A luxury road trip through Ireland: Wild Atlantic Way to Ireland’s Ancient East

Explore Ireland by horseback, on foot and by tasting its gastronomy on this epic luxury road trip spanning from west to east…

Team Wanderlust
31 October 2023
Promoted by
Discover Ireland

Main image: Glendalough, County Wicklow (Shutterstock)

Ireland’s coastline is an everchanging landscape of rugged cliffs, white sand bays and dazzling waters. But there’s plenty to see beyond the shore. Take a five-day road trip from the Wild Atlantic Way over to Ireland’s Ancient East, and you’ll combine picture perfect scenery with historic treasures, excellent restaurants and luxurious five-star hotels.



Kinsale Town, County Cork (Tourism Ireland)

The relatively compact Cork Airport is a dream to fly into, with several flights a day from all over Great Britain. Once you arrive, pick up a car and drive the 25 minutes down to the coastal village of Kinsale, a charming spot that marks the start of the Wild Atlantic Way. Take some time to wander the narrow streets that curve around the harbour, filled with art galleries, coffee shops and antique stores.


Hayfield Manor, County Cork (Tourism Ireland)

Enjoy lunch in the tiny Bastion Restaurant Kinsale, a Michelin-starred hotspot offering a tasting menu of the finest local ingredients and impeccable wines. If you have the time afterwards, stroll the waterside Scilly Walk along the edge of the harbour to Charles Fort – the loop takes roughly an hour, with beautiful views along the way. The drive to Cork City takes just over 30 minutes, so make your way to Hayfield Manor to check in for the evening. With the feel of a grand country house but a location right in the heart of the city, it’s the perfect base from which to explore Cork. The Glucksman Gallery is just a five-minute walk away, so head over to check out their fine collection of contemporary art.


Return to Hayfield Manor for dinner in Orchids restaurant overlooking the private gardens and grounds, safe in the knowledge that your bed for the night is just upstairs.



The Jameson Distillery in Midleton, County Cork (Tourism Ireland)

After breakfast in Hayfield Manor, drive the beautiful coastal route to Midleton, over the waters of Lough Mahon and over Harpers Island. This pleasant village is famous for the distillery that’s created some of the world’s most famous whiskeys since the early 17th century. Midleton Distillery Experience takes you on a journey through those renowned brands, from Jameson and Redbreast to the ultra-luxe Midleton Very Rare. Opt for the Distiller’s Apprentice tour and you’ll get exclusive access to the distillery itself.

Afterwards, stroll back up Main Street for lunch in Sage, a casual restaurant with a plant filled outdoor dining space.


Cliff House Hotel, County Waterford (Tourism Ireland)

Make your way out of County Cork and along the coast to Ardmore, a coastal town that combines striking seaside scenery with medieval history. Take a stroll along the cliff walk and you’ll see that combination first-hand, with the view of the Celtic Sea over the heather-strewn cliffs, alongside the crumbling remains of a cathedral and round tower.

Check into the Cliff House Hotel, perched right on the edge of the cliffs, with every room overlooking the bay. Be sure to allow some time to unwind in the spa – the infinity pool has unbeatable views over the water, and you can also book in for an outdoor seaweed bath on the balcony.


The hotel’s Michelin-starred House Restaurant is exceptional, serving a tasting menu of delicate yet powerful dishes, with a particular focus on native seafood.



Dungarvan Harbour, County Waterford (Tourism Ireland)

After breakfast at Cliff House Hotel, the adventurous can head for a dip in the waters just below – private steps lead straight down into the sea. If you feel like something a little more strenuous, you can head out into the bay on a stand-up paddle board or kayak, to explore the local network of sea caves hidden among the cliffs. And if you’re a golfer, you can take a few swings right from the floating green at the hotel – their biodegradable golf balls turn into fish food after 48 hours.

When you’ve checked out, drive along the Waterford coast to Dungarvan, a harbour town with cosy coffee shops and waterside bistros. The Tannery is one of the best restaurants in the region, run by renowned chef Paul Flynn and set in a former leather factory. Expect hearty dishes with a dash of flair, like crab crème brûlée or pan fried pollock with mussels and grapes.


A master craftsman at work at Waterford Crystal, County Waterford (Tourism Ireland)

Make your way to Waterford city for a private factory tour of House of Waterford Crystal, around a 45-minute drive away. Here, you’ll learn all about the intricate methods used to create this crystalware, right at the place where some incredible pieces have been made, from chandeliers destined for Westminster Abbey to the crystals used for the Times Square New Year’s Eve ball at the dawning of the millennium.

When you’re finished, drive the 45 minutes to Kilkenny to check into Lyrath Estate, a 17th century house covered in thick ivy, just a short hop outside of the city.


Head into Kilkenny for dinner in Campagne, a restaurant that’s retained its Michelin star for a decade.



The Cushendale Woollen Mills are a half an hour drive away, and the homeplace of luxurious and stylish textiles. Their showroom is part of the working mill, and you can take a tour of the workshop to see how fleece is transformed into herringbone blankets and chic mohair throws, before browsing for a piece of your own.


Glendalough Monastic City, County Wicklow (Tourism Ireland)

Leave Kilkenny and drive 90 minutes up towards County Wicklow, the ‘Garden of Ireland’. Have lunch in Wicklow Heather, a cosy restaurant right in the heart of the Wicklow Mountains. After tucking into roasted local lamb, poke your head into the Writers Room, where first edition copies of James Joyce’s Ulysses and Bram Stoker’s Dracula are on display.

Afterwards, strap on your walking shoes and set off for a hike in the mountains, starting off at Glendalough. Here, the undulating peaks curve around expanses of flat, calm lakes, with wildflowers and forests creating waves of purple and green. If you’d prefer, you can take a private chauffeured tour of the region, which is particularly useful if you have an interest in history – the monastic settlement at Glendalough dates back to the 6th century and is home to a 98-foot round tower, carved crosses and ancient churches.


Powerscourt Hotel, County Wicklow (Tourism Ireland)

Built in the style of a grand Palladian crescent, Powerscourt Hotel is around 30 minutes from Glendalough, with great views out over the mountains and the nearby Sugar Loaf. Check in and enjoy dinner at the elegant Sika Restaurant, where the great views keep on coming.



Powerscourt Estate & Gardens, County Wicklow (Tourism Ireland)

After breakfast, stroll the few minutes to Powerscourt House and Gardens, just around the corner. You can also borrow the hotel’s powder blue bikes, if you’d rather explore on two wheels. There are 47 acres of pristine gardens to explore, dating back to 1731 – walk the one-hour loop to see the grand water features of the Italian Garden, the pagoda and colourful flowers in the Japanese Garden and the quirky Pet Cemetery, where the former pets of the Georgian manor were laid to rest.

Nearby, the Powerscourt Waterfall is the tallest in Ireland, and particularly dramatic after a spell of rain, when tonnes of water cascade over almost 400-feet of rock.


Head back to the Powerscourt Hotel for a casual lunch at the Sugar Loaf Lounge, before hitting the road back to Dublin Airport to fly home – it’s less than an hour away.

Feeling inspired?

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

Explore More

More Articles