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The picture-perfect landscapes of the Emerald Isle hold stories of a celebrated and ancient history—a narrative told through the crumbling castle ruins, carved Celtic crosses, and mysterious beehive huts that dot the country. Uncover Ireland’s past as you stroll medieval Kilkenny, encounter Gaelic culture on the rugged western coast, and delve into the literary legacy of Dublin. Then take in some of the Irish countryside’s more surprising scenery: the stark limestone beauty of The Burren, and the raw, windswept coastlines of Connemara.
Explore the stunning Irish countryside during private, in-depth tours of The Burren, Connemara, the coastal landscapes of County Kerry, and more.
Wake up amid the regal splendor of
Ashford Castle, a meticulously restored medieval retreat and a National Geographic Unique Lodge of the World.
Watch sheep-herding and turf-cutting demonstrations, chat with chocolate makers, and meet a breeder of championship racing stallions.
Walk atop the iconic Cliffs of Moher, and then pop into a nearby pub to enjoy a pint and some traditional Irish music.
Itinerary - 9 Days
Day 1 — Arrive Dublin, Ireland
Land in Dublin, transfer to your hotel in the heart of the city, and enjoy the rest of the day at leisure. Consider a stroll through the landscaped gardens of St. Stephen’s Green; or visit the Guinness Storehouse and sip a pint of the famous black brew at the Gravity Bar, which offers panoramic views over the skyline.
The Dylan Hotel
Day 2 — Dublin
Set out on a private city tour, beginning at Trinity College. The university’s Old Library harbors the legendary Book of Kells, an illuminated manuscript created around 800 A.D. Examine some of the book’s intricately decorated pages before continuing to the city’s historic center. See exquisite examples of Georgian architecture at the Georgian Squares; and visit the National Museum of Ireland's archaeology branch to browse its collection of Celtic antiquities, Viking artifacts, and the fascinating bog bodies excavated from the country’s peat bogs. Cap off your tour at the old-fashioned Sweny’s Pharmacy, featured in James Joyce’s novel Ulysses.
The Dylan Hotel (B)
Day 3 — Kilkenny
Travel to medieval Kilkenny, stopping en route at the Irish National Stud. Founded in 1900, the stud has a long history of breeding championship racehorses. Meet a breeder and stroll the stalls for an up-close look at the center’s prized “living legends.” Then continue to Kilkenny, where you’ll be greeted by a local guide for a stroll along the “Medieval Mile” of enchanting alleyways and historical buildings. Continue to Kilkenny Castle for a private tour of its grand rooms and gardens, followed by an evening at leisure.
Pembroke Hotel (B)
Day 4 — Waterford/Blarney Castle/Killarney
Today, travelers may choose from two itineraries on the road to Killarney. Opt to start the day at the House of Waterford Crystal for a private tour of the factory, where artisans hand craft and cut the world-famous glassware. Continue to Blarney Castle, home to the legendary Blarney Stone. Tour the castle and climb the tower for your chance to kiss the stone—a ritual that is rumored to grant you the “gift of gab.”
Alternatively, you may choose to start your day at Blarney Castle, and then continue west to Killarney National Park in County Kerry. Explore this serene sanctuary in a horse-drawn jaunting car, riding along lake shorelines framed by rolling hills. See the Knockreer House, and visit Ross Castle—site of a resistance to Oliver Cromwell’s Roundheads during the Irish Confederate Wars.
The Malton (B)
Day 5 — Ring of Kerry or Dingle Peninsula
Choose between two of Ireland’s most scenic driving routes today: the Ring of Kerry or Dingle Peninsula. Travelers who opt for the Ring of Kerry will loop through rolling emerald mountains, past sparkling lakes and pristine beaches, with options to stop at the Staigue ring fort, Derrynane House, and Ross Castle. Or choose to trace the rocky, wave-beaten coastline of the Dingle Peninsula. See the ancient beehive huts that dot the waterfront landscapes, walk through the seemingly endless shallows at Inch Beach, stop at a local pottery shop, and tour colorful Dingle town.
The Malton (B)
Day 6 — The Burren National Park/Cliffs of Moher
Drive through the dramatic limestone karst landscape of The Burren National Park en route to one of Ireland’s most iconic sites: the towering Cliffs of Moher. Trace the coastline on foot and take in views of the sheer cliff faces, which drop over 700 feet into the wild North Atlantic. Continue to the tiny town of Doolin—a hub for traditional Irish music. Pop into one of the pubs for a festive “trad session,” and then continue to your hotel, nestled in the heart of the Burren.
Gregan’s Castle (B, D)
Day 7 — The Burren/Galway/County Mayo
This morning, visit the family-owned Hazel Mountain Chocolate factory to learn the history behind this small shop and taste their award-winning bean-to-bar chocolate. Take a private tour of festive Galway before continuing to Ashford Castle—a majestic gateway to Ireland’s western reaches and a National Geographic Unique Lodge of the World. This 800-year-old castle has been meticulously restored to its royal glory and now offers a sumptuous retreat amid the wild landscapes of County Mayo. As a National Geographic guest, you’ll have the exclusive opportunity to step back in time with the onsite historian, who will share tales from the long and colorful history of the castle.
Ashford Castle (B)
Day 8 — Connemara/County Mayo
Begin your day on a private tour of the Dan O’Hara Homestead and get a feel for traditional farm life in Connemara across the centuries. Watch demonstrations in turf cutting and sample the farm’s delicious home-baked goods. Continue to the Sky Road—a scenic route that 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 evening, soak in your sumptuous surroundings at Ashford. Take a walk or bike ride through lush woodlands, enjoy dinner in the elegant George V Dining Room, and enjoy a nightcap while shooting billiards in the game room.
Ashford Castle (B)
Day 9 — Shannon/Depart
Transfer to the airport in Shannon and catch your international flight home.
About Private Expeditions
National Geographic Private Expeditions are specially crafted itineraries designed for independent travelers that combine guided excursions, fascinating insights into culture and wildlife, and top accommodations. Simply select a trip and decide whom you'd like to travel with and when you want to travel. We'll take care of the rest.
Prices are per person, double occupancy and are subject to availability. Single traveler prices are available upon request.
International airfare to Dublin and from Shannon is not included in the expedition cost.
A holiday surcharge may apply to certain travel dates based upon international or local holidays, as well as local events and festivals.
Click here for a description of all activity levels.