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Two weeks of discovery along fabulous roads, coupled with deluxe accommodation on Ireland’s world-famous coastal touring route.
Beginning close to the island’s northernmost point in Co Donegal, take your time to get under the skin of some of Ireland’s most majestic locations, each influenced by the mighty Atlantic Ocean. You’ll wend your way south experiencing the contrasts of counties Sligo, Mayo, Galway, Clare and Kerry, rounding off in Cork City.
As ever, each of the hotels on this holiday has been personally researched and selected by us, ensuring the quality of service and experience throughout. And as always, we can tailor-make this grand tour of Ireland to suit your specific requirements – an extra night here, an upgrade there, miss out a location you’ve been to before, add in a city stay…just let us know.
Whether you choose to reach the island via Belfast or Dublin, you have an immediately engaging road trip to complete on your way cross-country, to your first base on the shores of sparkling Lough Swilly, close to Ireland’s northernmost point.
Your Accommodation in Donegal
In the hands of the same ebullient family for some 60 years, your accommodation in Donegal is a delightful country-house hotel set in seven acres of tranquil wooded grounds. Classic Irish hospitality is front-and-centre here, obvious the moment you arrive, and there’s a touch of opulence about the place, too. Traditional decor and preserved original features create a warm atmosphere in lounges and generous bedrooms, while there’s a range of dining in which to indulge throughout the day. With Lough Swilly just a few short steps from the front door, direct access to the beach and a footpath to the charming local village, this is a great place from which to begin your exploration of Ireland.
Your hotel and its surroundings are so appealing, there’d be no judging from us should you elect to spend time simply lounging and wandering today. We can seldom resist the lure of the coast, though, and just 90 minutes north you reach the island of Ireland’s northernmost point, Malin Head. Standing here on the edge, wind in your face, the vast Atlantic Ocean at your feet is a feeling that’s hard to beat. You’re also within easy reach of the vivacious city of Derry-Londonderry to the east and colourful Dunfanaghy on Sheephaven Bay to the northwest.
Make your way west first of all today, picking up the Wild Atlantic Way as it pitches and yaws south down the gnarly coastline of west Donegal to the soaring sea-cliffs of Sliabh Liag. Here, the route turns east through Killybegs, giving you the chance to make a brief detour to St John’s Point before rounding Donegal Town and hugging the coast to Bundoran and onwards to your next base by the town of Sligo.
Your Accommodation in Sligo
Take your time along the gently twisting, mile-long avenue that crosses the River Unshin, deer pastures and thick woods flanking at either side, as you approach this alluring Georgian mansion. Home to the same family for over 250 years, there’s a distinct air of restrained informality here, friendly and warm with no hint of airs. The house itself is endlessly fascinating, filled with antiques, art and long-held family pieces, in the lounges, dining room and good-sized bedrooms. Dinner here is an unhurried treat, served on superb crockery, with family silver alongside, while there’s no shortage of activity on the doorstep, including wildlife-spotting in the 500-acre grounds, with daily sightings of red squirrel, pine marten, fallow deer, jay, treecreeper and regular sightings of otter, Irish stoat and woodpecker.
Perhaps take a light breakfast this morning before making the short drive into Sligo town (or your host will be happy to arrange a local taxi) where a tasty treat awaits. Meet at the family-owned cafe where oysters are prepared in several ways, served au naturelle, baked, or deep-fried and filling the cafe’s signature po-boy sandwich. Later, enjoy an escorted tour of the family’s oyster farm as part of a small group, all within stupendous views of Sligo Bay, Benbulben and Knocknarea.
A route to get the teeth into today. Set off from Sligo and make for the coast, following the Wild Atlantic Way into north Co Mayo, alongside the Neolithic sites at Ceide Fields and through expansive Ballycroy National Park. You’ll take in views of Achill Island and Clew Bay as you go, heading south into your castle hotel in the wild landscape of Connemara.
Your Accommodation in Connemara
On a 700-acre estate, overlooking a private salmon fishery with a backdrop of the 12 Bens Mountain range, your accommodation in Connemara is an authentic and refreshingly unpretentious castle hotel. Spend all day wandering the vast grounds, perhaps with a picnic, then relax by one of six open log fires with a favourite tipple before dinner in the elegant restaurant. Wake to the sound of the river as it meanders past the window of your beautifully appointed bedroom and take breakfast amidst what has to be one of the best views from any hotel in Ireland.
You could easily elect to spend the day at your hotel, getting lost in the grounds or the walled garden, or taking a guided walk on some of the 16km of trails. Or head out in to wider Connemara, to the jaunty town of Clifden, along Sky Road and onwards to Claddaghduff for Guinness and chowder. We’ll make sure you have all the information you need to make the most of your time.
A shorter route as the crow flies today, easily extended by heading to the coast and taking in the gaeltacht of the Connemara coast as it wends its way towards the city of Galway. There’s time to dawdle in Galway, Europe’s westernmost city, before carrying on south into Co Clare to the sibylline landscape of the Burren.
Your Accommodation in Co Clare
In a quite staggering location surrounded by the limestone outcrops of the Burren, with views of Galway Bay, your accommodation by the village of Ballyvaughan is a longstanding family-owned hotel of fine quality. The scent of fresh flowers is everywhere, and the natural tones of decoration and soft-furnishings create an immediately relaxing feel, while the staff and family owners couldn’t be friendlier. Bedrooms are traditionally luxurious, the hotel’s peaceful location reflected in their calming interiors. Dining is a sumptuous treat, the award-winning restaurant serving the very best local produce, or you may prefer something a little more relaxed – but no less impressive – served in the traditional bar.
Take your time over breakfast, before heading out on a private guided tour of the Burren. Your guide is a true man of this land, part of a family who have lived and worked here for generations, familiar with every crack and fissure in this vast geological feature, with every rare plant and flower, and filled with stories of those who lived here, constructing tombs and grottoes thousands of years ago.
A fun day on road and water as you continue south through the matchmaking spa town of Lisdoonvarna, taking in the coast of Co Clare including Spanish Point, on your way to the ferry at Killimer. Board here for the crossing to Tarbert in Co Kerry, then it’s an easy and scenic 90-minute trot, around Tralee and onwards to the classic Kerry town of Dingle.
Your Accommodation in Dingle
Something a little different for your two nights here in Dingle. This family owned accommodation occupies a wonderful hillside location overlooking jaw dropping views of Dingle Bay. The unassuming frontage gives little hint of what you find inside, with acres of glass making the most of the natural backdrop, and a serene atmosphere unlike any other. Despite its peaceful setting, The bustle of ebullient Dingle is just a 15-minute walk away.
As one of Ireland’s most popular tourist locations, there’s a distinct thrum to life in Dingle, the colourful streets filled with the sound of traditional music emanating from remarkable pubs, some of which offer a Jekyll and Hyde experience straddling watering hole and hardware store, for example. But it’s easy enough to escape the hubbub, perhaps taking the morning to circumnavigate stunning Slea Head Drive or twisting Conor Pass, before evening dinner at a superb seafood restaurant.
The Kerry experience continues today, as you wave goodbye to Dingle and begin your journey along the south of the country. As you round Dingle Bay, why not take the long way on the famous Ring of Kerry, perhaps even crossing the bridge on to Valentia Island and taking the car to the top of Geokaun Mountain for stupendous views of Skellig Michael? Carry on along superb roads around the Ring through Waterville – favourite holiday spot of Charlie Chaplin – and the colourful village of Sneem on the way to your next base at Kenmare.
Your Accommodation in Kenmare
Just a short walk from the centre of this most perky Kerry town, your accommodation in Kenmare is a richly appealing five-star hotel in a quite extraordinary natural setting. This 300-acre private estate sits between river, mountain and sea, the hotel featuring superb suites, a world-class spa and multi award-winning dining.
A ‘proper’ day off today, a chance to relax and indulge in a treatment or two at your hotel’s spa and take a stroll in the achingly pretty grounds. The town of Kenmare is one of Ireland’s liveliest and is a short walk away, or you may be lucky in enjoying a private transfer there in the hotel’s own vintage car.
Continue heading west today, perhaps detouring to Mizen Head, Ireland’s southernmost mainland point, taking in the classic West Cork towns of Bantry and Skibbereen as your route turns north and brings you to your final stop at captivating Cork City.
Your Accommodation in Cork City
Owned and run by the same family for some 30 years, your accommodation in Cork is a pleasingly relaxed five-star hotel, in a peaceful position just a short walk from the city centre. Service is personal yet professional, with a distinctly Corkonian touch, while accommodation is traditionally presented, with every modern feature to make your stay as comfortable as possible. There’s both casual and formal dining, as well as indulgent afternoon tea and an old world-style bar, all topped off with a superb spa in which to soothe away any lingering cricks.
Enjoy breakfast this morning, after which you’ll be met by a friendly and fascinating local guide, setting off on a walking tour of this most appealing city. First stop may be the famous 18th-century English Market, focal point for some of the finest produce from artisan producers in Co Cork and the rest of Ireland, and where you’ll have a chance to sample some of their wares. You may also see superb St Fin Barre’s Cathedral and the fine quadrant at University College Cork, and perhaps stop at one of Cork’s fine public houses. Later, spend time exploring the city at your own pace, taking dinner at one of any number of terrific eateries, or maybe back at your hotel.
Wherever you’re headed, we’re happy to assist in finding the most convenient route to get you home.
This self-drive holiday starts in Co Donegal and takes in Co Sligo, Co Mayo, Co Clare, Co Kerry and Co Cork.
£3675 per person for April and October, £3785 per person for May and September, £3885 per person for June to August.
Prices are based on two sharing ensuite twin or double rooms for 14 nights on a bed and breakfast basis.
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.
Also available as a fly-drive holiday, 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 and recommended routes from your specified starting point, 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.
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This holiday is available from April to October.
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.