The tour of Ireland begins in Dublin, famous for its folklore, culture and breweries, then heads west to explore Ireland's most beautiful sites: Clonmacnoise, the spiritual and geographical heart of the island, as well as Connemara, the Aran Islands and the Ring of Kerry.
Rental car pick-up
Type: Ford Focus or similar
Pick-up location: Dublin Airport
The 4-star hotel in Country Westmeath near Athlone sits on the property of one of the best golf courses in Ireland. The picturesque village of Glasson in the immediate vicinity boasts award-winning pubs. The hotel offers 65 large rooms and an excellent restaurant. Guests not interested in playing golf can enjoy strolls along the numerous paths that lead through the tranquil lakelands.
The elegant early Victorian mansion is set in 180 acres of parkland on the shores of idyllic Lough Corrib. The informal country atmosphere and unpretentious hospitality enable guests to relax and feel at home from the moment they enter the door. The 15 bedrooms have enchanting views of the lake or mountains. Guests can relax in any of three drawing rooms equipped with rows of book-filled shelves. The generous breakfast buffet is laid out on the dining room sideboard each morning, and a four-course - highly recommended - dinner is available in the evening.
The quiet location in the county of Limerick hosted a conventwith an integrated boarding school in the 19th Century. Allegedly now Ireland's prettiest village, Adare,could be reached on foot by the pupils. A long time has passed since studentsand monks have left the place. The building fell into disrepair and was finallysold and converted to a lodge. It has won several rewards since the 1980's, perhapsnot only for the good food, the style or the comfort of the rooms, but for thefact that the place has preserved its spirituality. The trees in the park arenow over a hundred years old and the herb garden enriches the kitchen of thehouse. The outstanding restaurant attracts food and wine connoisseurs fromaround the world. Most guests stay in the main house, but some also in the schoolbuilding.
The modern 4-star hotel on the southern coast of the Dingle Peninsula is only a 10-minute walk from the Dingle town centre. All 12 bedrooms are large, bright and furnished to the highest standard with a lot of attention to detail. Helen's mother is an artist and some of her work can be seen around the place. Breakfast is prepared from local produce and the choice is fantastic. Several superb golf courses are located in the vicinity. The vibrant town of Dingle offers a surprising array of pubs and restaurants, many of which feature live music. The luxurious guesthouse makes an excellent base for exploring the Dingle Peninsula.
The Victorian residence was originally built in 1850 for use as a hunting lodge by Lord Brockett. Today it is one of the most renowned in Ireland and has attracted numerous nature-lovers, adventurers and poets to its doors. The property sits on an isolated spot directly on the shore of Caragh Lake. Guests cherish the clean air, the beautiful gardens framed by natural green woodlands and the gorgeous views of the Kerry Mountains across the lake.
Possible activities include hiking, mountain climbing, horseback riding, fishing and sailing, or just relaxing in front of the fireplace in the lounge with a good book. A restaurant which is part of the lodge has won several awards.
Nancy's modern house in the beautiful environment of West Cork has been awarded several times. Her many returning guests appreciate the warm welcome, a relaxed homely atmoshpere and a superb breakfast. The rooms are pleasant, functional and well priced. Views are spectacular, especially if the weather is fine. The Main Street with its amenities is just a short walk away.
The imposing villa built in 1840 stands in Cobh, the point of departure for thousands of famished emigrants to the New World. The original style of the interior has been largely maintained in harmony with the early Victorian façade. On chilly days visitors can warm up around the open fireplace in the drawing room. The large bedrooms feature four-poster beds and other interesting antiques. The only thoroughly modern rooms are the bathrooms. Host Pam, who used to manage a supermarket, is as efficient as she is hospitable.
Rental car drop off
Drop off location: Dublin City/Dowtown
The venerable schoolhouse was designed by the same Dublin architects that created the Museum of Trinity College. From 1861 to 1969 it served as the home of St. Stephen's Parochial School and was the centre of the Easter Rising in 1916, one of the country's most important rebellions against British rule. After the final ringing of the schoolbells the building stood vacant for 30 years before being carefully restored and converted to 4 star hotel. The individually decorated bedrooms were named after famous Irish authors. What was once a large classroom is now the site of a gourmet restaurant that includes the Schoolhouse Bar, which is frequented by many locals.
The capital on the east coast with its 500,000 residents is without doubt the political and cultural center of Ireland. Around one-third of the island's total population lives in the Dublin metropolitan area. The layout of the Dublin was determined by the River Liffey, which runs straight through the city and splits it into a poor northern half and a rich southern half before flowing through the harbor into the sea. A settlement called "Dubh Linn" ("black pool") must have existed even before 450 AD, when many of the citizens were converted to Christianity by St. Patrick. The city was ruled by many different invaders throughout its long and eventful history. Much of the architecture that dominates in the old town dates back to the 18th century, when Ireland enjoyed a brief phase of peaceful respite and the population of Dublin soared from 65,000 to over 200,000. Most of the buildings that make up Trinity College were constructed during this period, such as the stately Old Library, as were numerous other famous landmarks, like St. James Gate Brewery, home to Guinness beer. Fresh samples of the famous brew are available at the visitors' center, which is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Rental car company: AVIS (Ireland)
Type: Ford Focus
4 doors, CD Player, Power Assistance Steering