Day 1 Arrive in Dublin, Ireland.
Céad míle fáilte—a hundred-thousand welcomes! Check into your hotel. At 3 pm, meet your Tour Director and traveling companions for an afternoon orientation drive through statue-lined O’Connell Street, elegant Georgian squares, and past St. Patrick’s Cathedral and Oscar Wilde’s Trinity College. Tonight, enjoy a welcome dinner with wine at your hotel. (D)
Day 2 Dublin–Kildare–Strokestown–Knock–Claremorris.
Horse-racing country awaits this morning. Drive across the Curragh to the IRISH NATIONAL STUD at Kildare, whose thoroughbreds command respect on the racecourses of the world. Then, north to Longford for a visit to STROKESTOWN HOUSE for a guided tour of the restored 1740s mansion, a stroll through its fine gardens, and insight into the circumstances of the Great Irish Famine of the 1840s at the Famine Museum. Stop in Knock, a village that attracts pilgrims from all over the world since townsfolk saw apparitions, then arrive in Claremorris, in the heart of beautiful County Mayo, for your overnight stay. (B,D)
Day 3 Claremorris–Kylemore–Galway.
Via Westport, head for the unspoiled region of Connemara, an area known for its hardy breed of ponies. Visit KYLEMORE ABBEY, a massive yet graceful castle acquired by Benedictine nuns as a precious heirloom for Ireland. At Moycullen, visit the Joyce family at their MARBLE WORKSHOP before arriving in the port city of Galway. Tonight’s recommendation: an optional evening at Dunguaire Castle, where the intimate banquet has an enlightening literary theme. (B)
Day 4 Galway. Excursion to The Aran Islands.
At Rossaveal, board a comfortable, modern FERRY for the 45-minute crossing to Kilronan on Inishmore, the largest of the Aran Islands and where Gaelic is the first language of the islanders. Your fascinating day continues with a presentation about life on Inishmore by an island historian. After [LF] a light LUNCH at Tí Joe Watty’s pub, board a minibus to enjoy your driver/Local Guide’s commentary on a tour of the island, ending with a visit to clifftop DUN AENGUS, one of the most spectacular and dramatic prehistoric stone forts in Europe. Back in Kilronan, board your ferry back to the mainland. There are plenty of dining options in Galway this evening. (B,L)
Day 5 Galway–Cliffs of Moher–Limerick.
A real Irish farm experience at RATHBAUN FARM this morning. Try your hand at scone making, and learn from the farmer about sheep shearing and dog whistling. Afterwards, enjoy [LF] COFFEE and your SCONES, fresh from the oven. Take the scenic route across the desolate limestone plateau known as The Burren, and stop for photos of prehistoric Poulnabrone Dolmen. At the CLIFFS OF MOHER, rising 668 feet above the Atlantic Ocean, savor the breathtaking panorama of the Clare coast. This evening, why not take part in a unique optional dinner excursion to Bunratty Folk Park? (B)
Day 6 Limerick–Foynes–Killarney.
On this morning’s Limerick city tour, view the Treaty Stone and St. Mary’s Cathedral, and visit KING JOHN’S CASTLE in the medieval heritage precinct. Make your way to Foynes for a guided tour of the FLYING BOAT MUSEUM. Board and explore the only Boeing B314 “Clipper” full-size replica in the world, and in the flight simulator, re-enact the thrilling experience of crossing the Atlantic in a 1930s long-range flying boat. Then, travel to the popular resort of Killarney, your destination for the next two nights. Later, maybe an entertaining optional evening in Tralee with dinner, followed by tickets for Siamsa Tire National Folk Theatre. (B)
Day 7 Killarney. Ring of Kerry Excursion.
Join the famed RING OF KERRY for a 100-mile panoramic drive around the island’s southwestern tip. Plenty to focus your camera on here: sparkling seascapes, mountains dotted with brightly colored farmhouses, winding lanes bordered with subtropical vegetation, and the breathtaking panorama of the Lakes of Killarney from Ladies View. Back in Killarney, a special treat: a fun-filled horse-drawn [LF] JAUNTING CAR RIDE through the national park with glorious vistas of the Lakes of Killarney and ancient Ross Castle. (B,D)
Day 8 Killarney–Blarney–Waterford.
Across the Kerry Mountains, drive into County Cork for a visit to Blarney, renowned for its castle and magical Kissing Stone. Time for lunch, to walk up to the castle, and to shop for traditional Irish handicrafts. In the afternoon, proceed via Cork, Youghal, and Dungarvan to Waterford, a stronghold founded by the Danish Vikings in 853. Here, enjoy a visit to the HOUSE OF WATERFORD CRYSTAL. (B,D)
Day 9 Waterford–Avoca–Glendalough–Dublin.
Today’s agenda: Enniscorthy, site of the final battle of the Great Rebellion of 1798; Ireland’s oldest HANDWEAVING MILL at Avoca; and GLENDALOUGH, the early Christian monastic site founded by St. Kevin in the 6th century. See the engaging audiovisual Ireland of the Monasteries, then let your Local Guide show you the remains of this ecclesiastical settlement. Back in Dublin tonight, join your traveling companions for a fitting farewell to Ireland: an optional dinner outing to the Guinness Storehouse. (B)
Day 10 Dublin.
Your vacation ends with breakfast this morning. (B)