Day 1 : Dublin – Arrival
Upon arrival, pick up your rental car and check into your hotel. The remainder of the day can be spent exploring this vibrant and historic capital city with its many historic buildings, Georgian streets, and colorful gardens. Take the opportunity to visit some of its many attractions such as the Christchurch Cathedral. You can also visit the Guinness Storehouse. Opened in 1904, the Storehouse was an operational plant for fermenting and storing Guinness. Today, it houses a very fine exhibition dedicated to the Guinness story. After visiting the exhibition, you are invited to the Gravity Bar to enjoy your pint of Guinness. This evening, why not enjoy dinner in one of Dublin's many restaurants?
Day 2 : Dublin – Wicklow
Today, visit Butler's Chocolate Experience which is located at the Butler's Chocolate Factory in north Dublin, close to the junction of the M1 and M50 motorways. Enjoy a 90-minute interactive tour which allows you to experience the key elements of chocolate production. You will have an opportunity to be a chocolatier and decorate your own novelty to bring home. At all stages of the tour, there will be lots of chocolate sampling. Leaving Dublin travel along the east coast through Bray before arriving in Ashford and on to Ballyknocken Country House & Cookery School. Ballyknocken House is a charming Victorian farmhouse operating as a 4-star guesthouse. (B)
Day 3 : Explore Wicklow
After breakfast, you may have the opportunity to participate in a class at the cookery school (not included and subject to availability). In the afternoon, explore Wicklow, known as the Garden of Ireland. Visit the Glendalough monastic site. The English name Glendalough originated from the Irish "Gleann Da Locha", which translates as "the Valley of the two Lakes". It was here that St. Kevin, son of the King of Leinster, founded a monastery in the 6th century. From a simply beginning, the site grew to become famous as a center of learning throughout Europe. Standing for 600 years, it was destroyed in 1398. Much of what is to be seen today dates from the 10th to 12th century. One of the most attractive features is the fine 111 ft high round tower. A cathedral, stone churches, and decorated crosses also survived, albeit as ruins. Beautifully scenic walking trails take you on a circular route by the lakes from the car park. (B)
Day 4 : Wicklow – Waterford – Cork
This morning, travel south from Wicklow to Waterford. Visit the Harty Oysters Farm, located in the scenic area of Dungarvan Bay. Jim Harty was a pioneer of Irish oysters as he was one of the first people in the country to recognize the potential for growing oysters in the Celtic Sea. The Harty family aims to give their customers the highest standard of oyster and they consider their oysters to be one of Ireland's top luxury food products available today. Leave Waterford and travel a short distance to Shanagarry and stop at Ballymaloe Gardens which surrounds Ballymaloe Cookery School and the Garden Cafe, which is run by TV chef Darina and Tim Allen. Ballymaloe includes an herb garden, a formal fruit garden, a formal vegetable garden, and a water garden.
Day 5 : Explore Cork
This morning, take some time to explore the English Market. Situated in the heart of Cork City, the English Market is a roofed food market and has been trading since 1788. Developed and still owned by the Cork City Council, the market is one of the oldest municipal markets of its kind in the world. Continue on to the Cork Butter Museum which dominated the world butter trade in the 18th and 19th centuries and the museum explores the development of the exchange and the history of dairying in Ireland. Afterwards, why not travel to Kinsale? Visit Desmond Castle and the Wine Museum. Built as a custom house by the Earl of Desmond in ca. 1500, Desmond Castle has had a colorful history. Before completing your tour of Kinsale, a visit to Charles Fort just outside the town is a must. Constructed in the late 17th century, Charles Fort is a classic example of a star-shaped fort. In the evening, enjoy dinner in Kinsale, known as the "Gourmet Capital of Ireland".
Day 6 : Explore the Dingle Peninsula
Today, travel towards the Dingle Peninsula and pass by Killarney National Park. The Killarney National Park features beautiful lakes and mountain scenery. The park is famous for its native natural habitats and species including oak holly woods, yew woods, and red deer. This afternoon, explore the Dingle Peninsula, famous for its Celtic, pre-Christian monuments and Christian churches. It is also a "Gaeltacht" - Irish-speaking area, where the Irish language and traditional ways of life are preserved. Dingle town itself is a thriving fishing town and offers plenty of opportunity for shopping or simply savoring the atmosphere of a typical country Irish town with its plentiful pubs, narrow streets, and busy harbor. Visit Murphy's and taste real handmade Dingle ice cream. Murphy's only uses natural ingredients and has special flavors such as Brown Bread and Sea Salt. The road between Dunquin and Slea Head is dotted with beehive huts, forts, and church sites. Prehistoric Dunbeg Fort is on a cliff top promontory with a sheer drop to the Atlantic and had 4 outer walls of stone. Inside are the remains of a house and a beehive hut as well as an underground passage. (B)
Day 7 : The Burren & Galway
Depart Dingle this morning and travel via Adare. Adare in County Limerick is a village dating from the time of the Norman conquest. Desmond or Adare Castle is regarded as a fine example of the medieval fortified castle in Ireland and is one of a number of outstanding castles situated in County Limerick. It is sited in the north bank of the River Maigue in a strategic position on a substantial earlier ring work where it was able to control traffic on the river. It was an important stronghold of the Earls of Desmond. Continue to visit St Tola's Goat Farm. St Tola is an organic goat farm of 65 acres located in North County Clare near the Burren and 30 minutes from the Cliffs of Moher. Siobhan Ni Ghairbhith took over the farm in 1999 and 2 years later, St Tola became a registered organic cheese producer. Siobhan has developed the business from a local industry to an internationally recognized and award-winning brand but the cheese is still handmade in small batches as the artisanal quality of their cheese is paramount. Travel to the Cliffs of Moher. Situated on the Atlantic Ocean and bordering the Burren region, the Cliffs of Moher are one of Ireland's most spectacular sights. Standing 750 ft above the ground at their highest point and 5 miles long, the cliffs boast one of the most amazing views in Ireland. On a clear day, the Aran Islands are visible in Galway Bay as well as the valleys and hills of Connemara. The cliffs reach their highest point just north of O' Brien's Tower built by Cornelius O' Brien, a descendant of Brian Bory, to entertain his lady friends. Before you reach your final destination for today, make a stop at the Burren Smokehouse and get a tasting of smoked salmon. Discover the mosaics inside and outside the shop, and look at the first kiln used when the Burren Smokehouse was first set up. (B)
Day 8 : Galway – Dublin
This morning, leave Galway and visit the Rathbaun Farm. The farm is situated in a rural area of Southwest County Galway near Ardrahan. The Burke and Connolly family have been farming the 80 acres of land for over 200 years and Fintan Connolly continues this tradition today. The main livestock are sheep with some cows and horses. You will be enchanted by its thatched cottage home, turf, fire, stone walls, and an array of animals. The land is limestone, free-draining soil currently in permanent pasture and in organic conversion. Time spent here gives a glimpse into the daily workings of a sheep farm with plenty of time to see the animals, feed the lambs in season, talk to the family, and explore the farmyard. You will also be able to visit the 150-year old farmhouse, where you will have the opportunity to have lunch, sampling some home baking and local produce. You may also have the opportunity to bake your own scones, following the traditional Irish recipe. Continue to visit Kilbeggan Distillery. Start your tour in 1757 and discover how Irish whiskey was made in the time of the Lockes ownership of the distillery on one side of the courtyard and then follow on to see how Kilbeggan Irish Whiskey is now being made in the traditional manner which includes a 180-year old pot still. Kilbeggan Distillery established in 1757, is believed to be the oldest licensed pot still whiskey distillery in the world. For almost 200 years, until it closed in 1954, the distillery produced a traditional pot stilled Irish malt whiskey. Today, the distillery hosts a museum and since 2007 when distillation commenced again in Kilbeggan, visitors can experience a real working distillery run by a team of young enthusiastic craftspeople, skilled in the traditional ways of making Irish whiskey. The guided tour follows the process of making triple distilled Irish whiskey, from the grinding of the grain to the casking of the final product. Watch and listen as the 19th century water wheel drives the machinery. Most of the original machinery has now been restored and can be seen working daily. Peer into 30-feet high fermentation vats. Learn about the lives and the working conditions of the people that worked here. At the end of the tour, you will receive a complimentary sample of Kilbeggan Irish Whiskey. (B)
Day 9 : Dublin – Return
If time allows, visit Howth, a picturesque fishing village which is situated at the foot of a huge rock peninsula. Howth, a huge rock massif with footpaths ideal for small walks, offers beautiful views of Dublin Bay. You can also visit one of the numerous seafood restaurants. Drive to the Dublin airport and drop off your rental car before your return flight home. (B)