Ireland! Most Americans would like to visit at least once in our lives, right? This spring my small group Irish Adventure brought us from the busy streets of Dublin to the Cliffs of Moher to Northern Ireland. Many Americans have some Irish Heritage just like me. I long for a connection to my ancestry and this country. This tour was great way to be introduced to the Emerald Isle. If you are new to European travel, you might consider a CIE Tour.
IRISH ADVENTURE TOUR
CIE is a UK-based company that has been in business for over 90 years and specializes in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Iceland and now offers tours in Italy too. I love partnering with companies that really know their stuff.
One of the reasons I chose this particular tour is that it hits the highlights of Ireland. Literally circling the island, we begin in Dublin and make our way in a circle around the island.
The Adventure tour was jam-packed full of sites to see and favorite places to visit, so just be ready. No dilly-dallying on this one. You will get a chance to have a great introduction to Ireland, the country. Your heart will beat especially hard for some of the locations and tease you to come back and stay a bit longer.
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE Irish Adventure TOUR
We began our Irish Adventure tour in Dublin in the afternoon and got introduced to our tour guide/professional driver, Brian Hanrahan. Our group also took an intro bus tour around the city of Dublin and had a stop at the custom house to learn of its early history.
My little group explored around the Northwall district of Dublin where our hotel was located. I haven’t been this harbor part of town. Now my fifth time to the city, I still haven’t seen it all.
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This was my first visit to Waterford and I absolutely loved this town. I am so glad we got to visit the East Coast of Ireland. Waterford is believed to be the oldest city of Ireland and settled by the Vikings around the early 900s. Now, I learned a lot on this tour about the history of Ireland and one of the lessons was how the Vikings didn’t really “settle” anywhere. They kind of plundered, destroyed and took over.
However, they also created what we know as townships, governing systems and communities. Although the fighting went back and forth between the Vikings for so long, the women actually stepped forward to save the next generation and remind the men on both sides, they were now killing their grandsons and hurting family.
The vital city of Waterford had a vigorous downtown. Known more than for the Waterford Crystal, this tour was included in our visit but I enjoyed walking the streets to capture a ton of photos of their street art.
I discovered a little company while we were there called Street Art Ink. Although we didn’t have enough time to take a guided tour (next trip) I got all their information. Check out this one during the day and again at night!
We also enjoyed some cider and Guinness at the local pub. This pub was just around the corner from our stay at the Henry Downes Pub.
We spent the night in Dooley’s Hotel which had a central location right in the harbor part of town and offered us a full Irish Breakfast.
Killarney & the Ring of Kerry
After a full breakfast it was time to hop on the bus and make our way to Blarney Castle, Killarney & the Ring of Kerry. This was definitely a full day on the Irish Adventure Tour. I have been to Blarney before I can tell you to definitely hop off the bus and get in line. If this on your bucket list, hop to it.
Yes, the line to “Kiss the Blarney” is especially long on weekends. I truly appreciate the gardens when I visit they are just spectacular, the sun was a little shy on our day but they were equally as pretty.
From Blarney it was Killarney, still one of my favorite Irish cities. I’ve been here a few times and you’ll have some of the best fish and chips in Ireland here for sure. We decided to pop in to Murphy’s Pub and have a seat and a pint.
Near Killarney is the little town of Tralee, where we stayed at my favorite hotel on the tour, The Ballygarry Hotel It’s location is a bit out in the country, but quite elegant and felt like an estate. This wasn’t our original hotel for the itinerary, but one thing you can be certain of there is if there is a change in itinerary, CIE always upgrades at no additional cost.
There is also a magical forest and garden within walking distance from the hotel. I decided to grab a bike and discover it on my own. My explorer instinct just took over. So much fun!
My timing wasn’t the best and I got caught up in rain storm however, this enchanting forest was spectacular.
Cliffs of Moher & Galway
Our route took us north up from the Dingle to Galway and the Cliffs of Moher. Today, we enjoyed “Crossing the Shannon” this short ferry boat ride along with our bus on board gave us a complete different perspective of Ireland.
It was a bit windy on top of the ferry as we tried to get some selfies and group photos but this included lots of laughter too. At this point in the tour we had made friends with our bus mates and tour companions. Connections were great.
The Cliffs of Moher are just as majestic as they seem on Instagram and Facebook Reels.
I was especially happy as we were driving up the Great Western Coast that we had a gorgeous sunny day.
Galway is a fantastic town and was next on our itinerary. We had a short visit here and then enjoyed a night filled with the most wonderful Celtic dancing, Trad on the Prom. I was whooping and hollering by the end, Brian taught us how!
Galway is definitely one of my favorite cities here is a bit more I’ve written about recently too.
Donegal & Derry
On our way up to Northern Island we had one of the BEST tour highlights which was the Sheepdog Demonstration with Atlantic Sheepdogs in Grange, Ireland. Our entire group 100% showcased the whole training process of the dogs and how they communicate to keep the sheep safe and sound.
With whistle calls and shouts the dogs respond quickly to keep the herd together and miraculously know how and when to turn, loop the sheep and gather them up. Totally mind blowing. We also were thinking it would take years and years to train and that’s not the case. Just Wow!
Donegal located just on the border of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland was another charming town. I wish we would have had a bit more time here. It was quite an enchanting town. However, we had to make tracks to Belfast.
Our pop-in visit to Donegal included catching a bite to eat at the Blueberry Tea Room and Restaurant and walking around the town. The rest of the crew enjoyed visiting the Triona Design famous tweed and wool design company.
Throughout the tour, there is a common history lesson of the potato famine that decimated this great country and I found a cemetery in Donegal that pret’near broke my heart. You see what we learned was that although the Irish had grown plenty of other food to sustain themselves, it wasn’t theirs to keep. They had to sell it landlords who sometimes just took it as rent, leaving them only potatoes for their families and communities. The potatoes were infected with blight that killed over a million people from 1846-1851. Here’s a bit more information on this from the History Channel.
Derry, Northern Ireland
Next, we made our way to Derry, in Northern Ireland. I’m seriously going to write a separate blog on just our visit to Northern Ireland. My first visit here, but certainly won’t be my last. Embarrassingly, my education on Northern Ireland was from the 80’s and Bono.
I’m learning much more from Derry Girls. If you lived through the 80’s as a teenager, like me I would recommend this funny and teachable show.
For me, it was fun to see all the sites I’ve seen from the show, but also to learn a bit more history too. We enjoyed a great personal tour with Martin McCrossan Derry City Walking Tours with Charlene McCrossan Blue Badge Tour guide and owner.
After a great dinner and a good nights sleep in Derry at the Everglades Hotel we made our way to Belfast.
As we made our way along the northern coast of Northern Ireland, I was also making a note of the golf courses along the way. Wholly cow, there’s a lot in Ireland, who knew!
Our first stop was Giant’s Causeway, another really beautiful sunny day in Ireland. My whole group really enjoyed this day a lot. The spring breezes gave way to such natural beauty, bees buzzing around and crashing waves along these rocky cliffs I felt like we were in an Irish wonderland.
The walk to the causeway can be a bit long and hard for some visitors. So, the park has a shuttle service to take you to the rock formation. It will cost you a few British £ be sure you have some coin available if you think you’ll need it. They don’t take credit card.
Onto Belfast. A group tour to the Titanic Belfast museum. This brand new museum is massive and open to the public. It chronicles the building of the Titanic as well as the effects it had on this city, the journey, the company and the people on board including the crew, leadership and passengers. It was super sad and also eye opening.
I also had the opportunity to walk around the harbor and learn a bit more about Belfast, the shipping town.
Tour ends in Dublin
Just over an hour drive from Belfast we drove to the Glyde Inn. Here we enjoyed some late lunch and an amazing trio of musicians playing Irish Folk Music. Gorgeous views of Ireland’s east coast in the background while enjoying the ambience of this old pub.
Then onto Dublin for our last few nights in the capital city. On my recent weekend visit here with my friend Candy and daughter Katy, I familiarized myself with the city even more. I also visited in September 2022, so I definitely feel like I know Dublin, well!
With that, I grabbed our little group and took them on a private tour of town. We took advantage of the Hop-on/Hop-off pass these were part of the CIE Tour package. Some of the others grabbed a tour at Guinness Storehouse, a huge draw for many visitors.
We were able to do a bit of souvenir shopping, take in a whiskey tasting, visit the Temple Bar area, visit Molly Malone, walk around St. Stephen’s Green and grab a super tasty burger and sandwich at the Gourmet Burger Kitchen.
Yes, after several days of trying Irish menu, most of the travelers were hankering for a burger. I enjoyed a fried chicken thai sandwich, just check it out. These were massive, mouth-watering and like Jon says “lecker schmecker!” Check it out!
Our last few nights in Dublin we were staying at The Croke Park Inn. We really liked this hotel too, a little bit out of town, but really nice rooms, staff and uber helpful. We also enjoyed their lounge quite a bit, they had a snazzy bartender who was able to create a new favorite drink of mine, a Southside Fizz evidently there are many variations to this drink. It is basically a mojito made with gin. Great summer drink too!
One of the BEST features of traveling with CIE Tours is almost everything is included. On our Irish Adventure Tour we had exceptional accommodations, most of our meals, transportation during the tours, excursions, admission tickets and so much more.
If you are new to traveling in Europe and overseas this is a great way to be introduced to the nuances of world travel. Taking care of all the details can be a bit overwhelming. If you aren’t use to moving elements of an itinerary they take care of all those details. They have vetted all of our locations, from where to stay, what to do and what to see, where to eat, and more!
What makes this Irish Adventure TOUR SPECIAL!
Our driver Brian was so fantastic and he included special stops along the way. When you travel with professionals who know the land and understand all the eccentricities of group travel, it makes life so easy.
He also has a great voice and regaled a few Irish songs that sounded ancient and mystic.
We really appreciated his special stops along the journey.
There is also Wifi onboard the bus so we can stay connected.
My small group was really great. Originally we had ten sign up for the Irish Adventure Tour, but sickness, poor timing just hit some of the travelers and we had some cancellations. It’s o.k. things happen. Our group was GREAT! We had so much fun AND we ended up connecting with the rest of the travelers and made new friends too.
For 2024, I am partnering with CIE again for a smaller group tour of Scotland. We begin in Glasgow and make our way to Edinburgh. I love Scotland! Visiting with family or with a group, I just can’t enough. One of my absolute favorites for food, countryside, history, castles, and people. If a Scottish Adventure has been a dream for you, maybe you should join us. May 3 – 11, 2024 and deposits are only $250!
For more travel info or group tours check out my website! I will also be taking people along the Duoro Valley for a River Cruise in April 2024.
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