Our trip begins in Dublin, Ireland with an 11:30am pick up at Dublin Airport. We transfer to the spectacular west coast and our first views of the Atlantic. A short hike to the top of Knocknarea Mountain affords panoramic views of Sligo and Donegal Bay and sets the scene for an unforgettable week along the Wild Atlantic Way. A huge Neolithic stone cairn adorns the summit and it?s said that a legendary warrior queen is buried beneath. We overnight the next two nights in the heart of Sligo well known for its traditional live music at the various pubs. Lunch and dinner included.
Hiking: 1.5 miles; elevation gain/loss 985?; Transfer: 2 hours 45 minutes.
The poet W.B. Yeats wrote his great work Under Ben Bulben based on his childhood climbs of the dramatic flat-topped peak. He was lain to rest at the foot of the mountain where the last three lines of this poem are inscribed on his burial stone. We hike to the top of this iconic tabletop mountain, the scene of many stories and legends, not least the tale of Diarmuid and Grainne, mythological lovers eternally pursued by an angry giant. We make our way up the mountain through some challenging, boggy terrain to be rewarded with some amazing views over the Atlantic. In the afternoon we meet a local seaweed expert who will take us foraging for this superfood along the local beaches and inlets of the Sligo coast. We return to our hotel to enjoy a free night in Sligo. Breakfast and lunch included.
Hiking: 4.5 miles; elevation gain/loss: 1150?.
This morning we transfer to the 6,000 year old stone ages site of the C���ide Fields. Wander amongst the Neolithic stone field walls, houses and megalithic tombs, all preserved beneath a blanket of peat over several square miles. Our hike starts at the tiny village of Carrowteige in one of the most unknown corners of Ireland. The terrain is short-cropped grass managed by the sheep population and the route dips and rises as it loops north around Benwee Head, a Gealic-speaking headland of unrivalled natural beauty. The cliffs, arches, stacks and islands, offer some of the most dramatic coastal scenery in Ireland. Far from the beaten track, the wilds of Mayo encapsulate the wandering spirit of the Children of Lir, an ancient Irish myth that tells of four children who were turned into swans. We spend the next two nights in vibrant Westport with its lovely bridges, Georgian architecture and lively pub scene. All meals included.
Hiking: 8 miles; elevation gain/loss: 1,520?; Transfer: 3.5 hours.
Known as Ireland?s Holiest Mountain, Croagh Patrick has been a place of pilgrimage for over 4,000 years, in honor of Saint Patrick, Ireland?s patron saint. It was at the summit that Saint Patrick is said to have fasted for forty days in 441 AD. We follow a lesser known trail to the famous summit with its white-washed church before descending by the pilgrim?s path. On a clear day the summit offers views over the hundreds of little emerald islands in Clew Bay, our home base of Westport and the surrounding mountain ranges. St. Patrick had a personal brewer called Mescan and our next stop is a little local brewery that bears his name. Hear the unusual story of its genesis and taste their amazing brew. Dinner on our own this evening in Westport. Breakfast and lunch included.
Hiking: 6 miles; elevation gain/loss: 2,050?.
A short boat ride allows us the whole day to explore Clare Island which is dominated by its mountainous hills and the imposing peak of Knockmore. We visit the castle and burial place of the famous ?Pirate Queen' Grace O'Malley. Our hiking possibilities are vast with everything from rugged peaks, huge cliffs, sea caves, sandy beaches and ruined Napoleonic signal towers. Granuaile's Castle is a short walk along the coast from the quay and from there we hike up to the northern tip of the island where the lighthouse is perched high on the cliffs. Following the North Coast takes us to Knockmore, the island?s highest peak. From here it is a quick descent to the more sheltered southern coast which loops back to the little quay, the hub of village life. Leaving the island we head to our hotel in Clifden in the heart of Connemara. All meals included.
Hiking: 7 miles; elevation gain/loss: 1,600?; Transfer: 1.5 hours.
The wild terrain and romantic associations of Connemara have been drawing poets, mystics, and hikers for years. Today?s hike showcases why many consider this the best scenery in Ireland. We follow the Western Way, a long-distance walking trail between the counties of Mayo and Galway. Our climb up Leenane Mountain allows 360 degree views over the MaamTurks Mountain Range, Mweelrea Mountain, and west over the fjord to the Atlantic Ocean. Enjoy our packed lunches overlooking Killary Fjord with mountains rising steeply on both sides and sheep grazing blissfully. On descending we visit a sheep farm to see some amazing collies at work and hear stories of the challenges and joys of living off the Connemara land. Tonight we gather for our final dinner together in Clifden. All meals included.
Hiking: 8 miles; elevation gain/loss: 2,100?.
On the south coast of Connemara lie many perfect beaches and charming villages. We take a walk along the crescent-shaped beaches of Gurteen and Dog?s Bay. Their white sand beaches are complemented by tropical appearing turquoise waters. Enjoy a farewell lunch in picturesque Roundstone which is one of the oldest fishing villages on the west coast. Watch local fisherman return with the day?s catches of lobster, crayfish, crab and mackerel. Our day ends with a transfer to our hotel in Galway and bidding farewell to our guides. This artsy, buzzing city is the perfect antidote to the wilds of the Wild Atlantic Way. Breakfast and lunch included.
Hiking: 5 miles; elevation gain/loss: 110?; Transfer: 1.5 hours.
Enjoy breakfast at our hotel. Transfer on your own to Dublin or Shannon airport or continue your explorations of this beautiful city. Trains and buses depart regularly to Dublin or Shannon airports. Breakfast included.