Travel Partner: Dream Escape
Duration | 15 Days
Destination | Celtic Coast
Starting Price | UK 43,242 ($59,630 USD)
*based on a family of four
An inspiring adventure specially designed to showcase the very best of Ireland and Scotland from coast to coast. Your chauffeur-guides will ensure you are taken off the beaten track to delve into the depths of Irish and Scottish life. The journey begins on the east coast in vibrant Dublin, then onwards to a stay at a luxurious castle hotel. Discover history and culture in the east, and delicious food and outdoor activities in the west. Travel onwards to Scotland; perhaps more than any other, the country lends itself to adventure. Embark on a Nessie-hunting expedition on Loch Ness, venture underground in Edinburgh to uncover the city's most haunted spot, try your hand at archery at a luxurious resort and even pet some Highland cows - be sure to watch out for the horns! Impeccable accommodation, specialist guides and exclusive experiences feature throughout, ensuring this trip will create treasured memories to last a lifetime.
On arrival at Dublin Airport, you will be met and welcomed by your experienced chauffeur-guide who will provide a safe and comfortable journey to your first luxury accommodation, situated in the heart of the city. Set on Ireland’s east coast, Dublin is an essential stop for any visitor to the Emerald Isle. With a history that stretches back over 1,000 years, there is much to be discovered. Today, the city is regarded as one of the liveliest and most atmospheric in Europe.
You may wish to spend some time at leisure, resting and relaxing following your flight. Alternatively, discover Dublin in the company of your local chauffeur-guide. Their expert knowledge and enthusiasm will ensure you enjoy the very best experience that the city has to offer. Highlights you may like to visit include Trinity College; founded in 1592 by Queen Elizabeth I, it houses the “Book of Kells”, possibly one of the most priceless, and the most richly decorated of Ireland’s medieval manuscripts. Alternatively, The Guinness Storehouse is home to the country’s best-loved export; following a tour, why not enjoy a pint of the black stuff in the Gravity Bar?
Accompanied by your chauffeur-guide, travel into Co. Kildare to visit The Irish National Stud, the beating heart of Ireland’s thoroughbred industry. A private guided tour delves into the history, spanning over a hundred years. A source of national pride, the stud is the home of equine royalty, immaculately-bred stallions who can be seen and admired alongside protective mares, frolicking foals and athletic yearlings. Watch them at close quarters, marvel at their grace and grandeur while also learning of Ireland’s triumphs on the turf in the widely-acclaimed museum.
During your visit, you may wish to take some time to explore the Stud’s impressive gardens. The Japanese Gardens, set out in 1910, are world renowned while St. Fiachra’ Garden commemorates the patron saint of gardeners and pays tribute to the beauty of the Irish landscape. Return to Dublin and spend the rest of the afternoon at leisure. There are many other landmarks you may wish to see, including the General Post Office, scene of the 1916 Easter Rising and birthplace of the Irish Nation. Whether the holes in its pillars are bullet holes from that historic conflict has been long debated, but even the suggestion is enough to stimulate the imagination.
Accompanied by your chauffeur-guide, depart Dublin and drive west to the picturesque city of Galway. It has a wonderful vibrant culture and is home to a fascinating mixture of locally owned speciality shops, often featuring locally made crafts including pottery, jewellery and woodwork. Often referred to as the most Irish of Ireland’s cities, a visit to Galway is the opportune moment to dive into the Irish food scene. Accompanied by a personal expert guide, embark upon a culinary walking tour of the city. Visit award-winning restaurants and cafes, and lesser known gems frequented only by locals in-the-know.
Sample the very best products on your journey, from newly caught local oysters to freshly made doughnuts and sumptuous strawberry tarts. No visit to Galway would be complete without a visit to the famous Galway Market. The bustling market has been trading in the centre of the city for centuries, and teeming with fresh produce, artisan treats and local crafts. Continue north thereafter to your accommodation for two nights, found on an amazing estate which extends to around 350 acres.
Spend the day relaxing, or perhaps taking advantage of Ashford Castle’s excellent activities. The sprawling estate is one of the finest sporting estates in Ireland and is something of a country playground. Discover the ancient art of falconry at the oldest established Falconry School in Ireland. Take a journey with a hawk on your gloved fist through the estate. You are the falconer – get up close and enjoy the interactive experience as the hawks showcase their hunting technique, swoop down from tree tops, weave through branches, and glide majestically before landing on your gloved fist with all the weight of feather!
To follow, if feeling brave, venture into the woodlands and zip through the branches on an exciting aerial adventure. Whizz from platform to platform, covering a total distance of 300 metres. It’s a magnificent way to hang out in the tree tops - one of which, nicknamed Monty, is a 110-year old Monterey Pine. The estate offers plenty more activities. Explore the estate on horseback; the ancient forest is steeped in history and the gorgeous scenery will captivate novice and expert riders alike. Trail rides and lessons are available for all abilities. The award-winning spa is the ideal retreat if in search of revitalisation. A striking bronze conservatory, the Spa provides a sanctuary of calm and serenity with seashell chandeliers, uninterrupted views stretching across Lough Corrib.
Discover Ireland at its best: untouched, undiscovered and truly authentic. When not accompanied by your chauffeur-guide, your mode of transport is a skippered motor yacht. It is a day to remember as you experience “Ireland through the Ages”. Visit a private Castle, set on its very own tiny island. Once a ruin, this 16th century building has been beautifully and painstakingly restored and is only accessible via water. In this atmospheric setting, savour a range of artisan food and drinks akin to those of the 16th century. Make sure you head to the roof-top terrace and capture the panoramic scenic views!
Later, travel to a gorgeous 18th century manor house where you will meet the lady of the manor. Here, sample local artisan cheeses paired with homemade spiced chutney and organic apple syrup. From here drive across the verdant countryside of County Limerick to what can only be described as the picture-perfect village of Adare. Thatched roof cottages, Tudor style houses, beautiful gardens and ivy clad medieval churches flank the river banks.
Spend the day at Adare Manor. Prior to transforming into a luxury hotel, Adare Manor was part of a private country estate at which shooting season was the most exciting time of year. Meet some gorgeous and impressively trained Irish Labradors and enjoy a unique experience which celebrates this sporting heritage. This charming activity will allow you to watch the dogs demonstrate their obedience, agility and ability to work as part of a team of dogs, before learning how to handle the dogs yourself.
To follow, accompanied by an expert ghillie try your hand at fly-fishing on the estate. Whether you are an expert or complete novice, their expert guidance will ensure an enjoyable, and hopefully successful, fishing trip. The fast-flowing River Maigue runs through the heart of the estate and is home to an abundance of trout and salmon when in season. The stretch of river running through the grounds is reserved exclusively for hotel guests; ensuring minimal competition! The swimming pool overlooks the River Maigue, while the elegant spa provides the perfect opportunity to unwind with a wide range of treatments.
Your chauffeur-guide will transfer you to Shannon Airport where you will board the short direct flight to Scotland. On arrival at Edinburgh Airport you will be met and welcomed by your local chauffeur-guide who will provide a safe and comfortable transfer into the city. Edinburgh, sometimes referred to as the “Athens of the North”, is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. It has two distinct areas: the Old Town, dominated by a medieval fortress; and the neo-classical New Town, dating from the 18th century.
The harmonious connection of these two contrasting historic areas, each with many important buildings, is what gives the city its unique character and what saw it be awarded World Heritage Site status by UNESCO in 1995. Spend the rest of the day at leisure, doing as much or as little as you please.
On foot and accompanied by a local guide, explore Edinburgh’s Old Town. Commence with a visit to Edinburgh Castle – from its volcanic rock, it towers over the city. Step inside the ancient walls and learn of the royalty who lived and died here and the struggles for control of the nation. To follow, walk along the Royal Mile which lies at the heart of the Old Town and is arguably one of the most famous streets in the world. Today, it is peppered with stores selling whisky, cashmere and hand-crafted silver jewellery. However, in centuries gone by it was a different story: delving into the Old Town is like leafing through the pages of a dusty historical novel, as each era unfolds with its own legends and characters.
The day concludes with an evening exploration of Edinburgh’s darker side. Follow your cloaked guide through the shadowy streets of Edinburgh’s Old Town for a private exploration of underground vaults which are reputed to be amongst the most haunted places in the city. In this atmospheric location, lit only by the flicker of candle light, your guide will regale you with stories more terrifying than fiction. Return to the surface and follow your guide to the Canongate graveyard. It is the resting place of the city’s most famous figures: Adam Smith, the father of economics; David Rizzio, the lover of Mary Queen of Scots murdered by her jealous husband; and James Douglas, the infamous cannibal of the Canongate. Your guide will delight in telling you stories of devious deeds and gory crimes which will remain with you long after the tour has ended.
Enjoy a day trip to the ancient coastal town of St Andrews, famous across the world as the spiritual home of golf. Golf aside, the town is a charming place to explore, and is steeped in history both ancient and modern as it is now famously known as where the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge first met, whilst studying at the world-renowned university. Accompanied by a local guide, explore some of the town’s iconic historical sights. Now largely ruined after seeing many a war, St. Andrews Castle was once the magnificent home of the Bishops and Archbishops of St Andrews. As to the town’s Cathedral, it was the focal point of the Church in medieval Scotland, and in the thick of the struggle for the hearts and minds of the nation during the Protestant Reformation; today it is nothing more than magnificent ruins. Perhaps climb to the top of St. Rule’s Tower to enjoy panoramic views across St. Andrews and the surrounding countryside.
Perhaps take some time to peruse the town’s delightful shops. St. Andrews is still refreshingly free of national outlets and chain stores – save a few exceptions. Instead, there is an excellent range of independent, family-run shops and businesses, where you are guaranteed to find a unique range of goods matched by personal service. For the golfing enthusiast, perhaps browse the Tom Morris Store. It was opened by the golfing great himself in 1866, making it the oldest golf shop in the world.
Depart Edinburgh and travel north-west, watching the scenery change as the Lowlands give way to the Highlands. Arrive in Glencoe, Scotland’s most famous glen. It is often considered one of the most spectacular and beautiful places in the country and certainly one of the most dramatic; thundering waterfalls tumble down the sides of mountains into sparkling lochs. Reserved privately, a local guide will take you on a guided walk.
Glencoe was also used as a location in several Harry Potter films, and American Broadcaster CNN said that it was so impressed with the scenery in the James Bond film Skyfall, some of which was filmed here, that it declared Scotland one of its top travel destinations.Scenery and geology aside, the glen has its place firmly in the history books due to its savage history. It was the site of the infamous massacre of Clan Macdonald of Glencoe by government troops in 1692.
Travel along the Great Glen to arrive at the shores of one of Scotland’s most famed stretches of water: Loch Ness. Two specially arranged activities on the water await. Begin with a gently paced exploration of the loch in Canadian open-canoes. No previous canoeing experience is required, and your experienced guide will be on hand throughout. The experience is entirely tailored to you. Perhaps simply take in the stunning scenery (while keeping an eye out for Nessie, of course). If you would prefer a more energetic experience, your guide can teach you plenty of games to play in the water – although they may result in some unintentional swimming.
The second experience of the day takes the pace up a notch, as you step aboard a privately reserved Rigid Inflatable Boat (RIB). Feel the wind in your hair as you whizz across the water at a speedy 35mph – there can be no faster way to take in as many sights as possible. As with the canoeing, your trip can be tailored to your preferences whether you want to see the ruins of ancient Urquhart Castle and Cory’s Cave – hiding place of Scotland’s original outlaw – or to make a serious attempt at tracking Nessie alongside some of the area’s easier spotted wildlife. The skippers love nothing more than sharing their knowledge of the loch and its history with you, ensuring this adrenaline-inducing adventure is sure to be an experience you won’t forget in a hurry.
Travel through the Trossachs, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It is an area that straddles the colourful meeting of the Highlands and Lowlands and is often referred to as Scotland in Miniature – within a few miles, you can find towering peaks and deep wooded glens, as well as babbling streams and rivers which run into magnificent lochs. Continue into Perthshire. In the words of Sir Walter Scott, the region is “the fairest portion of the northern kingdom”. Taking in the region’s beauty, from its serene glens and endless expanses of lush forest, to its bleakly beautiful moors, rushing rivers and tumbling waterfalls, it’s impossible to argue with him.
Spend the day on-site at Gleneagles. It is renowned for offering some of the best country pursuits and leisure activities in the country, and there is something to suit every preference and interest: From clay pigeon target shooting to air-rifle range and archery, the Shooting School provides an excellent opportunity to improve your aim. Feel the blend of calmness and anticipation as you raise your rifle or bow and lock onto the target, ready for a bull’s-eye.
The Equestrian School is one of the most impressive riding facilities in Europe. There is tuition available from the basics of horse and pony riding to training in dressage, cross country, and polo. Set out on a pony trail or travel back in time and enjoy the style and elegance of carriage-driving as you explore the estate and surrounding countryside.
The Falconry School at Gleneagles belongs to the first dedicated school in the world, and their proud heritage continues today. Be amazed by a display including falcons, owls, hawks and eagles, or experience for yourself the “sport of kings”, learning how to handle and fly these magnificent birds of prey.
The Gun Dog School takes its inspiration from Scotland’s great sporting heritage, wherein Labradors, Spaniels and other breeds have, for many centuries, partnered sportsmen and women in the field. Learn how to handle a trained gundog, whose obedience is matched only by its agility in retrieving.
By special arrangement, the day begins with a visit to a family-owned working farm and stud. Enjoy a personal connection with the animals, and the opportunity to meet with locals. You will be met and warmly welcomed by farm’s owners, Ailsa and James, on arrival before heading to the Stud to meet the Clydesdale horses. Derived from the farm horses of Clydesdale, Scotland. They are instantly recognisable by the long hair that grows down each leg, often covering each hoof. Ailsa and James developed a love of Clydesdales after James gifted Ailsa with horses Mia and Rhapsody for her birthday, shortly after moving to the farm. They have kept their first foal Airlea, whose name means “windy meadow”; she was named after being born on a very blustery day almost two years ago. The stud is now home to four of these gentle giants who love to display their personalities.
To follow, return to the farm to meet the Highland Cattle. With their fluffy hair and long horns, the cows are a true icon of Scotland and make for a great photo opportunity. Perhaps also take the time to meet some of the farm’s smaller residents – chickens, turkeys, pigs, and sheep. Lambing takes place at the end of April, and you will be welcome to feed any pet lambs that may be around. The visit concludes with a delicious home-cooked lunch in the family-style Farm Kitchen.
Your chauffeur-guide will accompany you to Edinburgh Airport for onward travel.
Prices are per person, based on two people sharing. Room categories, dates of travel and changes to services will affect the price. Dollar conversions shown (if applicable) will fluctuate throughout the year. Contact the Andrew Harper Travel Office to customize this itinerary to fit your needs.
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