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National Geographic Expeditions - Ireland

Ireland's living history


  • Journalist and author Ralf Sotscheck ("Gebrauchsanweisung für Irland") accompanies you on this trip

  • Vintage bus tour and boat tour of Killarney National Park

  • Medieval banquet at Bunratty Castle, which dates back to the 15th century

  • Learn about Ireland's Celtic past

  • Breathe in Irish history by staying in castles and manor houses


Ireland - the Emerald Isle and home of Oscar Wilde, Guinness beer and typical Irish folk music. The history of the country goes back about 10,000 years, and it was always other peoples who conquered and shaped the island. From the Celts to the Vikings to the Normans and the English, many cultures have left their mark here. These different influences, as well as the island's location slightly off the European mainland, have greatly shaped today's culture and especially the people of Ireland.

Get ready for a journey through the history of this unique country. Together with a true Ireland connoisseur and lover, you will discover old forts, churches and castles, marvel at natural beauties such as the Cliffs of Moher and let yourself be infected by the Irish way of life.



Dublin - Kilkenny - Killarney - Ennis - Connemara - Drogheda

August 2022

Expert: Ralf Sotschek, Journalist, Author and Ireland Correspondent

He has a flair for the bizarre, captivates his readers with anecdotes, uncomfortable viewpoints as well as astute analyses and often uses ironic language - Berlin-born Ralf Sotscheck is known as a journalist for well-known magazines and as the author of numerous travel guides and satirical books as well as documentaries for German television. In 1985, the former German teacher and business education graduate was drawn to Dublin. From his adopted home on Ireland's west coast, he has since reported on Ireland and Great Britain in a column as a correspondent for the daily newspaper taz. He also shares his knowledge of the islands beyond all clichés and in particular the way of life of the Irish in countless books, including the successful "Gebrauchsanweisung für Irland" ("Instruction Manual for Ireland").

Saturday, 21.08.2021

The small Irish island off the west coast of Europe can be reached in about 2 hours from most major German airports without changing planes. After a comfortable journey, you will arrive at the first destination of your National Geographic Expedition, Dublin. At the airport you will already be expected. On the short drive to the hotel you will get first impressions of this lively metropolis. In the afternoon, you will learn more about the focus of the trip, the itinerary and its many highlights during a short lecture by the expert. Finally, you will have dinner in the famous restaurant of the Cliff Townhouse.

2 nights at The Shelbourne Hotel***** with half board in the Heritage Park View Room, Dublin, Ireland.

Sunday, 22.08.2021

Dublin is not only the capital, but also the economic and cultural center of the country. On your private guided tour through the city you will also move off the main streets and get to know Dublin in a very special way. Highlights such as the National Museum of Ireland Archaeology and Trinity College with the Book of Kells must not be missing, of course.

Discover the Irish Craic, as locals call a fun time spent socializing with family and friends, on the streets and in the pubs of the Temple Bar district and let yourself drift through the narrow streets of the lively neighborhood!

In the afternoon, visit the oldest building and heart of the city, Christ Church. A tour of the Guinness Storehouse on a tour of Dublin is also a must. Taste the Irish beer and form an opinion about whether Guinness in Dublin really tastes completely different from the rest of the world, as many voices claim.

Monday, 23.08.2021

As you make your way through the almost untouched nature of the Wicklow Mountains, it becomes clear why so many renowned directors have chosen this region as the location for their films. Blockbusters like Braveheart and P.S. I Love You as well as the shows Vikings and the Tudors were filmed in the small villages and the surrounding hills.

Even about 1,500 years ago, the idyllic film backdrop was fascinating: Monks around St. Kevin chose the hilly landscape to found their monastery there, the Glendalough Monastic. Today, however, the site is in ruins except for the round residential tower: it was probably Vikings who plundered and destroyed the former monastery about 1,000 years ago.

After lunch, you'll learn firsthand about the history of Smithwick and Smithwick's Brewery. Who better to tell the story than someone who calls Smithwick his birthplace and home?

In the evening, arrive at Mount Juliet Estate Manor House, built in the mid-18th century by order of the then Earl of Kerry and named after his wife, Juliet Boyle. Since 1991, the house has also welcomed hotel guests, introducing them to the beauty of the estate, which is steeped in history.

2 nights at Mount Juliet Estate***** half board in Manor House Executive Room, Thomastown, Kilkenny, Ireland.

Tuesday, 24.08.2021

In the morning, visit Jerpoint Abbey, a 12th century Cistercian abbey. The Romanesque church is most famous for its rich detail and 13th century sculptures.

After an extensive guided tour lunch, a tour of the town of Kilkenny awaits you. The name of the city is derived from the Gaelic Cill Channigh, which means Church of Cainnigh. This very church is called St. Canice Cathedral and was built in the 6th century and is still the oldest surviving building in the city. From the Round Tower you can enjoy a fantastic view of the whole city.

The Church of St. Mary's Medieval Mile Museum is one of the finest examples of a recently renovated church. During the renovation, archaeological excavations were made, which brought to light artifacts previously lost for centuries. You will be amazed at how rich and extensive the museum's collection is!

Wednesday, 25.08.2021

In the morning there is a real highlight on the program, because you will visit one of the landmarks of Ireland - the Rock of Cashel. Loosely translated, the name means castle on the rock, which is basically accurate, but in no way does justice to the place. As early as the 4th century, the kings of Munster recognized the strategically important location of the mountain plateau, which rises about 65 meters from the otherwise quite flat landscape. The national saint, St. Patrick, even made the fortress his bishop's seat less than a century later. In the course of the following centuries, the original fortress was constantly expanded, so that the various buildings today tell the story of the region. A visit to the Rock of Cashel is a journey through the past.

About 100 kilometers further south is the city of Cork, which is considered the second capital of Ireland. In the afternoon here you will visit, among other things, the English Market, which makes the city famous. This covered market, one of the oldest of its kind in the world, sells mostly food and drinks. This makes it the meeting place for many locals. A better place to get in touch with the residents is at best in the pub around the corner, where the Irish like to chat extensively about God and the world. The neighboring town of Cobh is less well known and still quite young by Irish standards. Historically relevant is especially the port of the city, from which between 1848 and 1950 about 2.5 million people left the country as emigrants.

Towards the evening, your journey finally takes you out of the city: you head north to the Killarney National Park, on the edge of which lies the private estate of Cahernane House. The imposing mansion, dating back to 1877, is an absolute retreat due to its quiet location, where you can enjoy first-class service and a piece of history to boot.

3 nights at Cahernane House**** half board in Manor House Signature Room, Cahernane, Kerry, Ireland

Thursday, 26.08.2021

The Ring of Kerry is probably the most famous panoramic road in the country. It spans over almost 170 kilometers through Kerry, the most scenic county in Ireland for many travelers. On your way along the road, you will drive around the Iveragh Peninsula and make one or two photo stops with breathtaking views. The almost mystical landscape is characterized by gentle mountains, lush forest clearings, moors, rivers and lakes. There are many sights along the way, such as the stone forts of Cahergal and Leacanabuaile, which were probably built around 600 AD and are still well preserved today.

Another intermediate stop is Valentia Island, which contains tetrapod tracks from the vertebrates' former land walk. This site provides some of the oldest and most reliable evidence for the transition of life from water to land. Thus, it is central to the theory of evolution.

At noon, a culinary treat awaits. During a Seaweed Workshop at Caherdaniel, learn about the benefits of seaweed. Learn how to prepare delicious and above all very healthy dishes from them and how they can be used cosmetically. Since the region offers very fertile soil even by Irish standards, agriculture is one of the largest industries in Kerry. On a walking tour along some of the county's most beautiful routes, you will learn a lot about the agricultural use of the land and how it has evolved over the centuries.

In the early evening, you will reach your hotel.

Friday, 27.08.2021

Today you will visit the westernmost point of Europe on the Dingle Peninsula. If the weather is fine, you will see the Blasket Islands on the horizon, which were inhabited for several centuries despite the most adverse conditions.

One of the largest and most famous beaches on the island is Inch Beach, which has been the setting for numerous movies. The carefree beauty of this place is perfect for long walks in nature and a paradise for surfers and water sports enthusiasts. The peninsula is considered by many inhabitants of Ireland to be the most beautiful in the whole country, which naturally fills the local population with special pride. The pubs in the towns of Dingle and Tralee are therefore ideal for getting in touch with the locals and listening to their stories

Saturday, 28.08.2021

After breakfast, you will set off for your next stop. However, you will not travel by coach as usual - instead, you will change your means of transportation for a short time and board a vintage bus - in proper style, as befits guests of a Manor and Castle Hotel. Your first stop of the day is called Kate Kearney's Cottage, the entrance to the famous Gap of Dunloe, where you first leave the coach behind. On a horse-drawn carriage ride through the valley, enjoy the wonderful scenery with its impressive hills and rivers. Your destination is Ross Castle, the former ancestral seat of the O'Donoghue clan. You will reach the castle from the 15th century by boat. From there you have a fantastic view over the valley and Killarney National Park.

After your lunch break, you will head north by bus to visit the town of Limerick. The medieval and Georgian architecture of the old town and the River Shannon make it a worthwhile destination on your way to Ennis.

Arrive at Bunratty Castle and your hotel in the early evening. The 13th-century Norman castle holds a rich treasure trove of historical events that you will discover over the next few days.

2 nights at Bunratty Castle Hotel**** half board in Deluxe Room, Ennis, Ireland.

Sunday, 29.08.2021

After the Ring of Kerry, the Cliffs of Moher are probably the best known natural landscape on the southwest coast of Ireland. The cliffs of dark rock rise up to 214 meters from the Atlantic Ocean. The best view is from the O'Brien Tower, built in 1853. Hundreds of seagulls and other seabirds cavort on the cliffs and use them for breeding. Hobby ornithologists will get their money's worth.

After lunch you will reach the Burren National Park, which offers an absolute contrast to the otherwise green island. Often described as a lunar landscape, Burren is a porous limestone plateau in the north of County Clare.

In the midst of Burren is the Poulabrone Dolmen, a stone portal tomb dating back to the 4th millennium B.C. It is thus the oldest megalithic monument in Ireland and a testimony to early civilization.

In the afternoon, you will return to the hotel and use the time at leisure.

For dinner, you are personally invited by the Earl of Thomond to Bunratty Castle. During the medieval banquet you will feel yourself like a part of the noble family that once resided there.

Monday, 30.08.2021

The destination of today's stage is Ashford Castle. The medieval castle was built in the 13th century by an Anglo-Norman family and, after extensive renovation and expansion, is now one of the so-called Leading Hotels of the World.

On the approximately two-hour drive to Cong, stop at Corcomroe Abbey, a 12th-century Cistercian monastery. The special feature of the monastery is that the church belonging to it was never finished. A visit to the magnificent place of worship is nevertheless very worthwhile.

Around noon you will reach Galway, the thriving bohemian town on the west coast. The popular seaside resort with its extensive promenade and winding streets invites you to take an extensive walk.

In the afternoon you will finally reach Ashford Castle, where you can spend the rest of the day at leisure. How about a relaxing treatment in the award-winning spa area or a stroll around the estate? The hotel offers a full range of activities, including fishing, archery, and zip-lining.

3 nights with half-board at The Lodge at Ashford Castle**** a Lake View Suite, Cong, Ireland.

Tuesday, 31.08.2021

After a short drive, you will reach the oldest town in the region, Ballinrobe. At the end of the 14th century, a monastery was founded here, of which unfortunately not much is left today. The Old Ballinrobe Church, on the other hand, is well preserved and tells a somewhat different story: originally, the place of worship was not used as such, but was a simple, large building.

For lunch, you will enjoy typical Irish food. The sea is never really far on the island, so fish and seafood occupy a large place in the daily menu of the Irish - especially, of course, on the coast. On a boat trip through Ireland's only true fjord, Killary Fjord, you'll be served smoked salmon, mussels or fresh oysters.

Back on land, you'll continue your cruise and pay a visit to the Victorian Kylemore Abbey, romantically situated right on a lake. During the trip you will discover the Twelve Bens, an impressive mountain range. Between the sea and the mountains is the lively and cosmopolitan town of Clifden, often referred to as the capital of Connemara. The picturesque location attracts many visitors every year who appreciate the typical Irish hospitality, delicious food and good friends.

Wednesday, 01.09.2021

The village of Rossaveal in Connemara is mainly known as the gateway to the Aran Islands. The three-island group lies about 50 km off the coast of County Galway and is an insider's tip as far as living traditions, culture and incomparable landscapes are concerned. The ferry will take you to the largest of the islands: Inishmore.

Aran Goat's Cheese is a popular stop on the island, where you will experience an interesting tour of the estate and goat herds and learn how the award-winning products are made. Of course, a taste test is not to be missed here.

Dun Aonghasa, a prehistoric hilltop fortress on a 100 meter cliff overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, gives you the feeling of being on the edge of the world. Many myths and legends surround the fortress and no one really knows who Aonghas actually was.

A total of seven hill forts are located on the Aran Islands. In the center you will find Dun Eochla. The stone fort today consists only of the two outer walls and joins the legends of Dun Aonghasa. On a clear day, the view from here extends to the Cliffs of Moher.

On the way back by ferry and bus, look out for the beautiful beaches, like the one at Dog's Bay, which will make you feel like you've landed in the Caribbean. The sand is made of very fine limestone and shell abrasion, which gives it its brilliant color.

In the late afternoon, you will reach Ashford Castle again.

Thursday, 02.09.2021

Today your journey takes you inland towards the east. The Irish say that the center of the island is the real, the true and original Ireland - the heart of the country. The Shannon River, which feeds a multitude of smaller and larger lakes, is the main feature of the landscape here. The plains of this region are repeatedly enclosed by hills. Most of the land is used for agriculture, but many areas with untouched forests are also protected as national parks.

Your first stop is the early Christian site of St. Ciarán, where the monastery of Clonmacnoise was founded in the 6th century on the eastern bank of the Shannon. For lunch, stop in the small village of Kilbeggan. Here, as in countless other villages, whiskey is distilled.

In the afternoon you will visit the sacred sites of Loughcrew Cairns, one of the oldest and most important prehistoric cemeteries in Ireland. You will discover Celtic tombs that are well over 5,000 years old.

You will arrive at your hotel in the late afternoon.

2 nights at The D Hotel**** half board in Superior Balcony Room, Drogheda, Ireland

Friday, 03.09.2021

The valley around the small river Boyne is one of the most spectacular places for archaeologists and historians. Along the river are several pre-ancient sites of the Celts such as Bru Na Boinne. This cluster of prehistoric cult sites was probably built around 3,200 B.C., making it far older than, for example, its British counterpart Stonehenge and the Pyramids of Giza.

Just a few miles downstream from the site of the famous Battle of the River Boyne in 1690 is Slane Castle. Every August, the Slane Concert is held in the grounds of the castle, featuring renowned musicians such as Bryan Adams, Bruce Springsteen and Robbie Williams.

The site of Slane is central to the history of the country, but especially to Christianity in Ireland. On a hill overlooking Slane, St. Patrick is said to have lit the Easter fire. As a result, he was cited to the king at Tara and Ireland converted to Christianity. Learn the detailed history and much more on the Castle and Distillery Tour. After a tour of the grounds, lunch will be served.

In the afternoon, visit Ireland's first Cistercian monastery at Old Mellifort Abbey, plus the sundial and high crosses of Monasterboice.

In the evening, you will reach your hotel and have one last dinner together.

Saturday, 04.09.2021

After a hearty breakfast at the hotel, your private driver will be waiting to take you to the airport. An eventful and educational trip comes to an end. You have gathered countless impressions of the country's landscape and history and have come into contact with the locals. You have learned how closely the people are connected to their country and how much their history has shaped and still shapes the inhabitants. Slán go fóill - Goodbye in Ireland.

The Shelbourne Hotel*****, Dublin, Ireland (2 nights)

This exceptional 5-star hotel is located in an approximately 194-year-old Renaissance building in the heart of Dublin city. The traditional design combines classic elegance with modern luxury and offers service of the highest standard. The spa area has won several awards and the indoor pool offers variety and swimming pleasure even on rainy days.

The Mount Juliet Estate House*****, Kilkenny, Ireland (2 nights)

The hotel's self-imposed credo is to provide a unique service experience to all customers, making every day special. The 18th-century history of the house alone makes the stay unique. In the Manor House, the main part of the building, all rooms are furnished in the Irish tradition. They radiate friendliness and coziness just like the Irish themselves.

The Cahernane House Hotel****, Cahernance, Killarney, Ireland (3 nights)

This 4-star boutique hotel is located on the edge of Killarney National Park, about a 20-minute walk from the town center. Built in 1877, the imposing mansion was long owned by the wealthy Herbert family. The building and the entire grounds exude an incomparable tranquility, allowing hotel guests to escape the hustle and bustle of modern life. The only sounds you will hear are the chirping of birds and the rustling of leaves in the wind. All rooms are individually designed and furnished to a high standard with antique furniture and stylish elements.

Bunratty Castle Hotel****, Ennis, Clare, Ireland (2 nights)

Just a few minutes' walk from Bunratty Castle and its park, you'll find the newly renovated Bunratty Castle Hotel. The traditional and quaint charm of the place is reflected in many small details within the hotel. The spa and lounge areas are just as cozy and stylish as the rooms. In addition, the hotel is ideal as a base for exploring the town and the 15th-century castle. The rooms are individually designed and Wi-Fi is available free of charge everywhere.

The Lodge at Ashford Castle****, Cong, Connemara, Ireland (3 nights)

For nearly 800 years, legendary Ashford Castle has hosted distinguished guests. Originally built as a military fortress in the Anglo-Norman Middle Ages, it has been restructured into a luxury hotel that has not lost the essence and charm of its heritage. The rural setting, casual luxury and dignified atmosphere were also appreciated by American presidents, members of the English royal family and Hollywood stars. From the room you can enjoy the breathtaking view of Lough Corrib. In addition, you will have a balcony or terrace, a fireplace, terry bathrobe and Egyptian cotton bed linen.

The D Hotel****, Drogheda, Co. Louth, Ireland (2 nights)

The only 4-star hotel in Drogheda, the D Hotel is located on the banks of the Boyne River and offers luxurious accommodation in rooms with contemporary decor and a tranquil atmosphere. All rooms have a plasma TV, hairdryer and complimentary toiletries in the bathroom, free Wi-Fi as well as a small work area with desk.

Closest airport: Dublin Airport

Duration of the trip: August 2022

Minimum number of participants: 2


  • 14 overnight stays in mentioned accommodations
  • Meals according to the program
  • Guide
  • Accompanying expert
  • All transfers

Excursions included

  • Boat trip to Ross Castle
  • Boat trip to Aran Islands with visit to goat farm
  • Carriage ride to the Gap of Dunloe
  • Seaweed cooking course
  • All entrance fees to the attractions listed

Not included

  • Optional excursions
  • International flights
  • Airport taxes
  • Personal expenses
  • Drinks during meals, unless specifically mentioned
  • Voluntary tips
  • Luggage fees at the airport
  • Visa, if required

Services & Notes

  • Single room price: 7.473,00 euros
  • Please note that the trip durations indicated refer to the duration of the trip without stops.
  • Sightseeing is weather and season dependent and may be slightly modified on site by the tour guide.

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