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Gaelic Adventure: Ireland's Cultural Capitals & Northwest Counties - 2020

Dublin • Cork • Killarney • Galway • Donegal • Belfast
  • $389
  • 14
  • 31
15 DAYS FROM $6,048
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Belfast, Northern Ireland

4 DAYS FROM $1,499

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For such a small country, Ireland certainly looms large on the universal stage. From celebrated music to its friendly citizens, the spoils of the Emerald Isle may already feel familiar — until now. This 14-day Irish adventure features a strategic clockwise route that reveals the country’s verdant coastline in the most beautiful and well-paced way while checking off the classic to-dos and uncovering the remote gems of this storied destination. Drinking and literature in Dublin? Check. Discovering farm life in County Galway? Check. Lunching with locals in their home? Check! You’ll also revel in 5-star accommodations — including the sprawling Castlemartyr Resort and the historic Lough Eske Castle Hotel & Spa (built in 1474!) — in between viewing the beloved Book of Kells, kissing the Blarney Stone, embarking on a "jaunting car" ride through Killarney, marveling at nature along the Ring of Kerry and the Dingle Peninsula, and more! 

With 20 included sightseeing excursions, including the Cliffs of Moher and the lesser known Slieve League Cliffs, and 11 Cultural Discoveries to enhance your understanding of both contemporary and historic Irish life, this small-group adventure gets even better with a journey to Northern Ireland and Belfast, including an optional three-day extension in the charming and revitalized capital city. With its sociopolitical and Titanic history, Belfast is just the tip of the iceberg on this epic Irish getaway that offers history, music, literature, food, drink, and merriment in spades. Talk about good luck!

Dublin to Belfast

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DAY 1:

Fly to Dublin, Ireland

Your Gaelic adventure begins with an overnight flight to Dublin.

DAY 2:

Arrive in Dublin and enjoy a hearty 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, in walking distance from pubs, restaurants, shopping, and other attractions. The rest of the day is yours to relax, or perhaps enjoy brunch at the hotel. This evening we’ll gather for a Welcome Dinner at the hotel.

Included Meals:


DAY 3:

Dublin highlights, 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 Phoenix Park — 1,750 acres of woodlands, lakes, historic buildings and its own herd of wild fallow deer. Today’s tour also brings you to prestigious Trinity College to view Ireland’s most precious medieval artifact, the Book of Kells, an illuminated manuscript of the four gospels that dates back to around 800 AD. The book is 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. Delve into the history of Ireland’s most famous beer on optional excursion to the Guinness Storehouse before a lively Literary Pub Crawl; or, take the rest of the day to relax or explore Dublin on your own from your well-located hotel in the heart of the city.

Included Features:

  • Dublin city tour
  • Trinity College visit
  • Viewing of the Book of Kells
  • Dublin castle

Included Meals:

Optional Tour: Guinness Storehouse & Literary Pub Crawl

Guinness Storehouse & Literary Pub Crawl

  • Approximate Cost: $99 USD per person
  • Approximate Time: 4-5 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. A spirited actor 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, and take an optional tour to Glendalough, Wicklow, & Powerscourt Gardens

Explore Dublin as you like it today. Your Adventure Leader will be on hand to offer plenty of ideas for what to see and visit. 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. If you’re an art lover, peek into the National Gallery for works by Renaissance masters as well as a fine French Impressionist collection. You might also do some shopping along renowned 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. You’ll travel south to Wicklow County and 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 Abbey & Powerscourt

Glendalough Abbey & Powerscourt

  • Approximate Cost: $129 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, Wicklow Gap, and Blessington Lake.

DAY 5:

Discover Kilkenny’s treasures

One of the best pleasures of any road trip is meandering off the beaten route for the chance to discover something hidden, unexpected, and unknown. As we depart Dublin for County Cork, we’ll make a pit stop in Ireland’s smallest city, Kilkenny, home to several medieval buildings including the Black Abbey and Kilkenny Castle, a 12th-century manor and the onetime residence of several royal families. From the abbey, we’ll take a minitrain tour of Kilkenny to its castle, then we’ll explore the Kilkenny of now: An arts and crafts hub, as you’ll soon uncover at the Kilkenny Design Centre, home of the National Craft Gallery — the perfect place to pick up a few gifts and specialty items before lunch in the village.

After checking in to our hotel, enjoy the rest of the day relaxing at the stunning Castlemartyr Resort. At this 5-star escape, you’ll enjoy all modern amenities but a true sense of history and luxury in this 18th-century manor house. Dinner is at the hotel tonight.

Included Features:

  • Minitrain tour of Kilkenny with visit to Kilkenny Castle
  • View the Black Abbey

Cultural Discovery:

  • Visit the Kilkenny Design Centre

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. 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.

Vantage Exclusive:

  • Home-hosted lunch with Cobh families
Included Feature:
  • Panoramic tour of Cork, with Titanic history walk

Included Meals:

Breakfast  & Lunch

DAY 7:

Blarney Stone, Killarney “jaunting car” excursion, and Muckross House & Gardens

This morning we depart Castlemartyr bound for an iconic Irish landmark. Ready to cross the most quintessential of Irish to-do’s off your list? Ready 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.

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 our Killarney hotel and enjoy an included dinner at the hotel.

Included Features:

  • Blarney Castle visit
  • Killarney city tour, with Muckross House excursion
Cultural Discovery:
  • “Jaunting car” ride

Included Meals:

Breakfast & Dinner

DAY 8:

A day of spectacular scenery on the Ring of Kerry

Today we’ll leave County Cork behind and set off for County Kerry, a region brimming with some of Ireland’s most renowned and dramatic landscapes. To get us there, we’ll begin our drive down the spectacular Ring of Kerry and savor unhindered countryside views. From Molls Gap to Kenmare, this is classic Ireland — stony hillsides dotted with sheep, fog-shrouded mountains, and narrow lanes hugged by greenery. 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 the town’s shops, pubs, cathedral, and Franciscan friary. Shuttle service from the hotel puts it all within your reach. Dinner will be on your own.

Included Feature:
  • Ring of Kerry tour, with lunch in a local restaurant

Included Meals:

Breakfast  & Lunch

DAY 9:

The Dingle Peninsula’s breathtaking beauty

A full day on the Dingle Peninsula bestows us with expansive and cinematic panoramas in yet another superlatively gorgeous region. Traveling north from Killarney, we make our way to the famous Dingle Peninsula, which boasts more archaeological monuments than any other 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’s like to live here, you’ll find plenty of answers at the Blasket Centre, a heritage museum chronicling daily life on the nearby islands and on Dingle itself. After admiring the exhibits of artwork, architecture, vignettes, and videos, we’ll make our way to Dingle town for lunch on your own. Late afternoon brings us back to our hotel for time to relax before tonight’s festivities. Experience a Traditional Irish Night at Kate Kearney’s Cottage, a famous inn on the Gap of Dunloe owned and 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 traditional instruments like the fiddle, mandolin, bodhrán, uilleann pipes, and tin whistle.

Included Feature:

  • Full-day Dingle Peninsula tour
Cultural Discoveries:
  • Blasket Centre visit
  • Irish Night at Kate Kearney’s Cottage with food, music, and storytelling

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. Today you will behold the iconic Cliffs of Moher — a highlight of Irish travel. At 700 feet above sea level, you can almost see back home to North America! One of Ireland’s most recognizable landmarks featured in many movies, these cliffs are also a breeding site for more than 30,000 nesting seabirds, and a home to feral goats. A stop at the Visitor’s Center provides more fascinating background on the region’s geology, flora, fauna, and folk legends.

Continuing north, discover the scenery on the world’s longest defined coastal route: the Wild Atlantic Way. 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. Perhaps you’ll lend a hand by feeding the newborn lambs before rolling out the pastry dough for fresh scones, which we’ll pop into the oven and enjoy with hot Irish tea. We’ll arrive in County Galway’s namesake city just before dinner, which we’ll enjoy together at our hotel.

Included Feature:

  • Shannon River ferry crossing
  • Cliffs of Moher excursion
Cultural Discovery:
  • Rathbaun Farm visit, with sheep shearing and scone-making

Included Meals:

Breakfast & Dinner

DAY 11:

Enjoy a charming Galway walking tour

Historic, bohemian Galway is considered Ireland’s music capital — and it has the pubs, buskers, and concert venues to prove it! Enjoy a free day to discover them for yourself, but first an included walking tour helps orient you to the city’s 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, the perfect entré into local art, handicrafts, and street 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. 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 Feature:

  • Galway walking tour

Included Meals:


DAY 12:

Donegal via Ashford Castle and the Yeats Memorial

This morning we depart Galway and embark on a scenic cruise across Lake Corrib to Ashford Castle. Ashford began life in the 13th century as a monastery but is now a 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 flick, The Quiet Man. We’ll explore the castle’s opulent grounds and chambers, and savor an elegant lunch and bagpipe performance here on the castle grounds.

Our next destination is Donegal, but first we’ll detour through the village of Drumcliff where we’ll find St. Columba’s Church. It’s here that the poetic pillar and Nobel Prize-winner W.B. Yeats is buried with a headstone bearing an epitaph that only the idiosyncratic poet could pen himself. When we arrive in Donegal, you’ll have time to freshen up before we enjoy dinner at our hotel.

Vantage Exclusive:

  • Ashford Castle excursion with lunch
Included Features:
  • Lake Corrib cruise
  • Drumcliffe village visit
Cultural Discovery:
  • Visit the burial site of William Butler Yeats
  • Enjoy a lively bagpipe performance;

Included Meals:

Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

DAY 13:

Discovering the Slieve League Cliffs and colorful Killybegs

This day is dedicated to exploring Donegal’s natural and cultural wonders, beginning with the Slieve League Cliffs. Slieve League may be lesser known than the Cliffs of Moher, but this coastal mountain is nearly three times higher. We’ll ride here to take in the dizzying views, then descend to the quirky town of Killybegs, Ireland’s largest fishing port. Our walking tour points out some of the town’s most picturesque sights and leads us to the Maritime & Heritage Centre, housed in a former carpet factory. Carpet was once (along with fishing) the town’s most important industry, and you’ll learn how the signature, Turkish-style Donegal carpets and tapestries were made, and even try out the hand-knotting technique on a loom. The afternoon is free for you to relax at our stunning lakeside resort or take a walk in the area. Tonight, celebrate your circumnavigation of Ireland at a lovely Farewell Dinner in our hotel’s lakeside restaurant.

Included Features:

  • Slieve League Cliffs visit
  • Killybegs village excursion
Cultural Discovery:
  • Weaving demo at the Maritime & Heritage Centre

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. We’ll begin our journey by looking to the past in Omagh’s Ulster American Folk Park. Here, we’ll learn all about the circumstances that sparked a mass exodus from Ireland in the 18th century, with most immigrants hailing from Ulster, once the site of a thriving textile industry. We’ll explore the museum’s numerous exhibits, including interactive features with actors in period dress who introduce the challenges and joys of everyday Irish life. After an independent lunch, we'll continue to the capital, Belfast, where you'll enjoy a panoramic tour. Before dinner in the hotel restaurant, attend an illuminating lecture at our hotel on the Irish Peace Process, and learn about Belfast’s important role in that struggle.

Included Features:

  • Morning excursion to Ulster American Folk Park museum
  • Guided Belfast city tour
Cultural Discovery:
  • Lecture on the Irish Peace Process

Included Meals:

Breakfast & Dinner

DAY 15:

Return home, or begin your post-trip extension in Belfast

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

Included Meals:


Post-Trip Extension

Belfast, Northern Ireland

FROM: $1499 PER PERSON | 4 DAYS | $375 PER DAY

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 - 2020

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