The Grand SouthwestExplore Ireland's Food, Arts, Shopping in one magical tour

× October 17, 2008 - $2500 per person, land-only, sharing. Supplement of $300 for single travelers.

I've been approached by many to create a tour of Ireland that is not only relaxed and laid-back but highlights a region and gives folks an in-depth feeling for the local culture. This is quite a challenge but I've finally come up with what I think is the perfect tour of Ireland, concentrating on the Southwest with the little touches that are often overlooked by larger groups.

Limited to just 14 people, you will experience Ireland on a small coach with personalized service from Gene, my driver in Ireland and friend. Gene is from the Bantry region of Cork and offers an insight into this region like no other so you'll walk away from this tour not only for a love of Ireland but an appreciation for the people.

Accommodations are so important when traveling so I have arranged some of the best accommodations in Ireland that you could ever want, without breaking the budget. Many of these hotels are centrally located, ensuring you can explore the surrounding town on your own rather than secluded in a hotel outside of town. Two exceptions here are Seaview House in Ballylickey -- you'll be plenty tired and full from the day that you'll need a night to simply relax at the hotel bar before retiring... and Adare Manor where you'll want to experience the last night in the Manor itself.

Ireland has had a culinary revolution so throw out the notion that Irish food is boring and bland! I've arranged four meals to be included in this tour, ranging from 3- to 5-course meals where you will delight in the flavors and aromas of the freshest, tastiest Irish cuisine to put those rumors to rest once and for all. When staying in one location for two nights (and Killarney ... because there are so many choices!) you will have a night on your own to explore the town and eat elsewhere to make sure you can experience "pub grub" or choose another of the many local restaurants. I've also included a special wine and cheese tasting at a friend's cheese shop -- you'll spend a leisurely afternoon sampling fine Irish cheeses and sipping wine ... and talking to the locals that pop in to talk and shop.

Anyone can go to Ireland and buy an Irish sweater as a souvenir and I've made sure that you'll have time at the Blarney Woolen Mills where you will find many well-made Irish woolen products from blankets to sweaters ... but you'll also have time to shop in smaller towns like Clonakilty and visit Ogham Jewelry in Dingle for something different. A chance to visit my friend Raymond Klee's gallery to view some of the most beautiful Irish landscapes I have ever seen -- and hopefully watch him paint with his knife! This trip to Ireland will offer you shopping that most people don't get to see on a large tour bus.

No trip to Ireland is complete without a grand stay in a castle and I've chosen Adare Manor which is stately, grand and castle-like without the cost of the others. You'll stay in 5-star luxury and elegance as you share your final gourmet meal with the new friends you've made on this tour and discuss your next trip together.


  • 7 nights hotel from a 4-star guesthouse to 5-star Adare Manor
  • Irish breakfast daily
  • 4 gourmet dinners, at your leisure
  • Professional driver & guide, Gene, who will handle everything you need while in Ireland
  • Bunratty Castle & Folk Park
  • Cliffs of Moher
  • Cliffs of Moher Boat Cruise
  • Burren Perfumery
  • Burren Smokehouse
  • Poulnabrone Dolmen
  • Corcomroe Abbey
  • Blarney Castle
  • Blarney Woolen Mills (at leisure)
  • Cobh Heritage Museum
  • Charles Fort, Kinsale
  • Touring Beara Peninsula
  • Raymond Klee Gallery
  • Wine & Cheese Tasting @ Manning's Emporium
  • Touring Dingle
  • Ogham Jewelry
  • Adare Village


  • Tir Gan Ean, Doolin Village, Co. Clare (2 nights) - This upscale guesthouse is located in Doolin Village, just feet away from two of Doolin's famous pubs. Music each night, and sometimes dancing, abound in Doolin. Enjoy one night meal at Tir Gan Ean's incredible restaurant and enjoy one of the village's restaurants the other.
  • Old Bank House, Kinsale, Co. Cork (2 nights) - Two nights at this luxury Georgian residence is the perfect complement to this quaint fishing village just below Cork City. Fine cuisine and service is included one night during your stay so you can feast the other at one of Kinsale's many restaurants - this is, after all, the "Gourmet Capital of Ireland."
  • Seaview House Hotel, Ballylickey, Co. Cork (1 night) - Luxury accommodations, each individually decorated with fine antiques and an incredible 5-course meal waits for you today!
  • Killarney Plaza Hotel & Spa, Killarney, Co. Kerry (1 night) - Centrally located and superb rooms -- and you can take advantage of the Molton Brown Spa (additional).
  • Adare Manor, Adare, Co. Limerick (1 night) - Experience the luxury of a grand castle and your final memory of Ireland as you dine in elegance (dress-up required).


  • October 18 - You'll be greeted in Shannon's airport by Gene, our driver, who will take care of your luggage and get you situated (ATM, coffee, phone cards, etc.) before begining your leisurely tour of Ireland with Bunratty Castle & Folk Park. More time will be allowed if flights are delayed so you can enjoy the park as well as shopping and the cafeteria if you skipped the food on the plane. When everyone has had their fill, you will start your short journey toward Doolin Village where you can relax, get settled in and recover from your jet-lag ... but not before taking in the magnificent views of the Cliffs of Moher, a site that will leave a lasting memory. Check-in to Tir Gan Ean, explore Doolin Village, take a walk to the pier or just take a nap. You will feast at Tir Gan Ean's fantastic restaurant as Becky's new chef prepares meals from Ireland's freshest ingredients -- you'll even find out which farm the meat came from! Head to McGann's or McDermott's Pub (the closests) or take a litte stroll to O'Connors Pub -- all great choices for music no matter what!
  • October 19 - After filling up on your full Irish breakfast, you will head out to experience The Burren, a region often overlooked by tourists but so unique. Stop at the Burren Perfumery to experience scents derived from this region, view the distillation and soap making areas, enjoy the organic team rooms and shop the one-of-a-kind fragrances, creams and balms. You will visit Corcomroe Abbey, also known as Sancta Maria de Petra Fertilis, founded in 1194 for the Cistercian Monks where you can view the only botanical carvings to be found in an Irish church of this period. Explore the Poulnabrone Dolmen, excavated in 1968 and found to contain between 16 and 22 adults and 6 children. One final stop at the Burren Smokehouse to enjoy some local smoked salmon as it was meant to be -- you won't find it any better. Back to Tir Gan Ean and dinner is at your leisure tonight. Choose among Doolin's many restaurants... and don't forget to check out one of the pubs you missed last night!
  • October 20 - Today we head to Cork where you will have a leisurely afternoon to explore Blarney Castle, kiss the Blarney Stone, enjoy the gardens and grounds as well as Blarney Village and the Blarney Woolen Mills. Shop, have lunch and enjoy! We'll head to Kinsale early since it will be a long travel day and give you a chance to explore this quintessential harbor town, scout out your pub for the evening or shop. Dinner is included at the Blue Haven Hotel before you head out to enjoy Kinsale at leisure.
  • October 21 - After breakfast you can enjoy this optional excursion to Kinsale's Charles Fort, constructed in the 17th century to defent the harbour. If you want to explore Kinsale some more this morning you are more than welcome, meet back at the specified time and head over to the Cobh Heritage Museum, the final departure for over 2.5 million Irish who emigrated from 1848 - 1950. Back to Kinsale for the rest of the day on your own, including dinner at one of Kinsale's many restaurant (my favorite being Man Friday's overlooking the harbor!)
  • October 22 - Today you'll explore the many small villages along the southern coast including Clonakilty and Skibbereen as you make your way toward Ballylickey. Clonakilty is one of Ireland's emerging tourism towns so you will get to experience it before it becomes too popular. You'll get settled into Seaview House and right afterward you will enjoy a wine and Irish cheese tasting with my friend Val, owner of Manning's Emporium. Over the next hour or so you will enjoy fine Irish cheeses and wine with Val and time to cross the street and browse the art gallery of another friend, Raymond Klee - leave plenty of time as you will find hundreds of original paintings throughout Raymond's gallery! Want one of those hand-made cheese knives Val uses in his shop? Step next door and meet the man who makes the custom! Leave a little room in your stomach because tonight you will have a gourmet meal at Seaview House, again using the freshest local ingredients and cooked just for you.
  • October 23 - After your morning breakfast at Seaview House you will head out for a day of sightseeing the Beara Peninsula, similar to the Ring of Kerry but much less touristy and more pristine -- again overlooked except by those who want to get away from the popular destinations and see more of the unspoiled Ireland. You'll have various stops throughout the touring including Kenmare, one of Ireland's most photographed towns with quaint shops and restuarants. Tonight you will be staying in the center of Killarney, one of Ireland's most famous and bustling towns. Pre-arrange a spa treatment at the Molton Brown Spa or explore the town on your own. Dinner is on your own, with dozens of choices from "pub grub" to fine cuisine and you will have too many choices for pubs tonight, which Gene will you with recommendations...
  • October 24 - This morning we'll start fresh with a hair-raising trip toward Dingle where we will pass "The Devil's Elbow" to explore this famous harbor town on our own... but not before stopping for at a unique custom jeweler offering Ogham jewelry made to order. Place your orders and have it ready after touring Dingle. Heading toward Adare we'll continue our hair-raising journey via Connor Pass and over to Adare Village, complete with thatched-roof cottages converted to small shops and tea rooms. An early arrival at Adare gives you plenty of time to unwind, enjoy the spa and swimming pool in this magnificent manor. Tonight you will dine in sheer elegance -- don't forget to dress up!
  • October 25 - Morning return to the airport.