Best of Ireland

Including Northern Ireland

Dublin, Blarney Stone, Ring of Kerry, Cliffs of Moher, Limerick, Killarney, Connemara, Galway, Lough Corrib Cruise, Giant's Causeway, Belfast & Titanic Experience

This itinerary is for a past tour program.
Check out our new Best of Ireland itinerary.

Overview

Itinerary at a Glance
Best of Ireland
Day Destination
1 Depart USA
2 Dublin
3 Ireland's Midlands, Blarney
Castle & Kerry
4 Ring of Kerry &
Muckross House
5 Burren & the Cliffs of Moher
6 Galway & Lough Corrib
7 Connemara & Kylemore
Abbey
8 Sligo, Carrowmore, &
Donegal
9 Derry & Belfast
10 Belfast
11 Strangford Lough, Mount
Stewart & Dublin
12 Dublin
13 Dublin/USA

Join us on our 13-day tour of Ireland and take the time to savor exploring this beautiful and charming country, where people are friendly, service is great and the places to discover just go on and on.

There is no shortage of places to visit and things to see in Ireland. You’ll kiss the Blarney Stone for good luck, see the Cliffs of Moher and cruise on the River Corrib. Travel through the Connemara Region, one of the most picturesque in all of Ireland, where Gaelic is still spoken, visit Derry and Belfast as well as the new Titanic exhibition, and enjoy the sites of Dublin, Ireland’s lovely, intimate capital. Enjoy superior and deluxe hotels, included sightseeing tours and more, all for an incredible discount price.

Take your time when traveling through Ireland. Although it's possible to drive the length of Ireland in less than a day and to traverse the width of the country in a few hours, we prefer to settle in and explore a particular region, whether on foot, on horseback or behind the wheel—mindful, of course, of wandering sheep on small back roads.

Detailed Itinerary

Best of Ireland tour itinerary Day 1: Depart USA. Depart USA. Your exciting trip to Ireland begins today as you depart for Dublin.

Day 2: Dublin. Upon arrival in Dublin, you will be met and transferred to your hotel. Enjoy the balance of the day to relax in your hotel or explore the city on your own. Dublin has it all, a charming mix of medieval, Georgian and modern architecture, a wealth of history, culture and literary tradition, wonderful shopping and dining. Dublin can trace its origins back over 1,000 years. From a small Viking settlement it has evolved into the vibrant capital city of IrelandTonight enjoy dinner at the hotel. Accommodations: Clyde Court Hotel or similar. Dinner provided.

Blarney Castle Day 3: Ireland's Midlands, Blarney Castle & Kerry. Today, you will board your touring coach, depart Ireland’s capitol and travel to County Kerry. En route, stop in the town of Blarney for a visit to Blarney Castle. Dating from 1446, the castle is a tower house built on solid limestone. At the top of the Tower you will find the legendary Stone of Eloquence (Blarney Stone). Kiss it and you will never again be lost for words.

Enjoy some time for shopping at Blarney Woolen Mills. The existence of the Woolen Mills during the famine shielded Blarney from the worst effects of the great famine, due to its employment of local workers. The success story at the mills continued until a disastrous fire in 1869. By August 1871, the mill was once again operational with a labor force of over 200 and in 1976 Chris Kelleher, himself a mill worker, bought the old mill property. Within a short period of time Chris and his family transformed the mill into what is perhaps the largest quality craft shop in Ireland.

Continue through Ireland’s Midlands to your hotel in the Kerry region. This evening enjoy dinner with your travel companions at the hotel’s restaurant. Accommodations: Travel Inn Killarney or similar. Breakfast & dinner provided.

Ring of Kerry Day 4: Ring of Kerry & Muckross House. Today you can enjoy a superb tour of the Iveragh Peninsula, which will give you the opportunity to discover the Ring of Kerry, taking in the spectacular scenery; mountains, peat bogs, lakes and magnificent views of the Atlantic Ocean. Leaving Killarney, pass through Killorglin, famous for its Puck Fair and Glenbeigh, where the cliff road affords panoramic views of the Dingle Peninsula and Dingle Bay. Passing through the peat bogs, arrive at the sea town of Waterville. Continue to Sneem Village, famous because of its brightly colored houses. The road continues through the mountains to Molls Gap and Ladies View with superb views of the famous Lakes of Killarney.

Visit Muckross House, which was built in 1843 by the Herbert Family, in Elizabethan style. This house is one of the most sumptuous residences of Ireland. Muckross, surrounded by beautiful gardens, is in the heart of the Killarney National Park, the first to be opened in Ireland.

This evening enjoy dinner on your own in one of the many restaurants or pubs in Killarney town. Breakfast provided.

Cliffs of Moher at sunset Day 5: Burren & the Cliffs of Moher. Travel northwards to Tarbert and take a short boat ride across the mouth of the river Shannon, landing on Clare’s shore at Killimer. Travel along the coast to the Cliffs of Moher. The most majestic cliffs in Ireland, the Cliffs of Moher rise 700 feet above the Atlantic Ocean and extend over four miles in length. On a clear day, you can admire the Aran Islands, the Connemara Mountains and the many sea birds that colonize this area to nest in the spring. Visit the Atlantic Edge Interpretive Center built into the natural landscape. The center is a huge domed cave that contains various exhibits showcasing the mighty Cliffs of Moher.

Later, enjoy a tour of the Burren Region, a strange and unique region in Europe. “Burren” means “large stones”; in fact, its name describes this impressive scenery perfectly well. Often described as lunar, the Burren is a high plateau of porous limestone situated in Northern Clare, between Ballyvaughan and Kilfenora. No trees grow here and no soil covers the stone, but the Burren is not deserted, as different types of flowers grow from the cracks all year round. The Burren Region is also historically rich, with many castles and monastic ruins. Continue to Limerick and check-in at your hotel. Enjoy the balance of the day at leisure. Accommodations: Clarion Hotel or similar. Breakfast provided.

Optional Excursion: Take advantage of an optional Medieval Banquet at Bunratty Castle on the banks of the Raite River including transportation, entertainment, a four-course meal and wine. ($79 per person)

Galway Cathedral Day 6: Galway & Lough Corrib. This morning travel to Galway. Upon arrival enjoy an orientation tour of the city. Galway City is a delight with its narrow streets, old stone and wooden shop fronts, good restaurants and busy pubs. The city has attracted many musicians and artists, which add so much to the character of the city.

Start at Galway’s modern Cathedral, which was built between 1958 and 1965, and stands on the site of the old city jail. One of the largest and most impressive buildings in Galway City, its architecture draws on many influences. The dome and pillars reflect a Renaissance style, and other features, including the rose windows and mosaics, echo the broad tradition of Christian art. The Cathedral dome, at a height of 145 feet, is a prominent landmark on the city skyline. The exterior design may not be to everybody’s taste, while the interior, with its high curved arches and central dome, has a simple but solid elegance.

Connemara landscape Later, embark on the Corrib Princess and cruise the majestic River Corrib. The journey offers wonderful views of the historic monuments and scenery, which make this one of the most spectacular waterways in Ireland. While you cruise, enjoy an Irish coffee demonstration sampling this classic beverage and freshly made scones.

Continue to your hotel and enjoy the balance of the day at leisure. Later this evening enjoy dinner at the hotel. Accommodations: Clayton Hotel, Oranmore Lodge Hotel or similar. Breakfast & dinner provided.

Day 7: Connemara & Kylemore Abbey. Today, travel through the beautiful Connemara Region. Connemara is a land of lakes and rivers, bogs and mountains. In this area of small villages, Gaelic is still the spoken language and little has changed since the beginning of time. It is without a doubt the wildest and most romantic part of Ireland. Connemara is a vast peninsula bordered by the arid and rocky coastline of Galway Bay in the south, a land characteristic for its stone walls and thatched cottages. On its northern shore the land is harsher and more secret, with spectacular views of the Ocean, the fjord of Killary Harbour, as well as the steep mountains overlooking numerous lakes and large bog areas.

Kylemore Abbey Enjoy some leisure time in the Connemara National Park, which encompasses 11 square miles from Letterfrack in the west to the peaks of the Twelve Bens Mountains. Hike one of the three main trails, or stop at the visitors’ center and learn about the park’s unique landscape and wildlife.

Next, visit Kylemore Abbey in the Kylemore Pass in Connemara. Mitchell Henry built the house in 1868, after having spent his honeymoon in the area. The architecture is best described as neo-gothic and the house still displays all the characteristics of that period. One of Kylemore Abbey's most famous features is its miniature cathedral, built in 1870 and known locally as the Gothic church. Today, the Abbey is home to the Irish order of Benedictine nuns. They bought the house in 1920, having fled their convent in war-torn Belgium in 1914. Breakfast provided.

Carrowmore Cemetery Day 8: Sligo, Carrowmore, & Donegal. Today, travel to Donegal via County Sligo. County Sligo's beautiful scenery was an inspiration for the Irish poet William Butler Yeats, who is buried at Drumcliffe Churchyard under loaf-shaped Benbulben Mountain. The lakes of Sligo, with their still waters and wooded islands are truly spectacular and form a striking contrast to the county's rugged uplands.

Visit Carrowmore Cemetery, the oldest Megalithic cemetery in Ireland, said to have had over 100 tombs, of which 60 still exist today. Each tomb is numbered and the central tomb has been restored, which enables visitors to see what the interior of a court tomb looked like when it was built over 5,000 years ago. Enjoy an in depth tour of this very ancient site, a must for visitors interested in archaeology.

En route to Donegal, stop at the Belleek Pottery factory. Belleek Pottery has been producing high quality Parian china since it was established in 1857. Visitors are invited to tour the factory and see first-hand how this world-renowned pottery is created. The visit commences with a short audio-visual demonstration, followed by a tour of the factory to see the pottery being removed from its molds, fired, and decorated by the artisans. The visit concludes at the factory’s gift shop where visitors will have the opportunity to purchase souvenirs. Continue to Donegal for dinner and overnight. Accommodations: Jackson's Hotel or similar. Breakfast & dinner provided.

City wall, Derry Day 9: Derry & Belfast. This morning, depart Donegal for Derry (or Londonderry), the second largest city and port of Northern Ireland. Upon arrival, enjoy a walking tour of the walled city founded in the 6th century by St. Columba. Selected as a major plantation project in 1613, and organized by the London Livery companies, it acquired the prefix London. In the same year, the walls of Derry were built to protect the town from the Gaelic chieftains in Donegal. A walk on the walls is a must on any visit to Derry as they are among the best-preserved fortifications in Europe. They are nearly 30 feet thick in some areas and rise to a height of 25 feet. Today, these walls separate two communities, the Bogside, a Catholic ghetto with its famous murals, and the Waterside, a Protestant enclave.

This afternoon, travel along the Antrim coast to Belfast visiting the Giant’s Causeway en route. The Causeway was formed more than 60 million years ago when red-hot lava erupted onto the surface of the earth. It was quickly cooled by the sea, which crystallized and formed it into the 40,000 basalt polygonal columnsthat today form the Giant’s Causeway. Legend tells a different story as to how this unique place was built by the mythical giant Finn McCool. Continue to Belfast for dinner and overnight. Accommodations: Europa Hotel or similar. Breakfast & dinner provided.

City Hall, Belfast Day 10: Belfast. After breakfast, enjoy a panoramic tour of Belfast City to see some of Belfast’s greatest landmarks, including the leaning Albert Memorial Clock Tower, Opera House, City Hall, Crown Bar, Queens University, and Botanic Gardens. Also see some of the many murals on the Shankill and Falls Roads for an indication of how life was in Belfast during the “troubles” between the unionists and nationalists.

Visit the new Titanic Belfast located in the heart of the city, which recreates the story of the world’s most famous ship in a new iconic, six-floor building right beside the historic site of the original ship’s construction. Opened in April 2012 to coincide with the centenary of its launch, the self-guided journey begins upon entering the building's giant atrium, where visitors are surrounded by the four massive walls which house the Titanic Experience. As you journey through the nine large galleries of the interactive exhibition, you will uncover the true story of the Titanic, from her conception in Belfast in the early 1900s, through her construction and launch, to her infamous maiden voyage. Enjoy the afternoon at leisure in Belfast City for independent exploration. Breakfast provided.

Donaghadee HarborDay 11: Strangford Lough, Mount Stewart & Dublin. This morning, enjoy a tour of the Ards Peninsula in County Down, Northern Ireland which separates Strangford Lough from the North Channel on Ireland's northeast coast. A number of towns and villages are located on the peninsula, such as the seaside town of Donaghadee, with the surrounding area known as the Ards district. Newtownards, situated inland from the peninsula, is the largest town in the area.

Another town in the Ards is Portaferry. Visit the Mount Stewart House and Gardens. The magnificent 18th century house and gardens were the home of the marquees of Londonderry, The house is in wonderful condition and has retained most of its original plasterwork, marble nudes, and valuable paintings. Expect to be enthralled by nearly 90 acres of gardens and its unrivalled collection of rare and unusual plants. Other attractions include the amazing Dodo Terrace with its extraordinary menagerie of concrete statues, the beautiful lake, and the Temple of the Winds designed by James ‘Athenian’ Stuart in 1785.

Take the ferry from Portaferry to Strangford, then continue to Dublin for overnight. Accommodations: Clyde Court Hotel or similar. Breakfast provided.

Trinity College, Dublin Day 12: Dublin. This morning, set out on a panoramic tour to discover Dublin’s Fair City. The north side of the River Liffey offers striking monuments such as the General Post Office (GPO) on the city’s main thoroughfare, O'Connell Street, the Custom House along the quays, as well as Phoenix Park, one of the largest public parks in Europe. The south side appears more sophisticated with its vast Georgian squares, such as Merrion Square where Oscar Wilde’s House can still be found, its colorful doors, along with Grafton Street and its quality shops. Not so far from St. Stephen’s Green, in Kildare Street, you can see the house of Bram Stoker, the author of Dracula. Visit Trinity College, the oldest University in Ireland, founded in 1592 by Elizabeth I. Within its walls, you will be able to admire Parliament Square and its 18th Century edifices. The visit of the ancient library, containing over twenty thousand manuscripts, is often surprising by its splendor. The 9th Century Book of Kells, famous for its precious illuminations, is exhibited in these premises as well.

Christchurch Cathedral, Dublin The tour concludes with a visit to Christ Church Cathedral. King Sitric Silkenbeard built Dublin’s first wooden church on this site in 1038. The Anglo-Norman Richard de Clare (Strongbow) built the current building in 1172. Ravaged by time, it was almost fully restored towards the end of the 19th Century. Christ Church possesses a crypt, which stretches nearly its entire length and much of the Cathedral’s memorabilia is displayed here. Attached to the Cathedral is the Synod House, which houses an excellent exhibition of medieval Dublin.

Enjoy the rest of the afternoon at leisure for some personal sightseeing, or some last minute shopping. Breakfast provided.

Optional Excursion: Take advantage of an optional evening of festive entertainment at a local pub including a 3-course dinner, live music and transportation. ($69 per person, excludes beverages)

Day 13: Dublin/USA. After a final Irish breakfast, bid farewell to Ireland as your journey comes to an end. Transfer to the airport for your return flight. You will arrive in New York later today. Breakfast provided.

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