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

Celtic Contrasts

Specially designed holiday to contrast the hidden gems of Scotland and Ireland.

This 6-night holiday follows a splendid and carefully thought out itinerary, which will see you experience both the joys of the South West of Scotland, with the delights of the world famous Causeway coast. Scotland and Ireland are separated at their closest point by just 11 miles of deep blue sea, resulting in close ties between the cultures of these two Celtic lands. This holiday will allow you to experience both, while enjoying some of the best locally run hotels and with the return ferry between the ports of Cairnryan and Belfast included.

At A Glance

Best Time To Go

Feb - Nov. Our favourite time is June, with long, bright evenings.

Why not...

add a couple of nights in Port Stewart at a stunning coastal B&B?

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Day One – Galloway

Your first hotel is in Galloway around two hours’ drive from Carlisle.

Your accommodation in Galloway

Your Kirkcudbright B&B is in the heart of Kirkcudbright Old Town in one of its finest Georgian listed buildings. The house features comfortable bedrooms, an elegant guest lounge reflecting the fine Georgian architecture, and spacious, secluded gardens that guests are encouraged to use as they wish. Breakfast is an important part of the hospitality on offer here, with home-made bread and preserves and the best local produce combined in spectacular fashion. Your hosts are long-time residents of Kirkcudbright, only too happy to share their local knowledge of this lovely and fascinating town.

Day Two – Exploring Galloway

The area offers plenty of coastal walks and some lovely sandy beaches, particularly at nearby Sandhead, Port Logan and Port William. Places to visit include Portpatrick and the Mull of Galloway (with its working lighthouse); Logan Botanic Gardens with its amazing collection of exotic plants; Castle Kennedy Gardens, with its unique Monkey Puzzle Avenue; the unusual Gem Museum at Creetown and Scotland’s book capital, Wigtown, which boasts more than 20 bookshops – great for an afternoon’s browsing – whilst Kirkcudbright is home to several galleries and craft shops.  There’s also a wide choice of golf courses throughout Galloway, each with its own character and test of skill – from Creachmore, Stranraer, designed by James Braid, to the “links” style of Wigtown County, to the championship test of Southerness.

Day Three – Across the Irish Sea

A short drive to the ferry port of Cairnryan for the crossing direct to Belfast.  It’s just 90 minutes to your next base in the heart of County Down and the historic village of Killyleagh. Time to explore the city of Belfast or the gently rolling fields of the Ards peninsula and the magical Strangford Lough.

Your accommodation in Downpatrick

Relax in this beautiful and stylish Guesthouse built in 1803, formerly the Ulster Bank and retaining many of its original features.  It’s situated at the top of the High Street in Killyleagh in the shadows of Killyleagh Castle, one of the oldest inhabited castles in Ireland, on the shores of Strangford Lough.  This is a very peaceful spot, yet just a short drive from Belfast and all its attractions. Next door is one of the county’s most popular country pubs, offering regular live music and within a short drive are several excellent restaurants.

Day Four – Exploring Belfast and County Down

You can choose whether to explore Belfast, visit the Ulster Folk & Transport Museum or tour County Down, with key recommendations the gardens at Mount Stewart, the Castle Ward estate, perhaps combined with the short ferry crossing at Porta ferry across Strangford Lough.  The whole area is forever connected with St Patrick; his remains are reputedly at Down Cathedral.  There are numerous other monastic sites well worth visiting, especially Nendrum, Greyabbey and Inch Abbey.

Day Five – The Antrim Coast Road

Your  final base is on the Antrim coast, close to the Giants’ Causeway and just over two hours’ drive – so spend the day touring the dramatic coast road, enjoying views back to Scotland, a mere 12 miles away.

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 bygone encounters.  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.  This place is a genuine meeting point for travellers and locals alike, buzzing with conviviality and conversation throughout a jigsaw puzzle of interconnecting public rooms and cosy corners.  The outdoor courtyard and terrace come into their own in the summer months, while open peat fires provide the perfect ambience in other seasons. Service is attentive and friendly, many staff being young, local and very proud of the area. The menu offered throughout the restaurant and conservatory fuses local produce with a touch of creativity to make this one of the most renowned dining destinations in the North of Ireland.

Day Six – Exploring the Antrim Coast

The famous sights of this, one of our favourite coastlines, include the geological phenomenon of the Giant’s Causeway and the much-photographed clifftop ruins of haunting Dunluce Castle – both just a short drive away.  For the more adventurous, test your nerve and head for heights by venturing across the suspended rope bridge at Carrick-a-Rede.  You might also take a day trip to the wildlife haven of Rathlin Island and why not end the day with a visit to the famous Bushmills distillery?

Day Seven – Return home

Return to Scotland by ferry from Belfast.



The holiday includes Galloway in the southwest of Scotland, and bases in County Down and County Antrim in Northern Ireland.

Travel to Ireland by ferry from and back to Scotland is included in this holiday. If you prefer we can also arrange the return ferry back to Holyhead in Wales.


£525 per person for February & November, £535 per person for March, £575 per person for April & October, £640 per person for May, June & September, £650 per person for July & August.

Prices based on six nights on a bed & breakfast basis, which includes return ferry travel for car and passengers from Scotland to Larne.

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.

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.

In the Footsteps of Giants

In the Footsteps of Giants

I have known the Giant’s Causeway since I was a wee boy. We visited every summer during the school holidays and, like many, I was entranced by the s...

Check availability for Celtic Contrasts

This holiday is available from February to November.

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