Best of Southern Ireland Tour: Shannon, Galway, Clare, Kerry, Cork & Dublin

A 8 day trip to Ireland 
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From the shores of the Shannon to the banks of the Liffey, from the sparseness of the Burren to Dublin’s bustling streets, the south of Ireland is a land celebrated for its singular beauty and famous charm. If you’ve never before felt the pull of this enchanting nation, let her spirit you away to the place of your dreams in this luxury travel to Ireland.

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General Information

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Detailed Itinerary

Departure Dates 

Flexible and customizable for private departures.

Detailed Itinerary 

Day 1: Welcome to Ireland!

You land early this morning at Shannon, the hub of western Ireland and a perfect base to start your explorations of this amazing nation. Check into your comfortable and classy accommodation and then set out to Bunratty Castle, a tower house situated on the banks of the Ratty river—hence the name—and one of the most lovingly preserved castles in all of Ireland. While the exterior projects an imposing and fearful persona, you’ll find the interior light, airy, and surprisingly delicate, with ceilings sporting painted beams and gorgeous chandeliers, as well as tasteful and elegant furnishings and portraits upon the walls. And Bunratty truly heats up when the sun goes down, as it plays host to medieval banquets, featuring performances by the Bunratty Castle Entertainers, a troupe of musicians garbed in period dress and with a notable talent for the harp and violin. Tonight has you returning to Shannon. 

Day 2: Heading North to Gallant Galway

Your first full day in the Emerald Isle sees you into the ancient region of Connacht and its past capital, the charming seaside village of Galway. Built on the back of the fishing industry, Galway offers beautiful quays that abut the sea and offer the perfect afternoon walk after a delicious lunch of the finest and freshest seafood you’re likely to try. There is culture of all types in Galway, high and low, secular and ecclesiastical, from the towering dome of Galway Cathedral to the animated songs and stories spilling from a pub near Eyre Square. Art can be found at seemingly every corner, and history of all ages spills through the streets beckoning you to follow. The environs surrounding the city are an attraction in their own right, from the ships docked at Claddagh out to the heart of Galway Bay and the Aran Islands beyond. Tonight, you bed down in a hotel in Galway, invigorated from an evening filled with song and dance.

Day 3: Down the Coast Through Ireland’s Most Spectacular Scenery

You return south to County Clare while feasting your eyes upon some of the most unique sights in the entire nation. You first traverse the rugged and rocky landscape of the Burren, an otherworldly environment boasting some of the most diverse wildlife in the world, including many species that can be found nowhere else on Earth. As one of the largest karst landscapes on the continent of Europe, the Burren is a unique display of beautiful plant life growing impossibly through the tiny cracks in the limestone surface. Humanity has also made its mark in this singular country, as evidenced by the scores of megalithic tombs, a Celtic High Cross, and the stirring and fascinating Caherconnel Stone Fort. 

On the southern end of this one-of-a-kind formation lie the inspiring Cliffs of Moher, a striking coastline that has been countlessly reproduced in photographs and film. Despite these reproductions, there is truly no way to recreate the feeling of standing 700 feet above the unceasing surf of the Atlantic Ocean, or looking inland to some of the tallest peaks in Ireland in the majestic and unforgettable Maumturks mountain range. And casting your eyes out to sea will yield equally spectacular results: on a clear day, you can see out to Galway Bay and the Aran Islands beyond, while a view south yields the lighthouse at Loop Head standing sentinel.

After this incredible drive, you arrive in the quaint village of Ennis, with delicious food offerings and a delightful main drag; here, the locals are sure to enchant you with stories and tickle your heart with their insightful and hysterical adages.

Day 4: On to County Kerry, the Heart of Southwest Ireland

While your ultimate destination for today is the city of Killarney, the voyage to this seaside town might be what you remember the most from your vacation. Cruise onto Dingle Peninsula, a prominent salient plunging into the heart of the Atlantic and comprising the western-most point of Ireland. You can explore this fantastic landscape on foot, by bicycle, or even atop a strapping horse, and the options on this small stretch of land are truly endless: you might choose to climb to the peak of Mount Brandon, Ireland’s second-tallest mountain, or venture to land’s end for a chance to spot the rusted remains of the Ranga, a shipped wrecked three decades ago on this treacherous coast but still in full view of visitors on the shore. 

A short drive takes you from the Dingle Peninsula inland to Killarney, adjacent to the famous Ring of Kerry and the incomparable Killarney National Park. While these two areas are justifiably renowned—a drive of the Ring of Kerry is truly on the Ireland’s greatest adventures, offering a landscape that bursts with colors the cover the entire spectrum of natural artistry, while Killarney National Park is home to spectacular scenery and the last heard of red deer in Ireland—Killarney itself has much to offer, including a vibrant Main Street filled with pubs, restaurants and shops that offer everything from fine Irish lace and elegant silver jewelry to the best fish and chips you’ve ever tasted, complete with a cold and undeniably delicious Guinness stout. 

You’ll also marvel at the cleanliness and orderliness of this bustling western town: Killarney was named Ireland’s Tidiest Town in 2007, and is dedicated to maintaining its reputation as one of the neatest and welcoming cities in the country.

Day 5: A Visit to Cork, the Local’s Capital of Ireland

While the English—and later the British— were busy solidifying their presence in the so-called Pale on the east coast, the west of Ireland remained stubbornly, desperately, and romantically free, maintaining their way of life in spite of the power and might of their imperious neighbors to the east. Nowhere is this rebellious spirit more fully realized than in the county town of Cork, which the locals dub the “true” capital of Ireland. The second largest city in the Republic, Cork offers many of the same types of attractions as its larger and more famous eastern sister, but it retains the Celtic lifestyle somewhat absent from life in Dublin. 

Irish legend is firmly entrenched in the battlements of Blarney Castle and its world-famous stone, allegedly bestowing upon all those who kiss its rough surface the quintessentially Irish gift of gab, but there is much more to this western metropolis than a day-trip to Blarney. The Cork City Gaol and Heritage Centre features self-guided tours of this imposing facility that is now filled with wax figures mimicking the life of the inmates when they still haunted the halls and cells, while the Fota Wildlife Park houses exotic animals in an engaging and ethical surrounding, including oryx, Humboldt penguins and eastern grey kangaroos.

For dinner, you might consider venturing out to the fishing village of Kinsale, where world-class chefs and epicureans have directed the progressivism of the town’s inhabitants to the development of the gourmet capital of Ireland. The seafood is, of course, impeccable, and many ingredients are obtained from sources that pride themselves on fair trade and ethical procurement. 

Day 6: Through Kilkenny, Past Waterford, Into Dublin

Today sends you off in the direction of the rising sun, into the metropolitan east of Ireland and its unparalleled capital. Along the way, be sure to stop in Kilkenny, one of Ireland’s best kept secrets and probably her most beautiful city. Marble edifices shine above the wide swept streets, grand structures dedicated to the glory of God and country, including Kilkenny Castle, St. Canice’s Cathedral and its round tower, the priory of Dominicans at the Black Abbey and the sixteenth-century gardens of Rothe House. On a lighter note, Kilkenny is also widely regarded as the pub capital of Ireland, with a wide and eclectic variety of bars and public houses offering music, ambience, conversation, and numerous offerings to titillate your palate.

South of Kilkenny, near the coast of the Celtic Sea, lies Waterford, a seaport dedicated to the production of some of the finest crystal on the planet. The crystal factory at Waterford is worth visiting, as it will explain the process of making crystal and the history of the industry in the area and offer a wide array of crystal goods for purchase. Your final stop is the ancient and noble capital of Dublin, the center of Irish political, cultural and literary life for more than 300 years and a true world city. Your first afternoon here might best be spent wandering its wide and well-maintained sidewalks, as Dublin is perhaps the best city for walkers in Europe. South of the River Liffey are excellent restaurants and lively pubs, and a Dublin virgin would do well to stand a pint at an establishment in Temple Bar.

Day 7: Exploring the Republic’s Glorious Capital

Dublin is a city best experienced in a month, a year, a lifetime, but it is also compact enough to be appreciated over a single day. Art lovers will want to make their way to Dawson Street, where the National Gallery boasts works by Southern Renaissance legends and Dutch masters, as well as an impressive collection of works from Ireland’s native sons and daughters. 

A walk through the grounds of Trinity College, Dublin—the alma mater of some of Ireland’s greatest names, including Swift and Beckett, Stoker and Wilde—is an event even on an overcast day, as the true beauty of the site is found indoors at the Old Library and the Treasury, which houses Ireland’s premier national treasure, the indescribable Book of Kells. History buffs will enjoy walking the grounds of Dublin Castle, the seat of British power during its occupation of Ireland, as well as west along the Liffey’s shore at Kilmainham Gaol, which housed a number of Ireland’s most prominent revolutionaries and political leaders during the early twentieth century. 

Those looking for the height of haute couture would do well to visit Grafton Street, Dublin’s Fifth Avenue, which houses the finest department stores, jewelers, florists and craftsmen on a street blocked off to traffic and culminating in the verdant beauty of St. Stephen’s Green. (Should you desire a quick stop for refreshment, the Shelbourne Hotel on the north end of St. Stephen’s Green is elegant and timeless, with a main bar lined in crimson wallpaper with bartenders in evening dress pouring champagne cocktails.) There are pub crawls throughout the city, reproducing the journeys of Dublin’s greatest writers and their most famous characters, from George Bernard Shaw and Samuel Beckett to Leopold Bloom, the protagonist of Joyce’s notoriously cumbersome Ulysses. And no trip to Dublin would be complete without an exploration of its most famous export, Guinness Stout, complete with a perfectly poured pint in the Storehouse’s bar that offers a panoramic view of the city and the rolling Wicklow Mountains beyond.

Day 8: Returning Home

After traversing the entirety of this unforgettable nation, today sees you back to your home country and out of the arms of poetic Erin. Your head will be filled with indelible memories, and your heart will sing with the strain of harps and the cadence of an Irish laugh. 

Price

Starting Price 

$3,195
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.