Steves' Best of Ireland Tour
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other Rick Steves' West France Trip
05/08/10 11:07 AM
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
Day 1: Arrive in Dublin —
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
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
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)
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