Experience western Ireland's golden beaches, green rolling hills and mountain lakes on this in-depth, small-group adventure. You'll find there’s nothing quite like a walking tour vacation for immersing yourself in a destination. Averaging 5-8 miles per day, easy to moderate walks take you to picturesque fishing villages, spectacular Killarney National Park and early-Christian sites dating from the 6th century.
• Enjoy participating in a small-group walking tour.
• Visit pristine Inishfallen Island.
• Explore Killarney National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
$75 per person gift certificate for The Country Walkers online store
This journey of discovery begins in picturesque Dingle, where seafaring traditions pervade a vibrant townscape featuring artisan shops and tempting eateries. During daily walks led by experienced local guides, follow footpaths through green hills to golden beaches bordered by steep cliffs rising over the North Atlantic. Stop at sheep crossings and greet farmers on the trail as you roam from early-Christian sites like the 8th-century Gallarus Oratory to sloping fields where you can still see Iron Age remains such as beehive huts used by farmers and Eremite monks. From the seaside bluff of Slea Head, enjoy breathtaking views of the Blasket Islands — the westernmost inhabited part of Europe.
Then bid farewell to the coast and head inland to a richly varied landscape heralded in song and literature for centuries. In Killarney National Park, an 11,000-acre nature preserve and UNESCO World Heritage site, hike through Ireland's largest remaining oak forests. Here you’ll find the last herds of native red deer and Ireland’s highest mountain range, the Macgillicuddy’s Reeks, which cradle the three lakes of Killarney. Explore the lakes on a boat expedition that includes Inishfallen Island, where your expert guide will recount the tale of St. Fionan monks who recorded Ireland’s earliest history. Conclude your time in Killarney with a trek on Old Kenmare Road. Meander through heather-clad mountains to the rare yew forests of Muckross Lake, a perfect setting for the mythological leprechaun.
Throughout your adventure, enjoy wonderful accommodations, gracious hospitality and excellent local cuisine. Benners Hotel in Dingle is a luxurious, family-run hotel and local landmark. Spacious guestrooms blend traditional antique-style furniture with elegant comforts while bustling Dingle’s many restaurants, shops and harbor are all a short walk away. In Killarney, stay at The Malton, a 150-year-old architectural jewel with acres of manicured gardens. Here you’ll sample nouveau Irish cuisine that takes traditional local ingredients to new heights. And be sure to leave some time for pub-hopping with the delightful new friends you've made!
• 6 nights hotel accommodations: 3 nights in Dingle and 3 nights in Killarney
• All meals except for 2 lunches and 1 dinner; wine and beer included with dinners
• All on-tour transportation plus airport/hotel transfers on Days 1 and 7
• Assistance of 2 expert, local guides throughout (for groups of 8 or more)
• Guided walks along Dingle Harbor and coastline, at Slea Head, Inch Strand, Killarney National Park, along the Old Kenmare Road and around Muckross Lake
• Boat excursion on the Lakes of Killarney to Inishfallen Island
• Mobile phone rental - includes free phone rental, preferred calling rates and complimentary shipping
• All entrance fees and special events as per itinerary
Note: Please bear in mind that this is a typical itinerary and the actual activities, sites and accommodations may vary due to season, special events, inclement weather or transportation schedules. Therefore unforeseen circumstances that mandate change may arise but any itinerary changes are made to improve the tour and our guests’ experience.
Day 1 – Arrive in Shannon / Transfer to Dingle / Dingle Harbor (3 miles, Easy to Moderate)
From the Shannon region, journey southwest with your new walking companions and Irish guides. Your destination is the picturesque village of Dingle and the charming Benners Hotel, where a lovely lunch awaits. This afternoon, drive a few minutes to the harbor mouth where you may spot the friendly resident dolphin, Funghi, who often swims alongside visiting bathers. Your warm-up walk on coastal trails is a perfect introduction to the island—rocky shores, crashing waves, verdant hills and golden beaches make up the horizon. The path takes you back to the ancient village where you learn about Dingle’s turbulent history and how it eventually prospered thanks to its superb natural harbor.
Tonight, gather for dinner at a local restaurant. On the menu is fresh seafood harvested from the surrounding sea. After dinner, you may choose to pay a visit to the local pubs, where traditional Irish music lightens the heart.
Accommodation: Dingle Benners Hotel - 3 nights
Day 2 – Coastal Walk (6 miles, Easy) / Optional Afternoon Walk (4 miles, Moderate)
Our morning walk encompasses some of the stunning coastal scenery made famous by Ryan’s Daughter, David Leans’s epic movie. Following back roads and along the shoreline, the route passes by an area where, in 1680, an ill-fated attempt by the Spanish to assist the Desmond rebellion against the Elizabethans at Dun an Or (“fort of gold”) took place. The gentle dirt trail eventually turns to fine sand, inviting you to take your shoes off and cool your feet in the refreshing Atlantic Ocean. Stroll along the beach at your own pace, breathing in the invigorating air before returning to Dingle. Lunch is on your own and there are plenty of inviting cafés and pubs to choose from, perhaps for fresh crab cakes or a hearty soup.
This afternoon you may choose to join a moderate walk following an old bog road up Cnoc a’Carn overlooking the ancient town. The other option is to meander among Dingle’s colorful streets and down to the harbor, admiring endless rows of sailboats and exploring the many craft shops. Or simply to relax at the hotel, settling in one of the cozy living spaces with a book or a glass of wine. You gather with the group for a superb dinner at a long established family-owned restaurant. The owners have a background in farming and most ingredients for the restaurant’s menu are from the day’s harvest.
Day 3 – Slea Head (5 miles, Moderate) / Optional Afternoon Walk (3 miles, Easy)
This morning, we set out toward Slea Head where small farms cling to the precipitous slopes along Dingle Way. The land here exposes Iron Age remains such as beehive huts used by Eremite monks and farmers. Rounding the head, breathtaking views of the Blasket Islands spread out before you—the westernmost inhabited part of Europe. The morning adventure takes you on grassy paths through pastures dotted with sheep and an occasional donkey, along stone walls and up and down stiles, or climbing hills that always reward your efforts with sweeping views of the Irish countryside.
After a lunch of delicious soup, quiche or a sandwich of fresh bread and tasty cheese in the village of Dunquin, the focus turns to the evolution of the early Irish Church from the 6th to the 12th centuries. Within a few square miles there is an unusual density of early Christian settlement sites, including Reask, Gallarus Oratory, and Kilmalkedar church. Returning to Dingle, there is time to relax at your hotel before enjoying a sumptuous dinner at yet another local restaurant featuring local delicacies such as freshly caught salmon and ice cream with brandied berries.
Day 4 – Inch Strand (5 miles, Easy to Moderate) / Killarney National Park (2.5 miles, Easy)
After breakfast, bid farewell to the ocean and travel inland into a richly varied countryside—one that has been heralded in song for centuries—that includes Killarney National Park and the Kingdom of Kerry. Along the way, stop for a morning walk at Inch Strand, a wide sand dune peninsula inhabited only by sea birds and where you can hear the thunderous roar of the surf. You continue your journey to Killarney, where there is time to explore and have an independent lunch in town.
Gather with the group mid-afternoon and head out for your second walk of the day on the well-maintained trails of Killarney National Park, the emerald jewel of Ireland, also listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage site. An 11,000-acre nature reserve, the park protects the largest remaining tracts of natural oak woodland in the country, the last remaining herd of native Irish red deer, the three lakes of Killarney and the eastern end of Ireland’s highest mountain range, the Macgillicuddy’s Reeks. The trail also passes the manicured grounds of a castle and yet another stone church, testament to Ireland’s rich history. This evening, after settling into your hotel, enjoy dinner at a local restaurant.
Accommodation: The Malton - 3 nights
Day 5 – Lakes of Killarney & Inishfallen Island Boat Excursion / Killarney National Park (3 miles, Easy to Moderate)
Today there is time for a leisurely breakfast as we don’t depart till midmorning. We’ll stop at a local café so you may pick up your own lunch—a made-to-order sandwich of fresh bread, local produce, cheese or curried chicken. Then embark on a two-hour boat journey to explore the three lakes of Killarney and pristine Inishfallen Island. The island was once inhabited by the monks of St. Fionan, known for their valuable account of early Irish history in the “Annals of Innisfallen.” Following the boat excursion, enjoy a picnic lunch on the grounds of Lord Brandon’s Cottage, the site of a local gentry’s hunting lodge.
Our second afternoon in Killarney National Park begins with an easy three-mile walk through a natural peat bog, with stops to examine its flora and fauna. Upon arrival at Derrycunnihy Cascade, the walk becomes a little more strenuous. At the end of the day, some may wish to peruse Killarney’s woolen shops while others can return to the hotel and lounge in the atrium or other public areas of this private estate. You are free to choose from one of Killarney’s numerous restaurants or pubs for dinner on your own this evening.
Day 6 – Old Kenmare Road (5 miles, Easy to Moderate) / Muckross Lake (4 miles, Easy)
Today’s first walk begins along the Old Kenmare Road. The route starts with a brief ascent along which you can enjoy spectacular views of heather-clad mountains and the Lakes of Killarney; the same lakes you explored the day before. Upon arrival in the charming, picturesque town of Kenmare, you may wish to join the locals to sip a pint of stout and enjoy a delicious pub lunch.
This afternoon an easy four-mile walk passes through the woodland surrounding Muckross Lake (literally “middle lake”). Rare yew forests grow along the limestone reefs of this peninsula and seem a likely habitat for the mythological leprechaun. This evening, partake in a festive farewell dinner at the hotel. The restaurant here uses the freshest of quality ingredients, sourced locally. Try the Kerry Lamb or the Ballydehob Duck.
Day 7 – Transfer to Shannon / Depart for home
This morning breakfast is early. You then transfer to Shannon Airport for your return flight home.
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