Best Ireland Castle Vacation: Living like Royalty

Boat at Ross Castle in Co. Kerry, Ireland.
A 10 day trip to Ireland 

Irish castles are fixed in time and space as history whispers from every wall as grandeur meets an old, pastoral charm. Each is an attraction, and each is also an experience as you are immersed in the history on these castles of Ireland tour. Handcrafted to include the country’s finest castle hotels, the 10-day journey takes you around the Irish highlights in private luxury. Spend your days exploring and your evenings unwinding in your castle, feeling that little bit more Irish every day.

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Most tours are customized for private travel.

General Information

Detailed Itinerary

Places Visited 

Clontarf, Dublin, Lough Eske, Donegal, Trim, Trim Castle, Cavan, Derry / Londonderry, Sligo, Westport, Croagh Patrick, Leenane, County Mayo, Kylemore Abbey & Gardens, Connemara, Connemara National Park, Cong, Galway Bay, Galway, County Clare, The Burren, Cliffs of Moher, Adare, Killarney, Ring of Kerry, Killorglin, Glenbeigh, Coomakesta Pass, Moll’s Gap, Blarney Castle, Tipperary, Rock of Cashel, Kildare, Kildare, Trinity College, Christ Church Cathedral, Guinness Storehouse, Temple Bar

Departure Dates 

Dates are flexible and customizable for private departures.

Detailed Itinerary 

Day 1: Clontarf – A Grand Welcome Just Outside Dublin

Grand turrets and glowing lanterns will quickly appease any travel fatigue as you land in Dublin. You can be promised a restful night as you ease you into the Irish castle experience. Just ten minutes outside of Dublin, tonight’s four-star castle hotel is a mix of contemporary extravagance and a time-warped setting. The setting is from the 12th century, but the interior is very much 21st century for a combination that works well on your first night away. Landing at Dublin International Airport, you will be met by your guide and transferred to the hotel, where a welcome dinner comes with the leisurely evening. Your guide will go through the itinerary in more depth, perhaps over a coffee or a pint of Guinness, before you drift off into the Irish evening.

What’s Included: airport transfer, accommodation

Day 2: Trim to Donegal – Immersed in the Castle Experiences

A hearty Irish breakfast begins every day here and sets you up for a majestic drive northwest. Trim Castle appears on the horizon, its walls and turrets crumbling after some 800 years. Left in its evocative state the castle whispers stories of the Normans and Hugh de Lacy, stories very different to where you stayed last night. Crossing in and out of Northern Ireland you will traverse the island to a castle that comes from a fairytale. If Disney did an Irish castle, it would look a lot like where you stay tonight. Cubist towers look over cultivated gardens, oak trees frame the scene, and the windows invite with their soft glow. You will have two nights here, and there is real tranquility, especially after dusk.

What’s Included: accommodation, tour, breakfast

Day 3: Donegal – Exploring Derry and Northern Irish Flavor

Towering walls guard the city of Derry/Londonderry, just over the border in Northern Ireland. Constructed in the early 17th century they once repelled Gaelic chieftains, but they now they stand as an ode to ongoing dispute and conflict, a starting point to understand what’s happening on this side of the border. After a relaxed start, your guide will take you on a walking tour of the city walls. Feel your footsteps on the 30-foot wide structure, stand beneath their rough-hewed frames, and understand why they were never breached.

Behind the walls, you will find an intriguing little city, where the accents are strong but the welcome is soft. Political messages are scrawled across walls like graffiti, and the museum chronicles the civil rights campaign to help you understand the nationalist conflict that blighted this area during the 1970s. For all of the old history, Derry/Londonderry is at the forefront of an ongoing quarrel. It is the best city in Ireland for understanding the Irish conflict, and your engagement with the city will be very eye-opening, especially given the recent connotations created by Brexit. After a fascinating day, it will back to the castle, where the silence gives you space to reflect on your experiences of the day.

What’s Included: accommodation, tour, breakfast

Day 4: Sligo to Westport to Cong – Intriguing Histories and Glorious Landscapes

A poignant epitaph is etched into the grave of WB Yeats, visited on a your short stop in Sligo this morning. A little later, you will be beneath the shadow of Ireland’s holy mountain, Croagh Patrick rising above the cute heritage town of Westport. Here you can wander the tree-lined boulevards and take a peek inside colorful shops, the town very much how your dreams of small-town Ireland may look. Onwards you will go to Kylemore Abbey, a romantic building surrounded by the Connemara Mountains. The gardens here are sublime and somewhat mystical as they twist beneath ancient abbey and rough mountain rock.

Your journey will continue with countless viewpoints as you head through the 12 Bens of Connemara towards Cong. Ireland’s finest castle hotel is here, and you will be staying for two nights. The castle is rich in heritage, and you will get the full tour, understanding just what happened between the thick stone walls, particularly how the medieval has been updated with Victorian flourishes. A member of the Leading Hotels of the World, this is an epic property, and you will need two nights just to get a sense of the castle and grounds. You will feel like royalty, if not a king or queen, then at least an earl or one of the princes that used to sleep here.  You can enjoy the castle’s photo wall for notable guests who have stayed, perhaps even in your own room.

What’s Included: accommodation, tour, breakfast

Day 5: Cong – Exploring the National Park and Galway

With such an incredible hotel at your disposal, you will likely want to take it easy today. Your guide will outline your options, and your itinerary is flexible. Perhaps head into Galway, the lively City of the Tribes, where history merges seamlessly with bustling afternoon streets. Or head out to Connemara National Park instead, where there is an abundance of walking trails and never a shortage of vistas. You will need half a day just to stroll the castle’s forested trails, or you could spend the whole day here, savoring the tranquility and listening to the songs of the river. Most days on this handcrafted tour are flexible but today is especially so, due to the wealth of nearby options and the exclusivity of the accommodation.

What’s Included: accommodation, tour, breakfast

Day 6: Burren to Cliffs of Moher to Killarney – Dazzling Coastal Landscapes Before Your Next Castle

Colors flicker across The Burren as the rocks change hue with the changing sun and seasons, adding another dimension to one of the world’s most bizarre landscapes. Great limestone slabs stretch on and on, studded with crevices and Stonehenge-like structures. It is a savage land, barren yet beautiful, and overwhelming in a way that can make you feel humbled by nature. Traveling through The Burren, you will soon reach the Cliffs of Moher, where dramatic pinnacles stand some 650 feet above the Atlantic. If you set sail from here, the next landmass would be North America, and you can certainly feel the sense of vastness.

There is a part of the Cliffs of Moher that is always packed with visitors, this being one of the country’s premier attractions. But the cliffs stretch for five miles, and there are silent places here as well, where you can listen to the wind whistle past your ears. Next up it’s County Limerick, the thatched village of Adare perfect for a late lunch. Thatched roofs are the norm here, crowning houses of pastel hues, like a yellow cottage with a green door or a red townhouse with a blue and white pub beneath. Your final destination today is Killarney, where the castle provides superb views over both mountain and woodland. Look out from the suite window, and there is no end to the green hues.

What’s Included: accommodation, tour, breakfast

Day 7: Killarney – Villages and Traditions Along the Ring of Kerry

Mountain shards tumble into the Atlantic with sharp cliffs illuminated by slithers of moss. The road twists over ancient single-lane cobbled bridges and past whitewashed cottages. Evidence of bronze aged civilization mixes with old Gaelic villages, where the locals still preserve their mother tongue. This is the Ring of Kerry, a mystical route that combines dramatic landscapes with Ireland’s History. One day really is not long enough to stop everywhere – Killorglin, Cahersiveen, Coomakesta Pass, Sneem, Moll’s Gap, Caherdaniel, Glenbeigh – but you can complete the full loop and understand why the Ring of Kerry is considered one of the world’s finest drives.

Stop in two of the villages, listening as much as looking at the tradition. Stop at a pub for lunch, a hearty affair amid a welcoming atmosphere. Meet some local shopkeepers and make sense of their strong accents. Stop at burial mounds and scenes that could come from a fictional tale, and then keep traveling across mountain passes. Of course, there are Atlantic views as well, the scenery as dramatic here as at the Cliffs of Moher. As this is a private tour, it is easy to be flexible today, stopping at whichever places most excite and spending longer wherever you want to. For some, that is the most famous stops on the Ring of Kerry, but for others, it may be those that are not on the tour bus route.

What’s Included: accommodation, tour, breakfast

Day 8: Kildare – Into the Magnificently Green Interior

Ireland can induce a transfixion. Every vista, every journey, seems so familiar and it all looks so much like Ireland should be with rugged mountains, green slopes, cute villages, the sight of the wind. Yet no two vistas are the same. The longer you spend in Ireland, the more you appreciate its subtleties and idiosyncrasies. The Kerry Mountains are rounded, barren, a softer Gaelic hue to other mountains you’ve crossed. Or the villages of Ballymakeery and Ballyvourney, where the Gaelic is so thick it creates an orchestra in your ears. These are stops on today’s journey inland, with the old market town of Macroom your stop for lunch.

Blarney is the most famous of all the Irish castles and worthy of a stop this afternoon, even if it is the busiest. Legend says that by kissing the Blarney Stone you will obtain the gift of the gab, that storytelling ability that the Irish are so famous for. To do so, you must lean backward into an abyss as somebody grasps onto your legs. And if that all seems a little strange, then remember that you are in Ireland, where traditions and myths are part of the everyday. The Rock of Cashel seems just as imaginary, the seat of medieval bishops and kings, a place so etched in legend you can hear the stories come straight from the wall. End the day in Kildare, where the castle hotel is a boutique treat on a much smaller scale than those you’ve stayed in before.

What’s Included: accommodation, tour, breakfast

Day 9: Dublin to Clontarf – Discovering the Charming Capital

Wake up and depart on a short ride to Dublin and you will have the whole day in the capital. Wander down Grafton Street and look around at your surroundings with a bit of awe. Admire the curves of Trinity College and see why the Book of Kells is so revered. Enter the Christ Church Cathedral crypt to find a millennia of history, and then ascend the Cathedral’s belfry for the complete Dublin vista. Stop at the Guinness Storehouse for a perfect velvety pint, and then spend some time wandering around Dublin Castle, where the manuscripts in Chester Beatty Library really leave an impression. This evening you will be back in Clontarf, at the castle where you started. It is just a ten-minute drive to Dublin, and your guide can arrange transfers should you want to visit a city restaurant.

What’s Included: accommodation, tour, breakfast

Day 10: Clontarf – Departure

With a free morning, you can head into Dublin and check out the shops, or perhaps take a stroll along the waterfront close to your castle. A private airport transfer completes your tour.

What’s Included: airport transfer, breakfast


Starting Price 

This trip is customizable for your private travel.

What's Included 

  • Accommodations
  • In-country transportation
  • Some or all guided tours and activities (dependent on season)
  • Expert trip planning
  • 24x7 support during your trip
The starting price is based on travel during the low season for a minimum of two travelers staying in shared 3-star accommodations. Please inquire for a custom trip quote based on your travel preferences and travel dates.