A luxury road trip through Ireland: Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands to Ireland’s Ancient East

Soak up epic landscapes, crafts and castles as you traverse Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands and Ireland’s Ancient East on a luxury road trip…

Team Wanderlust
01 November 2023
Promoted by
Discover Ireland

Main image: Lacken Castle, County Tipperary (Tourism Ireland)

When it comes to road trips, Ireland has all the ingredients for a perfect break – quiet, winding roads, epic scenery and plenty to see and do along the way. Take a trip from the Hidden Heartlands out to Ireland’s Ancient East, and you’ll discover what makes this land so special…

DAY ONE

Afternoon

King John’s Castle, County Limerick (Tourism Ireland)

Kick off your trip by flying into Shannon Airport, then pick up a hire car and drive 30 minutes into Limerick. This west coast city is compact and walkable, and there’s plenty to see, from the grand townhouses of the Georgian district to the historic King John’s Castle, perched right on the edge of the River Shannon.

Just a short stroll from the castle is the Hunt Museum, a cutting-edge cultural space with an ever-changing rotation of exhibits. Don’t miss the outdoor Museum in a Garden, with large scale art installations and sculptures set on the riverbanks.

When you’re ready, hop in the car and drive to Cashel Palace in County Tipperary, a little over an hour from the city. This Palladian manor house underwent a lavish refurbishment and reopened in 2022. Now, this grand hotel is one of the finest luxury properties in Ireland, with a top-notch spa, renowned restaurant and great location overlooking local landmark, the striking medieval structure the Rock of Cashel.

Evening

Just a two-minute stroll from Cashel Palace, Chez Hans is a fine dining restaurant set in a converted church, where you can tuck into dishes like whipped local goats cheese or roasted guinea fowl under the gothic nave. When you’re finished, your bed at Cashel Palace is right around the corner.

DAY TWO

Morning

Cashel Palace, County Tipperary (Tourism Ireland)

After a leisurely breakfast at Cashel Palace, explore the equine heritage of County Tipperary with a horse-riding experience at the hotel. The property’s owners have been part of Ireland’s thoroughbred racing and breeding legacy for years, and you can choose from any number of activities, from tours led by the hotel’s Equine Concierge to trekking in the mountains. On the latter, you’ll get a unique perspective of the local landscape on horseback, trotting past Neolithic sites and unspoilt landscapes. Whatever you choose, you’ll have earned a hearty lunch at the Bishop’s Buttery back at Cashel Palace, an elegant space with vaulted ceilings, an open fire and a menu celebrating the best in local produce.

Afternoon

Birr Castle Demense, County Offaly (Tourism Ireland)

After lunch, make your way to the town of Ballinahown, a leisurely hour and a half drive from Cashel. The route takes you through the heartland of Ireland, passing through the pretty town of Birr – if you have time to stretch your legs, factor in a stroll at Birr Castle Demense and its beautiful gardens and forests.

In Ballinahown, head to the Celtic Roots Studio, a workshop and gallery showcasing the best in Irish craft. The main focus is bog oak, a material created over thousands of years, which artist Eibhlín Ní Chongháile uses to design custom pieces like sculptures and jewellery.

Drive for a further 15 minutes and check into Wineport Lodge, a waterfront resort perched right on the banks of Lough Ree. Be sure to book in for a session in the outdoor hot tubs, which float on a pontoon right on the lake – it’s particularly special at sunset, with a glass of bubbles in hand.

Evening

Athlone is a 15-minute drive away, so head into town for dinner at Thyme, before making your way back to Wineport Lodge for the night. If you’d rather, you can take a water taxi that will whizz you straight from the hotel’s dock into the heart of the city via Lough Ree.

DAY THREE

Morning

Spring at Athlone Castle, County Westmeath (Tourism Ireland)

Kick off your day at Athlone Castle, for an insight into the (often gory) medieval history of this town right in the centre of Ireland. Don’t miss the story of the Siege of Athlone, told through an immersive, panoramic video display within the bowels of this 12th century fortress. Just over the road, Luan Gallery is a contemporary art space with an excellent view of the river, the floor to ceiling windows overlooking the Shannon and its passing boats. The Fatted Calf is a great spot for lunch, and is a favourite of many an Irish chef.

Afternoon

Dún na Sí Amenity & Heritage Park is less than 20 minutes from Athlone, and is a unique destination combining Irish heritage and culture with the great outdoors. Start off with a stroll around the wetlands reserve before exploring the Heritage Park, a recreation of Irish life from the prehistoric dolmens and stone circles to medieval settlements. Afterwards, drive the hour and twenty minutes up to the county of Cavan, to check into Virginia Park Lodge.

Evening

Virginia Park Lodge, County Cavan (Tourism Ireland)

You don’t need to venture far for dinner – Virginia Park Lodge is owned by Michelin starred chef Richard Corrgian, with much of the produce served grown right on site. Stay in one of the charming shepherd’s huts dotted throughout the estate, and book in for one of the dinner packages, usually held once a month, with a delectable breakfast the next morning.

DAY FOUR

Morning

The Boyne Valley, County Meath (Tourism Ireland)

Wake up in Virginia Park Lodge before moving from the Hidden Heartlands back towards Ireland’s Ancient East, driving forty minutes to the Boyne Valley. This region is the epicentre of Ireland’s history, with UNESCO World Heritage sites like the passage tombs of Newgrange and Knowth and the Hill of Tara, the inauguration site of the High Kings of Ireland. The best way to experience the region is on a private experience with Boyne Valley Tours, who’ll guide you through these sacred sites with insider knowledge and expertise.

Later, drive an hour to Kildare and check into The K Club, before grabbing lunch at Neighbourhood in the nearby town of Naas.

Afternoon

Newbridge Silverware, County Kildare (Tourism Ireland)

If the village of Newbridge is known for one thing, it’s silver. You can learn all about this local treasure at Newbridge Silverware, where you can tour the factory and browse the shop. Don’t miss the Museum of Style Icons, where you’ll see clothing and artefacts from Hollywood stars and royalty on display – think Princess Diana’s engagement blouse, Audrey Hepburn’s dress and a jacket worn by Marilyn Monroe.

Afterwards, drive the ten minutes to Kildare Village to shop for your own collection – this designer outlet village has boutiques from brands such as Armani, Barbour and Karl Lagerfeld.

Evening

Head back to The K Club for cocktails in the Blue Martini bar then dinner in their signature restaurant, The Barton.

DAY FIVE

Morning

The K Club, County Kildare (Tourism Ireland)

After breakfast in The K Club, head off for a private tour of Irish National Stud & Gardens for a unique insight into the thoroughbred industry in Ireland. Be sure to check out the Irish Racehorse Experience, an interactive space dedicated to horse racing. Afterwards, take a stroll around the Japanese Gardens, considered to be one of the finest of its kind. Don’t miss the rocks and water features in St. Fiachra’s Garden, either. The Japanese Gardens Restaurant is a great place for a bite before you hit the road.

Afternoon

Dublin Airport is around 45 minutes from the National Stud, so make your way there to round up your trip and fly home.

Feeling inspired?

Ready to indulge in your own luxury road trip adventure across Ireland? Then start planning on the official Tourism Ireland website.

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