Heart of Ireland’s Wild West
(Our Exclusive Signature Tour)
The Heart of Ireland’s Wild West Tour is our most exclusive and personal small group tour! This experience for you is all about depth more than the breadth. You will return home feeling transformed after having spent 9 days in the most untouched, pristine and naturally “wild” places in Ireland. You will explore the hidden mystical, magical, and spiritual places nestled in the beautiful landscape of what is known as the “Land of Heart’s Desire.” You will meet local artists, writers, poets, musicians, storytellers, historians, folklorists, archaeologists, and the ordinary folk, who work and mind this sacred landscape. You will have access to the “hearth” – places that no tour bus could ever fit or find. We roam the country roads and towns of the Wild West of Ireland, embracing mountains, wild rivers and ever-rambunctious shores of the incredible Wild Atlantic Coastline of Ireland. This is a deeply immersive experience which is intimate, personal and even spiritual. (And of course, loads of fun and diversion with the locals!) You will take a beautiful and soothing boat ride to the Lake Isle of Innisfree of W.B. Yeats lore… an adventurous excursion to an enchanting deserted offshore island which has the remains of a 6th-century monastery…a walk in the magical “faerie glen” beneath a Celtic warrior queen’s tomb, absorb the history and folklore, the myths and legends, as told by our local Shanachies. You will also get hands-on experience in sheep-herding as our local farmer introduces you to his Border Collies for a round-up! After full days of adventure in places that are well off the beaten trail, you are invited by our local friends to enjoy a traditional music session in a 400 year old thatched pub by the sea. Check out our updated Heart of Ireland’s Wild West Itinerary here!
Group size: Maximum of 8 people per tour
Signature Tour Itinerary
This is an example of a typical Signature Tour. Be prepared to go “off book” as we take advantage of rare opportunities, special local events, and work with the weather to maximize every opportunity to make sure your experience is once-in-a-lifetime. We also prefer to keep some of our secrets to ourselves and our guests, our beloved “Wild Westies” and therefore do not spell out every wonderful aspect of this unique and rare experience. Or as the Irish proverb suggests, “Ní scéal rúin é más tá sé ar eolas go triúr.” (“It is not a secret if it is known to three people.”)
Day 1. Your arrival.
You will arrive in Dublin International Airport and we will be waiting for you with our comfortable mini-coach. We’ll help you with your luggage and exchanging money and grab a bite to eat before setting off for a scenic drive across the beautiful lakelands and Midlands to the west coast of Ireland. Our guests love traveling aside the banks of the River Shannon, and stopping for a lite lunch in the town of Carrick-on-Shannon. On we go as we cross over the shannon and into the Wild West of Ireland. The closer we get to the wild west coast, the more you will be thrilled by the mountains and valleys we transverse. Our guests love stopping at Curlew Pass, the, site of the “Battle of the Curlew Mountains” and take in the magnificent vista by the famous (in the wild west of Ireland) “Gaelic Chieftain Warrior!”
On we go westward to the coast and catch our first glimpse of Knocknarea, the mountain home of the legendary/mythical Queen Maeve. Not a minute later, we look up to see might Benbulben, the famous mountain by the sea on the Dartry Mountain Range. We arrive at your cozy and comfortable (4 Star) Irish Bed & Breakfast in the most stunning and wild landscape in Ireland. You can get settled and take in your breathtaking surroundings. Coffee and tea are waiting for you, weary traveler. We’ll acquaint you with your new environment and take you to places only the local folks have names for and cannot be found anywhere on Google. Today runs at a very relaxed paced because you’ll probably be tired from the flight.
As evening draws near we will seek out a cozy pub nearby for our first pint of Guinness (if you wish), or a cup of tea and a delicious dinner. If there is a traditional Irish music in earshot, we will get you to it!
Breakfast is served and off we go to see more of the very local hidden places. We will begin your day by exploring the hidden and fascinating places on the Maugherow Peninsula. We will ramble down small roads that lead to incredible vistas and catch our first true glimpse of the Wild Atlantic Way coastline. We will meet some of the local folks along the way and you will begin to get the “feel” of this little known paradise. Onward we go to explore a hidden ancient beach full of fossils from millions of years ago. Our travelers have described this serene place as “feeling like we are on another planet.” We will explore a mythical Promontory Fort (a place of an eerie legend) and climb up past “famine house” ruins. From this obscure peninsula, we can see across Sligo Bay to County Mayo and all the way up to Donegal Mountains. We will take you to Streedagh Beach which was the scene of three Spanish Armada shipwrecks in 1588. The ruins of the church where the Spanish sought refuge from the English Garrison stand nearby and you will get a sense of what happened during this historical watershed event. We also take a breathtaking journey to a hidden waterfall that cascades down a valley to a Holy Well and through an enchanting town and into a beautiful lake in North County Leitrim. We are so close to the world renowned Belleek China factory in the North of Ireland, that we won’t resist stopping in to see how they creat these beautiful pieces of Art. On we go to farm by the coast where our friend Martin, a Sheep-Herder, introduces you to his Border Collies and the dogs introduce you to the sheep! Martin and his family have been herding sheep for generations, and while they are busy with the sheep, you may stop just to take in the stunning mountains, hills and ocean that surrounds you. The evening may be a quiet night by the fire or you may choose to go into town or walk to the nearby pub/restaurant. You can also walk alongside a river to a beautiful church where Nobel Prize winning poet, W.B. Yeats is buried. There is a High Cross there, an 11th century tower ruin and a lovely tea shop.
We enjoy another home-cooked “Irish Fry” and head out toward Strandhill Beach. We take the hike up mystical Knocknarea Mountain to Queen Maeve’s Cairn, (one of National Geographic Traveler’s Top 10 Historical sites) and take in this spellbinding vista! Once we have explored this mystical landscape, (as always at our own leisurely pace), we will visit a stunning hidden “fairy glen.” Something magical always happens here! We will pop in for a light lunch at a seaside cafe walk along Strandhill Beach (which has some of the best surfing in Europe). Enjoy a soothing “Celtic Seaweed Bath” and Spa treatment if you like. If the tide is low, head out to wondrous Island, (another National Geographic Traveler activity) where we go for a walk around ancient sites such as the legendary St. Patrick’s Wishing Chair. There is one pub and one family living on this island and you will meet them! We may decide to visit the nearby town and take in the flavor of a small Irish town. You will meet a local myth keeper/storyteller/woodcarver, and you will come away charmed. There is always time for a bit of shopping and a visit to an old Abbey ruin set alongside the Garavogue River. In the evening we have another of our wonderful local restaurants to choose from. If there is some local theatre or other entertainment in town, you will have the option and opportunity to take in some Irish culture on your own.
It’s megalithic! We visit the spectacular “thin place” known as Carrowmore Tombs. You will meet with local storyteller and author of “Myths and Legends,” Michael Roberts. Michael will provide an exclusive and unbelievable journey back to ancient Ireland. These prehistoric places pre-date the Pyramids and the scenery surrounding them is just startling. From here we venture to a gorgeous and sacred Holy Well, where celebrations and ritual have taken place for thousands of years. Our storyteller, who was raised nearby, will fascinate you with his stories and indeed his own experience living near such a wondrous place. Imagine yourself riding a horse on a beach, near a castle, or even up an enchanted mountain valley! Well, this is one of the most exciting activities we have for you. We go to a Riding Stable by the sea, and whether you are an experienced rider or trying for the first time, our friends will make sure you have a fantastic experience. You always have the option of simply taking a beautiful solitary stroll along this beautiful beach on the Wild Atlantic Coastline. Since we are at the coast, we will introduce you to an expert and folklorist, who will present to you in dramatic fashion, the harrowing story of the Spanish Armada, when 3 of their ships crashed along these very beaches in 1588. Up the mountain valley, we go to a hidden and secret “famine town” – the remains of a place impacted by the Famine years (An Gorta Mor – The Great Hunger) While much of the story is sad, you will be inspired by the stories of courage and resilience of the Irish during these troubled times.
Taking a boat ride from Rosses Point to the mystical Isle of Inishmurray** is one of the pearls of a Wild West Irish Tour. We pack a lunch and head out to this long abandoned sacred island. Inishmurray is an uninhabited island situated 7 km off the coast of County Sligo. It covers 228 acres and, most likely, our small group will be the only people on the island. We will explore the remains of an early Irish monastic settlement which was founded here in the 6th century. People lived on this island until 1948, and they left behind the homes their families struggled to survive in for centuries. Part of the day’s activities could involve some fishing for those so inclined. The boat ride out to the island and back is absolutely a once in a lifetime experience. Our boatman will get us home safely and we will head off to his brother’s pub and restaurant for a delicious dinner and a pint or two. We finish the day taking in the Rosses Point beaches and visit Lissadell Beach. **The trip to Inishmurray is subject to weather conditions. If it is too rough to sail we will have the choice of many other exciting activities.
Donegal Day! We begin the day by visiting the spectacular Mullaghmore Peninsula. You will be keeping your camera busy with photos of Classiebawn Castle with mighty Benbulben Mountain in the background.We visit the busy seaside town of Bundoran and look out across Donegal Bay toward the highest sea cliffs in Europe: Slieve League. Within an hour you have the choice of walking up to the top of Slieve League, or going for a picnic at the viewing area below. Either way, you will be in awe of these cliffs. Glencolmcille is just up the road and chances are the main language you hear spoken will be Irish Gaelic. Take in some of the old fashioned shops here and perhaps take in the wee beach in a hidden cove near the town. We can make a stop to see Kathleen, who makes Aran Sweaters in her home! We may make turn off the road to take in a hidden river, by a cave where sacred and holy rituals were celebrated in secret during Penal Law times and have connotations dating back to Pre-Christian days. This rushing river, surrounded by woods, flows under the oldest bridge in Ireland, built my monks, centuries ago.
W.B. Yeats called Sligo the “Land of Heart’s Desire” and we venture out to Yeats Country where we visit some of the enchanting places of his myth and legend, including Dooney Rock Forest, where we will have a guided walk by a local Naturist. We will see the famous Lake Isle of Inishfree, visit Creevelea Abbey, a Franciscan Friary ruin which has a place within the walls where people can come for a healing or cure. You will have an incredible tour of (O’Roarkes) Parke’s Castle, and walk through a thickly wooded glen, that has a rushing river flowing and where you won’t be blamed if you feel the presences of the “faeries!” We will go to Glencar Lough and the breathtaking Waterfall, and other secret places that have no name. We take a cruise on the lovely Rose of Innisfree, and will be serenaded by the boatman with stories and poems associated with all the gorgeous places we will experience. You will also go to the historic cottage of one of the founding Fathers of Ireland, Sean MacDiarmada, and get a fascinating retelling of the events leading to the “Rising 1916” which lead to Ireland’s Independence. Chances are you will be ripe for some Irish dancing and we will bring into your B & b the best irish dancing in Ireland!
Dublin’s Fair City Day! We say beannacht agus ádh mór (goodbye and good luck) to our friends in the Wild West of Ireland and skip across the heart of Ireland to Dublin City to check into your comfortable hotel for your last full day in Ireland. This will give you ample time and opportunity to do a little shopping and to see this beautiful historic city. You can choose to visit extraordinary places like Dublin Castle, Trinity College–where you see the Book of Kells, Kilmainham Gaol which is famous for the Easter Rising of 1916, the Dublin Zoo, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the Guinness Brewery, Stephens Green, Grafton Street (for great shopping, pubs and some of the best street musicians in the world), Phoenix Park, the National Museum, and the National Museum of Natural History. There is always great “craic” in the lively Temple Bar area and then walk across the Half Penny Bridge to famous O’Connell Street for more Irish culture, history and shopping. The nightlife is mighty with traditional Irish music and your last night in Ireland will be one to remember!
After this whirlwind of fun and adventure, it will be time to say our goodbyes. You will have just spent 8 of the most memorable days in your life. We can say this because this is what our guests tell us time and time again. Our Signature Tour is about depth and a personal and transforming experience. You will likely be saying Slan to your new lifelong friends. We bring you back to Dublin airport in plenty of time for your flight home.
Optional Activities: Horseback riding on a beach, mountain climb, hill bike riding, walking, golfing, surfing, and spa treatments. *Some of these activities will have an additional cost.
There is nothing like an Irish pub with traditional music session and we know where the best sessions are! Our friends locally know the best places and you may find yourself in someone’s home sitting in on Irish music and some laughs!
We cannot possibly name and describe all the hidden places and gems that we unearth for you.We want our secrets to be shared with you on your Wild West Irish Tour, and we shy away from naming all of the incredible places you will visit.
This tour includes:
- 9 days of touring and sightseeing, limited to 6 – 8 travelers. Don’t delay!
- 8 nights in a B&B or guesthouse-style accomodation
- 2 boat cruise excursions and visits to two or more islands
- Touring in a comfortable mini-coach with your experienced tour guides
- 6+ historical sites and activities recognized by National Geographic Traveler Top 10 – sites, admission included
- Daily Irish breakfast
- Priceless memories and experiences
Please note: trip price does not include airfare.