Ireland's Hidden Gems - The Islands, Mountains, Cliffs and Coves of the Atlantic Coast

Staying in historic country inns and exploring far from the tour bus routes - 2000 ft cliffs in Donegal,  Robinson Crusoe Beaches in Connemara,  Prehistoric tombs and caves in Sligo....

Self drive tour of the most stunning landscapes - from $130 per person per day based on 2 people sharing
16 days in Ireland, accommodation in some of the finest historic hotels and country inns, including breakfast, service and tax and a self drive car from $1999 per person

Telephone: +353 1 2889433
From Canada & the US 1-800-894 5712
By e-mail ireland@irishluxury.com

Day 1 

Starting at Shannon where your flight will arrive early in the morning, the route heads North through the country town of Ennis with its ancient abbey and narrow streets crammed with shops to Ennistymon, home of Dylan Thomas's wife.  Lahinch, on the Atlantic, is famed for its golf course.  Do stop to look at St Brigid's well, dating from pagan times.  If hunger pains are striking the Doolin Craft Gallery has outstanding home made food as well as a garden that is worth deviating to see.  The brave might check out the sulphur springs of Lisdoonvarna.  The more conservative will merely sample the smoked salmon at the Burren Smokehouse.  Follow the main road to Ballyvaughan over the Burren.  Monks pub on the left by the harbour in Ballyvaughan has good sea food and The Whitethorn Gallery on the Kinvara road is a good craft centre.  If you have not eaten already Linanes Lobster Bar at New Quay has outstanding crab cakes.  If that does not appeal then try turning right and follow the green road right out on top of the mountain towards Kinvara, where both Dunguaire Castle and the antique sailing barges in the harbour, known as Galway hookers, are worth stopping to admire.  From here the main road to Galway will take you through Kilcolgan to Oranmore.  Overnight at a historic manor home such as  Lisdonagh Manor

 

Day 2

Athenry & Tuam are nearby towns where much of the medieval city can still be traced on the ground.  The highlight of the days visit will however be Galway, Nora Joyce's House, Lynch Castle, Spanish Parade, St Nicholas' Church , The City Walls and Shop Street are just some of the highlights..

Overnight as before

Day 3

Via Cong with its Augustinian abbey founded in the 12th century and its associations with the John Wayne film The Quiet Man.  Follow Lough Corrib to Maam.  Visit the Gowla Mines and then follow the main road through the middle of Connemara to Clifden, a busy little market town.  Follow the coast road through Roundstone to stay at a country inn in the heart of Connemara

 

 

Day 4

To Rossaveel to take a ferry or a plane to Inishmor, the largest of the Aran islands. You'll be amazed at the unique and difficult way of life and the struggle to survive on the windswept Islands. Visit Dun Aengus, an eleven acre prehistoric stone cashel built between 800 B.C. and 400 A.D. set on the edge of a sheer drop of over 250 feet to the sea. The walk up to Dun Aengus is challenging but worth the effort as when you reach the top the views are breathtaking. No trip to the Aran Islands would be complete without some Ceoil agus Craic ( music and fun ) with local traditional Irish musicians and dancers- try a sessiun at The Fisherman's Restaurant’ after your lunch.  Kilronan is the main "town" of Inishmore. There are three pubs, a supermarket, a school and tourist shops, one decent restaurant and a bank that opens twice a week there!  Overnight as before

Day 5

Explore the Sky Road and The Cleggan Peninsual - if you get tempted to walk across the sands to Omey island watch out for the tide - you could be stuck there for 12 hours!  Overnight as before

 

 

 

Day 6

Via Leenane, where the Field was filmed, (you could cruise the Fjord here on the Killary Cruiser) to Westport, a harbour town mostly built in the 18th century by the Marquis of Sligo, kinsman of Grace Kelly, whose house is open to public viewing.  Westport has several excellent craft shops and restaurants.   From Westport to Turlough Park, just outside Castlebar.  Ancestral home of the notorious duellist Fighting Fitzgerald, it is now the National Museum of Country Life.   Back roads would lead you through Pontoon by Lough Conn to Ballina & then along the coast to Enniscrone - where the seasweed baths would give the driver a new lease of life.  At Ballysadare turn right for your  home for tonight - a historic guesthouse.

 

Day 7

Explore Lough Arrow and the town of Boyle, which has two historic houses open to view - King House and Frybrook.  The energetic archaeologist would want to check out the Kesh Caves.  Just over 6km south of Ballymote, these caves have associations reaching back to mythology. Human remains, and those of animals such as the cave bear, the arctic lemming, the reindeer and the Irish elk were found here. Keshcorran, the mountain containing the caves, affords spectacular views of the countryside.  The literary aficionado might prefer to cruise Lough Gill, with its Lake Isle of Inishfree, as celebrated by W B Yeats.  Overnight as before

 

Day 8

A diversion off the road after Sligo to Lissadell House is worthwhile if it is open, and Drumcliffe Churchyard, where Yeats is buried, is a magical stop.  Donegal is a chrming town and its recently restored castle is of great interest.  An easy  mountain pass will then take you across the Blue Stack Mountauins through Letterkenny to Ramelton.  You'll stay in excellent accommodation in a historic house on Lough Swilly

 

 

 

Day 9

Head into the mountains past Errigal  to Glenveigh, a national park with fabulous gardens and a Victorian sham castle.  The Glengesh pass would bring you on to Slieve League, at 2,000 ft the tallest sea cliffs in Europe.  From there back through Donegal to Letterkenny, with a possible stop at Salthill Gardens at Mountcharles, where there is also an excellent craft shop.

Overnight as before

Day 10

The Inishowen 100 gets its name from the approximate distance in miles of the signposted drive, which officially starts in Bridgend on the Inishowen Peninsula. Buncrana has a 5km long sandy beach, and is an important holiday resort. The ruins of Buncrana castle and O'Doherty Castle are worth a visit.  Tullyarvan Mill has an interpretative centre tracing 250 years of textile production in Buncrana.  Go north turning left for Mamore Gap, which offers breathtaking views of the northerly coastline, and a descent of 800 feet. At the bottom, keep left for the Inishowen drive through the village of Dunaff. Continue through Clonmany and Ballyfiffin, where you will find fine beaches, sea angling and golf.  Continue on for Carndonagh where there are some ancient monuments.  Malin Head is Ireland's most northerly point, with a wild sea ravaged coast and stunning seascapes. The Wee House of Malin is signposted left, and is a short detour to a hermit's rock cell cut into a cliff, beside a cottage ruin. Return to the Inishowen 100 drive, towards Culdaff, a resort village. Follow the Inishowen 100 sign form Culdaff (where McRorys is a worthwhile stop), along a narrow road with marvellous views. Continue to Greencastle, turning left at the T-junction, and on to Moville.  Carry on to the city of Derry and take a walking tour of the city walls, being sure to visit the imposing cathedral.  From here take the main road to Coleraine to overnight at a country house in the hills outside Derry

Day 11

Today is a day to pack a good coat, as you'll be exploring the Atlantic Coastline.  First to Dunluce Castle, once the Earl of Antrim's stronghold. Perched precariously on a cliff edge overlooking the sea, it was first built in the Middle Ages. The castle changed hands quite a few times over the centuries. In 1588 it was armed with 3 cannons from the wreck of the Girona, a ship from the Spanish Armada ship. The house inside the castle walls was built by Randall MacDonnell for his wife Catherine, who hated the sound of the sea. When the kitchen fell into the stormy ocean during a feast one night, taking several servants with it, Catherine decided she'd had enough, and Randall built her a house elsewhere.

Then by way of the Giant's Causeway. Legend has it that the giant Finn MacCool began the causeway as a path across the sea to see his girlfriend giant, who lived on the Scottish island of Staffa, where similar formations are found. In actuality these formations were caused by volcanic lava 61 million years ago and by the Ice Age 15,000 years ago. What is so amazing is the mathematical precision with which the columns seem to have been formed; most are hexagonal but some have more or fewer sides and most measure about 12 inches across. It's a fantastic sight to see nearly 37,000 basalt columns spread out along the ocean's edge.

On  to Carrick-a-rede.  To reach the actual bridge, you have a 20-minute walk down to the cliff edge; then, if you're brave enough, you can walk across a 65-foot bridge made of planks and wire, strung above an 80-foot deep chasm over the sea. This takes you to a small island that has a small salmon fishery on it. The views are spectacular.  On through the Glens of Antrim.  Visit the gardens of Glenarm Castle and head back up through the glen to Ballymoney and thence back to Bushmills, with a visit to the distillery.  

Day 12 

Visit The Argory   Built in 1824 for Walter McGeough, the Argory has a fine setting on a slight rise overlooking the River Blackwater on the Armagh/Tyrone border, near Moy.  The house is a time capsule with everything as it was at the turn of this century. Electricity was never installed in the main rooms; instead the house was lit by gas from the acetylene gas plant which was installed in 1906.  A celebrated feature of the house is the magnificent cabinet barrel organ built by James Bishop of London which is one of the most important of its kind. It is still in working order.  There is a bewildering assortment of family treasures left by four generations including the weighing chair, watercolours by Mary Nichols, books, portraits and clothing.  The small Rose Garden is a must for all visitors, particularly in the summer when the pink and white roses are in full bloom. The sun dial in the middle of the garden bears the inscription "Here reader mark the silent steps of never standing time".  Beyond the house and garden there are 315 acres of woodland and parkland with many interesting walks to be explored. and spend some time in Armagh, Episcopal capital of Ireland.  Then follow the main road to Belfast, stopping to visit the Linen Centre in Lisburn. Overnight at a historic country inn outside Belfast City

Day 13

The Ards Peninsula has some lovely towns - Grey Abbey with its antique shops and Cistercian ruins, the harbour town of Portaferry.  The house and gardens of Lord Londonderry at Mount Stewart will take up most of the morning.  Lunch at the National Trust cafe in Castle Ward might be a good place.  Downpatrick is the burial place of St Patrick and well worth visiting.  Gardeners will enjoy the collection at Rowallane.  From here it is an easy drive back to Belfast. Spend some time exploring Belfast - The Linen Hall Library, City Hall, The Ulster Museum & Botanical Gardens, the Titanic Trail, the Victorian pubs and the folk park at Cultra.

Day 14

Head to Dublin on the M1.  Turn off before Drogheda to visit the High Crosses at Monasterboice and the abbey at Mellifont.  Cross the river in Drogheda to Donore to the Bru na Boinne Vistor Centre, which shows the archaeological heritage of the Boyne Valley & includes the megalithic passage tombs of Newgrange and Knowth. The Centre is the starting point for all visits to both monuments, and contains extensive interpretative displays and viewing areas.  Lunch here and then after your tour head on towards Dublin.  Overnight at a 4* central Dublin hotel.

Day 15

Explore Dublin - Trinity College, St Patrick's cathedral, the prehistoric gold in the National Museum, and the Georgian Squares.

Overnight as before

Day 16

Depart.

 

 

 

Adams & Butler

Telephone: +353 1 2889433
From Canada & the US 1-800-894 5712
By e-mail ireland@irishluxury.com