IRELAND: Kenmare >> Killarney
Days Needed: 7
This lush green island has jaw dropping scenery, a mystical history and cosy pubs where you can listen to traditional music and enjoy a pint of Guinness. Concentrate on the southwest coast, Ireland’s renowned Ring of Kerry.
Starting Point: Kenmare aka ‘The Jewel on the Ring of Kerry’. Tour buses that frequent this route start in Killarney, so do the opposite for a traffic free ride. Play a round of golf at the Kerry Golf & Country Club, go horseback riding, charter a boat to tour the coastline or take a walk and enjoy the mesmerising view. For lunch or dinner, head to La Cascade, the well known and popular restaurant at Sheen Falls Lodge.
Second Stop: Travel to the Iveragh Peninsula, and make pit stops in Sneem, a small village of colorful houses and Staigue Fort, a ring fort dating back to about 500 BC, to get a feel for the area and the people. End up at Waterville ‘The Little Whirlpool’, where you can fish, shop for local crafts or tour various archaeological sites.
Where to Eat/Stay: Butler Arms Hotel is one of Ireland’s best known family run hotels and the only luxury accomodation in Waterville. At Fisherman’s Restaurant, located in the hotel, the seafood is caught daily by the local fishermen so you know its fresh!
Third Stop: Halfway around the Ring of Kerry is Cahersiveen. Take a tour through the old Royal Irish Constabulary Barracks, built around 1871, and recently restored. Leave enough time to take a boat trip to the Skellig Islands, a mystery rock formation some distance off the West Kerry Coast that was once home to Celtic monks.
Where to Eat: Frank’s Corner is a traditional Irish pub and a winner of the James Joyce Award for its warmth and authentic Irish atmosphere. Each weekend it hosts live bands ranging from traditional Irish to modern pop.
Where to Stay: Iveragh Heights boasts large guest rooms with an ocean view. And it’s just a four minute walk from the centre of town.
Final Stop: Killarney is tourist heavy but incredibly scenic. Gaze upon Macgillycuddy’s Reeks, Ireland’s highest mountains, look out for Japanese Sika Deer and Red Deer in Killarney National Park, or surf and bask on the white beaches.
Where to Stay: Try Killarney Park Hotel for luxurious five star style, mixed with the feel of a Victorian country house.
CALIFORNIA: Los Angeles >> Napa
Days Needed: 10
There’s something for everyone when you ride the Pacific Coast Highway. Our advice is to take a leisurely mini road trip through Napa Valley which will give you access to nearly 400 wineries.
Starting Point: Los Angeles. Have drinks by The Standard’s pool, dine at world famous hot dog stand Pink’s, shop at Fred Segal or pay a visit to the J. Paul Getty Museum.
Where to Stay: Get your ‘beach on’ at celeb fave Shutters Hotel on the Beach.
First Stop: Big Sur lets you get up close and personal with Mother Nature. Catch a glimpse of California Grey Whales from the highway lookouts in late winter and spring, take a hike through Limekiln State Park, where redwoods and waterfalls abound, or rent a kayak for two.
Where to Eat/Stay: Deetjen’s Big Sur Inn. The menu is top-notch with delicious selections like sweet potato soup and seafood and saffron risotto. Relax in romantic, cabin style rooms nestled among the redwoods of Castro Canyon.
Second Stop: San Francisco. Visit great restaurants, funky neighbourhoods and Alcatraz, not to mention the iconic Golden Gate Bridge.
Where to Stay: The Fairmont San Francisco is an historic hotel in posh Nob Hill.
Final Stop: Napa Valley. Drive north along Route 29, stopping at wine making centers like Rutherford, home to Rubicon Estate, owned by Francis Ford Coppola. Enjoy picnics, hot air balloon rides and browsing the boutiques of St. Helena.
Where to Eat: The French Laundry. Try the nine course, splurge worthy tasting menu (USD$210 per person) at this famed Thomas Keller eatery in Yountville.
Where to Stay: One of the more exclusive resorts is Auberge du Soleil. Be sure not to miss the spa’s amazing wine based treatments including a warm grapeseed oil massage.
MEXICO: Cancún >> Tulúm
Days Needed: 7
With its turquoise beaches and sizzling nightlife, Cancún is a tropical paradise and a fabulous honeymoon destination. The Riviera Maya is lesser known but boasts quaint fishing villages, awe inspiring Maya ruins and ecoparks to keep you busy on your holiday.
Starting point: Cancún. Snorkel, scuba dive or simply unwind with a few cold cervezas on one of the many white sandy beaches.
Where to Stay: The super luxurious Ritz-Carlton in Cancún, with its Mayan inspired spa.
Where to Eat: La Habichuela. Considered a ‘legend’ in Cancún, this restaurant was once a private home and serves traditional cuisine such as tampiqueña beef or chicken in mole. Be sure to book a table in the romantic garden.
Second Stop: Take a 45 minute car ferry from Punta Sam, a point north of Cancún, to sleepy Isla Mujeres. It may as well be a world away with quiet pink sandy beaches, clear waters and a culture all its own. The islet, once a popular daytrip for tourists, has become a sexy secluded destination in its own right with a handful of boutique hotels and gourmet restaurants.
Where to Stay: The eight tranquil rooms at Casa de los Sueños, or house of dreams, is the perfect place to stay on your visit. Each room has ocean view terraces and custom designed furnishings that blend local Mayan décor with a Zen aesthetic.
Final Stop: Once you head back to the mainland, drive south on Highway 307 to local attractions such as Playa del Carmen, a Caribbean flavored village with charming boutiques and open air cafés; Xcaret, an eco-theme park where you can snorkel amongst flamingoes or swim with dolphins; and view Tulúm ancient Maya ruins in a breathtaking cliff setting.
Where to Stay: Maroma Resort and Spa. If you can swing it, book one of the Sian Nah Suites, which come with ocean views, a spa area, a private plunge pool and magazines….bliss!
– Jill Fergus