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Experience Ireland’s legendary hospitality at the most extraordinary and authentic castles and country houses.
This 11-day self-drive tour of some of our favourite places in Ireland enables you to enjoy a bygone era of refinement and splendour. Relax and unwind after each day’s touring in dramatic and distinctive accommodation, from Irish castles to Georgian mansions, where the welcome, atmosphere and setting each deliver something unique. Along the way you’ll experience several sections of the Wild Atlantic Way including ancient Sligo, bracing Connemara, the mystical world of the Burren in Co Clare and County Cork’s rugged coastline.
Assuming your arrival to Ireland finds you at Dublin Port (we can help arrange travel to the island at extra cost, to the port of your choice) enjoy a scenic cross-country drive to the rural outskirts of the city of Sligo.
Your Accommodation in County Sligo
Drive through the gates of your country house hotel in Sligo and you still have a mile of avenue to go, twisting through ancient forest and deer pasture, crossing the River Unchin before arriving at the front door of the house nestled in this 500 acre estate. Inside, despite the obvious splendour, there’s a distinctly welcoming feel, the hallways and staircases lined with family photographs, each piece of furniture, each fitting triggering a story from your most genial hosts. In the evening, dinner around the vast dining table with the centuries old family silver is an event to remember.
Just a twenty-minute drive from your hotel, according to its townsfolk, the county town of Sligo – with majestic Benbulben mountain to the north, ancient Knocknarea mountain and the Atlantic Ocean to the west, beautiful Lough Gill to the east, and the rugged Ox Mountains to the south – is one of the most picturesque places in Ireland. Spend the morning discovering for yourself and sharpening your appetite, as in the afternoon you’ll meet a member of a local oyster-farming family who’ll whisk you to the coast to experience oyster farming up close, hearing about its history and the craft and expertise that goes into growing Sligo Bay Oysters from a tiny seed all the way to your plate. Later, at the family café, sample oysters either natural, baked, or in the local-legend oyster po-boy sandwich.
Take your time over a fine breakfast today, before hitting the road on this spectacular section of the Wild Atlantic Way. The route takes in Co Mayo with Ballycroy National Park, vivacious Westport and a superb coastline, dropping further south into Connemara, around stunning Killarey fjords towards the lively town of Clifden. Your hotel sits just a few minutes’ walk from its centre
Your Accommodation in Connemara
Built in 1832 and beautifully located in its own gardens tumbling away from the front door, your castle hotel by Clifden has been in the hands of the same family since the late 1960s. Steeped in traditional Irish hospitality, the experience begins the moment you arrive, with friendly staff eager to make your stay as memorable as possible. Quirky rooms, plenty of lounging space and a calming spa, sit alongside a traditional bar and restaurant, where each evening the owner invites guests to enjoy a refreshment while hearing stories of the castle’s history.
One of the last true wild areas of Ireland – Connemara is a broad peninsula to the west of Galway City and is bounded on three sides by the Atlantic Ocean. Its name derives from “Conmhaicne Mara” (meaning: descendants of Con Mhac, of the sea). With dramatic coastlines, high mountains, sandy beaches, great walking and cycling, not to mention colourful villages such as Clifden and Roundstone, with lively bars, lots of live music and great food, there is plenty to explore.
Wave goodbye to Connemara this morning and head south via the city of Galway into County Clare. Continue along the coast, perhaps taking in the world class Cliffs of Moher, the beautiful beach at Fanore and the port town of Doolin, perhaps taking a glass of Guinness and classic chowder for lunch. Head a little inland to your accommodation at Ballyvaughan in the midst of Ireland’s most enigmatic landscape: the Burren.
Your Accommodation in Ballyvaughan
Hidden from view down a leafy track, your hotel in County Clare is a sumptuous getaway retreat set within the craggy limestone geology of the Burren. This Georgian country mansion has been lovingly restored by its longstanding (since 1976) family owners, whose rare eye for detail and design goes way beyond choosing appropriate colours and carpets. Antiques and art fill this place, tastefully positioned throughout each of the rooms, the restaurant and the bar, alongside fresh flowers from the gorgeous garden, and roaring log fires. Dining here is an exquisite affair, with only the best locally sourced produce making it on to the fine menu, complemented by an expertly assembled wine list. Despite the hotel’s obvious refinement, the welcome here is as warm as you’ll find anywhere, with friendly local staff eager to put guests at immediate ease as you’re assisted to your room, many of which have quite superb views to the coast and all the way to Galway on a clear night.
Enjoy breakfast in the midst of this magical landscape, before heading out to meet your guide for a deeper look at its form. Having grown up and lived here his whole life, there are few people better qualified to bring this place to life; you’ll discover the geology, flora, eerie tombs, monuments and grottos that make up this unique location.
An epic day on the road today, as you spear southwards across County Clare and across the mighty Shannon into County Limerick, soon making your way through County Cork, Ireland’s largest and southernmost, to its coastal extremity and your next superb base.
Your Accommodation in West Cork
Home to the same family for several centuries, your accommodation in West Cork is a landmark property, filled with art, artefacts, antiques and unique history. Despite its outward grandeur, you’ll find a classic Irish welcome and no sign of stuffiness, and a pleasing informality that has many guests returning again and again. With its location by the water, endless walking is right on the doorstep, there’s evening dining within easy reach, while the peninsulas of West Cork are all just waiting to be explored.
West Cork has long been a popular holiday destination for the Irish, and it’s so easy to see why. This is a magical location, possessed of endless dramatic coastline of cliff, rock and beach; superb driving routes; sleepy villages and vivacious towns. Mizen Head, Ireland’s southernmost mainland point, is within an hour’s drive, its bridge and lighthouse a must-see for stupendous ocean and coastal views. Stop off at a welcoming pub for chowder and a pint of Guinness and take a long afternoon walk to work up your appetite for dinner.
There’s time to dawdle today as you head northeast, perhaps via Clonakilty – home to an idiosyncratic distillery and possibly the greatest black pudding – the Irish food Mecca of Kinsale, where you’ll find more restaurants per head than anywhere else on the island and the ‘second city’ of Cork, home to the world-famous English market and dramatic St Finbarre’s cathedral. Carry on along the coast to Cobh, final calling-place of the Titanic and onwards to the rolling farmland that is home to your last base on this trip.
Your Accommodation in East Cork
We arrive at the last destination on your holiday, and one of Ireland’s most celebrated country house hotels. Established as a restaurant by the family in the mid-1960s, this special place has been at the forefront of determining Ireland as a culinary powerhouse. With an emphasis on homegrown and reared, as well as utilising the very best produce available from nearby producers, dining here is an experience to be savoured. Daily tours take place, either in the walled garden, the wine cellar or the wider farmland in the hands of the resident expert, and you’ll love the traditional, elegant bedrooms, filled with family pieces, art and photography telling the story of the family and the house.
Despite its peaceful location, your accommodation is within easy driving-distance of the town of Midleton, and if you didn’t mage to se Cork Coty on your way here, it’s only 35 minutes away. Perhaps you’d prefer to head to the coast, where precipitous villages cling to the cliffs and often-deserted beaches are there to sweep you up.
Return to Dublin and wend your way home or let us know if a different departure point is more suitable for you.
This holiday includes stays in Sligo, Connemara, Ballyvaughan, West Cork and East Cork.
£1970 for March, April & November, £2020 per person in October, £2075 per person in May, £2125 per person in June & September and £2215 per person July & August.
Price is based on two adults sharing a double or twin room for 10 nights on a bed and breakfast basis; price includes a private guided Sligo Bay Oyster farm visit and tasting, and a guided walk on the Burren as part of a small group.
Please note, this is a self-drive holiday and car hire is not included, but can be arranged for a range of vehicles – do just let us know.
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.
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This holiday can be arranged from late March until the middle of November.
Availability is individually checked for a hand-picked selection of smaller hotels, guest houses and other independent businesses, so please bear with us and we will respond in 1-2 working days.
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