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Trip to Ireland
(Best of Ireland - Rick Steves')
May-June 2002

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  Rick Steves' Best of Ireland Tour

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Trip Photos

My other Rick Steves' West France Trip

Last edited: 05/08/10 11:07 AM

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             COMMENTARY             .
The Republic has a quiet cold charm.
It is remote and relatively unspoiled and unpopulated, and I like that.
After my trip to Germany/Switzerland/Austria I have a greater appreciation for Ireland.
I might travel there again, but at the warmest time of the year.

Ireland is near the bottom of my list of favorite places traveled.
Would I travel to Ireland again?  No.  

I went to Ireland with Rick Steves' tour company.  The company and guides were great and I highly recommend them.  The group that I traveled with was also great.  My first trip with Rick Steves was France and that was also great.  The Guinness in Ireland was delicious.  The pub music was terrific.  I had only one exceptional meal in Ireland, bangers and mash, at the Crown Saloon in Belfast.  

Ireland is as north as Hudson Bay, Canada, so late May early June is a terrible time to go to Ireland.  The weather was terrible most of the time (cold, rainy, windy, overcast).  Even after two weeks there, frankly, there is not much to see in Ireland.  There's not much to do in Ireland except drink and talk, hence the large number of pubs.  Ireland is basically a large barren limestone rock, with some historical ruins, in the middle of the North Atlantic Sea. There is an old stereotype of an Irish American cop saying, "Move along Johnny, there's nothing to see here". That's also true of Ireland.  The image of Ireland marketed in the USA is not Ireland.  There is no Danny Boy or  To Ra Loo Ra Loo Ral or When Irish Eyes Are Smiling in Ireland.  I never herd them in Ireland.  You wont hear them in a pub.  The Irish pub musicians spoke of these songs with contempt.  Irish Dancing apparently is an American thing as I never saw a trace of it in Ireland.  Would I travel to Ireland again?  Maybe.


Our Trip Route

Land of saints and scholars, never conquered by Rome, Ireland shined brightly while the rest of Europe was rutting in the Dark Ages mud. It was the light from Irish monasteries that led the rest of Europe out of its post-Roman nightmare. Traditional Ireland still shines today, and can still seduce. Ask the many travelers who toss their itineraries into the wind to linger a while longer.

This is a land—and a tour—that celebrates life. In Irish pubs we’ll stomp the paint off the floor to the rhythm of the folk band: fiddle, tin whistle and goat-skin drum. A new friend draws your name in the foam on the head of a Guinness. Suddenly, everyone stops while a woman sings a lament. When your goose bumps finally subside, you realize you’ve felt the soul of Ireland.

We’ll be honorary locals in windy outposts of Gaelic civilization where English is a second language and “the next parish is Boston.” This is the land of Saint Patrick, street corner poets, and the gift of gab. Rick likes to call Ireland the friendliest place north of Sicily. When the Pope visited, a third of the entire population got together for Mass. Ireland’s a big, raucous, passionate family, and you’re a welcome guest. You’ll enjoy a scenic ride in a big, comfy bus and sleep in friendly, small, well-located hotels and B&B’s.

And you’ll see plenty of great sights, too, from the sweeping vistas of the seacoast to the rugged green of the Wicklow Mountains to the Cliffs of Moher and the quiet harbor of Dingle. No tour of Ireland is complete without the north as well as the south. In Belfast there’s a new spirit in the air. Protestant and Catholic teenagers dance together in the parks, and the Good Friday Accord has established the peace-loving majority as the toughest kids on the block.

Our Ireland trips fill quickly. So, as they say in Kilkenny (with a wink), don’t put the kibosh on it by foostering around too long. You’ll never plow a field by turning it over in your mind, don’t you know.

Su M Tu W Th F Sa
Day 1: Arrive in Dublin — Meet with your guides and fellow tour members at our hotel at 5:00 p.m. We’ll make introductions and kick off our tour with a short walk together. Sleep in Dublin (2 nights). No bus. Walking: light. Day 2: The heart of Dublin — Ireland’s historic capital is easy on foot. This morning we’ll meet our local guide for a walking tour of Dublin, followed by a visit to the beautiful Book of Kells. Then you’ll have free time to soak in Dublin’s grand Georgian past, and feel the pulse of a town center thriving with street poets and musicians. Tonight we’ll gather for a fun pub dinner. No bus. Walking: moderate. Day 3: To Kilkenny via Wicklow Mountains — We’ll visit Kilmainham Gaol for a pint of Ireland’s stirring struggle for independence. Then it’s on to the beautiful Wicklow Mountains, where we’ll visit the lush Powerscourt Gardens. After lunch we’ll drive to the ruins of St. Kevin’s Monastery at Glendalough (remember the Braveheart wedding scene?) and end our day in the medieval town of Kilkenny, where we’ll sleep (1 night). Bus: 4-5 hours. Walking: moderate to strenuous. Day 4: To Dingle Peninsula — Today we’ll see the evocative ruins of the Rock of Cashel, an important ecclesiastical center from the age of St. Patrick. We’ll end our day in Dingle, where we’ll enjoy one of the best traditional Irish music scenes in Ireland. Sleep in Dingle (3 nights). Bus: 5-6 hours. Walking: light to moderate. Day 5: All day on Dingle Peninsula — Today we’ll experience some of Europe’s wildest natural beauty and most ancient Christian sights. Our local guide will take us on the famous Slea Head Drive, our vote for the most beautiful road in Ireland. Visiting the Blasket Islands Heritage Centre, we get an intimate look at a traditional Irish community. Tonight we’re back at our home village, Dingle, with as much dancing and singing with new friends as you can handle. Bus: 4 hours. Walking: moderate. Day 6: Free day on Dingle Peninsula — Today is all yours... free on the Dingle Peninsula. You could take a long walk, hire a bicycle or a horse, sail to the Blasket Islands, or just savor your Irish breakfast and hang out in town. No bus. Walking: light to strenuous (your choice). Day 7: To Galway — On our way to Galway, we’ll see the dramatic end-of-Europe Cliffs of Moher and drive through the fascinating limestone moonscape of the Burren. Tonight we’ll enjoy a banquet dinner in a castle. Sleep in Galway (2 nights). Bus: 6 hours. Walking: light.
Day 8: Free day in Galway — A free day in Galway, boomtown of western Ireland, with an opportunity to sail to the Aran Islands or simply poke around Galway’s colorful streets. No bus. Walking: light to strenuous (your choice).

Day 9: Connemara and Donegal — Today we’ll drive through the Connemara region, enjoying the beautiful Irish countryside and its small-town charms. Then it’s north to Donegal, where we’ll settle in for the evening. Sleep in Donegal (1 night). Bus: 5 hours. Walking: light to moderate.

Day 10: To Northern Ireland — Today we go international, driving to the north coast of Northern Ireland. On our way, we’ll stop in Derry, where a local guide will enlighten us about “the Troubles.” We’ll then continue onto our hometown of Portrush, the “Coney Island of Ulster.” Sleep in Portrush (2 nights). Bus: 4 hours. Walking: moderate.

Day 11: Antrim Coast — The spectacular Antrim Coast, including the bizarre basalt columns of the Giant’s Causeway and the cliff-hanging Dunluce Castle are ours to explore today. We’ll also make time for a tour and wee sample at the venerable Old Bushmills Distillery. Bus: 3-4 hours. Walking: moderate to strenuous.

Day 12: To Belfast — Today we’ll drive to the capital city of the North: Belfast. A well organized half-day of sightseeing gives us an appreciation for the progress being made as Ireland learns to live together. Sleep in Belfast (1 night). Bus: 4 hours. Walking: light.

Day 13: Return to Dublin — Today we’ll leave Northern Ireland and drive south to the Bru na Boinne Valley, where we’ll visit a passage tomb, the oldest sign of civilization in Europe. Then it’s on to Dublin, where we’ll enjoy a farewell supper and sleep at our original hotel (1 night). Bus: 4 hours. Walking: light.

Day 14: Tour over — Your tour is over after breakfast. Fly out of Dublin’s handy airport or take the ferry to Wales for further adventures in the British Isles. Sláinte!

 

24 people, May 12–May 25 (Su–Sa), May 26–June 8 (Su–Sa), June 9–June 22 (Su–Sa), June 23–July 6 (Su–Sa), July 14–July 27 (Su–Sa), July 28–Aug 10 (Su–Sa), Aug 11–Aug 24 (Su–Sa), Aug 25–Sep 7 (Su–Sa), Sep 8–Sep 21 (Su–Sa), Sep 22–Oct 5 (Su–Sa), Sep 29–Oct 12 (Su–Sa)


More Detailed Map of Ireland

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Ireland - Click for Full size

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Harding Hotel Brochure - click for FULL size

Maps of Ireland
Click for a larger view

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