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

Grand Tour of Ireland Self-drive

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.

At A Glance

Best Time To Go

Mar to Nov - choose spring or autumn and avoid the crowds.

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ask us to arrange a guide and uncover the secrets of The Burren?

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Day One – Dublin

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.

Day Three – County Cork

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

This unique, personally run, bed and breakfast is in the heart of Kinsale, yet with its peaceful garden and gated entrances offers genuine sanctuary away from the bustle of the village. All rooms are very tastefully decorated, with a focus on natural textures and colours, with dark wood floors, white walls and beautiful art-work giving an immediate sense of sophistication. However, this is perfectly balanced with the warm reception that you will receive from your hosts, who are mines of information on the numerous local eateries.

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.

Day Five – County Kerry

Your journey now takes you to the west coast, 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 County Kerry

This family run small guest house has an enviable waterside location, just off the Ring of Kerry near the village of Sneem. With beautiful lawns and swaying palm trees, its easy to forget you are in Ireland. Summer sunsets can be spectacular here. You will enjoy a hearty Irish breakfast with plenty of home-made breads and jams, and there is even a small bar, which serves light meals. You are not far from several good restaurants for the evenings.

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.

Day Seven – County Clare

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 an award-winning gastro pub in the historic village of Lisdoonvarna.

Your hotel in County Clare

The family owned and run inn is a great touring base. The owners have created a welcoming hotel, with a blend of contemporary and traditional, in the unique setting of the Burren region. Built in 1860 this country inn oozes old world charm and character. Open log fires, a walled garden and 14 en-suite bedrooms all with views of the surrounding countryside.

What to see and do in County Clare

You are within a short drive 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 inland to explore the almost mystical landscape of The Burren, with mile upon mile of limestone pavement. It’s a landscape 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 unique area.

Day Nine – County Galway

For the next leg of your coastal tour, pass Galway City and head to the west and the mountains and loughs of Connemara, where you will stay in an historic castle.

Your castle hotel in Connemara

This award-winning castle hotel is set in a private 450 acre estate of woodland, rivers and walks in the heart of Connemara. Though luxurious, the atmosphere is unpretentious. The setting is superb, overlooking the river which is also the hotel’s own famous salmon fishery, with a backdrop of the beautiful 12 Bens Mountain range. As well as a well-renowned restaurant there is an atmospheric bar with an open log fire. Rooms are either in the older castle or the more modern riverside wing which has even better views.

You are within a few miles of the villages of Roundstone and the popular tourist town of Clifden.  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.

Day Eleven – County Mayo

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

Your accommodation is a classic and traditional B&B very close to the centre of Westport itself. The very warmest of Mayo welcomes awaits from your hostess, who is happy to give advice on how to get the most from your visit to this charming corner of Ireland.
With just three beautifully presented en-suite rooms and a cosy guest lounge, this is the perfect spot from which to explore the town and surrounding area, set up for the day on a fabulous Irish breakfast.

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.

Day Twelve – Donegal

Continue your tour of the west, driving through Sligo then into County Donegal, passing Donegal Town, and keep on to the Inishowen peninsula, the most northerly part of the whole island of Ireland and an area rich with ancient history.

Your hotel in Donegal

Close your eyes and imagine the perfect Irish pub/hotel: brightly painted, in a small village surrounded by beautiful countryside and glorious beaches, where you will be welcomed as one of the family, treated to home-cooked food and the perfect pint of Guinness while you chat to passers-by.  Chances are there will be music too – perhaps a local jamming session in the bar, or maybe a concert by some famous Irish names in the atmospheric venue just through the back.  Well you don’t need to imagine, as we have found it.

What to see and do in Donegal

This corner of Donegal is a delight to explore, with many kilometres of scenic driving and some of the best beaches in Ireland. 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.

Day Fourteen – County Antrim

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?

Day Sixteen – Carlingford

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.

Your Hotel

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.

Day Seventeen – Return home

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.


£1695 per person for March & November, £1795 for April & October, £1985 per person for May, June & September, £2045 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, staying in our hand-picked selection of small hotels and guesthouses. Car hire is not included but can be arranged, starting from £30 per day.

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.

The McKinlay Kidd Guarantee

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 Grand Tour of Ireland Self-drive

This holiday can be arranged from March to November.

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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