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AITO Tour Operator of The Year 2016 - Gold AwardThe Telegraph Travel Awards Winner 2017

Castles and Country Houses of Ireland

Experience Ireland’s legendary hospitality at the most extraordinary and authentic castles and country houses.

This 10-day self-drive tour of the South and West of 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 the mountains of Wicklow, the history and rugged coastline of County Cork, the grandeur of the Ring of Kerry and the magical, mystical world of the Burren as you travel part of the Wild Atlantic Way. We’ve included a couple of trips with local guides too, just to add that extra touch of authenticity.


At A Glance

Best Time To Go

April - October

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add a few days to explore Northern Ireland at the beginning or end?

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Day One – South from Dublin to the Wonders of Wicklow

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) it’s a short, scenic drive down the coast to Wicklow, home to some of Ireland’s most arresting scenery.

Your Accommodation in Wicklow

Drive past the wrought-iron gates and follow the sweeping, oak-lined approach to this fine Victorian mansion set on 14 acres of beautifully manicured private gardens, then step inside and experience a bygone age of elegance. Each of the rooms and suites is individually decorated, furnished with a carefully chosen selection of antiques, some featuring fabulous views of the Irish Sea. Dining here is to be savoured, with the very best local produce served to two-rosette standard in the restaurant, plus a more relaxed lunch or dinner service available in the bar.

Day Two – Wander Around Wicklow

Discover the Wicklow Mountains, a range so vast it cannot be contained by its eponymous county alone. The glacial valley of Glendalough, home to Ireland’s oldest-surviving and most significant monastic settlement, and the spectacular Bray to Graystones clifftop walk are both within easy striking distance of your hotel. As ever, we’ll provide our carefully curated recommendations to help you make the most of your time on this and every day of your holiday.

Day Three – South to Co Cork and a Picture-Perfect Country House

Take your time over a fine breakfast in stylish surroundings before hitting the road and heading south through Co Wexford – where you might like to take in fascinating, 13th-century Enniscorthy Castle – and Co Waterford, on your way to your next base in the rolling countryside of Co Cork.

Your Accommodation in Co Cork

The multiple awards bestowed upon this classic Irish getaway tell you all you need to know about the quality and authenticity of accommodation on offer at this family owned retreat. Built for the Lord Chief Justice of Ireland in 1728, this Irish country house underwent extensive renovations in the late-19th century, presenting in a then-fashionable Italianate style, and has been home to the current owners for some 35 years. And this is a home, where guests are invited to relax amidst the extensive collection of antiques and art, and to lose themselves in the vast parkland gardens in this quite splendid corner of the Munster Blackwater Valley. Food and drink are near the top of the family’s priorities, the in-house chef preparing local fish and game alongside produce grown in the garden, and you’ll delight in the house’s very own, award winning milk-gin.

Day Four – To the City of Cork, then Onwards to a Castle by the Sea

It’s a short, 30-minute drive this morning to the captivating university city of Cork. Appealingly compact in size, perched on an island in the middle of the River Lee, this friendliest of cities is at once cosmopolitan and cosy, international and intensely Irish. Home to UCC, St Fin Barre’s Cathedral, quirky museums and terrific pubs, this morning you’ll enjoy a private guided walk around the city’s highlights with our specially chosen local guide.

Later, continue south to your next base on the Wild Atlantic Way.

Your Accommodation in West Cork

Home to the same Irish family for 11 generations, perched on the waterfront in this harbour-side location, your next stop is an Irish castle of fine quality and absolute authenticity. With history pulsating throughout its oak-panelled halls, staircases and bedrooms, and family art and antiques everywhere you look, there can be few more evocative places to stay in Ireland. With just 11 comfortably appointed rooms, many with views across the water, you’ll enjoy a feeling of exclusivity as you bed down for a restful night, the sound of the lapping sea right outside your window. Despite the castle’s history and tradition, the family have imaginatively utilised public space both inside and out, creating an art-lined licensed café serving fine home-made breakfast and lunch, as well as a beautifully designed outdoor space with bar, barbeque and seating to enjoy alfresco dining on warmer evenings.

Day Five – Exploring this Corner of West Cork

The village set around the castle is endlessly fascinating and features grand 18th-century homes lining the hill descending to the harbour, as well as St Barrahane’s church, designed by James Pain in the early 19th century, and admired for its stained-glass windows. Here you’ll also find an oar from a lifeboat of the Lusitania. The village features a tiny, family owned pub serving really rather good food, and where locals can be heard chewing over parish business, generally enjoying the craic over a pint or two of the black stuff.

Day Six – Towards the Kingdom of Kerry

You’re going ‘deep Ireland’ today, as you wend your way from Co Cork to your next base on the world-famous Ring of Kerry. Linger for a while and explore Bantry House, one of Ireland’s most extraordinary, family owned stately homes. Crossing the border on the Beara Peninsula, your route pitches and twists as it carries you through the lively and colourful town of Kenmare – a fine spot for lunch and a wander – before continuing on to the Iveragh Peninsula and your next base near the village of Sneem.

Your Accommodation on the Ring of Kerry

In a quite breath-taking setting here on ‘Ireland’s Riviera’, your accommodation by Sneem is one of our longstanding favourites, albeit dating from a more recent era than many of the other castles and country houses on your tour. Set in 14 acres of secluded and wooded landscape, with beautifully kept, palm-lined lawns descending to the sea, this is a wonderful spot in which to sit of an evening, with a glass of something indulgent, discussing the day’s events or tomorrow’s plans. The house itself was built by the present owner’s father in an arresting mix of Greek and deco style (Greco-deco, if you will) with generously proportioned rooms – many with balcony and wonderful views – decorated in bold colours and hung with family art throughout. Log fires in the lounge and bar keep the temperature up on cooler evenings.

Day Eight – Crossing from Kerry to Clare and Heading for the Burren

Wave goodbye to the Iveragh Peninsula this morning and head north through Kerry to Tarbert, catching the short ferry-crossing here for Killimer in Co Clare. Once landed, make for the coast and follow it along some of south-west Ireland’s most beautiful scenery, taking in the beach at Spanish Point, the cute seaside town of Lahinch and the world-class Cliffs of Moher. Soon, you’ll reach the southern end of Galway Bay and 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 Co 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.

Day Nine – Discover the Burren on a Private Guided Walk

One of Europe’s most unique and atmospheric landscapes, the Burren holds secrets that only a local can tell. Today you’ll enjoy a private guided walk with one of the Burren’s foremost experts, familiar with every crack, crevice and cranny, and the flora, fauna and fables of mile upon mile of limestone pavement. Setting off at a pace to suit you, you’ll have the opportunity to get under the skin of this enigmatic location, gain a real understanding of the place it holds in Ireland’s history and the crucial conservation work that goes on here to this day.

Day 10 -Return Home via the Port of Your Choice

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 Wicklow, County Cork, West Cork, County Kerry and Ballyvaughan.


£1265 per person in April & October, and £1325 per person from May to September.

Price is based on two adults sharing a double or twin room for nine nights on a bed and breakfast basis; price includes a private guided walk in Cork City, entry to Bantry House stately home and gardens in West Cork and a private guided walk on the Burren in Co Clare.

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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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.

Check availability for Castles and Country Houses of Ireland

This holiday can be arranged from April until the end of 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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