Luxury South Self-Drive Tour 8 Days
7 Night Tour From $1,500 pps
This tour arrives/departs from Shannon but these arrival/departure points can be customised to include other airports such as Dublin.
Destinations / Itinerary
Day 1: Cashel
Your flight will touch down in Shannon airport and from here you’ll embark on a journey around the south of Ireland. Here you’ll sample the stunning scenery, which makes this region of Ireland so tranquil and beautiful. You’ll venture around the Ring of Kerry, learn why the ocean breeze feels all the cooler from atop the Cliffs of Moher and sample the home cooked tastes of Ireland’s beloved southern counties.
But what really sets this tour apart is the accommodation. Every night for the next seven nights you’ll be staying in some of the most stunning, opulent and luxurious accommodation in Ireland. From fantastic five-star hotels to the most desirable castle accommodations in Ireland you’ll be living a royal life on your stay in Ireland.
After picking up your car in Clare you’ll be hitting the road and heading to Waterford, stopping off in Cashel, County Tipperary along the way. Don’t worry about missing out on splendours of Clare though, because you’ll have two overnights here during the final leg of your journey.
There’s a surprise around every corner in Ireland and once you’ve begun your tour you’ll quickly realise that you’re going to be kept enthralled even when you’re making your way from one destination to the next. One of Ireland’s most loved assets is its expansive scenery. Along your route from Clare to Tipperary, you’ll be treated to vast countryside scenes, traditional Irish villages and a sea of green beauty stretching off as far as the eye can see.
Reaching Cashel there’s really only one place to start – The Rock of Cashel. This towering structure, which was once the seat of the high kings of Munster, is truly a sight to behold. Comprised of various 12th and 13th Century buildings the Rock of Cashel boasts a mixture of both Celtic and medieval architecture and once witnessed it’s really not hard to understand why this monument is the pride of the people of Cashel.
Going at your own pace along the town Trail you’ll find all of Cashel’s enthralling attractions: from the 15th Century Kearney’s Castle to the Bolton Libraries vast collection and even a Folk Village - home to various historical artefacts and reconstructed thatched cottages. If you’re in need of a helping hand, the Cashel Heritage Centre is always on hand to point you in the right direction, or maybe check out the Cashel Woollen Mills and pick up a woven reminder of your trip to Ireland. If sightseeing has built up your appetite, then let Cashel satisfy your hunger with its selection of restaurants and cafes – all brimming with personality and offering salivating menus.
Once you’ve drank in all the delights of Cashel it’s time to move on south and make your way towards Waterford. On the way is the town of Cahir. Here you can visit Cahir Castle. Guided tours are available where you can learn about the castle’s illustrious history, traced back to the Earl of Ormond. Your first overnight will see you staying at Waterford Castle – one of the most acclaimed castle hotels in Ireland.
Waterford Castle, Waterford
A short ferry trip will bring you to Waterford Castle’s island home. Landing on this secluded and luxurious retreat and making your way towards the castle’s huge studded oak doors, holding five hundred years worth of secrets you’ll really start to feel the majesty of this world class accommodation.
Intricately carved stone and wood panelling adorn the interiors of this elegant structure along with hallways lined with Jacobean style antiques and original tapestries. The original décor of the castle is reflected in each of its sumptuous rooms creating the perfect blend of modern comforts and historical surroundings. You can always expect superb service from the excellent staff at Waterford Castle, so you’re sure to be in for a pampering.
Within the grounds of this peaceful island sanctuary you’ll find a whole world of activities. Get acquainted with Waterford Castle’s fantastic fairways on its 18 hole, par 72 Championship parkland golf course. Follow wooded walking/nature trails and discover the estate’s beautiful greenery and the deer, swans, and foxes which also inhabit the island. Have a go at clay pigeon shooting, archery or brush up on your tennis skills. You’ll want to soak up every last minute of your stay and enjoy as much of the 310 acres (125 hectares) of Waterford Castle’s vast grounds.
Should the elements go against you; the warmth of Waterford Castle’s interior will be there to fend off the Irish weather in true luxurious style. Enjoy afternoon tea in the castle’s conservatory before unwinding in the lobby on its oversized couches. Or pull up a chair in front of the open fire, adorned with the Fitzgerald family crest and bask in the comfort and elegance of these surroundings. Allow yourself to become lost in the years of history which fortify the stone walls of the castle and that night, you can be sure the dreaming will come easy as your worries float away and the magic of Ireland caresses you into a soft sleep.
Day 2: Lismore and Waterford City
As hard as it may be to part with your castle bed, it’s time to rise and greet the day. Your trip has only just begun and after finishing off your Irish breakfast, you'll be departing from Waterford Castle so you can get started exploring Waterford City.
Dating back to 941 AD, Waterford is the oldest of Ireland’s cities. Each brick is loaded with historical importance or a secret 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. This structure is one of Waterford’s trademark buildings – a round tower, housing a Viking exhibition. The displays feature many intriguing artifacts 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 enjoy an open air picnic so you’re sure to be refreshed before you continue on to Lismore.
The heritage town of Lismore is roughly an hour drive from Waterford and is the perfect midway point for a stop off on your way to Mallow in Cork. Rows of welcoming shop fronts and cafes line the streets of this pleasant rural town. Here you’ll find Lismore Castle and St. Carthage’s Cathedral, two of the town’s main attractions. Back in 636 AD a monastery founded by St. Carthage 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 hit the road again. 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.
Hayfield Manor, Cork
Leaving Waterford behind, you will be going to the wonderful 5* Hayfield Manor located close to the hustle and bustle of Cork City, but set in 2 acres of secluded mature gardens and is an oasis of calm away from vibrant Cork City. The city has a plethora of attractions to keep you busy from Cork City Gaol to St. Finbarr’s Cathedral and the famous Shandon Bells. Not to mention all the shops you and your pockets can handle - and a lively music scene thanks to the large number of pubs and clubs in the vicinity. Staying in Hayfield you are also close to Blarney, Cobh and Kinsale for even more attractions!
Hayfield Manor itself is all about luxury and while it exudes all the charm of class of yesteryear it was in fact built only in 1996. The bedrooms are individually decorated and come with spacious bathrooms, 24 hour room service and complimentary internet connection.
You have a choice of dining options here - the renowned Orchids Restaurant serves the finest contemporary Irish cuisine, while Perrotts Garden Bistro offers a more relaxed a la carte dining experience. The quality of the food is the same however, with the talented chefs creating sumptuous culinary delights all sourced, in as much as possible, with Irish, locally produced goods.
Relax in the Beautique Spa – an inner sanctuary with an array of delightful treatments to soothe your weary muscle after a busy day of touring. Or if you want to keep up the pace, check out their Leisure Centre with pool, steam room and Jacuzzi and a gym packed full of the latest equipment.
Whatever you choose to do in Hayfield you can be assured of quality and class and you will thoroughly enjoy your time spent here!
Day 3: Cork City and Blarney Castle
With the break of another day comes the promise of another region to be explored. Today you will be exploring Cork City but 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 a 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’ll realise that there is so much more to Blarney that its famous stone.
The castle itself, which was built nearly 600 years ago by Cormac Mac Carthy – one of Ireland’s greatest chieftains – 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 Wising Steps, The Battlement View, Badgers Cave and Rock Close are a snipped of the many wonders for you to explore at Blarney. The Blarney Woollen Mills is just down the round from the castle and here you’ll find an impressive stock of quality Irish gifts from Beleek China to Aran Sweaters and Celtic Jewellery that will leave you spoilt for choice if you’re looking to take home your very own piece of Ireland.
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.
Just outside of Cork City, in the heart of Cork harbour you’ll find an attraction of a completely different nature in Fota Wildlife Park. Every trip to this natural haven offers up a new and exciting experience with a blend of free roaming animals and birds from all over the world.
Before you make the return trip to your accommodation for the night, swing by Kinsale or Cobh. 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. As another action packed day in Ireland comes to an end it’s back to Hayfield Manor for another night of indulgence in some of Ireland’s finest accommodation.
Day 4: The Ring of Kerry
Although the comforts of Hayfield Manor may be a struggle to resist, once you leave you can get on your way to the Ring of Kerry. This famous area is one of true raw beauty. Also known as the Iveragh Peninsula the variety of things to do and see here is quite literally astounding. There is a certain mystical nature to some of the sites around the Ring of Kerry, which you can only truly understand once you’ve stood in awe of their sheer splendour. Ancient sites, vast beaches and inspiring landscapes await you in this unforgettable region.
Venture through Moll’s Gap and gasp in awe at the majesty of Ireland’s highest mountain range – The MacGillycuddy Reeks. Admire the breath-taking views from a vantage point at Ladies View. Stroll along Rosbeigh’s gentle beach and watch the horizon stretch on for an eternity. Or make your way through the Gap of Dunloe and be cast under a spell by the majestic lakes you’ll find there.
If you do find yourself eager to explore the gap make sure to drop into Kate Kearney’s Cottage. Pony and trap tours of the Gap of Dunloe depart from this secluded traditional homestead , which are for many the definitive mode of transport for taking in the gap’s sublime views. On your return you can treat yourself to some Irish music and food at the cottage, where lively sessions complete with authentic Irish dancers are a regular occurrence.
Right in the heart of the Ring of Kerry you’ll find Killarney. This buzzing rural town and its locals will put an instant smile on your face and a relaxed jaunt around its narrow streets is perfect for taking a break from your expedition around the ring. A brief drive from here you’ll find Killarney National Park where you’ll find more tremendous landscapes. Horse and trap tours are again an option for exploring the pristine demesne of Killarney National Park and it’s also a fantastic setting if you have planned ahead and brought along a picnic.
Within the park you can also delight at the Lakes of Killarney: Lough Leane, Muckross Lake and the Upper Lake. Along the shores of these vivid and gleaming lakes you can take in views of Muckross House, Muckross Abbey and the 15th Ross Castle.
Kenmare is where you’ll find your Kerry accommodation. But before checking in, take some time to wander around the town itself. Kenmare or “The Jewel of the Ring of Kerry” is a wonderful heritage town full of craft shops and restaurants who pride themselves on their local produce.
Park Hotel Kenmare
Park Hotel Kenmare is surrounded by the beauty and nature of the countryside, overlooking Kenmare Bay - a peaceful and idyllic location where every stay is a truly special experience.
This spacious and exquisite accommodation dates back to 1897, a Victorian landmark and in each of its sumptuous rooms you’ll find lavish furnishings, beautifully maintained antiques and works of art. Couple with this some of the most dedicated hospitality staff in Ireland, a treasure trove of activities and you can be sure that you’re really in for a treat.
When you’re not nestled cosily in your luxurious room, you can get out in the open air and explore Park Hotel Kenmare’s 12 acres (4.8 hectares) of tended gardens. If enjoying the tranquil herb and flower gardens isn’t your thing, then drop by the tennis or croquet courts and gets your adrenaline pumping whilst surrounded by stunning scenery. Right beside the hotel you’ll also find the Kenmare Gold Club – an 18-hole parkland course where it’s as much a joy to take in the fantastic views of Kenmare Bay as it is to play a round of golf. A short drive down the road will take you to Waterville, Ballybunion and Tralee whose world class courses will thrill the most experienced of players.
When it comes to down time, you can’t go wrong with Park Hotel’s Sámas (Gaelic for indulgence or gratification of the senses) spa. Over three hours you can enjoy an expert blend of thermal and holistic treatments, relieving any stress you might have brought with you and leaving you in a state of pure relaxation.
Bringing you into the evening the renowned hotel’s Dining Room and its acclaimed menu will see you indulging in some of the most delicious recipes in Ireland’s south. Retiring to your opulent suite during your first night’s stay at Park Hotel Kenmare, surrounded by finery you’ll sleep with a smile knowing that your stay here is only halfway through.
Day 5: 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 it s sleeve. After another delicious 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. 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.
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 Gallus 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. Within this fishing and farming community you’ll find a number of pubs, each with its own unique character from the modern to the truly traditional 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 Kenmare Park Hotel, where you can snuggle up for the night in your Victorian retreat.
Day 6: Limerick and Adare
You’ve now experienced the best of Kerry and so it’s time to start on your way back towards Clare. First up on your route will be “Ireland’s prettiest village” – Adare. This wonderfully picturesque rural village does its part to keep the Irish traditions alive. In Adare you’re never far from a friendly smile or a hopping 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 right direction. 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 a simpler 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 and beautiful village.
Limerick City is next on your route, but first a visit to Curraghchase forest park is in order. Delight in the quiet calm of this woodland sanctuary. The whisper of still lakes and the soft hush of an invisible breeze as it passes by will put you at ease as you take in all the sites and sounds of the park.
Step by step you’re working your way up to Clare, where your next luxurious overnight stay awaits. First a visit to Limerick City – 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 streetscapes combine with modern buildings creating a strange mix but one that really works. A stroll along the newly completed boardwalk 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 to Clare but luckily your accommodation is a mere 25 minute drive from the city.
Dromoland Castle, Clare
During the final stretch of your stay in Ireland you can immerse yourself in the majesty of Dromoland Castle. You’ll have two nights to take in all the finery of this exquisite five star castle hotel, which is ideally located just 12.8 km (8 mi) from Shannon Airport.
The castle - originally the ancestral home of one of the few families of Gaelic Royalty (direct descendants of the High King of Ireland, Brian Boru) - has an intriguing history that can be traced back to the 5th Century. Meandering down the drive which leads to this magnificent structure, you’ll be treated to views of the estate’s grand lawns, a glistening lake and the hotels very own Championship Golf Course.
As you are shown to you room by the ever impeccable and unobtrusive staff, the castle’s interior décor will delight you with its excellently crafted furnishings, stunning paintings and its overwhelming sense of luxury. No expense has been spared and this sentiment is carried through to each of the castle’s suites where you’ll find plush confines that will ease you into a state of utter contentment.
When it comes to dining, you’re in for a real treat, because at Dromoland Castle you can enjoy a wealth of fresh, locally sourced produced that have been combined to make some truly mouth-watering dishes. From a la carte to gastronomic and daily table d’hote menus the plethora of dining options available here are sure to impress. If a spot of afternoon tea takes your fancy, the castle’s rustic drawing room provides the perfect setting and for something really special, the resident chef is always happy to prepare a picnic basket for a spot of indulgence amidst the estates picturesque lawns.
If you need to wind down during the evening or before you head off to the airport on your last day in Ireland, you’ll find everything you need at Dromoland’s spa. This luxurious haven of calm and tranquillity combines six treatment rooms, two dedicated manicure/pedicure rooms and an outdoor hydro spa, which is open all year round to ensure that you can drift into a world of relaxation.
Day 7: The Cliffs of Moher and the Burren
If you can work up the will power to pull yourself away from the comforts of Dromoland Castle, you’ll find that County Clare has a few more wonders up its sleeve. Your first treat of the day comes in the form of the Burren Region. This one of a kind region, made up primarily of limestone rock encompasses mountains, valleys and streams. From man made megalithic tombs, which predate even the Egyptians to the captivating raw beauty of this unique area, you will be constantly caught off guard with jaw-dropping views popping up around every corner. Armed with information on every aspect of this mysterious region from the nearby visitors centre at Kilfenora you’ll be ready to venture into the unknown and discover the Burren’s many secrets.
A short drive away you can pop in the Burren Smokehouse and learn what makes their acclaimed smoked salmon just that little bit extra special. Whilst at the smokehouse, you can also see their original kiln or browse through the range of crafts and delicacies from the Clare region, which are all available for purchase.
Leaving the Burren it’s time to come face to face with the Cliffs of Moher – undoubtedly one of the most stunning places in Ireland. From your vantage point atop this vast cliff face you can bask in the panoramic views of The Twelve Pins, The Maum Turk Mountains, the Aran Islands and Loop head. Words cannot do justice to the immense feelings evoked as you stare out across this vast watery plain, dwarfed by these stunning cliffs, which have moved visitors for eons.
Less than a ten minute coastal drive from the cliffs you’ll find Doolin Cave. Among the contrasting beauty of this cave’s unexpected beauty stand the northern hemisphere’s longest stalactite – measuring a massive 6.45m (20 ft). As you head back south through Clare, you can pass through Ennis, but why not make a stop off and enjoy the narrow meandering streets and traditional values of a town, which is fast gaining a reputation as being “the boutique capital of Ireland”. With unique retail outlets, homely local customer service and a superb range of restaurants Ennis is bound to surprise and delight you no matter how long you stay for.
You’re last port of call before returning to Dromoland for the night will be Bunratty Castle. This 15th Century castle is home to the Bunratty folk Park and banquet. Originally constructed in 1425 and restored to its former glory in the middle of the 20th Century, Bunratty Castle is one of the most phenomenal medieval sites in Ireland. Tapestries, furniture and fantastic works of art line Bunratty’s hallowed halls adding to the authenticity of the ultimate medieval experience.
In the Bunratty Folk Park you will be immersed in the ways and styles of 19th Century living, surrounded by authentic recreations and the locals themselves – the Bean an Tí (Woman of the House), the policeman and the schoolteacher - all ready to divulge the secrets of their day to day lives. The park is a real treat for the sense, but the magic doesn’t have to end there. The Bunratty Banquet serves up entertainment and a delightful meal, all in the setting of a true medieval banquet hall. The Earl of Thomond, who once hosted such grand festivities here, has been kept alive in spirit.
Or if you’d prefer some good ‘ol traditional Irish music, you can’t go wrong with Durty Nelly's. Just beside Bunratty, Durty Nelly’s is one of Ireland’s oldest public houses with a long and illustrious past dating back to 1620. The heritage behind this famous locale involves many twists and turns including a greyhound, a miracle cure, a toll bridge and a thieving rogue. Whether you’re there for the music (which raises the rafters seven days a week) or for a meal at one of Nelly’s restaurants, you’re sure to be content on the short fifteen minutes drive back to Dromoland that night.
Day 8: Departure from Shannon
After seven thrilling days in Ireland, you’ll have seen unforgettable scenery, experience local hospitality like no other and all whilst staying the most luxurious of comforts. You’ll have discovered more than a few of Ireland’s southern treasures along with memories, which will be a constant source of happiness for years to come.