There’s just something alluring about Ireland. Whether it’s the endless rolling hills of green that awakens the soul, or the promise of Irish music, dancing and drinks that beckons us, there’s no denying that a trip to Ireland is at the top of most people’s short list. In fact, Ireland is one of the best destinations for U.S. tourists because it’s easy to get to and easy to travel around (despite the driving on the left thing).
You may be interested to hear that Ireland is also a fantastic destination for foodies and those of us who love to discover new foods while traveling. If you’re still picturing Ireland as a meat and potatoes kind of place, you may be surprised when you see just how much it’s changed in the past decade. We want to show you just how much in this itinerary.
Foodie Things to do in Ireland’s Ancient East
Ireland’s Ancient East, as well as many other parts of the country, has really started to embrace the local movement. They have an incredible array of local produce, meats, cheeses, and spirits that they are overjoyed to share with visitors. Restaurant culture has changed a lot there, as well. You’ll maybe now be more hard-pressed to find a traditional Irish pub, than a farm-to-table eatery run by a local chef, recently returned home.
All this to say Ireland is the perfect place for a foodie adventure, and we know you’ll love the one that takes place between Killarney and Kildare in Ireland’s Ancient East.
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How to Get to Ireland's Ancient East
The east of Ireland is a place full of history and excitement, but it often competes for attention with Dublin. The capital city often steals the spotlight away from other great cities to the south, like Kilkenny. If you want to get out of the city (and believe me, you definitely do!), then a road trip between Killarney and Kildare is where you should go. It’s actually just a quick 45-minute drive from Dublin to County Kildare. You can either start this journey there, or drive down to Killarney and start there, which I highly recommend.
Killarney isn’t technically in the “Ancient East”, it’s a bit farther southwest, but it’s a fantastic city that should really be included in this itinerary, if you have the time. If you start the trip in Killarney, then flying into the Cork or Shannon airport is more convenient. From Dublin, a drive to Killarney will take around 5 hours. But it’s (mostly) on highways, so it’s fairly easy driving.
Killarney is located in County Kerry in the southwest of Ireland. It’s a destination along the Ring of Kerry drive, so it seems many visitors, year round. It’s also home to the Killarney National Park, which was the first national park in Ireland.
The cute town center is well set up for tourist and there are many hotels, ranging from hostels to 5-star. There are plenty of things to do around the city, but one of my favorite things is just walking around the city center.
things to do in Killarney
Killarney National Park
The park is a great place for outdoor adventures. You can hike the many trails, take a boat trip on one of lakes, see some of the islands, and maybe even spot some of the red deer that, in Ireland, can only be found in the park.
Walk Around Town
Killarney is the second largest tourist destination in Ireland, so the town caters to tourists with its many souvenir shops, restaurants and bars. There are only a couple of streets, so it’s easy to navigate and it always feels quite lively.
Visit Ross Castle
You can take a tour of the 15th-century tower and gardens on Lough Leane, one of the three lakes around Killarney. It is considered to be a typical example of a stronghold of an Irish Chieftain during the Middle Ages.
Ring of Kerry
As previously mentioned, Killarney is a stop along the Ring of Kerry. If you have time to add the Ring of Kerry drive to your itinerary, you won’t regret it. The drive is 125 miles and takes at least 5 hours, more with stops.
Where to eat in killarney
You may be thinking that all you’re going to find to eat in Killarney is over-boiled beef stew, but that is a very outdated notion. Killarney, like most of Ireland these days, is full of great dining options. Here are a few recommendations:
Fish & Chips: Quinlan’s Seafood
Fine dining: The Park Restaurant
Easy, on the go deli & bakery: Jam
Best cocktails in town: John M. Reidy
where to stay in Killarney
I highly recommend staying at the Killarney Park Hotel. It’s the only 5-star hotel in the city center, and you really can’t beat it for luxury and convenience. It was the most comfortable hotel bed I’ve found in a long while. The service is fantastic. Breakfast is wonderful. And it’s right in the city center. As they put it so eloquently on their website, “Old-world elegance meets modern day luxury in the family-owned Killarney Park Hotel”.
⇒ Read reviews of the Killarney Park Hotel on Tripadvisor.com.
After a couple days in Killarney, it’s time to start driving north. There are many things to see along the way to Kilkenny, especially in County Tipperary, which is full of mountains, rivers, lakes and farmland. This is where the Ancient East really begins. The medieval and Celtic ruins of the Rock of Cashel and the 12-century Cahir Castle can be found here. Today, Tipperary is budding with local producers of everything from cheese to whiskey. You’ll want to plan plenty of time in your itinerary to meet a few of the local purveyors.
Local products of tipperary
Tipperary Distillery – Situated in the beautiful Golden Vale area of Ireland, Tipperary Boutique Distillery was founded in March 2016 and is currently working on distillation projects that will be launched upon maturation. For now, they selected and bottled mature whiskeys from Ireland that match their intended style.
The Apple Farm – Apples have been growing on this farm for hundreds of years, but the Apple Farm has been planting fruit trees since 1968, and turning that fruit into many amazing products, like apple cider, vinegar, jam and lemonade. You can visit the farm, or even camp there, if you wish.
Emerald Oils – Third-generation farmers of cold-pressed rapeseed oil. The oil goes through an extensive 15-step process that ensures its purity and clarity. The results are a pure, natural and healthy oil packed with omega 3, 6, 9 and vitamin E.
Cashel Irish Farmhouse Cheesemakers – Anywhere in Tipperary, when there’s mention of cheese, it’s likely the first name you’ll hear is Cashel. Cashel Blue is one of the most loved products in Tipperary. They also make Crozier Blue, Ireland’s only sheep-milk blue cheese, as well as Cashel Blue Creme.
Galtee Irish Honey – The Galtee Honey Farm was established in 1970 and continues as a family operation today. They have beehives throughout Tipperary, Limerick and Cork, and produce many different types of honey products. They have a strong commitment to the conservation of native honeybees in Ireland, and their dedication shows in their products.
Inch House Traditional Black Pudding – The traditional black pudding is made by Nora Egan using a family recipe that has been handed down through the generations of her family. It is handcrafted in the kitchens of the Inch House.
where to stay in Tipperary
Hotel Minella – Clonmel
Hotel Minella is a gorgeous, sprawling property nestled between the Comeragh Mountains and the River Suir in Clonmel in Co. Tipperary. The original Georgian House was built in 1863, and it was opened as a hotel in 1963. It’s only a 5-minute drive from the town center of Clonmel, but you wouldn’t know it from the peaceful setting among the trees.
The hotel offers many different type of rooms to suit your needs, including apartments and two-story rooms for families. They also have a restaurant serving local products that is not to be missed.
⇒ Read reviews and compare prices on Trip Advisor.
Where to eat in Tipperary
Mikey Ryan’s Bar & Kitchen
Location: 76 Main St, St. Dominick’s Abbey, Cashel, Co. Tipperary
New to Cashel’s downtown square – just a stone’s throw from the Rock of Cashel – is Mikey Ryan’s Bar & Kitchen. Led by chef Liam Kirwan, Mikey Ryan’s focuses on cooking from scratch, using locally-sourced and organic produce. The gastro pub is fresh and beautifully designed. The food is outstanding
Kilkenny is a large city, but still feel like a charming hometown. The medieval city is located in the south east, about 2 hours south of Dublin, in County Kilkenny. The city has become quite cosmopolitan, with many new, modern restaurants and bars and a thriving arts & culture scene. But that doesn’t take away from its fascinating history that dates back to the 6th century.
We suggest spending 2 days in Kilkenny, as there are a lot of great things to do. You’ll want to explore the town center, see the ancient architecture, and experience Kilkenny’s vibrant culinary scene.
What to do in Kilkenny
The medieval mile is a discovery trail of Kilkenny’s history, from Kilkenny Castle to St. Canice’s Cathedral. A great way to see many of the sights in Kilkenny is with a Medieval Mile Pass.
Highbank Organic Orchards
With a slogan like “from pip to sip”, you know you’re in for a treat at Highbank Orchards & Distillery, where they focus on all things apple. They make cider, an incredible cider syrup, cider vinegar, spirits and liqueurs, and you can try them all on site.
Visit Mount Juliet Estate
You’ll find spectacular gardens, a golf course, and a Michelin-star restaurant on the grounds of Mount Juliet Estate. Plan to spend time walking the garden trail. You can also stay and dine at the hotel located in the estate.
We love beer tours, and the Smithwick’s Experience is a fun one. The historic brewery is located along the Medieval Mile. You can stop in for a tour, a tasting, or to buy a gift or some beer. You’ll get a discount if you book online (€13).
There’s a fantastic place in town to drink delicious spiced hot chocolate and devour chocolate truffles in every flavor imaginable, and that’s at the Truffle Fairy.
Where to eat in Kilkenny
where to stay in Kilkenny
Located right in the center of the city, just a block from the castle, the 4-star Pembroke Hotel has everything you need for a short break in Kilkenny. Therooms are spacious and comfortable.
There’s a bistro/bar that connects to the street, and also a full restaurant near the back with a great menu.
⇒ Check out the Pembroke Hotel on Trip Advisor.
Lyrath Estate Hotel & Spa
If you’re looking for a hotel that’s a little removed from the hustle and bustle of the city, the Lyrath Estate Hotel is the perfect spot. The 4-star Lyrath Estate Hotel is a stunning property, Whether you prefer to relax in your room or have a drink at the bar, you’ll find it a peaceful setting, with great service.
They have a lovely restaurant with a view of the garden and grounds, and a full spa on site.
⇒ Check out the Lyrath Estate Hotel on Trip Advisor.
As your road trip takes you closer to Dublin, you’ll travel into County Kildare, which is home to the Irish National Stud & Gardens, the Curragh Racecourse and the 640-acre Donadea National Forest. Kildare also has a large outlet shopping center, Kildare Village, that shoppers definitely shouldn’t miss.
Kildare is a great final stop on your road trip, as it’s a mere 35-minute drive back to Dublin airport.
where to stay in Kildare
You can’t find a more dramatic and wonderful place to stay in Kildare than the Killashee Hotel, set amidst the beautiful countryside. The original Victorian house is surrounded by gardens and woodland trails that you can enjoy during your stay.
Each of the rooms is designed a little differently to suit your style.
They are spacious and luxuriously appointed.
⇒ Check out the Killashee Hotel on Trip Advisor.
Where to eat in kildare
On the way to Kildare is where you’ll find the Green Barn, on the site of 4th generation Burtown House. The restaurant and shop is a beautiful space offering fresh,
organic, seasonal produce from their own garden. Be sure to check their website for hours.
Turner’s Restaurant / The Bistro
Located in the Killashee Hotel are two great restaurants, Turner’s Restaurant and The Bistro. Base your decision of which to choose on whether you prefer fine dining or casual. Looking for snack or appetizers,
The Bistro is just the place!
The best part about this road trip is that it includes to many foodie things to do in Ireland’s ancient east. You can spend as much or as little time on the drive as you like. There are so many things to see and do, and EAT along the way, that you could easily fill a couple of weeks.
If you do take this road trip, tell us about it on the comments. We’d like to hear what you think.