevasses of the Iveragh Peninsula.
Head to Moll’s Gap and gaze upon the majestic MacGillycuddy’s Reeks (Ireland’s talent mountain range). Look out from your perch at Ladies View as an infinite horizon stretches into the distance. Or make a visit to Rossbeigh’s golden sands, a beach with immersive surrounding panoramic views.
Hidden away within the Gap of Dunloe you’ll find a quaint little cottage, the very premises that was once owned by Kate Kearney – a legendary Irish beauty. Many will attest that the only true way to fully experience the gap is to traverse it with a pony and trap; and Kate Kearney’s Cottage honours this sentiment with tours embarking from the homestead. Later on in the day if you find yourself hankering for some tradition Irish food and music, you can’t go wrong with Kate’s. This fantastic venue does its very best to keep her spirit alive with dancers and musicians that compliment their superb traditional grub.
You can’t visit the Ring of Kerry without a side-trip to Killarney. This buzzing area is another fine example of a rural Irish town land with cheerful locals going about their day to day. From here you’ll be a short trip from Killarney National Park, where you’ll find even more expansive scenery and beautiful landscapes. Whether you’re walking or decide to hire a bike or horse and trap this beauty of this lush demesne is truly epic. It’s also a great place to have a picnic if you need to get your energy up.
From Killarney National Park you’ll be able to enjoy the scenic delights that are the Lakes of Killarney. From the shores of these three lakes : Lough Leane, Muckross Lake and the Upper Lake you can enjoy views of Muckross House, Muckross Abbey and the 15th Century Ross Castle.
Muckross House and Gardens is definitely worth a peek during your visit to the park. This restored Victorian house dates back to 1843 and is comprised a massive 65 rooms. A walk around the estate’s gardens will reveal a sunken garden, stream garden, Arboretum and much more. Summer visitors are in for a colourful treat as blossoming red and pink Rhododendrons accentuate the sophisticated charm of the gardens.
After a long day delving into the many treasures of the Ring of Kerry, drop by the nearby town of Kenmare (“The Jewel on the Ring of Kerry”). Strolling along the pathways of this heritage town you’ll find colourful craft shops and over 30 restaurants lining the streets tempting you with their very own local produce. It’s a beautiful little spot and the perfect place to wind down that evening before tucking snuggling up at your accommodation.
Day 7: The Dingle Peninsula
Leaving Killarney and en route to Dingle which was once voted as the “most beautiful place on earth” by the National Geographic, it will soon become apparent why such an accolade was bestowed on this inspirational region. Man first arrived to An Daingean (Gaelic for Dingle) a few thousand years ago. This area is blessed with a treasure trove of archaeological and historical sites dotting the beautiful landscape of the peninsula. The peninsula is a “Gaeltacht” region, meaning that locals speak Gaelic habitually. However, they are more than accommodating, and of course speak English. From stone forts to a plethora of beehive huts, the peninsula has it all, delighting with every bend of the road revealing more scenic beauty, as you peruse the area.
Pushing further west will take you towards the Dingle Peninsula. This mass of land, which stretches for roughly 48km (30 mi) juts out into the Atlantic Ocean and has some of the most beautiful coastal drives you will ever experience in Ireland. The Peninsula is home to the mountain range of Slieve Mish, Ireland second highest peak (Mount Brandon) as well as various cliffs fronts and beaches.
The area is literally teeming with lush landscapes and arresting views of your natural surroundings, but you’ll also find a host of archaeological wonders here. From intriguing Iron Age structures like Dunbeg Fort to the Gallarus Oratory (a church, which is speculated to have been built between the 6th and 10th Centuries) there is no end to interesting sights in this wonderful rural area.
Driving up along Slea head, Dingle’s rugged scenery is at its most prominent. Along this circular drive you can gaze upon Inishtooskert – the most northern of the Blasket Islands, which lies just off the coast of Kerry. From the distance this hulking island mass resemble a “Sleeping Giant” giving way to the islands nickname. The full circuit will bring you right around to Dingle town. The town is a quaint, picturesque village rich in culture and as a consequence presents visitors with a unique feel of old Ireland. With beautiful shops and workshops selling bespoke art and craft, not to mention the array of restaurants and bars on offer. Dingle has charm, warmth and everything you need to capture that quintessential feeling of “being Irish”.
On your way back to mainland Kerry from the Dingle Peninsula you can stop off in Tralee. This charming town is known the world over for its Rose of Tralee festival. This annual event sees “Roses” from every corner of the world converging in this truly special town to compete for the coveted title of the Rose of Tralee. Above all else the festival is a celebration of Irish heritage and of our Irish brothers and sisters, who despite being scattered around the globe are always welcome home.
Although this festival may only come around once a year, its sentiments are constantly upheld by the people of Tralee. Siamsa Tíre is Ireland’s National Folk Theatre. Based in Tralee they strive to keep the Irish spirit alive all year round with their diverse shows, which draw from every aspect of traditional Irish culture, using language, music, song and dance.Another essential when visiting Tralee is the Tralee Heritage trail. This comprehensive route will take you right around the town, hitting on all the main areas of interest and attractions in this fantastic town land.
Once you’re happy you’ve explored all that this this wonderful region has to offer, it’s back to your Kerry accommodation for the night. Now, just one sleep lies between you and County Clare and the captivating Burren region.
Day 8: The Cliffs of Moher and Bunratty
Over the next 24 hours you will be treated to some of the grandest natural treats in the West of Ireland. Bags packed and leaving Kerry behind you it’s time to explore Clare and the Burren region.
This truly unique area of limestone rock covers mountains, valleys and stream, each as awe-inspiring as the last. There is a beautiful contrast between the natural flora and fauna and the ancient man made megalithic tombs, which predate the Roman and even Egyptian civilisations. Before you trek out into the unknown, you can visit the Burren Visitors Centre in nearby Kilfenora, where you’ll get an introduction to the many secrets of the Burren.
The Burren Smokehouse is just a ten minute drive down the road from Kilfenora so drop in and sample some of their acclaimed smoked salmon, see the original kiln used at the smokehouse and browse their range of products, which include various crafts and delicacies from the Clare region.
From the Burren to the Cliffs of Moher your trip today is packed full of scenic eye-candy. Atop the cliff, the panoramic views of the Aran Islands, The Twelve Pins, The Maum Turk Mountains and Loop Head will take your breath away. The visitors’ centre, which has been aptly named Atlantic Edge, can be found close to the cliffs within an underground building. Various studies of the cliffs are on display here focusing on four main themes: Ocean, Rock, Nature and Man.
While you’re in the area, why not pop into . Less than ten minutes drive up the coast from the Cliffs of Moher you’ll find this fascinating cave, which is home to the longest stalactite in the northern hemisphere, measuring 6.54m (20 feet).
Also along the coast is Lahinch. If you’re up for a spot of water sports or just a stroll on the beach, a visit to Lahinch is a great way to take in Clare’s beautiful coastline. Every year, budding surfers visit Lahinch’s golden sands to catch some waves, so whether you’re there to join in or just spectate, there’s definitely fun to be had. The town also boasts two golf courses (Lahinch Championship Course and Lahinch Castle Course).On both you’ll find yourself teeing off with a backdrop of stretching coastal scenery, so if you have the time a quick round is a must.
Continuing to explore Clare you’ll find Bunratty Castle – a 15th Century castle, which is the acclaimed setting for the 19th Century Bunratty Folk Park. Built in 1425 and restored to its former medieval glory in 1954, Bunratty Castle is the ultimate medieval fortress in Ireland. Within the castle hang many 15th and 16th Century tapestries, furnishings and works of art, which really create a sense of authenticity. You will feel transported as you wander around the vast castle halls and for a truly unique experience you can also attend the Medieval Banquet - a night of rich food and entertainment.
The Bunratty Folk Park will see you surrounded by 19th Century living. You’ll be interacting with all the locals - the Bean an Tí (Woman of the House), the Policeman, and Schoolteacher as you discover the ins and outs of their daily routines. As you walk from house to house you’ll be immersed in a wonderful bubble of sights sounds and senses, making this a truly enchanting experience for all ages.
Weary from your travels you may want to pop into Durty Nelly’s (just beside the castle) for a pick me up. The history and heritage surrounding Durty Nelly and her public house date back to 1620 and include: a toll bridge, an Irish wolfhound and a miracle cure. For years travellers have enjoyed the hospitality and warmth of this one of a kind pub and now with live Irish music seven days a week, you can’t help but be lured into Nelly’s cosy welcome.
As the entertainment dies down for the night it’s off to bed for the last time on this Ireland adventure. You’ll be staying in Clare so the trip to Shannon Airport won’t be too long the next morning and you can take your time enjoying your last morning in Ireland.
Day 9: Galway City
Onto the West Coast of Ireland and to Galway City (the City of Tribes). It’s time to delve into the past once more and get acquainted with another of Ireland’s fantastic cities. But first to the Galway Irish Heritage Centre for a stunning display from the local craftsmen. These skilful artists have refined their process to perfection and continue to create inspired pieces of this beloved brand on the shores of Galway Bay. Inspired by the beautiful scenery, which surrounds them, this craft has evolved over the centuries but still maintained what makes it so special. Their entire range is on show at the heritage centre if you’re looking to own your very own piece of Galway.
Arriving at Galway City, the cultural heart of Ireland, you’ll find folklore and traditional roots in their abundance. Craft shops nestled in side streets; stunning architecture with medieval undertones and the ever-welcoming presence of the locals make any trip to Galway special. The mysteries of the Claddagh Ring are also rooted in this very region. From where the iconic symbol of two hands clutching a crowned heart originated people can only speculate, but the tradition remains true. Just make sure you show your true feelings in the way you wear your ring:.
Here you will be spoilt for choice as you try to decide which Irish music Pub to visit next. Tig Collí, Taaffes, The Quays, An Pucán, The Crane… and the list goes on. As with most areas, some sessions are scheduled, whereas others are completely impromptu, taking you off guard and putting an instance smile on your face and a spring in our step.
Galway has a whole host of other attractions as well. The Galway City Museum contains two major exhibitions. One of these takes a look at the rich heritage of Galway whilst the other displays works of art from prominent Irish artists from the second half of the 20th Century. Then there’s the Spanish Arch, Galway Cathedraland Brigit's Garden. These are just a snippet of the fantastic variety of sights and sounds in Galway City, which will leave you longing for more.
Whilst in June Galway hosts its annual Galway Sessions festival. Every year a full week of events is planned with a parade, big name musicians performing and living up to its name – plenty of sessions. All this awaits you and more in this fantastic city. You’ll be spending the next two nights in Galway, so lay back and let the spirit of the west wash over you as your eyes grown heavy and you’re carried off to a Celtic dreamland.
Day 10: The Connemara Region and Clonmacnoise
The following morning you begin the last stretch of your tour before you begin your route back to Dublin for your overnight stay before your departure home. We suggest you set out to explore the wilderness of Connemara, a region which is populated largely by sheep and dotted with hundreds of small lakes. Here you will see some of the most majestic scenery of Ireland, which is dominated by the Twelve Bens mountain range. The stone walls, tiny farms, isolated thatched cottages and heather covered hills are bounded by a sea coastline with many quiet sandy beaches. Many of the inhabitants of this region still speak Gaelic and ancient Celtic traditions and customs have been preserved.
Take the Sky Road as you cruise towards Kylemore Abbey and you’ll be astounded by your exquisite natural surroundings – 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 12 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 (1,736ft), in the very heart of the Connemara Mountains, you’ll find Kylemore Castle and Abbey. 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 fulfill their wish to someday live in Connemara (which they visited numerous times after their honeymoon there). Ramble through the same beautiful grounds, which stand as a testament to the couples’ love for each other and the beauty of the region; and discover its rich history involving tragedy, gambling debts, royal visits and engineering initiatives.
Kylemore Abbey is open to visitors all year round and within its confines you can enjoy the Abbey itself, pottery studio, the Gothic Church, restaurant, the Victorian Walled Gardens and a selection of lake and woodland walks. There’s also a craft shop if you feel like getting a memoir of your visit and your very own reminder of this stunning region.
In the Connemara region you’ll also find Connemara national Park – a captivating expanse that covers some 7307 acres (2957 hectares). 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 Kyle more Castles main source of water in the 1800’s.
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 prefect 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.
Returning to Dublin, you’re final stop off will be Clonmacnoise - a 6th Century monastic settlement founded by St. Ciaran and located in Westmeath. Along the eastern bank of Ireland’s longest river (the River Shannon), you’ll be in awe of the fantastic stone structures, which make up this historical site: the ruins of a cathedral, and seven churches (10th – 13th Century), two round towers and intricately carved stone sculptures. Here you’ll also find the single largest collection of early Christian graveslabs in Western Europe, some of which are on display in the visitors centre along with the original high cross of Clonmacnoise.
Visitors to the centre are also treated to a multilingual audio/visual tour, which tells the story of Clonmacnoise, along with exhibitions, which study the landscape, flora and fauna of the region. Arriving in Dublin that evening it’s time to wind down and enjoy the many friendly locals and restaurants the capital has to offer.
Day 11: Departure from Dublin
With your Ancient Celtic Ireland tour complete, all that are left are the memories and photos of a life changing ten day tour. Go n'éirí an t-ádh leat (good luck), Slán abhaile (safe trip home).