Ireland Coast to Coast
Mr. Harper recently returned to Ireland. After the hardship that the 2008 Great Recession wreaked on the Irish economy, he notes that a significant recovery appears to be underway: Dublin is bustling just as before, and an extensive urban light-rail system is under construction. Across the country, on the shore of Lough Corrib, Ashford Castle, long a favorite of Hideaway Report readers, has been given a makeover to the tune of $75 million.
Mr. Harper followed this easily replicable itinerary that goes from the country’s beautiful west coast, down to the south, up to Dublin and then journeys along the coast aboard Ireland’s first luxury train. Along the way, you will stay at a beautifully restored castle, indulge in fine meals, revel in the glorious scenery of the countryside and happily wander the streets of Dublin.
Day 1 - 2 : Up to Ashford Castle
Fly into Shannon Airport on Ireland’s west coast, where you will pick up a rental car. Head north for the hour-and-a-half journey to the small village of Cong, which provided the setting for the classic John Ford film The Quiet Man.
Just outside the town, you’ll find the lovely entryway to Ashford Castle. Check in and spend the day exploring the castle, maybe taking afternoon tea in the splendid Connaught Room or reviving in the spa.
Golfers will want to check out the 18-hole course. For non-golfers, there are tennis courts, a fascinating program at Ireland’s first School of Falconry, walks through the gardens or boat excursions on Lough Corrib to the medieval ruins on Inchagoill Island.
Day 3 - 4 : To Ballymaloe House
Drive from Ashford Castle down to Ballymaloe House, 165 miles away, which is just outside the little town of Shanagarry, east of Cork. For more than 50 years Ballymaloe House has drawn food lovers, first from Ireland and then from the world over. In 1964, the co-owner of the hotel, Myrtle Allen, brought new life to Irish cuisine. Her formula — a daily menu using the best local ingredients simply prepared — now seems obvious, but it was way ahead of its time.
While staying at this charming country house hotel, you can take a class at the Ballymaloe Cookery School located two miles away; wander about the lovely gardens adjacent to the school; make an excursion to the nearby Jameson whiskey distillery; and visit the scenic fishing port of Kinsale, which is known for its restaurants and annual Gourmet Festival in October.
Day 5 - 7 : Up to Dublin
Heading north from Shanagarry, the 174-mile drive from Ballymaloe to Dublin takes about three hours on the M8 motorway. To avoid traffic in Dublin, where a light-rail system is being constructed with attendant congestion, drop the car off at easy-to-get-to Dublin Airport and taxi into town.
You have two fine hotel choices in Dublin: The Merrion, which has long been a favorite with Harper readers, and The Westbury, where Mr. Harper stayed on his most recent trip and which recently underwent a $2.2 million renovation. Both enjoy good locations.
You will not lack for things to do. Dublin is full of excellent restaurants; the shopping, especially in the Grafton Street area, is enough to meet the demands of most retail-therapy regimes; and culture abounds, including a popular theater scene. Dublin is a fine city for walkers, so do get out and explore by foot.
Gracious hotel occupying four beautifully restored Georgian townhouses in a fashionable downtown district.
Sophisticated city hotel ideally located in the heart of Dublin right off of bustling Grafton Street with its myriad shops and restaurants.
Day 8 - 10 : On the Grand Hibernian
To bring the cars, purchased from Irish Rail, to its standards, Belmond engaged 40 craftsmen who spent 35,000 hours transforming the interiors. As configured, the Grand Hibernian now has five sleeper cars, each with four cabins, for a total of 40 passengers; two dining cars; and an observation car. The caliber of the workmanship is impressive. All cabins have en suite baths. Each is small but a model of efficient design, with white subway tiles on the walls, aquamarine tiles in the shower and sufficient counters and shelves for toiletries.
Attention to detail was evident throughout all parts of the Grand Hibernian, most notably in the observation car, with its walnut veneer and leather banquettes that made perfect perches for watching the verdant hills and the spectacular coastline slide past.
Meals provided the principal opportunity to socialize. The two dining cars had slightly different configurations: Wexford came with tables for six, Sligo with tables for four. Overall, the dishes that emerged from the two small kitchens were outstanding.
Excursions, led by a wonderful guide, on the two-night trip (there are four- and six-night options as well) include the exceptional Titanic Belfast museum and then down to Waterford for a tour of Curraghmore House, the home of the Marquess of Waterford, and the new House of Waterford Crystal factory, for a Champagne reception and an opportunity to shop at a discount.
Day 10 : Return home
Head to the airport to take a return flight home.
Ireland Coast to Coast
Contact an Andrew Harper Travel Advisor to book this itinerary or to customize your own! Call (800) 375-4685 or submit the form below.