Get off the tourist track in Ireland and be rewarded with beautiful public gardens, crumbling castles, charming villages, stone cottages and alluring country pubs. Here's how to drive the Boyne Valley...
Karl Davis; Tourism Ireland; Tony Pleavin
If you get off the well-trodden tourist track in Ireland, you’ll be rewarded with empty roads, sweeping green fields and charming little villages with stone cottages and alluring country pubs. The Boyne Valley is a treasure trove of incredible sights, whether they’re ancient Neolithic tombs or grand Norman castles, alongside funky distilleries and rivers filled with rafters and kayaks.
It’s these new attractions popping up along the ancient sights that make this area endlessly enticing. And the best news? It’s all a short drive away from Dublin, meaning you can pack a lot in without spending hours in the car.
1. Pick up your car at Dublin Airport, and head out to the Irish National Stud and Japanese Gardens, less than an hour away. Bang in the middle of Ireland’s thoroughbred industry, this stud farm has produced some of the world’s champion horses. But it’s not just horses – the Japanese Gardens make for a beautiful stroll, and have been adored by visitors since they were created in 1910.
2. Newbridge Silverware is just a short drive away, where you can take a look behind the scenes of this cherished Irish company. The factory tour gives you a fascinating insight into the art of silverware manufacturing, but the Museum of Style Icons is a must for fashionistas.
The museum holds pieces from some of the greatest style icons of all time, including Audrey Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe and Princess Grace. Some of their pieces in their permanent collection are the stuff of legend, like Liza Minnelli’s Cabaret outfit and Tippi Hedren's green suit from The Birds. Keep an eye out for the rotating exhibitions, too – in the past, themes have included Kurt Cobain and Dior.
1. Right on the River Brosna, Kilbeggan Whiskey Distillery is a family run business with a heritage that dates back hundreds of years. Take a tour of the distillery and pick up a bottle for later on. And don’t skip the shop, where you can pick up some excellent local products.
2. From there, drive to Athlone Castle, for an immersive journey through 5,000 years of history. Located right on the banks of the River Shannon, this 13th century castle was the scene of bitter battles, and you can walk in the footsteps of monks and soldiers.
3. Afterwards, stretch the legs and get out to see this beautiful countryside on two wheels. The Old Rail Trail is a 40km biking trail on a former railway, weaving from Mullingar to Athlone. But you don’t need to tackle the whole thing – there are plenty of points where you can dip in and out, just cycling for a few miles where you please.
4. Finish up the day on Lough Ree, taking a cruise on these beautiful waters on a Viking ship. It’s the best way to take in this gorgeous lake – drifting along on a beautiful wooden ship, as the green fields roll by you. The Viking Tour Cruise takes you out to Clonmacnoise, a 6th century monastic site on the banks of the River Shannon.
1. Drive out to Trim Castle, the largest Norman castle in Ireland. And it’s spectacular, too, a foreboding structure that’s stood on this spot for 800 years. Take a stroll around the grounds, among the wild flowers and crumbling towers, and you could almost believe you’re walking through a medieval scene.
2. Afterwards, get an adrenaline rush in the Boyne Valley by taking to the water and having an adventure. From their base in Slane, you can head out and go white water rafting with Boyne Valley Activities. You’ll take to the water on an inflatable raft and ride the rapids, for a thrill ride you won’t forget. If you fancy something a little more sedate, you can rent a kayak and take things at a slightly calmer pace.
3. Slane Castle isn’t too far away, and while it’s a beautiful spot in its own right, it’s also the location for one of Ireland’s hottest new attractions. Slane Whiskey Distillery is set in a beautiful 1,500-acre estate right in the heart of the Boyne Valley. You can take a tour of the distillery, take a wander of the grounds and pick up a few souvenirs before the drive back to Dublin Airport – it’s only 40 minutes away.
Visit some of Ireland’s most beautiful country houses. You can call into Castletown House on the way out of Dublin – this beautifully sprawling Palladian house is well worth a stop. From there, you can drive on to Russborough House before heading into Kildare.
Return flights and 3 days car hire start from £129pp* with British Airways, including 24-hour customer support and roadside assistance. Flights land into Dublin Airport.
*Subject to availability. Price stated is per person based on 2 adults sharing, inclusive of all airport taxes, fees and charges, and includes return flights (economy), from London Heathrow to Belfast airport and 3 days group A category car hire for travel between 1- 30 November 2019. Book by 31 August 2019. Price stated based on drivers aged 30-70 years. Price correct as of 10 July 2019. For full terms and conditions, visit ba.com/ireland. Holiday packages are protected under British Airways Holidays Ltd by the Civil Aviation Authority. The British Airways Holidays ATOL number is 5985. British Airways Holidays standard terms and conditions and conditions of carriage apply, please refer to ba.com.
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