Explore Ireland’s Mythical West Coast and 15th-Century Castles with This Itinerary

by Jeffrey Davidson

The countryside along Ireland’s west coast has a near-mythical atmosphere, with its dramatic cliffs that cascade into the Atlantic and emerald hills dotted with 15th-century castles. You’ll explore all of our New World Wonder, the Wild Atlantic Way, on this trip, created in partnership between Travel + Leisure and luxury travel experts Black Tomato.

Day 1: Blarney Castle and Cork

The Line to Kiss the Blarney Stone in Blarney Castle – County Cork Ireland

After landing in Shannon, visit the 15th century Blarney Castle, famous for its stone. It’s traditionally believed to have the power to bestow eloquence on all those who kiss it.

Enjoy some free time in the Blarney Woollen Mills store that sells Irish gifts including Waterford Crystal, Belleek China, Lladro, Aran Sweaters, Irish Crystal, Irish Linen, Irish Jewellery and Celtic Gifts. Your hotel, Hayfield Manor, in Cork, stands within two acres of gardens close to the city center. A ten-minute stroll takes you into the city center, with its boutiques and lively arts and music scenes.

Day 2: Cork, Kinsale, and Middleton

Walk along the Western Road to the Tudor Gothic University College with its attractive riverside quadrangle and visit the Honan Chapel there. It has a superb interior including stained glass windows by Sarah Purser and Harry Clarke. Beyond the city, Kinsale has many popular attractions which include gourmet restaurants, sailing, deep sea angling, and golf. The Old Head of Kinsale has been attributed as the site for some of the earliest settlers in Ireland. Even the casual visitor to Kinsale will be captivated by its beautiful setting, with the long waterfront, narrow winding streets, and Compass Hill rising sharply behind the town.

Later, take a tour of the Old Midleton Distillery to learn about Jameson whisky, its distilling process, and its unique flavors. Discover original tools dating back to the 1800s and explore the wood casks and techniques that make Jameson whisky so distinct.

Day 3: Killarney

Killarney National Park was founded in 1932, and is the country’s oldest national park. The focal point is the Muckross Estate, often called “the jewel of Killarney.” It consists of a gracious ivy-covered Victorian mansion, Muckross House, and its elegant surrounding gardens. Dating from 1843, the 20-room Muckross House has been converted into a museum of County Kerry folklife, showcasing locally carved furniture, prints, maps, paintings, and needlework. The adjacent gardens, known for their fine collection of rhododendrons and azaleas, are also worth exploring. You’ll overnight in Park Hotel, a family-owned property that’s perfectly situated for day trips, from walks and horseback rides through the National Park to tours of Ross Castle.

Day 4: Ring of Kerry

Today, you’ll tour around the Ring of Kerry, which is one of Ireland’s most remarkable coastal drives. From Killarney, travel to Killorglin, scene of the famous Puck Fair which takes place over three days every August. Continue to the noted seaside resort of Glenbeigh and the coastal scenery of Dingle Bay comes into view. Every turn in the road seems to offer a unique vista. Continue to Cahirciveen, the small town in which Daniel O’Connell “The Liberator,” who fought for Catholic emancipation, was born. On this part of your journey you will have a view of Valentia Island as well as the ancient monastic Skellig rocks a few miles out to sea. Continue to Waterville, situated on the Atlantic Shore for a spot of lunch at The Smugglers Inn, overlooking the mighty Atlantic Ocean. From here, drive through the charming villages of Caherdaniel and the colourful Sneem before returning to Killarney.

Day 5: Dingle Peninsula

Depart Killarney to the Dingle Peninsula which thrusts out into the Atlantic Ocean (it’s Ireland’s most westerly point). Here, majestic hills soar green and purple over vast bowls of unspoilt valleys. Mountain streams tumble down to lakes, hedgerows blaze with fuchsias and golden beaches stretch for miles. Continue to Dingle, the chief town of the peninsula and a thriving, colourful fishing port, plus some lovely craft shops, art galleries, restaurants and lots of pubs. Your hotel, Dingle Skellig Hotel, is a short stroll from Dingle’s town center and an award winning restaurant, Coastguard.

Day 6: County Clare

Today, drive to the Cliffs of Moher and see nature in its wildest, purest form before checking into the 18th-century Gregan’s Castle. The hotel rises majestically out of the country landscape and offers views across Galway Bay.

Day 7: The Burren

This morning, enjoy a private walking tour with a local botanist who will bring the Burren, a region famous for its flora and fauna, to life. Stretching off in all directions, as far as the eye can see, are vast, irregular slabs of fissured limestone. From a distance, it looks like a lunar landscape where nothing can grow, but really,, an astonishing variety of wildflowers live between these rocks (including at least 23 native species of orchid). Later, check into Ashford Castle, one of the oldest in Ireland and the former home of the Guinness family. This medieval fortress dates back to 1228 but was reinvented as a luxury hotel in 1939.

Day 8: Clifden

This morning, take a hawk walk on the grounds of Ashford Castle. Then, visit a working sheep farm and watch Border Collie sheepdogs herding their flocks. The owner, Joe Joyce, is the third generation of his family to farm sheep in the area. From here, you will then journey through one of the truly unspoilt regions of Ireland—Connemara. From the rugged Twelve Bens mountain range in the north through lake-rich Roundstone Bog to the golden beaches reaching out into the Atlantic Ocean, you’ll know you’re in Connemara by the special light that constantly changes the mood and tone of the landscape.

Travel on to Clifden, the largest town of the region, before continuing to Kylemore Abbey, regarded as one of Ireland’s most romantic buildings. Visit the reception rooms and learn about the romance and tragedy that they have seen, plus its restored, 18th-century neo-Gothic Church, Mausoleum and gardens.

From $10,500 per person for eight days. To enquire about this trip with Black Tomato, click below.

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