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Ireland’s vibrant capital is also its largest city, packed with innovative museums and cultural centers, striking Georgian architecture, and, of course, a lively pub scene. Beyond the city center lie the tiny towns and rural landscapes—glistening lakes, scenic pasturelands and tranquil forests—that make up Ireland’s heartland.
See: Dive into Dublin’s treasure trove of history at Trinity College’s must-visit library, which holds more than 200,000 books. Among them is the Book of Kells, a 9th-century masterpiece that documents the four Gospels of the life of Jesus Christ. More history awaits on the streets of Dublin, where you can stroll past the brightly painted doors of some of the world’s finest Georgian buildings. These vivid entryways have become visual symbols of the city.
Do: Explore the immersive exhibits inside the seven-story museum at the Guinness Storehouse and discover the time-tested secrets of this iconic brew. End your visit with the “perfect pint” and panoramic views at the Gravity Bar. For more tastes of Dublin, go on a guided culinary tour of the city’s many eateries. Sample everything from traditional Irish dishes like shepherd’s pie to local ice cream, and learn about the history behind Irish cuisine.
Go: Trek just outside the city for a hike along cliff-side paths in the coastal village of Howth. Or venture farther into Ireland’s heartland: Explore 5,000 years of history at Athlone Castle, on the banks of the River Shannon. Learn about—and taste—different types of whiskey at Slane Castle Distillery. Climb the ancient Hill of Tara for a view that reveals 16 of Ireland’s 32 counties. Or spend a day at the Irish National Stud & Gardens to meet some of Ireland’s most magnificent horses.
It may be best known for the era of the Troubles and as the birthplace of the Titanic, but Northern Ireland’s capital also teems with art and culture. Belfast makes a great base for exploring the northern countryside and Antrim Coast, too.
See: Take a black cab tour for a close-up look at Belfast’s street art scene. From the political murals that tell the story of the Troubles to the works of a new generation of muralists, locals have used street art as a means of expression for decades. While you’re exploring, stop in C.S. Lewis Square, a public space commemorating the Belfast-born author. Several bronze sculptures inspired by Lewis’ The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe stand sentinel.
Do: Step back in time at Titanic Belfast, an interactive museum that tells the story of the ill-fated ship. The museum rests on the very spot where the RMS Titanic was designed, built and launched. See exact replicas of the cabins and feel what it was like to stand on the deck promenade with the ship’s engines rumbling beneath you. Afterward, sample the fish and chips at John Long’s, which has been serving them up for more than 100 years.
Go: More discoveries await the farther you venture up the Northern Ireland coast. According to legend, Giant’s Causeway, a formation of perfectly shaped basalt columns, was created by the giant Finn McCool as he forged his path across the sea many years ago. The Dark Hedges, an avenue of twisting beech trees planted in the 18th century, served as a backdrop in the HBO series Game of Thrones. And the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, first erected by salmon fishermen in 1755, provides a thrilling walk over the Atlantic Ocean.
Narrow streets lined with 19th-century buildings painted in shades of pink, blue and yellow make Killarney a charming base for exploring Ireland’s great outdoors. The quaint town is right next to Killarney National Park, Ireland’s first, and just a short drive from some of the country’s most spectacular coastline.
See: Take in the stunning scenery along the 95-mile Ring of Kerry. This circular driving route takes you past rocky beaches, through dramatic mountain passes and into charming coastal villages. Don’t miss the detour along Skellig Ring, which provides spectacular views of the remote island of Skellig Michael. Home to a 6th-century monastery (which visitors can access via 600 or so steps), the island was also the setting for scenes from the 2015 film Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
Do: Spend some time exploring Killarney National Park, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve that encompasses woods, waterfalls, mountains and lakes. Take a guided hike or ride in a traditional jaunting car—a horse-drawn carriage that takes visitors on a leisurely circuit of the park. While you’re there, take a peek inside Muckross House, a Victorian mansion that hosted Queen Victoria during her visit to Killarney in 1861.
Go: For a taste of quintessential Old Ireland, head to the port town of Dingle, known for its colorful houses and easy surf access at nearby Inch Beach. Pop into Murphy’s ice cream shop to try the amazing locally crafted flavors. Think gin ice cream made with spirits from Dingle Distillery, sea salt ice cream with salt from local seawater, and Irish coffee ice cream made with beans from Dingle coffee roaster Bean in Dingle and Dingle Distillery’s single malt whiskey.
A small fishing village in medieval times, this lively coastal town now charms with a happy-go-lucky vibe—thanks to its friendly pub scene and penchant for festivals. It’s also an up-and-coming foodie destination and the gateway to some of Ireland’s most dramatic landscapes.
Do: Sample Galway’s food scene on a guided tour, getting to know artisanal producers and restauranteurs along the way. Taste some of the city’s favorite dishes, from locally made pizza to classic fish and chips, in both well-known and more-secret food haunts. Galway is also one of the best places in Ireland to experience traditional music, from the street buskers to the folk music sessions in pubs all over town.
See: Soak up panoramic views of the Atlantic Ocean with a seaside stroll along the Salthill Promenade, in Galway’s seaside suburb of Salthill. When you reach the end of the promenade, tradition dictates that you kick the wall. Starting in the nearby town of Westport, there’s more to see along the Great Western Greenway. A bike ride along this 26-mile converted railway line takes you to picturesque Achill Island.
Go: Take a day trip from Galway to explore the rugged Aran Islands, with their sandy beaches, craggy cliffs, ancient ruins and sacred sites. The three islands are thought of as an outpost of traditional culture, where the natives still speak Irish. For more visual drama, head to the Cliffs of Moher, one of Ireland’s most iconic sights. These towering cliffs rise 702 feet above the Atlantic Ocean.
Find nearly 800 years of history on display at this 350-acre estate on the shores of Lough Corrib. Built in 1228, the castle was once owned by the Guinness family from 1852 until it became a hotel in 1939. Over the years, it has hosted notable guests including the Prince of Wales (who later became King George V) and President Ronald Reagan, and served as the backdrop for the 1952 movie The Quiet Man.
Do: A variety of activities vie for your attention on the castle grounds, including horseback riding, fishing, golf, clay shooting, zip lining and even off-roading. But one of the most incredible experiences you can have is at the castle’s falconry school—the oldest one in Ireland. Get up close and personal with a Harris hawk as it launches into the sky from your leather-clad arm. Along the way, an instructor will teach you about the exceptional eyesight, speed and agility of these majestic birds of prey.
See: A lake cruise on Lough Corrib is a peaceful way to take in the pristine grounds, along with 365 islands and the surrounding mountains. If you’d rather keep your feet on the ground, a stroll through the castle’s formal gardens—largely created by the Guinness family—is a must. Don’t miss the Walled Garden, full of perennial borders, fruits and vegetables. For those who want to get off the beaten path, there are plenty of walking routes accessible from the castle that reward with striking mountain vistas.
If you enjoy traveling with a group and letting someone else deal with the details, a guided vacation is for you. Aboard a luxury motor coach, you follow itineraries carefully designed to showcase must-see sights, while your travel director’s local knowledge makes each day of your trip memorable. For a more personal experience, you can upgrade to a private tour to travel exclusively with your family and friends.
• Visit the peaceful (and ancient) monastic ruins at Glendalough, which survived centuries of Viking attacks.
• Look back on the era of the first transatlantic flights with a visit to the Flying Boat & Maritime Museum in Foynes—once the refueling point for Pan Am’s flying boat, the Yankee Clipper.
• Visit Bunratty Castle and its Folk Park, a living history museum that showcases life in Ireland during the 18th and 19th centuries.
Looking for personal service every step of the way as you see the sights? Our private chauffeurs are skilled storytellers and savvy locals, vetted for their warmth, impeccable service and attentive listening. They can also share stellar restaurant recommendations, local stories and great suggestions for photo opportunities—all in the comfort of your luxurious, Wi-Fi–enabled private car.
• Golf with arranged tee times on award-winning courses set against the backdrop of rolling green hills and dramatic ocean cliffs.
• Stroll through the grounds, gardens, arboretums and waterways of Blarney Castle on your private adventure with the estate’s head gardener.
If you enjoy luxury travel but prefer more independence, Lux Self-Drive offers a custom itinerary with exclusive experiences and luxurious accommodations. You can be introduced to locals in every area and have access to organized activities ranging from private tastings to connoisseur tours—all while you retain complete flexibility to update your itinerary as you go.
• Explore the tranquil waters of the West Cork landscape by kayak and see ancient castles, sea caves and hidden coves.
• See the rugged landscapes and crashing seas of the Ring of Kerry, where writers and poets have taken inspiration for centuries.
If you love traveling by train, choosing the cities you visit and exploring on your own, then this is the travel style for you. Delight in the ease and convenience of train travel as you relax and watch Celtic scenery go past your window. At your destination, prepare for adventure as a local expert greets you with a wealth of activities as well as suggestions for where to shop and eat. If there’s no train to the next destination on your itinerary, a private chauffeur will take you where you need to go.
• Savor the romance of traveling by train through Ireland’s Golden Vale.
• Discover the Wild Atlantic Way with a bike trip to Achill Island on Ireland’s longest off-road cycling trail, the Great Western Greenway.
• Journey to Belfast, Northern Ireland’s capital city, where your local host will prepare you to take in this amazing city.
Self-Drive Vacations put you in the driver’s seat so you can create your own Celtic story, exploring backroads and places that are off the beaten path as you go. Before your trip, our experts will help you map out your itinerary, prebook your accommodations and set up your car rental. When you arrive, you get suggestions for things to do and see at every stop. If you crave connections, we can introduce you to locals ready to show you around and share their culture.
• Taste an impressive repertoire of gourmet food and drink with the Galway Food Tour—you’ll meet artisanal producers and sample produce from around the globe.
• Journey through 5,000 years of history in Ireland’s Ancient East, and then stop in Kilkenny to learn about the age-old game of hurling.
• Stop at Titanic Belfast, where the famous ship’s life is revealed on the very shores where it got its start.