Céad Míle Faílte- one hundred thousand welcomes! This 10-day odyssey showcases the best of Northern Ireland and crosses the border into glorious County Donegal, where the 1500 miles of the Wild Atlantic Way begin. We will be visiting two UNESCO world heritage sites, exploring the energy and optimism of the transformed city of Belfast, drinking in the stunning landscapes along the Causeway coast, dropping in on ancient castles, walking in the footsteps of royalty and US Presidents, sampling some of the finest food, drink and hospitality we have to offer, touring the pivotal city of Derry and treating your senses to the rugged raw beauty of Donegal and the Wild Atlantic Way.
Welcome to Ireland, or, in our ancient native language: Céad míle fáilte! We’ll gather together at our pick-up point in central Dublin and drive north to start our tour in County Meath with the showstopping UNESCO World Heritage site, Newgrange (Brú na Bóinne) in County Meath. Located in the bend of the river Boyne, this is a stunning collection of three Neolithic passage tombs built some 5000 years ago - older than Stonehenge and the Pyramids!
In the afternoon we cross the border into Northern Ireland and on to Belfast, our base for the next six days. After checking in to our city centre hotel, we will meet for a welcome drink in the world famous Crown Liquor Saloon before enjoying a group dinner in one of Belfast’s finest restaurants.
Join us on a guided boat trip and, from your unique vantage point on Belfast’s River Lagan, hear the story of the city's rich maritime heritage . Listen to tales of the Titanic and the Harland & Wolff shipyard where she was built, before we visit the award-winning Titanic Belfast (World Visitor Attraction of the Year winner 2016).
After lunch we will enjoy a fascinating drive round Belfast, exploring the city’s most iconic sights including the world-famous political murals, Peace Wall, Queen’s University, Stormont Parliament Buildings, Belfast Castle, St Anne’s Cathedral, City Hall and the Grand Opera House. Discover why Lonely Planet voted our capital best place to visit in 2018. Learn about our complex and difficult past, and see for yourself the city’s transformation into one of the most dynamic destinations in Europe.
Tonight you are free to explore the city’s ever-growing restaurant and pub scene.
Today we walk in the footsteps of royalty, peacemakers and US Presidents, visiting the stunning Hillsborough Castle and Gardens in County Down, official residence in Northern Ireland of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Famous guests have included Prime Minister Tony Blair, Presidents Benjamin Franklin and George W. Bush, and the Dalai Lama.
Later we will explore Ireland’s industrial heritage in the award-winning Irish Linen Centre in the city of Lisburn. On our guided tour we will learn why 19th century Belfast was known as Linenopolis and trace the history of linen production in Ulster, from the earliest times to the present, and see live spinning and weaving demonstrations.
Tonight is a free evening back in Belfast to dine at a restaurant of your choice.
Today we step back in time and visit the Ulster Folk Museum in County Down, and experience what life was like 100 years ago. Wander through this atmospheric Irish village with beautifully recreated period buildings. You’ll find thatched cottages, Belfast workers' houses, an old-time schoolhouse, church and stores on streets inhabited by people in period dress. Try your hand at basket weaving, breadmaking or see a blacksmith hard at work.
After lunch we will visit the Northern Ireland War Memorial, which honours the 300,000 American troops stationed in Northern Ireland in advance of the D-Day landings in WW2. Nearby is the Discover Ulster-Scots Centre, which celebrates the centuries-old links between the north of Ireland and the United States. Afterwards, you will have a private guided tour of Belfast City Hall, with its historic gardens, memorials and statues. This is the architectural jewel of our capital, a palace of stained glass and Italian marble, and the beating heart of the city. Sit in the Lord Mayor’s chair in the ornate Council chamber modelled on the House of Commons in London.
Your evening is free. We can recommend the best pubs for catching a "session" of traditional Irish music, or enjoying some fine dining.
Today we go on a stunning road trip along the beautiful Causeway coast in County Antrim. Craggy ruined castles, creamy sandy beaches, dramatic Game of Thrones locations, jaw-dropping cliffs and swooping valleys make this drive one of the best in the world. The blockbuster sight is undoubtedly the Giant’s Causeway, sitting at the centre of an Area of Outstanding Beauty. It is Northern Ireland’s only UNESCO World Heritage Site, steeped in myth and legend, and one of the most remarkable sights in Europe. The 40,000 hexagonal-shaped stepping stones are a portal into our ancient past, dating back to a volcanic age almost 60 million years ago.
Bushmills Whiskey Distillery is the oldest licensed distillery in the world, having been granted its license by King James I in 1608. See how Irish whiskey is made here and enjoy a complimentary drink in the 1608 Bar after the tour.
Take the exhilarating rope bridge challenge across to tiny Carrick-a-Rede island and enjoy a truly thrilling experience. First erected by salmon fishermen in 1755, the bridge is suspended almost 100ft above the sea. Afterwards, we will stop by the ruins of the 500-year-old Dunluce Castle, perched dramatically on the edge of a cliff, overlooking the wild Atlantic.
Evening is free. Eat, drink and be merry!
Today we follow in the footsteps of St Patrick, learning the history and legends of Ireland’s patron saint. We will be fortified by a traditional Irish lunch that we have made ourselves in a traditional Irish farmhouse kitchen on the shores of beautiful Strangford Lough. After a cookery demonstration, we will be donning aprons and making our own breads in fine Irish style, as part of a homemade lunch using ingredients sourced in the cottage garden.
After lunch, we visit the magnificent Down Cathedral and the grave of St Patrick, built on a site steeped in history and prayer where Christians have worshipped for over 1600 years.
A 10-minute ferry crossing takes us on a drive along the coastline of Strangford Lough, so beautiful and dramatic that it’s no surprise that several locations were chosen for Game of Thrones. On our way back to Belfast we will be passing through quaint little villages in the rolling drumlins of County Down, taking in the spectacular 12th century ruins of Grey Abbey, and Scrabo Tower which stands guard over the sparkling lough with the romantic Mourne Mountains in the distance.
Today we leave Belfast and drive west through the spectacular and majestic Glenshane Mountain Pass, cutting through the Sperrin Mountains, stopping for tea and scones in Ireland’s highest pub, en route to the historic city of Derry. This is the most intact walled city in Ireland, and has played a pivotal role in many key moments of Ireland’s turbulent history, from the 6th century to the outbreak of the Troubles in the 1960s. We will walk the 17th century walls and see their seven gates, and also St Columb’s Cathedral, the Peace Bridge, Tower Museum and the thought-provoking political murals of the Bogside, Free Derry Corner and the Bloody Sunday memorial monument.
After crossing the border into the Republic of Ireland, we will drive through beautiful Donegal to the charming coastal town of Dunfanaghy (“Fort of the fair field”). This is the start of Ireland’s Big Sur, the Wild Atlantic Way: 1500 miles of rugged and majestic Irish coastline.
After checking in, we will enjoy our second group dinner in our hotel.
Today we head into north Donegal, visiting the charming Doe Castle, a 15th century stronghold of the MacSweeney clan, originally from Scotland. The castle is surrounded by water on three sides, with views over Sheephaven Bay. We will then tour around the glorious Atlantic Drive, the start of 1500 miles of magnificent coastline on the wild Atlantic Way. We complete a spectacular 10-mile loop with awe-inspiring views as the Atlantic breakers crash below us. At the end of the Drive, we are rewarded with lunch and a Guinness in the renowned Síbín Ceoil, (the Singing Pub), one of Ireland’s oldest pubs - all turf fires, thatched roofs and craic.
After lunch we will reveal to you one of Ireland’s hidden gems - an invigorating walk over sand dunes rewards us with a gloriously deserted beach with Atlantic waves rolling in. This is pure Donegal!
Today we will continue to explore the stark beauty of these north-western landscapes, driving along the foot of the majestic Errigal, the tallest peak in Donegal, and voted Ireland’s most iconic mountain by Walking and Hiking Ireland. This leads us to Glenveagh National Park, a hauntingly beautiful area of rugged mountains, pristine lakes, bogland, tumbling waterfalls and enchanted native oak woodland in the heart of the Derryveagh Mountains. At the centre of the park on the edge of Lough Veagh is Glenveagh Castle, with its pristine, immaculately manicured gardens. After our tour of the castle, enjoy the beautiful walks and cycle routes skirting the lake.
You will have some free time in the afternoon to catch up on any shopping you may wish to do in Dunfanaghy’s eclectic range of small arts and crafts shops, cafes, boutiques and galleries.
Tonight we will enjoy a sumptuous farewell group dinner in one of Dunfanaghy’s finest restaurants.
This morning we will leave County Donegal and drive through the peatlands of County Tyrone, the largest county in Northern Ireland, passing along the shores of Lough Neagh, the largest lake in the British Isles, on our way to enjoy the old-world charm of afternoon tea in Castle Leslie, County Monaghan. The 400-year-old castle is set in 1000 acres of gently rolling Irish countryside, ancient woodland and lakes.
We will then continue our journey to Dublin and, as all good things must end, we’ll say farewell, or Slán abhaile!