Day 1 - Sunday, May 13:
Evening departure on our direct, non-stop flight to Dublin. Dinner and a hot snack provided.
Day 2 - Monday, May 14:
Welcome to Dublin! Following customs formalities and baggage collection we are met by our coach and transferred to our accommodation, The O’Callaghan Alexander Hotel
. From this central location we are within walking distance of all of the city’s tourist attractions and business district. We really couldn’t be in a better place to enjoy the delights or Ireland’s capital city. Orientation tour of the neighbourhood, followed by welcome drinks and then on to dinner at one of Dublin’s elegant restaurants.
Day 3 - Tuesday, May 15:
Breakfast at leisure before embarking on a private walking tour of the city centre. From the hotel we will walk to Trinity College and see the book of Kells. Founded by Queen Elizabeth I to “civilize” Dublin, Trinity College is Ireland’s oldest and most famous college. The atmospheric campus is open to visitors, who walk in the footsteps of some of the college’s noted alumni – among them Jonathan Swift, Oscar Wilde, Bram Stoker and Samuel Beckett. From here we continue with our guide who will inform us on all the sights and educate us on the Irish capital, both her place in history and the present. This afternoon is free to continue to unlock the secrets of this fabulous city. No group dinner this evening.
Day 4 - Wednesday, May 16:
Breakfast followed by departure for Athlone. On the way we will make a stop to understand that particularly Irish phenomena: the Bog Story. The town of Ballinahowan is the home of the studio known as “Celtic Roots”, here sculptures and unique gifts in bogwood can be found. The wood, over 5,000 years old, is the remains of trees hidden in the bog and brought to the surface thousands of years later. In the late afternoon we will visit Clonmacnoise, an extensive ruin including a cathedral, castle, round tower and two important High Crosses. Continue to the hotel following our visit. Overnight at Wineport Lodge.
Day 5 - Thursday, May 17:
Breakfast followed by departure for a full day spent discovering the west of Ireland. Our tour includes a visit to Kylemore Abbey, Ireland’s most romantic Castle, surrounded by magnificent Victorian gardens. In the late afternoon we arrive at Cashel House located 8 miles from Roundhouse. Cashel House Hotel overlooks the majestic Cashel Bay on the west coast of Ireland. Here a traditional welcome awaits guests in this classic country house retreat. Built in the 19th century this gracious country home was converted to a family run four star hotel in 1968 by the McEvilly family. Situated in the heart of Connemara and nestling in the peaceful surroundings of 50 acres of gardens and woodland walks this little bit of paradise offers an ideal base from which to enjoy walking, beaches, sea and lake fishing, golf and horse riding. Dinner and overnight.
Day 6 - Friday, May 18:
Today we explore the Connemara Peninsula, barren and windswept but considered to be one of the most beautiful landscapes anywhere in the world, with mountains, lakes, bogs, heaths, and forests. The inhabitants of this region still speak Gaelic, the original, Celtic language of the island. Return to Cashel House in the late afternoon. Dinner at the hotel.
Day 7 - Saturday, May 19:
After breakfast, we leave for Galway, the most important city in West Ireland, and a very popular tourist destination full of historical buildings, museums, interesting shops…and lively pubs! Did you know that Columbus visited here prior to his famous crossing of the Atlantic? Guided tour of the historical city centre, including the monument to Columbus followed by time for lunch, a pint and a bit of shopping. In the afternoon we leave Galway and drive around Galway Bay to the Burren National Park
, a fascinating karst landscape. Overnight at the award winning Gregan’s Castle at Ballyvaughan.
Day 8 - Sunday, May 20:
Breakfast at the hotel followed by departure to the Cliffs of Moher, an impressive wall of rock rising as high as 200 m above the waters of the Atlantic Ocean! An optional excursion (weather dependent) will be offered to the rocky Aran Islands
, featuring what some claim to the most beautiful scenery in the world. Return to Gregan’s Castle following the tour.
Day 9 - Monday, May 21:
We begin the day with a visit to a goat cheese producer. Following our tour and tasting we continue to Kilrush where we will catch the ferry to Tarbert and County Limerick where we will drive along scenic back roads to the village of Ballingarry for our stay at Mustard Seed Echo Lodge, “an oasis of the most stylish country living”, managed by the ebullient host, Dan Mullane. Dan’s personal history, love of travel and individual taste imbue this special house with a memorable ambience. Time permitting we will have a photo stop in Ireland’ arguably “prettiest little village”, Adare. Overnight at The Mustard Seed.
Day 10 - Tuesday, May 22:
Today is devoted to our Secret Ireland Experience. The adventure will include meeting the locals, hearing their stories of famine and migration, having a private whiskey tasting and learning about traditional Irish dance. Return to the Mustard Seed following the tour.
Day 11 - Wednesday, May 23:
We will travel to Ireland’s extraordinary southwest today. After breakfast there is a leisurely departure to the Dingle Penninsula and Slea Head Road, via Connor Pass, Co. Kerry, on a very beautiful convict built road. The Connor Pass is the highest mountain pass in Ireland, and provides the most dramatic and scenic way of entering or leaving Dingle. The Slea Head is the Western most point in Ireland and the closest point of Europe to America. Locals enjoy telling you that the next Parish over is Boston. Following our leisurely drive along the Wild Atlantic Way we end up in Tralee and our home for the night, Ballygarry House Hotel and Spa.
Day 12 - Thursday, May 24:
Today we head off for another jaw dropping day of gorgeous scenery as we travel around the Beara Penninsula making frequent stops for visits and photos. Beara is a peninsula on the south-west coast of Ireland, bounded between the Kenmare "river" to the north side and Bantry Bay to the south. It is just like Ireland was 20 or 30 years ago, totally tranquil and unspoiled. Return to Tralee and balance of the day free.
Day 13 - Friday, May 25:
Morning drive to Kinsale, one of the most picturesque, popular and fashionable towns of the southwest coast of Ireland. Kinsale can easily claim its place amongst Ireland’s most historic locations, for it has been a centre of population, commerce, trade and fishing far beyond memory and record. In its earliest days the estuary of the Bandon River gave it great importance as the river is tidal as far as Innishannon and water transport was dominant until the 18th Century. The estuary also provided excellent anchorage for ancient shipping which went in peril of the vagaries of the weather. Today Kinsale is known as the Gourmet capital of Ireland. Following our visit we make our way to the hotel in Clonkakilty. Overnight at Incheydoney Island Hotel and Spa.
Day 14 - Saturday, May 26:
A tour of Cobh Heritage Centre, which records the massive Irish emigration. We will also be visiting one of the world’s largest natural harbours. From 1848-1950 over 6 million adults and children emigrated from Ireland – over 2.5 million departed from Cobh, making it the single most important port of emigration. Cobh is a very picturesque town built on a hillside and dominated by St. Colman’s Cathedral, which took over 50 years to complete. The harbour and the town have been the last sight of Ireland for many thousands of emigrants. Over 40,000 men, women and young girls were transported to Australia from here. It was the main transatlantic departure point from Ireland up until the late 1950’s. It was the last port of call for the R.M.S. Titanic on her ill-fated maiden voyage, where she took onboard mail and 123 passengers. Late lunch at the English Market before returning to the hotel to freshen up. Our farewell dinner will be at the Island Cottage where John Desmond and Ellmary Fenton cook what has emerged from the sea or the earth that day at their tiny restaurant off the shore of Cunnamore in West Cork. Island Cottage is the most unlikely eating experience in Ireland. Access to the island is by small boat only. From disembarking, there is a kilometer stroll to the tiny cottage where John cooks authentic cuisine honed by years at the Ritz, owning his own business in Paris, years of teaching and considerable expertise in patisserie. Return to the hotel after dinner. Overnight Incheydoney Island Hotel and Spa Clonakilty.
Day 15 - Sunday, May 27:
Morning departure to Dublin Airport for our return flight to Toronto. Full inflight services provided.