Best of Ireland South and West Self-Drive Tour 15 Days
14 Night Tour From $1,655 pps
This tour arrives into and departs from Dublin, but it can be customised to include Shannon as an arrival/departure point.
Destinations / Itinerary
Days 1 and 2: Arrival in Dublin and Dublin City
You’re in the capital of Ireland and this veritable melting pot of culture and tradition is a joy to explore. Busy streets packed with Dubliners from all over the world show that the “Céad Míle Fáilte” (“a hundred thousand welcomes”) is still strong here.
From the airport, once you’ve picked up your rental car it’s off to your accommodation to check in. Once you’re ready to explore the city, it can be hard to know where to start, but luckily there are plenty of ways to see the best of Dublin. The Dublin Bus Hop On Hop Off Tours are the perfect way to make sure you fit in as much of this bustling city as possible. They’ll bring you to all the major attractions and once you’ve gotten your ticket you can come and go as you please.
Or if you prefer to ditch the wheels and wander around the oldfashioned way, the Dublin Tourist Board have a whole range of free iWalks (guided tours recorded as podcasts) available for download so you can ramble around the city while the soothing voice of author Pat Liddy fills you on the history of Dublin.
Make sure to schedule in a visit to Trinity College Dublin on your first day in Ireland. This 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 arguablythe “greenest grass in Ireland”.
For the art-lover Dublin has a whole host of museums and art galleries from the Chester Beatty Library in Dublin Castle to the National Gallery or the Irish Museum of Modern Art. What’s more, entry is free, so there’s no excuse not to sample some of the more artistic delights our “Fair City” has to offer. As the day draws on you might find yourself hankering for that pint of Guinness, but fear not because the Guinness Storehouse has got you covered. During the tour you’ll discover all the historybehind this famous brand and get an insight into the magic behindthe “black stuff”.
Taking a break from sight-seeing, Grafton Street (Dublin’s favourite shopping district) has everything you need to relax. Visit Bewley’s Café and enjoy an Irish coffee in a favourite venue of many of Dublin’s literary greats or venture down Wicklow Street to find quaint bistros and the Powerscourt Shopping Centre with the perfect combination of a stunning setting and a wide range of boutiques.
The sun may begin to dim as it tucks in for the night, but that doesn’t mean your fun has to end there. In fact for the full Dublin experience you have to witness the thrilling ambience of it’s nightlife. So it’s off to Temple bar - often referred to as Dublin’s cultural hub. As you walk around the narrow cobbled streets (a feature which has been preserved from medieval times), lilting Irish melodies will waft through the air beckoningyou into one of the many Irish pubs with regular sessions. There’s so much to do within this thriving city but with two days to explore Dublin you'll have plenty of time to see all the city has to offer.
Day 3: Kilkenny City
The trip from Dublin to Kilkenny City will take roughly 1 hour and 30 minutes but the time will fly by with all the beautiful scenery to admire.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 Centuryromantic 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.
Once you arrive inKilkenny City, it’s off to enjoy one of Kilkenny’s mainattractions: Kilkenny Castle. The structure is almost 18 centuries oldand 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 visitor to Kilkenny. This complex structure features many varying styles ofarchitecture 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 hisstory 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 workingbrewery in Kilkenny. The tour also includes a visit to the remarkable 12thCentury St. Francis Abbey, which is on the site of the brewery.
St. Canice’s Cathedral is another monument in Kilkenny City, which bares more than a fair share ofheritage 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 mesmerizing 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 featuresRomanesque detailing as well as 13th and 16th Century tomb sculptures.
To acquaint yourself with the town, you could always take the Tynan Walking Tour were an experienced guide will show you around the city and tell you all about the trials and tribulations of this captivating city.
That night you'll be staying in Kilkenny so before you hit the hay, take some time to enjoy the city's fantastic traditional Irish Music Scene or variety of restaurants on offer.
Day 4: Waterford and Tramore
With another morning comes another delicious Irish breakfast to fuel you on your journey around the Ireland. Once you’re packed up and ready to embark from Kilkenny, your route will take you to the coast and to Waterford City. Dating back to 941 AD, Waterford is the oldest of Ireland’s cities. Each brick is loaded with historical importance or asecret long forgotten. The city has strong links with the Vikings as well as the historical figure Strongbow, whose arranged marriage to Aoife (daughter of Dermot Mac Murrough – King of Leinster) changed the course of Irish history forever.
History aside, for any visitor to Waterford the most obvious starting point is 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 craftsmen at work as they demonstrate 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). Thisstructure is one of Waterford’s trademark buildings – a round tower, housing a Viking exhibition. The displays feature many intriguingartefacts dating back to the Viking era in Waterford’s long andIllustrious past.
Jumping forward through time and into Georgian Waterford, theBishop’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 mostimpressive 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.
You'll be staying in Tramore for your night in Waterford, so make sure to leave yourself time to explore this wonderful seaside resort. Whether you want to wine and dine, lie on the beach, take long walks to the sand dunes or along the bay there is plenty to keep you entertainment in Tramore. The long rolling waves inTramore attract swimmers of all ages, and, of course, surfers. Surf lessons and equipment are availablelocally as well as sea kayaking.
Tramore has dining options to suit any budget and taste. Great nightlife can be found all around the town in one of our many pubs or nightclubs with traditional music most nights in the summer and good liveentertainment every weekend year round.Ensure you have good nights sleep ready for the next leg of your journey!
Day 5: Cork City and the Blarney Stone
With the break of another day comes the promise of another region to be explored. Your day will be spent venturing around Cork City and the surrounding region.First it’s time to get up close and personal with one of Ireland’s most loved visitor attractions – the Blarney Stone. There are many variations as to how the stone was endowed with such power, but all agree that kissing the stone will award you with the gift of the gab. Year after year visitors come to Blarney to do just that, but once you’re there you’llrealise that there is so much more to Blarney than its famous stone.
The castle itself, was built nearly 600 years ago by Cormac Mac Carthy – one of Ireland’s greatest chieftains and is home to a whole array of attractions that will really give you something to talk about with your new found gift of the gab. The Wishing Steps, The Battlement View, Badgers Cave and Rock Close are just a snippet of the many wonders foryou to explore at Blarney.
Blarney is also well known for its woollen mills. Now Ireland’s largest gift store, Blarney Woollen Mills stocks the best of the best in quality Irish gifts from Waterford Crystal, Belleek China and Aran Sweaters to Celtic Jewellery; and Irish linen and lace. It’s the perfect one stop shop for all things Irish so if you’ve been looking for somewhere to stock up onsouvenirs, now is your chance.
After taking in all the splendours Blarney has to offer, it’s off to 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. Also within the confine of Cork City Gaol is the Radio Museum –home to an impressive collection of archived reels from Ireland’s national broadcaster as well as a restored 6CK Radio Broadcasting Studio.
If you’d prefer to get out in the open, the Fota Wildlife Park might be just the thing for you. Located in Cork harbour and a mere fifteen minute drive outside the city, this attraction is well worth the short trip. No two trips to Fota are the same. Free roaming animals populate the park and are sure to surprise, thrill and bring a smile to your face. The park is also home to some highly endangered species such as the Europeanbison.
Make sure to fit in a visit to Kinsale or Cobh or both, while you’re in the region. These seaside towns have got just the trick whether you’re looking to eat out or just take a stroll along Cork’s golden sands. That evening, you’ll be spending the night in Blarney.
Days 6 and 7: The Ring of Kerry
The sunlight will peek through your curtained window, waking you gently and reminding you of the adventures that lie in wait outside. Kerry is famed for the Iveragh Peninsula or the Ring of Kerry as it is better known. This unspoiled and almost magical area has been attracting visitors for years. You’ll want to go at your own pace exploring the area but luckily you'll have two full days to take in all the Ring of Kerry has to offer.
From expansive beaches to rich heritage links to ancient Ireland and some of the finest scenery in Ireland, this is one trip that you will not be forgetting anytime soon. Venture along the pass through the majestic MacGillycuddy’s Reeks, visit the restored Kerry 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, 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 thosewalking 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 wonderfulsetting, 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 thegardens blossom with vibrant red and pink Rhododendrons.
Rightbeside 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.
Nestled in the Gap of Dunloe you’ll find Kate Kearney’s Cottage - former home to the legendary Irish beauty of the same name. Visitors aretreated to a night of Irish music like no other. You’ll be served up a delicious traditional dinner - the perfect accompaniment to the live music and costumed dancers, which has earned the cottage such wide spreadacclaim.Watch as the musicians skilfully play their instruments willing them to produce lilting tunes and creating an electric atmosphere. Fiddles, pipes and tine whistles spur on the dances as they display their vast repertoire from jigs and reels to the famous “Brush Dance”.
Or if you would prefer, you can discover your own local in Killarney town! Enjoy a pint of the black stuff and meet new friends, as you take a pub crawl of you own making through the town. With lots of pubs to sample you can enjoy the happy mix of tourists and locals in each, and perhaps stumble across an impromptu traditional musical session. Discover the local folklore, sing along to all your favourite Irish ballads and enjoy a pint Kerry style in this engaging and fun-filled town before heading back to your accommodation where you'll be spending all three of your nights in Kerry.
Day 8: The Dingle Peninsula
You may have seen the Ring of Kerry, but this scenic region of Ireland’s south-west still has a few more tricks up its sleeve. After anotherdelicious Irish breakfast to set you up for the day, it’s time to get back on the road and make your way towards Tralee.
Tralee is known the world over for its Rose of Tralee festival. Thisannual 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 everyaspect of traditional Irish culture, through language, music, song and dance.
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 sightsin 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 resembles a “Sleeping Giant” giving way to the islandsnickname. The full circuit will bring you right around to Dingle town. Within this fishing and farmingcommunity you’ll find a number of pubs, each with its own unique character from the modern to the trulytraditional where five is a crowd. A walk thought the hilly streets of this picturesque town is a must, taking in the brightly painted houses and the stretching views from the harbour.
With the sights and sounds of the Dingle Peninsula still fresh in your mind’s eye you can happily set out on the route back to your accommodation for your final night in Kerry.
Day 9: Adare and Limerick
On the way towards Clare and the Burren Region you’ll be passing through Limerick city and the village of Adare.Adare is the proud bearer of the title: “Ireland’s prettiest village”. This wonderfully picturesque rural village does its part to keep the Irishtraditions alive. In Adare you’re never far from a friendly smile or ahopping music session, so even if you’re only visiting for the pleasant scenery you’ll leave with the warmth of true Irish charm.
The best place to start your visit to Adare is its Heritage Centre.Whatever your question, the staff are there to point you in the rightdirection. The Heritage Centre is also home to an insightful exhibition, which delves into the village’s enthralling past. Wandering around this quintessential rural village, you’ll feel magically transported into asimpler time. The local’s up beat charm is a breath of fresh air, winning you over and willing you to extend you stay in this peaceful andbeautiful village.
Limerick City on the other hand is a bustling urban delight situated at the mouth of the River Shannon (Ireland’s longest river). King John’s Castle is one of Limerick’s most famed monuments and rightfully so. Nestled in the heart of the city on its very own island home, the fantastic 13th century structure hosts a range of exhibitions and castle tours, which breathe life into the esteemed history of the castle. King John, after whom the castle was named, was once “Lord of Ireland”. He used the building for minting his own coins and today, visitors can receive their very own souvenir coin as a reminder of their visit.
All around the city of Limerick you’ll find a fascinating combination of the old and the new. Georgian street-scapes combine with modern buildings creating a strange mix but one that really works. A stroll along the newly completed board-walk treats visitors to stunning views of the north bank of the River Shannon, whilst walking down the marina you can stare out along its south bank.
For a glimpse at what Limerick has to offer in terms of culture, drop into the Hunt Museum. One of a kind art pieces and antiques from the Neolithic age to the 20th Century make up the exhibitions of this magnificent museum. Roman, Greek and Egyptian civilisations all make an appearance and even works of art by Yeats, Renoir and Picasso. In Limerick you’ll find a whole host of attractions and an eclectic selection of shops and restaurants. Time will slip away as you experience the charm of this wonderful city and before you know it, it will be time to head on.
Clare still lies ahead, so it’s back on the road as you push further north, making your way towardsyour destination.. You’ll find your accommodation in this wonderful county and from your base can look forward to the Burren and the Cliffs of Moher the following day.
Day 10: The Burren and the Cliffs of Moher
Over the next 24 hours you will be treated to some of the grandestnatural treats in the West of Ireland. The Burren is a truly unique area of limestone rock covers mountains, valleys and stream, each as awe-inspiring as the last. There is abeautiful contrast between the natural flora and fauna and the ancient man made megalithic tombs, which predate the Roman and evenEgyptian 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 captivating area.
The Burren Smokehouse is just a ten minute drive down the road from Kilfenora so drop in and sample some of their acclaimed smokedsalmon, 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 AranIslands, The Twelve Pins, The Maum Turk Mountains and Loop Head will take your breath away. While you’re in the area, why not pop into Doolin Cave. Less than ten minutes drive up the coast from the Cliffs of Moher you’ll find this fascinating cave, which is home to the longeststalactite in the northern hemisphere, measuring 6.54m (20 feet).
Continuing your exploration of Clare you’ll find Bunratty Castle - a 15th Century castle, 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 nightof rich food and entertainment.
The Bunratty Folk Park will see you surrounded by 19th Century living. You’ll be interacting with all thelocals - 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 dreaming of your next days adventures.
Day 11: Galway City
Your room will fill with morning light as you adjust your eyes and begin to wake. Nothing can beat the feeling as you slip from the grasp of a world of dreams and step back fully into reality, coming to your senses and remembering that you are still on the holiday of a lifetime. You’re in Galway City and it’s just begging to be explored.
Galway City is the cultural heart of Ireland. This charming city isbrimming with heritage, culture and folklore. Weaving through the side streets browsing the hand crafted wares on offer you’ll be in awe of the rich architecture and medieval nuances. Friendly faces greet you around every corner and a magical spirit lingers in the air. The mysteries of the Claddagh Ring are 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:
When worn on the right hand with the crown turned inwards tells that the wearers heart is yet unoccupied, but when worn with the crown turned outward this reveals that love is being considered. Worn on the left hand with the crown turned outwards shows all that the wearer's heart is truly spoken for.
Within the City you can check out the Galway City Museum, whichcontains two major exhibitions. One explores the rich heritage of Galway and the other displays works of art from prominent Irish artists from the second half of the 20th Century. Add to this the Spanish Arch, Galway Cathedral, Brigit's Gardenand you’ll start to get an idea of just how varied and wonderful a place Galway City is.
The west of Ireland is truly steeped with rich heritage and for proof of this you need only visit the Connemara Celtic Crystal Visitor Centre.In the quaint town of Moycullen, just 7 mi (12 km) from Galway City, the master craftsmen of Connemara Celtic Crystal continue to produce beautifully detailed crystal, which has been long known as one of the world’s favourite Irish brands. Gathering inspiration from the lush countryside that surrounds them and the folklore and traditions passed down through generations in Galway. At the heritage centre the whole range of crystal ware is available so you can take home your very own piece of Galway.
If you fancy some evening entertainment, you’ll be pleased to discover Galway’s strong ties with traditional Irish music. There must be something in the water, because there are an uncanny number of extremelytalented musicians, dancers and singers roaming the Connemara/Galway region. The Tig Colli pub inGalway City is one of many favourites for such impromptu sessions!
For now it’s back to the your accommodation for your second night in Galway. The beauty of all you’ve seen in the west of Ireland will drift through your dreams as you get ready for your trip around the Connemara Region.
Day 12: The Connemara Region
Now that you’ve seen Galway City, it’s time to get yourself acquainted with the some of Ireland’s most spectacular scenery and theConnemara region. 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 thecoastline; the moss covered walls of the Old D’Arcy Castle and thetowering 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 picturesquesetting.
Continuing on your expedition around Connemara, at the foot of the Druchruach Mountain (529m/1,736ft), in the very heart of theConnemara Mountains, you’ll find Kylemore Abbey & Walled Gardens. 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). Ramble through the same beautiful grounds, which stand as a testament to the couples’ love for each other and the beauty of theregion; and discover its rich history involving tragedy, gambling debts, royal visits and engineering initiatives.
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 findmountains, heaths and woodlands in this scenic domain, alongside megalithic court tombs, a 19th Century graveyard and Tobar Mweelin - a well which was Kylemore Castle's 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 Landscapeexhibition or just breathe in the nature and relax in one of the parks manypicnic areas. Time will stand still as you enjoy this immersive expanse.
From here you can visit Maam Valley. In the shadow of the Maamturk Mountains, Maam is a quaint wooded townland 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. 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.
It’s back to Galway again for the night. If you haven’t already enjoyed the traditional Irish music this city has to offer, now will be your last chance or maybe stop in one of the numerous seafood restaurants and find out why Galway is the host to the Annual Oyster Festival. As the sun sets on your thirteenth day in Ireland,approaching the end of your adventure, have a thought back to all you’ve experienced in such a short time as you rest up in in your accommodation once again.
Day 13: Westport and Mayo
Westport - a truly unique town nestled on Mayo's west coast. It’s the mix of the old and new that makes Westport so special. Traditional shop fronts and pubs line the streets, standing as a reminder of a time gone by, alongside more contemporary structures, which embrace themodern way of life. Georgian buildings, tree lined malls and a populace comprised of ever friendly townsfolk - there truly is no other town inIreland that boasts the same charm as Westport. You'll have two full days to explore this gem of a town and the surrounding area.
One of the town’s most popular attractions is Westport House andGardens. Built in 1730 on castle ruins this fascinating estate contains over 30 rooms, dungeons and some beautiful gardens. Guided tours are available or you could just drop in for some afternoon tea and bask in the fresh country air of the west.
Westport stands at the foot of Croagh Patrick – a looming mountain where Saint Patricks is said to have fasted for 40 days in the 5thCentury. On the last Sunday of every year, roughly 15,000 pilgrims climb to the top of the mountain to back in the spirituality of the site where Patrick is said to have built the church. As stunning as the views are the climb can be quite intense, so luckily there is an information centre at the foot of the mountains, which houses a variety of displays. Here you’ll find in-depth information on the various archaeological discoveries, which have been made on the mountain.
North of Westport you’ll find the Céide Fields, home to a stunning visitor centre (which has received Ireland’s architectural award) but alsoboasting a truly one of a kind archaeological experience. Visitors to the Céide Fields, can immerse themselves in a vast prehistoric landscape covering blankets bogs, dramatic cliffs and beautiful coastlines. Thevisitor centre itself houses a number of exhibitions, audio-visual shows and offers guided tours so you can discover all the mysteries, about the boglands and the hidden Neolithic structures, which lie preservedbeneath.
From Westport you’re in the perfect location to visit Achill Island. Achill Island is Ireland’s largest offshore island and can be accessed via a road bridge. Once there you’ll find a plethora of activities, sights and breath-taking scenery. The Atlantic Drive for example takes visitors on a 40km round trip that includes the very best of the island’s scenery. Achill is also home to five stunning Blue Flag beaches, some of Europe’s highest cliffs and large tracts of blanket bog, which sweep over the island’s two peaks and down to the shore. The island holds proof of human settlement dating back 5,000 years in the form of various megalithic tombs and promontory forts. There is also a 16th Century fortified tower house, Kildamhnait Castle, the 18th Century Achill Mission and the poignant deserted villages at Slievemore and Ailt.
You’ll definitely have plenty to keep you occupied during your stay in Mayo and a good nights sleep ahead.
Day 14: Departure from Dublin via the midlands
Today begins your journey cross country back to the east coast and although the road may be a long one, you’ll have more than enough to keep you occupied along the way. Besides the beautiful countryside scenes that you’ll be driving through, there are also a number ofattractions dotting the route.
In Westmeath, right in the centre of Ireland you’ll find KilbegganDistillery. This is Ireland’s last remaining example of a small potdistillery. It may have shut down in 1957, but today visitors are invitedto watch the restored machinery at work and learn the secrets behind Kilbeggan Distillery’s 200 years of triple distilled whiskey.
County Westmeath is also known as the “Lake County” due to the large number of lakes in the area. The most famous of these lakes are Lough Owel, Lough Ennell and Lough Derevaragh. The latter of these isfeatured in Irish folklore in the story of the Children of Lir. The legend tells of Bodh Derg and his four children, who were transformed into swans by their evil stepmother Aoife and then doomed to remain inthese forms for 300 years.
From here you can also visit Kildare and the National Stud. Established in 1946 the stud holds a key role in the development and promotion of Irish bloodstock. This is the only stud farm in Ireland, which is open to the public and here you’ll also find the Japanese Gardens (famed as one of the most famous Japanese Gardens in Europe) and the Horse Museum. You can also swing by the Kildare Village boutique outletcentre if you want pick up a few souvenirs or grab a bite to eat.
Finally, before returning to Dublin, you can pass through the BoyneValley in Meath. 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 beforeStonehenge in England and the great pyramids in Cairo. They contain great passage tombs 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 theentrance 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”.
Access to the structure is available by guided tour from the Brú na Bóinne visitor centre, which is worthtaking 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. Arriving back in Dublin that night, maybe take one last ramble around Temple Bar and search out another one of its many traditional Irish music session.
Day 15: Departure from Dublin
Unfortunately it’s time to say goodbye to the Emerald Isle. From west to east you’ll have seen some of the most spectacular scenery that that Ireland has to offer, explored charming cities and quaint town lands. The experiences you’ve gathered over the last 15 days will stay with you for a lifetime – a constant reminder of your home away from home, always a mere thought away, ready to put a smile on your face.
Leaving your accommodation it’s back to Dublin Airport to drop off your rental car and catch your departing flight back home. Make sure you leave yourself with plenty of time to get to the airport and make your way through security. It never hurts to spend a few minutes the night before planning out exactly how you’regoing to get there. And just like that you’ll be winging your way back home. Every trip to Ireland is anadventure in its own right, and you’re sure to have plenty of stories to regale your friends and family with when you arrive back.
And remember, we’re always here to lend a hand, so if you have any question, no matter how big or small, get in touch and one of our Ireland experts will be on hand to help.