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One of your first stops in Wicklow could be stop could be at the Avoca Handweavers Mill. The mill, situated on the River Avoca from where it gets its name was established in 1723 and is currently the oldest working woollen mill in Ireland. Here you will get your first opportunity to purchase some Irish woollens and knitwear in Ireland.
Their beautiful pottery is highly regarded both in Ireland and further afield too. When you visit their studio you can see the pottery makers in full stride through the viewing room on the ground floor. Also in the Nore Valley you will find Zwartables farm where Suzanna Crampton farms the Zwartable breed of sheep. Take a tour of the farm where you can see the raw fleece or the spun Zwartbles and Alpaca yarn. As the sheep are used to seeing so many people visit the farm some of the sheep may even come right up to you. Zwartable sheep produce a very distinctive yarn and at your next stop, the nearby Cushendale Mill the Zwartables Yarn is spun and made into quality Woollen products. Kilkenny City also has a vibrant atmosphere for you to enjoy at night time with an abundance of pubs to choose from where you can eat and drink. Some of the best include Langtons Bar and Matt the Millers.
A place of interest for any craft enthusiast in the city is the Kilkenny Design Centre, located on the grounds of the impressive Kilkenny Castle. At the design centre you will have the opportunity to buy a selection of Jewellery, Knitwear, Celtic Gifts, China & Crystal, Pottery & Glass, Home & Fashion Accessories and other Irish handcrafted gifts. In fact, the National Craft Gallery can also be found in the Castle Yard. The Gallery features works by well known Irish and international designers, artists and makers across a variety of disciplines who share a passion for their chosen field. The Craft Gallery often have Textile exhibitions on display which may be of particular interest to those on knitting and craft tour of Ireland. Don’t forget that as part of your tour tickets for the ‘Smithwick’s Experience’ are included. The famous Irish Ale was first produced by monks who lived in Kilkenny in 1231 and this atmospheric tour explains the story of Smithwicks through the ages. At the end of the tour you will get a pint of Smithwicks so you can sample some for yourself.
The priory which was built in 1193 is one of the largest and most impressive medieval monuments in Ireland. Leaving Kells Priory you then have the option to travel to New Ross or travel direct to Waterford. If you decide to travel via New Ross The Ros Tapestry Exhibition Centre located in the town centre of New Ross is well worth a visit. The project depicts through fifteen large embroidered panels events that occured around the Norman invasion of Ireland and the impact they had in founding New Ross. Just a few minutes walk away from the exhibition centre is another craft shop called Calico Interiors. Calicio Interiors is a soft furnishing and interior shop run by Ann Larkin. The recently launch Dunbrody Heritage collection, which contains a range of cushions and soft furnishings was launched in the shop. This collection was specifically designed for the Dunbrody Famine Ship which is also docked in New Ross and is available to tour. Continuing on from New Ross towards Waterford the Kite Design Studios in the hear Waterford City is a chance for you to see local craftspeople design a broad range of artisan products. Of course a visit to Waterford would not be complete without visiting the famous Waterford Crystal. First produced in the city in 1783, a tour of the factory and retail store gives you the opportunity to see the how the world renowned crystal is made from start to finish and to purchase some if you like what you see!
As you approach Cork City you will pass the town of Midleton where the popular Irish whiskey brand Jameson is distilled. A tour of the distillery followed by whiskey tasting (Not for the driver!!) is definitely worth considering. Just before you arrive into Cork City you will pass by the Hedgehog Fibres studio which specialises in artisan fibre and yarn dyeing. The products of Hedgehog Fibres mirror the proprietor Beata’s experiences and moods which produces an array of colours and styles which the staff on duty will be able to explain to you. For craft related stops in the city centre you have two shops that you can visit. At the craft shop Vibes and Scribes you can buy fabric, wool and yarns while located close by is the Cork Button Company where a large selection of different types of buttons are available for you to buy for your knitting projects in the future. If you wish to attend a live music session while in Ireland then while you are in Cork City is one of your best opportunities to do so. The city has live music sessions nearly every night for most music tastes.
The shop is conveniently situated right in the centre of the town and is renowned for its high quality products as it specialises in selling high-end wool and yarn but they also stock popular accessories required for knitting, crochet and sewing crafts. One thing to beware of is the shop’s opening hours which vary throughout the week. Closed on Sunday’s and Monday’s and early closing on Tuesdays, the shop only has longer opening hours later on in the week. Due to Cork City being reasonably close to Kinsale you can also pay another visit to the City if you have any unfinished business or if you wish to just experience more of the vibrant city. Other attractions that are located nearby to the city include the famous Blarney Castle where you can kiss the Blarney Stone and the Titantic Experience in the town of Cobh. The centre explains the fate of the 123 people who embarked the ship in Cobh while also detailing the ships maiden and final voyage across the Atlantic.
The Sheeps Head Peninsula hosts the annual Sheep’s Head yarn festival in the village of Kilcrohane. The festival which is usually held on the third weekend of May runs a wide range of knitting workshops that attracts enthusiastic knitters of all levels. After crossing the Cork – Kerry border you will come to the small town of Kenmare. In the town centre you will find the Kenmare lace and design centre which explains the history of Kenmare lace that dates its origins in the town back to the 1800’s with lacemaking demonstrations providing you with an insight into how the lace is made. The centre also focuses on the history of other laces from around Ireland such as Bobbin Lace and Limerick Lace. In both Bantry and Kenmare you will find Quills Woollen Market which sells locally produced knitwear and the highly popular Aran Sweater. If you decide to take the more direct route to Killarney, this will allow you to go sightseeing around the town upon you arrival with some of the attractions that you could visit listed below.
They have operated from Muckross House for over 30 years and one thing to watch out for is the Hattersly Looms that they use to weave scarves as the looms are nearly 200 years old! The national park surrounding Muckross House is an ideal place for you to stretch your legs and take in a long walk. With amazing scenery and beautiful serenity, a walk through the national park is one of the most relaxing things you can do while in Killarney. Other attractions that you can visit in Killarney include Torc Waterfall which is one of the most stunning waterfalls in Ireland, the 15th century Ross Castle located in the national park and the Gap of Dunloe which is a narrow mountain pass with beautiful scenery of the mountains and lakes surrounding Killarney. Remember that as part of your tour tickets for the Irish Night at Kate Kearney’s cottage are included. The Irish Night consists of dinner, traditional music and Irish dancing where you will get to hear traditional instruments such as the bodhrán and tin whistle while watching the Irish brush dance.
There are numerous places of interest along the route including Derrynane House the previous home of famous Irish politician and statesman Daniel O’Connell and The Skellig Experience which is a centre where you can learn about the monks that lived on the Skellig Islands in years gone by. If the weather is pleasant you may want to take a stroll along one of the many beaches that are visible along the route. Some of the best beaches on the ring include Derrynane, Reen Rua and Rossbeigh. If you decided to take the direct route when travelling from Kinsale to Killarney you would have missed out on stopping in the town of Kenmare. As mentioned above in Day 8 the Kenmare lace and design centre is definitely worth considering when passing through the town while Quills Woollen Market is also another knitting shop that you can potentially call into. On the final leg of the journey around the ring between Kenmare and Killarney you will drive past Moll’s gap. Here you have the opportunity to stop and take advantage of a wonderful photo opportunity of the Macgillycuddy’s Reeks, Ireland’s highest mountain range.
The mill creates fabrics and yarn from fine wool by using modern technology along with a contemporary style to give their products a distinctive look to give recognition as one of the most distinguished brands in Irish knitting industry. With a mixture of both old fashioned and modern buildings being in use this will give you an idea of how the mill has evolved through time. The Dingle Peninsula has more fascinating historic sites and diverse mountain scenery than any other part of Ireland. However Dingle is not just bursting with historic sites and beautiful mountain scenery, the peninsula is also a sanctuary for craft makers with a number of studios scattered around the peninsula. You will find a comprehensive list of craft stops in the itinerary that we have provided you with and from the itinerary you can select which of the stops you would like to visit. Two craft shops in Dingle which may like to visit are Lisbeth Mulcahy’s Weavers and Commodum Art and Design. Both shops have a great selection of Irish yarns for sale, all of which are all from the local area.
The village of Adare is also popular with tourists for its rare thatch cottages which you can see up close. Travelling onwards from Adare you will shortly arrive in Limerick City. Limerick City is most famously known for its unique past and the River Shannon which flows through the city. Some of the most renowned attractions in the city include King John’s Castle, a Norman castle from 13th century, the Hunt Museum which exhibits a large collection of art and antiquities from Neolithic times to the 20th century and the Milk Market located in the heart of inner city Limerick where you can browse through the various stalls including some that sell arts and crafts. Please note that the market is only operational during weekends with the opening hours varying from stall to stall. Continuing on from Limerick City towards the west coast of Clare you can visit Kenny’s Woollen Mills in the coastal town of Lahinch. Here you can purchase a selection of wool and knitwear while the store also features an art gallery with work by local and Irish artists featured. If you arrive at your accommodation in Doolin by the afternoon a trip to the nearby Cliffs of Moher is suggested. The cliffs reach an astonishing 214 metres which provides you with a magnificent view of the Atlantic Ocean. On clear days the Aran Islands can also be seen from the top of the cliffs. In addition to the cliffs, a round stone tower called O’Briens Tower was built near the edge of the cliffs in the 19th century. You can access the viewing platform at the top of the tower but at a separate cost to the entrance fee to the cliffs.
The Aran Islands are most celebrated for their strong Irish culture with the Irish language being spoken fluently along with a proud tradition of Irish music and dance on the islands. When you arrive in Inis Mór you will disembark the ferry at the small village of Kilronan which in spite of its small size is the biggest village on the Aran Islands with a population of approximately 300 people. In Kilronan you will come across the Aran Sweater Market where you can look through a broad collection of Aran sweaters as well as other souvenirs that commemorate attractions in the Aran Islands. There are also plenty of tourist attractions outside of Kilronan for you to visit on Inis Mór. On the south west side of the island you can find Dun Aengus, an ancient hill fort that is positioned on the edge of a 100 metre high cliff. Then situated in the middle of the island on the highest point of Inis Mór is the lighthouse, Eochaill. The lighthouse was constructed during the nineteenth century and is surrounded by a fort and two terraced walls which historians believe to have been built sometime in the Iron Age. In the evening you will take the ferry back from Kilronan to Doolin where you will have the evening to spend around Doolin.
The rock that you can see is a karst landscape made out of limestone and you also might see some unusual flora and fauna here too. Approximately 50% of the flora and fauna found in Ireland is represented in the Burren. On your arrival in Bunratty a visit to the Bunratty Folk Park is highly recommended. The Folk Park displays village life in Ireland during the 19th century along with with a collection of medieval artefacts with over 450 items in the collection. Don’t forget that as part of your tour, tickets for the Bunratty medieval banquet are included. The medieval banquet takes place in the 15th Century Bunratty Castle which despite recent renovations remains one of the most authentic castles in Ireland. At the banquet you will get to experience a superb selection of Irish medieval food and songs. After the banquet you can return to your accommodation as you prepare to spend your final night in Ireland.
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