Best of Ireland Tour: Dublin, Ulster, Belfast & More

A 13 day trip to Ireland 
4.916665
4.92 out of 5 stars
12 reviews

Cosmopolitan capitals and vivacious villages, climbing cliffs and fantastic formations, the island of Ireland is a magical place no matter your political persuasion. And while they may not all fly the same flag, you’ll find the people of Ireland are unswervingly kind, and the countryside they call home unfailingly spectacular.

Customize This Trip For Me
Most tours are customized for private travel.

General Information

Photos
Detailed Itinerary

Places Visited 

Dublin
Kilkenny, Waterford, Cork
Killarney
Dingle Peninsula
Limerick
Adare
Cliffs of Moher
Sligo
Donegal
Glenveagh National Park
Letterkenny
Derry
Giant's Causeway
Belfast

Departure Dates 

Travel Now Flexible and customizable for private departures.

Detailed Itinerary 

Day 1: Ireland Welcomes You to Her Beautiful Capital

You arrive this morning at the newly renovated international terminal at Dublin International Airport, ready to discover all of the ins and outs of this indescribable world capital. After dropping off your luggage at your luxurious and centrally-located hotel, hit the city for a bit of sightseeing: walk the grounds at venerated Trinity College, Dublin, the pinnacle of Ireland’s higher education system and the home to her premier national treasure, the stunning Book of Kells. Be it your first time in Dublin or your one hundred and first, this is one library sure to keep you awake. Afterwards, engage in dining like a true Dubliner does, with a rousing visit to the pubs at Temple Bar following your delicious meal.

Day 2: A Day in Dublin

The past is alive on the streets of Dublin, and there are markers everywhere to the capital’s rightful place as one of the most important literary cities in the world. You might want to begin the day at one of the city’s impressive museums: the National Museum and National Gallery can both be found near Trinity College and offer an impressive collection of artifacts and artwork, while Collins’ Barracks and Kilmainham Gaol excellent exhibits on the recent history of Ireland. 

History buffs will want to explore Dublin Castle, the center of British power in Ireland for centuries, while bibliophiles will enjoy the collection at the nearby Chester Beatty Library, featuring beautiful books and manuscripts from cultures and traditions throughout the world. And everyone will enjoy touring St. James’ Gate, the former brewery and current storehouse for Ireland’s most famous export: Guinness stout. Not only does the storehouse feature a fascinating four-floor museum on the history of Guinness and the finer points of its creative process, it concludes with a perfectly poured pint high above the streets of Dublin with views over the city and the surrounding Wicklow Mountains are sure to take your breath away. 

Day 3: Heading West to County Cork

Today sees you taking to the road, heading south through the rolling hills of County Wicklow and into Kilkenny, one of Ireland’s most picturesque villages: you won’t want to miss the stone edifices throughout the city, and you’ll definitely want to stop for a bite to eat or simply a pint as most enthusiasts cast Kilkenny as the pub mecca of the entire nation. Then it’s south into the county and city of Waterford, home to some of the finest crystal on Earth. You’ll tour the factory and watch master craftsmen create these timeless works of art, dictated by a quality control process that ensures that only perfect pieces are produced.  You can even purchase an item of crystal from their well-stocked storeroom, including items that cannot be found anywhere else on the planet. 

After your experience at Waterford, you’ll turn west along the shore of the Celtic Sea until you reach Cork, the perfect staging ground for discovering the entirety of southwest Ireland

Day 4: In and Around County Cork

The locals know Cork as the “true” capital of Ireland, unaffected by the colonial incursions of the English and retaining the rebellious spirit of this incomparable country. You’ll find the area is full of fascinating locales, each with a tale to tell that contributes to the moving history of the region. Head to the multihued village of Cobh at the head of Cork Harbor and discover its varied and fascinating maritime history. The age of emigration is retold at the justly renowned Queensville Experience, including a recreation of a nineteenth-century ship that took Irish convicts to British Australia. Then move on to walk the ramparts and climb the keep at Blarney Castle, all for the opportunity to plant your lips on the legendary Blarney Stone, reputed to bless all who kiss it with the uniquely Irish gift of gab. 

Your final destination lies beyond the Cork and Kerry Mountains of song, the friendly and exciting town of Killarney, where you’ll be sure to find a delicious meal, a welcome tale, and band playing the best Irish music.

Day 5: The Most Beautiful Route You’ve Ever Driven

Running through the heart of this corner of the Emerald Isle is the unparalleled stretch known as the Ring of Kerry. Today offers you the opportunity to experience this panorama in all its indelible splendor, from the foundations of Derrynane House to the plunging Gap of Dunloe to the soaring spines of Macgillycuddy’s Reeks. You’ll marvel at the Tudor beauty of Muckross House, you’ll gasp at the cerulean beauty of the Lakes of Killarney, and you’ll be entranced by the vistas of the Ladies’ View overlooking it all. You return to Killarney tonight, full of the inspiration that can only come from an intimate brush with the glory of nature.

Day 6: The Far End of the Island

Lose yourself in the awesome power of land’s end at the Dingle Peninsula, Ireland’s western most point and a spot for some of the most incredible coastal scenery on Earth. You’ll be able to look out to the Blasket Islands, and with the golden reflection of the sun setting over the waves of the Atlantic, you’ll find yourself amazed at the incredible colors of all tints to be found in every corner of the Emerald Isle. After leaving Dingle, you’ll head north to Adare, one of the most charming villages in Ireland, with thatch-roof houses and a number of craft shops where longtime artisans ply their wares. 

Day 7: North Along the Coast, Over Stunning Sea-Cliffs

As you head north through Counties Kerry and Clare, you’ll witness one of Ireland’s most famous natural landmarks, the looming and lyrical Cliffs of Moher. This dramatic shoreline reaches a top height of more than 700 feet near O’Brien’s Tower, who built the structure to impress young ladies with the view offered at its base. And what a view—a cloud-free day offers views inland to the Maumturks and the Twelve Bins, while out to sea are the craggy Aran Islands rising from the heart of the clapping waters in Galway Bay. 

Your final destination is the fishing village of Galway, the unofficial capital of northwest Ireland and one of the most beautiful villages in the west. Enjoy a delicious seafood dinner at one of Galway’s numerous pub restaurants, where the catch is always fresh, the music always joyful, and the atmosphere always welcoming and ready for a good time. 

Day 8: Northwest Ireland, Unlike Anywhere Else

Today sees you leaving County Galway and heading into the unique northwest of Ireland, the boundary lands of the medieval provinces of Connacht and Ulster and separated from the rest of Ireland by history, language, and culture. On your way to Sligo, the muse of the famous poet and Nobel Laureate W.B. Yeats, stop by the ancient and venerable Megalithic Cemetery of Carrowmore, one of the largest collections of Celtic burial places in the country. 

Should you feel slightly lost in the history of Carrowmore, friendly and erudite guides are on hand offering free guided tours of the facility. Then it’s on to another impressive Bronze Age site at the summit of Knocknarea, a collection of stones weighing 40,000 tons that reportedly serves as the burial place of the former Queen of Connacht, the mythical Maeve. One glimpse from this impressive array gives you an idea of why Her Highness would want to be buried here, as there are views of the Benbulben Mountains dominating inland and panoramas of Rosses Point gracefully giving way to the distant Atlantic Ocean. 

Day 9: Touring Donegal

Perched on the banks of the River Eske, the city of Donegal is often regarded as merely a stepping-stone to the greater attractions of its eponymous county, but it’s oft-overlooked charms are worth exploring in their own right. After exploring the city, you’ll be stunned by the juxtapositions that fill Donegal, from the rough-hewn cliffs towering above the sea to the tranquil shores of sandy beaches, where sudden squalls erupt and then recede just as precipitously into the blazing warmth of a north Irish sun. 

You’ll want to explore the remains of Donegal Castle before cruising the shoreline and climbing the seemingly endless reaches of Slieve League, a series of sea cliffs which rise three times higher than their famous Moher sisters to the south. Then uncover the beauty at Glenveagh, home to red deer, rhododendrons, and a castle with a fascinating history. Inspired by Balmoral Castle in Aberdeenshire, you’ll find Glenveagh Castle similarly suitable for the presence of royalty, with gorgeous staterooms that are accessible by tour. You bed down tonight in Letterkenny, the largest and most populous town in County Donegal, boasting a Main Street that beckons visitors from all across Ulster.

Day 10: A Town with Two Names, a Giant’s Walkway, and the Capital of Northern Ireland

Keep your passport at the ready as you leave the Republic and enter Northern Ireland. Start in Derry – or Londonderry, depending on your viewpoint – an ancient city steeped in the past and reflective of the sectarianism that ran rife in Ireland for nearly thirty years. The town’s seventeenth century walls remain fully and completely unbroken (unique in Ireland), and the Tower Museum is excellent. Then it’s north to the far end of County Antrim and the bizarre but beautiful basalt columns at the Giant’s Causeway; geologists will tell you that these structures of the result of a volcanic eruption long since solidified, but the poets say that the columns were placed by an Irish giant laying the causeway to meet a Scottish opponent in battle.

Follow the scenic Antrim Coast before arriving in the eminent capital of Belfast, the home of the Titanic and one of the most fascinating and eye-popping cities in Europe. Gaze at the impressive structures in the Cathedral Quarter, ogle at the vast array of flora and fauna at the nearby Botanic Gardens or grab a bit of high culture at the Queen’s Quarter, near the university. Or, see all these sites and many more from up in the sky at the Belfast Wheel, a Northern Irish take on the London Eye. 

Day 11: A Second Day in Bonny Belfast

Spend the day touring this incredible city and hitting the spots you might have missed the day before, including the immaculately restored Grand Opera House or the Spire of Hope atop the roof at St. Anne’s Cathedral. If you’re interested in the maritime history of this most noteworthy city, you’d do well to book a visit on the Titanic Tour, which leads a guided expedition of the shipyards where this mighty and star-crossed ship was built and explains Belfast’s role in her well-known story. 

Should you be interested in more contemporary events in Irish history, you’ll certainly enjoy a Black Cab tour through the neighborhoods of Belfast that sport her most artistic and intriguing political murals. You’ll be moved by the multihued monument to Bobby Sands on the exterior of the former headquarters of Sinn Fein, and perhaps scared into submission by the murals depicting Belfastites in paramilitary attire and wielding rifles that seem to follow your every move. You’ll find the cab drivers to be engaging, informative, and even humorous as they discuss this dark part of the city’s history and the steps being taken even today to ensure peace in Northern Ireland. 

Day 12: Back to Dublin

Return to the capital of South Ireland for your final full day on the island, where you can enjoy whatever experiences you might have missed your first time through. Explore the ponds and statuary at St. Stephen’s Green, crawl through the great pubs of literature, or do a little shopping at Grafton Street, Dublin’s center for high fashion located in one of the city’s most vibrant areas. Return to Temple Bar for a final night of rousing music, or enjoy one last decadent meal at one of Dublin’s best restaurants; which ever you choose, it will certainly be a stirring end to your incredible vacation.

Day 13: Departing Ireland

Today sees you returning to your home country from Dublin, full of a lifetime of experiences that only took two weeks to enjoy. Upon landing in your home land, don’t be surprised if you’re itching to start planning your return trip to this unparalleled nation.

Price

Starting Price 

$5,195
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.