Scenic Irish Road Trip on the Wild Atlantic Way

A 9 day trip to Ireland 
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The Wild Atlantic Way travels more than 1,500 miles along Ireland’s coastline, connecting the hidden villages, vivacious cities, and unbelievable landscapes that you will discover during your custom-tailored Ireland tour. Indulge in a road-trip, moving at your preferred pace across limestone mountains and staggering coastal cliffs, and traveling through quiet seaside towns and around ancient castle grounds. Whether you are drawn to the traditional music in Galway or the natural majesty of dolphins leaping from the water, your Ireland tour bonds you to the captivating thrills and enchanting tales from land and sea, scenery and cities.

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General Information

Photos
Detailed Itinerary

Places Visited 

Kilbrittain, Kenmare, Kilkee, Galway, Westport, Sligo, Dublin, Cliffs of Moher, Kylemore Abbey, the Burren, Clonakilty, Inchydoney Beach, Drombeg Circle, Knocknarea, Rosses Point, Achill Island, Connemara National Park, Kinvara Village, Ring of Kerry, Dingle Peninsula 

Departure Dates 

Dates are flexible and customizable for private departures. 

Detailed Itinerary 

Day 1: Kilbrittain – Arrive in Dublin with an Exploratory Scenic Drive to Kilbrittain

Dublin is a city of mystique, beauty, history, and culture running along the banks of the River Liffey. Antique pubs fill with music, and the Guinness factory whirls and swirls with glasses of dark stout filling the bar with the aromas of caramel and coffee. The leather-bound books in the library at Trinity College run the length of the nearly 215-foot long gallery where 200,000 antique volumes reside. Upon your arrival at Dublin International Airport, you will pick up your comfortable rental car and travel southwest towards Kilbrittain. The drive through the Midlands provides a distinctive view of rolling Irish hills and lush plains. Sheep and cows graze on the emerald grasses that spread across the idyllic landscape before you reach the Ruins of the Rock of Dunamase.

The historical walls stand atop a rocky outcropping reaching 150 feet above the plain. The castle was a stronghold during the Hiberno-Norman period in the 12th century. The limestone cliff protrudes from the grass with streaks of silver against the jade tufts and sporadic yellow wildflowers. Towers, gates, and archways continue to dot the precipice where the medieval ruins resemble an enchanting pastoral painting along the lush landscape. Upon reaching the town of Kilbrittain, you immediately notice the whale skeleton on display in the public park. The fin whale beached itself on near the town in 2009 and has become a symbol of the town and its strong community spirit.

Read some Zicasso travelers’ Ireland travel reviews to gain further inspiration for your own trip.

What’s Included: airport transfer, accommodation  

Day 2: Kenmare – Discover Drombeg Circle, Clonakilty, and Inchydoney Beach

In the morning, the aroma of sizzling sausages spreads through Main Street emanating from the tranquil pubs and quiet cafes. On the outskirts of town, the sunlight washes over the marvelous sandstone walls of the 11th-century Kilbrittain Castle, erected by the grandson of the High King of Ireland. The beauty of the Wild Atlantic Way is represented in the serene villages and verdant landscape, and the brilliance of the treasured coastline grows exponentially as you pass through Clonakilty.

What was once a sleepy village now attracts visitors from across Ireland and Europe eager to embrace the coastal charm of the 1940s architecture. Historic shops offer sensational antiques, and lavish tea rooms serve delectable finger sandwiches and pastries. The colorful buildings shine above the cobbled streets as visitors venture to Inchydoney, the beach glistening with white sand, breaking waves, and expansive dunes. The aroma of the briny sea fills the breeze as surfers cut across the azure water with waves breaking behind them. You continue to Drombeg Stone Circle, a megalith featuring 13 surviving boulders that reach heights of over 30 feet tall. The stones in the circle slope upwards towards the nearly eight-foot long westerly stone. Archeologists believe the stones and circular formation date back between 1100 and 800 BC. You notice the communal cooking pit where people placed hot stones from the fire into a water trough, boiling as much as seventy gallons in a mere fifteen minutes.

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

Day 3: Kenmare – Traverse Marvelous Landscape and Culture on the Ring of Kerry

In the morning, you indulge in a buttery scone topped with black currant or raspberry jam, and the herbaceous aroma of black Irish tea complements the mixture of savory and sweet flavors. After having wandered through the beauty of the Southern peninsula to explore the Ring of Kerry, you set-out towards Kenmare, reaching the beginning of the Cliff Coast. The famous loop road encompasses over 110 miles around the edges of the Iveragh Peninsula where sheep and horses forage on the plentiful grass.

The Kerry Farmhouse offers a reproduction of the 1930s lifestyle with demonstrations of sheep shearing, herding, and farming techniques. You stop near the Muckross Estate to follow the path leading to Torc Waterfall. The gentle slope offers an easily accessible trail leading you into the scenic woodlands. You can hear the water rushing over the rocks and slopes before you discover the cascade gliding 80 feet down into the Owengarrif River below.

You follow the steps up the hillside for a better view of the falls and a small cloud of mist rises from the point where the water enters the pool. The scent of dew and wet grass fills the air, and the falls resemble a beaded curtain falling over the rocky terraces. Ross Castle is located just outside of Killarney and was the home of an Irish chieftain in the late 15th century. The dramatic stronghold rises along the banks of the Leane Lake overlooking Innisfallen, the island home to the ruins of a 7th-century monastery. 

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

Day 4: Kilkee – Explore the Dingle Peninsula and Enjoy a Sightseeing Cruise

In the morning, you find the herbaceous aroma of black Irish tea comforting and refreshing. You return to the car after breakfast bound for the Dingle Peninsula at the most westerly point of Ireland and Europe. Sandstone rock formations shape the mountains leading to the eastern neck of the peninsula. Macgillycuddy’s Reeks, the highest mountain in Ireland at over 3,100 feet above sea level, forms a beautiful ridge offering views over the outcropping and the northern edges of County Kerry.

Pub signs dot the facades of the colorful buildings lining the main street of Dingle Town, and the scent of the sea fades beneath the aroma of battered fish. Fisher-people return from the open water with nets brimming with mackerel and cod as the captivating songs of Irish tradition drift out of the local pubs. The musicians sing in Gaelic, adding an extra layer of majesty to the town. You board a boat bound for the Atlantic in search of the famous pods of bottlenose dolphins for which the peninsula is known. The water laps against the hull of the boat, and the breeze brushes through your hair carrying the brine from the water. Your skipper points to a group of dolphins playing in the azure water. Bottlenose dolphins can grow over 13 feet tall and communicate through pulse sounds, whistles, and acute body language. 

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

Day 5: Galway – Stroll along the Cliffs of Moher and the Burren en route to Galway

In the morning, you have a spectacular view over the sweeping semi-circular bay looking north to the high cliffs and south toward the weather-beaten boulders. The wind whirls around the Duggerna Rocks, where the natural formations create a stunning amphitheater. Low-tide reveals the swimming pools of the Pollock Holes where crab and fish roam in the water bordered by thick limestone. The beaches shimmer with powdery sand and the wave-break beckons to surfers across Europe. You venture to the Cliffs of Moher to view the stunning sandstone walls reaching over 700 feet above the Atlantic Ocean.

Outside of the visitor center, the crowd of people dissipates, and you feel as though you have the panoramic views of the coastline all to yourself. The windswept grass lies low against the edge of the precipices where puffins nest in the hidden niches overlooking the water. You can hear the waves breaking against the base of the bluffs, and the scent of the briny ocean blends with the herbaceous aromas of the grass and wildflowers.

The stunning landscape captivates you with its natural drama as you continue to The Burren to view the Leaba Clochmor, the Stone Bed. The silver streaks of limestone tile the plateau that resembles a bed of stone accentuated by sprouting wildflowers. The fascinating landscape took 20 million years to shape the over 1,600 feet of limestone. Returning to the comforts of town connects you to Hazel Mountain Chocolate Factory in New Quay. The aroma of chocolate made from Trinitario cacao beans and raw sugar fills the cottage house. The windows of the cottage overlook the hillside as you indulge in the deliciously creamy treats that fill the display cases. 

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

Day 6: Westport – Travel through Connemara National Park and Kylemore Abbey

The 14th-century façade of St. Nicholas’s Church remains true to the medieval architectural roots. Gargoyles adorn the walls, and triple gables create a unique feature along the western edge of the façade. The scent of frying bacon accompanies fried eggs and tea for a full Irish breakfast enjoyed in the dining room of your hotel. Today you have a fascinating drive that leads to Westport on the Bay Coast. As you leave Galway behind, you notice the stunning dome of the Galway Cathedral. Erected in the 1950s, it is one of Europe’s grandest religious structures connoting details of renaissance, gothic, and Romanesque architecture. Connemara National Park is over 11 square miles and serves as a protected haven for skylarks, robins, rabbits, foxes, pristine hills, and historic landmarks.

You reach Kylemore Abbey, which was erected in the mid-19th century. The grandeur of the façade represents an aristocratic sophistication. The palace reflects in the waters of the tranquil lake bordered by woodland and brush. The estate encompasses 40,000 square feet and was converted into an abbey in the 1920s to house nuns escaping the battles in Belgium during World War I. Six of the original 70 rooms are open for visitors. The dining room retains its elegant walls, featuring a display of china and glassware fit for noble company. The gardens blossom with gardenias, and roses framed by manicured hedges border thick walls of mortar and stone.

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

Day 7: Sligo – Visit Achill Island and Ancient Ceide Fields before Reaching Sligo

After an early breakfast, you venture to the base of Croagh Patrick, a mountain reaching over 2,500 feet tall. The scent of the plains fills the air, and the shadow of the majestic mountain fades in the rising sun. Pilgrims continue to climb barefoot on the rugged trails to the peak, believing this penitent act will reduce their time in purgatory.

The ascent begins along the rocky foothills covered with moss and heathers where a narrow stream provides a melodic soundtrack for the climb. The second stage of the ascent begins as the moss disappears and the trail becomes steep, lined with thick, heavy rocks. You amble around the larger boulders reaching the steps of the summit’s chapel. The breeze carries a mixture of aromatics from the meadows below and the surrounding stones. Pilgrims visit particular stations around the peak, praying at the holy spots connected to Saint Patrick. You notice the chapel that was erected over the place where Saint Patrick spent 40 days and nights in prayer while fasting in the mid-5th century.

Herds of sheep bleat down below as they forage on the tufts of emerald grass. You continue to Achill, the largest island off the coast of Ireland. A short bridge connects the mainland to the landscape often referred to as the “Island of Sheep.” Cliffs and rocky headlands shelter soft-sand beaches and rolling mountains border shimmering lakes. The high wind has shaped the dramatic seaside and sweeping grasses. A touch of piracy overtakes you when you notice the 40-foot tall 15th-century tower erected by Grace O’Malley, the Pirate Queen.

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

Day 8: Dublin – Follow an Ancient Tomb and Rich History en route to Dublin

The pedestrian lanes of Sligo Town wind along welcoming, colorful storefronts and the stone bridges crossing over the River Garavogue. You can recall the sounds of the fiddles, bodrán (a traditional Irish drum), and flutes that filled the pubs the previous night. The historic walls and sounds contrasted the glass towers that create the prominent skyline of the more contemporary edges of town. A statue of WB Yeats faces the 19th-century Ulster Bank which became a memorial center to the famous Irish author. The scent of freshly baked pastries emanates from bakeries around the cozy town and, after breakfast, you weave through the beauty of County Sligo heading back to the bustling streets of Dublin.

You pass the rugged cliffs and vivacious plateau of Benbulben before reaching Trim, the largest medieval castle on the Emerald Isle. Five city gates surround the captivating streets of Old Town, and the remnants of seven monasteries populate the pedestrian lanes alongside cozy workers’ cottages and enchanting tearooms. The castle has loomed over town since the early 12th century but was rebuilt in the 13th century. Narrow, steep stairs wind along the walls, towers, and keep. Anglo-Norman architecture created a defense against the Irish chieftains. The walls wrap around nearly five acres dominated by a more than 80-foot tall keep. Eight towers and a gatehouse add to the impressive display of power and defensive foresight. Mel Gibson used the ruins as a stand-in for Edinburgh Castle in the Academy Award winning movie, Braveheart.

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

Day 9: Dublin – Depart for Home

In the morning, the aroma of fresh coffee and scones with orange citrus fills a local café renowned for its mix of beans and knowledgeable baristas. A local clothier opens its doors to a wonderland of vintage clothing. A local shop on Grafton Street has cobbled elegant and coveted shoes since the 1820s, following an outline of practicality, comfort, and skillful construction. The daily life of Dubliners continues around the cobbled lanes of the Old City and the tightly packed alleys of Temple Bar. After breakfast, your private transfer greets you at the hotel and escorts you to Dublin International Airport for your flight home, bringing a graceful end to your Ireland road-trip. 

What’s Included: airport transfer, breakfast

Price

Price 

Please inquire for a custom quote. The price is customized based on final accommodation choices, travel dates, and other custom preferences.