April 4 -11, 2020
8 days & 7 nights in Ireland’s Southwest Coast
US$2,200- Includes Lodging, Transportation, Activities, and some meals
airfare and restaurant meals are Additional
County Kerry, on Ireland’s southwest coast, is a kingdom apart. Home to Ireland’s highest mountains, the McGillycuddy’s Reeks, the land is rugged and starkly beautiful. The coastline, from sandy beaches to dramatic cliffs, is never far away. This tour is based in Derrynane, at the tip of the Iveragh peninsula, also known as the Ring of Kerry. From this rich ecological and historical spot, we explore the peninsula from the Skellig Ring and Cahersiveen to the market town of Kenmare and the Killarney National Park.
Our week in Kerry gives up the chance to delve into the history of the area while touring manor houses, castle ruins, and ancient stone forts. We will learn from local experts, enjoy meals in friendly pubs, and savor beautiful vistas.
We begin our week with a day spent exploring Derrynane. We will learn about the historical significance of the area with a tour of Derrynane House, which was home to Daniel O’Connell, the Liberator of Ireland. After lunch at the Ahamore Tea Room at Derrynane, we will enjoy a tour of the seashore trail with local naturalist Vincent Hyland who will share his knowledge of the marine and bird life, plants, Irish history and language.
The Derrynane historic park also includes beautiful botanical gardens, a woodland fairy walk, and a mile long sandy beach. There will be time to explore the riches of the area on this day, and at times throughout the week.
A drive up through the McGillycuddy’s Reeks take us through the Killarney National Park. We will drive this twisting road and take in the spectacular views through Moll’s Gap and Ladies’ View on our way to Killarney Falconry. The falconers at Killarney Falconry will take our group for a short walk along a lane with their Harris Hawk where we will takes turns having the hawk land on our gloved hands. At the conclusion of the hawk flight, the falconer will bring out owls for each person to hold and spend time with.
The remainder of our day will be spent at Muckross House estate. After lunch in the Garden Restaurant, there will be several hours to explore. Participants can choose their preferred activity here: a tour of the Victorian mansion, strolling through the beautiful gardens and arboretum, visiting the traditional farm, take a horse-drawn “jaunting car” ride about the grounds with a guide, walk along the lakeshore and perhaps out to the 15th century Franciscan Abbey, or explore the archives in the Muckross Research Library.
The southern loop of the Ring of Kerry will give us opportunities to explore Kenmare town, the Kenmare stone circle (2000 BC) and ancient stone bridge, and perhaps a holy well/fairy well accessed via a path through the woods. We will then travel over the Caha Mountains to Glengariff, where we will take a short ferry ride out to Garinish Island. The ferry takes us past Seal Rock, and lands at the island garden, where we can explore the Italian pavilion, Greek temple, eucalyptus path, a stone tower, and a walled garden. If there is time, we can stop in for a snack at the tea room on the island before catching the return ferry.
For those disinclined to ferries and gardens, participants can explore Glengariff town on their own.
Traveling north, we will visit archeological sites in Cahersiveen. We will begin at the ruins of Ballycarbery Castle on the river Fertha, which has been standing since the 1500s, despite the damage done by Oliver Cromwell’s troops in 1652. We then explore two nearby ancient stone Ring Forts, dating from over 1,000 years ago.
After lunch in Cahersiveen, we may explore more historic sites in town such as the Old Barracks, or we may choose to wander back along the Skellig Ring, taking in the Kerry Cliffs and the beautiful beach at St. Finian’s Bay.
If we have fine weather, we will get to explore the coast from the water with local skipper Des O'Shea. He may take us along the Beara coast and out to Bull Rock, an amazing geologic landform with a tunnel right through the rock, or explore Derrynane and Kenmare Bay from the sea. Seals, dolphins, basking sharks, and whales are often seen in these waters as well as many marine birds.
Please note, this activity will only take place if the weather and seas are fine and is subject to the captain’s decision.
Our final day is purposefully unscheduled to allow us another chance at any activities that we cancelled due to weather. Other options include: