From Achill Island to Galway, feast your eyes on the untamed beauty of Ireland’s western coast, the Wild Atlantic Way. The rugged terrain is dotted with inviting villages, historic sites and ancient monuments. From your home base in Westport, spend your days learning about rural folklife, a 16th-century pirate queen and a countess who was a hero of the 1916 Rising. Travel the coastal road around Achill Island, discover Connemara’s stark beauty and feel Galway’s lively vibe. It’s an unforgettable journey filled with spectacular scenery, wonderful food and rousing music!
Day 1 | In Transit
Depart for Shannon, Ireland.
Day 2 | Shannon, Ireland | Westport
Transfer to the Westport Plaza Hotel.
Discovery: Westport. Take a short walking tour to get acquainted with your home base of Westport. Tonight, at the hotel, join your fellow travelers at a Welcome Reception featuring local dancers and musicians, and then gather for a Welcome Dinner.
Day 3 | Westport
Enrichment: Irish Folklife. At the County Mayo branch of the National Museum of Ireland, rural traditions come to life through exhibits that reveal the heritage of Irish farming, trades, hunting, crafts, domestic life and more. Gain insights during an engaging talk, and then explore on your own. Enjoy a hearty lunch at a local pub. Discovery: Westport House. Set within a parkland estate, this elegant 18th-century manor house was built by the descendants of Grace O’Malley, the 16th-century Pirate Queen of Connaught, who followed in the footsteps of her father, a seafaring Gaelic chieftain. With a guide, step back in time as you tour the beautifully appointed period rooms.
Day 4 | County Sligo
Discovery: Sligo and William Butler Yeats. Head to County Sligo, known as “Yeats’ Country,” to discover the majestic Irish countryside that so enthralled the legendary poet and Nobel laureate. Take a guided tour of Lissadell House, a stately Greek Revival building, which was the childhood home of Constance Markievicz, an Irish nationalist and the first woman to be elected to the British House of Commons. Markievicz and her family entertained William Butler Yeats at Lissadell. At Drumcliff Cemetery, pay a short visit to the final resting place of William Butler Yeats. Savor a delicious lunch at a restaurant in Sligo town. Enrichment: W.B. Yeats. Learn about the poetry and life of Yeats from a Yeats Society Fellow. Discovery: Megalithic Ireland. Visit the intriguing, atmospheric Carrowmore Megalithic Cemetery, the country’s largest Stone Age burial site. Ponder what life must have been like for Ireland’s ancient inhabitants as you gaze at monuments they built over 5,000 years ago.
Day 5 | Achill Island
Enrichment: A Vision of Ireland. A local artist and art history lecturer shares how Irish culture and history are reflected in the works of its major artists. Discovery: Ireland’s Rugged Beauty. Explore remote Achill Island, the largest off County Mayo’s Currane Peninsula, noted for its wild beauty and pristine beaches. Visit the Deserted Village at Slievemore, a haunting reminder of Ireland’s pastoral history, with more than 80 abandoned stone cottages. Try local specialties at lunch in the village of Keel on Achill Island. In Mulranny, learn how to make Irish coffee and then savor your drink while enjoying picturesque views over Clew Bay.
Day 6 | Connemara
Discovery: Connemara. Marvel at the starkly beautiful landscape shaped by ancient glaciers that Oscar Wilde described as “savage.” See Croagh Patrick Mountain, where St. Patrick is said to have fasted for 40 days in the fifth century. Then visit the family-owned Glen Keen farm for a sheepherding demonstration, and chat about the sheepdogs and flock with a member of the family. Continue to Kylemore Abbey, a romantic, 19th-century castle overlooking a pretty lake, where you will tour the house and gardens. End with a visit to the quaint town of Clifden and return via scenic Inagh Valley.
Day 7 | Cong | Galway
Discovery: Cong. Journey to the charming village featured in the movie, “The Quiet Man,” starring John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara. Meander within the splendid grounds of Cong’s Augustinian abbey, founded in the early 12th century by Turlough O’Connor, High King of Ireland. Discovery: Galway City. This spirited city exudes a youthful energy, brimming with live music, street performers and students from the National University of Ireland/Galway. With an expert guide, take a culinary walking tour to visit local artisans, such as chocolatiers, cheese makers and craft brewers, to sample their tasty creations. Afterward, explore the network of medieval cobbled streets on your own.
Day 8 | Westport
Free Time: Spend your final day at leisure. Hike in the lovely countryside or pedal leisurely along the Great Western Greenway. Other options include a harbor cruise or a ferry ride to serene Clare Island. Celebrate your adventures in Ireland with your fellow travelers at a Farewell Reception and Dinner.
Day 9 | In Transit
Transfer to the Shannon airport for the return flight to your gateway city