Ireland Christmas Vacation and a Lucky New Year

A 11 day trip to Ireland 
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Rings of holly decorate the doors as candles flicker in the windows, bringing in a traditional Irish Christmas. Gaelic heritage blends with Christian customs set against the backdrop of the majestic countryside during your custom tailored Christmas tour of the Republic of Ireland. The songs of carolers fill the vibrant markets of Galway. Historic pubs with roaring fires provide a welcoming atmosphere in Limerick. Strong ramparts continue to protect the grand castle of Dublin and captivating seaside villages stand beside stunning mountain slopes. The charms of Ireland enhance the seasonal spirit, making for an enchanting Christmas and an unforgettable New Year.

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General Information

Cliffs of Moher.
Limerick City reflects onto River Shannon.
Christ church cathedral, Dublin.
Detailed Itinerary

Places Visited 

Galway, Newmarket-on-Fergus, Killarney, Ring of Kerry, Dingle Peninsula, Cork City, Tipperary, Limerick, Cliffs of Moher, Dublin, Connemara  

Departure Dates 

Suggested travel dates for this itinerary are December 22, 2016 - January 1, 2017, but dates are flexible and customizable for private departures.

Detailed Itinerary 

Day 1: Galway – Dec. 22nd – The Charming Christmas Welcome  

Galway has a medieval character emanating from the cobblestone streets and the striking stone gargoyles and bears on the 14th-century façade of Lynch’s Castle. Your flight lands at Shannon Airport, where you meet your private transfer at baggage claim. The road takes you past opulent charming hamlets and undulating plains. Castle turrets rise above the hillsides in the distance. You arrive in Galway and feel an immediate connection with the easily traversable streets and cozy boutique shops treading the line between chic and kitschy. Locals drink beer in the King’s Head Pub on High Street, which boasts over 800 years of history. 

The aroma of freshly fried fish, accompanied by the staple side of chips, emanates from McDonagh’s, which has served the popular dish for four generations. Your private transfer escorts you to the luxurious estate of Glenlo Abbey, which encompasses nearly 140 acres edging the shores of Lake Lough Corrib. The 18th-century property combines soothing contemporary luxury with a rich history of Irish aristocracy. The celebrated Pullman Restaurant fills what were once two carriages of the opulent Orient Express. Before dinner, the scent of herbaceous steeping tea fills the former train cars, accompanied by decadent dark chocolate finger cakes. Once in your room, you can relax with a magnificent view of the countryside, leading your eyes to the lake’s mirrorlike waters. 

What’s Included: transfer, accommodation  

Day 2: Galway – Dec. 23rd – True Irish Beauty near Christmas 

In the morning, the elegant décor of the River Room Restaurant reflects the decadence of a bygone era. Gilded railings and manicured curtains highlight the tall windows filled with natural light. Sip a refreshing cup of black tea at breakfast before meeting your private guide. Set out into the gorgeous countryside at Connemara, often referred to as holding the key to Ireland’s true beauty. Travel along the Connemara Loop, a 29-mile stretch of road extending past ever-changing scenery. Tiny inlets and sandy coves speckle the irregular bays decorating the western coastline. Rocky promontories jut out from inland mountains and sparkling lakes, accented with thatched roof cottages. 

The seaside village of Cashel maintains a serene ambiance in its separation from the bustle of contemporary cities. The narrow streets lead to open views of Cashel Hill. Windswept grass grows between craggy boulders. From the hilltop, you have a view of the undulating countryside leading to the mountains. Connemara ponies, renowned for their athleticism and calm disposition, graze on the patches of grass. The sweet aroma of the meadow drifts in the breeze. You circle around to Galway to visit the Christmas markets overtaking Eyre Square and around the Spanish Arch. Treats from candies to pretzels fill the stalls. Delicate cupcakes and elegant gingerbread structures demonstrate thrills and delicious creativity of the holiday season. 

What’s Included: breakfast, tour, accommodation  

Day 3: Dromoland Castle – Dec. 24th – Cliffs and Christmas Eve Castles 

The fireplaces roar with vigor at all hours of the day in restaurants, pubs, and homes. The Collegiate Church of St. Nichols was erected in the 14th century and draws people to the doors with much-lauded legend that states Christopher Columbus worshiped in the church in the 15th century. Stone angels still possess smashed faces from the 17th-century conflict with Oliver Cromwell’s troops. After breakfast, you meet your private transfer and leave behind the unique charms of Galway and the noble ambiance of Glenlo Abbey. 

You make your way towards Newmarket-on-Fergus, home to Dromoland Castle. En route, you stop at the Cliffs of Moher, which reach a maximum height of over 700 feet above sea level, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. A round stone tower near the cliff’s midpoint was erected in the 19th century and provides a spectacular panorama of the cobalt sea, the layers of sediment forming the sandstone edge of Ireland, and the Twelve Pins Mountain Ranges to the north. The breeze carries the semi-sweet aroma of the Atlantic up from the rocky cliff base. Waves crash against the boulders below and spray water across the rocks. 

The oldest rocks are located at the bottom of the base, which represent upwards of 300 million years of history. Atlantic puffins make their nests in the isolated crags. They glide with the wind before diving into the water in search of fish. You arrive at the gates of Dromoland Castle. The original structure was erected around the turn of the 11th century. However, the structure in its current form was erected in the 19th century on an estate covering 400 acres. The storybook castle stands at the heart of the idyllic landscape. 

What’s Included: breakfast, lunch, dinner, transfer, tour, accommodation 

Day 4: Dromoland Castle – Dec. 25th – A Christmas for the Nobility 

On Christmas Day, you wake up in the comforts fit for royalty, with a view of the flowering herb garden and stone courtyard. The lake glints beneath the spreading sunlight of crisp Irish winter morning. The luxuries of your room make it hard to leave, but the promise of a toasty fireplace in the lobby brings the image of comforting warmth on the castle grounds. At breakfast, you delight on a freshly baked scone accompanied by homemade marmalade. The tea steeping offers a pleasant herbaceous aroma complementing the buttery pastry. 

Wreaths decorate the doorways, and an elegantly crowned tree accentuates the library. Carol singers offer a festive, yet serene atmosphere as their harmonies echo in the halls near dinner. A traditional feast of roast turkey and stuffing, accompanied by crispy potatoes, buttery carrots with a hint of sweetness, and cooked parsnips overtake the dining room. It resembles a traditional holiday lunch from a movie. Sit back and indulge in the cultural flavors and welcoming spirit of a traditional Irish Christmas. 

What’s Included: breakfast, lunch, dinner, tour, accommodation 

Day 5: Dromoland Castle – Dec. 26th – A Boxing Day Tradition 

The city of Limerick straddles the Shannon Estuary with a mixture of medieval and Georgian architecture. The renovated King John’s Castle stands on the banks of the Shannon River overlooking Thomond Bridge. The water courses over the rocks at the downturn of the river, causing a swell of whitewater. The 13th-century edifice contains a pentagon design with three corner towers and a two-story gatehouse. Reconstructed scenes in the interior grounds bring to vibrant life the history of the city and Ireland as a whole. 

The Christmas cheer continues throughout Limerick, whether in restaurants opening their doors once more or the people wandering along the historic cobbled stone streets near the river. You make your way with the bustling crowd to the Limerick Races for a thrilling view of the thrills of the racecourse during the holiday season. The stands erupt with excitement. Enjoy your reserved seating and do as the locals do. The horses set up for their first race around noon. Groups of friends sip their favorite local selections of beer. The four floors in the grand stand offer a variety of gourmet restaurants, including a tearoom with a view of the track to enjoy both the flavor of Ireland and the pleasures of a day at the races.   

What’s Included: breakfast, lunch, tour, accommodation 

Day 6: Killarney – Dec. 27th – The Continued Spirit of Christmas 

The excitement and joviality of Christmas remain strong across Ireland well past when the presents have been opened, and the carolers have gone home. In the morning, the aroma of buttery scones accompanies a fresh pot of tea. Your private transfer meets you after the meal and escorts you southwest towards Killarney. The town stands in close proximity to the gorgeous lakes, stunning waterfalls, and mystical woodlands of County Kerry, along with a history dating back to the early Bronze Age. A 7th-century monastery of Innisfallen stands on a tiny eponymous island across from the pier at Ross Castle. A large section of early Irish history was written inside the monastery in the 13th century. 

The text now resides in the Bodleian Library in Oxford, England. Segments of the red sandstone church remain on the northeast end. You continue to your accommodation at the Killarney Park Hotel, an establishment known for paying undivided attention to each and every individual guest. The grand style in your room blends a wealth of history with indulgent luxuries, accentuated by a view of the countryside. Fires roar in the parlors and drawing rooms. The library contains an aroma of leather bound books and leather, complete with the comforting warmth of an active fireplace. The scent of grilled meat and butter emanates from the lavish restaurant, layering the estate with opulence. 

What’s Included: breakfast, tour, transfer, accommodation 

Day 7: Killarney – Dec. 28th – A Holiday Ring of Kerry 

In the cool December morning, the emerald grass in the Gap of Dunloe crunches beneath thin layers of frost, harkening back to mountain pass’s formation as carved by glacial ice. Trees hide the frame of Dunloe Castle, which stands near the formation of Ogham Stones. After breakfast, your guide takes you on a fascinating tour around the Ring of Kerry, a majestic stretch of raw scenery that contains sweeping mountains, magnificent islands decorating the Atlantic Ocean, and picturesque villages. The seaside town of Kenmare glows with buildings painted in pastel hues. The town stands at the outflow of the Roughty River, which feeds into the Kenmare River. 

Shops display fine lace in the windows alongside woven wool garments. The streets maintain an 18th-century ambiance near 15 standing stones of an ancient Druid’s Circle. At Derrynane National Park, you discover nearly 300 acres crisscrossed by nature trails, sand dunes, and long stretches of pristine beaches. The home of Daniel O’Connell, considered the 19th-century Liberator of Ireland, is now a museum located inside the national park. Past the undulating hills, you reach the town of Killorglin. A multiple-arched stone bridge leads into the heart of town known for its Puck Fair in summer. The charms of the serene river and whitewashed walls carry over into the winter when the snow-white buildings can match the surrounding landscape.  

What’s Included: breakfast, tour, accommodation 

Day 8: Dublin – Dec. 29th – Uncorking the Holiday Fun

In the morning, you leave behind the breathtaking scenery around Killarney and the Ring of Kerry, taking you the capital city of Dublin, via Cork and Tipperary. Cork is considered Ireland’s second city; it contains a youthful and cosmopolitan atmosphere radiating from a revitalized waterfront and refurbished streets. The scent of rich coffee drifts out of corner coffee bars. Snug pubs enjoy the warmth of antique fireplaces and restaurants serve traditional dishes made with locally sourced produce. The city center grows out of an island located on the River Lee. 

The winter waters course around the banks lined with Georgian architecture and narrow 17th-century alleyways. The 17th-century English Market fills with the aromas of artisan bread and freshly caught seafood set beneath a unique arching wooden roof. Wandering along St. Patrick’s Street offers insight into the lives of 18th-century merchants set against the backdrop of the colorful, refurbished walkways and building facades. In the fertile landscape of County Tipperary, you pass rolling hills and aristocratic villages leading to Tipperary Town. The dramatic display of active moat, thick walls, and towering turrets of the 12th-century Cahir Castle demands your attention before you reach the jubilant streets of Dublin. 

What’s Included: breakfast, transfer, tour, accommodation 

Day 9: Dublin – Dec. 30th – Walking the Story of Dublin 

Wake up in a stately room at the Merrion Hotel, located in the Garden Wing. The contemporary décor overlooks the elegant 18th-century clipped boxes and yew hedges of the garden, accented by spouting fountains and trickling pools. After breakfast, you step out into the vibrant city with your private guide to experience a narrative of historic streets and a continuation of Dublin’s living past. Vikings first settled the city in the 9th century, turning the cobblestone streets into walkable museums dressed with striking cathedrals and powerful medieval castles. 18th-century Georgian architecture reflects the city’s connection to the British Empire. 

The Brazen Head Pub remains the oldest public house in the city with its roots established in the late 12th century. At night, live music spills out of the doors, from traditional fiddles to contemporary rock. Grafton Street buzzes with activity all day long, with buskers playing hopeful tunes and boutique shops displaying handmade jewelry or fashionable clothing. Trinity College was founded in the late 16th century by Queen Elizabeth I and encompasses 40 acres of manicured lawns, cobblestone squares, lavish gardens, and collected historical treasures, including a 9th-century manuscript illuminating the four Gospels in the New Testament set on gilded pages.  The campus is a masterpiece of harmony between architecture and landscape, with galleries as stoic as statues. 

What’s Included: breakfast, tour, accommodation 

Day 10: Dublin – Dec. 31st – An Irish Hello to a New Year 

You have grown accustomed to starting your day with a herbaceous cup of black tea. The natural light pours in through the graceful windows of the dining room in the Merrion Hotel. In the morning, you venture to the Kilmainham Gaol, a historic jail erected in the 18th century, and forever connected to the history of Irish nationalism. The metalwork in the rafters shapes the intense ambiance of the main space encircling by cells. It was here that the British government held leaders of the 1916 rebellion, charging the perpetrators with high treason. Your guide offers a sample of the conditions during the struggle for independence, along with a highlighted history of the edifice’s use from its genesis until 1924. 

The drama of your tour shifts dramatically to the enthusiasm of a coming new year, embellished by the cheerfulness of the city, as if commemorating their past by celebrating the future. The Procession of Light begins mid-afternoon with a parade of illumination flickering over the lantern-strung rooftops between Stephen’s Green to Dublin Castle. In the evening, the countdown begins at Christ Church Cathedral. Dubliners have gathered around the forecourt to hear the midnight bells bring in the New Year for generations, cheering in the 19 heartfelt chimes. When the December chill crawls through the city after the warmth of the New Year’s thrill passes, you make your way to the intimate charm of the upstairs bar at The Black Door to sip a comforting cocktail in the first hours of a new day. 

What’s Included: breakfast, dinner, tour, accommodation 

Day 11: Dublin – Jan. 1st – Saying an Irish Goodbye 

The New Year morning is tranquil amongst Dublin’s cobblestone streets and historic Georgian homes. The circular tower of Dublin Castle represents another year in which the edifice has endured the tests of time. The grounds housed the local government for more than 700 years during British rule. The museum contains a collection of Asian artwork, manuscripts, books, and ancient texts, along with the French Books of Hours from the 14th and 15th centuries. The pleasures of Ireland spread from coast to coast and emanate from the mystical landscape and welcoming locals at any time of the year. The Christmas spirit brings an abundance of gregariousness to the shops, pubs, and parks with people across Ireland excited to welcome a new face. Your private transfer meets you at the hotel and escorts you to Dublin Airport where you say farewell to a wondrous journey, along with a Happy New Year! 

What’s Included: breakfast, transfer


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.