Ireland is a magical place meant to be explored by total immersion, not from the window of a bus. On our Lost in Ireland adventure we’ll take you on the countryside paths and through the cobblestone streets of some of the most beautiful towns on the Emerald Isle. We’ll meet the people, live the culture, walk the spectacular countryside and experience everything about this wonderful land. We’ll take you to some of the most charming and fascinating areas of Ireland…towns like Dingle, Kenmare, Tralee, and Killarney. You’ll walk along windswept coastlines where impossibly green mountains end in surf-pounded rocky cliffs, complete with wheeling seabirds. You’ll stroll along countryside lanes bordered by rock walls and occasional flocks of sheep…and you’ll wander pastel colored villages with pubs aplenty….picture postcard views everywhere you look! And the charm and warmth of the native Irish is legendary. Our adventure spans the wondrous southwest of Ireland, encompassing county Clare, Cork and Kerry. Here the Irish heritage is at its peak, with Irish (not English) being the primary language. Get off the beaten path with us, and you’ll marvel at spectacular views that most tourists never see!
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Failte go Eirinn!
Day 1 - Shannon, Welcome to Ireland!
Most US flights arrive in Shannon Ireland very early in the morning. We can set up a private transfer, but there are also easy bus/taxi connections to your tour starting point, a beautiful 5 star hotel, situated on a private 60 acre estate in the country near the historic Gap of Dunloe. Surrounded by the rolling green hills of County Kerry, you'll have complimentary access to horseback riding on the beautiful grounds of the estate or fishing for salmon and brown trout in the river Laune alongside the hotel. You can even arrange to play a round of golf on a nearby golf course or explore the 12th century ruins of MacThomas castle on the estate!
This evening we'll have an orientation party and then let the estate's chefs prepare a wonderful group "get-acquainted dinner". The Irish are hearty eaters, and here in the southwest you'll find that the rugged countryside reflects the nature of the cuisine! Seafood is a local favorite, with fresh fish from the nearby ocean as well as native salmon appearing regularly. Of course the regional favorite is Irish stew, washed down with mugs of Guinness or Murphy's Irish Stout. For those more inclined to wine, the vintages of all Europe are available as well.
All of the great food, combined with a little jet lag will ensure that you sleep well tonight!
Day 2 - Gap of Dunloe, Killarney and the Lakes
After a hearty traditional Irish breakfast this morning we'll begin our day with an easy morning walk through the picturesque Gap of Dunloe. The path is a gently descending trail through a verdant valley thick with ferns, woodlands and wildflowers. The skyline is dominated by the craggy green peaks of Ireland's tallest mountains, Magillycuddy's Reeks. Lunchtime will find us relaxing alongside one of the beautiful lakes of Killarney National Park as we enjoy our meal. Fully recharged, we'll board boats for an afternoon water tour of the world famous Lakes of Killarney. As stream gives way to lake, and then back to stream, our boatmen guides will wander back and forth across the water pointing out the rich history and important sites of the area. Eventually we'll arrive at Ross Castle, the crumbling lakeside stronghold that was the last conquest of Cromwell in 1652. Here we'll have transport awaiting us to take us to the nearby town of Killarney. Famed for its abundance of pubs, shops, and restaurants, Killarney is the perfect spot to wander, shop, and perhaps dine. Tonight you can choose to stay close to home and dine at the wonderful hotel restaurant, or you can go back to Killarney, only minutes away, to enjoy a pub meal and live Irish music!
Day 3 - Kenmare and the Priest's Leap Walk
The mornings light will greet us as we make our way to the picturesque town of Kenmare, full of window boxes, clean sidewalks, shops and pubs aplenty! Our hotel is perfectly situated in the heart of the action, in the middle of downtown. Best of all, the hotel pub is reknown for having the best Irish music in the area...folks come from all around to hear the lively tunes each night. If you're in the pub come nightfall and you don't find yourself singing, stomping your feet and clapping your hands with great enthusiasm...then you're a boring soul indeed!
But before we can enjoy the pub atmosphere, we've a long, fun day ahead of us...after breakfast we'll meet our local Irish historian and guide and board the coach for a short drive to the beginning of our walk. On the way we'll have a stop at a unique chocolate factory, where the Lorge family (transplanted from France), has carved out a reputation as Irish chocolatiers of the first order. After stocking up on supplies (chocolate bars) we'll continue on to the Priest's Leap trailhead. This walk is like a step back in time, and will highlight the stark but beautiful scenery of the rock-studded hills dotted with sheep and lonely farmsteads.
This area of Ireland has become known as the center of the culinary renaissance that has transformed Irish cuisine in the last twenty years. So to reward ourselves after our trek we'll pause just outside the town of Ballylicky at a local shop that features all of the unique and delicious local varieties of cheese produced by the farms we passed on our walk today. The proprietor will have a bit of a smorgasbord prepared for us, and of course there will be wine (from the Continent) to accompany it. After our cheese extravaganza, we'll have a short trip back to Kenmare.
Tonight is free to wander Kenmare's many streets and byways to find a fun pub to settle into for the evening...don't forget to make it back to the hotel pub for the evenings entertainment, though!
Day 4 - Beara Walk, Gougane Barra
After all our adventures yesterday, we'll need to tuck into our early Irish breakfast this morning to re-fortify us for our day of wandering. Today we'll use our private mini-coach to get WAY off the beaten path to meander and explore the back roads and small towns, pausing often to walk the countryside and talk to the locals. Although we're starting in County Kerry, we'll soon be in County Cork...West Cork, to be exact. This area is wonderful for those travelers wishing to slow down and see an un-touristed part of Ireland. Our route will be on tiny sinuous roads that twist along rivers, through valleys, around mountains, and pass through lovely small towns. As the morning wears on we'll have ample opportunities to take photos, tramp around a bit, and admire the beautiful scenery. Our main obstacle will probably be the occasional herd of sheep on the road!
By late morning we'll have worked our way out onto the lonely but picturesque Beara peninsula, a stunning landscape few tourists ever discover. We’ll have a wonderful walk along the coast, with dramatic seaside cliffs and crashing ocean waves, out to the lighthouse which marks the end of land. To the north we’ll have excellent views of the rugged and mountainous Iveragh Peninsula, while to the south the vista of Sheeps Head appears. After a hearty Irish countryside lunch, we’re off on the next leg of our adventure, heading north and east into the Shehy Mountains of West Cork. As our delightfully scenic road climbs through the Pass of Kelmaneigh, it becomes smaller and smaller, finally arriving at a charming little town where our afternoon walk starts. Whereas our morning walk was dramatic coastal scenery, our afternoon walk is completely different, as it winds through a rolling pastoral terrain. Tracts of forest, stone fences, and emerald pastures dotted with farmhouses typify this landscape.
Ultimately we’ll trek into a picturesque little valley in the middle of nowhere, but with a charming inn that boasts one of the finest restaurants in all of County Cork. Best of all, they’ll have a wonderful meal awaiting us! Once again we'll feast on local specialties and regional dishes, and of course there'll be no shortage of Guinness, or perhaps Smithwicks, to top it off.
After dinner we'll retire to the attached inn overlooking a scenic mountain lake as we drift off to sleep.
Day 5 - Dingle and the Lac Adoon Walk
After putting away our normal Irish breakfast, Gougane Barra -style (you should be getting quite good at this by now) we'll board our coach and settle in for a wonderfully scenic morning drive across the base of the Iveragh Peninsula. . The rugged mountain landscape will soon give way to coastal views, where rocky cliffs meet pounding surf. Finally our road will cut up away from the coast through the Slieve Mish Mountains and onto the northern shore of the Dingle Peninsula. Here we'll begin todays walk, an easy stroll up through the Loch an Duin valley, with the intense emerald green of the landscape contrasting with the gray windswept rocky cliffs. Rounding a bend in the trail you'll suddenly be rewarded with views of one of the most beautiful and secluded Irish mountain lakes you'll have the pleasure to see! At Lake Adoon the sheep and salmon are probably our only companions as we walk around this mountain gem to the myriad waterfalls on the far side. A perfect spot to enjoy our trail lunch and relax in the sun!
This afternoon we'll make our way into Dingle, a charming, brightly colored little town nestled alongside the sea at the foot of the steep slopes. Extraordinary views abound in all directions...undulating hills, bleak gray-green mountains, thick forests and sandy seashores. The town itself is also known for wonderful location, its friendly locals, and its overabundance of pubs...57 by last count! There are charming and unique pubs at every turn...pubs imbedded in shoe shops, pubs within old-fashioned hardware stores, and even a pub sitting directly on a bridge! And of course most of them feature regional dishes and local Irish music, too.
Our hotel in Dingle has an idyllic location directly on Dingle Bay, with breathtaking views of the sea. Just a few minutes walk takes you into the heart of town, which is great, as tonight is free to wander and explore the charm of Dingle town. Of course your guide will ferret out the best Irish music scene to ensure that you’re at the right pub at the right time to enjoy the evening!
The Slea Head Drive and Imeall an Domhain - The Edge of the World Walk
This mornings drive will combine the best of Irish coastal scenery with a wonderful walk and even some cultural stops, and best of all we'll have one of our favorite local guides along with us again to help color in the landscape and history. The Slea Head drive is a panoramic route around the far western end of the Dingle peninsula...we'll stop often for the stunning views of green fields topping grey cliffs that plunge into the surging ocean waves. The rolling landscape is dotted with pastel farmhouses, crisscrossed by stone fences and dotted with sheep...LOTS of sheep! You'll get the eerie impression that the views haven't changed for many centuries, and is likely what the Vikings saw when they waded ashore.
Along our route today we'll have a chance to visit the workshop of one of Irelands most talented pottery makers and native son of this area, Louis Mulcahy. Although Louis chooses to live in one of the more remote spots on the planet, his work is much sought after, having done pieces for almost all the Irish presidents, British prime ministers, several US Presidents, and even the pope! This entire area is rich with historical ruins and ancient archaeological wonders, so as time permits we’ll stop at some of the most fascinating and interesting sites to explore and learn how early peoples lived in this harsh landscape.
All of this sightseeing will work up an appetite, so we'll stop for lunch near the town of Ballydavid, where we can enjoy some of the local specialties as we relax. Ballydavid is famous as the spot where St. Brendan the Navigator departed to sail west to America in a small hide-covered boat...in the year 530! After lunch we'll go a bit further down the coast and begin a truly extraordinary walk, The Edge Of The World walk. So named because of the ancient belief that this part of the coast was the edge of the known world. Our walk will follow the rugged coastline and provide constant views both of the windswept sea and the inland mountains. For thousands of years these trails were walked by all of the people who needed to traverse this coastline...you'll tread in the footsteps of monks, farmers, vikings, villagers, and soldiers of all kinds.
By midafternoon we'll meet our coach and begin the short drive back to Dingle town, where we'll meet another of the area's premier artisans, Sean Daley. Sean was once a master engraver for the Waterford Crystal company before taking his skills to this lovely coastal area to craft exquisite pieces of custom crystal in his own workshop. We'll watch Sean at work as he demonstrates how world-class crystal pieces are produced.
Once again the night is free to roam and hang with the local characters!
Day 7 - County Clare and Bunratty Castle Mews
Today we have a full schedule as we depart from Dingle and make our way northeast and into County Clare. Our first stop will be the bustling town of Tralee, with an excellent pedestrian downtown area, perfect to wander and shop. Next we'll journey a short distance to the south shore of the Shannon river to explore the ruins of a 16th century tower castle, perched on the edge of the marshy shoreline. Just a short distance down the coast we'll find one of the most fascinating museums you'll experience, the Foynes Flying Boat Museum, dedicated to the golden age of transatlantic flight in the 1930's and 40's. Irish Coffee was invented here to warm up the passengers who were waiting for their seaplane to be refueled before starting the long, lonely journey to New York.
By late afternoon we'll arrive at the our last night's accommodation, the wonderfully homey Bed and Breakfast of Delores O'Toole...Bunratty Castle Mews. We'll have time to relax and freshen up before dinner, where we have a fun final evening of Irish food and companionship planned.
A farewell dinner at the end of a trip is always a special event...lots of stories to recount about the adventures we shared, addresses and photos to exchange, and plans for future trips to discuss...and of course lots of excellent food and beverages to help the process along!
Day 8 - Farewell Ireland!
After breakfast today we'll have a group shuttle transfer to the Shannon airport, where our tour will end.
- 7 Nights, Double Occupancy Accommodations at Listed Hotels or similar
- Meals as Specified, 7 Breakfasts, 5 Lunches, 3 Dinners
- Lunch at Brandon Cottage
- Cheese Tasting Lunch in Ballylickey
- Trail Sack Lunch on Lac Adoon Walk
- Pub Lunch on the Edge of the World walk
- Irish Country Lunch on the Beara Peninsula
- Welcome Dinner at Dunloe Castle Hotel
- Dinner at Gougane Barra Restaurant in Cork
- Farewell Dinner at Delores O'Tooles in Bunratty
- Gap of Dunloe Walk
- Priest's Leap Walk with Local Guide
- Beara Peninsula Walk
- Lac Adoon Walk with Local Guide
- Slea Head Drive and Edge of the World Walk with Local Guide
- Boat Trip Through Killarney National Park
- Visits to Lots of Unique Villages and Towns; Camp, Ballydavid, Tralee, Glengarriff, etc.
- Transportation once the tour has begun. The motorcoaches and vans we use are modern and air conditioned.
- Group Departure Transfers from Shannon Airport (please email us your flight itinerary after you book your air tickets)
- All ferry, coach and taxi transfers as specified in itinerary.
- Sightseeing and entrance fees as specified in itinerary
- Completely escorted by an expert local guide
- A lifetime of unforgettable memories
What´s not Included
- Airfare package
- Arrival transfers. Tour begins at the Dunloe Castle hotel near Killarney on the afternoon of Day 1, and the tour ends at the airport in Shannon on the morning of day 8.
- Gratuities for meals, porterage, local guides, coach drivers, etc.
- Visa fees, if applicable
- Meals not specified in itinerary
- Beverages at meals unless specified in itinerary
- Trip Cancellation/Interruption and Medical Insurance (strongly recommended), call for details
- Single supplement charge
- Items of a personal nature; phone calls, laundry, etc.