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Day 1 – Here be Dragons’ in Wonderful Wales
You will begin your journey through the best of Britain and Ireland today full of excitement for your first destination; the spellbinding country of Wales.
As you cross the border, you will experience the immediate thrill of a sense of ‘otherness’ around you. Bilingual road-signs are the first indication that you have entered a new and different land, where life moves at a slightly alternative pace. In North Wales, you’ll hear the distinctive brogue of the Welsh language being spoken just about everywhere you turn. If time is on your side and you wish to stretch your legs, you could take a detour and breathe in the sea air in one of the coast’s delightful seaside towns.
Wales is a mountainous country and so it is likely you will be driving amidst soaring peaks throughout your journey. As you edge closer to your destination, you will pass through evocatively named towns and villages like Llanrwst, Betwys-y-Coed, Blaenau Ffestiniog and Penrhyndeudraeth. You will be unable to believe your eyes as you finally arrive in the fairy-tale village of Portmeirion.
Your Hotel in Portmeirion (two nights)
Little can prepare you for the sight of Portmeirion, designed and built as the ‘idea village’ in the early 20th Century by visionary architect Clough Williams-Ellis. Clinging to the side of a cliff, overlooking the beautiful Afon Dwyryd estuary and painted in a carefully chosen palette of bright pastels, this is one of the UK’s most surprising locations and is reminiscent of the quaint fishing villages dotted along the coast of Italy.
A fundamental part of the village, your hotel in Portmeirion is full of the style and glamour that encapsulates the 1930s. Simple, stylish rooms – most with views of the estuary – give way to extensive guest lounging areas, both indoors and out. Huge log fires accompany the deep vintage sofas, romantic lighting and a wealth of books covering subjects from art and architecture to gardens and travel. It’s easy to find secluded nook to take yourself away to and enjoy a local gin and tonic while admiring the view. In the restaurant, housed in a deco-esque dining room, you’re served the very best of the local produce by local Welsh-speaking staff, for whom nothing is too much trouble.
Portmeirion village is closed to the public in the evening, but one of the unique experiences your hotel offers is that hotel guests are permitted to wander its streets and square after hours – a particularly special experience when the night turns dark.
Day 2 – By Heritage railfrom Porthmadog to Caernarfon and Back
Today, you can choose to drive to Porthmadog, or leave the car behind and take the Portmeirion shuttle to nearby Minfordd station where you can take a 10-minute train ride to Porthmadog.
Here, catch the Welsh Highland Railway steam train for a two-and-a-half hour, first-class trip through splendid Welsh scenery to Caernarfon. Relax throughout the journey in vintage Pullman-style comfort, with unrestricted access to a wonderful viewing carriage toward the rear of the train and catering and drinks service seat-side throughout the journey.
At Caernarfon, you’ll have time to explore the impressive castle, whose ‘pumped up and muscle-bound’ appearance was designed to be as intimidating as possible to ensure that King Edward I could ward off potential invaders. Inside, you’ll find an interesting museum, which tells the intriguing story of Welsh soldiers’ service to their country over the centuries.
When returning to Porthmadog, either head back to Portmeirion by car, or take the short train trip to Minfordd from where the shuttle will transfer you back to the hotel for your dinner.
Day 3- Around the Wild Atlantic Way and Onwards to the Burren
Today you will say goodbye to the charms of Wales as you jump into your car and take the trip to Holyhead to begin the next step of your journey. Arrive in good time for your ferry – the roads are smooth and once on the A487, the drive should take no longer than one hour. Unwind on-board in anticipation of your next destination; before long, the vibrant city of Dublin will be on the horizon.
Once you disembark in Dublin, the onward trip to Ballyvaughan is almost exclusively by motorway, and you will travel cross-country for a comfortable three hours before arriving at your hotel. If you would like to stop for a rest or bite to eat, there will be countless options along the way. Once you are satiated, arrive at your final destination of the day; your spectacular hotel in Ballyvaughan.
Your Hotel in Ballyvaughan (two nights)
Set dramatically deep within the Burren, your hotel in Ballyvaughan is a self-titled ‘gourmet retreat,’ exuding an air of comfort and tranquillity. The 18th-Century manor house is set within extensive and dotingly attended gardens, which guests are invited to roam at their own pace. Inside you’ll find remarkable decoration – a combination of both modern and traditional art alongside grand open fires – and the many of the rooms are positioned overlooking the dramatic panorama of Galway Bay. All of this is accompanied by not only a warm Irish welcome, but also faultless service in the fine-dining restaurant.
Day 4 – A Guided Walk on the Burren
The mysterious landscape of the Burren is one of Europe’s most misunderstood geological features. This vast limestone pavement covers some 100 square miles, riven with deep fissures and home to unique flora and fauna; an endlessly fascinating place. This morning you’ll enjoy a guided walk here as part of a small group, with our specially chosen local guide, a native of the Burren, who’s spent a lifetime studying every facet of the landscape, from the geology and ecology through to the work that continues here in study and preservation.
After your guided walk you are free to discover the area at your leisure. Perhaps take some time to explore Ennis, the county town of enchanting County Clare. Located just south of Limerick, you will be charmed by the quirky shops, quaint restaurants and lively pubs – this is, after all, a stronghold of traditional music. Return to Ballvaughan for a second night in your elegant hotel.
Day 5 –Venture Upwards to County Sligo
Today you will leave the limestone-paved landscape of the Burren behind and travel onwards to County Sligo. We suggest that you take the coastal roads of the Wild Atlantic Way to experience the best of Ireland’s varied landscape. First, skirt the famous city of Galway before travelling on towards breath-taking Connemara. Perhaps take a break in County Mayo, drinking in the scenery of the Mullet peninsula, Achill Island or the colourful town of Westport. After your leisurely travels – there will be plenty of lay-bys for photo opportunities – you will arrive in your country house hotel for the evening in Sligo.
Your Hotel in Co Sligo (one night)
Your Co. Sligo hotel is one of Ireland’s oldest uninterruptedly owned properties, having been inhabited by the same family for eight generations. Nestled in the heart of a 500 acre private estate, the family continue their hands-on work to this day, from farming and managing a herd of deer to running the property as a wonderful guest house. Many of the individually-decorated rooms feature sumptuous four-poster beds and the guest lounges on the lower floor are packed with period furniture. The dining room is perfectly complimented by its vast dark-oak table as a centrepiece, laid with silver cutlery. The warm atmosphere throughout will capture your interest from the moment you arrive.
Day 6 – Discover the Causeway Coast
This morning, head off on a 130-mile trip into Northern Ireland. Marvel at the last of the Wild Atlantic Way, and perhaps take a slight detour to the towering cliffs of Slieve League – some of the highest across Europe. Barnesmore Bog and Lough Eske will also provide an amiable stopping point, or perhaps you will wait to have a bite to eat and a brief stroll around the fascinating walled city of Derry-Londonderry.
Before you know it, you’ll be travelling along diverse stretches of road as you make your way east to the Causeway Coast. There is no hurry to reach your destination – and for good reason. You will begin by travelling through Northern Ireland’s famous lush green countryside, but before long you will be able to see the golden stretches of Benone Beach appear before your eyes. Make sure you take a slight detour to Mussenden Temple, a spectacular replica of the temple Vesta in Italy that perches on the edge of a fuchsia-topped cliff face. From here, your destination of Portstewart will only be a short drive away, its charming promenade welcoming you with warm Irish hospitality.
Your Accommodation in Portstewart (two nights)
Set directly on the beach at Portstewart Strand, views of some of Ireland’s finest scenery, including Mussenden Temple, Donegal and beyond, will be right on the doorstep of your accommodation. This is one of our more recently discovered favourites – the finest hospitality will be paired with a tasty breakfast, clean, modern design and direct access to the golden sands of Portstewart. This is just the kind of place you’ll want to return to time and time again; we certainly do.
Day 7 – A Guided Day Out on Rathlin Island
After a delicious breakfast full of fresh local produce, take a 40-minute drive along the Causeway Coast to the scenic town of Ballycastle, setting-off point for the six-mile ferry-crossing over the Sea of Moyle to the hidden gem of Rathlin Island. Your friendly and knowledgeable local guide will accompany you on the ‘Puffin Bus’, before you climb the narrow hairpins of the island to the ‘Upside-Down Lighthouse’- both a fascinating museum and engineering marvel – but also an RSPB reserve. From here you will have the chance to observe not only the abundant birdlife that calls this part of the island home, but you may even spot the Scottish island of Islay on a clear day. Later, enjoy lunch in the island hotel, then walk it off with a jaunt to the eastern side of the island, where you’ll see Scotland’s Mull of Kintyre in the distance in good weather.
Day 8 – Catch the Ferry and explore Scottish Scenery
Today you will say goodbye to the spectacular stretches of the Causeway Coast and take a leisurely drive of around ninety minutes to the electric city of Belfast in good time for your ferry.
On arrival in bonnie Scotland, disembark and begin the longer drive to Argyll, your stopping point for this evening. Along the way you will enjoy classic Scottish scenery. Pass the vibrant city of Glasgow, perhaps heading into the metropolis to briefly explore or grab a late lunch. If you want to beat the crowds of the city streets, further along your journey you could make a stop at Loch Lomomd, located within the verdant Trossachs National Park, for access to one of Scotland’s most picturesque landscapes. As you continue on your journey, you will be met with the intimidating mountain terrain of Glencoe. Eventually you will arrive at a placid and peaceful spot on the west coast of Argyll.
Your Accommodation in Argyll (one night)
Your accommodation for this evening is located on the shores of the captivating Loch Linnhe, and provides a haven in which to lose yourself in Scotland’s overwhelming beauty. Awe-inspiring views as far as the island of Lismore only add to the air of tranquillity, so rarely found in the modern world. The award-winning restaurant that calls the hotel home serves only the best local and seasonal produce, from hand-picked oysters from Lismore to langoustines, lobster and crab from nearby Loch Etive.
Day 9- Across the Sea to Magical Mull
This morning you are heading for the classic Scottish port of Oban to catch your ferry to one of our favourite islands. Mull – the second largest island in the Inner Hebrides – is a special place, home to world-class walking and abundant wildlife including whales, dolphins, otters and sea eagles. You’ll find white sandy beaches alongside millennia of history including standing stones, ancient churches and unique geology. The capital, Tobermory, is famous for its brightly painted houses along the harbour-front – possibly the prettiest of all island settlements.
Your Castle Accommodation on Mull (two nights)
Imagine staying in a Scottish castle, where your bedroom window has premium sea views and countless nooks, crannies and turrets to explore. Imagine no longer – this is the reality of your accommodation on Mull. Although a regal castle, airs and graces will be left at the door as you are swept inside, a special guest in the warmest of family homes. Some of the delights around the grounds include Victorian bathing pools by the shore and a hidden café within the grounds where you can grab a bite to eat. After dinner in Tobermory, why not indulge in a dram in the atmospheric castle library before calling it a night? We can’t think of a more perfect way to round off your day.
Day 10 – Mull Wildlife Safari / Boat Trip to Staffa
A choice of activity today: any visit to Mull has to include an excursion to spot the island’s wildlife, and we have the perfect partner to help. Meeting at Tobermory after a mouth-watering breakfast, you’ll head out on a day-long wildlife safari as part of a small group with hugely experienced local guides. On-board telescopes help enhance the experience and provide the best views of wildlife in its natural habitat, possibly including otters, white-tailed sea eagles, golden eagles, short-eared owls and hen harriers.
Alternatively, you may choose to take an exciting boat trip to the dramatic island of Staffa. On the crossing to the island, watch out for minke whales, seals, dolphins and porpoise. As the intimidating basalt columns creep into view, look out for the colony of puffins that call the island home in the summer months. Weather permitting, disembark and head for the entrance to legendary Fingal’s Cave – an unforgettable sight that fits perfectly into this wonderful day out.
Day 11 – Back to the Mainland and Travel to the Trossachs
Wave goodbye to Mull this morning with a return ferry-crossing, this time from Tobermory to Kilchoan on the Ardnamurchan peninsula, the UK mainland’s westernmost point and one of Europe’s last great expanses of true wildernesses. The drive through this landscape is one of Scotland’s best, as the road flows through both vast vistas and tiny hamlets, carrying you to Ardgour for another short ferry-crossing to Corran. From here, enjoy a second bite of the Glencoe cherry and make your way into the Trossachs and your next base.
Your Hotel in the Trossachs (two nights)
Another of our longstanding favourites, you will be enchanted by the exterior of this pink-painted farmhouse – however, the real treasures are within. The energetic family owners have revolutionised the interior to create a romantic retreat paired with a world-class gastronomic experience. This is a place where the traditional and antique are complemented perfectly with contemporary art, log fires and cosy lounging. And let’s not forget the breath-taking scenery located right on your doorstep. This sprawling Highland estate offers unparalleled vistas of two of Scotland’s prettiest lochs and a duo of the country’s highest peaks. Keep your eyes peeled – you may spot deers and grouse wander by while red squirrels frolic in the trees.
Day 12 – A Private Guided Day Out with Champagne Picnic
After the very finest of breakfasts this morning, you’ll be met by another of our specially chosen local guides and taken on a great day out around the Trossachs, Perthshire and the Southern Highlands. Your guide will be happy to tailor the day exactly to your wishes, but one thing we can guarantee is that along the way you will discover some of the best hidden, off the beaten-track features, far from the tourist routes, that this glorious part of Scotland has to offer.
At lunchtime, you’ll be dropped off at a secluded spot and left alone to enjoy a gourmet Champagne picnic, expertly prepared especially for you by the hotel. By far one of our favourite things to do in the whole of Scotland.
Day 13 – Travelling South to the Borders and Northumberland
While leaving your hotel this morning will be a wrench (though we’re sure you will already have planned a return), we have a treat in store for you tonight. As you make your way south towards Stirling, you’ll skirt the eastern edge of Glasgow before heading down through Lanarkshire and into Dumfries and Galloway before finally arriving in Northumberland at another wonderful castle hotel, this time in spectacular Hadrian’s Wall country.
Your Castle Hotel in Northumberland (two nights)
Your Northumberland accommodation again provides you with the opportunity to stay in a castle, and this medieval marvel is certainly one of the best. Located in the midst of a rambling woodland estate, peacocks can often be found roaming the sweeping grounds – this is a quite wonderful place to stay. You will be steeped in history at every turn – the supremely comfortable rooms provide the perfect combination of modern convenience and historical features. Take the opportunity to join one of the daily guided tours of the castle, where one of the key highlights is the 360⁰ degree view from the battlements. In the evening, dinner is as relaxed or as formal as you wish, and there can be no more dramatic a location for a nightcap than in the magnificent drawing room.
Day 14 – A Private Guided Experience along Hadrian’s Wall
Stretching across 80 miles coast to coast, the engineering marvel that is Hadrian’s Wall once represented the Northern frontier of the mighty Roman Empire and is, in our opinion, one of the UK’s most fascinating visitor attractions. This morning you’ll be met after a delicious castle breakfast by our specially chosen local guide, who will whisk you away for a private tour of the best of the Wall and its surrounding area. During your outing, you can choose two museums to visit, mixing these with walks along the most spectacular sections of the Wall. Northumberland National Park’s rugged moorland views are all around and fascinating stories of the past will be brought vividly to life by your expert guide. Lunch is at an atmospheric local inn, or you can have a more intimate picnic by the wall – the choice is yours.
Day 15 – To the Lakes and a Trip on Ullswater by Steamer
Today begins with a brief 40-mile drive across North Pennines National Park into the UNESCO World Heritage-designated Lake District. A magnet for walkers and holidaymakers from all over the UK and Europe, it can be a challenge to get away from the crowds here, but we believe we’ve found the perfect way to experience this beautiful part of England.
Centring on Ullswater – commonly regarded as the prettiest of all the lakes – you’ll enjoy a day out on the pristine waters as you catch the steamer at the village of Pooley Bridge and relax as it carries you to Glenridding, Howtown, Aira Force and back to Pooley Bridge. You’re free to hop on and off all day as you might wish to explore the foothills of Helvellyn – at 950m, England’s third-highest peak – or the thundering waterfall at Aira Force to work up an appetite for dinner at your hotel.
Your Hotel in Pooley Bridge (one night)
Set just moments’ walk from the shores of Ullswater, this family-owned gem has recently undergone a complete transformation and garnered rave reviews not only for the quality of its food, but also for its contributions to village life. With just seven stylishly appointed rooms, this is another of those places where, upon leaving, you’re already wondering when you might have an opportunity to return. The sweet and bright bistro-style restaurant expertly prepares and serves the very best of home-grown produce and the cosy lounge is a great spot to enjoy a glass of regularly changing local guest ales.
After a fine Lake District breakfast, it’s time to take to the road again. It is tempting to spend a little time exploring one or two of the Alpine-class mountain passes here before your return journey. Eventually it’s time for you to head home as your unforgettable holiday exploring the best of Britain and Ireland comes to a close.
Of course, all our holidays can be tweaked and tailor-made to suit your specific requirements – maybe with alternative starting or ending points, or extending with stays in the cities of Dublin, Belfast, Edinburgh or Glasgow. Just let us know.
2 nights in Portmeirion, 2 nights in Ballyvaughan, 1 night in Sligo, 2 nights in Portstewart, 1 night in Argyll, 2 nights in Mull, 2 nights in the Trossachs, 2 nights in Northumberland and 1 night in Pooley Bridge.
This tour begins in Wales and concludes in the Lake District, however this can be tailored to suit your plans.
£3180 per person in April & October, £3350 per person for May to September .
Price is based on double or twin en-suite room for 15 nights on a bed and breakfast basis, staying in our hand-picked selection of small hotels and guest houses. The holiday also includes:
Before your departure, you will receive personalised holiday information including full directions, recommended routes, and suggestions on places to visit depending on your interests and our local knowledge to help you get the most from your holiday.
All itineraries and room types are presented subject to availability at specific hotels. This itinerary can also be arranged as a fly-drive holiday.
All our holiday prices include a service charge of £9 per person per night towards the costs we incur in researching, planning and designing your holiday.
We guarantee to refund this service charge if you believe that arranging your holiday through McKinlay Kidd has not met your expectations for value. All we ask is that you write to us within 7 days of your return and explain your reason for claiming the refund. This will ensure that we can improve the experience for all our future guests.
This holiday can be arranged from April to October.
To check the latest availability for this holiday complete the form below or call us. We will respond to your availability check within one working day if at all possible. Please bear with us on this - we work with a hand-picked selection of smaller hotels, guest houses, and other independent businesses, ensuring that you have the chance to explore off the beaten track and really get under the skin of the destination.
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