When asked if I would lead a tour to Ireland, I didn’t hesitate. Richard [my late husband] and I had led this same tour in 2010 and thoroughly enjoyed it. Although I like to go to places that I haven’t been, Ireland is one of those places where there is such beauty, wild places and wonderful people, that we wanted to experience again.
To my surprise and delight, the tour has been changed somewhat. I loved it the first time around, but this revised tour adds more cultural experiences and more variety of experiences such as ferry rides, different routes and hotels.
First, Ireland is only a few hours flight non-stop from Toronto to Dublin, where we meet our driver/guide and drive to Belfast for two nights. On our drive, we took a delightful excursion to the seaside to have a light snack and break. It was wonderful to see the ocean, feel the fresh, sea air and to stretch our legs walking along the shore.
Our hotels were 4-star and 4-star plus and the meals were tasty and hearty, including at least two kinds of potatoes with each main course! I had some of the most tasty scalloped potatoes that I’ve ever had! And I didn’t know there were so many ways to serve potatoes and not be bored with them.
Belfast is such an interesting city in itself, but added to our tour was a visit to the “Titanic Experience". It was my second time there and still I did not get to engage in all of its videos and information about the building and sinking of this “unsinkable” ship.
A must-see in Northern Ireland is the Giants Causeway, the unusual formation of rocks seen in many of the country’s tourist board images.
The Irish people have endured some very great hardships during their existence, from the famine which resulted in many emigrating to the Americas, to the “troubles” between the north and south and now Northern Ireland experiencing what Brexit will mean for everyone.
Outside Derry, but in the Republic of Ireland, we stayed in a hotel which I found very fascinating. It was in the countryside, so it was very peaceful and quiet, but the restaurant was in an old renovated Church. We rang the church bell to call our group to dinner and then after dinner, we could experience various historical moments via displays and interactive videos in the upper level of the church.
After leaving this busy area of Northern Ireland, a part that most tour groups do not go to, we drive toward the “wilds of Western Ireland”.
The drives around the Cliffs of Moher and Ring of Kerry are fascinating and beautiful, even if the mountains and sea are seen through mist and clouds. Many of us are not aware of all the islands off the coast of Ireland and the harsh living conditions. This is the area where the poor Irish were sent when land was taken over in the eastern part of the island. From here many desperate, hungry “crofters” were sent or encouraged to emigrate to the Americas.
There was so much to enjoy on this Irish adventure…a delightful evening at Bunratty Castle where we became part of a Medieval Banquet and took part as king, queen and courtiers. On various evenings, we were entertained by local musicians after dinner, we went to Irish bars for beer and music, had a chance to kiss the Blarney Stone, attended an evening of Irish dance, music and history and on the final evening attended a real Irish jig and dinner.
Ireland is a must to see and one you won’t be disappointed in exploring. This tour takes you around the entire Island and I’m already thinking about exploring more on my next trip!