We have recently experienced an 11 day clockwise Driftwood tour of Ireland that exceeded all our expectations. We were part of a group of 13 people, all from the US, and we got along brilliantly during our travels.
Our guide Mark Doherty was phenomenal and so very multi-talented. Number one, he was able to navigate our bus through the narrow roads of the country with such skill that all we had to do was relax, look out the windows and enjoyed to beautiful views of the countryside. This is no small feat. Mark's love and passion for Ireland was very evident as he regaled us with the history, geology and folklore of his native land. Did I mention that he serenaded us with many songs and recited long, beautiful poems and prose shedding light on the Irish culture? To top it all off, he arranged restaurant reservations for the group when necessary and was spot-on with his reviews of the food and service of establishments when we had meals on our own.
Vagabond has done a fantastic job of scheduling this tour to hit so many of the highlights that you read about when researching Ireland but also manages to show you places that many visitors never experience.
We started off with a smooth pickup in Dublin and the very first day included the Rock of Cashel, Blarney Castle and the dreamlike accommodations at Gougane Barra. What a way to kick off the trip!
From there the tour was a whirlwind of the people, the sights and the sounds of Ireland including the drive over Healy Pass, boat trip to Garnish Island, the Ring of Kerry, Killarney National Park, crystal artisan Sean Daly in Dingle, Bridget and Seamus directing their dogs in a sheep herding demonstration, The Cliffs of Moher, Connemara, Kylemore Abbey, Croagh Patrick, The Giant's Causeway etc, etc etc! I could go on and on.
I mentioned the "sounds" of Ireland. We spent two nights in Clifden and were treated to some fabulous traditional Irish music there which was one of the many highlights of our journey of discovery. The music and the enchanting, lyrical brogue of the friendly locals we met all along the way was infectious.
While all of these experiences were dream-like, we also experienced a dose of reality when we took the walking tour in Derry and the political Black Cab tour in Belfast. The history of Ireland is being written today and the insights we received in these two cities provided us a depth and breadth of understanding of the situation there that is invaluable. We have great hope that the "quiet" Ireland experiences today will continue and that a lasting resolution to the issues there can be reached in our lifetime.
Vagabond gave us great advice when they suggested we give ourselves some time in Dublin before our tour rather than after. Following that advice, we booked four nights in the area around Christchurch and St. Patrick's Cathedrals which enabled us to walk to many of the attractions in Dublin itself including Trinity College and the Guinness Warehouse. The Grand Canal Hotel, which is the pick up and drop off point, is bit removed from that part of the city.
The weather was a wee bit cold in Dublin, so a "puffy" jacket came in handy as did sweaters and a raincoat and rain pants. One pair of sturdy hiking shoes was perfect for all the activities we encountered.
It was a fabulous trip and I don't know if 5 stars does it justice. Woo hoo! Happy Days! :-)