The Best of Ireland 10 Night Self Drive Tour

A 11 day trip to Ireland 
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Verdant valleys, swelling seas, rising mountains, soaring spires: the varieties of Ireland call to all adventurers, while the gentle roll of her people’s songs spilling from the pubs ring to the ears of those seeking comfort. This is a country filled with the warmth of home and the excitement of new friends, and it’s here to help you find both.  

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Detailed Itinerary

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Detailed Itinerary 

Day 1: Arrival in Ireland’s Incredible Capital

Welcome to Dublin, a one-of-a-kind world capital with a rich literary past and deep political roots. After dropping off your bags at your elegant and centrally located hotel, explore the city by foot: not only are the sidewalks broad and streets relatively small, but everything is also within a small circle, particularly south of the River Liffey. You can discover the grounds of Trinity College, the impressive allure of its library and the inspired beauty of the Book of Kells, housed at the College. Then take a short walk to Grafton Street, Dublin’s center for high-end shopping and home to a myriad of stores selling all manners of wares: Brown-Thomas is Ireland’s finest department store and dominates the northernmost end of this pedestrian-only street. 

Explore St. Stephen’s Green and the surrounding edifices, all examples of some of Dublin’s finest Georgian architecture, before dinner on Dawson or Kildare Street, nearly on the steps of Leinster House, where the Irish Parliament meets. Then enjoy Dublin’s nightlife in any one of the city’s best pub areas: Temple Bar offers pubs with music every night, while many of Dublin’s more sedate pubs—and those claiming to be the oldest—are north of the river,  Talbot Street being a particularly good area.

Day 2: A Day as a Dubliner

Today, hit the highlights in this amazing world capital, from culture to libation and all points in between. Cruise O’Connell Street north of the river to see some of the best outdoor statuary in the city, including Irish patriots and the renowned figures of Dublin’s literary past, before exploring the National Museum, which features excellent galleries of artifacts from throughout Irish history, and the National Gallery, with works by Irish talents and Renaissance masters alike. Tour the grounds of Dublin Castle, the seat of British power in the country for centuries, and take in the incredible displays at the nearby Chester Beatty Library, home to one of the largest private manuscript collections in the world. 

Marvel in awe at the soaring spires of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the national cathedral of the Church of Ireland, and Christ Church Cathedral, the ecclesiastical center of Catholic Ireland and home to the largest cathedral crypt in the British Isles. Then, explore the process behind the creation of Dublin’s most famous export, Guinness Stout, at the Guinness Storehouse at St. James Gate. You’ll learn about the ingredients and art of making Guinness and even enjoy a pint with a full-circle view over Dublin and the undulating Wicklow Mountains beyond in the Perfect Pint Bar. 

Day 3: Heading South to the Crystal City

Depart Dublin and turn to the sea as you wind your way through County Wicklow, headed to Ireland’s southern coast. Make a stop at Powerscourt, featuring a beautifully restored mansion where visitors can learn, eat, and shop the gift shop. Its dazzling grounds are without question the finest in the nation, with Japanese gardens, miniature towers and an indescribable vista over a stretching vale in Wicklow. Next, it’s off to Glendalough and the valley’s monastic settlement originally established more than a millennia ago. The site features some of the most complete remains of early medieval ruins in Ireland. 

Discover the skill of the handweavers at Avoca, who operate the oldest working woolen mill in Ireland to produce some of the finest tweeds on the planet, and finally the skill of the crystal workers at the factory in Waterford, the home to some of the world’s most beautiful crystal. You can purchase a full range of pieces at the factory, or you can continue on to Lismore Castle and its expansive gardens, where you can learn about the history of this remarkable area, from the glory days of the castle to long before, when Lismore Abbey served as Ireland’s center of higher learning. 

Day 4: Epicurean Delights in County Cork

Ride the coast of the Celtic Sea into Cork, proclaimed the “true capital” of Ireland by the locals and firmly rooted in the epic history of this remarkable island. On your way from Waterford, stop in Midleton, the epicenter of Irish whiskey. Here you can discover the history of this famous water of life and sample from one of a number of companies who use the stills, including Jameson, Tullamore Dew, Powers and Redbreast. Then head to the fishing village of Kinsale, regarded by many as the gourmet center of Ireland, where renowned chefs from around the world call home and where the abundance of fresh seafood and produce combine to create some of the best culinary offerings in Europe. Visit Desmond Castle, a tower house that is now home to the International Museum of Wine, before trying one of a number of this quaint village’s excellent restaurants. A nightcap at one of Cork city’s pubs will be an excellent way to end your first day in the romantic Irish west.

Day 5: The Scenery of Southwest Ireland

Today is your official introduction to the landscapes, textures, colors and vistas that have made Ireland’s natural beauty known throughout the world. Head just outside Cork city to visit the imposing façade and demanding climb of Blarney Castle, home to the legendary Blarney Stone, said to bestow the gift of gab on all those dedicated and daring enough to kiss it. Turn to Cobh, formerly Queenstown, where the excellent Queenstown Experience exhibit details life as it was lived by Irish emigrants in the nineteenth century. The city also has a somber—it was the last stop of the Titanic before she began her ill-fated trans-Atlantic voyage—but rich nautical history that is well chronicled in many local museums. 

Then ride to Mizen Head, the furthest point southwest on the island and a quintessential look into the unmistakable and unforgettable grandeur of this part of the world. Return through County Cork to experience more breathtaking scenery of all kinds, from the churning surf on the southern coast to the rolling hills inland.

Day 6: A Famous Ring, and the End of the Island

Complete your voyage west at the Atlantic Coast and the edges of County Kerry, one of the most unbelievable regions in the world and home to some of Ireland’s most memorable natural surroundings. Ride along the Ring of Kerry, a track dedicated to showing off the best of the area, including the impressive Killarney National Park and the Lakes of Killarney. 

From the ridges of the Macgillycuddy’s Reeks to the plunging Gap of Dunloe, from the panoramas of Ladies View to the elegant and stately façade of Muckross House, from the home of Daniel O’Connell to the heart of the southwestern scenery, the Ring of Kerry is replete with sights, sounds and experiences that are sure to take your breath away. Then turn to the Dingle Peninsula, the westernmost point on the island, where you can cast your eye out to the Blasket Islands as you ride through Conor Pass.  Finally, venture on to Killarney, the largest city in County Kerry and a town with one of the best nightlife scenes in Ireland.

Day 7: Across the Shannon and Into Limerick

Ford the largest river in Ireland as you leave the counties of the southwest to venture into the soaring and astounding Irish west, what the Celts called ‘Munster.’ Your first destination is the port city of Limerick, an up-and-coming travel destination that has a number of inspiring edifices and a city scene that is friendly and relaxed. Must-see sights include the cathedrals of St. John, noted for having the tallest spire in Ireland, and St. Mary, a more under-stated but no less elegant Church of Ireland structure, and the intimidating perch of St. John’s Castle, with extensive battlements that seems to cause consternation to the Shannon itself. Then venture to the smaller, more idyllic village at Adare, where thatch-roofed cottages that came with the Dunraven estate afford a less spontaneous air. 

The Trinitarian Monastery in Adare is stirring and worth a visit, as is Desmond Castle on the north bank of the Maigue. Return to Kerry for one last night of Connacht hospitality.

Day 8: Along the Atlantic, In an Unforgettable Way

Turn to the north and into County Clare as your ride up the Irish coast will introduce you to some of the most unique and memorable features of this entire country. First, climb over the postcard-worthy crests of the Cliffs of Moher, one of the most photographed portions of the entire country, where the roiling Atlantic surf crashes against Ireland’s national embankments, her skin against the sea. O’Brien’s Tower offers views from the Cliffs near their highest point, more than 700 feet up, allowing you to cast your eye over the Aran Islands in Galway Bay or the lighthouse of Loop Head far to the south, while gazing inland offers a expansive view over the mountains of Kerry and the Twelve Bens. Tourists that are afraid of heights can experience the full majesty of the Cliffs from the shore. 

Next, head northeast into the near lunar landscape of the Burren, one of the largest limestone landscapes in Europe and the home to some of Ireland’s most rare and fascinating species. Finally, turn back inland to Bunratty Castle, where you can tour the Bunratty Folk Park, the grounds of the castle, and even take in a medieval banquet, with the Bunratty Castle Performers providing the entertainment.

Day 9:  A Soaring Castle and the Lyrical Beauty of Connemara

Continue north into Galway, where the pull of the Celtic west becomes nearly inescapable, almost irresistible, and yet entirely welcoming. The power of the land is witnessed in Connemara, the unofficial capital of the Irish Gaeltecht and one of the most romantic stretches of earth in this most charming of nations. You’ll dance to the lilt of native Irish, you’ll sing in praise of the majestic Maumturks and the soothing waves on Lough Corrib, you’ll simply watch the beauty of Ireland pass you by in this enchanting setting. Then witness the awesome power of human creation at Dunguaire Castle, an immaculately restored 16th-century castle named after its legendary status as the seat of the King of Connacht and known for its tower, rising threateningly over the southeastern shore of Galway Bay. Experience life on the Aran Islands, jutting from the ocean’s surface in Galway Bay, and explore Galway City, from the towers and dome of Galway Cathedral to the shops at the Claddagh and everywhere in between.

Day 10: A Short Jaunt to the Midlands

Return to the middle of the country to explore some of the most historically significant regions in Ireland, from the ancient past to more recent misadventures, from the high halls of Celtic faith to the low-point of Catholic political rebellion. Begin at the Bru Na Boinne Visitors Center for an introductory glimpse at the unbelievable past of this place before turning to Newgrange, a mysterious and still misunderstood structure, centuries older than the standing ring at Stonehenge and the Great Pyramids of Giza. 

Newgrange features prominently in the mystique of this place, the legendary home of the kings of Tara, the valley of the River Boyne. More recent history has been contested here, too: this was the spot of the Battle of the Boyne in 1689, when England finally put down the dreams of an Irish pretender to the English throne and went to business trying to colonize the island. After this fascinating exploration of the Midlands, return to Galway for one final night of Irish spirit and revelry.

Day 11: Returning Home

Today sees you leaving Galway and returning to the States, filled with memories, songs, stories and love of this amazing country and its unforgettable people.

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