Touring Ireland for a week of freedom

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Touring Ireland for a week of freedom

Jump in your car and criss-cross this island with its rugged landscapes marked by history and legend. Setting off from Dublin, escape for a fabulous week away.

Touring Ireland for a week of freedom

Day 1: the cradle of Ireland

After landing in Dublin, pick up the Belfast road and head towards the province of Ulster and the Highlands. You will have plenty of time to discover the bustling capital at the end of your stay. On the way, lush green pastures will brighten up your journey along the Boyne Valley.

Your first stop should be the Hill of Tara – an atmospheric location steeped in Irish mythology. For centuries, the place was the seat of the High Kings of Ireland and it was both the political and spiritual centre of the country. Roam around the remains of its circular forts and megaliths dotted around the rural landscape. Stand for a minute in the middle of this magical setting where the soul of the Irish people still lingers on.

Near to the village of Donore, you can step back in time to the Stone Age. At the top of another hill stand the three large passage tombs of Brú na Bóinne, a prehistoric site and UNESCO World Heritage Site. In the visitors' centre, an audio-visual presentation takes you back through the history of this mysterious site. Standing in the Newgrange burial chamber, you will be flabbergasted by the technological feat simulating the trajectory of the rising sun at the winter solstice. Mind-blowing!

End the day at Newgrange Lodge, a charming hotel uniquely located within the prehistoric site. A warm welcome awaits in this typically Irish country residence. If you come in summer, you can even enjoy a barbecue in the gardens.

Hill of Tara
Castleboy
Co. Meath
Ireland

Brú na Bóinne
Glebe
Co. Meath
Ireland

Newgrange Lodge
Staleen Road
Donore
Co. Meath
Ireland
+353 (0)41 988 2478
www.newgrangelodge.com/

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Touring Ireland for a week of freedom

Day 3: hiking in the wilds of the Mourne Mountains

On day 3, head for the Mourne Mountains which rise to over 800 metres. A magnificent coastal route skirts this granite range. Hiking boots tightly tied and walking stick in hand, set off to conquer Mourne Wall, a high dry-stone wall that zig-zags over peaks and valleys for 35 kilometres. Falcons hover above the wind-battered summits. The stunning panoramic views stretching out in front of you will take your breath away.

After this memorable hike, go back in your car and head to Belfast. Park up near to the pedestrianised area by the Bullitt Hotel. The hotel's creative decor plays with brick and wood, there is even a rooftop bar and a DJ at weekends… Have dinner in its grill-house restaurant, Taylor & Clay, relax in its chilled-out atmosphere and then retire to bed.

Mourne Wall
Co. Down
Northern Ireland

Bullitt Hotel
40a Church Lane
Belfast
BT1 4QN
Northern Ireland
+44 (0)28 9590 0600
bullitthotel.com/

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Touring Ireland for a week of freedom

Day 4: Belfast city break

Hop in a famous black taxi for a Black Cab Tour – an original way to get to know the capital of Northern Ireland. Sit back and listen to the history of the city as told by your driver-cum-guide, from the birth of the city to The Troubles of the 1970s. This city tour visits both Catholic and Protestant neighbourhoods and you will see the famous murals commemorating major events in the Northern Irish conflict.

You will want to find out about Belfast's industrial heritage, so make your way to the former Harland and Wolff shipyards. The Titanic Belfast exhibition starts with this ironic introduction: “Built by Irishmen, sunk by Englishmen”. Behind the Iceberg, an avant-garde building in the shape of a ship's bow, there lies a huge museum devoted to the history of the iconic liner. Do not leave Belfast without enjoying in moderation a pint at the Crown Bar, one of its many traditional pubs dating from Victorian times. For dinner, try OX Belfast, a hip-and-trendy restaurant which reinterprets the country's traditional dishes, letting the flavours burst through. A guaranteed way to experience local culture at its best.

Black Cab Tour
67 Squires Hill Road
Belfast
BT14 8FS
Northern Ireland
+44 (0)7990 955227
belfastblackcabtours.co.uk/

Titanic Belfast
1 Olympic Way
Queen's Road
Titanic Quarter
Belfast
BT3 9EP
Northern Ireland
titanicbelfast.com/

Crown Bar
46 Great Victoria Street
Belfast
BT2 7BA
Northern Ireland
+44 (0)28 9024 3187

OX Belfast
1 Oxford Street
Belfast
BT1 3LA
Northern Ireland
+44 (0)28 9031 4121
oxbelfast.com/

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Touring Ireland for a week of freedom

Day 5: the spectacular north coast

Breathe in the stimulating clean air as you drive along the A2 listening to U2's legendary album, The Joshua Tree. This coastal road takes you through the Glens of Antrim, nine green valleys that reveal incredible scenery, charming villages and wild beaches. As you criss-cross this spectacular landscape, it might look familiar as scenes from the Game of Thrones were filmed here. Visit Glenarm, a village founded by the Vikings, which claims the title of Ulster's oldest town. A few kilometres further on, you come to the small traditional port of Carnlough where you can treat yourself to a seafood lunch.

Back in the car again, as you drive round a bend in the road, the jewel of this jagged coastline suddenly comes into view: this is the Giant's Causeway. You do not need a guide to explore this strange geological formation of 40,000 basalt columns and UNESCO World Heritage Site. At low tide, you can walk along the Grand Causeway, a stone pathway extending out to sea from the foot of the cliffs. Legend has it that the giant Celtic warrior Finn MacCool built the causeway to cross the sea to Scotland and fight his rival, the giant Benandonner. In the evening, make your way back to Bushmills, where you can stay the night at the comfortable Bayview Hotel with its views over the Atlantic Ocean.

Glenarm
Northern Ireland

Carnlough
Northern Ireland

Giant's Causeway
44 Causeway Road
Bushmills
BT57 8SU
Northern Ireland

Bayview Hotel
2 Bayhead Road
Portballintrae
Bushmills
BT57 8RZ
Northern Ireland
+44 (0)28 2073 4100
www.bayviewhotelni.com/

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Touring Ireland for a week of freedom

Day 5: the spectacular north coast

Breathe in the stimulating clean air as you drive along the A2 listening to U2's legendary album, The Joshua Tree. This coastal road takes you through the Glens of Antrim, nine green valleys that reveal incredible scenery, charming villages and wild beaches. As you criss-cross this spectacular landscape, it might look familiar as scenes from the Game of Thrones were filmed here. Visit Glenarm, a village founded by the Vikings, which claims the title of Ulster's oldest town. A few kilometres further on, you come to the small traditional port of Carnlough where you can treat yourself to a seafood lunch.

Back in the car again, as you drive round a bend in the road, the jewel of this jagged coastline suddenly comes into view: this is the Giant's Causeway. You do not need a guide to explore this strange geological formation of 40,000 basalt columns and UNESCO World Heritage Site. At low tide, you can walk along the Grand Causeway, a stone pathway extending out to sea from the foot of the cliffs. Legend has it that the giant Celtic warrior Finn MacCool built the causeway to cross the sea to Scotland and fight his rival, the giant Benandonner. In the evening, make your way back to Bushmills, where you can stay the night at the comfortable Bayview Hotel with its views over the Atlantic Ocean.

Glenarm
Northern Ireland

Carnlough
Northern Ireland

Giant's Causeway
44 Causeway Road
Bushmills
BT57 8SU
Northern Ireland

Bayview Hotel
2 Bayhead Road
Portballintrae
Bushmills
BT57 8RZ
Northern Ireland
+44 (0)28 2073 4100
www.bayviewhotelni.com/

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Touring Ireland for a week of freedom

Day 6: the poetry of Connemara

Next day, head south-west to Connemara. It will take a five-hour drive to reach this mythical region, dubbed a place of “savage beauty” by writer, Oscar Wilde. Check in to the g Hotel, on the outskirts of the quirky city of Galway. Designed by Galway native, Philip Treacy, milliner to the stars, this opulent “home sweet home” bears all the marks of his exuberant and poetic style.

Early next morning, there is nothing like than a bit of fishing on Lough Corrib to wake you up. Hire a small boat and the services of a guide before setting out to tickle the trout. Later, from the beach of Killary Harbour fjord, set sail on a Killary Cruises catamaran and enjoy lunch on the water to the tunes of a live band. From the deck, try and spot the dolphins that have made these waters their home. Another circular route runs through Connemara scenery at its most romantic: the Sky Road, to the west of Clifden, is one of the most stunning roads in Ireland, revealing wooded mountains under skies heavy with endless poetry.

In the evening, make your way back to Galway where folk music echoes in its medieval streets. Join the craic at Róisín Dubh pub. Its open mic night attracts musicians, comedians and DJs.

the g Hotel
Old Dublin Road
Galway
H91 V0HR
Ireland
+353 (0)91 865 200
www.theghotel.ie/accueil.html

Killary Cruises
Nancy's Point
Leenane
Co. Galway
Ireland
+353 (0)91 566 736
killaryfjord.com/

Róisín Dubh
8 Dominick Street Upper
Galway
Ireland
+353 (0)91 586540
www.roisindubh.net/

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Touring Ireland for a week of freedom

Day 7: Dublin – the laid-back party capital

After crossing the country from west to east, you find yourself back in Dublin, the final destination in this spectacular loop. On arrival in the Irish capital, check in to the Merrion Hotel before setting out to visit the vibrant district of Smithfield. In its alleys, you will find a pell-mell of Viking ruins, markets overflowing with local produce and plenty of bars. Dublin is a city on a human scale and it is easy to get about on foot. You are bound to make some great acquaintances as Dubliners are very friendly and laid-back. Stroll around the Georgian part of town where the elegant local architecture translates into pretty houses with brightly coloured doors and gardens. Make sure you take a look at Dublin Docklands, an area of former warehouses now regenerated beyond recognition. As night falls, a visit to Temple Bar is a must; this famous neighbourhood is well known for its street performers and super-lively pubs. It is a great way to round off your stay in Dublin.