This is an active tour for active people of all ages. Sturdy walking boots are a must!
Come with us as we hike three of Ireland’s most iconic and beautiful peaks: Slieve Donard, Errigal and Croagh Patrick. We will drive through some of the most glorious, soul-stirring landscapes this island has to offer. Get ready to be blown away by the Emerald Isle you always imagined, as its stunning vistas and forty shades of green reveal themselves from on high. Castles, lakes, saints and scholars, spectacular Game of Thrones locations, ancient sites and legend all come together to create memories to last a lifetime. See the showstopping Giant’s Causeway, walk in the footsteps of Saint Patrick, feel the breeze of the magnificent Atlantic as it kisses Ireland’s shore, and return home restored and revitalized by the energy of Ireland.
Welcome to Ireland, or, in our ancient native language: Céad míle fáite! We’ll gather together at our pick-up point in central Dublin and drive north to start our tour with the showstopping UNESCO World Heritage site, Newgrange (Brú Na Bóinne ), 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 drive through delightful south Down, “where the Mountains of Mourne sweep down to the sea”. We will pass by beautiful forest, miles of dry-stone walls and enjoy spectacular views across the Irish Sea on our way to the ever-popular seaside town of Newcastle, County Down, where we will be spending two nights.
We will have our welcome group dinner in one of Newcastle’s top restaurants.
Today we will hike to the top of Slieve Donard, Northern Ireland’s highest mountain (2790 feet). There we will be rewarded with magnificent views across the Irish Sea as far as the Isle of Man, the coastlines of Wales and Scotland, and a well-earned picnic lunch. On the summit are the remains of the highest known passage tomb in Ireland. Saint Donard was a follower of Patrick and he is said to have appropriated this sacred mountain for Christianity, as Ireland kept the flame of Christianity alive during the Dark Ages.
Completing the Slieve Donard hike is a challenging six-hour round trip, requiring moderate fitness, and is accessible for all ages. Distance 9km.
This evening you are free to dine in your restaurant of choice, or go native with a bag of fish and chips on Newcastle’s sea wall!
We leave Newcastle this morning for Dunfanaghy in County Donegal. En route we will see the highlights of the city of Belfast, including the Peace Wall and the political murals in West Belfast, Queen’s University, City Hall, Grand Opera House and Saint Anne’s Cathedral. Then we will drive to the iconic Giant’s Causeway in County Antrim, our second UNESCO World Heritage Site, a landscape 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.
After lunch, we cross the border into County Donegal and enjoy the breathtaking views of the glistening waters of Lough Foyle and Lough Swilly. Then we will drive on to the charming coastal town of Dunfanaghy (“Fort of the fair field”) where we will be spending the next two nights. This is the start of the Wild Atlantic Way, 1500 miles of rugged and majestic Irish coastline.
After checking in, your evening is free to explore this charming little town and enjoy a pint of Guinness in one or two of its many pubs.
Today we hike to the summit of the tallest peak of the Derryveagh Mountains: Errigal, the highest of the Seven Sisters chain. The pinkish glow of Errigal in the setting sun is justly famous, and is part of the reason it was voted Ireland’s most iconic mountain by Walking & Hiking Ireland in 2009. The opening stretch rises over some boggy ground, and a track then continues through silvery scree as far as the summit. The Derryveagh Mountains and Donegal countryside, as well as views of the islands and spectacular coastline, open up below us. Total walking time is approximately three hours.
Distance 4.5km, difficulty moderate.
Afterwards we will enjoy lunch in 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, (if you still have energy to burn), enjoy the beautiful walks and cycle routes alongside 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 you are free to dine in one of the excellent local restaurants.
Fortified by another mega Irish breakfast, we head for Westport, County Mayo. En route we drive through the wild and beautiful Donegal moorland, through the Blue Stack Mountains and into County Sligo. We are now in “Yeats Country”, named after W. B. Yeats, one of our Nobel prizewinning poets (we have several). We shall pay our respects at the graveside of the great man in the atmospheric Drumcliffe churchyard, in the shadow of the magnificent Ben Bulben Mountain.
After lunch we continue south to the bustling, vibrant, colourful town of Westport. After checking in, discover this little jewel of a town with its renowned traditional music pub scene. You might even meet Matt Molloy of the Chieftains in his very own pub. The craic (fun) is always mighty in Molloy's!
This morning we take a short drive along the Wild Atlantic Way, past Clew Bay with its 365 islands (one for every day of the year!) to Croagh Patrick, or The Reek as it is known to locals. The holiest mountain in Ireland stands at 2,507ft above the village of Murrisk. Follow in the footsteps of our patron saint, St Patrick, who fasted and prayed on the summit for forty days. From ancient times, thousands of pilgrims have climbed Croagh Patrick on the last Sunday in July, some barefoot. If you want, you can carry your own stone to add to the cairn on the summit, like so many pilgrims have done before. Footwear is optional on this hike! Moderate to strenuous hiking, distance 5 miles, time 3-4 hours.
Tonight we have a farewell group dinner in one of Westport’s finest restaurants.
As we make our way back to Dublin, we drive through the soul-stirring region of Connemara. This is the Ireland you always imagined: a dreamlike region of mountains, bogs, heathland and lakes, megalithic tombs and showstopping landscapes. Firstly we will take one of the most beautiful drives in all Ireland through the Maumturk Montains, and trace the tragic steps of those who died during the Great Famine on the Hunger Walk along the Doo Lough Valley during the Great Famine. We will continue along the fringes of Killary fjord, and the picturesque village of Leenane, the setting for the 1990 Richard Harris movie The Field. We will stop for lunch in the perfect little village of Cong, situated on the banks of Lough Corrib, and made famous by the classic John Wayne movie The Quiet Man. From here we will drive to Dublin where we will say our farewells in the late afternoon.