Best of Ireland: Pubs, People and Pasture (Aug. 14-25, 2019)

ireland2.jpg
ireland2.jpg

Best of Ireland: Pubs, People and Pasture (Aug. 14-25, 2019)

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TOUR PRICE:  To be established in September, 2018.

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Best of Ireland:  Pubs, People and Pasture 2019

The popularity of Ireland as a tourist destination for North Americans is truly astounding. Few countries command such widespread interest. The mystery behind this fascination, however, is easily understood with one visit. The countless well-preserved medieval castles, the world famous literary tradition, the luscious green rolling hills and striking coastal scenery, the extensive history extending from the Neolithic period to the present, the joviality of the Irish, who seem to welcome Americans with open arms, and, of course, the pubs--ah, yes, the pubs! For beer drinkers the world over, Ireland is THE pilgrimage site for the purest frothy mug of Guinness. Thus, there is much to admire about this humble nation whose citizens truly know the meaning of hospitality. The Ireland Pubs, People and Pasture tour is designed to give you a wonderful introduction to the Irish culture and heritage. But even if you've been to Ireland before, you may find this package appealing as well for its combination of organized activities and free time. Read on for complete details.

Day 1:  - Welcome to Ireland
Arrive at Shannon Airport, meet with coach driver and English speaking guide and transfer to Galway. Upon arrival in Galway enjoy an orientation tour of Galway City. Check in to hotel. Overnight, bed and full Irish breakfast at hotel in Galway or region.

Day 2:  – Aran Islands
Enjoy a full day tour to the Aran Islands. The three Aran Islands, Inisheer, Inishmaan and Inishmore, standing out in the Galway bay, form a mass of limestone, similar to the Burren’s geology. Today the inhabitants live essentially off fishing and tourism while remaining strongly attached to Gaelic traditions. These islands are the last real “Gaelthacht” of the modern Ireland. Inishmore is the largest of them, it is covered in old stone walls and little fields. On the West Coast of the island, majestic cliffs drop into the wild Atlantic ocean. This area is dominated by Dun Aengus, one of the most impressive Neolithic forts in Europe. A trip to the islands offers a journey through time, as well as an encounter with the old Ireland, the mythical Ireland. For this reason, the islands are quite fascinating. Inishmore, the largest of the Aran Islands, it is made up of 14 tiny villages. A ferryboat is taken from Connemara. A 2,5 hour minibus tour starts the excursion, followed by a walk to Dun Aengus

Visit Dún Aengus. This is one of the finest prehistoric monuments in Western Europe. Dún Aengus is a huge prehistoric Fort built on the edge of a 300ft cliff on Inismór, the largest of the Aran Islands. It covers 11 acres and comprises of three concentric enclosures defended by stout walls of dry masonry, all of which is well preserved. 
Return to the village for lunch on your own. You will return in the late afternoon to Rossaveal and the mainland, which allows free time for exploring the island before departure. Overnight and full Irish breakfast at Hotel in Galway or region.

Optional Evening Medieval banquet at Dunguaire Castle – Kinvara, Co. Galway
Dunguaire Castle is a small 17th century castle on a rocky promontory, situated just outside the picturesque village of Kinvara on the shores of Galway Bay. The castle, with its chequered history, hosts an excellent banquet. Following a warm welcome from the Butler visitors will savour a goblet of Mead (Honey + wine) while enjoying fine Irish music on fiddle and harp. The Butler relates the history of the Castle after which guests are invited to proceed up the spiral staircase to the Banquet hall. Here ‘King Guaire’ is crowned and presides over our banquet for the evening. During dinner (a four sumptuous course meal with red and white wine) the castle ladies will regale in song accompanied by the Irish Harp. King Guaire, famous for his hospitality and generosity, will present one of the ladies attending the banquet with a Claddagh ring, to celebrate this special occasion. Following dinner, the Castle Entertainers present a 35-minute programme of music, song, poetry, and prose reading with some humorous scenes from Irish literature. Inspiration of this entertaining presentation is drawn from the great Irish writers who had an association with Galway and the Castle. These include ~ Oliver St. Gogarty, Yeats, Shaw and Sean O’Casey. An evening of superb music, song and storytelling awaits you on the majestic shores of Galway Bay

Day 3:  –Connemara
Today enjoy a tour of Connemara. Connemara, is a land of lakes and rivers, bogs and mountains. A land of small villages where Gaelic is still the spoken language and where little has changed little since the beginning of time. It is without a doubt the wildest and the most romantic part of Ireland. Connemara is a vast peninsula bordered by the arid and rocky coastline of Galway Bay in the south ~ a land characteristic for its stone walls and thatched cottages. On its northern shore the land is harsher and more secret, with spectacular views of the Ocean and the beautiful fjord of Killary Harbour, as well as the steep mountains overlooking numerous lakes and large bog areas. Connemara is a real paradise for Nature lovers and those in search of strong emotions.

Visit Kylemore Abbey. Kylemore Abbey is located in the Kylemore Pass in Connemara. A Mitchell Henry built the House in 1868, after having spent his honeymoon in the area. The architecture is best described as neo-gothic and the house still displays all the characteristics of that period. One of Kylemore Abbey's most famous features is its miniature cathedral, built in 1870 and known locally as the Gothic church. Today, the abbey is home to the Irish order of Benedictine nuns. They bought the house in 1920, having fled their convent in war-torn Belgium in 1914. They established a private school for young girls, which today is the renowned Kylemore Abbey International School for young girls. Facilities at Kylemore include a visitor centre, an exhibition housed in the main reception rooms of the house and a video which takes the visitor through the history of the house and its occupants.

Return to your hotel via the town of Cong where the Quiet Man Movie was filmed. Overnight and full Irish breakfast at Hotel in Galway or region.

Day 4:  – To Killarney
This morning travel through the Burren Region. The Burren is a strange and unique region in Europe. “Burren” means “large stones”: in fact its name describes this impressive scenery perfectly well. Often described as lunar, the Burren is a high plateau of porous limestone situated in Northern Clare between Ballyvaughan and Kilfenora. No trees are growing here, no land is covering the stone, the limestone is bare. But the Burren is not as deserted as we believe: the cracks allow different types of flowers to grow all year round, though Spring would be the best season for the botanists to explore. The rocks hide many caves like Ailwee, as well as “Turloughs”, an interesting phenomenon which transforms lakes into fields during the summer. You will also discover the testimonies of its rich history thanks to countless castles and monastic ruins.

Continue and visit to the Cliffs of Moher. Situated on the Atlantic Ocean and bordering the Burren Area, the Cliffs of Moher are one of Ireland's most spectacular sights. Standing 230 metres above the ground at their highest point and 8km long, the Cliffs boast one of the most amazing views in Ireland. On a clear day, the Aran Islands are visible in Galway Bay as well as the valleys and hills of Connemara. To the south of the cliffs is Hag's Head and was once the site of a castle. The cliffs reach their highest point just north of O' Brien's Tower. Cornelius O’ Brien, a descendant of Brian Boru (he who defeated the Vikings in battle), built a Tower at the cliffs in order to enjoy some tea with his lady friends. The Tower is adjacent to the seastack, Breanan Mór, which stands over 70 metres above the foaming waves and is home to some of the Burren’s wildlife.

Enjoy some time at leisure in Limerick for lunch ( under own arrangements). Continue to Killarney. Overnight, bed and full Irish breakfast at hotel in Killarney or region

Day 5:  – Ring of Kerry
The Ring of Kerry (166km) is the most famous and panoramic route in Ireland. The astonishing beauty of this large peninsula, Iveragh, comes from the great diversity of its scenery, which offers incessant contrasts. En route around the Ring, take in spectacular scenery - mountains, peat bogs, lakes and magnificent views of the Atlantic Ocean as one travels along the coast road. Leaving Killarney pass through Killorglin, famous for its Puck Fair, then to Glenbeigh where the cliff road affords panoramic views of the Dingle Peninsula and Dingle Bay. Continuing to Cahirciveen, you’ll pass the birthplace of our National hero, Daniel O’Connell. Next, continue on through peat bogs to the town of Waterville. Continue to Sneem Village, famous for its brightly coloured houses. The road then continues through the mountains to Molls Gap and Ladies View with superb views of the famous Lakes of Killarney.

Visit Muckross House. Muckross is a magnificent Victorian mansion built in 1843 and is one of Ireland’s leading stately homes. Built on the shores of Muckross Lake, it is beautifully situated amidst the spectacular scenery of Killarney National Park. The elegantly furnished rooms portray the life style of the landed gentry, while downstairs in the basement area one can experience the working conditions of the servants employed in the house.

Return to your hotel. Overnight, bed and full Irish breakfast at hotel in Killarney or region

Day 6:  – Depart for Kilkenny via Cork
Travel to the town of Blarney for a visit to Blarney Castle. Attracting visitors from all over the world, Blarney Castle is situated in Blarney 8 km from Cork City. An ancient stronghold of the McCarthy's, Lords of Muskerry, it is one of Ireland's oldest and most historic castles, and indeed one of the strongest fortresses in Munster. Built in 1446, Blarney Castle is famous for its Blarney stone - The Stone of Eloquence, which is traditionally believed, to have the power to bestow the gift of eloquence on all those who kiss it. Many legends tell the story of the Stone, but why not kiss it and find out the truth behind the legend.

Some time for shopping at Blarney Woollen Mills. The presence of the Woollen Mills during the famine shielded Blarney from the worst effects of the famine, due to its employment of local workers. The success story at the mills continued until a disastrous fire in 1869. By August 1871, the mill was once again operational with a labour force of 222. In 1976 Chris Kelleher, himself a mill worker, bought the old mill property. Within a short period of time Chris and his family transformed the mill into what is perhaps the largest quality craft shop in Ireland.

Continue to Kilkenny and enjoy an orientation tour of Kilkenny. Capital of County Kilkenny, the town of Kilkenny is often referred to as “the Marble City”. It is the most interesting and best preserved of the medieval Irish cities. It owes its immense charm to the various impressive historical monuments. A medieval city of 24,000 people it is characterised by many beautifully restored buildings and winding slipways ~ it is small and compact enough to explore on foot, yet full of fascinating historical buildings and contemporary shops, design galleries and restaurants. The ancient city of Kilkenny was named after a 6th century monk St Canice. A native of the area, St Canice built a monastic enclave on the site where today we find the beautifully restored 13th St Canices Cathedral. The town is dominated by 12th century Kilkenny Castle, built by the Normans on their arrival in this part of Ireland.

Overnight, bed and full Irish breakfast at Hotel in Kilkenny or region

Day 7:  – Day at leisure in Kilkenny OR Wicklow & Glendalough
Enjoy a day at leisure in Kilkenny OR Full day in Wicklow and Glendalough (no extra charge)

Today travel South of Dublin to County Wicklow, also known as the Garden of Ireland. South of Dublin, is County Wicklow. Known as “the Garden of Ireland” it is home to Powerscourt, Mount Usher and Russborough, to name a few of its many houses and gardens. This region features all the various types of scenery that makes Ireland so beautiful. The coastline is bordered by charming sea resorts such as Bray or Greystones. In the heart of its gentle and rounded hills are nestled Enniskerry and Avoca, both very picturesque villages. Discover its romantic and quiet beauty, the deserted mounts where nothing but heather grows, the small forests and the lush prairies illuminated by yellow gorse in spring.

Optional Glendalough: The English name Glendalough originated from the Irish “Gleann Dá Locha”, which translates as "The valley of the two lakes". It was here that St. Kevin ~ son of the king of Leinster founded a monastery in the 6th century. From a simple beginning the site grew to become famous as a centre of learning throughout Europe. Standing for 600 years it was destroyed in 1398. Much of what is to be seen today dates from the 10 to 12th century. One of the most attractive features is the fine 34m high round tower. A cathedral, stone churches and decorated crosses also survived albeit as ruins. Glendalough has an excellent visitor's centre and display area, which is located at the entrance to the Valley. It houses a very comprehensive exhibition on Glendalough detailing the history, archaeology and wildlife of this area of Wicklow.

Overnight, bed and full Irish breakfast at Hotel in Kilkenny or region

Day 8:  - Dublin’s Fair City
This morning depart for Dublin. Upon arrival meet with your English speaking guide and enjoy a panoramic tour of Dublin, discovering the north side of the River Liffey. This area offers great striking monuments such as the GPO (General Post Office) on the city main thoroughfare, O'Connell Street, or the Custom House along the quays, as well as the Phoenix Park, the largest public park in Europe. The south side appears more sophisticated with its vast Georgian squares, such as Merrion Square, where Oscar Wilde’s House can still be found (today owned by an American College), its colourful doors, along with Grafton Street and its quality shops. Not so far from St. Stephen’s Green, in Kildare St., you will see the house of Bram Stoker, the author of Dracula. This part of the city is also dominated by the students of Trinity College, where the famous book of Kells is permanently exhibited in its library. The university is facing the medieval district where Dublin Castle and the two Anglican Cathedrals can be found.

Visit to Trinity College & book of Kells. Trinity was founded in 1592 by Queen Elizabeth 1st on grounds confiscated from an Augustinian priory and is the oldest University in Ireland. The Campanile, erected in 1852, was built on what is believed to be the centre of the monastery. Built to further the education of the ruling Anglo-Irish families, restrictions were imposed to prevent Catholic from attending courses. These restrictions were not fully lifted until the 1970’s. Trinity however admitted women in 1902, earlier than most British universities. Most of the main buildings off the main square were built during the Georgian period, some of which replaced older buildings. Within its walls, you will be able to admire Parliament Square and its 18th Century edifices. Trinity College has had many famous students such as Jonathan Swift and Samuel Beckett who later became a lecturer in French at the university. The Inter-denominational Church is very much worth a visit, should it be open during your visit.

Enjoy the rest of your afternoon at leisure in the city centre. We recommend a stroll down Grafton Street where you can enjoy the best in street entertainment. The shopping is also great in this area of the city!

Overnight, bed and full Irish breakfast at Hotel in Dublin or region

Day 9:  – Day at Leisure or Belfast Full Day Excursion (no extra charge)

Enjoy a day at leisure in Dublin OR Optional Belfast day excursion. Today the group will travel through the Boyne Valley. The Boyne valley is without a doubt the most historical region of the whole island, therefore it is not surprising to find here the most important Irish monuments such as Newgrange, Knowth or Loughcrew Cairns. These are megalithic tombs, dating from 2500 B.C, located along the valley of the river Boyne. The river is also known for the famous Battle of the Boyne in 1690 between the Catholic King James of England and the Protestant King William. The victory of William over James had immediate repercussions on Ireland, some of which still influence Irish History today. Continue to Belfast for a guided tour of the city. A guided city tour is an excellent way to discover Belfast City. The tour will take in the leaning Albert Memorial Clock tower (Irelands answer to the Tower of Pisa) and the Opera House, which is one of Belfast’s great landmarks. Your tour will pass by the City Hall, the Opera house, The Crown Bar (dates from 1885), Queens University and the Botanic Gardens. Some tours will take in a visit to the Harland and Wolfe Shipyard, where the Titanic was built and launched in 1912. A visit to the Shankill and Falls road will be of interest as it will give the visitor an indication of how life was in Belfast during the troubles.

Return to your Dublin hotel. Overnight, bed and full Irish breakfast at Hotel in Dublin or region

Day 10:  – Farewell
After a final Irish breakfast transfer to Dublin airport for departure flight home.

TOUR FEATURES:: Round trip NON-STOP air transportation from JFK or Newark to Shannon with a return from Dublin on Delta Airlines (or similar); three nights in a first class hotel with full Irish breakfasts daily in the beautiful coastal city of Galway; a half day guided sightseeing tour of Galway; a full day tour to the Aran Islands; A full day tour to Connemara and Kylemore Abbey; an optional evening dinner and show at Dunguaire Castle (extra cost for this); visits to the Burren and the Cliffs of Moher en route to Killarney; two nights in a first class hotel with full Irish breakfasts in Killarney; a guided tour of the famous Ring of Kerry and  Muckross House; visits to Blarney Castle and the Woolen Mills Shop en route to Kilkenney; two nights in a first class hotel with full Irish breakfasts in Kilkenney; an orientation tour of Kilkenney; an optional full day tour to Wicklow and Glendalough (no extra charge); two nights in a first class hotel in Dublin; a half day guided tour of Dublin, including a visit to Trinity College to see the Book of Kells; an optional full day guided tour of Belfast in Northern Ireland (no extra charge); a pre-departure orientation and the services of a full-time driver/guide and an ArawjoTours tour leader.