Travel Partner: Dream Escape
Duration | 19 Days
Destination | Ireland
Starting Price | €21,218 ($25,305 USD)
Experience the myths, charm and culture of the Emerald Isle on this spectacular journey. It will take you to explore the contrasting cities of Dublin and Cork alongside the sprawling countryside and natural beauty of the Wild Atlantic Way and Killarney National Park. Discover that there are no wrong turns as your chauffeur-guide takes you off the beaten track to explore the rich history and cultural heritage of Ireland. With local knowledge and a gift for talking like no other nation, they will explain and expand of Irish life like no book can. Their stories and fun facts will live long in the memory. Lavish accommodation, exclusive visits, inspiring adventures and an incredible train journey combine to ensure you will be truly enchanted by this captivating country.
A local chauffeur-guide will meet you at Dublin Airport and provide a safe and comfortable journey into Northern Ireland and its capital city, Belfast. It takes its name from the Gaelic Beal Feirste which translates to ‘mouth of the sandy ford’. It dates from the early 17th century and, although a relatively young settlement, is the island of Ireland’s second largest city. The 19th century was a golden age for Belfast; it experienced the full force of the Industrial Revolution and in 1888 was granted city status by Queen Victoria. Compact and intimate in size, it boasts a rich legacy of Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian architecture. This evening perhaps visit The Crown Bar, also known as the Crown Liquor Saloon. This Victorian Gin Palace is the most famous pub in Belfast. The incredible architecture is complimented by period gas lighting and cosy snugs built to accommodate the pub’s more reserved customers during the Victorian period.
Spend the morning at leisure, resting and relaxing following your international flight the previous day. Later, meet your chauffeur guide and spend the afternoon exploring the city. The majority of the city’s main streets radiate out from Donegall Square where you can see magnificent City Hall which was commissioned to reflect Belfast’s newly-granted city status. See the nearby Grand Opera House, an exuberant late-Victorian building designed by Frank Matcham, and St. Anne’s Cathedral - a magnificent Romanesque building from which the Cathedral Quarter of the city takes its name. Belfast is known for its turbulent political past. The Troubles refers to the thirty-year conflict between nationalists and unionists, with violence commonplace on the streets of Northern Ireland. See the many political murals found across the city - historical, sporting, industrial and literary; these pieces of public art provide a real insight into the local culture and traditions. Many are painted on the ‘peace walls’ which were built as temporary measures to separate the conflicting communities. The most famous of these sits between the Loyalist Shankill Road and the Irish Republican Falls Road - the best viewing section is on the Shankill side where visitors can add their signatures to those of the Dalai Lama and former US President Clinton. The city is also known as the birthplace of the most famous ship in the world: RMS Titanic. At the end of the day head into the Titanic Quarter to see the huge cranes of the Harland and Wolff shipyard, affectionately known by the locals as Samson and Goliath, before visiting Titanic Belfast. It consists of nine galleries that create a fascinating and interactive way in which to tell the story of the ship, which sunk on its maiden voyage in 1912.
Alongside Belfast, the Causeway Coast was named by Lonely Planet as the number one region to visit in 2018, as well as having been rated as one of the Top Five Road Trips worldwide. In its entirety it stretches 120 miles and is an ever-changing tapestry of scenery and colours, set against a dramatic coastal backdrop that will take your breath away. In recent years the route has become popular with fans of Game of Thrones, with many filming locations found dotted along the route. The pièce de résistance is the Giant’s Causeway, which was justifiably awarded World Heritage status in 1986. At the heart of one of Europe’s most magnificent coastlines, for millions of years it has stood as a natural rampart against the unbridled ferocity of Atlantic storms. A privately reserved local guide will help you discover this area of outstanding natural beauty that is frequently referred to as the ‘Eighth Natural Wonder of the World’.
Take a giant step back in time with a visit to the Brú na Bóinne or the Boyne Valley. It’s a landscape riddled with passage tombs, sacred hills, monastic ruins and bloody battlefields. Some sites predate Egypt’s pyramids, giving it the moniker, the ‘Irish Valley of the Kings’. In recognition of its understanding universal value, the area was inscribed as a World Heritage Site in 1993. Continue south thereafter to Dublin, the Republic of Ireland’s vibrant capital city.
The day commences at EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum Dublin, step through 20 themed galleries with a private tour guide who will give you a unique insight into the compelling story of how Irish emigrants and their descendants helped to influence and shape the world. Learn tales of triumph and tragedy, great success and even greater loss that will give you a deeper understanding of Irish people and culture. Later, meet a privately reserved local guide to venture off the beaten track to discover the origins of Irish dancing and visit some of the landmarks of Irish cultural history in the city. Explore underground Gaelic bars, see where people from across the Emerald Isle took over the mayor’s residence to dance and sing, and listen to some live traditional music. Your guide, who comes from a family of Irish dancers, will entertain and educate throughout the experience, ensuring you have a fun afternoon and learn a few dance steps along the way.
Meet your personal guide who will take you to discover Dublin’s culinary highlights on a special walking tour through the city. Your guide will entertain with snippets on the history of Irish food and the city along the way, pointing out interesting and quirky architecture as you pass. You’ll be taken into a range of independently-owned shops and eateries where you’ll have the opportunity to meet some of the local purveyors and makers who will be more than happy to share their stories and experience. At each stop, a specially prepared treat will be waiting for you to try. Though the portions are all sample and starter sized, it is best to skip lunch to enjoy the experience to the full. Spend the afternoon at leisure, perhaps taking time to shop for souvenirs and gifts for friends and family back home. Grafton Street is the city’s most fashionable walkway, while the Design Centre, set in the 18th century, is full of independent boutiques.
This morning, experience the highlight of your trip as you step aboard The Grand Hibernian and into a shimmering world of indulgence — contemporary carriages inspired by Dublin’s architecture, fine cuisine enhanced with local delicacies and an ever-changing backdrop of Ireland’s celebrated landscapes. Settle in to your elegant private cabin and anticipate an unforgettable journey. Each day brings a new adventure, with highlights including inspiring destinations, world-class cuisine and traditional entertainment as evening falls.
The train returns to Dublin Heuston Station where a local chauffeur-guide will meet you to take you on the next part of this incredible journey. Travel south to Cork, Ireland’s southernmost city. It has a history dating back to the 6th century; it was founded on islands in an estuary, where the River Lee joins the world’s second largest natural harbour. Waterways circle the city centre crossed by over 20 bridges. Hilly neighbourhoods stacked with colourful houses climb the river banks; combined with narrow alleys and Georgian architecture the city has an attractive Continental feel.
Enjoy a private walking tour with a specialist guide in the port of Cobh; a place that is known for its maritime and emigration legacy. Cobh was the main embarkation point for the millions that left the country either through convict transportation or emigration. From the time of the devastating Potato Famine of the 1840s, through to 1950, over 2.5 million Irish people left the country. The tour combines the fascinating Titanic Trail with a visit to the Queenstown Story at Cobh Heritage Centre. The exhibition outlines the often dangerous 12-week sea voyage to the States and takes you through the conditions of the boats often referred to as ‘Coffin Ships’ due to the appalling conditions on board, hazards at sea and high fatality rate. Remarkable displays capture the human reality of emigration, and the significant importance of the port in world affairs such as the sinking of RMS Titanic and Lusitania. Cobh has the dubious distinction of being the last port of call for both.
Explore the Beara Peninsula. It is a route considerably less travelled than its more famous northerly neighbours, however it delivers stunning scenery at each turn on the road. It is as area of rugged and dramatic landscape with finger-like promontories stretching out into the Atlantic Ocean.
Following on from the brief visit taken whilst on board the Grand Hibernian, return to the Killarney National Park. It is a place renowned for its beauty; Ireland’s highest mountains raise a jagged edge to the sky while at their feet rest three still lakes (Upper Lake, Muckross Lake and Lough Leane), studded with little islands. The moody water scenery is change to subtle changes of light and colour; the area has attracted writers, poets and painters for centuries. Reserved privately, enjoy a leisurely stroll through the majestic settings of Killarney with falconer and hawk. It’s hard not to be impressed by the ability of the trained birds and the relationship they have their human partners. You’ll then have the chance to be the falconer - get up close and enjoy the interactive experience as the hawks showcase their hunting techniques, swooping down from tree tops and weaving through branches, before gliding majestically to land on your gloved fist with all the weight of feather.
Following the coastline of the Iveragh Peninsula, the Ring of Kerry is possibly Ireland’s most famous scenic drive. It encounters some of the country’s finest landscapes, weaving around a breath-taking mosaic of rugged, storm-bashed coast, steep mountains, medieval ruins, slate-coloured glacial lakes and welcoming towns and villages.
Travel to your final property, Ballyfin. Described as a “Regency mansion house with classical grandeur, set in sprawling grounds of lakes and rolling hills”, Ballyfin has long been admired as the most lavish Regency mansion in Ireland. Originally built in the 1820s, the house reopened in 2011, after eight years of restoration. This property has joined the prestigious Relais & Châteaux collection, and garner widespread acclaim for its unique combination of modern luxury with romantic period detailing. It offers the very best of Irish hospitality in the most beautiful surroundings imaginable.
The Irish National Stud is 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.
Spend the day enjoying the beautiful property. The hotel has been designed as a home-away from-home, making the experience entirely intimate. Enjoy estate-grown food prepared by award-winning chefs, take part in wine and whiskey tastings in the cellar, enjoy treatment in the spa, swim, or simply spend an afternoon in the large library, finishing with a fireside cocktail in the Ballyfin Bar. Perhaps ask the Butler to take you on a leisurely boat trip on the lake, enjoy a sumptuous picnic in a private location, or take a tour of the demesne in a carriage led by a pony. There are also many exciting outdoor activities offered. Savour the thrill of clay pigeon shooting, master the ancient art of archery, or embark on a horse ride – there is over 600 acres to be explored.
A local chauffeur-guide will bring the trip to a conclusion by providing a transfer to Dublin Airport.
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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