This was an outstanding tour with too many highlights to list but we saw so many amazing things... read more
This was an outstanding tour with too many highlights to list but we saw so many amazing things... read more
We really had the Luck of the Irish when we booked this tour with Driftwood! My siblings and our... read more
I can't even begin to describe how amazing this tour was. I'll make an attempt to explain the things I loved in a little detail. But if reading long-winded reviews isn't your thing, here's a short-'n-simple version… This company is beyond excellent, the employees/guides are extremely dedicated to you. The tour I took (8-day Vagabond Wild Irish Small Group Tour) is fast-paced and exciting without being rushed. You see many Ireland highlights ("touristy" places) and many hidden gems. If you want a guided tour of Ireland, you'd be crazy not to book it with Vagabond, in my opinion.
Now, for the specifics…
**The Company - Vagabond Tours of Ireland**
From day one of my research into booking some sort of tour of Ireland, Vagabond set themselves apart from the rest. Almost every last review (about 770 total) on Trip Advisor was Five Stars. My initial email was responded to almost immediately by John, who gave me his number so we could chat about my options. He was extremely informative, friendly, and helpful. He even offered to help me find day tours from other companies during my three days in Dublin prior to the start of the Vagabond Tour. Later, after booking, communications from Dee about slight itinerary changes were cheerful and timely.
**The Guides (aka VagaGuides)**
From the initial meetup at the Grand Canal Hotel in Dublin, our guide was energetic, friendly, and fun. Tim's his name, and your enjoyment is his game. We were also joined by a guide-in-training named Alan, who was also very friendly and personable from the start. Well, that initial great impression from the two of them only skyrocketed from there. I never once got the impression that this was just a job that they were doing. From the start, and especially by the end, it felt like Tim and Alan were our friends who were just showing us around their home. But it is their job and they do it extremely well. Many things had to be done behind the scenes that we didn't see to make it so easy for us. Every outing we had was planned in advance and was ready when we got there. Every morning our van was shiny and clean, inside and out. Every evening the hotel was ready for us exactly when we arrived.
Tim is an outstanding ambassador for the country and land he clearly loves. He has a voice that you just want to listen to for hours. He tells the history and lore of the areas and sites you visit, as well as anecdotes from his own life. He and Alan would switch positions occasionally and then we'd hear Alan have a go at being the guide in charge. Tim has been doing these Vagabond tours for nine years, and it clearly shows. But it's a testament to the caliber of people that Vagabond hires to lead us around the country that a young guide-in-training like Alan still gave us an exceptional experience with his knowledge and wit. It was a truly unique experience, I think, to have two viewpoints harmonizing about everything we were seeing and experiencing.
Throughout the trip, Tim was in constant communication with us about our hopes and goals for the trip. It was clear that he wanted each of us to have a say in what we did if we wanted. The first night, over dinner, I mentioned that it would be fun to experience a bog. His immediate response was, "You want a bog? I can get you a bog." And sure enough, the next day we stopped at a bog on our way to that night's hotel. Some of us took off our shoes, rolled up our pants, and stomped around in the muck while the others cheered us on, we got stuck, fell over while pulling each other out, laughing the whole time. It ended up being one of the highlights of my trip.
It's important to know that the guides handle adversity extremely well, too. Some members of our group had a bit of an issue and had to leave the tour. It was personal for them and not relevant to the tour so I won't go into specifics. But it was very nice to see Tim go above and beyond for them, helping them arrange separate accommodations and travel arrangements. He even made sure to check up on them a few times after they left.
Long story longer, Tim and Alan were great. Based on the other reviews, I'm positive I would be saying the same thing about any of the other guides Vagabond could have sent me out with. But I took the tour that I took. And it was one of the best times of my life so far. And that wouldn't have happened without Tim and Alan. At the end, I was sad because my nice vacation was done. But I was much more sad because I had to say goodbye to my two new friends.
**The Tour - 8 Day Vagabond Wild Irish Rover Tour**
You can look up the sample itinerary for this tour on their website. I say "sample" because the only thing that seems to really be set in stone are the hotels you stay at each night. There's an outline for what's normally done between point A and point B, but it can be changed due to group consensus or weather. But you'll see a mix of well-known places (Blarney Castle, Cliffs of Moher, etc.) and out of the way, lesser traveled locations that only a small tour van can get to. For example, I think my favorite place we stopped was a picnic on top of a mountain on private land (with permission from the owner). You could only reach that location with a 4x4 vehicle.
It is a fast-paced, fully packed tour. I never once felt rushed, but in order to hit many things in one day you can't spend hours and hours at each stop. This isn't a tour where you can wait in line for two hours to kiss the Blarney stone, or spend all afternoon exploring the little town your hotel is in. I think my group was lucky because we went in mid-March, and many of the "high-profile" places weren't very crowded. So, for example, we had time to go to the top of Blarney Castle to kiss the stone if we wanted, and still had time to stroll the expansive grounds around the castle. But there were seriously signs in the castle saying things like "90 minutes from here" like the lines in an amusement park, so if it was crowded we may not have had time. The trade-off is that we also got to see the Rock of Cashel and experience the Drombeg Stone Circle all in the same day we left from Dublin. I'll point out that the guides were pretty good at sticking to their rule of never spending much more than an hour in the van at any give stretch.
Also, "fast-paced" doesn't mean strenuous. Anything that could be made strenuous (sea kayaking, cycling, etc.) is entirely optional, and can also be done at your own pace. And if it comes up that you don't wish to take one of the optional activities, the guide has other activities planned for you to do while the others do the thing. For example, not all of us went on the Skellig Boat Tour, and those that didn't were taken on a lovely hike up on Bray Head. We had people from age 18 to 60+ on our tour and everyone was keeping up with everyone else, and no one was ever left twiddling their thumbs with nothing to do.
There is downtime, too. You get to the hotel each evening around 5ish, which gives you the evening to explore the town. And it seemed as if at least one of the stops each day had us free for a while to explore wherever we were located. And for those of you who enjoy shopping, the two nights in Dingle will give you all the time you need to explore the best local shops you'll find on the tour, but you'll also have a good shot at a bunch of good places in Galway.
This one is going to be different for every tour, but the group I was with was amazing. I came on the tour solo, but everyone else was very welcoming. Throughout the tour we were all exchanging numbers and email address so we could share pictures and videos. But that seems to be a common thread among a lot of the other reviews. So I suppose it's indicative of how well the tour is structured and run that random people from all over come together and not only get along, but become friends by the end.
Like I said at the beginning, you'd be crazy not to use Vagabond for your tour of Ireland. The company is highly regarded and respected, the tour is expertly run by wonderful people who are simultaneously highly professional and extremely fun and friendly, and you get a large sample of different sights and experiences. From the very fist minute to the very last second, this was wonderfully fun, exciting, and emotional journey. Vagabond, Alan, and Tim helped me have an amazing experience that I will remember for the rest of my life.
Hello there... And a great big thank you from all of us here in Ireland!
We were delighted to receive your 5 star review. We are delighted to be a part of your Ireland experience and reading your review made us a bit emotional!
Your in depth review really hits on the exact experience we aim to give our guests. We really appreciate you taking the time to share your tour highlights with us. Tim is a fantastic guide, we are so happy you enjoyed your time with him.
Hopefully we can welcome you back in Ireland again soon!
7 day Castles and Kingdoms
I cannot say enough wonderful things about this company and my touring experience. From the beginning when I booked the tour, to every call I made with a question or a payment, to finally stepping foot on Irish soil for the first time and then hopping on the comfy van for my trip around the magical countryside. Every single interaction I had with Vagabond was just wonderful. Edwina, our tour guide, was knowledgeable, fun, and passionate about all that is Ireland.
When I returned home I tried to condense my trip into a Facebook post. I will leave it here for you to read and hopefully it helps you understand how truly amazing Ireland is and how thankful you’ll be for booking with Ireland.
“We’ve spent 10 days immersed in the beautiful, mystical, sometimes tragic, and absolutely brilliant Irish culture. I feel whole. I feel at home. That’s what Ireland feels like when you’re here, home. You forget about your troubles and stresses back in the states and you breathe in the brisk breeze of the morning. You shake off the day before and you start anew.
I’ve posted pictures of sights seen, but there is no way a photo can capture the way the cushy Irish grass feels underneath your feet or how welcoming the people are. Trying to condense the magic of this place into a few paragraphs is almost impossible, but here we go.
The wind that whips your hair smells of whiskey, tales of old, and faery glitter. Dublin, however, smells of diesel fuel and piss. The people are hearty, earthy, kind, and warm. I was not dressed properly so I was freezing the last couple of days. Drinking starts at 11am and doesn’t end until the music stops and…it usually never stops. Not all the dogs are friendly, but most are and they get to roam the wild as they please. On that note, I’ve learned the true definition of “wild” while here. I got to experience the rugged aggressive beauty of the Irish land. I learned to respect the Earth a bit more. We are all connected and we should show a bit more care when going about our daily lives.
Mystic Ireland did not disappoint. I am currently having a pint outside at Quay’s Bar on the street of Temple Bar. I’m enjoying the people watching. I’m trying to memorize the sound of laughter and music and footsteps.
The end of my trip of a lifetime has come. My chest is a bit heavy and I will miss the green hills, the mountains of limestone, the fresh water rivers and streams that seem never ending, and the feeling of belonging. Despite all that, I am happy. My heart is filled with memories that will never fade.
My last drink in Ireland was going to be for my Mom and it was going to be her favorite drink, wine. However, after some thought…I’ve decided that my very last drink will be a Guinness. So, here’s to my Momma, here’s to the strong Irish wind, the cold Irish rain, to the wild people of Ireland. Here’s to Éire! It’s not goodbye forever.”
Hello Stephanie... And a great big thank you from all of us here in Ireland!
We were delighted to receive your 5 star review. Even more so, reading your poetic and evocative words made us all very proud to have played a part in your dream Ireland trip.
Edwina (or Ed The Red, as we call her!) is a diamond. A true expert on all things Irish, cultural or historical. She's very funny too, so I am happy that you guys got on together. It was also lovely to witness how you guys gelled with your fellow travellers.
Hopefully we can welcome you back in Ireland again soon!
On September 19, 2021 my wife and I met with our guide Tim Orr to begin our Driftwood - 7 Day Tour of Castles. It was our first tip to Ireland and we chose the absolute best touring company and were lucky enough to be blessed with a fantastic tour guide. I would rate the Vagabond experience a solid 15 stars and our guide Tim 15 plus stars. we appreciated his energy, knowledge of Irish history and even his singing voice. When asked if he knew the song Seven Drunken Nights he not only knew the song but sang very verse! As a citizen of Ireland by descent he helped me feel that I truly belonged in the land of all my four grandparents. In a way I felt I was "home". Born in America but Irish by blood. As a senior citizen using a rollator/walker to get around, Tim went far and above his duties not only to help me but also to make sure every step I took was safe. This caring attitude ensured our enjoyment. He even climber the stairs of the Blarney Castle to see if I was safe! Tim even helped us arrange tickets for a train trip from Dublin to Galway City with a return by bus and a cab ride to Cobh to see where my grandparents left Eire and where the Titanic picked up its last 123 passengers before in 1912. Every stop on our was appreciated and enjoyed. Vagabond is the BEST tour company in Ireland and their guides are also the BEST. My next tour will be with Vagabond. They are the only way to go!
What a delightful review you have given us. It makes everyone in the team here happy to find that you so thoroughly enjoyed your tour. Thank you!
VagaGuide Tim is a special human who we all love and seems to have been a perfect fit for your needs. Your anecdote about his singing abilities made us smile!
Special thanks go to you for making the trip at a time when our small, family-owned company is emerging from a period of turbulence.
We have high hopes for touring in 2022 and would relish the opportunity to welcome you back again.
This is ABSOLUTELY the BEST way to see Ireland! The small group (we had 11) van allows you to go to places big busses cannot access. Our drive/guide, Edwina, was everything we could have asked for and more! She’s very skilled, knowledgeable, fun, funny, friendly, and helpful. We had enough time to visit on scheduled stops without being rushed or trying to kill time. Each hotel was different and all were very nice. My husband was in a manual wheelchair, and he was accommodated and able to enjoy the trip in comfort. We met 9 strangers that felt like family by the end of the tour. I would 1000% travel with them again!
Thank you for your kind review, Shannon. We always aim for our guests to leave Ireland loving it as much as do. And in your case, it seems Edwina and the whole team have absolutely achieved this.
We are especially appreciative that you and your husband visited us in Ireland off the back of a challenging year for tourism. Thank you for the effort!
We would be delighted to welcome you back to Ireland again in the future.
Great relaxed 11 day Ireland tour with our excellent guide Damien We enjoyed most of the hotels in spite of the Covid restrictions and loved the small group experience. We enjoyed our stops from archaeology, beautiful landscapes, excellent meals to politics in northern Ireland.
I had some mobility problems but I was always able to enjoy the tour managing those sites with a cane and my husbands arm At a couple of places I chose to go and eat lunch in the pub instead.If the climb was too steep or the terrain too rough . No problem
I ioved the fact we didn’t have to leave at the crack of dawn like so many tour groups but had time to enjoy the area around the hotel or even to get up a little later. The places we visited were all interesting. I can’t recommend this tour enough
Hi Jenniger, thank you so much for your lovely review and kind words about your 11 Day Driftwood Tour.
As you found out, Damien is one of our star VagaGuides and an absolutely legendary human being! I am delighted that you guys got on well together.
I'm particularly happy to hear that your experience wasn't negatively affected by any mobility issues.
Your business is much appreciated at a challenging time for Irish tourism. We really, truly appreciate your visit and would love to welcome you both back to Ireland at some point in the future.
This was my second tour with Vagabond. I did the 8 day Wild Rover tour in 2019 and planned to do this one last year, but of course, had to reschedule. I was a bit apprehensive due to Covid, but I didn't want to wait another year. Traveling solo, I knew I'd be in great hands with Vagabond, but this tour exceeded my expectations by 1000%!
Leading up to the tour, the communication and Covid updates from Vagabond were excellent. There were some travel restrictions announced right before my tour, and Rob Rankin, the owner of Vagabond, personally answered my emails, assuring me that all was well.
The tour began at the Grand Canal Hotel in Dublin early on Sunday morning. I was greeted by Rob Rankin, and was so impressed that he took the time to see everyone off. One of the great things about Vagabond is the 4x4 vans they use, which really do go off the beaten path, far from the large tour buses. There was only one other couple on my tour and our guide, Andrew was warm and funny right from the start. I had emailed Emma at Vagabond about my ancestry prior to the tour; my 6th great grandfather, Patrick McSherry was born in Newry in 1725 and I had asked whether we'd be driving through there on our first day. She replied that it wasn't a scheduled stop, but that she would mention it to our guide. Andrew kindly took the time to go into the town and gave me extra time to visit a cathedral, which was coincidentally named St. Patrick's! That was just the start of an amazing week. He went SO far above and beyond on every step of the tour, from booking lunch and dinner every day, to hiking with us and booking activities that we wanted to do. He was funny (I laughed til I cried!), kind and caring, and incredibly knowledgeable on the history of every town and place we visited. His stories and fables kept us entertained, which I loved hearing. He even knew the history of the wells of St. Patrick that we visited.
It's hard to say what my favorite part of the tour was...every day was fantastic and a new adventure! The tragic history of Northern Ireland was so interesting. Andrew suggested a great hike at the Giants Causeway, which took us up to cliffs overlooking the ocean. He arranged for us to kayak in Sheepshaven Bay in Dunfanaghy, which was amazing! I loved Donegal and Slieve League. On the last day, we all hiked Croagh Patrick, with beautiful views of Clew Bay.
If you’re looking for a small group tour that’s adventurous, takes you to places no other tour company does, want to have a ton of fun and learn the history and wonderful fables of Ireland, then I can’t recommend Vagabond highly enough. I will surely return for tour #3!
Thanks a MILLION to Vagabond for being the BEST tour company in Ireland AND to Andrew, for the MOST wonderful week in Ireland that I ever could’ve imagined!
Thank You So Much Jane!
Not only for you incredibly-worded 5 star review but also for your continued support for Vagabond Tours through this challenging era for tourism.
We are so delighted that you were patient with us, waited through your cancelled tour last year and stuck with us to tour Ireland again in September.
You had a gem of a tour guide in Andrew. One of our goals is to be as flexible as we can out on the road. I'm particularly happy to hear that he was able to bring you to a site of your family heritage in Newry.
I was satisfied that my schedule allowed me to personally see off our tours this year and to answer your concerns directly by email. We aim to be offer direct and personalised service wherever possible.
Hopefully we will see you again soon back in Ireland - for your third tour!