Explore Ireland's western coast by combining outdoor activities with luxury accommodation in 5-star castle hotels in County Clare and County Mayo. Your excursion begins with a guided walk through the limestone landscape of the Burren, followed by a cycle across Inishmore, the largest of the Aran Islands, and a surfing lesson. You'll transfer north to hike the hills of Connemara National Park and bike along the country's famous Great Western Greenway.

Highlights

  • Bike across the rocky, dramatic island of Inishmore in the Atlantic Ocean
  • Sleep in luxury, 5-star accommodations at Dromoland Castle and Ashford Castle
  • Explore the lunar landscape of The Burren with a guided walk
  • Try your luck at surfing with a professional lesson
  • Hike the hills in Connemara National Park and admire the unique bogland

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Ireland - Transfer to your luxury castle accommodation Dromoland
Day 2 Explore the wildflowers and limestone rocks of the Burren Dromoland
Day 3 Bike across Inishmore, the largest of the three Aran Islands Dromoland
Day 4 Enjoy a surfing lesson - Transfer to Ashford Castle Cong Co Mayo
Day 5 Hike up Diamond Hill in Connemara National Park Cong Co Mayo
Day 6 Cycle the famous Great Western Greenway Cong Co Mayo
Day 7 Depart Ireland  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Ireland - Transfer to your luxury castle accommodation

Dromoland Castle in County Clare, Ireland
Dromoland Castle in County Clare, Ireland

Welcome to Ireland - Failté go hÉireann!

Upon arriving in Ireland, your personal guide will meet you at the airport and transfer you to your luxury castle accommodation in Dromoland, set in County Clare near the scenic Wild Atlantic Way. The current building was completed in 1835, but some of the original aspects date back to the 15th and 16th centuries. This 5-star hotel has been popular with politicians, actors, athletes, and royalty across the world.

After settling in, take some time to enjoy the hotel's facilities, such as the spa, golf course, and common spaces amongst the property. In the evening, enjoy dinner at the Michelin-star restaurant onsite followed by a drink at the cocktail bar.

Day 2: Explore the wildflowers and limestone rocks of the Burren

Karst Limestone Landscape of the Burren
Karst Limestone Landscape of the Burren

As you enter the Burren landscape, you'll quickly notice its otherworldly attributes. With endless lines of karst limestone rock dominating fields and covering hillsides, the area is said to have been an inspiration for JRR Tolkien's world-famous Lord of the Rings trilogy.

You'll meet with an expert guide and native Irish speaker who will lead you through this lunar landscape. While walking the routes determined by your guide, you can admire the various wildflowers that make their home in between the rocks, including some 40 species of orchids. Ireland has 900 native plant species, with 70% of them living right here in the Burren National Park. This includes the mountain avens, which was brought to the region by glaciers during the last Ice Age. You'll find a few shops in the surrounding towns selling tea made from the flora found in the Burren.

You'll also learn about the human history of the area, which dates back thousands of years. There's a strong agricultural heritage in the Burren that is nearly 6,000 years old. And you can't miss viewing the Poulnabrone, which is a 5,800-year-old portal dolmen and burial site of 22 people who died within a range of 600 years. In fact, you'll find more than 80 tombs in the Burren, ranging from the Mesolithic era to the Iron Age. You can also visit the 13th-century Cistercian monastery.

In the afternoon, you can return to the castle to relax, or opt for a stop at the famous Cliffs of Moher. These remarkable sea cliffs range from nearly 400 feet (120 m) to 700 feet (214 m) high and are nearly 9 miles (14 km) long. You can enjoy the cliffs from several viewpoints, or walk along the trails around the visitor's center.

Day 3: Bike across Inishmore, the largest of the three Aran Islands

Aerial Views of Inishmore, Aran Islands
Aerial Views of Inishmore, Aran Islands

The three Aran Islands sit off the coast of Western Ireland at the mouth of Galway Bay. Today you'll explore the largest of the islands, Inis Mór (Inishmore), by sailing from the port in the small village of Doolin. The history of these islands is rich, both geologically and culturally, dating back millions of years. Today, the 1,300 people who call the islands home still speak the native Gaelic language.

Upon arriving at the port in Inishmore, you'll find a few options for exploring the island. The best way to tour the island is by bike, but you can also catch a group tour with a van, a private tour with a horse-drawn cart, or simply discover the sites on your own two feet. There are many different ruins to see, starting with St Ciaran's Church and Holy Well, the stone fort, Dún Eochla, and the Old Lighthouse. Take a rest at Kilmurvey Beach, enjoying the views of the ocean and perusing the nearby craft shops.

Afterward, make your way out to the ruins of Dún Aonghasa, a prehistoric fortification atop dramatic stone cliffs plunging into the Atlantic Ocean. It's thought that most of the remaining relics date back to the Bronze and Iron Ages. Other sites to visit include the Seven Churches, the Wormhole pools, and Seal Colony Viewpoint
 
You'll enjoy lunch on the island before returning to Doolin by ferry, cruising underneath the Cliffs of Moher. You can opt to meander the village of Doolin on your way back, popping into one of its pubs for traditional music. Or head back to your castle hotel for the evening.

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Day 4: Enjoy a surfing lesson - Transfer to Ashford Castle

Ashford Castle in County Mayo, Ireland
Ashford Castle in County Mayo, Ireland

Many are unaware that Ireland is an excellent location for surfing. Despite its cold waters, there are many sandy beaches on the country's western coast that provide ideal waves for the sport. This morning, you'll enjoy a private surf lesson with an expert instructor on the nearby beaches of County Clare. You'll practice paddling and pop-ups, then try your luck catching waves.

After freshening up and enjoying lunch, you'll leave Dromoland for your second luxury accommodation at Ashford Castle, set in County Mayo north of Galway. The 13th-century fortress sits along the shore of Lake Corrib near the ruins of the Gothic Cong Abbey. The area is known as a filming location for the popular movie, The Quiet Man.

After settling into your room, enjoy the amenities of the property. You can savor afternoon tea, relax in the spa or at the pool, tour the wine cellar, or partake in one of the many activities offered at the hotel. These include horseback riding, kayaking, cycling, a lake cruise, golf, or simply walking through the estate's gardens. In the evening, you'll enjoy a falconry experience and an archery lesson, followed by dinner at the castle.

Day 5: Hike up Diamond Hill in Connemara National Park

Hiking Diamond Head in Connemara National Park
Hiking Diamond Head in Connemara National Park

The wilderness of Connemara was described by Oscar Wilde as a ‘savage beauty’, and today you'll witness it firsthand with a hike in Connemara National Park.

Your guide will lead you up the popular Diamond Hill hiking trail, where you'll enjoy views of the Twelve Bens Mountains, Kylemore Abbey, and the Atlantic Ocean. Along the way, you'll learn about the area's fragile bogland ecosystem that seems to stretch on forever. As you hike, keep an eye out for mountain hares and the elusive golden eagles that nest in the nearby hills.

On the way back to Ashford Castle, you can opt to visit Kylemore Abbey, a Gothic Benedictine nunnery with a beautiful garden. Or stop in the town of Leenaun to admire the Killary Fjord, one of three glacial fjords found in Ireland.

Day 6: Cycle the famous Great Western Greenway

Scenes Along the Great Western Greenway Trail
Scenes Along the Great Western Greenway Trail

Your final activity of the trip will be cycling along the famous Great Western Greenway, the longest off-road hiking and biking trail in Ireland. This car-free route follows an old railway, ending at an island and offering views of the coast, rural sheep fields, and nearby mountains along the way.

As you cycle, your guide will stop at interesting sights and recount tales of the landscape, with both historical stories and mystical accounts for which Ireland is famous. The day’s biking distance can be tailored to suit your ability, with options for longer, more challenging routes, as well as shorter journeys with more stops along the way. You can also opt for electric bikes, which will give you a little help up the trail's gentle hills.

In the afternoon, you'll return to Ashford Castle for your final evening at the hotel, relaxing in the spa, reading a book in the lounge, enjoying dinner at its restaurant. 

Day 7: Depart Ireland

Sunset off the Coast of Ireland
Sunset off the Coast of Ireland

It's time to say goodbye to the beautiful West of Ireland and begin your journey home, or onto your next destination. After your final breakfast in Ashford Castle, your guide will transfer you to your chosen airport or train/bus station.