The Emerald Isle shone bright in glorious fall sunshine as 17 savvy travelers (most from SaddleBrooke) experienced the beauty and history in a fun-filled 13-day escorted tour through Ireland. The locals told us that the 12 days of great weather we experienced was their summer! And while The European Travel Club cannot take any credit for the sunshine, we will take some for the rest!
We began our three day stay in a converted castle just outside Dublin and were welcomed by the property’s two resident peacocks and a splendid dinner. The highlight of the day, though, was a welcome by Dublin’s Lord Mayor (from 2011) and a private visit to Mansion House, his official residence. Our first full day of guided touring included visits to Trinity College and the Farmleigh Estate, located on 78 acres of lovely grounds inside Phoenix Park. Our second day featured visits to Malahide Castle, the Jeanie Johnston tall ship and an evening of food, folklore and fairytales in Dublin’s oldest pub, The Brazen Head. After three days we headed west in brilliant sunshine for a lunch cruise on the River Shannon before arriving in one of Ireland’s prettiest towns, Westport, County Mayo. Another relaxing three night stay allowed us to leisurely explore the area and include memorable visits to a Heritage Center, an Abbey and another cruise – this one on Ireland’s largest fjord. From Westport we headed south, stopping at Celtic Crystal for a demonstration of cutting glass (and a chance to purchase some remarkable, unique crystal!) and then (via Bunratty Castle) to the Foynes Flying Boat Museum where we all learned how (for a brief period) this tiny village became the center of the world’s aviation industry – and how to make a real Irish Coffee! Another three night stay (in a charming, family-run boutique hotel in Killarney) again allowed us all to relax and explore, which we did with a full day on the spectacular Dingle Peninsula and a full day to do what we wanted in Killarney. (One guest even climbed Ireland’s highest mountain!) Everyone’s highlight here was an amazing performance by eight talented singers, musicians and dancers – Celtic Steps. Our final three nights was spent in one of Ireland’s most luxurious country house hotels – Carton House – and to get to it we visited Blarney (Castle and Woolen Mills) and the Rock of Cashel, arguably Ireland’s holiest site. Highlights of our last two days were a visit to the Irish National Stud and the lovely Japanese Gardens, the Tullamore Whiskey Distillery and a cooking class at Cooks Academy, Dublin’s leading cookery institution! A gourmet farewell dinner brought our Irish adventure to a fitting close. And as we were about to catch our bus for Dublin airport, Rory McIlroy arrived at the hotel to play 18 holes on the championship course that surrounds Carton House! No! We won’t take any credit for that either!
The European Travel Club is now offering SaddleBrooke residents other unique escorted small group programs including Turkey in April 2016, Slovenia and Croatia in May 2016, the West Country of England and the Island of Guernsey in September 2016, and (because of the success of Ireland) another Irish adventure in October 2016. We should take full advantage of this freedom before ETIAS Visa comes into play. Currently, Americans can visit any part of Europe whenever they like but soon we will have to get a visa to be able to travel to 26 different countries in Europe. For further information please contact me at [email protected] Happy travels, everyone!