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Heart of Ireland in 8 Days Tour
Tight on time? The Heart of Ireland in 8 Days — Rick's personal "best of" distillation of our two-week Best of Ireland tour — starts in Ennis (just down the road from Shannon Airport) and ends in Dublin. Each day along the way, in the good hands of your Rick Steves guide and local experts, you’ll be amazed at all you’ll experience in a mere week of touring the Emerald Isle: must-see historical sites, charming towns, music-filled pubs, artisan visits and walking tours — including the Rock of Cashel, the Cliffs of Moher, Ennis Friary, Adare Village, Dingle Town, the Dingle Peninsula, the Great Blasket Centre, crystal cutting and whiskey tasting, plus the Brú na Bóinne archaeology site, Kilmainham Gaol and more. Join us for the Heart of Ireland in 8 Days!
- A small, friendly group of 24-28 people — half the size of most tour groups
- Full-time services of a professional Rick Steves guide and local experts who will make the fascinating history, art and culture of Ireland come alive for you
All tours and admissions — at no extra cost — covering at least 18 group sightseeing events • Cliffs of Moher • Ennis orientation walk • Ennis Friary • Adare visit • Dingle folk concert • Walking tour of Dingle • Whiskey tasting • Gaelic music evening • Dingle's Slea Head Drive • Crystal cutting demonstration • Blasket Islands Heritage Centre • Gallarus Oratory • Rock of Cashel • Dublin walking tour • Trinity College • Book of Kells • Kilmainham Gaol (when possible) • Brú na Bóinne archaeology site...and more
- All group transportation from Ennis to Dublin
- 7 nights accommodations in memorable, centrally-located hotels and B&Bs
- All breakfasts and half your dinners
- All tips for guides and driver
- Free stuff including Rick Steves Ireland guidebook, moneybelt and earplugs
- Guaranteed tour price, locked in the moment you make your deposit
- Optional single supplements — this tour has a limited number of private rooms for solo travelers for an additional fee
- Tour alum discount of $50 for each tour you've taken prior to 2015
- 50% discount on a consulting appointment with our in-house experts to assist with your pre- or post-tour travel plans
- Flexibility should you need to transfer, or cancel/interrupt your tour
- Fine print: You are responsible for the cost of your drinks and free-time sightseeing. See our Tour Conditions Agreement for important details regarding everything listed above
Daily Activity Key
- Light = 2-4 miles of mostly level walking throughout the day.
- Moderate = 2-6 miles walking throughout the day with some hills and stairs.
- Strenuous = 2-8 miles walking throughout the day with lots of hills, stairs and uneven terrain.
Day 1: Welcome to Ireland
At 2 p.m., we’ll gather together at our hotel for a brief meeting. Then we’ll take a drive through County Clare to the dramatic Cliffs of Moher, where you'll find yourself leaning into the wind, teetering on the very edge of Europe, more than 600 feet above the churning waters of the North Atlantic. Afterward we’ll return to Ennis and get to know one another over a hearty “Welcome to Ireland” dinner together. Sleep in Ennis (1 night). Bus: 3 hrs. Walking: light.
Day 2: Ennis to Dingle Town
After breakfast we’ll pack up and board our comfy bus, setting course for Ireland’s Dingle Peninsula. En route we’ll stop to visit the 13th-century Ennis Friary and County Limerick’s lovely village of Adare. At the end of our drive we’ll take an orientation walk through the pastel-painted, quintessentially-Irish harbor town of Dingle. Tonight we’ll enjoy dinner together at a local restaurant, followed by a folk concert at St. James’ Church. Sleep in Dingle (3 nights). Bus: 3 hrs. Walking: light.
Day 3: All Day in Dingle
This morning we’ll have a lively walking tour of Dingle Town, learning about its seafaring heritage, rich history, and perhaps a bit of local gossip. Working up a thirst, we’ll find relief with a tour and tasting at the Dingle “Founding Fathers” Whiskey Distillery. Following free time to soak in more of the charms of Dingle and dinner on your own, we’ll rendezvous for an intimate evening of Gaelic tunes at a local music shop. No bus. Walking: light.
Day 4: The Dingle Peninsula
It's a great day to experience some of Europe's wildest natural beauty and most ancient Christian sites. We'll start our day with a crystal cutting demonstration from a master craftsman, then hop aboard our bus with our local expert to follow the famous Slea Head Drive, our vote for the most beautiful road in Ireland. We'll stop to tour the strikingly-situated Great Blasket Centre, where we'll get a close-up look at the language, literature and daily life of a traditional Gaelic Blasket community. Your evening is free, so no doubt you’ll return to Dingle with a pub in mind, ready for as much dancing and singing with new friends as you can handle. Bus: 3 hrs. Walking: light.
Day 5: The Rock of Cashel and Dublin
Today we’ll bid goodbye to Dingle as our bus transports us across the Emerald Isle to Dublin. On our way we’ll stop to tour one of Ireland’s most historic and evocative sights: the Rock of Cashel. St. Patrick himself was here more than 1,500 years ago, and ever since, the Rock has been the spiritual heart of Ireland. From the craggy remains of the cathedral and castle to the views stretching out across the Plain of Tipperary, this is where the Irish in you will stir from head to toe. Upon arrival in Dublin we’ll stretch our legs with a neighborhood orientation walk, followed by dinner together. Sleep in Dublin (3 nights). Bus: 6 hrs. Walking: light.
Day 6: Prehistoric Tombs and Modern Struggles
Today we'll drive an hour out of Dublin to one of Europe’s premier archaeological sites: the ancient tombs of Brú na Bóinne. Predating Stonehenge by a thousand years and the pyramids at Giza by 500, these massive “passage tombs” of Newgrange and Knowth are windows into a mysterious, pre-Celtic Ireland, just as it was pulling itself up and out of the Stone Age. This afternoon we’ll return to Dublin to tour a different monument: Kilmainham Gaol, the 18th-century prison which stands as a powerful reminder of Ireland’s long struggle for independence. From here, you’ll be free to make your way back to our hotel neighborhood (saints be praised, the Guinness brewery is on the way), where the rest of the afternoon and evening are yours to explore more of diverse, dynamic Dublin. Bus: 2 hrs. Walking: moderate.
Day 7: The Historic Heart of Dublin
This morning we'll take a walking tour through Dublin, learning about its often calamitous history, from the days of Viking raids to the hard centuries of British occupation, to its remarkable literary legacy, to the modern city of today. We'll end at Trinity College for an illuminating look at the remarkable Book of Kells, a jolt of Irish creativity that helped pull Europe out of the Dark Ages. The rest of your day will be free to take in some of Dublin’s other world-class sights, such as the National Museum or Dublin Castle. Tonight we’ll compare notes and celebrate our marvelous week together over a farewell dinner. No bus. Walking: moderate.
Day 8: Tour Over After Breakfast
Breakfast is provided, but there are no group activities today. You can fly out of Dublin's handy airport, or take the ferry to Wales for further adventures in the British Isles. Your guide will help you with any post-tour planning, leaving you well prepared for the road ahead. Slán leat!
Itinerary specifics subject to change.
Our tours are physically active! It’s an essential part of the Rick Steves tour experience. On our Heart of Ireland in 8 Days tour — among other things — you'll need to happily...
- Carry/roll your luggage over uneven pavement (several blocks possible) and up stairways to reach your hotel; then up several flights of stairs to reach your room.
- Be on your feet, walking and standing for up to three hours, indoors and outdoors, in all weather conditions.
- Sleep with street noise and no (or weak) air conditioning.
- After orientation and transportation lessons, be able to navigate towns and cities on your own.
Ireland / Dublin
We've put together some specific information on what you should know about this tour before you go. You'll also find more general information about "Getting Ready for Your Tour" on our Tour FAQ.
Learn more about Ireland: Check out a collection of Rick's TV shows, radio interviews and articles, plus find a list of recommended books and movies.
Prior to your tour departure, you will receive detailed directions on how to get from the airport to your first tour hotel, as well as contact information for your first and last hotels in case you wish to book pre- or post-tour hotel accommodations. The town of Ennis, where our tour starts, is an easy half-hour bus ride from Shannon Airport.
Many tour members arrive a day or two before the tour begins — and those who don't, wish they had. This allows you ample time to get over jet lag and make the most of the first few days of the tour.
There is more than one way to get to and from your tour. Most tour members will arrange to fly into Shannon and out of Dublin (“multi-city” on flight booking websites). Booking round-trip to one city will require a connecting flight, bus trip, or additional overnight stay in Ireland. Both Shannon and Dublin are major transportation hubs, making additional travel before or after your tour quite easy.
Note: If you plan to spend a few days in the UK as part of your itinerary, you’ll find a better selection of post-tour Dublin-London flights to choose from than pre-tour London-Shannon flights. Rick Steves Great Britain and Rick Steves London guidebooks have London sightseeing, hotel, and restaurant suggestions.
For information about flying within Europe, ask your travel agent or check Rick's list of European budget airlines.
Read Rick's train travel and rail pass tips to decide if your travel plans merit a rail pass.
If you have additional European travel or tour questions, contact the Tour Department at 425-608-4217 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sightseeing On Your Own
If you arrive in Ennis before your tour begins, use Rick Steves Ireland guidebook to get oriented. Wander the city center, join a day trip to the nearby Burren, try a pint in a cozy pub, and get over your jet lag with lots of fresh air and exercise.
If you plan to spend extra time in Dublin before or after the tour, here are suggestions for sightseeing that we will not be doing as a group: “hop-on/hop-off” bus tour; National Gallery; Dublin Castle; Dublin Writers' Museum. For details and other possibilities, see your Rick Steves Ireland guidebook.
Many of this tour’s activities are outdoors, and Ireland’s weather can be unpredictable. We recommend you pack along a rain jacket and a warm layer for underneath it (light sweater or microfleece liner). Also bring comfortable walking shoes with good traction.
For more advice on what (and what not!) to pack, see Rick’s packing tips.