Just returned from our chauffeured trip in Ireland and Scotland (last night) that was designed by this travel agency and we had a great time! What I liked most working with this travel agency was that they were attuned to our budget and our interests and were very successful in adhering to both. It was so relaxing knowing that we had a pickup at the airport after a long flight from the states (Seattle) to a wonderful hotel in Edinburgh and we just needed to be ready at the beginning of each day and the rest was taken care of for us.
First hotel in Scotland in Edinburgh was a perfect accommodation and a very nice hotel that was centrally located in the city for sightseeing and walking. Edinburgh deserves at least two or three days to explore and is a very manageable city to walk. The hotel is a laid back relaxed hotel that is lovely and historical but not overly "high end". After two days in Edinburgh (Edinburgh Castle is fantastic, The Scottish National Museum, Scott Memorial, Highly recommend Holyrood Castle!! and Brittania were worthwhile). We were then picked up by our driver and we then moved on to the Scottish Highlands to a country home that was equally wonderful but very different. Don't miss Stirling Castle (much has been a bit overrestored but has re-enactors who give great historical background or Urquhart Castle which was my favorite with great history also and still owned by the same family since the 15th century!!) Back to the hotel: We loved the huge deluxe room to spread out in and the pastoral views from the rooms of the sheep grazing in the nearby fields and the cloud covered hills. I was also startled in the middle of the night with the call of a Western Screech Owl right outside our open window! (I am an owl fanatic so that was a very fun addition to our trip!). After a trip to the Isle of Skye in the pouring rain we moved on to Inverness. Talk about unique boutique hotel, it was just BEAUTIFUL and deserved its 5 star status. Huge bathroom, lovely sitting room and wonderful breakfast in the morning! It was heavenly. Wish we could have at least one more day in Inverness to explore the little town and have another birthday celebration at Hootenany! (Highly recommend if you are in the mood for great pub food, a little craic, and GREAT music!!!). If nothing else, we will be back just for that!
Ireland started in Dublin where the hotel was historic and gorgeous. For the money, this was the smallest room of all our hotels but it was gorgeously appointed and also centrally located in Dublin. It deserves at least 5 stars and their restaurant was lovely for a great dinner and breakfast. We hopped onto the bus and toured the city of Dublin...hopping off whenever we wanted and saw the entire city. Fun place for dinner is the Bank on College Green. Beautiful old bank building and great food (and fun wait staff!). Dublin Castle was fun and quite beautiful as were the apartments. The accommodation in Killarney was a very nice hotel and the town was adorable! Lots of shops and shopping and bars. Unfortunately my husband was quite sick so we laid low those two days missing our opportunity to explore. But then... was Ashford Castle... WOW (see below). Do whatever you can to spend as much time there as you can! Contarf Castle situated close to the airport is quirky and a bit odd but was find as a final day of lodging.
Honestly, my favorite part of the Scotland trip was the laid back and somewhat untouched feel of the country... more sheep than people, for sure. It was stunning and so much fun. Our driver was absolutely like a friend at the end. So sweet and attuned to our wants and needs, we absolutely loved him and feel like we got the lucky hand with him. If we mentioned something in conversation, he would research and come back when we would meet back at the car and he'd have information or recommendations for what to do or where to eat, etc. We had a ball at the Loch Lochmond Bird of Prey Centre where he joined us and had an equally fun time talking to the employees about the local birds. He made our trip and was a tremendous guide and ambassador to Scotland.
Ireland's highlight, without a doubt, was Ashford Castle. They have the formula figured out... beautiful location, absolutely top notch accommodations (5 star +++), incredibly kind and accommodating employees(two separate times they made things happen for us!), excellent food, so many things to do and best of all Ireland's School of Falconry where I fulfilled my dream of flying both a Harris Hawk, Beckett, and a Eurasian Eagle Owl, Dingle. Dingle wasn't cooperative the night before and decided that sitting in a tree until 8pm was more fun than playing with me. Later that night, Dingle himself texted me (which his human's help, of course) asking me if I could come back and play with him in the morning before we left for home. (sooo sweet) and they not only let me take pictures but fly him several times that morning before we left! I was over the moon!!! Talk about making dreams come true... Ashford and it's employees bring tears to my eyes even now. Guaranteed we will be back and it was worth every penny to stay ... we'd stay longer next time.
Back to Edinburgh the hotel before our flight to Dublin was a good accommodation and close to the airport but probably my least favorite of all of our trip. The castle was a little overdone and didn't have the authentic feel that we had the rest of the trip. Not the same accommodating employees or that feeling of Scotland that we both loved.
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