Across the Emerald Isle, historic treasures and a vibrant culture intermingle against a landscape that is endlessly magnificent. In the company of local archaeologists and historians, visit some of Ireland’s most intriguing monuments—from prehistoric monoliths in the Burren to the crumbling Rock of Cashel—and uncover mysteries from the Neolithic, Bronze Age, and medieval eras. Delve into the Gaeltacht while exploring the windswept Connemara and fishing villages on the stunning Dingle Peninsula, where Irish traditions hold strong. Then venture to the lesser-known County Mayo and set out from our base at a medieval castle to explore some of Ireland’s wildest landscapes.
Visit ancient sacred sites known as holy wells with a medievalist historian who worked on a National Geographic- sponsored project to preserve them.
Join an archaeologist at the Irish National Museum in Dublin to examine prehistoric artifacts and fascinating “bog bodies.”
Witness traditional Irish farming practices in Connemara, and hear about conservation efforts that earned the Burren and Cliffs of Moher Geopark a National Geographic World Legacy Award.
Itinerary - 10 Days
Day 1 — Dublin, Ireland
Arrive in Dublin and transfer to our hotel. This afternoon, set out on a walking tour to see the city's charming historic center. Then visit the archaeology branch of the National Museum of Ireland. Join an archaeology expert here for an in-depth look at Early Bronze Age gold and jewelry, prehistoric weaponry, and Iron Age “bog bodies.” Cap off the tour with a visit to Sweny’s Pharmacy, featured in James Joyce’s novel Ulysses. The Dylan Hotel (D)
Day 2 — Dublin/Kilkenny
Begin the day in the Old Library at Trinity College, home to the illuminated manuscript known as the Book of Kells. Then drive to Kilkenny, a charming medieval town with narrow, winding streets, a 12th-century castle, and many well-preserved churches and monasteries. Check in to our hotel and enjoy dinner on your own this evening. Pembroke Kilkenny (B,L)
Day 3 — Kilkenny
Join a local guide for a tour of Kilkenny. Explore
Kilkenny Castle, and visit the former stables, converted into a design center that houses the National Craft Gallery. Enjoy lunch at the historic Kyteler’s Inn, sip a pint at the Smithwick’s Experience, and climb the ninth-century tower of St. Canice’s Cathedral. Pembroke Kilkenny (B,L)
Day 4 — Rock Of Cashel/Blarney/Killarney
Head west to the Rock of Cashel, an imposing fortress atop a shamrock-green hill. Step inside the age-old ramparts to discover a Gothic cathedral, high crosses, and a beautifully preserved Romanesque chapel. Then drive to Blarney Castle, home to the legendary Blarney Stone which is said to confer the “gift of gab” on those who kiss it. Continue to Killarney after lunch, stopping in the Gaeltacht town of Ballyvourney to meet with a local medievalist and learn about his work on a National Geographic-sponsored project to preserve Ireland’s holy wells.
Killarney Park Hotel (B,L,D)
Day 5 — Dingle Peninsula/Killarney
Trace the rocky, wave-beaten coastline of the Dingle Peninsula on one of Ireland’s most scenic drives. Peek into ancient beehive huts that dot steep hillsides, and walk through the seemingly endless shallows at Inch beach. Stop at a local pottery shop, and then tour the colorful seaside town of Dingle, where traditional Irish language and lifestyle still flourish. Later this afternoon, take an optional hike in Killarney National Park.
Killarney Park Hotel (B,L)
Day 6 — Cliffs of Moher/The Burren National Park
Depart Killarney, crossing from Kerry to Clare counties by ferry. Travel along the Wild Atlantic Way, toward the spectacular Cliffs of Moher, which rise more than 700 feet above the crashing North Atlantic. Then drive through the Burren National Park, an otherworldly limestone landscape strewn with megalithic markings, and marvel at the ancient portal tomb of Poulnabrone Dolmen. Travel to our hotel, nestled in the heart of the Burren. Enjoy a talk about local conservation efforts that led to the Burren and Cliffs of Moher Geopark receiving a 2016 National Geographic World Legacy Award. Gregan’s Castle Hotel (B,D)
Day 7 — The Burren/Galway/County Mayo
Meet the chocolatiers at the award-winning Hazel Mountain Chocolate factory, and sample their artisanal bean-to-bar creations. Then travel to the coastal city of Galway and tour this vibrant center for Irish art, music, and theater. Our next destination is the majestic Ashford Castle, a National Geographic Unique Lodge of the World that serves as a gateway to the georgeous landscapes of County Mayo. As National Geographic guests, we’ll have the exclusive opportunity to step back in time with the on-site historian, who will share tales from the long and colorful history of this meticulously restored 800-year-old castle. Tonight, dine in the hotel’s elegant George V Dining Room.
Ashford Castle (B,D)
Day 8 — Connemara/County Mayo
Get a feel for traditional farm life in the Connemara region during a private tour of the Dan O’Hara Homestead. Then take a scenic drive along the Sky Road, which follows the spectacular Irish coast over sheep-dotted hills, past vertical cliffs and long beaches, and through lively towns. Stop for a sheep-herding demonstration before returning to the castle. This afternoon, set off on a self-guided nature walk around the property’s parklands or simply relax and enjoy the castle’s amenities.
Ashford Castle (B,L)
Day 9 — County Mayo/Dublin
Take the morning to go on an optional excursion from the castle by kayak, bike, or horseback, before returning to Dublin for an afternoon at leisure. Enjoy a private tasting with a local whiskey expert, followed by a farewell dinner. The Dylan Hotel (B,D)
Justin Kavanagh is the editor of the National Geographic Traveler: Ireland 5th Edition guidebook. Justin grew up in County Wicklow, the “garden of Ireland.” He studied English literature and philosophy at University College Dublin before leaving his homeland to work in London, Tokyo, Philadelphia, New York City, and Washington D.C. Justin’s career in journalism began at the Irish Press in Dublin, and he has written widely on current affairs, culture, and sport for The Globalist online magazine (Washington, D.C.), The Independent (London), 90:00 (San Diego), The Title (Dublin), and In Dublin magazine. Justin was an editor for National Geographic International Editions, which publishes magazines, books, and other media in more than 35 languages; he was also a senior editor for National Geographic Travel Books.
Travelers should be in good health and comfortable walking or standing for extended periods of time. Daily activities may include city walking tours, visits to sites, game drives, or easy hikes, with options for more physical activities such as hiking, kayaking, snorkeling and biking.
Click here for a description of all activity levels.