Eastern excitement: The Grand Tour

Vintage style in Ireland provided by <a href="http://gordonbennettclassic.ie/" >Gordon Bennett Classic</a>
Vintage style in Ireland provided by Gordon Bennett Classic

If you thought there was only one ‘Grand Tour’ in the world, Wicklow and Kildare have got news for you

Hear the phrase ‘Grand Tour’ and automatically you imagine all sorts of aristocracy enjoying a cultural vacation. Well, we've got news – Ireland has its very own 'Grand Tour'.

Ireland is famous for dramatic beauty, but you don’t have to travel far to find it. Ireland’s Grand Tour takes in counties Wicklow and Kildare, right on Dublin’s doorstep, and offers visitors wonderful views, and attractions.

And in this part of the world, mother nature is the grand master.

An east feast

Rugged mountains, waterfalls, grand estates, horse-covered plains, colourful towns, they’re all a part of the Grand Tour which can easily be driven in one day. 

Ireland’s Grand Tour is made up of smaller routes arranged loosely around themes – gardens, pilgrims, great houses – there’s something for everyone. At 200 miles (340km) the whole Grand Tour is ideal to drive, but cyclists and walkers can enjoy it too.

Sugar and Spice

The coastal tour, for example, is particularly good for keen cyclists because it offers both variety and challenge. It takes in a stretch of coastline before looping inland and up to the Sugar Loaf Mountain. The route is 79 miles (126km) – and swoops past beautiful Brittas Bay. Once inland the route takes you through the Vale of Avoca where two rivers meet in a cluster of woods. 

Taking any of the routes by car will leave you plenty of time to stop and take in the sights. This part of Ireland is dotted with the great houses of the aristocracy. Kilruddery is a jewel of an Elizabethan revival house; Castletown is the oldest and grandest Palladian-style house in Ireland; Powerscourt is famous for its gardens, as is Mount Usher.

St Fiachra's Gardens at the National Stud, Kildare

Horses for courses

Kildare is a global equestrian hotspot - famous for its horse-breeding and studs. The National Stud offers visitors the chance to find out about why Ireland is so good at breeding winners. And while you're there enjoy the beauty of the Japanese Gardens.

The Grand Tour will also take visitors back to when Ireland was a beacon of learning in the early Christian world. The monastic settlement of Glendalough is a magical and tranquil spot with its round tower and idyllic location.