Ireland Guided Vacation With Trafalgar Tours
Ireland is a great destination to visit on a group tour. Some people are skeptical of a group tour and may think it is not the best mode of travel for them. My husband was one of these skeptics, but he became a believer pretty quickly. Our nine-night tour with Trafalgar began and ended in Dublin, and in between we visited Waterford, Killarney, Limerick, Galway, and Sligo. We traveled the Wild Atlantic Way, kissed the Blarney Stone, were king and queen at a medieval banquet, listened to live music, and saw shades of green that you can only find in Ireland.
One of the best things about our bus tour was not a thing but rather a person: our tour director. We had the affable, knowledgeable, dependable, organized, trouble-shooting, experienced, musically-gifted, story-telling Bernard (which, when correctly pronounced, sounds like, “Bernerd”). Along with our capable and friendly driver, Paul, we were (seemingly) effortlessly guided through Ireland. Bernard took care of logistics, and Paul adroitly drove us along narrow and winding roads. We were able to enjoy the scenery every moment on the coach and not worry about driving on the left side of the road, navigating the countryside, or dodging sheep in the road. Trafalgar institutes a rotating seat policy, so each day we moved; there was never an issue of seat-hogging.
We did all of the extra excursions offered, which added to our experience on the tour. We rode a jaunt in Killarney National Park; listened to live music outside of Waterford (our own Bernard played the spoons); attended an Irish ceili dinner; enjoyed a medieval dinner at Dunguaire Castle; rode the Wild Atlantic Way by way of Mullaghmore to a special dinner; and, finally, we cruised the River Shannon while enjoying live music with fresh scones and coffee.
Trafalgar believes their guests should “Connect with Locals,” and they arranged a “Be My Guest” experience on our tour in Westport. We were treated to a Victorian tea at Westport House as guests of the owners. After a tour of the stately 18th century home by the son of one of the current owners, he performed a piano concert just for our group while we enjoyed the accoutrements of a full tea. This was a highlight for me and my husband, and we also enjoyed walking through the home’s extensive gardens.
Other favorite experiences on our tour include visiting the Cliffs of Moher; our day of driving the Ring of Kerry; watching the master craftsman at Waterford Crystal; visiting Blarney Castle; and the scenic Connemara drive to Kylemore Abbey. We took advantage of our free time, too. In Dublin, we visited the Whiskey Museum and tried a variety of Irish whiskeys; we watched the final match of Gaelic soccer in a pub in Killarney; searched for the best fish and chips in Ireland; tried local beers; walked and explored Waterford, Adare, Galway, and Killarney; dodged rain in quaint boutiques; purchased Irish woolen items; and tried Irish ice cream.
We could have done this tour on our own, but we did enjoy sharing it with a coach-full of people who started out as strangers. It was nice having Bernard who could anticipate our group’s wants and needs and entertain us with his myriad “true” stories and a greeting each time on and off the coach of “happy days” or “magical moments,” just to name two of his many phrases. He gave us Irish history lessons throughout our tour, and he had a knack for knowing when to break up drive times with a stop for a coffee or scenic lunch. The tour was seamless, and we appreciated that.
My husband’s doubts about an organized tour disappeared by day two. He saw that our fellow travelers were timely; our guide was a font of knowledge while being engaging and entertaining; our driver took away the stress of driving and left us to enjoy the scenery; our luggage was handled, including tipping porters; checking into a hotel meant finding the key with our name on it; and we were treated as guests throughout the tour.
When our tour ended, we looked at each other and wondered out-loud what we would do without Bernard. We knew we would manage on our own – returning home, re-entering our “real lives,” but we would miss him and his country he so graciously shared with us. On our flight home, we began looking through our 1,000+ photos we had taken, all of which were reminders of our wonderful Trafalgar tour.
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