Tour of Ireland
Ireland is home away from home for us at JetSetPilot Travel, and we love nothing more than to craft the perfect Irish experience for our clients as well.
Jeff and Kathleen contacted us in the fall of 2016 looking to plan a family vacation to Ireland, after previously joining our group trip in 2015 to Dublin for the Penn State vs University of Central Florida football game. They were looking to travel in the summer 2017 and this time they would have their daughter Natalie join the fun!
Jeff, Kathleen and Natalie enjoyed a total of 9 nights in 5 amazing hotels:
- Shelbourne Hotel, Dublin
- Culloden Estate and Spa, Belfast
- New Park Hotel, Kilkenny
- G Hotel, Galway
- Powerscourt Hotel, Wicklow Mountains
While careful to not over plan, we did make sure to reserve a few excursions along the way.
A self guided tour of Dublin via The Dublin Pass allowed the family to enjoy the flexibility of hop on hop off buses as well as passes to the Guinness Store House and Jameson Distillery Tour.
If you’re going to be in Dublin for more than one day be sure and get the pass for more than one day – while a great way to see specific sites, it’s also a great way to get around the city!
For Jeff and Kathleen, this was their second trip to Ireland and they were excited to visit a few stops which they had not visited previously. In Belfast there is a very popular Game of Thrones Tour that for fans of the show, cannot be missed!
Kathleen and Natalie are both avid GOT fans – I am not! However the tour was fantastic. Our guide, Adrian, is actually an “extra” in the TV series so he brought a lot of colorful anecdotes to our tour. We not only saw quite a few sites but he explained how the film crew worked and how the actual filming took place (ie. one 13 second scene took 6 hours to film in frigid water with wet suits under dresses and frogmen to assist, etc.). Giant’s Causeway is part of this and it is a must see! A geological wonder that you would swear was made by man – it wasn’t. I highly recommend this tour.
We weren’t sure what to expect in Belfast. It turned out to be one of the highlights of the trip! Not only was the Culloden Estate and Spa (located 6 miles north of the city) one of our favorite properties EVER, but they have a train station AND a bus stop ‘on property’! How convenient is that! Belfast is a beautiful city with a ton of history – both good and not-so-good…
While in Belfast be sure to see two things: The Titanic Musuem is a must-see! Such a big part of American history the exhibit really spells out how important the shipyards were to Belfast and the sheer logistics that went into building Titanic. You really have to see how this ship was constructed. Unfortunately, we all know how this story ends but the events leading up to the launch will open your eyes!
At the recommendation of a waiter at lunch (craic) we hopped a Black Cab Tour of Belfast. This tour takes you back to the “Troubles” in Belfast and the horrible history of that time. Our driver and guide, Micky, was part of it all and actually spent 12 years in prison. We toured the wall city, signed the wall and saw many of the amazing murals from that time. This tour is amazing and everyone should do it once – it will open your eyes and is a great way to learn about the “Troubles”.
Kilkenny is a perfect stop while traveling from Dublin to Galway (or Killarney or Cork, if you are headed that way). It highlights Kilkenny Castle, authentic pubs and a great downtown.
A great way to experience the Cliffs of Moher, Jeff, Kathleen and Natalie hopped on the Doolin Ferry and took in the views from below as they cruised along the shoreline.
The town of Doolin is adorable and the tour was fantastic. However, I’m a sailor and the seas were rougher than rough. Unless you’re very comfortable in rough seas in a medium sized boat this tour is not for you. Call ahead to see if the seas are calm or rough – if the latter this tour is not for the feint of heart… I can’t wait to go back!!! We’ve seen the Cliffs from the ‘top’ and ‘bottom’ now. If you have a queasy stomach, view it from the ‘top’!
Galway, Galway, Galway – did I say Galway? After two visits to Ireland, this has become our favorite city on many levels! Sheer fun, people watching, food, music, pubs… No one is not your friend in Galway and I was amazed at how easy conversations began and continued. A fellow names Donl sat down next to me while I was waiting to have dinner with Kathleen and Natalie and ended up joining us for dinner! What a great guy!! We met up with a friend of Natalie’s from San Francisco who just happened to be in Galway at the same timie. We had dinner at Kai (used to have a Michelin star and deserves another. Farm to table food that rivals (if not better than) Sonoma, CA. That’s saying a lot. Music and street performers everywhere! Pubs are everywhere and some are tiny and obviously locals-oriented (but they welcomed us with open arms). Such a great street scene, very casual and laid back. We want to go back tomorrow!
Donl (craic) told us about the Irish National Stud & Gardens in Kildare. Not part of our plans but Natalie is an avid rider and it was on the way to Wicklow so we stopped by. If you’re into horses this place is beautiful. One of the top horse/stud farms in the world. The grounds alone are worth the visit. Lots of great horse history!
Our last night was spent at the Powerscourt Hotel in Wicklow. Beautiful property but one night doesn’t give it justice!
For transportation to each stop, Jeff, Kathleen and Natalie chose both the rail and as well as a rental car.
We lovingly refer to this trip as our: “Trains, Boats and Planes and Busses, and Cars, and Carriages Tour”. We did it all! The car, OH the car. Pick up was interesting! We had no time to get used to driving on the left side of the road from the right-side driver’s seat! We picked our car up on a “live” street in Dublin so we got right into it. I had a love affair with the passenger side of our Ford Fusion! We nipped a number of bushes (lavender) and ‘bumped’ a few curbs. When you get off the highways, the roads are narrow – all of them. I especially liked the one lane bridge in Kildare that went uphill – so you couldn’t see oncoming cars. No warning and no right of way!! It was stressful but adventurous – not sure I would rent a car again. Kathleen navigated and you need a navigator. She was a trooper and white-knuckled it throughout! A manual shift might have been way too much to have to think about… Skip that!
We can confidently say from experience that the hotels, greener than green landscapes and endless excursion options are reason enough to bump Ireland to the top of your bucket list, but we have our own top 5 list of reasons to experience the wonders of Ireland:
5 – It can all be summed up with a pint and some craic (google it)
4 – Where else can you stay in a Castle for a reasonable price?
3 – They know how to properly pour a pint of Guinness (and will teach you too)
2 – Really. Good. Whiskey.
1 – It’s the friendly people of Ireland who make it worth going back again, and again