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Ireland: Walking the West Country

Stroll into the soul of Ireland on its wildly beautiful west coast.

  • 10 Days
  • Activity Level: Easy / Moderate
  • Daily Mileage: 4 - 8 mi
  • Daily Walking: 2 - 5 hr
  • Small Groups: 20
  • Walking Activity
  • Ideal for those who walk for a morning or afternoon on a regular basis. Footing may be on a variety of surfaces. No extended ascents or descents, but some rewarding climbs.
  • Airfare Packages Available

Why You'll Love This Tour

Overview

Ireland: Walking the West Country

Delightful daily routes lead you through magnificent gardens and ancient woodlands, past lakeside beaches and rocky coves, along farm tracks into open moorland, and on footpaths along the impossibly scenic Kerry Way. You’ll also cruise to a 15th-century tower house, visit ancient copper mines, poke through pretty towns and perhaps ride a horse-drawn cart on a mountain trail. And meet the people of this colorful land at lively pubs and over tea and scones at a local home.

Cultural Highlights

  • Dine among the Victorian architecture and regal gardens of the Muckross House
  • Share a pint of local brews over conversations about the Irish way of life
  • Wander through Kenmare Market and try a piece of traditional soda bread
  • Stroll barefoot through the miles of golden sand of the Derrynane Dunes
  • Meet with an Irish storyteller for a personalized tour of his childhood home
  • Stop for tea and scones in true Irish fashion
  • Choose to walk or ride in a horse-drawn cart to the Gap of Dunloe
  • Join a tour of Ireland’s past in the home of one of its greatest figures, Daniel O’Connell
  • View stunning lakes and elegant mountains in Killarney National Park
  • Embark on a cruise to Ross Castle while learning of Ireland’s most well-known visitors
  • Follow sections of Kerry Way, a 135-mile stretch of breathtaking scenery

What to Expect

This tour features a combination of paved roads and easy terrain, mixed with moderate hills, moorland and uneven footpaths. Due to Ireland’s climate, the footpaths can often be wet and muddy. Ideal for enthusiastic beginners and experienced walkers. Several of the walks require a transfer from our hotel to the start of the walk. Our Trip Leaders often use this time in the van for our morning route review, so we can enjoy a more leisurely morning at breakfast.

Average Daily Mileage: 4 – 8 miles (6.4-12.8 km)
Average Walking Time: 2 – 5 hours

Climate Information

Average High/Low Temperature (°F) – Killarney
May 59º/46º  Jun 61º/52º  Jul 64º/55º Aug 64º/55º  Sep 63º/52º

Average Precipitation (in.) – Killarney
May 2.3  Jun 3  Jul 3  Aug 3  Sep 3.5

What’s Included:

Walking Vacation Only – Without Air

  • 6 nights in 4-star hotels and guesthouses
  • 13 meals – 6 breakfasts, 4 lunches, 3 dinners

Air Package Plus

  • 6 nights in 4-star hotels and guesthouses
    PLUS 1 extra night in Cork and 1 extra night in Kinsale
  • 15 meals – 8 Irish breakfasts, 4 lunches, 3 dinners
  • Roundtrip international airfare
  • All overseas transfers
  • Included walking tour of Kinsale with a local guide
  • AND the option to add our Low-Cost Trip Extensions:
    Pre-trip: Cork – 2 nights for only $245
    Post-trip: Dublin – 2 nights for only $395

Both Vacation Options Include

  • Service of two VBT Trip Leaders
  • On-tour vehicle support
  • FREE use of our custom VBT walking poles
  • Daily route directions and maps
  • Welcome reception
  • Sightseeing and cultural activities
  • Earn 5% Frequent Traveler Credit on this tour to use on a future VBT vacation. See details.

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Air Package Plus Single Supplement: $495 | Land Only Single Supplement: $395

Please note: Web Special savings cannot be combined with any other offer. Standard Terms & Conditions apply when purchasing this trip. Prices include all airline surcharges and Government taxes and fees. Ask our Tour Consultants for details. Every effort has been made to produce this information accurately. We reserve the right to correct errors. Prices are based on preferences selected above, including meals and sightseeing as specified in What’s Included. All prices are subject to change. Departure dates and prices shown may be updated several times daily, and apply to new bookings only.

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Itinerary & Map
2019
Or, Expand All Days
Day 1: Depart from home / Fly overnight to Cork

Depart from home for Cork, Ireland. The particulars of your arrival overseas are detailed with your flight itinerary.

Day 2: Arrive in Cork

Upon arrival at Cork’s airport, claim your luggage and clear customs. If your luggage is lost, fill in a PIR form before leaving the customs area—VBT representatives are not allowed into the customs area. Make certain that your VBT luggage tags are affixed to your bag so your VBT representative can identify you. After exiting customs, enter the arrival hall and look for your VBT representative, who will be holding a VBT sign and will make arrangements for your transfer via taxi or van to our Cork hotel (transfer time is approximately 20 minutes, depending on traffic).

VBT provides you with City Information that includes information and recommendations about what to see and do in Cork. Please note that the hotel check-in time is 3 p.m., but the staff will do their best to get you to your rooms as soon as possible. Enjoy the rest of the day to relax or explore the city on your own.

Hotel: The Imperial Hotel

Day 3: Guests meet in Cork / Transfer to Killarney / VBT Walking Vacation begins

VBT Walking Vacation Only guests: After breakfast on your own, meet one of your VBT Trip Leaders at Cork’s Imperial Hotel at 9 a.m. (address: South Mall, Cork, Republic of Ireland; Tel: +353   21 427 4040). To reach the hotel you can take a taxi from Cork airport into the city (approximately 20 euros), or travel on Bus Eireann, which provides frequent and direct coach service between Cork Airport, Cork City Center and Cork Bus Station (approximately 5 euros; travel time is approximately 25 minutes, depending on traffic; for more details go to www.buseireann.ie). Please note: If your arrival in Cork is scheduled for later than 9 a.m. or if you are delayed, you must transfer at your own expense to our hotel in Killarney (approximately 180 euros for a taxi; travel time approximately 90 minutes, depending on traffic).. Please contact our Cork hotel to advise them of any delays or changes, and the hotel staff will pass the message along to our VBT Trip Leaders.

VBT Air Package and Pre-Trip Extension guests: Meet one of your VBT Trip Leaders in the hotel lobby at 9 a.m.

Once we’ve gathered, there will be a short introductory meeting, followed by a transfer via private bus from Cork to Killarney (a journey of approximately 90 minutes, depending on traffic). Our first destination is Killarney National Park. Ensure you are prepared for a day of walking, as the bus will continue with our luggage to our hotel after leaving us at the park entrance. Here you meet our second VBT Trip Leader and see stunning vistas of the Killarney Lakes and their impressive mountain backdrop. You’ll walk through a lush meadow, along a river and through the woodlands to reach the lakeshore. Across the waters, admire the tree-covered slopes of Tomies Wood, stretching upwards towards the peaks of the Shehy and Tomies mountains. Continue along the shoreline through a delightful woodland glade until you come across the magnificent manor, Muckross House.

After an included lunch in the manor’s Garden Restaurant, you have the choice of enjoying a stroll through magnificent displays of ornamental shrubs, flower beds and wide expanses of manicured lawns; or continuing with a walk around Muckross Lake. This walk takes you through ancient woodlands, over Brickeen Bridge and across Dinish Island to the Meeting of the Waters and the Old Weir Bridge. All the while, you are surrounded by wonderful views, small lakeside beaches and rocky coves.

You’ll then meet our bus and drive to our hotel in Killarney—your home for the next three nights—collecting non-walkers at Muckross House on the way.

After some free time to settle in, you’ll get to know your fellow travelers and Trip Leaders better during a welcome reception and dinner this evening.

Hotel: Loch Lein Country House
Meals:
B, L, D
Daily Options:
1.75 mile (2.81 km) warm-up walk and 4 miles (6.4 km) on a flat to lightly rolling paved path.

Day 4: Discover the Gap of Dunloe

After breakfast, you’ll transfer to Kate Kearney’s Cottage, the site where the legendary 19th-century beauty who made and sold an illicit brew “very fierce and wild, requiring not less than seven times its own quantity of water to tame and subdue it.” Now a popular shop and pub, it’s also the starting point for today’s walk, which takes you up a steady paved incline and through a spectacular glacial valley, known as the Gap of Dunloe. Your trail parallels a mountain stream over rugged terrain lined with massive boulders, until you reach the pass between Macgillycuddy’s Reeks—Ireland’s tallest mountain range, at 3,414 feet—and the Purple Mountains. Then you’ll descend into the Black Valley. Throughout our journey, we’ll have a horse-drawn jaunting cart at the ready for those who want a break.

A lakeside picnic awaits you at Lord Brandon’s Cottage. From here, you’ll board open boats and cruise to Ross Castle, a 15th-century tower house, as our boatmen regale us with tales of Napoleon, King Brian Boru and others who’ve passed this way.

This evening, shuttle into Killarney for dinner on your own. You’ll also have the opportunity to mingle with locals over a pint of Guinness in one of Killarney’s lively pubs.

Hotel: Loch Lein Country House
Meals:
B, L
Daily Options:
7 miles (11.2 km) on a gradually ascending, then gradually descending paved path. Can be shortened by riding in an accompanying jaunting cart.

Day 5: Glenbeigh and the Kerry Way

Today’s walk brings us to the northern part of the Kerry Peninsula. After a short drive, our bus will leave us at the trailhead—a quiet, paved country road circling Seefin Mountain. As you walk, enjoy spectacular views over Lough Caragh. At the end of the road, you have the option of rejoining the minibus and meeting the group in Glenbeigh, or walking to Glenbeigh up the mountain on a footpath through Windy Gap. This path is part of the Kerry Way, a 135-mile walking route over old droving paths and coach roads.

Upon reaching Glenbeigh, enjoy free time for lunch on your own in this quaint town.

After lunch, you have two options: You can shuttle two miles to Rossbehy Creek and take a short walk along White Strand, a beautiful sandy beach on a small peninsula stretching into Dingle Bay. Or you can walk along the banks of River Behy and follow the Kerry Way through the sloped woods of Curra Hill, then shuttle down to Rossbehy Beach.

Tonight before an included dinner, you’ll meet Denis Kissane, a local friend who will give a nostalgic presentation on his childhood in “The Old Bohareen.”

Hotel: Loch Lein Country House
Meals:
B, D
Daily Options:
Morning: 3 or 5 miles (4.8 or 8 km) on an undulating dirt trail with optional ascent, then descent in the last 2 miles. Afternoon: 2 miles (3.21 km) of flat paved road and rolling dirt trail.

Day 6: Walk through Killarney National Park into Killarney and Ross Castle / Visit the home of Denis Kissane

After breakfast, pack your luggage, as you will be departing Killarney today for Kenmare. First, though, you’ll take a very short drive to Castle Ross Hotel for a walk in Killarney’s beautiful parklands. You can stop at Killarney Cathedral, then venture into town for shopping, or join your Trip Leaders for a walk around Ross Island. More of a peninsula than an island, Ross Island is heavily wooded with a network of paths leading to attractive viewpoints overlooking Lough Leane. Also visible are remains of former copper mines, some dating back 4,000 years to the prehistoric Bronze Age and others from the 19th century.

After free time for lunch in Killarney, you’ll visit your newfound friend, Denis Kissane, who has invited us to see both his childhood home (featured in his talk yesterday evening) and his current home, where he will entertain us over tea or coffee and freshly made scones. Afterward, we continue to Kenmare.

Tonight is free for you to explore the town, a four-minute walk away along a footpath directly opposite the hotel. Dinner is on your own.

Hotel: Brook Lane Hotel
Meals:
B
Daily Options:
2 to 4 miles (3.2 to 6.4 km) on flat gravel and paved paths.

Day 7: Gleninchaquin Park

After a leisurely start to your morning, you’ll explore Kenmare Market, where vendors sell everything from cheese and soda bread to antique tools. Afterwards, you’ll shuttle 15 miles to Gleninchaquin Park, located at the end of a beautiful valley. Here you meet the park’s custodians, whose ancestors have lived in the valley for more than 130 years. Then, choose from a variety of walks, from gentle farm or river strolls to a more challenging walk above a 448-foot waterfall (well worth the effort for the amazing views). Make sure you visit the Heritage Site to see the reconstructed 19th-century cottage that was typical in this area.

After leaving the park, you’ll ride to a nearby pier overlooking Kenmare Bay to enjoy a special lunch of freshly prepared Irish salmon.

This afternoon, shuttle back to Kenmare where you’ll have free time to experience this pretty town on your own. Choose from among Kenmare’s many pubs or restaurants for dinner on your own this evening.

Hotel: Brook Lane Hotel
Meals:
B, L
Daily Options:
2 or 4 miles (3.2 to 6.4 km) through grassy meadows and on ascending and descending dirt paths.

Day 8: Kerry Way to Caherdaniel and Derrynane Bay

Today the scenery is spectacular as you walk along the southwestern section of the Kerry Way, with views of tiny islands, towering cliffs and some of the finest beaches in Europe.

For those who would like a slightly more challenging option, our morning trailhead begins along a single-track road. We follow this path along another section of the Kerry Way, known to the locals as the Old Butter Road. This leads us along farm tracks and then into open moorland. There is a slight incline before we drop down into Caherdaniel, where we’re met with one of the best views in Ireland, overlooking Derrynane Bay.

Once in Caherdaniel, a pretty coastal village on the bay’s shores, we transfer by bus to Derrynane House. The ancestral home of Daniel O’Connell, “the Liberator” or “the Emancipator” of Ireland, Derrynane House today is a public museum.

If you’d prefer the easier option, you may shuttle directly to Derrynane Bay and enjoy a lovely walk with one of your Trip Leaders across to Abbey Island. Here you’ll view the remains of a tenth-century abbey and a local cemetery.

We all meet for an included lunch in the café at Derrynane House, followed by a tour of the museum. Derrynane House is furnished with a variety of items belonging to Daniel O’Connell, including the dueling pistol he used to kill rival John D’Esterre in 1815, the black glove he wore in remembrance of that day, and the fabulous gold chariot he rode through Dublin to greet jubilant crowds upon his release from prison. A video presentation outlines the life and times of the man who inspired many leaders from Mahatma Gandhi to Martin Luther King, and was known as the Great Liberator.

You’ll also have time at leisure here to explore the gardens behind the house, walk around the Derrynane Dunes nature trail, or simply relax on one of the most beautiful beaches in the country, with more than a mile of golden sand. Afterwards you’ll shuttle back to Kenmare.

This evening, you’ll enjoy a farewell dinner in our hotel and bid goodbye to your VBT Leaders.

Hotel: Brook Lane Hotel
Meals:
B, L, D
Daily Options:
Morning: 2 or 3.7 miles (3.2 or 6 km) on a rolling dirt road and open moorland with some stairs/stiles to cross fences. Afternoon: 1 mile (1.6 km) on grassy dunes and sandy beach.

Day 9: VBT Walking Vacation Ends / Transfer to Kinsale

VBT Walking Vacation Only guests: Our tour finishes at the hotel after breakfast. Please note: The hotel will help you book a taxi, at your own expense, to either Killarney railway station (approximately 60 euros; travel time approximately 50 minutes), Cork Airport (approximately 150 euros; travel time approximately 2 hours), or Shannon Airport (approximately 250 euros; travel time approximately 3 hours). You are also welcome to join the motorcoach transfer to Kinsale if you wish, departing at 8:45 a.m. The drive takes approximately 2 ½ hours.

VBT Air Package and Post-Trip Extension guests: At 8:45 a.m. transfer by private motorcoach to the medieval town of Kinsale. The drive takes approximately 2 ½ hours. Kinsale  has an abundance of traditional bars and restaurants, beautiful buildings, narrow streets, shops and galleries, and a pretty harbor area.

Once you arrive in Kinsale, settle in and have lunch, before meeting a local guide in the hotel reception at 2 p.m. and enjoy a 1-hour walking tour that explains the colorful story of Kinsale—from its medieval walled town to the sinking of the Lusitania. The remainder of the day is free for you to explore this quaint town on your own. VBT provides you with City Information that includes recommendations about what to see and do in Kinsale.

Kinsale has been seasoned liberally by Norman, Spanish and English influences since the Middle Ages, but nowadays most of the seasoning takes place in the numerous fine restaurants that make this the “Gourmet Capital of Ireland.” Kinsale is also a yachting and fishing center, hence its reputation for great seafood!

Hotel: The Trident Hotel
Meals:
B

Day 10: Depart for home

After breakfast,* transfer to the Cork airport for your return flight.**

*Please note: For guests with early-morning departures, full breakfast at the hotel may not be available, in which case a cold tray can be delivered to your room. Please check with the reception desk to verify the times when breakfast is served and to arrange for your cold tray, if necessary.

**VBT transfer times and departure points are finalized in advance and cannot be modified for individual guests. If you extend your stay beyond the scheduled program dates, return transportation to the airport is at your own expense.

Meals: B

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Accommodations

The Trident Hotel

Overlooking the river Bandon, the Trident Hotel is a 4-star hotel perched on the harbor just a very short walk from the center of pretty Kinsale. Dine at the popular Pier One restaurant, or at the cozy Wharf Tavern. All rooms are tastefully decorated and have large windows with either partial or full harbor views, ensuite bathrooms with tub and shower, TV, direct-dial telephone, tea and coffee making facilities and hairdryer. A/C is not available.
Free WiFi Included

The Schoolhouse Hotel

A hidden gem close to the heart of the city, the Schoolhouse Hotel is just a 10-minute walk to Trinity College, the National Museum, Grafton Street, and other city attractions. Built in 1861, this charming boutique hotel takes its name from its early years as a school. Perhaps you’ll savor French and Irish specialties in the trendy restaurant set within former classrooms. Unwind in the spa, fitness center, and indoor pool. And retire to one of 31 en-suite guestrooms, each named for a famous Irish writer. Free WiFi is available throughout the hotel. A/C is available.
Free WiFi Included

Loch Lein Country House

Our gateway to the Ring of Kerry is the charming Loch Lein Country House, a 4-star lodging in the village of Fossa with views of the Macgillicuddy Reeks and Killarney’s Lower Lake (Lough Lein). Our hosts, Paul and Annette Corridan, go out of their way to make us feel welcome with superb food and a true family atmosphere. Enjoy the view from your spacious room with private bath and fine furnishings, or relax in the lounge or beautiful gardens. Golfers can avail themselves to four nearby golf courses. Fishing and horse riding are available, as well. A/C is available.
Free WiFi Included

The Imperial Hotel

The luxurious Imperial Hotel dates to 1813, when architect Sir Thomas Deane was commissioned by the Cork Committee of Merchants to design a commercial center, opening three years later as a hotel. Still the most popular business and social center in Cork, you will discover different dining venues from casual to elegant. Of course, a hotel of this caliber has all the amenities including a full spa. The guestrooms are tastefully decorated and spacious. Free WiFi is available throughout. A/C is not available.
Free WiFi Included

Brook Lane Hotel

The Brook Lane Hotel is a very friendly boutique hotel, just a four-minute walk outside the pretty town of Kenmare. It has a bar/bistro, a cozy lounge with fireplace, and a restaurant. Public areas have free WiFi and the plush, modern rooms offer free internet and televisions. A/C is not available.
Free WiFi Included
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  • Ireland: Walking the West Country
  • Ireland: Walking the West Country
  • Ireland: Walking the West Country
  • Ireland: Walking the West Country
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