The following post is written by Irene from the Boscov’s Travel Group Travel Department. Irene toured Ireland with a group guided by CIE Tours in October 2016.
cead Mile Failte! “One hundred thousand welcomes!”
Day 1: After a 6-hour flight from Philadelphia to Dublin, we welcomed the crisp and refreshing air of Ireland. The temperature reached a high in the mid-50’s during the day, and we were fortunate to not have any rain!
Our group boarded a luxury bus and journeyed to breakfast at the Coachman’s Inn Pub, then took in the scenic countryside through the Mullinger lakes. Our final destination was the Kilronan Castle. Built in the early 19th century, the castle boasts a rich history of owners including Lords and Colonels, and proved to be a great start to the trip.
Day 2: After a filling breakfast, we made our way to Galway. During the journey, we stopped at the town of Westport. Complete with the typical European square, this delightful little village boasted colorful shops, cafes and delicious restaurants. It’s no wonder this town was voted the best place to live in Ireland!
After lunch on our own, we boarded the bus to our final destination in Galway. Charming and complete with idyllic cobblestone streets, this college town offers a stark juxtaposition of its energetic young residents against the medieval architecture. We enjoyed a view of Galway Bay at the Radisson Blu hotel.
Day 3: Aboard the “Connemara Lady” we took a cruise through Killary Fjord to see the beautiful scenery of the Irish countryside. Look out for the dolphins accompanying the boat during the tour!
Day 4: Today we visited another castle on the countryside. Built over 150 years ago by Mitchell Henry for his new bride, Kylemore Abbey eventually transitioned to an Abbey run by Benedictine nuns. For the past 100 years, the sisters have run the estate and adjoining Victorian walled garden where they grow all the food served within their restaurant. The cafe, shop and tour of the gardens and Abbey proved why this is one of Ireland’s top tourist attractions.
Next, we ventured to the Connemara Celtic crystal Factory and the Connemara Marble Factory. Still being mined from marble created over 500 million years ago, the marble is used around the world in architectural design including the state capital in Harrisburg, PA!
Day 5: Today we finally took in one of Ireland’s most iconic natural wonders, the Cliffs of Moher. Rising 702 feet above sea level and formed 320 million years ago, this is the ultimate photo op.
Since there is not a bridge across the River Shannon, we drove onto the ferry and made our way across the river.
We enjoyed a jaunting carriage ride through the national park and past the 15th century Ross Castle on the countryside. This night, we stayed at the modern and elegant Killarney Plaza Hotel in the town of Killarney.
Day 6: Today we visited the Dingle Peninsula, one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen! On the Atlantic coast, the shores feature surfers throughout the year on the sandy beaches and visitors atop the cliffs. We visited the beehive huts, stone igloos built more than a thousand years ago to give its inhabitants a place for shelter, warmth and prayer.
We visited the Blasket Centre where we learned about the inhabitants of the Blasket Islands, inhabited by 300 residents until the 1950’s. With no modern conveniences, electricity or connection to the modern world, this mini isolated civilization relied on farming and fishing for their existence.
Day 7: On day 7, we visited two more castles. Now just a standing facade, the photo below shows the previous family castle of William Penn, the founding father of Pennsylvania.
We enjoyed the stories told by our driver as we headed to Blarney Castle. Up the steep 132-steps, we took the obligatory photo kissing the Blarney Stone. Legend has it that there was a king who suffered from a terrible stutter. He came upon a stone in a field and was told by a woman that it would give him the gift of speech. After much protest, the king kissed the stone and became a great orator. The stone was taken from the field and placed within the castle to bring the gift of elegance to anyone who kissed it.
We made our way to The Davenport Hotel in Dublin and enjoyed dinner and a show of song and dance at the famous Merry Ploughboy Pub.
Day 8: Today we visited Trinity College. The library is home to over 12,000 books that cannot be checked out or touched due to their age and historical significance. The space is also home to the Book of Kells, a manuscript of the Gospel written around 800 AD. We ventured to the cafeteria, better known to non-muggles as the Great Hall in the Harry Potter film franchise.
Our afternoon included a tour of the Guinness factory and cheers with a pint at the Guinness Gravity Bar where we enjoyed a 360 degree view of Dublin.
Day 9: Our guide provided us with hop on/hop off passes for the bus. My husband and I went to the prison (similar to Alcatraz) and the National History Museum. Here we saw the peat preserved bog people dating back 2,200 to almost 4,000 years. Following a tour of the museums, we enjoyed the rest of the day sightseeing the town.
Our final stop was the Parliament building where we took a picture with one of the Guardians of the Police. These unarmed police officers offered a smile for a photo op, and perfectly exemplified the friendly and welcoming nature of the country.
We flew back to Philadelphia the next day with a wealth of knowledge and new found love of Ireland.
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