Our agent and her travel company were wonderful to work with for both our trip planning stage and during the actual travel. This was a 10 day trip for a tour of Ireland. Our agent asked the appropriate questions to understand what we were seeking to both do and to gain from this travel experience. She then planned an excellent itinerary for our travel to Ireland. This vacation was a driving tour of Ireland with a mixture or stays in hotels/resorts and B&Bs. The exploration on our trip was a mixture of self-guided exploration and expert guided sight-seeing. She managed to get the balance of these perfect for our trip. We started in Dublin staying at the O'Callahan Davenport Hotel. An excellent location allowing us to explore Dublin without the need of a vehicle. We spent two days walking the parks in Dublin (St Stevens Green, Merion Square), shopping on Grafton Street, touring Trinity College with the Book of Kells and the old Library, exploring Christ Church and the history, visiting St Patrick's Cathedral, and also a visit to the Guinness Storehouse with its beer making history and views across Dublin from the panoramic bar on the 7th floor. Our trip next involved driving from Dublin cross country to the western coast for a stay in the smaller village of Doolin. On the way, we stopped in Athlone on the river Shannon. We took time to visit the Athlone Castle with it's museum and explore central Ireland history. Also a stop in Sean's Bar the oldest pub in Ireland for a drink was a must. We then continued on to Doolin for a wonderful stay in a beautiful B&B with an exquisite restaurant. We had a wonderful meal in the restaurant that evening. The next day was a trip by ferry to Inishmor, the largest of the Aran Islands. That morning was rainy and windy, so much so that we were concerned about the ferry boat trip to the island and being out there on such a poor weather day. That was a rough ferry ride in ~1.5 meter seas. However, we got to the island and within a half hour the skies cleared. Our agent had arranged an expert guide for our island visit. That was wonderful! We explored the island for a few hours getting a lot of history and information from our guide. This included a great hour spent walking up to the ancient Cliffside fort of Dun Aonghasa. Beautiful views, along 300 foot cliffs, and amazing history. We also spent time in the Aran Sweater market and purchased some beautiful wool sweaters before our island departure. The ferry ride back to Doolin was a wonderful boat ride with scenic views of the Cliffs of Moher from the water. We dined that evening in another local restaurant. Nice meal. But the hotel restaurant from the previous night was one of the two best meals on this trip and well worth the dining if in Doolin. Then we spent some time walking around Doolin and having drinks in a local tavern. The next day our journey continued driving south to Killarney. We visited the Cliffs of Moher on the way. Beautiful sunny day made for spectacular views. We got there early which is highly advisable. Crowds were low upon arrival and made it a much more enjoyable experience. By the time we were leaving later morning all of the tour buses and crowds of people were pouring in. Then onward to Killarney and a visit to Muckross House. A wonderful view of the aristocracy lifestyle and history of the 1800s through early 1900s period in Ireland. We then went to our lodging for the next 3 nights at the a guesthouse, a wonderful small hotel in the center of Killarney. This was one of the two nicest rooms in which we stayed in during this trip, which was great as we were there for 3 nights. The following day, our agent had arranged for us to have a personal guided tour of The Ring of Kerry. It was just us and the driver traveling in a nice Mercedes touring the peninsula. He was extremely knowledgeable, took us to all the keys sights, provided a lot of historical and local perspective, and just made this day wonderful. Even a side trip requested by myself to Waterville to see the seaside golf course and purchase a hat, logo ball, and ball mark was fit in. No golfing this trip, but got to visit a beautiful course. Maybe next visit. There was clouds this day in the mountains, which made views from some of the high peaks less than ideal. But the rest of the day was fantastic. We even visited a small town (forget the name) and interacted a man with his pet goat (a large male with big rack) just hanging out in the park in the center of town. Also we stopped at the gap of Dunloe for some spectacular scenic views. That evening we walked downtown in Killarney to have a meal and visit all of the shops. Killarney is a neat and bustling Irish town. The next day was self exploration around the Dingle Peninsula. Very scenic! We had lunch in the seaside town of Dingle, visited Inch Beach with great views across to the Ring of Kerry peninsula, a neat ride on very narrow Slea Head Drive to the tip of the peninsula, checked out some of the ancient beehive huts, and had a nice afternoon coffee/tea/pie break at a local woman's home along Slea Head Drive (she serves folks each day until the pies she has baked are all gone). We returned to the guesthouse for our last night's stay in Killarney. The next day was a visit to Ross Castle in Killarney (neat restored Tower House for the old aristocrats in the 16th-17th century period) on the way out of town and then a drive to the seaside town of Cobh. We had lunch in Cobh, visited the Cobh Cathedral and the Heritage Museum which had extensive coverage of the Irish emigration periods and of the Titanic and Lusitania disasters. We then drove to the Jameson Distillery in Midleton. Not enough time for a tour, but viewed the history in front museum area and a wonderful sales associate gave us a tasting experience as we selected a few spirits for purchase. Then onward to the small fishing village of Youghal for our stay at a guesthouse for the night. Another lovely guesthouse in a smaller town. We walked the town and viewed the history, but the highlight was the wonderful dinner in the restaurant at the guesthouse. Fantastic restaurant with fresh seafood in this relatively small town. Just great. And topped with an after dinner spirit provided by our agent. Thanks to our agent, that was a nice touch! The next day was a drive up the eastern side of Ireland. We stopped in Kilkenny on the way and visited Kilkenny Castle. Wonderful tour with so much history. Love the castles in Europe. This one so well restored/maintained and great presentation of history. We then ventured on to Glendalough, an ancient monastic sight. Some amazing structures that date to the 11th century still present. Apparently a Sunday pilgrimage site, as it was very crowded with visitors on this day. Nice time on a beautiful sunny day exploring the site. Then on to Brookview Lodge for our last night in Ireland. This was a wonderful place! One of the two best rooms in our whole trip. This place is hidden away, took an interesting drive to get there. They have restaurants, bars, spa, golf, and ducks and chickens walking around. Very nice setting and relaxing place. We had dinner and then a spa visit in the morning before our drive to Dublin airport to complete our trip. Seems a nice place to stay for a couple of nights and relax. We just had the one, but a perfect finish to our trip lodging experience. The next day was a drive to Dublin airport for travel home. What a wonderful trip. I know this review is very packed, but that was our trip. Hard to believe we did all of that in 10 days. Was busy, but did not seem so. Relaxing as well. This agent and her company did a fantastic job to find lodging and locations that fit what we were seeking and to plan an exquisite mixture of self guiding what we would do in locations together with professional guides for key locations. And especially the stays arranged in some of the smaller towns in wonderful guesthouses with great restaurants! That really fit our desire for this experience. Thanks to our agent!! I raise my glass of Jameson in toast to you.
Pretty much all parts of this trip were enjoyable and memorable. The balance seems perfect for our needs and hopes. Each part of the trip was a slightly different experience that made this a true memory bank. We love both history and nature, so being able to combine these was great.
I think this trip was the right balance in each location, with the exception that 2 nights at the end at Brookview Lodge may have been good. We arrived late in the day, so very limited stay there. May have been good to have 2nd night to allow for more relaxation time before travel home and a chance for either more spa treatments or playing a round of golf. But I would not reduce by eliminating any of the other parts......they were key to the overall trip, this was final relaxation stay. Would have needed to add a day. The other thing on trip to consider may have been to play golf in the Killarney area. But maybe next trip. Did not fit with goals for this visit. We did discuss during the planning period.
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