Coastal Gems of the Emerald Isle

Coastal Gems of the Emerald Isle

Ireland’s dazzling coastal beauty takes center stage on this magical, 11-night journey! Explore the Wild Atlantic Way, beginning with the breathtaking Cliffs of Moher and the fossil-laden limestone terrain of the Burren. Ferry to the starkly beautiful Aran Island of Inishmore and take in Achill Island’s moors and mountains. Amid Connemara’s glacier-carved landscape, watch lively dogs herding sheep on a family farm. Next, venture north on a less explored route to the hidden gem, County Donegal. Be awed by spectacular Slieve League, Ireland’s highest sea cliffs, and see Arranmore Island by land and water. From there, travel into Northern Ireland to discover the vibrant walled city of Derry-Londonderry and Giant’s Causeway, a natural wonder of interlocking columns. This well-rounded, small-group experience features visits to two 19th-century castles, tales from a traditional Irish storyteller and a Donegal culinary tour. Enjoy stays at first-class hotels, including a family-owned castle estate, and a generous meal plan with wine at dinner.

Trip Itinerary:

April 24 Depart gateway city

AHI FlexAir passengers depart for Shannon, Ireland. Please check your luggage from your gateway city to your arrival city. Your claim checks should have the following airport code: SNN.

April 25 Shannon, Republic of Ireland | Ennis

Arrive at Shannon Airport. Proceed through immigration to the baggage claim area and retrieve your luggage. After completing customs, AHI FlexAir passengers traveling on flights that qualify for the group arrival transfer and Land Program passengers who have purchased seats on the group transfer should exit the baggage claim area and proceed to the Arrivals Hall, where an AHI Travel representative will meet you.

Transfer to the Old Ground Hotel. Please note, if you arrive before check-in time, your room may not be immediately available.

After you’ve settled in, join your Travel Director for a short orientation stroll in Ennis, a lively market town founded in the 11th century.

Gather for tonight’s Welcome Reception and Dinner featuring entertainment by local dancers and musicians.

Accommodations - Old Ground Hotel
Meals - Dinner

April 26 Ennis

Enrichment: Irish Seanchaí. Seanchaí, Ireland’s venerable storytellers, were the bearers of old Celtic lore and the caretakers of this oral tradition. Listen as Eddie Lenihan, Ireland’s premier folklorist/seanchaí, relates stories and tales in the time-honored style. An author, storyteller, lecturer and broadcaster, Lenihan has been described as a “national treasure” and is well known for his tales of folk heroes, mythology and the supernatural.

Discovery: The Burren and the Cliffs of Moher. Together, the Burren and Cliffs of Moher form a UNESCO Global Geopark on Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way. Marvel at this breathtaking coastline of dramatic cliffs, sea caves and inlets, and revel in the sweeping views of the Aran Islands and Galway Bay. The Burren’s unique rocky plateau features diverse flora and karstic limestone formations. Enjoy an audio/visual presentation at the Burren Center and see the famous high crosses at Kilfenora Cathedral. Then, take an exclusive guided walk through the Burren with local expert Tony Kirby, and enjoy an experience rich with geological, archaeological and botanical insights. Film producer, critically acclaimed author and blogger on Burren life, Kirby has been leading walks in the Burren since 2002 and looks forward to sharing his passion and knowledge with you.

Enjoy lunch in a family-run pub in the heart of the Burren. Continue to Poulnabrone, a vision resting on the stark limestone pavements, and Ireland’s most photographed portal tomb, dating from 2500–2000 B.C. Afterward, drive along to Ballyvaughan, by Galway Bay and Black Head, to marvel at the jaw-dropping sight of the majestic Cliffs of Moher, rising 700 feet above the Atlantic Ocean. Enjoy some free time at the Cliffs of Moher and explore the visitor center. (Moderate)

Accommodations - Old Ground Hotel
Meals - Breakfast and Lunch

April 27 Aran Islands

Discovery: Aran Island of Inishmore (Inis Mór). From Ennis, enjoy a scenic drive to Rossaveal, where you’ll board a ferry to sail across Galway Bay to Inishmore, the largest of the Aran Islands. Like the Burren, the Aran Islands’ striking karst landscape is created by limestone. As you explore the island on a minibus, listen as your local guide tells entertaining stories about life on this picturesque island, where Gaelic is the first language. Along your route, visit a family-run business that hand-harvests edible seaweeds for a talk and tasting of this ancient food source. People have lived here since approximately 3000 B.C., and Stone Age monuments can still be seen. The area is also known for its stone forts which date from the Bronze Age. See the most famous, Dun Aengus (Dún Aonghasa). If you’d like to take the more active walk up to the fort, enjoy a spectacular view of the Atlantic Ocean from its clifftop location. While in the area, stop for a lunch break at a local restaurant. (Moderate)

Travel by ferry back to Rossveal and return to Ennis.

Accommodations - Old Ground Hotel
Meals - Breakfast and Lunch

April 28 Galway | Westport

After breakfast, check out of the hotel and head toward Westport.

Discovery: Galway. With its brightly painted pubs and exuberant street performers, Galway is a spirited, bohemian city alive with artists, students and food lovers alike. Take a guided walk and learn about its medieval history including the Tribes of Galway. See Eyre Square, Lynch’s Castle, Galway Cathedral and other landmarks. Afterward, enjoy lunch at your leisure along the medieval cobbled lanes. (Moderate)

Check in to the Westport Plaza Hotel.

Discovery: Westport. Set off on a guided stroll in this lovely Georgian town. Set on the Southeast corner of Clew Bay, Westport is one of the few planned towns in Ireland and its enchanting bridges and tree-lined promenades make it a favorite place to live and visit. (Moderate)

Accommodations - Westport Plaza Hotel
Meals - Breakfast and Dinner

April 29 Achill Island

Enrichment: A Vision of Ireland. See how the heart and soul of Ireland translates on to canvas as you hear stories and insights from a local artist/art historian this morning.

Discovery: Achill Island. Soaring cliffs, rocky headlands and sheltered beaches paint a jaw-dropping landscape as you experience the Atlantic Coastal drive on Achill, Ireland’s largest offshore island. Witness the magnificent, untamed beauty that has long inspired writers and artists. Visit the Deserted Village at Slievemore, a haunting reminder of Ireland’s pastoral history with more than 80 abandoned stone cottages. Used as temporary summer dwellings by migrant farmers who brought cattle here to graze, the cottages are a moving testament to the harsh realities of agricultural life and the effects of the Famine. (Moderate)

During your Achill adventure today, lunch on fresh local specialties in the village of Keel with fellow travelers.

In Mulranny, learn how to make Irish coffee and then sip your delicious drink while enjoying stunning views over Clew Bay.

Accommodations - Westport Plaza Hotel
Meals - Breakfast and Lunch

April 30 Connemara

Discovery: Connemara. Irish playwright Oscar Wilde once described Connemara’s beauty as “savage.” Travel through this scenic region and marvel at the brooding landscape of rugged mountains and windswept bogs shaped by ancient glaciers. Stand at the base of Croagh Patrick, where St. Patrick is said to have fasted for 40 days in the fifth century, and visit the poignant National Famine Memorial by sculptor John Behan. The bronze memorial at the base of the mountain pays tribute to the ships that set sail from Ireland filled with desperate citizens in search of a better life.

Then visit a family-owned farm, Glen Keen, and watch frisky sheepdogs bound through the fields as they expertly maneuver the flock during a demonstration. Afterward, enjoy a brief chat about sheep farming with a member of the family.

Continue to the captivating Kylemore Abbey, a romantic, 19th-century castle overlooking a beautiful lake. Its creation is a love story in itself. In the 1840s, Mitchell Henry, the son of a wealthy English cotton merchant with Irish origins, brought his new bride, Margaret, to Connemara on their honeymoon. They were both enchanted by the beauty of Connemara, and Mitchell eventually purchased the property to build a magnificent castle there as a love token to her. In 1920, Benedictine nuns purchased the castle and established a convent as well as a school, which educated local girls and international students from 1923 to 2010. Walk through the Abbey’s restored rooms, stroll along the paths of the Victorian Walled Gardens and step inside the tiny neo-Gothic church, featuring Irish marbles from the four provinces of Ireland and a statue of Jesus by Irish sculptor Rowan Gillespie. Enjoy lunch during your visit. (Moderate)

Accommodations - Westport Plaza Hotel
Meals - Breakfast and Lunch

May 1 County Sligo | Donegal | Slieve League | Rathmullan

Discovery: County Sligo. Embrace “Yeats’ Country” today in County Sligo. Revel in the majestic Irish countryside that so enthralled the Nobel Prize-winning poet and pay a brief visit to his final resting place at Drumcliffe Cemetery in the shadow of his beloved Benbulben rock formation. “Under Ben Bulben” was the last poem Yeats penned and the final three lines of the poem are the epitaph on this gravestone. (Moderate)

Free Time: Continue on to tiny Donegal for some free time and lunch at your leisure. Explore this quaint, stony burg in the shadow of Donegal Castle. Walk along the harbor, visit the remains of 15th-century Donegal Abbey or shop for tweed and treasures at your leisure.

Discovery: Slieve League. This afternoon, feel like you’re standing at the edge of the world at famous Slieve League, the highest accessible sea cliffs in Europe and a highlight of the Wild Atlantic Way route. Gaze out across beautiful Donegal Bay, capture the epic scenery with your camera and take note of alpine flora and fauna on a guided walk along the footpath. Wander inside the Visitors’ Center to see informative displays about the natural environment. (Moderate)

Check in to the Rathmullan House, a family-run country house hotel along Lough Swilly.

Accommodations - Rathmullan House
Meals - Breakfast and Dinner

May 2 Arranmore Island | Donegal

Discovery: Arranmore Island Sea Safari. Head out on the water for an exhilarating boat tour of coastal Donegal. See fishing villages, grazing sheep and historic landmarks and learn about Ireland’s seafaring history and herring industry along the way. (Moderate)

Discovery: Donegal Food Tour. Travel through quaint towns and villages to explore Donegal’s exciting food scene driven by up-and-coming chefs serving authentic dishes with innovative twists. (Moderate)

Accommodations - Rathmullan House
Meals - Breakfast and Dinner

May 3 Glenveagh National Park

Discovery: Glenveagh National Park. In this wild, remote park, embark on a tour of Glenveagh Castle, a stately 19th-century estate known for its flamboyantly styled rooms including a music room decorated with tartans and antlers. Learn about the castle’s mysterious past and enjoy free time in its lovely gardens. (Moderate)

Enjoy lunch at Glenveagh with your fellow travelers.

Discovery: Glebe House & Gallery. This afternoon, visit the former home of Derek Hill (1916-2000), a famed portrait and landscape artist and longtime Irish resident. Originally built in 1828 as a rectory, the Regency-style home known as St. Columb’s became Hill’s main residence in 1954. In 1981, he donated the house, gardens and his personal art collection to the people of Ireland. Admire the intimate rooms adorned with eclectic artwork and William Morris wallpaper and textiles. Hill’s multifaceted collection features pieces by major 20th-century artists. (Moderate)

Discovery: Leo’s Tavern. Relax at this famous pub owned by present and former members of the band Clannad, including Enya and Moya Brennan. (Moderate)

Accommodations - Rathmullan House
Meals - Breakfast and Lunch

May 4 Derry-Londonderry, Northern Ireland | Giant’s Causeway | Glaslough, Republic of Ireland

Check out of the hotel and journey into Northern Ireland today.

Discovery: Derry-Londonderry and Giant’s Causeway. Delve into the rich history of this vibrant, walled city in Northern Ireland on an enlightening guided walk. Learn why Derry is also known as Doire and Londonderry. After lunch with your fellow travelers in town, head to Giant’s Causeway, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Hear about the legend of hero Finn McCool and marvel at the mammoth, basalt columns left behind by a giant or an ancient volcanic eruption. (Moderate)

Afterward, check in to The Lodge at Castle Leslie Estate.

Accommodations - The Lodge at Castle Leslie Estate
Meals - Breakfast and Lunch

May 5 Glaslough

Free Time: Castle Leslie, one of the last great Irish castle estates still in the hands of its founding family, was built in the 1660s and is set on 1,000 acres of undulating countryside. Explore the grounds today and discover sparkling lakes and ancient woods. Indulge in a massage in one of the Victorian treatment rooms or spend a relaxing afternoon fishing on the property.

Tonight, end your adventure in Ireland on a high note as you share highlights of your trip with fellow travelers at a Farewell Reception and Dinner on the estate.

Accommodations - The Lodge at Castle Leslie Estate
Meals - Breakfast and Dinner

May 6 Depart for gateway city

After breakfast, AHI FlexAir passengers traveling on flights that qualify for a group transfer and Land Program passengers who have purchased seats on the group transfer depart for Dublin Airport for your return flights home. Your Travel Director will provide the details.


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