On arrival today, you will be met and privately transferred to the hotel in the city centre where your tour director is waiting to greet you. The remainder of the day is at leisure to relax after the flight. You may wish to join our local guide on an afternoon orientation tour of the Irish capital. This tour will include a visit to Trinity College Library to see the Book of Kells. Created in Ireland in the 8th century, this book is the most remarkable example of an illuminated manuscript to have survived from the middle Ages. This evening please join the host for welcome cocktails and dinner in a private room at the hotel. Overnight at Hotel.
This morning, meet an expert on Irish cuisine for a walking tour of the city centre, during which the development of eating habits in Ireland and the contemporary food scene in the 21st century will be discussed. The tour includes visits to various outlets to see how food is presented in stores in Dublin. Product tasting is, of course, included. The outlets will include a cheese store, a traditional butcher and a shop selling delicious cakes. After a light lunch, take a panoramic tour of Dublin that will pass the statue-lined O'Connell Street, the Georgian squares, St. Patrick's Cathedral and the President's palace in Phoenix Park. Not Surprisingly the tour will end at the Guinness Storehouse, home to Ireland's most celebrated export. Here we are treated to a guided tour of the Storehouse, where the history and production methods of this unusually dry stout are relayed. As part of the tour, learn how to pour a perfect pint of Guinness – which of course can be enjoyed afterwards! This evening we will dine as a group at Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud. Adjoining the Merrion Hotel, this is Ireland's highest rated restaurant, and the proud possessor of two Michelin stars. Overnight at Hotel.
Day 3: The Wicklow Mountains – Ballyknocken and Powerscourt
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch
Following the gourmet treats of last night, today it is back to basics. Drive south from Dublin into the Wicklow Mountains region, and head to the renowned Ballyknocken House, Farm and Cookery School. Here we learn about the basics of Irish cooking. The experience includes a hands-on class on how to make perfect Irish soda scones, and a demonstration of how to make a traditional Irish stew using local lamb from the surrounding mountains. A rustic farmer's lunch is then taken in the hay barn, followed by a tasting of whiskey and the once-illegal poitin. This afternoon, return to Dublin stopping en route at Powerscourt House where one of the finest landscape gardens in Ireland can be admired. The evening is at leisure to dine independently in one of the many fine establishments Dublin has to offer. Overnight at Hotel.
This morning we drive to Dublin's Heuston train station to board a train to Cork, the principal city in the south of Ireland. After a journey of nearly three hours, arrive at Kent Station and drive straight to the English Market, ironically one of the most noted food markets in Ireland. Inside the market hall there is a huge range of Irish produce available for sale, from meat and fish to fruit and vegetables. Lunch will be taken at the Farmgate Café, overlooking the hall, where fresh local ingredients are used in the carefully prepared dishes. After checking into our hotel, your tour director will lead an excursion to Blarney Castle. This 15th century tower house is famed for the eponymous stone set in the parapet that is said to give the 'Gift of the Gab' to anyone who kisses it. This evening, drive to the picturesque coastal village of Kinsale for dinner. This village is often considered to be the gourmet capital of Ireland on account of the large number restaurants located here. Overnight at Hotel.
Leave the hotel this morning for a journey west into the region known as West Cork which extends over to the bays of the Atlantic Coast. This area has become well established as a leading centre for artisanal cheeses including Durrus, Milleens and Gubbeen. We will stop at one of the factories to learn about cheese making in this area and to enjoy the fresh produce. Our route then leads us along the Beara Peninsula to Castletownbere, the leading port in Ireland for white fish landing. Hear about the importance of the fishing industry to the local economy before enjoying lunch of freshly caught fish in a local hostelry. This afternoon, drive over the Caha Mountains to the colourful town of Kenmare where there is time to shop for souvenirs. Return to Cork via the Old Kenmare Road, a section of the fabled Ring of Kerry which cuts through the beautiful Killarney National Park. Dinner will be a la carte at the hotel this evening. Overnight at Hotel.
Today is spent at Ballymaloe. Run by legendary chef Darina Allen, this is unquestionably the most celebrated cookery school in Ireland. After arrival, the chefs will offer a demonstration on the techniques used in preparing quality dishes from Irish ingredients. Then it's time for work as we are given the opportunity to make the dishes ourselves. At the end of the session enjoy the fruits of our labour in well-deserved late lunch, after which we take a tour of the extensive gardens of the school where all the vegetables and herbs used in the courses are grown. We return to the hotel past Midleton, home to one of the world's largest distilleries. The majority of spirits from Ireland are distilled here, including Jameson's Whiskey and Cork Dry Gin. The evening is at leisure for us to dine independently in Cork City. Overnight at Hotel.
Leave Cork this morning and drive north across the dairying country of Counties Cork and Limerick, before reaching the estuary of the River Shannon, the longest river in the British Isles. On the south shore is Foynes, an otherwise unremarkable town that was the site of the first commercial transatlantic passenger service arrival in 1939. The plane used was a Boeing 314 'Flying Boat'. Although no original specimen has survived, we will visit the replica that has been constructed to experience these early flying conditions. Although short-lived, the main legacy of Foynes is Irish coffee. In 1942, Joe Sheridan decided that transatlantic passengers needed something stronger than ordinary coffee to revive them after the flight, and so introduced the original Irish coffee. Learn how to make proper Irish coffee in a master class using Irish whiskey and fresh local cream. Lunch will be served at nearby Glin Castle, an 18th century mansion overlooking the estuary in the company of the Knight of Glin, the owner of the property. This afternoon, cross the Shannon by ferry and continue north to the Cliffs of Moher, one of the most iconic sites in Europe. These sandstone cliffs drop 400 feet into the Atlantic, and offer a magnificent spectacle. Our route leads past Galway Bay, home to some of the finest oyster beds in Europe. Continue to our hotel near Galway city. Dinner this evening will be a la carte in our hotel. Overnight at Hotel.
This morning we drive west into the unspoiled region of Connemara. This is one of the principal areas in Ireland where salmon is fished in the rivers, and as a consequence smoked salmon is one of the main products from this area. Visit the Connemara Smokehouse, where the proprietors will welcome us and show us how salmon is filleted and prepared for the delicate smoking that imparts a distinctive flavour. Samples are of course included. Lunch will be taken nearby at Errisbeg House, a delightful property surrounded by peaceful gardens. Richard, the seventh Duke de Stacpoole will be our host, and he will reveal how a French ducal family came to own this idyllic property. This afternoon, continue to the Twelve Bens of the Connemara National Park, and down to Killary harbour, now home to Ireland's mussel farming industry. Return to the hotel from here. This evening drive to Clarinbridge for dinner at Moran's Oyster Cottage where guests may sample the famous oysters reared in Galway Bay, or a wide range of alternative seafood dishes. Overnight at Hotel.
We leave our hotel this morning and head east across County Galway until we reach the River Shannon once more. On the banks of the river, in an isolated but beautiful setting, are the ruins of Clonmacnoise, one of the most important medieval monastic sites in Europe. After a guided tour of the site, board a boat on the River Shannon and cruise north through the crossing town of Athone onto Lough Ree, one of the two large lakes on the River Shannon. Lunch will be enjoyed at the Wineport Lodge on the shores of the lake. This afternoon continue across the flat midlands of Ireland to Kilbeggan, home to a 'boutique' whiskey distillery, owned by Cooley, the main independent whiskey distiller in Ireland. An in-house expert leads us on a tour over the small plant where the liquor is produced, before tasting the brands of whiskey the distiller has to offer. The journey ends at our hotel in the countryside near Dublin, where we have a 'Farewell to Ireland' dinner. Overnight at Hotel.