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.
Slán abhaile (Safe home), that takes us to the end of a short 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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