Experience the Best the Whole of Ireland has to Offer
15 DAYS - €1350
Mar 18th | Apr 15 | May 13 | Jun 10 | July 8 | Aug 12 | Sep 9
This tour is 15 days of pure exhilaration. It begins and ends in Dublin, although pick up in Shannon can be arranged. You'll be brough to the higest peaks and along the deepest fjords. Hike along the most amazing coastline and talk with the friendliest locals in the best pubs. You'll experience sights and smells, chance meetings and unique feelings that will stay with you forever ! You will travel nearly a full circle of Ireland, taking in the most spectacular scenery and the best walks on offer.
Day 1: 8:00 a.m.
Pick up in the city centre Dublin - Dublin Tourist Office. This is where you begin your journey that you will never forget.All people will be introduced to each other on the bus. I like to get each person to sing a song from their country to start things off! Your national anthem will do! Today is nice and relaxed. We leave Dublin and head towards Glendalough in the Garden of Ireland - Wicklow. We will go up through the Dublin/Wicklow Mountains, over the Sally Gap and down to Guinness Lake - which looks like a pint of Guinness.
We will make our way to Glendalough guest house where we will be staying the night. You can get your gear ready and then we can begin our first walk. Glendalough is one of the most important religious centres in medieval Ireland. It is where St.Kevin resided and lived happily with his fellow Christians, well, when the Vikings were not marauding around the monastery. You will see one of the finest examples of a round tower in the country. It is a truly majestic place. Our first walk is a nice and easy three hour walk around the valley. Afterwards we can relax and have dinner and maybe your first pint of Guinness in the local tavern.
The second day of the tour involves getting you hungry hikers all the way down to the bottom of Ireland, Dingle a little gem of a village in South East Kerry, famous for Fungi and also the gateway town to the internationally famous Slea Head.
We will fit a small walk in on the way down. We will be leaving Wicklow but before we leave I will bring you to a fairy fort the other side of Glendalough where you will learn about Irish folklore and the little people! There is a prize on offer for each person that spots a Leprechaun on the tour. We will go to the medieval city of Kilkenny where you can wander the small streets and admire the castle overlooking the city. From Kilkenny we head towards Tipperary (not so far on this road!) This is the home of hurling in Ireland and once the centre of Ireland where Brian Boru had his fortress before handing it over to the church. You will learn a lot about our early history on this day. Your brain will be so full of information before the end of the tour, you'll be able to dazzle your friends for months when you get home!
We make our way towards Limerick city, where we stop for a break and then onto Tralee, the home of the famous Rose of Tralee. From their it is only a short hop to Dingle, via the village of Annascaul, where Tom Crean the famous Antarctic adventurer lived, we may even stop for a tipple in the South Pole inn, where you can view the pictures of his epic voyages with Ernest Shackleton. We will arrive in Dingle in the evening, pack our bags in your rooms and sit down for a nice pot of my Irish Stew! Yup, my mothers recipe. you guess it! We will be staying in Dingle for three nights before continuing on our adventure.
Today we set out to conquer Ireland's second highest mountain, Mount Brandon. This mountain is one of my favourites and although under 1000m, it is still a formidable challenge, but the rewards when you reach the summit far outweighs the effort on the way up! From the top you can see down to the Blasket islands on one side and all the way to Tralee on the other. It is one of the most scenic mountains in Ireland. The walk should take no longer than 4 hours and is not too difficult. On the way to the start of our trek we will drive over Connor Pass, and maybe stop for a dip in Pedlars Lake, a hidden corrie lake high in the mountains. When we get back to Dingle, I will bring you around the village and on to see Fungi the infamous Dolphin. You will have a couple of hours to walk around Dingle and see it many shops, and that evening we will experience some Gaelic music in the local pubs. 52 pubs for a population of just under 4000 people-fantastic. Watch out for the pubs that are also hardware stores!
Slea Head lies ahead of us today. National Geographic has put this peninsula in the top 10 drives in the world. I would put it in the top 3. We will meander slowly through the Fuchsia lined roads of Slea Head and follow the cliffs around to our view point of Great Blasket island. For millennia people have lived on this peninsula in stone beehive huts. There are more megalithic relics on this peninsula that on the whole of the rest of the island. It is an archaeologist's heaven. But the beauty of this area can only be experienced by walking on the bare cliffs and feeling the sea wind on your skins. It is where Far and Away with Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman was filmed! Today's walk will start at the Blaskets interpretive centre and we will follow the cliff line all the way Sybil Head.
It is a nice easy walk with spectacular views out to the Atlantic and dead mans island. This is the closest you can get to America in Europe. The walk will finish in the village of Ballyferriter a Gaeltacht area, where all the locals speak in our native tongue. By this day I will expect everyone on the bus to be able to have a couple of sentences in Gaelic! After this walk, we will stroll down to a little beach where we will take the hurleys out and have a puc around. Hurling is a sport indigenous to Ireland-It's like a cross between hockey and hell! Probably the most skilful game on the island. Early night for all tonight as tomorrow is a big day!
Today is an early start. We will be gone by 8 o clock in the morning to make our way to Killarney. Drop our bags and make our way to Carrountohill, Ireland's highest mountain. At 1039 metres tall, it towers over the rest of the Magillacuddy reeks like a caring mother. It is a good trek up this mountain. Thousands of people trek this mountain every year and by the end of the day, you will feel the satisfaction of scaling Ireland's highest peak and you will feel on top of the world. Carrauntohill is dead centre in Killarney National Park, one of the largest national parks in Ireland. Watch out for the wild deer that roam in this park, I believe they have a taste for tourists! Also on this day we will get to see the 'Gap of Dunloe' and stop for a while in Kate Kearney's cottage at the bottom of the gap. That evening we will spend in Killarney and enjoy all the festivities on offer in this great town of South West Ireland.
And we're on the road again. After our last few hectic days, we now make our way up the west coast and cross the river Shannon by ferry at Tarbert. Have a look at the schools of wild dolphins that call this estuary their home. Look out in the distant to the highest round tower in Ireland, on Scattery Island. The river Shannon is the spine of Ireland; it divides the land in two. To the east of the river, the land is notably better for farming and grazing. To the west was where Oliver Cromwell sent people if they chose not to go to Hell! We will be entering County Clare when we depart the ferry. It won't be long before we arrive in the burren and go to see the Cliffs of Moher.
On the way, we will stop in Lahinch, a popular surf beach on the west coast and great for picking great deals on periwinkles(tasty sea snails) Just up the road we can stop at Brigids well before we walk along the amazing cliffs. I know we like to live on the edge but at these cliffs, it is advisable to stay away from the 230 m high cliff edges!
We are in the heart of the burren now, a karst region where we take a walk through time. This is a limestone area that covers hundreds of square miles. Limestone pavements, klints, grykes appear before you as you walk precariously over the crack in the rock. As limestone is one of the most permeable rocks, there are many subterranean caverns to discover in the area. You could stand on the pavements and feel like you are walking on the moon! This night we stay in Doolin, famous for Gaelic music. We will enjoy a few well deserved drinks in the local this night and listen to the local musicians strut their stuff!
Unfortunately, we will be bidding farewell to some of our brave trekkers today. Galway is the final stop for the people on the 7 day tour. But also the beginning for other adventurers who wish to do the Northern part of the tour. We leave Doolin early this morning and follow the coast all the way to Galway, stopping at Poulnabrene Dolmen, Corcomroe Abbey, a Cistercian abbey dating from the 10th. Century.
On to the charming village of Kinvara, home of the Galway hooker and to Clarinbridge, the oyster capital of Ireland. We arrive in Galway around lunch time. You will have a couple of hours to spend in Galway, do some shopping or enjoy many of the sights this vibrant city has to offer. Galway is the most bohemian city in Ireland, a magnet for musicians, poets and dramatists all over the world. You can't help but love Galway when you feel the buzz as you walk down Shop Street and down on to Claddagh (the famous ring!).
Have a leisurely day strolling this walled city and discover what hidden things it has to offer. After we say goodbye to our friends, we move on to Connemara where we stay in Killary Harbour for the next three nights. Everyone has heard of Connemara and you won't be disappointed! We stay in a beautiful guest house overlooking Irelands only fjord. The Quiet man was filmed close by and John B Keane's "The Field" was also filmed here. You will not want to leave this place guys, so make sure you're on the bus or I'll have to run and get you!
This is one of my favourite walks in Connemara, where we climb up Beebaun and on down to Klyemore Abbey. As we ascend this mountain you will have unrestricted views of the lakes of Connemara made famous in the song by Marcel Sardou. There are a lot of wild mountain goats in this part of the country and you may be lucky to see a Connemara pony rambling beside you. The walk will take around 4 hours and at the end you can relax around the abbey, now a boarding school for the rich and famous-girls only.
The Abbey, now a girl's boarding school, is run by the Benedictine nuns whose order came here from Ypres in Belgium after the first world war. The house itself was built by a business man called Mitchell Henry who, while honeymooning in the area, fell in love with the unspoiled natural charm of the valley and decided to build a home there. The chapel in the grounds is a miniaturized replica of Norwich Cathedral. The gardens are immaculately kept and any of the nuns will be happy to talk to you about the abbey and its surroundings. That evening, we may take a spin to the local village and take part in a local ceili, an Irish dance evening, where local musicians get together to teach you how to Irish dance, not riverdance style but traditional Irish dancing. This is great 'craic' and really is a must do in Ireland.
This day will give you a choice of walks to do. The first is the famine walk down by the shore of Killary Harbour. You will walk on an old famine road that was built by the starving Irish peasants during the great famine 1845 - 1849. On the route you will clearly see the ruins of famine villages and lazy beds, the name given to the potato ridges where the starving peasant Irish tried to provide food for his family.
The walk finishes at a beach and is around 12k long. The second walk is up over Maumean, a great walk up a small mountain and arrive on the other side at Lough Inagh Lodge where you can relax with a cup of tea or pint looking out onto the lake. At the top of this religious site, there is a small church with numerous crosses, and if you are getting a little wet (as often is the case), there is a nice niche where we can have lunch. Either walk is nice and not too difficult.
The wonderful quartzite coned mountain of Croagh Patrick has been a sacred place for almost 5000 years. As far back as 3000 BC our megalithic ancestors worshipped there. Before the birth of Christ, the festival of the god Lugh was held on its slopes. Lugh is the god whose name gives us the Irish word Lughnasa for August, and it would seem that there is a connection between the pagan worship which took place at the end of the summer and the date fixed for the present day Christian pilgrimage to Croagh Patrick. Croagh Patrick is Ireland's holy mountain where Patrick, the patron saint, spent 40 days and nights praying and fasting in 441AD.
While on the summit Patrick was tormented by blackbirds which surrounded him and in later stories became demons and serpents. Ancient chroniclers say that Patrick threw his bell at them and banished them into the hollow known as Lug Na Deamhan, which is located on the North side of the mountain. It is a common belief that this is why no poisonous snake or reptile can be found in Ireland today. The plain iron bell said to belong to the patron saint is preserved in the National Museum. This walk is about 11k long mostly on loose stones on the mountain.
There is fantastic views to be had out over Clew Bay where Grace O Malley, the most feared female pirate had her castle. I believe there is now a show in Broadway portraying her life. They say there are 365 islands in this bay, one for everyday of the year. Before we scale this 784 m high mountain, we will stroll along a secluded beach. Tonight we stay in Westport. Anyone who wants some musical entertainment. Westport is a veritable Mecca for traditional music with a member of the famous Chieftains owning a bar in the main street less than a five minute walk away. Westport is an easy town to get around, with some funky shops and bargains to be had. Don't forget to haggle!
We depart Westport on our way to Donegal. Early in the morning we make our way for the museum of country life not far from Westport, where you can see what it was like to live in Ireland over the last few hundred years. Today is basically a free day for everyone. There will be an option for walking later in the day up Knocknaree, where Queen Maeve is said to be buried. It's only a short 30 minute ramble, but today I want you to relax and make the most of it guys. I'll have you sweating again tomorrow!
There is the option of having a seaweed bath in Strandhill, Sligo around lunch time. I thoroughly recommend having one of these warm sea baths. You feel like you've died and gone to heaven when you are lying in this bath! Sligo is the county made infamous by our most famous poet: William Butler Yeats and we will be stopping by his grave en route to our accommodation that evening. He is buried in Drumcliffe graveyard, in the shadows of Ben Bulben. On the road we will also get to see a fairy-tale castle, once owned by Lord MountBatten. We should arrive in Donegal town by late afternoon.
Join us in Ireland's most northerly county, Donegal, one of the most unspoilt landscapes in Europe. It's famous for its beautiful scenery, coastline, impressive mountain ranges, glens and lakes and rich reminders of a historic past. This day is based in Donegal town, centrally located for the best walks in the area, and famous for it's 15th century castle, tweeds and traditional music. Routes, with a variety of ground underfoot, are from 6 to 10 miles (9.5 to 16km) each day and take you to Slieve League, among Europe's highest sea-cliffs and into the glorious Glenveagh National Park.
After yesterday's rest, delight in a spectacular walk over some of Ireland's finest sea-cliffs. The Atlantic Ocean has carved a variety of shapes and the rocks and vegetation produce a kaleidoscope of colour. The faces are nesting-places for choughs, guillemots, puffins, etc. Distance: 10.5km/6.5miles. Ascent: 535m/1,750ft (The climb to the summits is undertaken only in favourable weather conditions). We stay in a wonderful hostel this evening just outside Donegal town, family run and a great place for a sing-along and the evening's activities.
We enter into Northern Ireland for the first time on our tour. Dominating the North-western landscape of Ireland, astride the flowing waters of the River Foyle, is a 6th century city that today resonates to the sounds of the 21st century. The historic City of Londonderry, also known as Derry, is the sparkle in the friendly eye of one of our most historic regions. It is a centre of culture and creativity, and is now as famous for its confident modern outlook as it is for its timelessness. Meander through the bustling streets of the only completely walled city in the British Isles and listen to the echoes of 1450 years of history.
Stroll along its 17th century walls, and marvel at the ever-changing skyline of a city which is constant only in in the warmth of its welcome. The beautiful Causeway Coast has something for everyone ... including the Giant's Causeway!. It's not all surf, sand and castles crumbling off cliff-tops (Dunluce Castle). From the County Antrim town of Larne, rugged cliffs stretch north for 80 miles, broken only by 9 deep green glens. Winding on past spectacular scenery, solve the mystery of the beech maze at Carnfunnock Country Park. Splash down at the beaches of Ballygally, Glenarm, Carnlough, Cushendall or Cushendun. The Glenarm Estate is certainly worth viewing on its open days. Not far inland is Slemish Mountain, where St. Patrick tended sheep as a young slave.
The coast road becomes even more tortuous, but the views of Scotland are worth it. Glenariff, Queen of the Glens, is fairest of them all with the wild beauty of its waterfalls and trail skirting a sheer plunging gorge. Cushendall, capital of the Glens, is a lively centre of music, dance and 'craic'. Next stop is Cushendun, a National Trust preserved village, famed for its Cornish cottages. The Glens are equally famous for their festivals, exemplified by the Heart of the Glens festival at Cushendall in August. Not to be outdone, Glenarm, Carnlough and Cushendun have festival weeks in July. This is one beautiful part of the country, and you guys are going to get the best out of it! We stay for two nights in the beautiful hamlet of Ballintoy. This is one of the most picturesque villages in Ireland and Seamus, the owner of our accommodation will welcome you with open arms.
Get ready to experience the 'Giants Causeway' today! The coastal scenery adjacent to the causeway is some of the most beautiful and awe inspiring that you are likely to find anywhere. The majestic cliffs and inaccessible bays combine with myth and legend to inspire, but look carefully amongst this breathtaking landscape and you will find echoes of another reality, isolated ruins, kelp walls and shoreline fields bear testament to the harder life of subsistence farming and fishing endured by past generations.
Dotted around the coast you'll find small sheltered harbours and slipways, fishermen's cottages and rock formations that you will never forget. Many ships have foundered below these towering cliffs but none so tragic as that of the Girona, a galleass of the Spanish Armada. Carrying the crews from two previous Armada shipwrecks, the Girona was on passage from Killybegs and trying to reach the relative safety of Scotland. As she rounded Inishowen peninsula, heavily over laden and in deteriorating sea conditions, her rudder failed. I
n the teeth of a full blown north-westerly gale, the crew battled to keep her off the coast but she finally struck Lacada Point in view of the Giants Causeway at midnight on October 30th 1588 with the loss of over twelve hundred men. Only five are believed to have survived. Local folklore tell of descendants living here and that victims of the wreck, maybe Spanish nobility, were buried in St. Cuthbert's graveyard near Dunluce Castle, it is known that cannons from the wreck were placed here. We will be walking all the way from Ballintoy to the Giants Causeway today along golden beaches and treacherous cliff edges! This will be one of the highlights of your tour!
This is the day we have all been dreading for the whole trip. It is the day we return to Dublin. On route, we will stop in Belfast city and do a tour around the centre and the divide that exists between the Catholic and Protestant communities that live so close together. We will stop in the royal county before we get back to Dublin, and visit Newgrange, a tomb that is older that the pyramids in Egypt, and then on to the hill of Tara before arriving back in Dublin, where you will be dropped off in your accommodation. We can all meet up that evening for a few drinks and reminisce over our tour together.
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