You land this morning in incredible Dublin, the capital of the Republic of Ireland and a city with a richer literary tradition than just about anywhere on earth. Stop by your elegant hotel to freshen up, and then hit the streets of this hidden gem. Dublin is one of the great and unique cities in Western Europe; where the streets are a pleasure to walk, the museums are illuminating and inspiring, and no two pubs are ever quite the same.
Stroll O’Connell Street, the largest street in the city and the most steeped in the spirit of Dublin, where statues of great Irish patriots like Wolfe Tone and Jim Larking greet you on the north side of the River Liffey: to the south, the street gives way to Trinity College, the center of learning in Ireland and the alma mater of some of the greatest Irish literary minds in history, from Oscar Wilde to Samuel Beckett. Visit the library here to feast your eyes on the Book of Kells, an illuminated manuscript that is considered a national treasure. You’ll also want to walk past the fashionable shops and the famous Brown Thomas department store in Grafton Street, the center for high culture and fashion in Dublin.
Continue your journey to the elegant parks and Georgian townhouses that make up the most fashionable areas of south Dublin. Visit Merrion Square, where you can see the townhouse where Oscar Wilde was raised and a whimsical statue commemorating the author in nearby Merrion Green. Turn up river to visit St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the center of the church of Ireland and one of the finest examples of church architecture in the city, and the imposing ramparts of Dublin Castle, once the seat of British rules in Ireland and now the site of a number of fascinating museums, including Dublinia and the Chester Beatty Library.
Turn away from the rising sun as you trek west to the rolling, verdant hills of central Ireland. Witness the striking fecundity of the Curragh, where these rich lands have fostered the growth of some of the greatest thoroughbred racehorses in history. Tour the highlight of the sport at the Irish National Stud, where a museum tells you the stories of the great Irish racehorses and their impressive accomplishments. A serene and scenic garden will serve to emphasize the spirit that fills in the air in this region. The Japanese Gardens are not to be missed, and St. Fiachra’s Garden is a beautiful tribute to the patron saint of gardeners.
Your next stop is the aristocratic Strokestown Park House, formerly owned by an adventurer family that rose with the coming of Cromwell and a splendid example of how British aristocrats lived in the 18th century. The house has beautiful gardens on its grounds, and is also now home to one of the most comprehensive museums on the Great Famine in the world. Then turn to the city of Knock in County Mayo, a little village with a rich history as a pilgrimage site: the Knock Shrine has even received Mother Theresa to worship at the place where an apparition of the Virgin Mary, Jesus and other saints was said to have occurred in 1879.
Your evening concludes at Claremorris, the fastest growing city in County Mayo, where you’ll find elegant hotels and a wide array of eating options will make for a fantastic end to your foray to central Ireland.
Nearing coastal waters, you’ll feel yourself pulled into the lyrical beauty and undeniable charm of Connemara, the heart of the Gaeltecht and a sweeping arc of natural beauty that begs description and lodges firmly in your memory. Here, you’ll catch glimpses of the native breed of pony which has proved useful to the locals for generations, catch ditties from traditional Irish rebellion songs lilting over the land, and catch an eyeful at the staggering opulence of Kylemore Abbey. Built by an Englishman who made his fortune in the weaving trade in Manchester, this beautiful building was converted into an abbey to house Belgian Benedictine nuns fleeing the sweep of Hitler in World War II. The grounds are as beautiful as the Abbey itself, from its unique Victorian walled gardens to the sweeping lake that fronts the façade.
Continue westward and stop in County Joyce, where you’ll get an in-depth look into the beautiful marble work that has thrived in this area for centuries. The Joyce family will show you the tricks of the trade, their finest stones, and offer you a great deal of humor and charm as well as insight. The evening sees you in the delightful port city of Galway, where you might be tempted to enjoy an evening at nearby Dunguaire Castle, commanding an impressive vista over Galway Bay and restored to reflect its former grandeur.
Catch a ferry and head out to the heart of Galway Bay to visit a part of Ireland that time seems to have forgotten, where Irish is the native language and where the Celtic past lives heavy in the air. Start your adventure at Inishmore, the largest of the three islands, where you’ll discover the long reach of history in this part of the world: where people have settled for millennia, battling the elements and retaining their way of life. Lunch is traditional and delicious, filling and exciting and complemented by the charm of traditional Irish pub life.
The afternoon sees you at the ancient remains of Dun Aengus, an Iron Age fort that commands a dominant view over the Atlantic Ocean, perched more than 300 feet above the sea. Here, a local tour guide will give you a glimpse at life as a Celt before the birth of Jesus, and clues you in to the dangers and daily events of life in this rugged and romantic place. The evening sees you back on the mainland, ready to enjoy another evening in spirited Galway.
Start your morning with style as your first stop of the day is at quaint and darling Rathbaun Farm, a traditional Irish sheep farm. Learn more about the life of Irish shepherds or step into the kitchen to try your hand at making authentic Irish scones: even if the ones you make don’t cut it, the ones available with coffee are sure to make up for your culinary shortcomings.
Head south across the wide reach of the Burren, offering a panorama of geology the likes of which exist only a few places on Earth. This karst landscape is home to more than three quarters of Ireland’s species of flowers, and rustles with life despite its occasionally bleak appearance. Those interested in human history are sure to be fascinated as well, as the area contains more than 90 megalithic tombs and an array of ancient ring forts.
The afternoon sun sets over the swarming surf of the Atlantic, bathing the scene ahead of you in gentle warmth, a scene that is as commanding as it is breathtaking. The Cliffs of Moher climb 700 feet above the swell of the ocean, and they are the highlights of Ireland’s rugged Atlantic shore. Catch a glimpse from O’Brien’s tower and cast your gaze across all of captivating County Clare, fully taking in the natural glory of this beautiful country, before returning to the city and a celebration of Irish culture and charm at Bunratty.
Amble the streets of Limerick, the city of the Shannon that has become one of Ireland’s premier up-and-coming tourist destinations. It draws visitors with a burgeoning food scene and architecture that reflects this city’s long history. Ogle at the soaring spire of St. John Cathedral, the tallest of its type in Ireland, and gape at the aggressive battlements of St. John’s Castle, perched over the Shannon and threatening retribution to all that threaten its banks. Continue on to the town of Foynes, a village that became one of the largest civilian airports in Europe during the turbulent years of the Second World War. The Flying Boat Museum engagingly presents Foynes history in the fighting of World War II, including a full size replica of the famed Boeing 314 flying boat. Foynes also claims to be the home of Irish coffee, said to have been invented to fight the cold and the wet that passengers experienced during the early years of aviation. Regardless of the truth to the claim, the Irish coffee here is certainly worth a try.
Your evening ends at the arresting Killarney, a bustling Irish town that has a spirited nightlife and heart-stealing locals. For foodies, the nearby village of Tralee is widely regarded as Ireland’s premier gourmet destination, and is certainly worth the short journey for dinner.
Turn south and west to the peninsular County Kerry, a region of unprecedented natural splendor and a dazzling display of Irish heritage. Drive or jaunt your way around the mesmerizing Ring of Kerry, arguably the most beautiful piece of road in the world, where natural panoramas and striking houses present an image that will arrest your attention. Gaze upon the Gap of Dunloe, a plunging valley that is as dramatic as it is gorgeous, and feast your eyes on the soaring reaches of Macgillycuddy’s Reeks, the spine of western Ireland. Visit Derrynane House, the noble grounds that gave rise to Daniel O’Connell, the Member of Parliament that gave Irish Catholics the vote and the right to political participation, and see how the leisure class lived at Muckross House, a fantastic Tudor mansion with a façade that is straight from Jane Eyre.
This afternoon sees you back in Killarney, where you’ll be treated to an enchanting carriage ride through the local national park. From the sweeping beauty of the Lakes of Killarney to the stolid and defiant presence of Ross Castle on the banks of Lough Leane, this is sure to be one countryside jaunt that you will never forget.
Make your way to County Cork, the self-proclaimed capital of the Republic, where clans fought against English incursions for centuries and where Dublin is merely a fine city in the east. From the heart of Cork city, visit the grounds that surround Blarney Castle, including a number of strange natural rock formations with revealing nicknames like the Druid’s Circle and the Wishing Steps. Walk the gardens that surround the castle itself, and even make your way to the unique Poison Garden, which contains a number of mind-altering plants, from deadly nightshade to opium and cannabis. And, of course, no trip to Blarney Castle would be complete without a trek up the ramparts, a brief dangle upside down and a kiss on the Stone of Eloquence, better known as the Blarney Stone, which is supposed to give all who kiss it the gift of easy conversation, a trait that is surely not lacking in this part of the world.
Turn back to the southern reaches of Ireland as you discover wonderful Waterford, a city in Ireland for more than a millennium, with Viking roots and artistic genius. Visit the House of Waterford Crystal to learn more about Ireland’s most elegant export, trace the history of the town and the product, and even shop the many beautiful pieces that are available for purchase before spending the evening in Waterford.
While today's journey will end back in delightful Dublin, the journey is the highlight for today as you cross through the places where Ireland was born. Climb the rise at Vinegar Hill and sense the pained desperation of Irish patriots at the haunting fields of Enniscorthy, an area with a long tradition of supporting Irish independence. Survey the rolling Wicklow Mountains, those subtle crags of song that inspire and amaze, and explore the art of hand weaving at Avoca. Here, you’ll find the oldest hand weaving mill still in existence in Ireland, as well as fascinating locals who will let you in to the detailed tapestry of life in this part of Ireland.
Continue on to venerable Glendalough, a holy site in Irish Catholic history, where St. Kevin was said to have established a monastery in the sixth century. The remains of this historic site are impressive, from the graceful point of the Round Tower to the bare elegance of St. Kevin’s Church. The nature surrounding this reverential place merely seeks to emphasize the tranquility and grandeur that this monastery surely was meant to convey, and gives glimpses to the past.
Return to Dublin, where you can enjoy one final outing in Ireland in high style. Stop for dinner at the famed Guinness Storehouse, where the stout is unlike any you've had before, or enjoy a gourmet dinner on the south side of the River Liffey, from the chop houses on Dawson to the haute cuisine near St. Stephen’s Green.
After a hearty and filling breakfast, a driver, arranged by one of Zicasso's Ireland travel agents, will be ready for you at your hotel, and will take you to the airport for your return flight home. Your heart will be filled with the memories of this magical country, and your head will be swimming with your plans to return.
This is the country of rolling hills of green and lilting songs of the love of the land, where the smells of a hearty Irish stew mix with the glittering of light on the waves of the Atlantic, and where the charm of the people more than matches the heroic sweep of the land beyond. For ten days during this custom tour to Ireland, you will experience the Republic of Ireland in all its romantic splendor, in all its poetic glory, and in all its ebullient charm.
Designed for 2020, explore the city on the banks of the River Liffey as you walk the famous thoroughfares of Dublin, a cosmopolitan capital with a rich literary tradition and a pub scene that is sure to keep you enraptured. Cross into the rugged west to the ancient kingdom of Connacht, where the Aran Islands linger in the swell of the Atlantic and the Cliffs of Moher soar over surf and turf alike. Drive the inimitable Ring of Kerry and kiss the Blarney Stone in a true excursion to Counties Cork and Kerry. From the Irish Sea to the Atlantic Ocean, from the far reaches of Munster to the borderlands of Ulster, this is a true Irish adventure, one that is sure to captivate your senses and capture your heart.
Relevant information: Visit Zicasso's European vacations page for more itinerary planning ideas.
$3995 per person (excluding international flights)
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