On our Ireland walking tour on the wild Irish coast, we learn what it means to be Irish: friendly conversation, good Guinness, and lots of laughter.
Ireland Trip Overview
Ireland will embrace you and may never let you go. For hundreds of years, this romantic land has inspired bards, musicians, and artists. You too will be swept away by the beauty of the landscape and the warmth and wit of the Irish people. Our days in Ireland are spent walking and hiking the lush, forested valleys of the Ring of Kerry, the wild green hills of the Dingle Peninsula, and the surreal limestone paths of the Burren. The quaint streets of small villages dotting the south and west of Ireland can only be topped by evenings in a traditional pub (there are many to choose from!) listening to lively music and sharing stories with the locals.
Ireland Walking Itinerary at a Glance
Days 1-2: Our Ireland walking tour begins in Adare. Drive south to Killarney, and walk through woodlands past scenic lakes. Take a boat ride across the lakes and enjoy beautiful walking on a long-abandoned roadway. Explore waterfalls and 18th-century architecture.
Days 3-5: Walk stunningly beautiful coastline past ancient beehive huts or board a ferry for a day of walking on Great Blasket Island (a trip back in time). In the evenings savor local music, excellent fresh seafood and lamb, and leisurely explorations of the town.
Days 6-7: Explore the greenways and limestone paths of the Burren (meaning “stony place”). Sunset at the Cliffs of Moher, long after the crowds have left for the day, is unforgettable, as is our luxurious manor hotel.
Day 8: Depart from Shannon, Ireland.
The Boundless Journeys Advantage
- A passion for travel. Simply put, we love to travel, and that is woven into every one of our journeys.
- Unique, award-winning itineraries. Our flexible, hand-crafted journeys have received accolades from the world’s most revered travel publications.
- Insider connections. There is simply no substitute for traveling with a knowledgeable insider.
- Small groups. We tread softly, and our average group size is just 6-8 guests.
- Flexibility to suit your travel style. We offer both small-group departures and Private Collection trips, so that you can choose which works best for you.
- Customer service that goes the extra mile. There is no request that is too big – or too small – for our staff to handle.
- Sustainability. We are committed to traveling responsibly – striving to preserve traditions and cultures around the world, and to protect fragile natural habitats.
Our tours often fill months in advance, and our maximum group size is smaller than most tour operators. It's very quick and easy to reserve a trip. Give us a call at 800-941-8010 or complete the online Reserve a Trip form. We will confirm your reservation with a $500 per person deposit, payable by check or credit card.
Trip Rating (1 Easiest - 5 Most Strenuous)
Traveling to and from
Most Convenient Airport:
Shannon Airport; Shannon, Ireland (airport code SNN)
Meeting Time and Place:
Your guide(s) will meet you on the first day of your tour at your choice of the following two hotels:
- 9:30 a.m. in the lobby of the Dunraven Arms Hotel, Adare, Ireland
- 9:45 a.m. in the lobby of Adare Country House, Adare, Ireland
Please be dressed for walking!
Departure Time and Place:
Your guides will provide a drop-off at the Shannon airport by 10:30 a.m. on the last day of the trip. Since we will be driving from Ballyvaughan on the final morning of the trip, it is not possible to arrive at the Shannon airport prior to 10:30 a.m. Please schedule your flights accordingly.
WHAT TO EXPECT
Boundless Journeys’ trips are designed for energetic and flexible individuals who like to be active and have a spirit of adventure and a positive attitude. Walking Trails of the Emerald Isle is rated 2, easy to moderate, on a scale of 1-5 (with 5 being the most strenuous). The walking and hiking on this trip averages 3-5 hours a day, with most of the time on trails and greenways with only occasional vehicle support.
Preparing for this Trip
It is very important that you realistically assess your physical condition with regard to the demands of this trip. The more well prepared you are for the activities on this trip, the more you will enjoy yourself! Please engage in moderate aerobic activities (hiking, jogging, or cycling) for at least 30-45 minutes several times a week for 4-6 weeks before the trip. If you live in a flat area, try to incorporate some stairs into your workout, or use a treadmill with varying incline capability. Consult your doctor before undertaking any new fitness programs.
Ireland’s weather conditions can vary greatly, even in the course of a single afternoon. It is not uncommon to have deep blue skies followed by “soft” weather (the local term for a bit of rain), and of course, the trademark Irish rainbow. Then the cycle begins again. Therefore, it is essential to be prepared for a variety of conditions – including dressing in layers and wearing quick-drying clothing. Waterproof hiking boots are not a bad idea either, as mornings are often dewy and the grass can be long. The following are average temperatures in southwest Ireland during the summer months:
HIGH / LOW
May: 63°F / 43°F
June: 64°F / 46°F
July: 70°F / 50°F
August: 70°F / 48°F
You may obtain more detailed weather information by visiting www.weatherbase.com.
When to Go
The southwest coast of Ireland enjoys a milder climate than you might expect, and spring comes quite early. By May, flowers are in full bloom, including the many varieties of orchid to be found among the limestone pavements of the Burren. Lambs are everywhere at this time of year as well. June brings longer days, with excellent light well into the evenings. July and August are the height of summer and days tend to be warmer and perhaps a bit drier.
Trip participants have certain responsibilities to both Boundless Journeys and your fellow travelers. This includes understanding the conditions described in the trip itinerary and making sure it is appropriate for your interests and abilities, based on a review of the trip ratings, consultation with Boundless Journeys’ staff, and perhaps your doctor. In addition, trip participants are responsible for preparing for a trip by undertaking the proper fitness training. At the guide’s discretion, a participant may be asked to leave the trip if the guide feels that the person’s further participation may be detrimental to the individual or to other trip participants. If you have any questions about the difficulty level of the trip you have chosen, please contact Boundless Journeys to speak with one of our Destination Managers.
Small Group Travel
Small group travel affords us the opportunity to seek out the most remote and exotic destinations on the planet. Often we are exploring these locales with just 6-12 guests. The nature of active group travel is such that not all participants have the same ability level or interests. Traveling at a pace that is comfortable for the entire group, with a spirit of flexibility and adventure are all part of this intimate experience.
Overview: First-class historic hotels and inns, all private baths.
Nights 1 & 2: Cahernane House Hotel
Killarney, Co. Kerry, Ireland
Beautifully situated on its own private estate on the edge of Killarney National Park, and a short ten minute walk to Killarney town center, Cahernane House Hotel is a unique experience of old Irish history and modern hotel luxuries.
Nights 3, 4 & 5: Benners Hotel
Dingle, Co. Kerry, Ireland
Centrally located in the spirited town of Dingle, Benners offers traditional Irish warmth and comfort, coupled with modern facilities.
Nights 6 & 7: Gregans Castle Hotel
Ballyvaughan, Co. Clare, Ireland
A restored 18th-century country house, this four-star hotel features rooms decorated with antiques, a fine-dining restaurant, and an ideal location in the heart of the Burren.
A Boundless Moment in Ireland...
This was Great Blasket Island, just a piece of rock and a scrub of green coastline, cast away into the North Atlantic. Our guide says the Norse called it “Brasker”, meaning ‘a dangerous place’. It’s not hard to imagine why, and what life must have been like for these sturdy islanders, surviving on the fish they could catch, the peat they cut from the land to stoke their fires, and the occasional ship—like the little ferry that brought us—that might provide a plentiful but short-lived bounty.
IRELAND WALKING TOUR DETAILED ITINERARY
Killarney National Park
Walk – easy, 2-3 hours; 4-5 miles.
We depart Adare this morning for Killarney National Park. This section of the Kingdom of Kerry is one of the few areas of Ireland that remains forested, and MacGillicuddy’s Reeks are among the highest mountains in the country. Nestled between the base of the mountains and the town are the Lakes of Killarney, the centerpiece of Killarney National Park. We begin our exploration by walking the Muckross Peninsula. This beautiful, pastoral walk encircles Muckross Lake and brings us past the 200-year old Dinish Cottage and the Old Weir Bridge. Nearby, we pass the “meeting of the waters,” where a stream feeds Muckross from the other two lakes. If we are lucky, we may also see the Irish red deer, the only surviving herd of native deer in the country.
Later this afternoon we check into our home for the next two nights, a lovely four-star hotel situated on its own private estate on the edge of Killarney National Park.
Cathernane House Hotel, Killarney
Old Kenmare Road
Walk – moderate to strenuous, 3-4 hours; 8-9 miles.
We begin our adventure today in an unusual way – boarding an open boat for a scenic two-hour trip through Lough Leane, Muckross Lake, and Upper Lakes – the perfect way to see another side of the park before walking Old Kenmare Road, a local favorite. Our trail begins at Lord Brandon’s Cottage, the impressive hunting retreat of an 18th-century aristocrat, and ends at the beautiful Torc Waterfall. We make our way through magical, moss-covered woodland – the oldest oak woods in Ireland – and into the open valleys of Esknamucky Glen. Later this afternoon, if there is time, we may visit Muckross House, a Victorian mansion surrounded by traditional gardens that offers a window into rural Irish life in the early 20th century.
Tonight we enjoy dinner at a great Killarney restaurant.
Cathernane House Hotel, Killarney
Transfer to Dingle
Walk – easy, about 3 hours; 2-3 miles.
This morning we make our way west to the Dingle Peninsula, where we have a variety of walking and hiking options to choose from. Along the way, we’ll stop at Inch Strand, a favorite local beach where we may see a few border collies on a day off from shepherding duties playing in the surf. Exploring the beach and venturing into the sand dunes offers a dramatic change from yesterday’s walk and highlights Ireland’s diverse habitats.
Our hotel for the next three nights is well located in charming Dingle. Tonight we enjoy dinner in one of the town’s wonderful restaurants, featuring fresh seafood and traditional fare.
Benners Hotel, Dingle
Ventry Beach to Slea Head
Walk – easy to moderate, 3-4 hours; 6-7 miles.
A drive along the coast brings us to our trailhead at Ventry Beach, a beautiful, crescent-shaped white sliver. As we begin our ascent from Ventry Beach, our path is dotted with wildflowers. We ascend and then level out high above the ocean. This lovely, quintessential Irish landscape has appeared in such films as Ryan’s Daughter and Far and Away. Along the trail, we pass beehive-shaped stone huts that are believed to be the humble abodes of early Christian monks. As we walk along, amazing views of the Atlantic and the Blasket Islands are revealed far below. Great Blasket Island (where we will walk tomorrow if the weather cooperates) comes steadily into focus as we descend to Slea Head.
Tonight you are free to choose from one of Dingle’s numerous restaurants for dinner. Our guides will be happy to make suggestions for you.
Benners Hotel, Dingle
Great Blasket Island
Walk – difficulty and elevation gain variable, about 4 hours; 4-5 miles.
Today we take a trip back to a time before cars, cell phones, and computers. If the seas permit, we will board a ferry from Dingle to Great Blasket Island, the largest of a group of islands clustered off the tip of the Dingle Peninsula. Made famous by local author and Blasket native Tómas Ó Criomhthain, the people of the Blaskets eked out a tough existence of fishing, turf-cutting, and taking advantage of odd shipwrecks in their waters. The population has dwindled, but Great Blasket Island still offers excellent options for walking and hiking, or perhaps just relaxing and imagining life on these islands in centuries past. (Please note: ferry service to Great Blasket Island is highly dependent on weather conditions. If it is not possible to ferry to the island, our local guides know numerous excellent walking and hiking options around the peninsula, each with their own special highlights.)
Dinner tonight is at another favorite local restaurant in Dingle. After dinner those who wish can seek out any of a number of “trad” music sessions taking place in the local pubs. In Dingle, it is still common for talented musicians to spend their evenings playing together in a local pub, and it is a delight to witness this Irish tradition.
Benners Hotel, Dingle
Transfer to Ballyvaughan; Corcomroe Abbey and Abbey Hills
Walk – easy to moderate, about 2 hours; 2-3 miles.
We depart Dingle early this morning by way of the spectacular Conor Pass, and make our way north to Ballyvaughan. Our drive on the narrow country roads is delightfully scenic as we cross the Shannon Estuary by ferry, stopping for lunch along the way.
As we approach Ballyvaughan, the landscape changes completely. Here, we enter the Burren (literally “rocky place” in Gaelic). The vast, limestone landscape is an ideal environment for wildflowers, including dozens of species of orchids. The history of the human impact on this area is fascinating, as centuries of farming and the removal of trees and turf have led to the austere beauty of the Burren today. We stop at the Burren Center in Kilfenora, where informational displays introduce us to the region. Time permitting, we’ll begin our walk at the ruins of Corcomroe Abbey, a 12th-century Cistercian monastery. After exploring the ruins, we ascend into the surrounding hills, enjoying expansive views of the abbey and the neighboring farmland.
This afternoon we arrive at our final hotel, a lovingly restored four-star country house.
Gregans Castle Hotel, Ballyvaughan
Walk – easy to moderate, 4-6 hours; 6-7 miles.
After breakfast, we head for the small parish of Fanore, where we begin our walk on a greenway (an old farm road) through the Burren. To the west and north are views of the Atlantic and Galway Bay, and on a clear day we will see the Aran Islands in the distance. Ancient stone walls mark our way through the rolling hills, and if we are lucky, we may see one of the many herds of wild goat that roam here.
Tonight we enjoy a final celebratory dinner at our hotel.
Gregans Castle Hotel, Ballyvaughan
Transfer to Shannon
After a final Irish breakfast, we depart for Shannon airport, where we bid each other farewell.
Please note that this is a typical itinerary, and actual activities may vary to take advantage of weather conditions, local events, and to allow serendipity to play a hand in your experience. Accommodations are as outlined in the itinerary, although we reserve the right to change these should the need arise.
- Jun 19–26, 2016
- Jul 17–24, 2016
- Aug 21–28, 2016
- Sep 11–18, 2016
2016 Land Cost
$4,495 per person
Accommodations (hotels, tents, cruise cabins) are based on double occupancy. A single supplement is paid by participants who specifically request single accommodations, subject to availability. If you reserve at least 120 days prior to departure, you may be eligible for a reduced or free single supplement.* This is generally limited to the first one or two solo travelers to reserve, and the reduction is outlined in the pricing for each trip. Please note, free or reduced single supplements are not combinable with other offers or promotions.
If you are traveling alone and wish to share accommodations, we will try to match you with a roommate of the same gender. If you reserve at least 120 days ahead and a roommate is not available, you will only be charged a “forced” single supplement in the amount of 50% of the standard single supplement* (unless otherwise noted in the detailed itinerary). Single accommodations are limited so you are encouraged to reserve early!
*This does not apply to cruises in the Galapagos Islands. Please see these trip pages for more details.
- Expert leadership
- All accommodations
- All meals except one dinner
- All transportation during the tour
- Park fees
- All activities as noted in the itinerary
Please complete the following information to request a reservation. A trip deposit of $500 per person is required to confirm your reservation (payable by check or major credit card). Once we receive your request we will contact you within one business day to confirm availability and answer any questions you may have.
About our guides
With a Boundless Journeys guide, your experience is that of friend and local adventurer. We believe strongly in working with local guides, experts in the areas to which we travel, and they hold the keys to unlocking the hidden delights of your chosen destination. Although you will never know they are at work – the mark of a truly great leader – our guides make magical things happen and add a dimension to your trip that you could not experience on your own.
Over the years we have forged bonds with some of the best guides in the world, and we typically work with a small team of guides in each region. You will be informed of the guide for your trip one month prior to your departure.
Maeve Kelly: With an advanced degree in archaeology and Celtic civilization, veteran Boundless Journeys guide Maeve Kelly is well equipped to introduce our guests to the dynamic and varied history of her native Ireland. But of course, it’s her personal background – having grown up in the wilds of Donegal, and having spent years guiding clients up and down the coast of her beloved country – and her typical Irish wit, that have made Maeve a favorite of Boundless Journeys’ guests over the years.
Pol O'Colmain: An accomplished guide with nearly two decades experience, Pol O'Colmain has designed many tours, and his work has been recognized by National Geographic Traveler magazine in their annual Tours of a Lifetime issue. His diverse talents as a visual artist, published poet, musician and songwriter with five albums to his name, and a wealth of knowledge on his beloved Ireland make him an ideal traveling companion.
Marie Cullen: A well-known Irish landscape artist, Marie Cullen lived for ten years on Great Blasket island, where she ran a restaurant, guest-house and hostel. She currently runs an Art Centre in Skibbereen, Co.Cork, but loves guiding active tours and has an intimate knowledge of the West of Ireland.
What other guests have said about our guides in Ireland:
“I wanted to express my gratitude to you for picking a wonderful guide. Maeve is quite knowledgeable about her country and obviously enjoys what she does. Her passion for exploring Ireland translated into a great trip for us. She also has the rare gift of making people feel very comfortable around her - so much so that it makes you feel like you’ve known her for years. She’s truly a gem Boundless Journeys should treasure!"
- L.S., Ashburn, VA
Picture Yourself Here:
Daily walking and hiking through beautiful Irish countryside - expansive landscapes, enchanting mountains
Traditional Irish music with friendly locals in out-of-the-way pubs
Lively, colorful towns of Dingle and Killarney
Great Blasket Island, the Lakes of Killarney, and sunset at the Cliffs of Moher
- Jun 19–26, 2016
- Jul 17–24, 2016
- Aug 21–28, 2016
- Sep 11–18, 2016
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What others have said...
This trip was beyond my expectations. Maeve, our guide, was an important part of making it successful. She provided opportunities for both a physical experience through hiking, along with an intellectual aspect. She obviously loves Ireland and her enthusiasm was contagious. The places we visited were outstanding!
- J. Cappiello, Delmar, NY
Latest Blog Posts About Ireland
"When I planned to make a trip to Italy I knew I wanted to feel it as much as see it. I was hoping to eat good food, drink great wine, and then hike off all those calories. I did just that, while getting vast knowledge about the art, grapes, and architecture. Our guides Alex and Christopher are an asset to your company. Without them the trip never would have been as memorable and enjoyable. We all agree it exceeded our expectations. I have begun my own 'Boundless Journey.'"
- Diane Cook, Italy: A Taste of Tuscany & Umbria