Ireland's emerald landscapes and rugged cliffs have always held a magical allure. Traveling off-the-beaten-path, this guided tour covers some of Ireland's quietest and least-visited sites in the west and northwest. Over 12 days, you'll hike, boat, kayak, learn history, see live music, and hop over to a tiny Gaelic-speaking island—and it all starts in Dublin, one of western Europe's most charming cities.


  • Get the lay of the land in Ireland's capital city with a private walking tour
  • Visit the remote regions of Mayo and hear all about Irish mythology
  • Hike green mountains, valleys, and coastal trails along the journey
  • Kayak across a lake that inspired Ireland's national poet: W.B. Yeats
  • Visit a remote Gaelic-speaking island for a picnic lunch

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Dublin, City Tour Dublin
Day 2 Dublin Free Day Dublin
Day 3 Drive to Rathcroghan Mayo
Day 4 Explore Ballycroy National Park, Dark Sky Reserve Mayo
Day 5 Drive to the Ox Mountains Sligo
Day 6 Explore Lough Gill & Sligo Sligo
Day 7 Hike Ben Bulben Donegal
Day 8 Boat or Hike in Slieve League Donegal
Day 9 Explore Glenveagh National Park Donegal
Day 10 Picnic on Tory Island Donegal
Day 11 Visit Megalithic Sites & Return to Dublin Dublin
Day 12 Depart Dublin  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Dublin, City Tour

Monument of Daniel O'Connell

Welcome to Dublin! At the airport, you'll be met by a private driver who will transfer you to your accommodations in Europe's first fully sustainable hotel—powered entirely by an underground river—located in the heart of the city. Once you've dropped your bags, it's time to meet your walking guide, a Trinity College-based historian, for an afternoon tour of this fascinating city.

Keep your eyes and ears open: While gaining insight into the city's complex history and culture, you'll also get plenty of ideas for places to visit further in your own time (i.e., tomorrow).

Day 2: Dublin Free Day

Dublin's Temple Bar neighborhood

Today, after breakfast at your hotel, Dublin is your city to explore any way you'd like. If you need more ideas, there are plenty of recommended landmarks, shops, and restaurants to keep you busy as you walk and/or bike all over town. 

For something unique, a favorite activity for locals is to kayak on the River Liffey, the waterway which forms the city’s main artery. To further the adventure, you can even paddle as far as the Guinness Brewery for a tour and then continue to the beautiful green spaces of Phoenix Park.

Day 3: Drive to Rathcroghan

Look for sheep dotted in the rolling green hills

After breakfast in Dublin, you'll meet your guide and go over any final details for the road trip. Then it's time to start the journey across Ireland's green, rolling midlands. Along the way, you will stop to explore some interesting historical places and, of course, look for sheep dotting the hillsides.

You'll want to take some time to check out Rathcroghan—a complex of ancient remains associated with the warrior queen of Irish mythology. Here, you will visit the entrance to the mythical underworld, as well as Strokestown Park and the famine museum, where there's an opportunity to visit a Georgian mansion. Here, you'll get a feel for how life for different classes played out in the 18th and 19th centuries.

At the end of today's tour, you'll be transferred to your hotel in County Mayo, where you'll have time to enjoy some free time for dinner.

Day 4: Explore Ballycroy National Park, Dark Sky Reserve

Wilds of Mayo
The photogenic wilds of Mayo

After breakfast at your hotel, it's time to see some of Ireland's wildest scenery in a remote corner of Mayo. You, along with your guide, will explore the Ballycroy National Park before stopping on the edge of the sea for one of Ireland’s best coastal hikes, which will last between 3 to 6 miles (5 to 10 km) depending on your energy levels.

For a bit of Irish myth, The Children of Lir is set here, and your guide will fill you in on the sad tale of these exiled swans as you walk the trail. You'll also have the option to stop and explore the blowholes and sea stacks of Downpatrick Head—highly recommended.

In the evening, after dinner, you'll continue with your guide to the area's internationally-accredited Dark Sky Reserve for an evening of stargazing.  

Plan your trip to Ireland
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.

Day 5: Drive to the Ox Mountains

Stay in the charming village of Sligo

Today's driving route moves away from the coast and heads toward the Ox Mountains instead. This range has some of the oldest igneous rocks in Europe, and you'll have the opportunity to see the blanket bogland that is characteristic of this part of Ireland on a peaceful 3-mile (5 km) lakeside hike. You will also visit the Ceide Fields, where the oldest known field system has recently been discovered, perfectly preserved beneath the bog.

You'll drive to Sligo—a center for traditional music; in fact, it's home to the most authentic Irish music experiences in Ireland. This evening you will join some locals in the pub for a memorable music session.  

Day 6: Explore Lough Gill & Sligo

Lough Gill
Kayak in Lough Gill

In the footsteps of the poet W.B. Yeats, today's itinerary explores the beautiful landscape that inspired him, starting with a gentle half-day kayaking tour on the lake at Lough Gill. Here, you will paddle past deserted islands with romantic ruins and ancient woodlands, stopping to enjoy an island picnic.

Later in the day, you'll visit the surfing hub of Strandhill, where you will hike a short distance, about 1.5 miles (2.5 km), to see the grave of a legendary warrior queen. The area also enjoys incredible views across Sligo Bay toward Donegal so keep your camera close. 

Day 7: Hike Ben Bulben Mountain

Ben Bulben in full bloom

Today, you'll head toward Donegal, where you will explore the northern part of Sligo, including the distinctive silhouette of the Ben Bulben Mountain, which dominates the landscape. You will visit historic Lissadell House, the childhood home of an Irish suffragette and revolutionary leader, Constance Gore-Booth, and lunch on some of Ireland's finest seafood in a picturesque harbor village.

Today's hike lasts 3 to 4.5-miles (5 to 7 km) and takes you below the cliff face of Ben Bulben, where the wind echoes eerily around the towering crags. As an alternative, there is also an option to visit a nearby beach for pristine stretches of golden sand.   

Day 8: Boat or Hike in Slieve League

Slieve League
Slieve League

Ireland's tallest cliffs are a perfect way to finish your time on the wild Atlantic coast. Today's activity options include a boat trip below the cliffs—a fantastic way to experience the scale and majesty of the coastline and a chance to get up close to the myriad of seabirds that inhabit their crevices. Alternatively, you can take a 3 to 4.5-mile (5 to 7 km) hike along the pilgrims' path to the mountain's summit. This pilgrimage of religious significance since pre-historic times allows the scenery to unfold in dramatic fashion.

Since woolen tweed is still a key industry in this part of Ireland, you will also visit a handweaver who continues to use traditional methods daily.  

Day 9: Explore Glenveagh National Park

Errigal Mountain

Today, you'll visit another of Ireland's beautiful national parks: Glenveagh National Park. The park is also home to Glenveagh Castle on the shores of a lake surrounded by rolling mountains, as well as red deer and peregrine falcons who call Glenveagh home.

Today's 5-mile (8-km) hiking challenge is the iconic Errigal Mountain, whose conical silhouette dominates the horizon. You'll be rewarded with spectacular views from the summit that are well worth the effort. For those who prefer a lower-key option, Glenveagh Castle and the adjacent gardens provide a relaxing walk that leads to the lakeshore and through the valley.   

Day 10: Picnic on Tory Island

Lighthouse in Donegal

Today, you'll visit the beautiful village of Dunfanaghy, where your hotel is located—just a stone's throw from Tory Island. This is one of a myriad of tiny, Gaelic-speaking islands off the Donegal coast. In fact, Tory is Ireland's most remote inhabited island and still runs an archaic tradition of elected kingship. Occasionally even the King of Tory himself welcomes visitors by the pier. 

In any case, the scenery is lovely, from the lighthouse to the 12th-century Tau cross. Another notable aspect is that the island is one of the few remaining breeding sites for the globally-threatened bird species called corncrake. Relax with a picnic and enjoy your final day on Ireland's west coast while absorbing this unique island culture.

Day 11: Visit Megalithic Sites - Return to Dublin

One of the area's megalithic sites

After breakfast, it's time to say goodbye to the west coast as you begin your journey back to Dublin. But first, you'll spend the morning visiting some of the country's best megalithic sites dotted around Sligo. Make sure to see Carrowkeel and Carrowmore, for instance, as both of these sites pre-date the pyramids of Giza. 

Later, you will continue your road trip back to Dublin, where your guide will say goodbye at your hotel and leave you to explore and enjoy your last night in Ireland. Sláinte!

12: Depart Dublin

Goodbye, Dublin!

It's time to say goodbye to Ireland! After breakfast at your hotel, enjoy any remaining free time in Dublin. You'll be transferred to the airport for your departure flight home at the designated time. 

More Great 12-Day Ireland Itineraries

Looking for more inspiration for your trip to Ireland? Check out these other 12-day Ireland itineraries, with outdoor adventures, cultural trips, and best-of tours to hit the highlights. 


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Map of Ireland's Wild Atlantic Adventure - 12 Days