Dream Vacation in Ireland
Last week we explored the lovely County Limerick and this week we meet her neighbours County Clare and County Kerry! All counties are in the Southwest region of Ireland, this is just some guidance of a dream vacation but of course a customised tour of Ireland, to meet your own needs, is no problem. Shannon airport in County Clare is a great place to arrive in Ireland, its’ central location makes a private escorted tour very accessible. As Ireland’s main gateway to the USA it was also the home of the very first Duty-free shopping in the world.
To begin your Irish vacation on the ‘right foot’, go straight from the airport to nearby Dromoland Castle, for refreshments fit for a King and Queen! Even if you are not choosing to stay there during your trip, this exquisite castle will help you unwind after travelling. It is a 5 star luxury hotel but also steeped in history that dates back to the 5th Century. Kings of Thomond descendants of Brian Boru, the High King of Ireland, once lived here and you get a sense of the royal lineage throughout this magnificent castle and grounds.
After some relaxation in Dromoland travel the short distance to Bunratty Castle and Folk Park. Bunratty means the ‘end of the ratty’ (river) in Irish and the river can be seen surrounding the castle. The castle was built in 1425 and is a very popular tourist attractions. It hosts a medieval banquet, guests dine at banquet tables in the castle while drinking traditional Irish mead and listening to historical Irish music. The folk park is like stepping back in time, there are a number of houses all decorated to an older day and highlight the difference in living standards. Right beside Bunratty is Blarney Woolen Mills were you can indulge in some duty-free shopping for some original Irish gifts to bring home.
The second day of your private tour of Ireland is the ideal day to tour more of County Clare. Starting with a trip to the Cliffs of Moher, the Burren and then onto the fantastic Ailwee Caves and Birds of Prey exhibition.
The gigantic Cliffs of Moher are 702 feet tall and stretch over 8 kilometers along the Atlantic coast. There is a safe path that leads the way and on a fine day you can take in the breath-taking views of scenery near and far. It’s the perfect view-point of the Southwest. On site there is also a visitor centre with a cafe and shop, the centre hosts interesting artefacts and information on local history.
The Burren National Park from the Irish word ‘boireann’ meaning rocky place, and it certainly is! Mainly formed of limestone rock the Burren stretches over 15,000 Acres and is the smallest National Park in Ireland. There have been many tombs found around the Burren, made from the rocks, the famous being the Portal Dolmen, proving people have lived in the Burren for over 5,000 years. It’s a very different landscape for Ireland as there’s no lush green grass and it’s easy to forget the the vast area of rock landscape is still the Emerald Isle.
Aillwee Caves are remotely located in the heart of the Burren and is one of the oldest caves in Ireland. The name Aillwee means ‘yellow cliff’ (Aill Bhuí in Irish) and was discovered in 1944, by a farmer following his dog (he didn’t tell anyone until almost 30 years later). The cave has an underground river, a frozen waterfall, the famous stalactites and stalagmites and even the skeleton of the extinct brown bear. Some calcite samples from the cave have been found to be over 350,000 years old making this wondrous cave a definite place to explore on your tour itinerary.
Opened in 2008 the Birds of Prey Sanctuary at Aillwee Cave is an impressive addition. Allow yourself to be entertained by the flying exhibitions of some of the world’s most beautiful eagles, falcons, hawks, and owls. If you stick around long enough you could be lucky and witness the unique ‘meals’ these amazing winged creatures feast on, not to be missed!
The next day of the tour brings us to the West of Ireland: the glorious Galway region. Galway (Gaillimh in Irish) is named after a river, meaning stony. Galway is part of the province Connacht in Ireland, the largest county there. The city of Galway is also known as Ireland’s Cultural Heart (Croí Cultúrtha na hÉireann) and is a vibrant and popular place to be. There are many landmarks around the city: the Docks, the Spanish Arch, Eyre Square, the famous Latin and the Galway City Museum.
Coming from Galway City it is highly recommended that you take the Sky Road route in Clifden (Connemara’s biggest town) This scenic route gives panoramic views of Galway Bay and the Aran Islands. Overlooking the Atlantic, it stretches over 14 km of famous views and is known as Ireland’s greatest drives, taking this route is a must, to experience the best of Irish views.
Connemara, the place Oscar Wilde called a ‘savage beauty’ , it’s known for the mountainous wild rugged surroundings and quiet, serene beaches. It is home to the well known Connemara National Park. Much of the park’s land belongs to the Kylemore Abbey estate and it covers just under 3,000 hectares of bogs, woodlands, heaths and of course the infamous 12 Ben (or pins) mountain range. The park was officially open to the public in 1980 and is an incredible place to hike or cycle.
The next day of touring brings you to County Kerry, and first stop is the gorgeous Killarney. Killarney (Cill Airne in Irish) is a vibrant town in Co.Kerry, SouthWestern Ireland. It is the Gateway to the Ring of Kerry and the Dingle Peninsula, taking a private tour gives you the freedom to explore this unique lively town situated in Killarney National Park. Enjoy Killarney at your own pace and take your time at each location with your personal driver. Here are some of just a few of the glorious sceneries and activities you’ll find in Killarney.
The architecturally, stunning Muckross House is a nineteenth century Victorian mansion. Located close to the shores of Muckross Lake, and is in the heart of Killarney National Park. Muckross House was designed by well-known architect William Burn and built for Henry Arthur Herbert and his wife, Mary Balfour Herbert, it took 4 years to complete. In anticipation for Queen Victoria’s visit in 1861, the Herberts commenced work on the Gardens in 1850. Through the years the developments of the Gardens continued with additions of the Sunken Garden, the Stream Garden and the Rock Garden.
The Torc Waterfall is just outside Killarney but, with a private driver, you’ll have no problem finding this spectacular waterfall. It rises 70 to 80 feet high and if you walk a little bit further up some steps, you see the surrounding breathtaking views. A must-see in Killarney. Ladies view is another breathtaking part of Killarney’s landscape, it’s situated between Kenmare and Killarney on the infamous Ring of Kerry and is a spectacular viewing point high above all three Lakes of Killarney. End the day of touring by staying in the Prestigious hotel in the area, The Killarney Park and the Killarney Plaza would be highly recommended. Let your private chauffeur direct you the very best places in this bustling town to eat and grab a pint of the ‘black stuff’ while listening to traditional Irish music and enjoying the ‘craic’.
After a refreshing night’s sleep start the next day’s touring around the Dingle Peninsula, staying in the Kerry region. The Dingle Peninsula (Chorca Dhuibhne, in Irish) is surrounded by scenic beauty with immaculate sandy beaches and magnificent mountains. When travelling through the Peninsula of Dingle you’ll cross-over the Conor Pass, the highest mountain pass in Ireland. The breath-taking views there makes the thrilling journey on the winding, twisting roads worth it! The town of Dingle is a gorgeous fishing village with a busy harbour, take an excursion on a boat to see the most famous Dingle resident, Fungie the Dolphin. Fungie has lived in Dingle since 1983 and is the most famous dolphin in the world! If it happens to be a rainy day head to the Dingle Aquarium or one of the many pubs and restaurants adorning the streets of this fantastic town.
The Slea Head drive is a fantastic loop that will bring you to the must-see historical sites, villages and scenic views that this extraordinary Peninsula has to offer. Discover the ancient Gallarus Oratory and the Beehive Huts that this historical drive will take you to. Dingle Peninsula also boasts the second highest mountain in Ireland, Mt. Brandon, a very popular hiking trail.
The next day will see you returning to Killarney and a trip to the Gap of Dunloe. The Gap of Dunlop is also known as the gap of the common land, here the roads are narrow so the traditional jaunting cars (horse and buggy) would be perfect! It takes you through the mountains, beautiful lakes and valleys of Kerry. At the summit of the mountain, a light lunch is highly recommended at the Lord Mount Brandon’s Cottage.
Sitting on the edge of Killarney’s lower lake, Ross Castle was built in the 15th Century by O’Donoghue Mor and was taken by General Ludlow in 1952. It was, however, one of the last buildings in Munster to hold out against Cromwell’s forces before surrendering and is still standing strong today. It’s a majestic building that contains 16th and 17th Century furnishings and has recently been restored. You can take a boat ride on the lakes of Killarney here also.
The last day is your chance to see the last of the extraordinary Ring of Kerry. It is a highly popular place in Ireland is popular amongst all tourists, from hiking tours to cycling tours. Whether you choose to see it on foot or with our private driver tours, it really is an amazing experience to visit any part of the Ring of Kerry.
On the Ring of Kerry you’ll find the famous Molls Gap, a passing from Kenmare to Killarney with scenic views of the Macgillycuddy’s Reeks mountains. Named after Moll Kissane, ancestor from the nearby Kissane sheep farm owner, who ran a small pub during the construction of Killarney in the 1920’s. The rocks at Moll’s Gap are formed with Old Red Sandstone and with it’s stunning views there’s the perfect opportunity to take some holiday snaps. You can also have a unique shopping experience at Avoca Handweavers and relax afterwards in the cafe. Molls Gap runs through Kissane Sheep farm, a family-run farm for over 150 years. It is your chance to see sheep-dog trials, sheep shearing and even adopt a sheep! A very unique tour.
Slán abhaile (Safe home), that takes us to the end of tour of the Southwest of Ireland and that’s only a taste of what Ireland has to offer. I hope you enjoyed reading about the spectacular places.
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