When a destination offers you a hundred thousand welcomes, or “céad míle féilte”, you know you’re in for a good time. The homeland of Yeats, Joyce and Wilde, and the birthplace of Guinness, Waterford and Bushmills, Ireland deserves its reputation as the Land of Saints and Scholars. Its rich history of castles and kings aside, Ireland dazzles with some of the most wild and windswept countryside in the world. Here are just some of the highlights you can look forward to on one of Trafalgar’s guided holidays around the isle, showing you the iconics, but also revealing the true heart of the destination.
Nothing quite prepares you for the natural drama of Ireland’s north with two of the most scenic coastal roads on the globe. Trafalgar Travel Directors have their fingers on the island’s pulse, so all you need to do is sit back, enjoy the ride, and revel in stories of mystical creatures and kingdoms past as you explore the magical countryside.
Stretching more than 190 kilometres, the incredible Causeway Coastal Route begins in Belfast, the capital of Northern Ireland and the birthplace of the RMS Titanic. This legacy is recalled in the city’s renovated dockyards’ Titanic Quarter, which includes the Titanic Belfast, an aluminium-clad museum reminiscent of a ship’s hull, as well as shipbuilder Harland & Wolff’s Drawing Offices and the Titanic Slipways, which now host open-air concerts.
Indeed, Belfast’s legendary music scene is nurtured around town, not the least in the city’s thriving bars and pubs – must-visits include the Crown Liquor Saloon, with its oak snugs and bar inlaid with marble and coloured glass; White’s Tavern, which sells itself as being the oldest of its kind in Belfast; and The Duke of York, the spot where Snow Patrol played its first gig in 1998. While there’s plenty to like about this historic side of the city, Belfast is also becoming known for its new wave of forward-thinking chefs, opening modern restaurants with menus that have one eye on the fields and one on the plate.
On Trafalgar trips you’ll connect with Belfast residents, their way. Such as when your Local Specialist guide takes you through the city in the comfort of a dedicated Black Cab with legendary “cabbie” commentary and banter along the way. You’ll see the town as few other visitors do, and have new friends to keep you company in those not-to-be-missed bars.
From Belfast, the Causeway Coastal Route winds its way north, linking pretty villages and castles, and countryside so striking that it’s an obvious Game of Thrones film set. Your Travel Director will point out Murlough Bay (known as Slavers’ Bay in the TV series), the site of a 6000-year-old sand dune system, backdropped by the Morne Mountains. On a slight detour, there’s the Dark Hedges (King’s Road), an eerie row of gnarled beech trees that has become one of the most photographed attractions in Northern Ireland. Along the route, you’ll also find Giant’s Causeway, quite possibly one of the world’s most jaw-dropping geological wonders.
The Causeway Coastal Route ends in Londonderry, a historic walled city known for its collection of Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian buildings. There’s also the striking neo-Gothic Guildhall, crafted from red sandstone with soaring stained-glass windows. With a Local Specialist as your guide around town, you’ll experience this beautiful city through the eyes of its residents, and see sights you didn’t know existed – and that many other travellers are unable to access.
The Wild Atlantic Way now begins, covering 2500 kilometres along the island’s west coast. It’s one of those road trips with too many highlights to list, but among them are the Inishowen Peninsula – the most northerly point of Ireland and a great place for viewing the Northern Lights – and the thatched dwellings of Doagh Famine Village. Designed to give you a deeper understanding of this slice of Irish history, an immersive Cultural Insight experience here will reveal the tragic history of the island’s famine emigration.
Visit many of these destinations, and more, on Trafalgar’s itineraries, including Irish Experience and Amazing Ireland.