Treasures of the Emerald Isle
Explore the romantic manors, castles, landscapes and art of Ireland, from dynamic Dublin to picturesque Kilkenny and Cork, up thorough Gaelic Sligo and on to Belfast.
Begin in Dublin, the heart of Irish culture and the home of its great collections of art, including the 9th century Book of Kells and the National Gallery of Ireland’s fine collection of European and Irish art. Visit historic Dublin Castle and Belvedere House before travelling south to Kilkenny, for visits to Jerpoint Abbey and the famous crystal factory at Waterford. Turn west towards Cork, kissing the Blarney Stone and spending a day in Cobh, last port of the ill-fated RMS Titanic.
Travel through the spectacular landscape of the Ring of Kerry, and stay in magnificent Adare Manor, before continuing through Galway to Sligo, home of WB Yeats. End in Belfast, a city of emerging 21st century confidence.
This tour is part of the World Art Tours program organised by the Art Gallery Society of NSW in partnership with Renaissance Tours.
Depart Australia or New Zealand in the evening on suggested Emirates flights to Dublin via Dubai. Renaissance Tours or your travel agent can assist you with your flights and other travel arrangements.
Overnight in flight.
Arrive in Dublin in the afternoon and make your way to the hotel.
At 18:00, enjoy a welcome briefing with Kenneth and fellow travellers, followed by a special welcome dinner.
Begin the day with a talk by Kenneth, and then walk to Trinity College Dublin to view the iconic Book of Kells. This 9th century illuminated Latin manuscript of the Gospels has come to symbolise traditional Irish culture in its combination of Christian iconography and Hiberno-Saxon pagan art motifs. Continue to the National Museum of Ireland for a guided tour of its rich collection of Celtic art and archaeological treasures, including Bronze Age jewellery and exquisite chalices and brooches recovered from burial boards.
After free time for lunch at leisure at the Museum, walk to the National Gallery of Ireland to view its extensive collection of Irish and European artwork. Return to the hotel in the afternoon, before an evening at leisure.
In the morning, travel to Belvedere House for a guided tour of the house and gardens. The house was built in 1740 for the 1st Earl of Belvedere by Richard Cassels, one of the foremost Palladian architects of Ireland, and features the infamous ‘Jealous Wall’, a giant limestone folly made to resemble a crumbling ruin, which was erected by the Earl to obstruct the view of his estranged brother’s mansion next door. The open terraced gardens were added by later, and less jealous, earls in the 19th century.
Enjoy lunch at the restaurant at Belvedere House, and then travel to Castletown House. Another of Ireland’s grand Palladian mansions, Castletown House was built in 1722 for the then-Speaker of the Irish House of Commons, and is the centre of a 220-hectare estate.
Return to Dublin in the afternoon.
This morning, visit Dublin Castle for a guided tour of this doughty stronghold which was the site of the British administration in Ireland until the declaration of the Irish Free State in 1922. While the present-day castle was mostly constructed in the 18th century, the site had been the holdfast of English power over Ireland since the days of King John, the first English ‘Lord of Ireland’.
Lunch and the remainder of the day are at leisure to continue your exploration of Dublin at your own pace. Why not take a stroll along the banks of the River Liffey, visit the Decorative Art Museum and then call in at a pub for a pint on the way back to the hotel?
Check out from the hotel in the morning and travel to Powerscourt Estate, whose 19 hectares of mansion and landscape gardens were laid out in their present form in the 18th century. The august mansion, once the seat of the Viscounts Powerscourt, is now owned by the Slazenger family.
After free time for lunch at Powerscourt, continue to Kilkenny and check in to the hotel in the mid-afternoon. The remainder of the afternoon and evening are at leisure, with the opportunity to visit the Norman Castle of Kilkenny, St Canice’s Cathedral, the Black Abbey of the Dominicans or simply follow the winding streets of the old town to discover the city’s rich tradition of craft and design.
Dinner tonight is at a local restaurant.
Enjoy a talk by Kenneth in the morning, and then travel to Jerpoint Abbey for a guided tour of the evocative ruins of this Cistercian abbey founded in the 12th century and finally suppressed by King Henry VIII in 1541. Of note are the fine stone carvings, showing elements of both Norman and early English artistry.
Travel southwards to Waterford for lunch, followed by a guided tour of the fascinating Waterford Crystal Factory. Still employing hand-blowing techniques and traditional beech and pear wood moulds, the factory has a history stretching back to 1783, and the exquisite flint crystal glassware produced in Waterford has become a byword for elegance in the intervening centuries.
Return to Kilkenny before an evening at leisure.
Check out from the hotel and visit the Rock of Cashel, an impressive complex of fortified towers and church buildings that sits atop a hill in Country Tipperary. Said to mark the spot when St Patrick converted the King of Munster to Christianity in the 5th century, by the 12th century it was the stronghold of the Kings of Munster against Norman invasion. The distinctive Celtic art and architecture is evident in the extant buildings.
Continue to Cork, and after lunch at a local restaurant visit nearby Blarney Castle to kiss the famous Blarney Stone, the Stone of Eloquence said to give ‘the gift of the gab’ to those who press their lips to it. The castle itself is a partial ruin dating from the 15th century, but the stone has had a wide variety of origins ascribed to it: it was the coronation seat of Irish kings, the pillow of Biblical patriarch Jacob, a lawyer’s good luck charm before pleading his case in court, and many more besides.
Return to Cork for an evening at leisure.
Enjoy a full-day trip to Cobh (pronounced ‘Cove’), on the southern coast of Ireland, the harbour town from which many a fateful voyage departed, including Australian convict transportees in the early 19th century and the RMS Titanic in 1912. Visit the Cobh Museum, with a collection of artefacts and records representing the town’s history as many travellers’ last port of call in Europe.
Enjoy lunch at a local restaurant and then visit Fota House, arguably Ireland’s finest exemplar of Regency architecture. Featuring neoclassical interiors and a beautiful arboretum, Fota House was designed by brothers Richard and William Harrison in the early 19th century.
In the late afternoon, return to Cork.
Check out from the hotel and travel westward to Bantry House, near the southwestern reaches of Ireland. Originally built in around 1700 under the name ‘Blackrock’, the house was later acquired by a family of wealthy merchants from Limerick, the Whites. Appreciating the irony of the Whites living at Blackrock, they rechristening the house Seafield; when a later White was enobled as Lord Bantry for defeating a French invasion force in Bantry Bay, the house received its current appellation. The house and gardens comprise seven terraces, filled with exotic species collected on the Earl of Bantry’s many foreign voyages.
After some free time for lunch in Bantry House, turn northward to Muckross House for a guided tour of this charming 19th century house and garden which became the core of the very first national park in the Irish Free State. Built in the Tudor Revial style, Muckross House sits on a 4,500 hectare estate.
In the late afternoon, check in to the hotel in Killarney, followed by dinner at a local restaurant.
Spend a day travelling along the spectacular ‘Ring of Kerry’, a scenic trip around the Iveragh Peninsula in Country Kerry on Ireland’s west coast. Begin with a talk by Kenneth and then strike out counter-clockwise on your journey: due to the quaint local roads, coaches and cars are required to travel in opposite directions when making ‘The Ring’! Along the way, see stunning landscapes where coastal mountains drop into the sea, rolling green valleys, gentle vistas of pebbled beaches watched over by sentinel pines, crumbling castles, friaries and abbeys, and charming villages.
Stop for lunch at a village along the way, and then continue through the evocative landscape that has seen the Atlantic coastline of Ireland dubbed ‘the homeland of the wandering, wistful Gaelic spirit’.
Return to Killarney in the evening. Dinner tonight is at leisure.
Enjoy a morning at leisure in Killarney before checking out of the hotel in the early afternoon and travelling to Adare Manor, our accommodation for the night.
In the afternoon, enjoy a guided tour of Adare Manor and grounds. Dinner tonight is at Adare Manor.
Located on the banks of the gentle River Maigue in County Limerick, the magnificent Adare Manor was the former seat of the Earl of Dunraven and Mount-Earl. The present Tudor Revival-style manor was built in the mid-19th century, although it retains some features of the earlier 17th century Georgian edifice. With grey limestone walls and pitched slate roofs, the manor was designed as a ‘calendar house’, its 365 windows and 52 chimneys corresponding to the days and weeks of the year respectively. Some of the interiors, including the Great Hall, were designed by Augustus Pugin, the architect of the Houses of Parliament in Westminster. The manor sits at the centre of a 340-hectare estate, including a walled garden and a woodland of willows and beeches.
Check out from Adare Manor and travel to Galway, for hundreds of years the main Irish port for trade with the Continent. On Galway Bay, one can often catch a glimpse of a ‘Galway hooker’, a traditional wooden fishing boat with a black, pitch-coated hull and three calico sails dyed crimson with a special mixture of tree bark, tar and butter. Galway redounds with the history of competition between indigenous Gaelic farmers and artisans and the wealthy Hiberno-Norman merchants who presided over the city government from the 13th to the 17th centuries.
Enjoy a traditional pub lunch in Galway, and then continue northwards to Sligo. Check in to the hotel in the afternoon, followed by an evening at leisure.
Enjoy a talk by Kenneth and then spend a morning exploring the historical sites related to Sligo’s favourite son, Nobel Prize-winning poet WB Yeats. Visit Lissadell House, where the poet often took his holidays, and which he immortalised as “The light of evening, Lissadell, great windows open to the south”.
See the uninhabited Lake Isle of Innisfree, inspiration of the eponymous poem in which Yeats, while walking along a crowded Fleet Street in London, suddenly conceived of a desire to travel to the peaceful isle and build a simple clay-and-wattle cabin, and there cultivate beanstalks and beehives “and live alone in a bee-loud glade”. Visit St Columba’s Church in Drumcliffe, where Yeats’s paternal grandfather had served as rector and where the poet himself was buried beneath a simple headstone.
After lunch at a local restaurant, the remainder of the day is at leisure to continue your exploration of Sligo.
In the morning, check out from the hotel and travel into Northern Ireland, for a visit to the house and gardens of Florence Court. Built in the 18th century, Florence Court displays delicate Rococo interior design and some fine examples of Irish furniture, and the landscape gardens feature 18th and 19th century plantings, including an Irish yew tree (Taxus baccata ‘Fastigiata’) dating to 1767 which is the progenitor of almost all Irish yews throughout the world.
After some free time for lunch at Florence Court Tea Room, continue to Belfast. Once riven by the sectarian conflict between Irish Republicans and UK Loyalists, mirroring the city’s Catholic-Protestant divide, the cessation of ‘The Troubles’ with the Good Friday Agreement of 1998 unlocked the energy and creativity of Northern Ireland’s exciting capital. The centre of the world linen trade during the Industrial Revolution, Belfast remains a major trading port, and has recently seen a renaissance of art and culture.
Enjoy an orientation tour of the major sights of the city by coach before checking in to the hotel. Dinner tonight is at the hotel.
In the morning, visit Hillsborough Castle, the official residence of the Queen when visiting Northern Ireland. The 18th century Georgian edifice of Hillsborough became the official residence of the British government in Northern Ireland after the independence of the Irish Free State in 1922 meant that Dublin Castle was no longer available. Hillsborough has continued to play an essential role in Northern Irish politics, being the site of many of the talks leading to the Good Friday Agreement.
Continue to Mount Stewart House, and after some free time for a light lunch in the café, explore the impressive house and gardens, former seat of the Marquess of Londonderry. The house itself was built in the mid-19th century, and its elegant interiors and luxuriant gardens were developed in the mid-20th century by Dame Edith Vane-Tempest-Stewart, the then-Marchioness of Londonderry.
Return to Belfast in the afternoon for a guided tour of the extraordinary Titanic Belfast, a 12,000-square-metre museum celebrating the construction of the RMS Titanic in Belfast and the city’s rich history of shipbuilding.
In the evening, enjoy a special farewell dinner with Kenneth and fellow travellers in Belfast.
Tour arrangements conclude after breakfast.
Make your way to Belfast Airport for suggested Emirates flights to Australia or New Zealand via Birmingham and Dubai. Renaissance Tours or your travel agent can assist you with your flights and other travel arrangements, including any additional accommodation, either before or after the tour.
*Single travellers may request to share.
Please advise at time of booking.
Final payment due
22 April 2019
Please see Terms & Conditions for fitness level definitions.
Please contact Renaissance Tours or your travel agent for current airfares and flight reservations.
Australian and New Zealand passport holders do not require visas to visit the Republic of Ireland or the United Kingdom.
Tour price includes
- Accommodation in centrally located 4 and 5 star hotels with breakfast daily (B)
- Meals as per itinerary (L = Lunch, D = Dinner), including wine with dinners
- Lectures and talks throughout with your tour leader, Kenneth Park
- Comprehensive sightseeing including local guides and entrance fees as per itinerary
- Transportation throughout on comfortable air-conditioned coaches
- Gratuities for local guides and drivers
- Hotel porterage (one piece per person)
Tour price does not include
- International airfares (please contact Renaissance Tours or your travel agent for assistance)
- Airport/hotel transfers on arrival and departure
- Airport porterage
- Items of a personal nature including telephone, laundry, taxis, minibar, room service etc.
- Travel insurance (a condition of travel; please contact Renaissance Tours or your travel agent for assistance)
Dublin – Conrad Dublin *****
Kilkenny – Lyrath Estate *****
Cork – The River Lee Hotel ****
Killarney – Europe Hotel *****
Adare – Adare Manor *****
Sligo – Clayton hotel ****
Belfast – Merchant Hotel Belfast *****
NB. Hotels of a similar standard may be substituted.