Skelligs, Co. Kerry, captured on one of our Ireland Tours Skelligs, Co.Kerry, captured on one of our Ireland Tours

South West Ireland Travel Guide South West Ireland Travel Guide

Cork, Kerry and Ireland's South West

The south-west counties of Cork and Kerry are among the most popular for tourists and, if you are embarking on your first Ireland tour, you should not go home without coming here and seeing it for yourself. Rugged, rustic and wild, this picture-postcard region of Ireland perhaps best matches what first-time visitors expect Ireland to look like. Expect narrow, winding country roads, craggy coastlines and verdant landscapes aplenty.

The coastline of the South West is a meandering mix of inlets, coves and peninsulas, so there is plenty of opportunity for cliff-top walks and rambles. Inland, the landscape is scarcely less rugged: throughout the region, farmland is interspersed with rocky outcrops and bogs which break up the luscious green vistas.

On your to-do list for this part of your vacation tour Ireland, add Skellig Michael, the Killarney National Park, Cork City, Kinsale, and the Ring of Kerry.

Plan Your Trip to The South West

Cork City

It's the second largest city in the Republic but the locals call Cork "the real capital of Ireland". They might not be the most impartial judges, but many visitors are inclined to agree, leaving this compact and alluring destination with an enduring fondness and a full belly: Cork is known throughout Ireland for its exceptional food.

The famous skyline of Cork City in Southern Ireland The famous skyline of Cork City in Southern Ireland

Cork City
Home of The Rebels

About The English Market

It is perhaps no surprise, then, that the first stop for most visitors, and above all the foodies, is the Cork English Market - a bustling shrine to good food. Here you can sample the very finest local produce, and there is plenty of it, so bring a bag and take away with you the best meats, cheeses and other products from the farmsteads of Ireland's South West. It really is food fit for a queen: Elizabeth II visited the market during her historic Ireland tour in 2011.

Crawford Municipal Galley, Cork City

Crawford Municipal Gallery

About the Crawford Municipal Gallery

Pulses of Tradition

No visit to Ireland would be complete without sampling some traditional Irish music and dance, and there are few better places to enjoy the Irish folk experience than Cork's very own Pulses of Tradition.

Produced by Brian Morrissey, with staging by Pat Kiernan, Pulses of Tradition draws on the talents not only of renowned acts like Buille, Liadan, North Cregg, and Nomos, but also the very best local dancers from Irish World Academy of Music and Dance (University of Limerick). Throughout the performance, a big screen depicts the rich history of this most enigmatic corner of Ireland. Voted the region's most popular attraction on TripAdvisor, this outstanding show promises "a vibrant, authentic celebration of Irish traditional dance, music and song, embracing the traditions of the past in the context of 21st-Century Ireland".


Find out More:

Cork City Gaol

As a city, Cork retains a great deal of its historical and archaeological heritage, and there is no finer example of this than Cork City Gaol, a towering edifice situated just 2km north-west of Patrick's Street. Opened in 1824, the gaol was heralded as "the finest in three kingdoms", though inmates at the time might not have agreed.

Unlike their predecessors, visitors today have the freedom to roam the gaol's catacombs for the price of €8 (concessions available). The tour takes visitors back in time, recreating the harsh realities of nineteenth-century incarceration, while exploring some of the underlying causes of contemporaneous crime. Visit the gaol's own website for more information, opening hours and picture gallery.

Find out More:

Blarney Castle, Cork, Ireland. Home of The Blarney Stone as seen on many of our tours of Ireland. The Cliffs of Moher on the West Coast of Ireland

Blarney Castle
County Cork

Blarney Castle and The Blarney Stone

Situated five miles north-west of Cork city, Blarney Castle is a solid fixture on almost any tour of Ireland. It is best known for the famous "Blarney Stone" which visitors are encouraged to kiss, in accordance with a tradition which spans the centuries.

Built 600 years ago by Cormac MacCarthy, one of Ireland's greatest chieftains, Blarney Castle has attracted millions of visitors who continue to flock here in the hope that they will be gifted with the power of persuasive and elegant speech - or, as we call it in Ireland ... Blarney.

Visit The Blarney Castle

Come here on our Tours
County Cork's Historic Blarney Castle County Cork's Historic Blarney Castle

Visit Blarney Castle on these Tours

Buskers seens on an Ireland Tour

Show Tour Description Small-Group Tour

6-Day Iconic Scenes Hub-and-Spoke Tour

Experience the true essence of Ireland in under a week. Ireland's unmissable destinations in one unforgettable hub-and-spoke tour. Read more...

6-Day Iconic Scenes of Ireland 2019

  • €995 per person
  • 6 Days / 5 Nights
  • Max. 26 Guests
  • Hub & Spoke Tour
  • Luxury Transport
  • No sales pitches
2019 Tour
The Iconic Cliffs of Moher in Ireland

Show Tour Description Small-Group Tour

10-Day Iconic Scenes of Ireland Our most popular tour

Experience all that is Ireland in this unmissable 10-day adventure. See Ireland's best-loved attractions and its best-kept secrets. Read more...

10-Day Iconic Scenes Tour 2019

  • €1,190 to €1,690
  • 10 days / 9 nights
  • Max. 26 Guests
  • Most Popular Tour
  • Fully Inclusive Package
  • No sales pitches
2019 Tour
Sheep in Kerry, Ireland

Show Tour Description Small-Group Tour

15-Day Iconic Scenes of Ireland Northern & Southern

Discover the Island of Ireland, North and South with this unforgettable 15-day tour. Spend five magical days in Ulster, and then 10 more in Eire. Read more...

15-Day Iconic Scenes Tour 2019

  • 15 Day/14 Night
  • €1,985 to €2,485
  • Max. 26 Guests
  • North and South
  • Four-Star Hotels
2019 Tour
Kylemore Abbey in Connemara, Ireland

Show Tour Description Small-Group Tour

10-Day Deluxe Irish Castles Tour Stay in Castles

Stay in Ireland's historic castles and romantic country manors on the finest all-inclusive tour Ireland has to offer. Live like royalty for 10 days. Read more...

10-Day Deluxe Irish Castles Tour 2019

  • €1,990 to €2,390
  • 10 days / 9 nights
  • Max. 26 Guests
  • Stay in Castles
  • Luxury Tour Package
  • No sales pitches
2019 Tour
Ross Castle, as viewed on our Ireland tours

Show Tour Description Mini-Group Tour

8-Day Ancient Ireland Small Group Size

An exclusive mini-group tour for 8 Guests. Discover Ireland's hidden secrets and stay in a luxury castle on this unique journey through ancient Ireland. Read more...

8-Day Ancient Ireland Mini-Group Tour 2019, Ring of Kerry Version

  • €2,390 to €2,690
  • 8 Days/7 Nights
  • Max. 8 Guests
  • Adults Only
2019 Tour
Dingle Peninsula features, as viewed on our Ireland tours

Show Tour Description Mini-Group Tour

8-Day Ancient Ireland Small Group Size

An exclusive mini-group tour for 8 Guests. Discover Ireland's hidden secrets and stay in a luxury castle on this unique journey through ancient Ireland. Read more...

8-Day Ancient Ireland Mini-Group Tour 2019, Dingle Version

  • €2,490 to €2,690
  • 8 Days/7 Nights
  • Max. 8 Guests
  • Adults Only
2019 Tour
The Cliffs of Moher

Show Tour Options

Custom Private Tours Bespoke for your group

Set your own budget, set your own pace. Let us create a bespoke tour package for you and your group. Read more...

Customize your own Private Tour

  • Made to Measure
  • Private Group
  • Any Accomm.
  • Any Duration
  • Tell us your needs
Private Tours

'Great Skellig'

When Christian monks founded their community on the island of Skellig Michael (or Great Skellig) in the Sixth Century, they did so with a view to finding solitude. They could scarcely have chosen a more appropriate location for their reclusive life: the jagged outcrop of rock looks like the least hospitable spit of land anyone could choose to call home; but call it home they did for the seven centuries which followed. George Bernard Shaw described Skellig Michael as "the most fantastic and impossible rock in the world."

Residing in beehive-shaped, dry-stone dwellings 150 metres above the ravaging sea below, the monks eked out a living which was almost exclusively self-sufficient. Visitors today can see what remains of their vegetable garden, and a cistern for collecting rain water.

Puffins in Skelligs, County Kerry Puffins in Skelligs, County Kerry

Skellig Michael ...as seen on Star Wars

Skellig Michael...

Skellig Michael, Co. Kerry

Today, the Skellig Islands themselves are a birdwatcher's paradise: during the boat trip out to the Islands themselves, you can expect to see gannets, kittiwakes and storm petrels. Skellig Michael has also, in recent years, been part of the set of the newly rebooted Star Wars movie franchise.

Find out More:

Worth the Trip Notable Detours and Diversions

Dingle

If you look up the word 'quaint' in a dictionary, don't be surprised to find a little picture of Dingle, a fishing port full of charm and allure. Expect its narrow streets to be full of tourists during high season.

Kenmare & Sneem

Ideal for a lunchtime stop more than a full-day excursion, Kenmare and Sneem both give a great insight into the relaxed pace of life which characterises this part of Ireland. Pull up a chair and take your time over a nice coffee ... or maybe a Guinness.

Kinsale

Bring your Euros and a sense of curiosity as you explore the small, Bohemian shops which line the narrow streets. A favourite destination for international and Irish visitors, Kinsale is definitely one to add to your Ireland tour itinerary.

Cottage on The Knockatee Loop, Beara Peninsula, Ireland Cottage on The Knockatee Loop, Beara Peninsula, Ireland

Beara Peninsula

About the Beara Peninsula

The Beara Peninsula straddles the border of Cork and Kerry in South-West Ireland. It is the next peninsula south of the famous Ring of Kerry. Quieter and more relaxed than its sibling to the north, Beara offers the perfect getaway for anyone seeking total calm and relaxation away from it all. It also offers plenty of photo opportunities. If you fancy a few days in the middle of nowhere, then this is the perfect place.

Read about our own travel experiences in Cork

Kerry Beach, Ireland Kerry Beach, Ireland

Cork & Kerry Coastline

The Coastline of South West Ireland

County Kerry's coastline boasts some of Ireland's most idyllic islands. These include Valentia Island, where the footprints of dinosaurs from over 350 million years ago were discovered, The Blasket Islands, of which Peig Sayers, said to be one of the finest storytellers of recent times, wrote about her island life and Little Skellig which has a huge bird population including one of the world's largest Northern Gannet colonies.

Fastnet Rock lies 13 kilometres (8.1 miles) off the coast of Cork and is Ireland's most southerly point. Due to its location it was known in the 19th century as Ireland's Teardrop as it was the last part of Ireland that its emigrants saw before they sailed to North America. Mizen Head, in the district of Carbery in County Cork, is the Irish mainlands most south-westerly point. Mizen Head has become a major tourist attraction over the years and is famous for its wonderful cliff scenery. The vast sprawling nature of Cork and Kerry's spectacular coastline means that it is forever revealing new secrets and wonders and should make up an essential part of any tour of Ireland.

Visiting Mizen Head on the Wild Atlantic Way, you will definitely want to bring your camera. Outdoor enthusiasts may want to bring their walking boots, too.

Killarney, Co. Kerry

The definitive Irish tourist town, Killarney has something for everyone and, after Dublin, is generally the first place name to be added to the itinerary of any Ireland tour.

Though perhaps offering fewer historical and cultural attractions than its east-coast counterparts, Killarney more than makes up for this with the welcoming bustle of the town itself and the staggering natural beauty of its neighbouring namesake, the national park just five minutes' drive away.

The town of Killarney will provide ample diversion for those looking to go shopping and those looking for a Guinness and some traditional music. For the many who choose to do both, there is no shortage of good restaurants to segue your daytime and nighttime activities in the town.

Those who are seeking a little culture during their Ireland tour in the South West should head to the heart of the Killarney National Park, where they will find the region's most impressive stately home, Muckross House. Just one mile away, you will also find Muckross Abbey, a beautiful construction which - after two hundred years of service - was burned to ruins by Cromwell's troops in 1652.

Find out More:

Visit a Kerry Beach on our tour of Ireland Killarney National Park, Kerry, Ireland Visit a Kerry Beach on our tour of Ireland Killarney National Park, Kerry, Ireland

Killarney National Park

It is hard to imagine a more impressive or more fitting showcase of Ireland's natural beauty than the Killarney National Park; 10,236 hectares of lakes, mountains, forests and castle ruins where, even only ten minutes away from the hotel, you could easily forget that a civilization out there awaits your return.

Enchanted by the sheer scale and majesty of the setting's breathtaking skylines, it would be easy to overlook the immense diversity of nature which lies right before and beneath you. The peaty waters make for a huge array of wildlife species, great and small, gifting the park its designation as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 1982. Look out for Ireland's native red deer cavorting in the forest and swimming (yes, swimming) out to graze on the islands which punctuate the park's three lakes.

Visiting Killarney National Park

Caherdaniel Village on the Ring of Kerry Caherdaniel Village on the Ring of Kerry

The Ring of Kerry

Iveragh Peninsula

Ireland's longest circular route covers some staggeringly beautiful scenery, including lakes, beaches, glens, castle ruins, off-shore islands, mountains and, of course, the Atlantic Ocean to the west. A journey around the Ring of Kerry is what tours of Ireland were made for.

In a car or bus, the Ring of Kerry's 180 km can provide distractions enough to fill a day, but there is no shortage of places to stay overnight and, depending on your interests, you can certainly find plenty of interesting diversions to make it a trip of two or more days. The route can also be cycled or even walked. Look out for the 230km "Kerry Way", Ireland's longest waymarked trail, which passes through towns such as Glenbeigh, Caherciveen, Waterville, Sneem and Kenmare.

During the peak season the Ring of Kerry (or Iveragh Peninsula) can be quite slow moving, especially heading in the anti-clockwise direction favoured by tour buses. So sit back, relax and enjoy the mesmerizing views.

The Ring of Kerry can be experienced on many of our Tours of Ireland The Ring of Kerry can be experienced on many of our Tours of Ireland

Visit The Ring of Kerry on these Tours

Buskers seens on an Ireland Tour

Show Tour Description Small-Group Tour

6-Day Iconic Scenes Hub-and-Spoke Tour

Experience the true essence of Ireland in under a week. Ireland's unmissable destinations in one unforgettable hub-and-spoke tour. Read more...

6-Day Iconic Scenes of Ireland 2019

  • €995 per person
  • 6 Days / 5 Nights
  • Max. 26 Guests
  • Hub & Spoke Tour
  • Luxury Transport
  • No sales pitches
2019 Tour
The Iconic Cliffs of Moher in Ireland

Show Tour Description Small-Group Tour

10-Day Iconic Scenes of Ireland Our most popular tour

Experience all that is Ireland in this unmissable 10-day adventure. See Ireland's best-loved attractions and its best-kept secrets. Read more...

10-Day Iconic Scenes Tour 2019

  • €1,190 to €1,690
  • 10 days / 9 nights
  • Max. 26 Guests
  • Most Popular Tour
  • Fully Inclusive Package
  • No sales pitches
2019 Tour
Sheep in Kerry, Ireland

Show Tour Description Small-Group Tour

15-Day Iconic Scenes of Ireland Northern & Southern

Discover the Island of Ireland, North and South with this unforgettable 15-day tour. Spend five magical days in Ulster, and then 10 more in Eire. Read more...

15-Day Iconic Scenes Tour 2019

  • 15 Day/14 Night
  • €1,985 to €2,485
  • Max. 26 Guests
  • North and South
  • Four-Star Hotels
2019 Tour
Kylemore Abbey in Connemara, Ireland

Show Tour Description Small-Group Tour

10-Day Deluxe Irish Castles Tour Stay in Castles

Stay in Ireland's historic castles and romantic country manors on the finest all-inclusive tour Ireland has to offer. Live like royalty for 10 days. Read more...

10-Day Deluxe Irish Castles Tour 2019

  • €1,990 to €2,390
  • 10 days / 9 nights
  • Max. 26 Guests
  • Stay in Castles
  • Luxury Tour Package
  • No sales pitches
2019 Tour
Ross Castle, as viewed on our Ireland tours

Show Tour Description Mini-Group Tour

8-Day Ancient Ireland Small Group Size

An exclusive mini-group tour for 8 Guests. Discover Ireland's hidden secrets and stay in a luxury castle on this unique journey through ancient Ireland. Read more...

8-Day Ancient Ireland Mini-Group Tour 2019, Ring of Kerry Version

  • €2,390 to €2,690
  • 8 Days/7 Nights
  • Max. 8 Guests
  • Adults Only
2019 Tour
The Cliffs of Moher

Show Tour Options

Custom Private Tours Bespoke for your group

Set your own budget, set your own pace. Let us create a bespoke tour package for you and your group. Read more...

Customize your own Private Tour

  • Made to Measure
  • Private Group
  • Any Accomm.
  • Any Duration
  • Tell us your needs
Private Tours

Kerry Bog Village Museum

A living-history museum, Kerry Bog Village offers a heritage-award-winning insight into the harsh realities of life for the rural poor in famine-ravaged eighteenth-century Ireland. Thatched cottages within the village are decorated and furnished to represent with well-researched exactitude the real-life experiences of those who lived their lives in this part of Ireland during the nation's harshest times. A valuable and rewarding trip if you want to understand this chapter of Ireland's history.

Kerry Bog Village Museum Kerry Bog Village Museum

Kerry Bog Village Museum

Visiting Kerry Bog Village Museum

My Ireland Travel Guide

Barrels at the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin, Ireland

Dublin City

Ireland's much-loved capital and the gateway to the Emerald Isle. A vibrant, modern and outward-facing city, most Ireland tours and vacations begin here. Read more...

  • Guinness Storehouse
  • Trinity College
  • Temple Bar Quarter
  • The Book of Kells
  • Dublin Castle
About Dublin
Lighthouse in Hook Head

Wicklow & the East

This wild landscape of gorse and bracken is home to many of Ireland's most significant archaeological finds, as well its grandest estates. Read more...

  • Powerscourt Estate
  • Glendalough Settlement
  • Brú na Bóinne
  • Battle of The Boyne
  • National Stud
About the East
The Cliffs of Moher

Galway & the West

Pack walking boots, a camera and a sense of adventure as you head west for Galway, County Clare and the Wild Atalantic Way. Heritage, tradition and Read more...

  • Kylemore Abbey
  • Cliffs of Moher
  • Clonmacnoise Settlement
  • Clare Music Sessions
  • The Burren Landscape
About the West
Kilkenny Castle by the riverside

Kilkenny & South-East

The sunny South East. Ireland's warmest and driest region is also one of its most popular destinations with tourists and locals alike. Read more...

  • The Rock of Cashel
  • Waterford Crystal
  • Lismore Castle
  • Tintern Abbey
  • St Canice's Cathedral
The South East
Sheep in Kerry, Ireland

Cork and Kerry

Wind-swept, welcoming and rugged, Ireland South West typifies what visitors expect Ireland to look like – vibrant, vivid and verdant. Read more...

  • Cork English Market
  • Blarney Castle
  • The Ring of Kerry
  • Killarney Nat. Park
  • Skellig Michael
The South West
Trad Session in Donegal, Ireland

Donegal and Sligo

Less well-trodden than Dublin, Belfast or Killarney, this picturesque region invites you to get outdoors. Don't forget your camera! Read more...

  • Slieve League Cliffs
  • Lakes and Loughs
  • Maghera Beach
  • Errigal Mountain
  • Glencolmcille Village
The North West
The Giants Causeway in Northern Ireland

Belfast & The North

In peace, Belfast and the North have staked their rightful claim as some of the Island of Ireland's most iconic and cultural regions. Read more...

  • The City of Belfast
  • Titanic Belfast
  • Giant's Causeway
  • Carrick-a-Rede
  • The City of Derry
Northern Ireland
Solo traveller admiring the coastal view in Ireland

Ireland Solo Travel

Whether you're looking to meet new people or just yearning get away from it all, Ireland is a great place to travel independently. Read more...

  • Experience the Culture
  • Find Your Inner Peace
  • Discover New Paths
  • Start a Course
  • Experience the Nightlife
Northern Ireland

Find your Way Around