- 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 spectacular 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 Ireland’s most scenic spots: the Wicklow Mountains, the Ring of Kerry, the Dingle Peninsula, and the Aran Islands. Follow the Wicklow Way just south of Dublin to beautiful Glendalough, hiking along clear streams that cut through the fresh pine forest. Then travel to County Kerry and spend three days walking and cycling 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 Islands 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, located in the city’s historic center. The remainder of the day is free to relax or explore the city. Hit the streets on foot, visit the Guinness Storehouse, or view the illuminated manuscript known as the Book of Kells. Tonight, gather at the hotel for a trip briefing with your group leader followed by a welcome dinner.
Spend the morning exploring the vast gardens of Powerscourt House, a country estate dating back to the 1300s. Then set out along the beautiful Wicklow Way, which stretches about 79 miles through the Wicklow Mountains. Hike through lush pine forests before descending to magical Glendalough—Gaelic for “the valley of two lakes”—a monastic site established by the 6th-century hermit St. Kevin. (10 miles hiking, 5 hours)
Follow the trails of the Wicklow Way, hiking wooded slopes past waterfalls and taking in panoramic views of Glendalough as we leave it behind. From here, a short drive brings us to the Vale of Avoca, where Ireland’s gold rush began in 1796. Enjoy free time to wander through the town of Avoca and visit the Avoca Handweavers mill, established in 1723. (9 miles hiking, 5 hours)
Travel southwest to the Rock of Cashel, an important site in Irish mythology. Packed within age-old ramparts, a cathedral, a chapel, a tower, a choral hall, and a scattering of high crosses, the site exemplifies the best of Ireland's medieval art and architecture. Continue to Killarney, arriving in the afternoon. Set out on a walking tour, taking in the gardens of Muckross House, a 19th-century estate perched between two lakes. Tonight, we'll explore the lively town center to enjoy some traditional music or even some Irish step dancing. (3 miles hiking, 2 hours)
We have several options for exploring the Gap of Dunloe, a narrow valley that splits the Purple Mountain massif from Macgillycuddy’s Reeks, Ireland’s highest mountain range. Hit the seven-mile trail on foot, then return to Killarney by boat. Or hop on a bike and follow a 30-plus-mile circuit through the Gap of Dunloe and around Killarney’s lakes. Later, visit Ross Castle, site of strong resistance to Oliver Cromwell’s Roundheads during the Irish Confederate Wars. Enjoy an evening on your own to get to know the town. (7 miles hiking, 3 hours; or 30+ miles biking on local roads, 3 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 the shores 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. (10-12 miles hiking, 6 hours; or 11 miles, 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. (11 miles hiking, 6 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 the Burren, 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 the Irish language is still spoken. On the island of Inishmore, hike up to Dun Aengus, a mysterious ring fort perched on the edge of cliffs that drop 300 feet to the ocean. Explore the island by biking the local roads or on a guided minibus. Late this afternoon, take the ferry back to Galway, where we’ll enjoy a final dinner together. (2 miles hiking, 1 hour)
After breakfast, transfer to Shannon Airport or return to Dublin for your flight home.