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An extensive self-drive trip, exploring the island of Ireland from top to bottom.
Enjoy your own self-drive tour throughout the whole of Ireland, from the Wild Atlantic West Coast and islands to the geological splendour of the Giant’s Causeway in the North. We’ve captured this as a 16-night self-drive holiday, though, of course, we can always tweak it, shorten it or extend it to suit your exact requirements.
Your first base is the capital city, now a bustling European metropolis. With its mix of urban cool, lush parkland, sweeping coastline and hip designer boutiques, Dublin pulsates with energy while still retaining a warm, laid-back atmosphere.
Your hotel in Dublin
Your guest house accommodation is in a pair of fine Georgian town houses conveniently situated in a quiet street. You’re just a short walk from the southern edge of the city centre, St Stephen’s Green and Grafton Street. You’ll be spoilt for choice for local bars and restaurants, yet they are just far enough away not to disturb the tranqullity of this garden-lined residential location. The houses are traditionally decorated to a high standard, combining Georgian elegance with modern facilities.
What to see and do in Dublin
Once home to literary greats such as James Joyce, George Bernard Shaw and Oscar Wilde, the city boasts an abundance of Georgian architecture, as well as cosy bars and lots of great restaurants. Wander into Trinity College, with the famous Book of Kells on display or head to the Guinness Storehouse to sample the nectar in its historic homeland – you’ll be following the example of both The Queen and Barack Obama! Pay a visit to one or both of the city cathedrals, cross the Liffey on the Ha’penny bridge and visit the GPO, site of the famous 1916 Easter Rising. Take in the Dublin Writers Museum, or catch an Irish play at the Abbey Theatre.
Start your exploration by heading south, past Wicklow & Waterford, with beaches and beautiful scenery as you travel into County Cork. Pass the city of Cork to the colourful and popular village of Kinsale, now firmly established as one of Ireland’s premier destinations for foodies, with a host of restaurants covering all styles and preferences.
Your hotel in Kinsale
At this very edge of the Wild Atlantic Way, your accommodation in Kinsale is a family -owned hotel right by the water. Each en-suite room enjoys fine river views, as does the in -house restaurant, while the nautically themed traditional pub is always abuzz with chatter.
What to see and do in Kinsale
This medieval town is not just about food, it’s also about traditional bars, beautiful buildings, narrow streets, shops and galleries and lots of activities on land and sea. Take a trip along the coast, to find plenty of beaches and welcoming villages. Perhaps head into the nearby city of Cork and visit the world-famous English Market.
Your journey now takes you west, with options to explore one or more of the fingers of land at the south of Ireland, including the Bere peninsula, before reaching the famous Ring of Kerry, and your next base.
Your hotel in Co Kerry
Just away from the bustling main street of this vivacious little town, your accommodation in Kenmare is a small, family-owned hotel, with a range of dining and a popular bar where you can often hear a traditional Irish music session. An allowance is provided towards evening dinner on your first night here.
What to see and do in Kerry
For anyone that loves the great outdoors, Kerry is a dream destination. This charming county has it all, with sublime scenery, exceptionally friendly locals, gorgeous little villages and excellent restaurants.
Kerry’s magnificent coastline is a series of peninsulas that open out into larger bays and give a totally unique feeling to the county, with craggy hills that tumble down into the choppy ocean below.
A drive around the Ring of Kerry or the less busy Ring of Beara in adjacent County Cork is an unforgettable way to experience the best that this awe-inspiring landscape has to offer. It’s great walking country, too, with plenty of trails into the hills and along the coast.
Now you head further north, crossing the River Shannon by ferry and entering County Clare. The Atlantic Ocean pounds the dramatic cliff-lined coastline. Your next base is a landmark hotel in the county town of Ennis.
Your hotel in County Clare
This family owned and run hotel is a great touring base, as well as being right at the centre of the action in this vivacious little town. In the shadow of the impressive granite cathedral and within short stroll of traditional music-filled pubs, good shopping and dining, the hotel has been at the heart of the community here for many years.
What to see and do in County Clare
You are within easy reach of the imposing Cliffs of Moher, stretching five miles along the coast, at a height of over 200 meters above sea level, with often breathtaking views. Take a boat trip to get up close and feel the refreshing (we mean cold!) sea spray. Head to the almost mystical landscape of The Burren, with mile upon mile of limestone pavement. It’s a scene like no other: rich with ancient history, cave systems and unique flora. Let us arrange a local guide to help you decipher the wonders of this captivating area.
For the next leg of your coastal tour, pass Galway City and head to the west and the mountains and loughs of Connemara.
Your hotel in Connemara
Long-established by the very friendliest of local families, your accommodation in Connemara is an art-filled townhouse perched on the harbourside at Clifden. Disarmingly informal throughout despite its scale, you’ll love the en-suite bedrooms and the locally sourced, freshly cooked breakfast.
The centre of the popular tourist town of Clifden is within 10- minutes’ walk. Here you will find delightful shops, traditional music bars and a choice of excellent restaurants.
What to see and do in Connemara
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, you will not be short of diversions. If social history interests you, go for a hike along boardwalks over the Irish bog to visit the landing site of the first non-stop transatlantic flight, completed – just – by Alcock and Brown in 1919.
A shorter drive today, following the route of the Wild Atlantic Way through Connemara into Mayo, and your next base in the colourful small town of Westport.
Your hotel in Mayo
At the centre of town both geographically and culturally, your accommodation in Westport is a colourful, family-owned hotel featuring recently upgraded rooms and an appealing range of dining. Choose from light lunch and a pint in the in-house traditional pub, to a more formal meal of local delights in the restaurant, or afternoon tea in the orangery.
What to see and do in Mayo
Mayo stands out as one of Ireland’s most scenic counties. But while you may gasp in awe at the craggy coastline that has been lashed by the powerful Atlantic, make sure to remember that there’s a lot more going on in Mayo. Ceide Fields is the most extensive Stone Age monument in the world, Croagh Patrick is where Ireland’s patron saint fasted for 40 days in 441AD, and Achill Island is a stunning spot on the edge of Western Europe bursting with history and awe-inspiring sights. And if all that isn’t enough, there’s an abundance of charming villages to visit from beautifully situated Westport to the peaceful town of Cong.
Continue your tour of the west, driving through Sligo then into County Donegal, passing Donegal Town, and keep on to just north of Letterkenny and your next base on the shores of Lough Swilly.
Your hotel in Donegal
Close your eyes and imagine the perfect Irish country house hotel, set on a rolling private estate, the land descending towards the lough. Inside, there’s a wealth of beautifully preserved period features, complemented by carefully integrated modern touches, and a restaurant serving some of the best food in Donegal.
What to see and do in Donegal
This corner of Donegal is a delight to explore, with many kilometres of scenic driving, and within reach of somre fo the best beaches in Ireland. To the north, Malin Head, at the tip of the Inishowen peninsula, is the most Northerly point on mainland Ireland (yet it is in the “South” rather than Northern Ireland…). On a clear day, the views stretch across to the Scottish Hebrides and Kintyre peninsula.
There are many Neolithic sites – standing stones and cairns – if you are interested in pre-history, and a must-visit is the Doagh Famine Village, which tells the story of Ireland from 1845 to the present day in a very different style from any other tourist attraction.
Next you cross the border into Northern Ireland, perhaps stopping to explore Derry/Londonderry. You can take a tour of the historic walls and learn more about the city’s role in Ireland’s history for over 350 years. Continue on to the famous Antrim coast and the market town of Bushmills, famous for whiskey, and just a stone’s throw from the Giant’s Causeway.
Your hotel in County Antrim
Centuries of history exude from the old timber beams and rough plaster walls of this landmark inn. At its heart is the gaslit sixteenth century snug, with soot-stained walls and ceilings and a pulley suspended above the fireplace. You could spend hours here over a Guinness or a dram, dreaming up romantic notions of encounters goneby. The snug is encased by a mere two-hundred year old inn, with an even more modern, yet sympathetically designed, outer shell. Guest rooms are spacious and atmospheric, with individual character and attention to detail in-keeping with the building’s charm.
Exploring the coast and glens of Antrim
This famous coastline is packed with sights within a short drive, including the geological phenomenon of the Giant’s Causeway, and the much-photographed clifftop ruins of haunting Dunluce Castle. For the more adventurous, test your nerve and head for heights by venturing across the suspended rope bridge at Carrick-a-Rede. And why not end one of your days with a visit to the famous Bushmills distillery, just a short stroll from your hotel?
To complete your journey, head south from Country Antrim to the coastal town of Carlingford, just back across the border. You could take a detour into the revitalised Victorian city of Belfast en route if you wish.
This unique 18th century Georgian house sits just yards from the gate to the historic old town of Carlingford. Nestling at the foot of Slieve Foy it has breathtaking views of Carlingford Lough and the Mourne mountains. It is a comfortable and relaxed place to stay, with occasional creaking floorboards adding to the character. Treat yourself to a candlelit dinner in the award-winning restaurant.
What to see and do in Carlingford
The Medieval Heritage town of Carlingford was raided by the Vikings in the 8th and 9th centuries and then the Normans in the 12th century. Walking the narrow streets you can discover atmospheric pubs and other gems such as craft and antique shops, as well as the ruins of the castle. The inherent natural beauty of the area has been harnessed by the variety of activities available locally. You are also perfectly located to visit the wonderful 5000 year old archaeological site at Newgrange.
You are not much more than an hour by motorway from Dublin, for your onward travel.
A tour of the island, covering Dublin, Cork, Kerry, Clare, Galway, Mayo, Donegal, the Antrim Coast, and County Louth.
£1845 per person for March & November, £1985 for April & October, £2175 per person for May, June & September, £2225 per person for July & August.
Prices are based on two adults sharing a double or twin room for 16 nights on a bed & breakfast basis, with dinner allowance provided for one evening in Kenmare, staying in our hand-picked selection of small hotels and guesthouses. Car hire is not included but can be arranged, ask us for a quotation.
Travel to Ireland
We would be delighted to book your travel to Ireland from Britain for this holiday. The holiday can be tailored to match the ferry routes from Holyhead or Fishguard in Wales, or to Belfast from Cairnryan in Scotland.
Flights to Dublin, Cork, Shannon or Belfast would also be ideal starting points, and we can arrange car rental to match.
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 Ireland itineraries and room types are presented subject to availability at specific hotels.
You are requesting availability for
This holiday can be arranged from March to 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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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.
Here we are in the County Clare, it’s a long, long way from here to there.Flutes and fiddles everywhere.If it’s music you want, you should...
Scenery...spectacular, countryside pretty, villages charming. We loved the friendliness of the Irish people and felt welcome wherever we went.Diane & Roderick, London