Ireland's Food & Culture - 11 Days
- Get into Irish pub culture, from McCarthy's in Tipperary to Dublin's Temple Bar
- Take a guided food tour through Cork and dine on locally sourced produce
- Go seaweed foraging in the dreamy landscape of the County Kerry coast
- Dine in Ireland's only Michelin Star-rated pub, the Wild Honey Inn
|Day 1||Arrive in Dublin||Dublin|
|Day 2||Drive to Kilkenny, Visit Rock of Cashel & McCarthy's Pub||Tipperary|
|Day 3||Cork Food Tour & Blarney Castle||Cork|
|Day 4||Old Butter Roads Food Trail||Kinsale|
|Day 5||Old Head Boat Trip, Local Markets & Drombeg Stone Circle||Skibbereen|
|Day 6||Explore the West Coast, Visit a Gin Distillery||Bantry|
|Day 7||Kenmare Food Tour, Ring of Kerry & Seaweed Foraging||Dingle Town|
|Day 8||Dingle Peninsula: Archaeology & Distillery Tour||County Clare|
|Day 9||Burren Food Trail & Live Music in Doolin||Doolin|
|Day 10||Explore Galway City, the European Gourmet Capital||Galway|
|Day 11||Depart from Shannon or Dublin|
Day 1: Arrive in Dublin
Welcome to Ireland! You'll touch down in Dublin, at the mouth of the River Liffey, home to more than a third of the Republic of Ireland's population. For a small capital city, it packs a lot of personality. You'll find architectural splendor and a proud literary culture combined with youthful energy and zest for a good old time.
The afternoon is yours to explore the city at your own pace. Make your way through the Temple Bar district, where a bohemian music and arts community guarantees a jubilant atmosphere any time of year. You could visit the famous Guinness Storehouse or Jameson Whiskey Distillery. Or, get a feel for the city's history and strong creative heritage in its Trinity College university grounds, the National Museum, and National Art Gallery.
Day 2: Drive to Kilkenny, Visit Rock of Cashel & McCarthy's Pub
Today, load up your rental car and drive south to Kilkenny, the old medieval capital of Ireland. Once there, take a guided tour of Kilkenny Castle, which has been named one of the most beautiful castles in the world thanks to its romantic atmosphere, beautifully maintained gardens, and fantastic views. Perhaps have lunch at the famous Kilkenny Design Centre and browse the local artisan crafts.
Around one hour's drive from here, you'll find the town of Cashel in County Tipperary. Road-trippers make a point of stopping here to visit the atmospheric Rock of Cashel—a medieval site that features Gothic and Romanesque-style buildings, as well as a 12th-century round tower. You'll spend the night in County Tipperary, so if you've got time, drop by the Equine Museum in the small town of Fethard to learn about the role of horses in Irish culture over the last 2,000 years. Finish the day with a pint in McCarthy's Pub, which has been running since the 1840s and still has bags of old-fashioned character.
Day 3: Cork Food Tour & Blarney Castle
Drive through the rolling farmlands of the Golden Vale to Ireland's second city of Cork. Cork is arguably Ireland's culinary capital, so make the most of its cafés and bakeries (especially in the trendy Huguenot Quarter) and restaurants (head to the Victorian Quarter, around MacCurtain Street). Get an insider's view of the food scene on a Slice of Cork guided tour, which includes a trip to the English Market, one of the oldest roofed markets in Europe.
Day 4: Old Butter Roads Food Trail
Head off on a trip by bus to get off the beaten track through the County Cork countryside. Today you'll trace the Old Butter Roads Food Trails, a collective of family-owned food and hospitality businesses across the region north of Cork City, such as Avondhue, Blackwater, Duhallow, and Muskerry. The route gets its name from the time when Cork dominated the global butter trade—an industry that peaked in the 19th century.
On this guided coach tour, you'll start at the Butter Museum, then head to Blarney for scones and tea before touring around to hear stories of the people who live on the Old Butter Road. You'll also have a chance to stock up on souvenirs, such as apple brandy, craft beers, and preserves. The coach will deliver you back to Cork City; then, you'll drive to the south coast (a half-hour journey) to spend the night in Kinsale.
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Day 5: Old Head Boat Trip, Local Markets & Drombeg Stone Circle
Drive along Ireland's south coast, destined for Skibbereen or Baltimore. There are plenty of sensational stops to make along the way. Take your time to explore the Old Head of Kinsale, where a viewing tower provides a vantage point to see the protected bird colonies on the western cliffs, such as puffins, guillemots, and peregrines. A memorial garden recalls the sinking of the RMS Lusitania ship off these shores in 1915 when a German torpedo hit it.
Regular boat trips set off from Kinsale to show off these waters' abundant marine life. The sea around Ireland was made a whale and dolphin sanctuary in the 1990s, and this region is their richest feeding ground. Spot minke whales from September to March, and baleen, humpback, and fin whales from summer to autumn. Dolphins, porpoises, and seals frolic year-round.
Enjoy lunch in the pretty market town of Clonakilty, famous for its seafood and Country Market, which takes place on Fridays (a local guide can be arranged). Then, continue along the country roads to see the 3,000-year-old Drombeg Stone Circle before checking into your accommodation.
Day 6: Explore the West Coast, Visit a Gin Distillery
Spectacular coastal scenery is the order of the day: make the hour-long journey to Mizen Head, Ireland's most southerly point. Visit Mizen's lighthouse and stop for fresh food at a village pub overlooking the water. Make time to pop into a local gin distillery that comes with views of the unspoiled Beara headland. The Beara Distillery is a family-run enterprise where the gins are infused with seawater and sugar kelp, and the whiskey is made using spring water from the nearby Caha Mountains. So, you can literally take a little bit of Ireland home with you.
Day 7: Kenmare Food Tour, Ring of Kerry & Seaweed Foraging
Continue to the heritage town of Kenmare, which marks the gateway to the Ring of Kerry. This peaceful town sits against the backdrop of some of Ireland's most stunning views, offering outdoor activities such as hiking and biking, excellent restaurants, art galleries, and shopping. There's an option to arrange a guided food tour of the town, with TV cook and Irish food blogger Karen Coakley, for an insider's look at local sellers and artisans.
In the afternoon, you'll take a seaweed foraging trip with a local guide on Derrynane Beach, along the County Kerry coast. Learn how to find and sustainably harvest this "superfood," so-called for its high level of vitamins and fiber. You'll get to taste a range of sea vegetable dishes and beverages while learning about the history of humans' use of seaweed. Then, spend the night in Dingle, where you can relax, overlooking the sea, and eat in excellent local restaurants.
Day 8: Dingle Peninsula: Archaeology & Distillery Tour
Step into the past today with an archaeology tour around the ancient Dingle Peninsula with a local guide. This region has one of the biggest concentrations of archaeological sites in western Europe, stretching back 7,000 years. Almost 2,500 archaeological sites are packed onto one rugged finger of land, so your history lesson will come with the dramatic backdrop of headlands, cliffs, and the wild Atlantic.
After, warm the cockles with a visit to the Dingle Distillery. Three distinctive, hand-crafted copper pot stills create what the makers believe is the ultimate Irish whiskey. There's also a small swan neck pot still for crafting small batches of artisan gin and vodka. See where the magic happens and stock up on produce in the shop. You'll then drive to County Clare by taking the ferry across the River Shannon.
Day 9: Burren Food Trail & Live Music in Doolin
This morning, take a trip to the unique limestone landscape of the Burren, one of very few such geological regions in Europe. 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 "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy.
As you continue north, stop to view the breathtaking Cliffs of Moher. Rising from the raging Atlantic to 700 feet (214 m) at their highest point, standing here is like teetering at the world's edge. Near here, you can also dine in Ireland's only Michelin Star-rated pub, the Wild Honey Inn.
Day 10: Explore Galway City, the European Gourmet Capital
Continue the drive along the Wild Atlantic Way to Galway, one of Ireland's most attractive cities. This medieval maritime hub is now the bohemian capital of Ireland, prized for its art scene, street performances, live music, and buildings painted in primary colors. A local guide will show you its lively center and point out the best bars and cafés.
Day 11: Depart from Shannon or Dublin
With your bellies full and a host of culinary adventures to remember, your time in the Emerald Isle has come to an end. Drive to the airport at Shannon, on the west coast, or Dublin, on the east, to return your rental car and fly home. Safe travels!
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