I found myself in Ireland and decided to take a 3 day tour with Rabbies as I thoroughly enjoyed a day trip I did with them last December. I wanted to be able to see as much of Ireland as much as I could in 3 days. I’ll share some of my experiences and what we did on the tour so that you know what to expect.
You can of course drive this route on your own however you won’t learn the history of places or fun facts as you drive through. The guides are locals and know their towns and surrounding areas. You also get to sit back and relax while they do all the driving.
Rabbies is one of my favourite tour companies because they offer small group tours of a max of 16 people and will go on tour regardless of how many people are on the tour so if its super quiet, you might be the only one of the tour! Its also a great way to mingle with your fellow passengers and get to know people from different countries.
Note: Some of the stops on this itinerary may not be made on every tour as it depends on the weather and the guide. Each guide tries their best to tailor the tour to the passengers and what they want to see or do.
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Tips to make this tour easy breezy:
- Bring cash, some stores and B&Bs don’t have EFT facilities.
- Sit on the right-hand side of the bus as you will get the best views of the attractions you drive past.
- All tours and attractions are at your own cost.
- You can only take a small bag of approx. 15kg so pack appropriately – if you are travelling with a larger bag, most hotels are happy to hold you bag for you.
- Make the most of your trip, see the attractions, eat the local food and most importantly – have fun!
- Tip your driver guide at the end of your trip, they work hard to make sure you are looked after and have the best time.
Day 1 Rabbies Tour
Today you’ll drive from Dublin to Kinsale, where you will be staying overnight.
Pick up is at a bus stop across the road from the Kilkenny store on Nassau Street, initially I thought it would be a store front similar to the Edinburgh store, however pick up at a bus stop.
You’ll drive through Dublin city, checking out all of the old Georgian architecture of Dublin while your guide tells you about what you will be visiting on day one.
Stop that were made on day one:
Rock of Cashel
We didn’t stop here long enough to go into the Castle, it was just a quick photo stop. The Rock of Cashel was owned by the High King of Ireland Brian Boru, who was then killed in 1014 by Vikings.
He actually won the Battle of Clontarf and went back in tent to pray and thank God for helping him win, a Viking fleeing the battle, stumbled upon his tent and cut his head off with an axe (pretty brutal!). The castle is mostly in disarray but if you are here on your own, you can pay a small amount to go inside.
Blarney Castle is a medieval stronghold in Blarney, built over 600 years ago by Cormac MacCarthy.
The stop at the castle is approx. 1.5 hours, plenty of time to get into the castle, climb to the stop and enjoy the sights and then head back down and grab some lunch. If you want to take a look at the souvenir store then I would recommend that you grab something (as such a sandwich) to eat on the bus.
The cost to get into the castle and gardens is €18 per adult, initially I felt this was too expensive and tried to get some photos from the road, however, the far away photos don’t do the castle justice. I decided that I was there and I may never be back there again so I forked out the €18.
The castle itself is pretty incredible but most people visit Blarney to kiss the Blarney Stone, it’s said that if you kiss the stone you will get the “gift of the gab”. The stone is at the top of the castle up some small slippery steps, the staircase is a little tight, but the way down is slightly wider – make sure to hold onto the hand rails.
There is also a large area with restaurants, cafes and bathrooms as well as the largest Irish store in Ireland for clothing and souvenir purchases.
Short Tour Around Cork
It wasn’t really on the itinerary, however, due to being delayed from lunch we were able to enjoy a drive through Cork city and make a few very short stops at some of the gorgeous churches in Cork such as Saint Fin Barre’s Cathedral and Shandon Bell’s and Tower – where you can go to the top and for a small fee, you can ring the bells yourself!
Jameson Whisky Experience
Taste one of Ireland’s favourite exports, here you will go on a 1 hour fully guided walking tour throughout the distillery where you will learn the history of Jameson and how they make their famous whisky. They also go through the difference between how they make Irish whisky compared to how they make Scottish whisky. Jameson produce over 60 millions litres per year – how insane is that!
At the end of the walking tour, you will get to taste 3 different whiskies – a Scottish whisky, Irish whisky (Jameson) and an American whisky so that you are able to taste the difference and then you move into the tasting room and a part of your ticket you receive a glass of Jameson whisky, either neat, on the rocks or with a mixer such as ginger ale.
The cost when you are with Rabbies tour is €19.80 per person which is discounted slightly from the full price.
The last stop and where you will be staying the night is Kinsale. This colourful port town is considered the gourmet capital of Ireland – thanks to Peter Barry, who was originally from Cornwall. He came to Kinsale and opened up a number of restaurants, worked on marketing and offered fine dining experience 7 days a week. There are now more restaurants than pubs in Kinsale, which is very unusual. As this is a port town, you will find plenty of fresh fish and seafood offered at most restaurants.
Kinsale also used to be a walled town and there is a replica of this near the Gourmet Pantry, which is worth checking out. In 1601, the Battle of Kinsale happened, there was a failed rebellion, where the Irish tried to rebel against the English, they partnered up with the Spanish and it didn’t work very well due to weather, less Spanish soliders arrived than expected.
Fishing and shipping used to be the biggest industries in the 1600s until around 1930, where the fish changed direction due to warmer climates and bigger fishing trawlers came through that were able to take the fish directly to Dublin and London. There was a large slump and depression during this time up until the 1960s when Peter came through to open up a number of restaurants and the town was reinvigorated.
Where to stay:
Fun facts you may learn on Day 1:
1916 Irish rising from the English caused by the English killing the Irish leaders. The Irish were angry and there was an uprising. The Irish signed a peace treaty however this separated Ireland into north and south Ireland as Northern Ireland doesn’t want to be a part of a United Ireland – they are a part of the UK, still to this day.
Tracing back surnames can be tricky in Ireland as the English came over and anglicized all the Irish names of places and surnames.
The town of Moneyhall is where Barack Obama’s great great great great great great grandfather came from. There is now a plaza in Barack’s name with a statue of him and Michelle. Barack visited Moneyhall while he was president and had a pint of beer at Ollie Hayes.
The most popular sports in Ireland are rugby and hurling. Hurling is like hockey and lacrosse mixed together and goes back 1,000s of years. Each county in Ireland has their own teams and there are county and national playoffs held by the Gaelic Association. There are a total of 32 counties in Ireland.
A lot of abbeys and Catholic churches were destroyed by Henry the 8th or Cromwell, there were no Catholic churches in Ireland in the 1600s. Catholics and the Irish people were not able to practice their religion or their Irish cultural (such as their language) publicly and had to do it in secret. The Catholics would go to “mass rocks” in the middle of nowhere to celebrate mass. It wasn’t until the 1800s that the catholic people were able to celebrate their religion again and the Irish people are slowly bringing back their culture and Irish ways and language.
Anne Bonny a local from Kinsale in the 1700s was a daughter of a solicitor, she was meant to be a socialite however, she ran off with a pirate (Calico Jack) to the Caribbean’s. She was eventually caught and was supposed to be hung but they found out she was pregnant so they put her in prison instead and her father had to come bail her out. Or so the local stories go.
Day 2 Rabbies Tour:
Day two you will be driving from Kinsale to Kilkenny, where you will be based for the night.
Stop that were made on day two:
Charles Fort – Kinsale
There are now two forts in Kinsale that were built by the English to stop any future attacks and to protect the harbour from the Spanish. They named Charles Fort (a star shaped fort) and James fort. There used to be an underwater chain between the 2 forts that could be pulled to stop or destroy a ship trying to come into the harbour.
You’ll have a quick photo stop at Charles Fort where you will see Kinsale from afar.
Cobh is a major stop off for massive cruise liners, most of the people from these cruises usually do day trips to Blarney Castle as it’s a popular attraction nearby. The stop in Cobh is one hour and you have three options of things to do in this hour.
You can visit the Immigration Museum, the Titanic Experience or you can wander around the town and visit the St. Colman’s Cathedral which is a short (slightly up-hill) walk from the town centre. Or if you are a quick little bunny you might be able to do two out of the three options.
You’ll make a quick (1 hour) stop in Dungarvan for lunch, there are plenty of options such as “The Local” or my favourite the “Anchor Bar” along the harbour. If you have time before or after lunch, go for a little wander along the waterfront and to the town centre.
There is also a small castle along the waterfront. Sadly I didn’t see the castle as I didn’t walk down far enough but our guide described how beautiful it was.
You’ll drive from Dungarvan to Waterford via the Copper Coast Drive, a UNESCO Geopark with a stop at a local beach as a quick photo stop and then onto Waterford. Waterford is Ireland’s oldest city in Ireland, it was founded by Vikings in 914 A.D.
Your stop in Waterford will be 1 hour with a few different options on what to do with your time such as a visit to Reginald’s Tower which is a Viking museum. The tower was named after Ragnall (the Viking) who ruled here in the 10th century, it’s the only monument in Ireland named after an invader.
You can wander through the Viking Triangle where you can also visit the Medieval Museum, take a 50-minute walking tour which includes Bishop’s Palace or even enjoy a virtual reality tour as a Viking back in the day. Sadly there are not as many Viking attractions or sights as I would have expected from a Viking settled town.
For those who have some cash to burn, you can also visit the Waterford Crystal factory. Waterford Crystal began here in 1783 and is now a very well-known worldwide brand. You can choose to do a tour of the factory here or stroll around their shop.
Late afternoon you will head to Kilkenny where you will be based for the night. Once you arrive you can wander through the streets and enjoy the thriving pub and restaurant culture or check out the sights before the sun goes down, don’t worry you will have free time in the morning to check the sights out if you want to relax and enjoy some delicious food.
Where to stay:
Fun facts you may learn on Day 2:
Spike Island (located across from Cobh) used to be a prison much like Alcatraz and in the 1990s prisons were misbehaving so, the prison officials called their “mams” to come and sort them out, which surprisingly worked!
McCarthy Mor, who was once the lord of Blarney Castle didn’t want to pay his taxes to Queen Elizabeth I. He would send her letters each time his taxes were due making excuses as to why he didn’t want to pay his taxes. After months of months of letters from McCarthy, the queen threw the letter in the air yelling “blarney blarney blarney, all he speaks is blarney” which is where the saying came from.
Day 3 Rabbies Tour:
As you stayed in Kilkenny the previous night, this morning you will have a few free hours to wander around Kilkenny as your own pace, just make sure you are ready to get on the bus at the allocated time.
Stop that were made on day three:
You’ll enjoy free time this morning in Kilkenny which a very interesting medieval town, there are plenty of things to see, do and eat here! Some of my favourite sights, all of which are within walking distance of your accommodation are (I would recommend visiting in the below order):
- Cathedral Church of St Canice – St Canice patron Saint of Kilkenny. Here you can climb to the top of the tower, however, you do need some balls (or lady balls) to do this climb, it’s a little scary, the stairs up to the top are more of a wooden ladder – they are slightly vertical – but the view from the top is worth it!
- Rother House and Gardens
- The Black Abbey
- St Mary’s Cathedral
- Kilkenny Castle
From Kilkenny you’ll drive through Moone and Hollywood on the way to Glendalough. You will be in Glendalough for around 1.5 hours.
When you arrive, I would recommend that you head into the visitors centre, which is also an educational centre that offers an audiovisual show which you really should watch before you head out and wander the grounds of the early Christian monastic settlement.
The settlement was founded by St Kevin in the 6th Century and although they were attacked by Vikings from the 10th to the 12th century, the village is still mostly intact.
The village includes, the Round Tower, the Cathedral, St Kevin’s Kitchen, St Kevin’s cross, the Priest House and a few other sights to see in the small settlement.
You can also enjoy walking through nature to see the Glendalough lower and upper lakes or you can choose one of the nine different walks, however, some of the walks are up to 4 hours long, so choose wisely.
On your way back to Dublin, you’ll drive through the Wicklow Mountains and Sally Gap, stopping off at random waterfalls (depending on the season), the “P.s. I Love You” bridge (from the movie of the same name) and then Guinness lake, also known as Lough Tay.
Then onto the motorway and into Dublin city to be dropped off back at Nassau Street where you will go your separate ways.
**P.s. I Love you bridge is not guaranteed – its dependent on the weather and guide.
Fun facts you may learn on Day 3:
The Irish used the word “Craic” (crack) as a filler word, it could mean anything at all! Eg: “What’s the Craic?”
Leprechauns actually make shoes for the fairies.
Fairies can look like anything at all, a rock, a tree, an animal, etc. There is one Fairy that looks like a goat and is named púca (pooka). If you catch the pooka and hold onto her horns, she will take you down to the underworld to meet the spirits.
When building one of the main motorways, they had to redirected it to avoid a fairy fort, which is a circular mound and fort. The Irish are very superstitious.
Fairies love to eat elderberries and to keep yourself safe from the scary fairies, you get a few elderberries and place them in a cross with a bit of red ribbon and put it on your door, this shows the fairies that you won’t attack or hurt them and they will leave you in peace.
You can study Irish a degree in mythology at an Irish university.
Michael O’Dwyer was a famous Irish outlaw the authorities build the military road in the Wicklow mountains to catch him. They built the road to gain access for military and vehicle and it took 9 years to build and 9 years to catch Michael. He was then sent to Australia as a convict but as he had the gift of the gab, he ended up as a high-level police officer in Sydney!
Brehon laws in Ireland has a long History but they are laws that were considered beyond their time. They were originally brought in, in 7AD and then brought back in around the last 1800s after the English conquest.
- If you kept bees, you had to give you neighbours a percentage of the honey made for letting the bees wander over to their lands
- February the first is the day on which husband and wife may decide to walk away from their marriage. If you are a married couple and your wife if not happy for any reason she can leave and remarry but the man cannot remarry.
- If a woman is pregnant and has cravings for a particular food, if her husband withholds the food, he will be fined.
There is a Moving statue movement in Ireland. In 1985 a family were walking by a statue of the Virgin Mary, They stopped to look at a statue and the statue moved and started crying. They ran back home and brought their friends and family back to see the statue move, they too saw the moving statue. Within months there were over 200,000 people who can to visit the statue waiting for it to move. There was also reports all over Ireland of statues that also started moving. Still to this day the statues move.
I hope you enjoyed my overview of what you can see and learn during the “Blarney Castle, Kilkenny & Irish Whisky” 3 day tour with Rabbies. They have in no way paid me to write this or promote their company, I think it’s a great company and I really enjoy their tours, this isn’t the first or last tour I will take with them.