Have you been dreaming of an Ireland vacation? You’re definitely not alone; Ireland has been calling to dreamers for millennia. Join us now, from wherever you’re reading this — at home, at your office, on the move, maybe gazing out of a coffee-house window — we’d like you to suspend disbelief, as they say, and for a few moments imagine yourself in Ireland.
Specifically, you’re on the westernmost coast of this westernmost point of all Europe, in a traditional Galway pub where a stack of peat bricks, hewn by spades and strong shoulders from Ireland’s ancient earth, smoulder gently on a grate in the corner of the pub’s ‘snug’ or side-room. Over a pint of ‘the black stuff’ and a plate of gorgeous Galway Bay oysters, you’re learning about the Little People of Newgrange.
Behind the bar, the girl with the black hair and blue eyes can’t resist a smile. She’s heard it all before, but she never tires of the tale.
Time has absolutely flown by, and already you’re halfway through an unforgettable 8 Day Ireland Fly & Drive – one of a select range of travel packages to the Emerald Isle, both independent and escorted, created by Virgin Vacations with adventure and affordability in mind. Our fly and drive Ireland vacation packages feature round-trip flights between New York and Dublin (other departure cities available), accommodation in your choice of hotels and rental car. It’s a totally customizable, personalized approach to Ireland. If you value flexibility, this is the vacation package for you.
This is no ordinary Ireland vacation. You’re free to wander between city and countryside, meaning there are more of these unforgettable moments, chatting with locals in a wayside pub. Who knows what amazing stories you’ll come home with?
Where you wander is up to you, but you can be sure you won’t miss a thing (or get lost!) as you journey through Ireland, by following one of our suggested itineraries.
Start with Dublin, the perfect base to tour Ireland by car. Among the capital’s many attractions are Phoenix Park, the largest enclosed park in Europe and home to the Irish president, the Dublin Zoo, and a herd of fallow deer; Trinity College, home to the ancient illuminated Book of Kells; and Temple Bar, where you’ll find cracking pubs and a vibrant cultural scene set upon cobbled streets.
Drive south for the historic towns of Kilkenny and Blarney. You know all about the Blarney Stone, but what about the 12th-century Kilkenny Castle? This beautiful castle is no ruin, having been continuously inhabited for seven centuries. Today, you can tour Kilkenny Castle, taking in its hodge-podge of architectural styles, before having tea in its Victorian kitchen.
Now head west for County Kerry’s enchanting loughs and waterfalls. The Ring of Kerry offers some of Ireland’s most stunning views (any Kerryman will assure you they’re the most stunning views) with craggy mountains surrounding shimmering lakes. Take a horse-drawn cart through the Gap of Dunloe and ride back to Killarney by boat, sailing past the ruins of a medieval abbey on the way.
Then it’s north for the towering Cliffs of Moher and the astonishing karst landscape of The Burren, before continuing to the seafaring, free-spirited city of Galway. Today Galway is a cosmopolitan city with a thriving arts scene, but medieval lanes and remnants of fortresses recall its history as a major port, trading with Spain up until the late seventeenth century.
Two of our other Ireland vacation packages, the 8 Day Ireland Fly & Drive with Northern Ireland, and 9 Day Ireland Fly & Drive with Northern Ireland (Game of Thrones Special), both offer something exceptional.
In Northern Ireland, you’ll visit the renaissance city of Belfast for blockbuster experiences like the Titanic Museum and charismatic pubs with names like Bob Cratchit’s, Fealty’s, Katy Daly’s and Grace Neill’s. You’ll also want to visit the Giant’s Causeway, a natural wonder named after fabled warrior Finn Mac Cool’s attempt to join Ireland to Scotland with thousands of symmetrical basalt columns!
Along the Causeway Coastal Route – one of the world’s great road journeys – comes the chance to explore locations from the Emmy and Golden Globe-winning fantasy drama, Game of Thrones: mountains, glens, caves, cliffs, rope-bridges; also the local workshops that supplied the cast’s stunning jewelry.
What’s that – you hadn’t finished hearing about Newgrange? Take a sip of Guinness, and when you bid farewell to Galway and head east back to Dublin, take a detour north of the Irish capital for one of the wonders of the prehistoric world.
Newgrange is a UNESCO World Heritage Site on the River Boyne and part of a ‘sacred precinct’ of burial mounds older than both Stonehenge and the Great Pyramid of Giza. Here, a circular mound rises from the landscape, concealing inner corridors and chambers. Neolithic carvings decorate the stone entrances and supports.
Legend has it, this is where the ‘sidhe’ (pronounced ‘shee’) live to this day. Fairy-folk, as they’re more commonly known. Once you’ve been in Ireland long enough, nothing is too far-fetched… not even the Little People.
And of course, there’s plenty of time for castle-hopping around Ireland, so if stone towers are your fancy, you’ll be able to take your pick, from the popular to the off-the-beaten-track. Find some ghost stories at Kylemore Abbey, a Victorian castle with a romantic legend attached.
Are you ready for a fly-and-drive Ireland vacation package? If you’re not sure about driving in Ireland yet, Visit Ireland has suggestions for new drivers here. Here are the basics: you’ll be driving on the right, and the speed limit on highways is 70. There are some peculiarities to driving in Ireland, but most experienced tour guides will tell you to just relax and remain aware of other drivers.
Of course, if driving on the right-hand side of the road isn’t for you, there’s no reason to abandon your dream of Ireland! Our variety of escorted tours which let you see the best of the Emerald Isle without the hours of planning.
Take a look at all of our exciting itineraries: visit Virgin Vacations‘ Ireland page to get started on your dream Ireland vacation! Or just call 1-888-937-8474 to start building a vacation to match your exact requirements. It’s the ultimate in flexibility and personalized travel!