Dana, a member of the Grand European Travel team, traveled to Ireland on a Guided Vacation this past summer. She shares her experiences of the Emerald Isle below.
I have been lucky so far in my life to have traveled to many countries in Europe and throughout the world and have to admit Ireland is now one of my favorites. I was overwhelmed by the beauty of the country. From the lush emerald hills of Yeats country that bring his poetry to life, to the scenic vistas of the ring of Kerry, to the barren Burren, I loved it all. The people were also extremely friendly, there’s nothing like stepping into an Irish pub for a pint and being welcomed by a smile and friendly conversation.
The tour began in Dublin. I booked an extra night at the beginning (something I highly recommend) so that I could see a bit more of Dublin. Our hotel was right by Trinity College and Grafton Street so I could walk on my own to many of the sights and sounds of the city. I found Dublin to be a vibrant city with something going on around every corner. There were street performers well into the evening on Grafton Street and the restaurants and pubs literally spill out onto the street at night.
Once we departed Dublin, we headed for the countryside. As I mentioned before, there was a breathtaking site at every turn. Then it was off to Killarney, where we had the chance to explore the city center in a jaunting car!
It was in Killarney that I started staying in some of the most amazing hotels that I have ever experienced. Whether it was The Malton Manor in Killarney or one of the three castles we stayed in, I was amazed at the luxury and by the quality of the food. These accommodations were a step up even from first class, many felt like four and five star hotels and the meals were always three or four course gourmet meals.
Many people have asked me what my favorite part of the trip was. My favorite castle was Ballynahinch Castle, with its winding hallways and hunting lodge feel. It seemed the closest to castle life you can get, but with modern day luxuries. The grounds were extensive too, with the original castle from the 14th century still standing in the middle of the lake and many pathways and fishing platforms for diehard fly fishermen.
My favorite area was Sligo, where the poet Yeats lived, with its boggy countryside, fjords and lush green hills. And lastly, my favorite activity was dining and enjoying the companionship of my fellow travelers.
I saw a lot on this tour, covered a lot of ground and enjoyed every minute of it. When I bid farewell to Ireland, I promised myself I would go back and visit again.
Have you been to Ireland? What were your impressions of the Emerald Isle?