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Gaelic Adventure: Ireland's Cultural Capitals & Northwest Counties - 2019

Dublin • Cork • Killarney • Galway • Donegal • Belfast
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Ireland is many things to many people. Emerald glens and magical, moody woodlands. Ancient villages where deeply held folk traditions are as thick as the thatched rooftops. Lively pubs where your pint comes with a chaser of friendly conversation. Dramatic history whose echoes wind through burren and bog, cottage and castle. And of course, a legendary wit that sparkles as bright as the wild Atlantic Coast. Come discover the Ireland of your dreams — and the one you never dreamed existed — on this exclusive, in-depth adventure that introduces you to both the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland. 

Beginning in the lively capital of Dublin, we take an unusual counterclockwise route that shows the beauty of the south and west coasts to best advantage. You’ll kiss the Blarney Stone, ride a "jaunting car" through Killarney, tap your toes to the music of Galway, be the lunch guest of a Cork family, retrace the immigrant pathways at the Ulster American Folk Park, and pinch yourself as the beauty of the Ring of Kerry, Dingle Peninsula, the Cliffs of Moher, and other spectacular locales unfolds before you. Because we travel in a small group, your entrée to Irish culture and hospitality will be as intimate and authentic as possible. And because this is Vantage, you can be assured of the best value in deluxe Irish travel, bar none.

Dublin to Belfast

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DAY 1:

Depart home / Fly overnight to Dublin, Ireland

Your Gaelic adventure begins with an overnight flight to Dublin.

DAY 2:

Arrive in Dublin and enjoy a savory dinner

If you’ve purchased your airfare through Vantage, upon arrival you’ll be met at the airport and assisted with your included transfer to our hotel in the heart of Dublin’s most popular district. The rest of the day is yours to relax, or perhaps enjoy brunch at the hotel. This evening we’ll enjoy a Welcome Dinner at the hotel.

Included Meals:


DAY 3:

Highlights of Dublin plus optional Guinness Storehouse tour and Literary Pub Crawl

After a hearty Irish breakfast we’ll set out to see the city’s main sights, including lovely Phoenix Park, 1,750 acres of woodlands, lakes, historic buildings and its own herd of wild fallow deer. Today’s tour includes a visit to prestigious Trinity College to view the famous Book of Kells, a stunning illuminated manuscript of the four gospels. Dating back to around 800 AD, it is Ireland's most precious medieval artifact. It's also of particular interest to Star Wars fans, too, since the library here inspired a pivotal scene in George Lucas's Attack of the Clones. The rest of the day is yours to relax, explore on your own, or join our optional excursion to the Guinness Storehouse and Literary Pub Crawl.

Included Meals:

Optional Tour: Guinness Storehouse Tour and Literary Pub Crawl

Guinness Storehouse Tour and Literary Pub Crawl

  • Approximate Cost: $99 USD per person
  • Approximate Time: 5 hours
  • Location: Dublin, Ireland
  • When: Afternoon Tour
Get a real taste of Irish culture—and one of Dublin’s most amazing views—when you tour the recently reopened Guinness Storehouse. Honoring one of the Emerald Isle’s most famous beverages, you’ll step back in time and learn about the family that founded the brewery, their 999-year lease, and the historic St. James’ Gate neighborhood. You’ll sample plenty of this dry stout, and enjoy some time to relax in the stunning rooftop bar at the end of your insightful tour. Round out your tour with literary pub crawl, a walking tour of Dublin's most historic places to toast. Spirited actors will introduce some of the most famous works of literature from Ireland's storied history and perform scenes punctuating your on-foot explorations today.

DAY 4:

Explore Dublin on your own, or enjoy our optional Glendalough, Wicklow & Powerscourt Garden tour

Wake up to a full Irish breakfast, then set out to explore Dublin as you like it. Your Adventure Leader will be on hand with plenty of ideas for what to do. Perhaps you’ll visit the Jameson Distillery for a little pep in your step before trekking to St. Patrick's Cathedral, the largest in Dublin and the national cathedral of the Church of Ireland. It was built between 1220 and 1259 on the site where, centuries earlier, St. Patrick is said to have baptized Christian converts. If you’re an art lover, peek into the National Gallery to admire works by Renaissance masters as well as a fine French Impressionist collection. You might also do some shopping along famous Grafton Street, then pop into one of the Temple Bar pubs for lunch or a late afternoon pint. Alternatively, you can join our optional tour to Glendalough, Wicklow & Powerscourt Garden, which reveals a stunning and historic part of Ireland you might not otherwise see. Travel with us through a glorious mountain valley, discover the ancient monastic site of Glendalough, and explore the 18th-century estate at Powerscourt, with 47 acres of splendid gardens.

Included Meals:

Optional Tour: Glendalough, Wicklow, & Powerscourt Gardens

Glendalough, Wicklow, & Powerscourt Gardens

  • Approximate Cost: $99 USD per person
  • Approximate Time: 6 hours
  • Location: Dublin, Ireland
  • When: Morning to mid-afternoon
Travel south of Dublin to beautiful County Wicklow, where you will explore the spectacular Powerscourt Gardens, a 45-acre extravaganza of formal gardens, sweeping terraces, exquisite statues and ornamental lakes. With more than 200 varieties of trees and shrubs, Powerscourt has been described as one of Europe's greatest gardens. From here we visit Glendalough, one of Ireland’s oldest and most important monasteries, founded by St. Kevin in the 6th century. Set between two idyllic lakes, its most prominent feature is the iconic High Tower where monks stored precious manuscripts and artifacts. We’ll return to Dublin on a scenic route that features the Wicklow Mountains.

DAY 5:

Discover the treasures of Kilkenny

Unforgettable Moment and Multigenerational Feature: This morning, depart Dublin, first pausing in Kilkenny to visit the famous Black Abbey, a medieval priory built in 1225 by the Dominican order. It has withstood floods, famines, and many political upheavals in its centuries-old mission to uphold Catholicism in Ireland. You’ll also enjoy a delightful minitrain tour from the Black Abbey to Kilkenny Castle. At the castle, you’ll behold a massive lawn that leads to an imposing fortified heritage site. It was the ancestral home of the Butler family, with a history that goes back to the 12th century, and an interior design, furnishings, and artwork that reflects the Irish Victorian style. Cultural Discovery: While here we’ll stop in the Kilkenny Design Centre, which features the National Craft Gallery, workshops, and boutiques where you can purchase top-quality handicrafts, food items, and gifts.

Back in the village of Kilkenny you’ll have time to browse and enjoy lunch on your own before we proceed to our hotel in Castlemartyr. The balance of the day is yours to relax at your stunning hotel, the Castlemartyr Resort. A 5-star escape nestled in the countryside, you'll enjoy all of the modern amenities but a true sense of history and luxury in this 18th-century manor house. Dinner is included at the hotel.

Included Meals:

Breakfast & Dinner

DAY 6:

Panoramic Cork views, Titanic walking tour, home-hosted lunch in Cobh

We'll make our way to Cobh beginning with a panoramic tour of Cork, a compact, 800-year-old city whose attractions include the busy English Market, the 18th-century Huguenot Quarter, and the magnificent French neo-Gothic cathedral. In Cobh, we'll meet up with a local author who will lead us on a walking tour of this town, the last port of call of the RMS Titanic, and give us insights into life here at the time and other interesting Titanic tidbits. 

Cultural Discovery: Then, enjoy fun and fellowship this afternoon when we split into small groups and join some local Cobh families in their homes. Along with an authentic Irish lunch, you’ll relish some true Irish hospitality and trade notes about life — always a traveler favorite! Enjoy the rest of the afternoon at leisure in the splendid Castlemartyr Resort.

Included Meals:

Breakfast  & Lunch

DAY 7:

Killarney "jaunting car" excursion and Muckross House & Gardens

This morning we depart Castlemartyr bound for an iconic Irish landmark. Unforgettable Moment: Ready to cross the most quintessential of Irish to-do’s off your list? Prepare your lips for a visit to the Blarney Stone, where lore holds that snogging this 600-year-old landmark bestows you with the gift of gab and that characteristic crackling Irish wit. Afterwards, we'll head to the medieval city of Killarney.

Cultural Discovery and Unforgettable Moment: Discover Killarney’s iconic beauty and charm as we ride through town aboard traditional, single horse-drawn carriages called “jaunting cars.” Our destination is Muckross House, a Victorian mansion situated on the grounds of Killarney National Park. Afterwards, we’ll check into the Dunloe Hotel and enjoy an included dinner.

Included Meals:

Breakfast & Dinner

DAY 8:

A day of spectacular scenery on the Ring of Kerry

Today we’ll do a deep dive into the famous West, a region that encapsulates some of the best and most dramatic aspects of the Irish landscape. Unforgettable Moment: We’ll set upon the renowned Ring of Kerry, a route dotted by idyllic coves, fishing villages, rugged headlands, and craggy valleys. Our drive will take us through one of the most scenic parts of the country, and a few highlights include Molls Gap, Kenmare, and the Caha Pass. We’ll have lunch along the way, then make our way back to Killarney, where you’ll have the remainder of the afternoon to explore. Killarney town abounds with shops and pubs and there is also a cathedral and Franciscan friary. Shuttle service from the hotel puts it all within your reach. Dinner will be on your own.

Included Meals:

Breakfast  & Lunch

DAY 9:

Breathtaking beauty on the Dingle Peninsula

After breakfast, we’ll embark on a full-day excursion to one of Ireland’s most scenic regions. Multigenerational Feature and Unforgettable Moment: Traveling north from Killarney, we make our way to the famous Dingle Peninsula, which boasts more archaeological monuments than any landscape in western Europe. But what impresses most here is the sweeping, cinematic grandeur of the wild Atlantic scenery. We will travel to the westernmost point of Europe, Slea Head, passing glittering coves, rugged mountains, and ancient Gaeltacht (Irish-speaking) communities dotted with beehive-like huts. If you find yourself imagining what it must be like to live here, you’ll find plenty of answers at the Blasket Centre, a heritage museum that chronicles daily life on the nearby islands and on Dingle itself. After admiring the exhibits which include artwork, architecture, vignettes, and videos, we’ll make our way to Dingle town where you will find plenty of options for lunch on your own. Late afternoon brings us back to our hotel, where you will have time to relax before tonight’s festivities.

Multigenerational Feature and Cultural Discovery: Look forward to Traditional Irish Night at Kate Kearney’s Cottage, a famous inn on the Gap of Dunloe that has been operated by the same family for 150 years. Kate herself ran a síbín (illicit pub) in the 1840s, and the good cheer and hospitality that made her a legend still prevails. We’ll enjoy an unforgettable evening of traditional Irish cuisine and rollicking entertainment that includes costumed folk dancers, and musicians playing instruments such as the fiddle, mandolin, bodhrán, uilleann pipes, and tin whistle.

Included Meals:

Breakfast & Dinner

DAY 10:

Scenic and cultural marvels along the Cliffs of Moher and the Wild Atlantic Way

Bid farewell to County Kerry as we head north to County Clare, crossing the Shannon River via ferry, and gradually making our way to Galway. Multigenerational Feature and Unforgettable Moment: Today you will behold the iconic Cliffs of Moher — a highlight of Irish travel. Admire the crashing surf as the rocky precipices tower 700 feet above the Atlantic, with kittiwakes, puffins, and razorbills roosting in the cliffs. A stop at the Visitors’ Centre provides fascinating background on the region’s geology, flora, fauna, and folk legends.

Continuing north, you’ll be awed by the scenery of the Wild Atlantic Way, the world’s longest defined coastal touring route. Multigenerational Feature and Cultural Discovery: Entering County Galway, we stop to explore Rathbaun Farm, a family-owned sheep farm that sprawls over 80 glorious acres. We’ll visit the stone and thatch farmhouse and outlying cottages, learning about traditional farm life from our genial hosts, and enjoying sheep dog and sheep-shearing demonstrations. If you're on one of our spring departures, perhaps you’ll help bottle feed the newborn lambs. We’ll also participate in a hands-on scone-making lesson and of course, sample the flaky treats with some hot Irish tea. We’ll proceed from here to Galway, arriving just before dinner, which we’ll enjoy together at our hotel.

Included Meals:

Breakfast & Dinner

DAY 11:

Galway at your leisure or optional Cnoc Suain

Historic, bohemian Galway is considered Ireland’s music capital — and it has the pubs, buskers,  and concert venues to prove it! You will have a free day to discover them for yourself, but first, an included walking tour helps to orient you to the city’s other attractions. Walk along the Spanish Arch, a riverside remnant of the medieval walls, to the imposing Galway Cathedral. Perhaps you’ll browse the Galway Market, a riot of artwork, handicrafts, and local food. At the Hall of the Red Earl, you’ll learn about the ancient de Burgo family, one the infamous “Tribes of Galway,” whose further exploits are chronicled at the Galway City Museum.

Alternately, you may join in an afternoon optional tour to Cnoc Suain, a restored 17th-century living history village nestled in the Connemara bogland. Committed to sustainable tourism and cultural immersion, you'll meet a native Gaelic speaker (musician) and her husband (an educator and scientist).

Enjoy dinner on your own tonight.

Included Meals:

Optional Tour: Cnoc Suain Living History Village

Cnoc Suain Living History Village

  • Approximate Cost: $79 USD per person
  • Approximate Time: 4 hours
  • Location: Galway, Ireland
  • When: Afternoon Tour
Immerse yourself in 17th-century Irish rural life at Cnoc Suain, a restored 17th-century village set amidst 200 acres of Connemara bogland. Cnoc Suain has won prestigious awards for its authenticity and its commitment to sustainable tourism and cultural immersion. Your hosts here are Dearbhaill Standún, a musician and native Gaelic speaker, and her husband, Charlie Troy, an educator and natural scientist. They will each share their particular expertise as we explore the grounds and enjoy a fireside chat in an authentic thatched cottage before returning to our hotel.

DAY 12:

On to Donegal via Ashford Castle and the Yeats Memorial

This morning we depart Galway and ride to the pier at Oughterrard, where we embark on a scenic cruise across Lake Corrib to Ashford Castle. Unforgettable Moment: Ashford began life in the 13th century as a monastery but is now an historic property (and 5-star member of the Leading Hotels of the World.) Sprawling and romantic, it was used as a backdrop for the famous John Ford-John Wayne film, The Quiet Man. We’ll explore the castle’s opulent grounds and chambers, and have an elegant lunch here on the castle grounds.

Leaving Ashford, we make our way to Donegal, stopping along the way in Drumcliff at the cemetery at St. Columba’s Church. Here lies the grave of one of Ireland’s (and the world’s) literary lions, William Butler Yeats. When we arrive in Donegal, you’ll have time to freshen up before we enjoy dinner at our hotel.

Included Meals:

Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

DAY 13:

Discover the Slieve League Cliffs and colorful Killybegs

 This day is dedicated to exploring Donegal’s natural and cultural wonders. Multigenerational Feature and Unforgettable Moment: Slieve League is a mountain on the Wild Atlantic Way outside Donegal, and although it is less well-known than famous Moher (which you saw earlier), its clifftop is three times higher, standing nearly 2,000 feet above the sea. We’ll ride here to take in the dizzying views, then descend to the quirky town of Killybegs. Ireland’s largest fishing port, it is set at the base of a deep, fjord-like inlet. Our walking tour points out some of the town’s most picturesque sights and leads us to the Maritime & Heritage Centre. It is housed in a former carpet factory, which was once (along with fishing) the source of the town’s most important industry. You’ll learn how the signature, Turkish-style Donegal carpets and tapestries were made, and even have a chance to try out hand-knotting on a loom.

The afternoon is free for you to relax at our stunning lakeside resort, or explore Donegal as you wish. Tonight, celebrate your Irish idyll at a lovely Farewell Dinner in our hotel’s lakeside restaurant.

Included Meals:

Breakfast & Dinner

DAY 14:

Celebrate the ties that bind at the Ulster American Folk Park, then discover Belfast

This morning we’ll cross into County Tyrone, part of Ulster province in Northern Ireland, and head for the town of Omagh. Multigenerational Feature and Cultural Discovery: Did your ancestors hail from Ireland? What was life like for them? What prompted the great waves of Irish immigration to America in the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries? Today you will learn their stories at the Ulster American Folk Park, one of the National Museums of Northern Ireland. We’ll explore some of the 30 buildings and numerous exhibits where actors in period dress introduce us to the challenges and joys of everyday Irish life. There are many hands-on exhibits, farm animals, food demonstrations, a replica of an immigrant sailing ship, and a “New World” section that recreates the American homes these hardy pioneers established.

After an independent lunch, we'll continue to the capital, Belfast, where you'll enjoy a panoramic tour. Cultural Discovery: Before dinner in the hotel restaurant, you can attend an informative lecture at our hotel on the Irish Peace Process, and learn about Belfast’s important role in that struggle. 

Included Meals:

Breakfast & Dinner

DAY 15:

Belfast / Return home or stay on for your post-trip extension

Transfer to the airport for your flight home, or remain in Belfast to enjoy your post-trip extension.

Included Meals:


Important Notice: The above day-by-day itineraries are preliminary and therefore subject to change. If changes occur while on tour, you will be notified by your Vantage Adventure Leader or regional expert.

Please Note: The hotels listed are preliminary and subject to change. Although we contract our hotels a year in advance, unforeseen situations do occasionally occur. Should it be necessary to change a hotel, one of equal quality and value will be substituted. You will receive verified hotel information with your final itinerary. That hotel ratings are based on the hotel and a leading travel industry authority on hotels throughout the world.

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Gaelic Adventure: Ireland's Cultural Capitals & Northwest Counties - 2019

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