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Walking Vacation Ireland: Walking the West Country​

Activity Level: Easy / Moderate  |  Daily Mileage: 4 – 8 mi  |  Daily Walking: 2 – 5 hr
Air package plus
10 days from only
Price includes roundtrip airfare.
Land only
7 days from only
Pre-trip Extension:
Cork · 2 nights $245

Post-trip Extension:
Dublin · 2 nights $445
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Detailed Itinerary

Please note: For those traveling in 2013, your itinerary may vary slightly from what is presented below. 

Day 1 - Depart U.S. / Fly overnight to Cork

Depart the U.S. for Ireland. The particulars of your arrival overseas are detailed with your flight itinerary.

Day 2 - Arrive in Cork / Transfer to downtown Cork

Upon arrival at Cork's airport, claim your luggage and clear customs. If your luggage is lost, fill in a PIR form before leaving the customs area—VBT representatives are not allowed into the customs area. Make certain that your VBT luggage tags are affixed to your bag so your VBT representative can identify you. After exiting customs, enter the arrival hall and look for your VBT representative, who will be holding a VBT sign and will make arrangements for your transfer via taxi or van to our Cork hotel (transfer time is approximately 20 minutes, depending on traffic).

VBT provides you with City Information in your Final Travel Booklet that includes information and recommendations about what to see and do in Cork. Enjoy the rest of the day to relax or explore the city on your own.

Day 3 - Guests meet in Cork / Transfer to Killarney

VBT No-Air Package guests: After breakfast on your own, meet one of your VBT Trip Leaders at Cork's Imperial Hotel at 9:00 am (Address: South Mall, Cork, Republic of Ireland; Tel: +353 [0] 21 427 4040). To reach the hotel, you can take a taxi from Cork airport into the city (approximately 20 euros/$26.00 USD), or travel on Bus Eireann, which provides frequent and direct coach service between Cork Airport, Cork City Center and Cork Bus Station (approximately 5 euros/$7 USD; travel time is approximately 25 minutes, depending on traffic; for more details go to www.buseireann.ie). If your arrival in Cork is scheduled for later than 9:00 am or if you are delayed, you must transfer at your own expense (approximately 180 euros/$235.00 USD for a taxi; travel time approximately 90 minutes, depending on traffic) to our hotel in Killarney. Please contact our Cork hotel to advise them of any delays or changes, and the hotel staff will pass the message along to our VBT Trip Leaders.

VBT Air Package and Pre-Trip Extension guests: Meet one of your VBT Trip Leaders in the hotel lobby at 9:00 am.

Once we've gathered, there will be a short introductory meeting, followed by a transfer via private bus from Cork to Killarney, a journey of approximately 90 minutes, depending on traffic. Our first destination is Killarney National Park. Ensure you are prepared for a day of walking, as the bus will continue with our luggage to our hotel after leaving us at the park entrance. Here we meet our second VBT Trip Leader and see stunning vistas of the Killarney Lakes and their impressive mountain backdrop. We walk through a lush meadow, along a river and through the woodlands to reach the lakeshore. Across the waters, we'll admire the tree-smothered slopes of Tomies Wood, stretching upwards towards the peaks of the Shehy and Tomies mountains. We continue along the shoreline through a delightful woodland glade until we come across the magnificent manor, Muckross House.

After an included lunch in the manor's Garden Restaurant, we have the choice of enjoying a stroll through magnificent displays of ornamental shrubs, flower beds, and wide expanses of manicured lawns, or continuing with a walk around Muckross Lake. This walk takes us through ancient woodlands, over Brickeen Bridge, and across Dinish Island to the Meeting of the Waters and the Old Weir Bridge. All the while, we are surrounded by wonderful views, small lakeside beaches and rocky coves.

We then meet our bus and drive to our hotel in Killarney—our home for the next three nights—collecting non-walkers at Muckross House on the way.

After some free time to settle in, we'll get to know our fellow travelers and Trip Leaders better during a welcome reception and dinner this evening.

Day 4 - Discover the Gap of Dunloe

After breakfast, we transfer to Kate Kearney's Cottage, the site where the legendary 19th-century beauty made and sold an illicit brew “very fierce and wild, requiring not less than seven times its own quantity of water to tame and subdue it.” Now a popular shop and pub, it's also the starting point for today's walk, which takes us up a steady paved incline and through a spectacular glacial valley, known as the Gap of Dunloe. Our trail parallels a mountain stream over rugged terrain lined with massive boulders, until we reach the pass between Macgillycuddy's Reeks—Ireland's tallest mountain range, at 3,414 feet—and the Purple Mountains. Then we descend into the Black Valley. Throughout our journey, we'll have a horse-drawn jaunting cart at the ready for those who want a break.

A lakeside picnic awaits us at Lord Brandon's Cottage. From here, we board open boats and cruise to Ross Castle, a 15th-century tower house, as our boatmen regale us with tales of Napolean, King Brian Boru and others who've passed this way.

This evening, shuttle into Killarney for dinner on your own. You'll also have the opportunity to mingle with locals over a pint of Guinness in one of Killarney's lively pubs.

Day 5 - Glenbeigh and the Kerry Way

Today's walk brings us to the northern part of the Kerry Peninsula. After a short drive, our bus will leave us at the trailhead—a quiet, paved country road circling Seefin Mountain. As we walk, enjoy spectacular views over Lough Caragh. At the end of the road, you have the option of rejoining the minibus and meeting the group in Glenbeigh, or walking to Glenbeigh up the mountain on a footpath through Windy Gap. This path is part of the Kerry Way, a 135-mile walking route over old droving paths and coach roads.

Upon reaching Glenbeigh, enjoy free time for lunch on your own in this quaint town.

After lunch, you have two options: You can shuttle two miles to Rossbehy Creek and take a short walk along White Strand, a beautiful sandy beach on a small peninsula stretching into Dingle Bay. Or you can walk along the banks of River Behy and follow the Kerry Way through the sloped woods of Curra Hill, then shuttle down to Rossbehy Beach.

Tonight, before an included dinner, we meet Denis Kissane, a local friend who will give a nostalgic presentation on his childhood in “The Old Bohareen.”

Day 6 - Walk through the Killarney National Park into Killarney and Ross Castle / Visit the home of Denis Kissane

After breakfast, pack your luggage, as we depart Killarney today for Kenmare. First, though, we take a very short drive to Castle Ross Hotel, for a walk in Killarney's beautiful parklands. You can stop at Killarney Cathedral, then venture into town for shopping, or join our Trip Leaders for a walk around Ross Island. More of a peninsula than an island, Ross Island is heavily wooded with a network of paths leading to attractive viewpoints overlooking Lough Leane. Also visible are remains of former copper mines, some dating back 4,000 years to the prehistoric Bronze Age, and others from the 19th century.

After free time for lunch in Killarney, we visit our newfound friend, Denis Kissane, who has invited us to see both his childhood home (featured in his talk yesterday evening), and his current home, where he will entertain us over tea or coffee and freshly-made scones. Afterward, we continue to Kenmare.

Tonight is free for you to explore the town, a four-minute walk away along a footpath directly opposite the hotel. Dinner is on your own.

Day 7 - Gleninchaquin Park

After a leisurely start to our morning, we explore Kenmare Market, where vendors sell everything from cheese and soda bread to antique tools. Afterward we  shuttle 15 miles to Gleninchaquin Park, located at the end of a beautiful valley. Here we meet the park's custodians, Peggy and Donal Corkery, whose ancestors have lived in the valley for more than 130 years. Then choose from a variety of walks, from gentle farm or river strolls to a more challenging walk above a 448-foot waterfall (well worth the effort for the amazing views!). Make sure you visit the Heritage Site to see the reconstructed 19th-century cottage that was typical in this area.

After leaving the park, we drive to a nearby pier overlooking Kenmare Bay to enjoy a special lunch of freshly-prepared Irish salmon.

This afternoon, we shuttle back to Kenmare, where you'll have free time to experience this pretty town on your own. Choose from among Kenmare's many pubs or restaurants for dinner on your own this evening.

Day 8 - Kerry Way to Caherdaniel and Derrynane Bay

Today the scenery is spectacular as we walk along the southwestern section of the Kerry Way, with views of tiny islands, towering cliffs, and some of the finest beaches in Europe.

For those who would like a slightly more challenging option, our morning trailhead begins along a single-track road. We follow this path along another section of the Kerry Way, known to the locals as the Old Butter Road. This leads us along farm tracks and then into open moorland. There is a slight incline before we drop down into Caherdaniel, where we're met with one of the best views in Ireland, overlooking Derrynane Bay.

Once in Caherdaniel, a pretty coastal village on the bay's shores, we transfer by bus to Derrynane House. The ancestral home of Daniel O'Connell, one of Ireland's leading historical figures, Derrynane House today is a public museum.

If you'd prefer the easier option, you may shuttle directly to Derrynane Bay and enjoy a lovely walk with one of our Trip Leaders across to Abbey Island. Here we'll view the remains of a tenth-century abbey and a local cemetery. 

We all meet for an included lunch in the café at Derrynane House, followed by a tour of the museum. Derrynane House is furnished with a variety of items belonging to Daniel O'Connell, including the dueling pistol he used to kill rival John D'Esterre in 1815, the black glove he wore in remembrance of that day and the fabulous gold chariot he rode through Dublin to greet jubilant crowds upon his release from prison. A video presentation outlines the life and times of the man known as the Great Liberator.

You'll also have time at leisure here to explore the gardens behind the house, walk around the Derrynane Dunes nature trail, or simply relax on one of the most beautiful beaches in the country, with more than a mile of golden sand. We'll regroup at the Keatings Bar, a cozy pub located in a small room in a private house. After an included drink, we shuttle back to Kenmare.

This evening, we enjoy a farewell dinner in our hotel and bid goodbye to our VBT Leaders.

Day 9 - Walking Tour Ends / Transfer to Kinsale

VBT No-Air Package guests: Our tour finishes at the hotel after breakfast. The hotel will help you book a taxi, at your own expense, to either Killarney railway station (approximately 60 euros/$90 USD; travel time approximately 50 minutes), Cork Airport (approximately 150 euros/$225 USD; travel time approximately 2 hours), or Shannon Airport (approximately 250 euros/$375 USD; travel time approximately 3 hours). 

VBT Air Package and Post-Trip Extension guests: Transfer by private motorcoach to the medieval town of Kinsale. It has an abundance of traditional bars and restaurants, beautiful buildings, narrow streets, shops and galleries and a pretty harbor area.

Once you arrive in Kinsale settle in and have lunch, before meeting a local guide andenjoy a walking tour explaining the colorful story of Kinsale down the ages from Medieval walled town to the sinking of the Lusitania. The remainder of the day is free for you to explore this quaint town on your own. VBT provides you with City Information in your Final Travel Booklet that includes recommendations about what to see and do in Kinsale.

Kinsale has been seasoned liberally by Norman, Spanish and English influences since medieval times, but nowadays most of the seasoning takes place in the numerous fine restaurants that make this the “Gourmet Capital of Ireland.” Kinsale is also a yachting center (hence its reputation for great seafood!).

Day 10 - Depart for U.S.

After breakfast, transfer to the Cork airport for your return flight.

*Please note: For guests with early-morning departures, full breakfast at the hotel may not be available, in which case a cold tray can be delivered to your room. Please check with the front desk to verify the times when breakfast is served and to arrange for your cold tray, if necessary.

**VBT transfer times and departure points are finalized in advance and cannot be modified for individual guests. If you extend your stay beyond the scheduled program dates, return transportation to the airport is at your own expense.

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