- Approach the enchanting valley of Glendalough from above, descending along the beautiful Wicklow Way.
- Hike a portion of the Dingle Way, encountering the beehive huts and cliff-lined coast of the Dingle Peninsula.
- Take to the trails of the Ring of Kerry, passing ancient forts and monasteries and stopping for a sheepdog demonstration.
- Go cycling on Inishmore, the largest of the Aran Islands, and get acquainted with the rich Irish traditions of the Gaeltacht.
With its spectacular coastline and its endless swells of emerald hills scattered with ancient ruins, Ireland was made to be explored on foot. Hit the trails in four of the country’s most scenic spots: the Wicklow Way, the Ring of Kerry, the Dingle Peninsula, and the Aran Islands. Pass through Glendalough to the Galtee Mountains and the lush Glen of Aherlow. Then travel to County Kerry to walk among Ireland’s highest mountains, Macgillycuddy’s Reeks. Trace the rocky shores of the Dingle Peninsula past fishing villages and age-old beehive huts, and end your adventure among the surreal limestone flats of the Aran Island of Inishmore. Discover early Christian monasteries, enigmatic stone circles and Celtic forts, medieval manors, and Ireland’s lively culture along the way.
Arrive in Dublin and transfer to our hotel, situated in the city’s historic center. Spend the remainder of the day exploring Ireland’s ancient capital on your own, delving into brewing history at the Guinness Storehouse, marveling at the illuminated manuscript pages of the famed Book of Kells, or strolling down the lively riverfront area known as Temple Bar. In the evening, gather at the hotel for a trip briefing followed by a welcome dinner.
A scenic drive takes us into an enchanting realm of heath-covered hills, mirror-like lakes, and ancient stone ruins in Wicklow Mountain National Park. In Glendalough—Gaelic for “valley of two lakes”—visit a monastic site established by the sixth-century hermit St. Kevin. Walk under two granite arches into this ancient haven, home to historic landmarks such as a stone church called St. Kevin’s Kitchen and a cave known as St. Kevin’s Bed. Then set out on our first hike, which takes us high above Glendalough amid some of the most breathtaking scenery in Ireland. (7 miles hiking, 4 hours)
Our day begins at the studio of one of Ireland’s most renowned potters, Nicholas Mosse. Marvel at lovely earthenware handmade from Irish clay, fired by the artist in kilns and decorated with traditional motifs inspired by 18th-century Irish spongeware. From here, we’ll hike along the meandering River Nore through meadows and shaded glades to the medieval city of Kilkenny. Along the way, learn about the region’s history from our guides while keeping an out for kingfishers, otters, and herons. After a visit to the 12th-century Kilkenny Castle, enjoy time to explore the city’s celebrated craft shops. (8 miles hiking, 3–4 hours)
Travel southwest to the Glen of Aherlow, an emerald valley nestled amid the sweeping Galtee mountain range. Embark on a hike to the top of Slievenamuck, where the ruins of a 5,000-year-old portal tomb provides one of the most stunning views in the region. After lunch, transfer to Killarney and enjoy a pre-dinner walk in the gardens of Muckross House, a 19th-century estate perched between two lakes. Tonight, venture into the lively town center to enjoy traditional music and perhaps some Irish step dancing. (6 miles hiking, 3–4 hours)
Today’s loop takes us through some of County Kerry’s most beautiful landscapes. The Gap of Dunloe is a narrow valley that splits the Purple Mountain massif from Macgillycuddy’s Reeks, Ireland’s highest mountain range. Embark on a scenic hike through the gap, then ferry across the lakes with a local boatman and storyteller. Upon reaching the other side, visit Ross Castle, site of strong resistance to Oliver Cromwell’s Roundheads during the Irish Confederate Wars. Later, enjoy an evening on your own in Killarney. (7 miles hiking, 3–4 hours)
Set out on the trails of the idyllic Ring of Kerry. Stop along the way to watch a sheepdog demonstration and visit ancient sites including early Christian monasteries and Iron Age forts. Or head out for a more challenging climb up Ireland's highest peak, Carrauntoohill (3,415 feet). Starting on the shore of Lough Acoose, ascend Caher Mountain (3,284 feet) and follow the Caher Ridge to the summit of Carrauntoohill, where the views are some of the best in Ireland. Descend to the Kerry Way for the last leg of the hike. Late this afternoon, transfer to the nearby Dingle Peninsula. (8 miles hiking, 3–4 hours; or 11 miles hiking, 8 hours for the Carrauntoohill climb)
Windswept green hills, a rocky coastline, and a wealth of archaeological sites make the Dingle Peninsula one of Ireland's greatest treasures. Set out on the Dingle Way, a spectacular trail that traces the coast. As we hike from Ventry to near Ballydavid, observe ancient beehive huts; the remains of the stone fort of Dun an Oir; and the Gallarus Oratory, an early Christian church built of unmortared stone. (8 miles hiking, 3-4 hours)
This morning, we visit the enigmatic Ballintaggart Ogham Stones, nine oval stones—some etched with symbols or inscriptions—that may mark an ancient burial site. Then travel to the dramatic limestone karst landscape of Burren National Park, where we’ll meet a local farmer to learn about this otherworldly landscape and the traditions of its people. Our home tonight is the charming city of Galway. (3 miles hiking, 2 hours)
Take the ferry to the Aran Islands, part of the Gaeltacht, where Gaelic is still spoken. On Inishmore, embark on a short hike up to Dun Aengus, a mysterious ring fort perched on the edge of cliffs that drop 300 feet to the ocean. Afterward, explore the island by biking the local roads or by hiking across it on foot. Late this afternoon, take the ferry back to Galway, where we’ll enjoy a final dinner together. (6 miles hiking, 2-3 hours or 15-20 miles biking and 1 mile hiking, 2-3 hours)
After breakfast, transfer to the Dublin airport for your flight home.