Sponsored by Globus Journeys
20 years ago, I lived in Dublin for 12-months with Caroline not long after we got married, and to this day the year 2003 holds some of our most cherished life and travel memories. My recent 8-day Ireland tour brought those memories flooding back!
Ireland, it might be a small island, but it packs a big punch with rich history, breathtaking landscapes, pubs on every street, and welcoming people whose primary focus is being friendly and having good craic (That’s Irish for a good time).
I fell in love with the Irish culture and its rich history, the rugged coastline, the vibrant cities and small towns, the castles, and the green rolling countryside. It’s called The Emerald Isle for a reason!
Living in Ireland is when I acquired the taste of Guinness (still my favorite beer) and my love of Irish pubs – in my opinion, Ireland and the UK has the best pub scene in the world bar none!
As for food, I wouldn’t classify Ireland as a foodie destination, but I love the good hearty meals Ireland dishes up. A few of my favorite dishes like Beef & Guinness Stew, Cod n’ Chips, and traditional Irish Soda Bread – you just have to try it with Irish butter!
It’s hard to believe it took me 20 years to make a return trip to Ireland. If you had of told me in 2003 that it would be due to my own travel publication in partnership with one of the biggest tour companies in the world, Globus, I would have said, “good story, now get to the bar and buy me a Guinness!”
The only negative of this Ireland trip is that Caroline couldn’t join me, staying home with our two daughters in Raleigh, North Carolina, but she previously did a fantastic tour of Jordan with Globus.
I’ve seen first-hand how popular Ireland tourism is, especially for Americans whom we’d often meet touring around Ireland chasing their ancestral history.
My tour of Ireland with Globus in September was an 8-day tour called Green With Envy, starting from and returning to Dublin. It covered a nice mix top cities including Dublin and Galway, smaller towns like Westport, plus history, culture, the addictive pub scene, and the rugged coastline along the Wild Atlantic Way!
Below I share my highlights, comments, and photos from that tour, including a drink in Ireland’s oldest pub, standing on a dramatic cliff face 330 ft above the Atlantic, and enjoying plenty of good Craic with the locals.
If you’re interested in a tour of Ireland with all the fun, and none of the hassle, come with me as a take you on a tour with Globus, and learn why I enjoyed my first ever group tour that you can replicate!
About Globus Journeys
Globus is one of the biggest tour companies in the world, and they help travel lovers like you experience global destinations in a way that best suits your style!
After 90-plus years in business, they’re experts on group travel. They know how to get the most out of a destination within a set period of time and offer a wide range of tour options and price points to suit any taste.
Most of my travels the past 20-years have been independent, either traveling solo, with friends, as a couple with Caroline, or traveling as a family of four. Yes, I’ve done day trips with groups here and there, but never an 8-day organized tour like this on a big tour bus!
I must admit, my initial thought of spending so many days with a large group and the structure of a tour didn’t thrill me as I’ve been used to so much freedom!
I’m not antisocial by any means, I just don’t like too much structure and prefer flexibility. You hear of tours where they’re constantly checking in and out of hotels, or they spend the whole time driving in the tour bus. I was concerned a group tour might stifle me!
But I know how time consuming, overwhelming, and stressful independent travel can be to plan and book, like our recent 2-week family trip to London including Oxford and Bath which took MONTHS to organize! One of the most stressful things about traveling as a family is figuring out where to eat three meals a day, and how to structure each day with activities!
So the idea of just turning up in Ireland and having all the logistics taken care of for me, sounded like a refreshing change and quickly grew on me!
Turns out, I had nothing to worry about. I really liked the pace and flow of this tour. Never too rushed, and we took in the major destinations and attractions, with plenty of free time for independent exploration.
Some days were more structured than others, but I appreciated the numerous opportunities of free time to go off and explore on my own. And when I didn’t know what to do with my spare time, our expert Globus Tour Director Helen, an Irish local, offered great suggestions (more on her soon).
Introducing CHOICE TOURING!
One of the major benefits of touring with Globus is their concept of Choice Touring. When we visited Dublin, Galway and Westport they gave me the option to choose from three activities based on my interests so I wasn’t with the whole group the entire time.
But those activity choices were still organized by Globus, and were included in the overall tour package price, win-win!
I appreciated this form of touring, and I think you will too. You get a good mix of everything being structured as a whole group, with select activities more suited to individual interests!
I’m not aware of other Ireland bus tours offering this, and the best itinerary is a flexible itinerary!
Benefits of this Globus Tour!
I mentioned Helen, our amazing Tour Director and local expert who was friendly, approachable, patient and a wealth of knowledge.
She shared fascinating insights and stories during our tour of Ireland and the history behind the places we visited, organized our attraction tickets, checked us in at hotels, booked our meals, and made sure everyone was on time. Everyone needs a Helen on their travels!
I appreciated that our Tour Director was a native of Ireland, spoke Irish, and could share her personal stories growing up on the Emerald Isle!
Having the logistics taken care of by Globus (and Helen) is hard to understate. They make traveling easy. They can even help you book your flights!
My biggest responsibilities each day was simply turning up on time and deciding how many Guinness and Irish coffees to consume. It’s not easy, folks! What would you choose?
Here are some other benefits on this tour:
- Convenience. All I chose to take care of was my flights, they did the rest and made travel easy!
- 8 days is a good length of time. Ireland is not a big country, but it offers plenty and this Ireland tour did a good job of covering the top highlights, plus lesser-known destinations (you can always add on extra time before or after).
- I didn’t have to drive (or navigate). I’m usually the one behind the wheel on our family travels, so can often miss seeing the sites along the journey. It was so good being able to sit back and relax, and not having to worry about drinking a pint of Guinness, or a whiskey at lunch and then legally being able to drive. Our bus driver, Jurgen, did a fantastic job of getting us safely around!
- NOTE: I grew up driving on the left side of the road in Australia (as they do in Ireland), so if you’re from the US and this concerns you, Jurgen is your man!
- Big windows and comfy seats to take in all the scenery from our comfortable coach.
- Stayed in hand-selected, brand-name hotels.
- I wasn’t rushed taking photos. There’s a statistic that the average time spent at the Grand Canyon is 15-minutes. I felt we had plenty of time at the iconic spots like the Cliffs of Moher and Kylemore Abbey etc. I may have been last on the bus several times though, sorry Helen!
- Bond with new travel buddies. Exploring with like minded people adds to the experience, and sharing the day’s stories over a pint or meal is a fun way to recap the day!
- Most meals are taken care of. As I mentioned, this is such a time suck to plan when doing independent travel. On this trip we had 14 meals booked, including 5 dinners, 7 breakfasts, and 2 lunches included.
Arriving in Dublin (early)
Because of the number of delayed flights going on due to the hangover of the pandemic, I decided to arrive in Dublin two days before the start of my tour to give myself breathing room in case of flight delays or cancellations (which happened to several other tour guests).
You don’t want to miss the start of your tour, this is not independent travel where you can delay your rental car, there is a bus load of other tour guests leaving at a predetermined time!
I live in Raleigh, North Carolina and took a short flight to Washington DC, then flew directly from D.C. to Dublin on Aer Lingus.
If you are flying internationally, I highly recommend you give yourself an extra day up your sleeve, you don’t want to start your dream trip to Ireland stressed and in a state of panic!
Overnight at the Gibson Hotel (2 nights)
Our pre-tour hotel in Dublin was the Gibson Hotel located in the heart of the Docklands and right beside the 3arena (major entertainment venue).
As I highlighted, the benefit of doing a Globus Tour is convenience, and that started with a private airport transfer from Dublin Airport to the hotel, which I gladly appreciated after my sleepless overnight flight from DC in not having to mess around with public transport.
The modern features of the Gibson hotel, the nice hot shower and comfy bed served me well after my 7-hour flight and the hot buffet breakfast fueled me nicely each day.
I like to walk as much as I can, it’s the best way to explore a city and I enjoyed my 30-minute walk (1.6 miles) along the River Liffey into the city center from the hotel and found a great coffee shop enroute.
But if you don’t like to walk that far, the Luas (light rail system in Dublin) is right outside the front door of the hotel. The Point Station is the last stop on the Red Line. Ticket machines are located at every stop and a single return ticket is €3.00.
Alternatively, there are over 100 bus routes in Dublin so no matter where your hotel is located, you’re close to public transport.
2 Days in Dublin (pre-tour)
Because I flew in two days early, I had plenty of time to explore Dublin at my own leisure before joining my tour group. This is a great way to incorporate more independent travel into a group situation, either at the beginning or end, or both!
Thankfully, I was able to check-in to my hotel room early after my 8.30am arrival from DC, took a shower, got changed, then headed for the city center.
There are plenty of things to do in Dublin and it’s an easy city to get around. Most of the top Dublin attractions are within walking distance of each other. And of course, the hop-on-hop-off bus is a popular way to see the sites.
Walk along the River Liffey (+ Coffee)
The River Liffey passes through the center of Dublin and separates the Northside from the Southside, and most points of interest are on the southside!
Coffee almost always comes first for me these days, but since it’s been 20-years between visits I didn’t know what to expect. After a quick search online, I liked the sound of Shoe Lane Coffee on Tara street which was enroute from the hotel and just a 5-minute walk from Trinity College.
It’s a small, cozy coffee shop and my latte was actually really good. I pulled up a stool at the window to people watch, started to feel alive again, and it finally hit me that I was back in Dublin!
From here I took a walk around the grounds of Trinity College, Ireland’s oldest and famous University. Its alumni include some of the country’s most esteemed authors and poets.
The cobblestone streets transport you to the 18th century when the magnificent old Library Building was constructed. It’s a pleasant escape from the mad rush of the city that lies beyond its walls. Be sure to take a photo in front of the famous Trinity Bell.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t go inside the old library and see the Book of Kells as tickets were sold out for the day, but I’ve visited before and highly recommend it. Book your guided tour in advance.
Lunch at The Stags Head
From Trinity I took a short 5-minute stroll to The Stags Head, an old Victorian pub with wrought-iron chandeliers, polished granite and plenty of charm. It’s one of my favorite pubs in Dublin from when I lived there.
You’ll find a mix of locals and visitors here enjoying a true Dublin pub experience.
Considering I’d only had one hour’s sleep, I hesitated at buying a beer and initially focused on filling up with a hearty Beef & Guinness Stew (which would be my first of MANY on this trip).
But how could I resist a pint of Guinness (the “black stuff”) and my favorite beer? I reminded myself I was on vacation, and it had been a LONG time between pints. In case you don’t know, there’s nowhere like drinking Guinness than in its home of Dublin, it just tastes better – a study claims to scientifically prove that Guinness does not travel well, and the freshest Guinness is the best-tasting Guinness!
Lunch, and my Guinness, didn’t disappoint and was the perk up I needed. If you like Oysters, The Stags Head does a fantastic Guinness + Oysters combo and take it from me, they go well together!
Tummy full, I strolled up Grafton Street. This pedestrian street is the principal shopping street on the southside of Dublin lined with boutique stores, cafes, restaurants and buskers. At the top of the street (south end) you’ll run into beautiful St Stephen’s Green.
It’s a street I used to walk along every day when living in Dublin on my way to work at the Westin Hotel. Nothing much has changed, it’s still a bustling thoroughfare!
Continuing to stretch my legs, I headed towards Merrion Square via the outskirts of St Stephen’s Green (which I would return to the next morning).
This is one of Dublin’s beautiful Georgian squares surrounded by historically important buildings. On three sides are Georgian houses, predominantly used as offices and have plaques detailing the rich and famous who lived in them. Oscar Wilde lived at #1 and is honored by a state in the park here.
The houses of the Irish Government, the Natural History Museum and National Gallery of Ireland also sit along the square. I love all the colorful Georgian entrance doors to the buildings, and If you’re looking to see Dublin architecture at its finest, go here.
Temple Bar District
It was early evening now, so I headed towards the well-known and touristy Temple Bar District. This district thrives both day and night with pubs, live music, street performers, restaurants, markets, exhibitions, theaters and more.
The best-known pub is the namesake, The Temple Bar, easily recognized by its red exterior, fairy lights and hanging baskets. Other popular pubs here include the Quays Bar and Oliver St. John Gogarty’s (where Caroline once worked!).
All of the pubs have live music and tend to get crowded. I enjoyed a few pints in Quays Bar which was absolutely rocking with music and singing. If I didn’t know I was in Dublin by now, this sealed it.
8 Day Ireland Tour (Green With Envy)
Ready to explore Ireland? Follow me as we taste Whiskey, sip on Irish coffees and Guinness, discover the natural beauty, walk on ancient lands, and get wild on the Wild Atlantic Way!
Day 1 (welcome dinner)
I still had nearly a full-day free in Dublin before our welcome tour dinner that evening. And after catching up on some sleep, my second day in Dublin started like the first. A big breakfast, a walk along the Liffey, and back for more coffee at Shoe Lane!
Fueled up, I wandered through St Stephens Green with friends Dave & Lina. This is the largest of the Georgian Square parks which was one of my favorite places to visit in Dublin to sit and relax when living there.
It’s popular with visiting tourists, students and workers taking a break from a busy day at the office.
Another walk down memory lane was going for lunch at The Brazen Head, Dublin’s oldest pub that dates back to the 1100’s and where I celebrated my 30th birthday back in 2003.
A must-visit pub for history lovers and those looking for traditional pub food such as Bangers & Mash, authentic decor, and a look into Ireland’s pub culture. It’s also a good spot to try an Irish coffee!
It was time to meet our Globus Tour Director Helen, who I’ll elaborate more on later, and have our welcome dinner.
When you do this Green With Envy Tour, your welcome dinner location will be different, probably at your hotel, whereas ours was at the Roe & Co Distillery.
Aside from Guinness, Ireland is famous for that other beverage, Irish Whiskey, and we had a fun evening tasting and making Whiskey cocktails followed by a delicious meal.
If you love Whiskey and have free time in Dublin, I recommend you take a tour to learn about the history of the distillery and the distilling process. See more about the Roe & Co Distillery Cocktail Workshop here. Or combine your visit with a tour of three of Dublin’s top distilleries.
Day 2 (Dublin > Kilbeggan > Athlone > Westport)
Today was the day to hit the road on our Ireland tour. It was a refreshing change to know that all I had to do was get myself downstairs to breakfast in the hotel, then outside to the bus.
One of the other benefits of touring with Globus is they even collect your luggage from your room and load it onto the bus. Talk about convenience!
Guided tour of Kilbeggan Distillery
Just over an hour’s drive west of Dublin brought us to Kilbeggan, an Irish Whiskey distillery situated on the River Brosna in County Westmeath.
Established in 1757, it is the oldest licensed distillery in Ireland and during some tough times the town came together to save the distillery that built the town and they’ve been making Whiskey ever since!
Being the Irish way, it wasn’t yet midday and we were already tasting whiskey as we explored the history of the distillery learning about the families that owned it and how it is made.
Kilbeggan Whiskey is distilled twice instead of three times like other Irish Whiskeys, then aged in ex-bourbon casks for a minimum of four years. This process preserves more of its rich flavors, resulting in a flavor profile with more character than other whiskeys.
A short 30-minute drive on and we were in Athlone, a town located in central Ireland and built on the banks of the River Shannon.
With a short amount of free time, I enjoyed stretching my legs walking around town, taking a look at the 12th century Athlone Castle, wandering some back streets, and taking in the sights of the river.
Athlone has tons of history, including being home to Ireland’s oldest pub, Seans, that dates back just a few years to 900 AD (not a typo). During renovations in 1970, the walls of the bar were found to be made of “wattle and wicker” dating back to the ninth century.
Walking through the door into the pub with its low ceiling and low light, you instantly sense the history and character. We were treated to a fascinating talk about the pub as we sipped on an Irish Coffee, the beginning of an almost daily occurrence with no complaints from me!
It may be two months since this Ireland bus tour has ended, but I still find myself saying in my head, “Helen, when are we stopping for our daily Irish coffee?“
If you’ve never had an Irish Coffee, why not start here in possibly the oldest pub in the world (the Guinness Book of Records is yet to find one older).
In case you don’t know, the ingredients of an Irish Coffee are whiskey, hot coffee, brown sugar, and heavy cream lightly whipped on top. I attempt to make Irish coffees at home but can never get the cream to sit on top – the secret is the brown sugar to help the cream float.
Recently, Sean’s has become well known for its own whiskey. During their research, it was discovered that the very origin of distilling began around Athlone in the 6th century. I look forward to going back to Sean’s for a glass of whiskey, and of course, a pint of Guinness!
Lunch at The Bailey Bar & Lounge
We finished off our time in Athlone with lunch at The Bailey, which offers a good selection of typical Irish pub food. My Prime Roast Rib of Irish Hereford Beef with Yorkshire Pudding tasted as good as it looks and paired perfectly with a pint of the “black stuff”.
The staff were attentive and friendly, even offering me the chance to take a fun photo behind the bar pulling my own beer!
Arriving in Westport
What a charming and inviting town Westport is. I remember passing through here in 2003 on my lap around the Emerald Isle and it makes for a great base to explore the Wild Atlantic Way, but is a destination in itself.
Our first of two nights in Westport was rather quiet with dinner at our hotel, Coveys Gastrobar, a New York Italian inspired Bar and Restaurant.
Overnight at the Westport Plaza Hotel
Located in the heart of Westport, you’re literally steps away from shops, restaurants, and Westport House. This 4-star hotel is a lovely place to stay with large rooms and a quality bar and restaurant for breakfast and dinner.
Day 3 (Westport > Achill Island)
Today was the first day of tour where I got to choose one of the YourChoice Excursions, the activity of most interest to me from the following three choices:
- Achill Island – explore Ireland’s largest island along the Wild Atlantic Way.
- Guided e-bike tour – get away from the crowds and enjoy the natural beauty of Westport with an easy, breezy guided e-bike tour.
- Soda bread-baking class – test the tradition of Irish soda bread-baking and enjoy insight into Irish food culture, its history and heritage.
I chose Achill Island. Besides the pub scene and history, what I love most about Ireland is the natural beauty.
Discovering Achill Island
Before joining this Globus tour, I wasn’t familiar with Achill Island. When I lived in Dublin, we explored the famous Ring of Kerry and Dingle Peninsula which are stunningly beautiful.But they are both heavily visited, especially the Ring of Kerry as the road on the Dingle Peninsula can’t be navigated by the big tour buses!
What I loved about our tour of Achill Island, besides its stunning landscapes, is that we basically had the island all to ourselves!
Achill Island is situated about an hour’s drive from Westport. It is one of the jewels in the crown of Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way and known for soaring sea cliffs, rugged mountains, lakes, huge and ever-changing Atlantic skies, and clean beaches including iconic Keem Bay.
After departing Westport, the first stop was for our routine Irish Coffee fix at Alice’s Harbour Bar & Restaurant, just across the bridge at Achill Sound.
The morning drive continued and provided stunning views of the rugged coastline and sea cliffs, and with our knowledgeable tour guide Helen knowing the scenic spots for photographs, we stopped at some of the best vantage points for views, even the locals (sheep) joined us for a few photos!
Lunch was taken at Gielty’s Bar & Restaurant, the most westerly pub in Europe. I chose well with a humongous Beef & Guinness Stew, washed down with a Smithwicks Irish Ale.
The highlight of our Achill Island day trip was undoubtedly Keem Bay, at the western end of the island. I don’t normally expect to see beautiful beaches in Ireland, but I now know why it’s recognized as one of the most picturesque bays in Ireland.
The Strand (beach) at Keem Bay is bordered on two sides by cliffs, and has been named as one of the most beautiful beaches in Europe.
This was our longest stop of our day, and we took the opportunity to walk down the windy road onto the sand and the elevated rocks bordering the bay for a close up look at the picturesque water and to feel engulfed by the sea cliffs.
Arriving back into Westport mid-afternoon allowed ample time to explore on foot. It’s a lovely town to wander and take in the colorful shop fronts on Bridge Street and stroll across the Stone bridges that are a feature as they span the waters of the Carrowbeg River.
Other points of interest include The Clock Tower, an art deco–style landmark, and the St. Patrick Statue sits in a picturesque square.
A short 20-minute walk brings you to Westport House, a 400-year-old Historic House and one of the few privately-owned historic houses left in Ireland. We didn’t tour inside, but I still recommend you enjoy the beauty and grandeur of the estate from the grounds and forest trails.
Dinner at J.J. O’malley’s
Take your pick of several restaurants in town, we were guided to J.J O’malley’s Bar & Restaurant by Helen and my Flame grilled Sirloin Steak with vegetables was fantastic!
Live Music at The Porter House
Wander into almost any pub in Ireland for the chance to hear traditional live music, and one of my favorite things about exploring Ireland.
The Porter House in the heart of Westport is renowned for its nightly live traditional Irish music sessions. Cozy and inviting to both locals and visitors alike, this was one of my most memorable moments from our Ireland tour as the local musicians, and clientele in the pub, sang along to some classic tunes.
A visiting Italian guy interrupted the set to propose to his girlfriend in front of the whole pub, then proceeded to shout 30-pints of Guinness on the bar. It extended our night by a few tunes, what’s a Guinness lover to do?
Day 4 (Westport > Kylemore Abbey > Galway)
The misty weather set the mood for our visit to Kylemore Abbey, one of Ireland’s top tourist attractions located just over an hour from Galway.
Kylemore Castle was built in the late 1800s by Mitchell Henry MP, a wealthy businessman. Inspired by his love for his wife Margaret, and his hopes for his beloved Ireland, Henry created an estate boasting ‘all the innovations of the modern age’.
Today Kylemore Abbey is owned and run by the Benedictine community who have been in residence since 1920.
Entrance tickets are included in your Globus Tour, and I enjoyed my time on a self-guided walk to explore the woodland and lakeshore walks, the rooms of the magnificent mansion, and the property also features a 6-acre Victorian Walled Garden, Ireland’s largest walled garden.
On-site is a Café and Garden Tea House, a nice spot to enjoy a warming soup, soda bread and coffee. Also serving a wide selection of sandwiches, artisan breads, wraps, and pastries.
Arriving in Galway
Next stop was Galway. This laid back yet fun city really knows how to party and there’s possibly no better place in Ireland to have some craic and take in live traditional music from one of its lively pubs.
Galway is also known as a top destination for festivals such as the Galway Oyster Festival, the Galway Arts Festival, and the Galway Film Festival. No matter what time of year, you can find culture, arts and history around every corner, including the popular Galway City Museum.
We arrived around midday with some free time to explore before our afternoon of YourChoice Excursions.
A group of us took a stroll along Quay Street, a pedestrian street in the Latin Quarter and a lively place filled with shops, markets, restaurants and of course, pubs. Rain or shine, you’ll encounter buskers, and it’s just a fun street to pass an hour or so.
For classic Fish & Chips, McDonahs is the spot for lunch. They’ve been satisfying locals and visitors since 1902. This casual and affordable eatery offers a variety of fish dishes and are also well known for their oysters. I went with Cod ‘n Chips and half a dozen fresh oysters!
In Galway, our Choice Excursions included the following two activities for us to pick from:
- Walking tour of Galway – learn of its history and main attractions.
- Food Tour – discover Galway’s best eateries.
Walking Tour of Galway
This was a tough choice for me as I love to eat the local food whenever I travel, but I decided to go with the walking tour.
Led by Helen, our Globus Tour Director and expert Ireland tour guide (she’s a Galway girl), our walk started in Eyre Square, Galway’s main public space and the original town green. In the 2000s it became a modern plaza and one of the newer works of art is the Quincentennial Fountain with an abstract depiction of one of Galway’s typical “Hooker”, sailboats.
There’s a bronze cast statue of Pádraic Ó Conaire, one of Ireland’s foremost Irish-language writers, and Eyre Square is also known as John F. Kennedy Memorial Park in honor of JFK’s speech in the square on 29 June 1963, the first U.S. president to do so during his term of office.
The rest of our walking tour took in Lynch’s Castle (home to an AIB Bank making it the oldest building still in commercial use in Ireland), St. Nicholas Collegiate Church, and other statues and murals while learning fascinating history about this medieval city.
Our tour ended with dinner at The Kings Head, a building that has been standing tall for over 800 years. Potato & Leek Soup, followed by another Beef & Guinness Stew (I know), capped off a lovely afternoon and evening!
Those that participated in the foodie tour raved about it. In my experience food tours can be very hit and miss, but by all reports this one was well worth it.
Overnight – Maldron Hotel Galway (2 nights)
Our two night stay in Galway was at the Maldron Hotel, a 25-minute walk from the city center or an easy 10-minute bus ride.
This 4-star modern hotel was another pleasant stay with spacious and comfortable rooms, and your typical large hot buffet Irish breakfast was awaiting us each morning!
Day 5 – Aran Islands Day Trip from Galway (Inishmore Island)
It felt like we stepped back in time on the Aran Islands, a group of three islands located at the mouth of Galway Bay.
These islands are important elements of Celtic culture for their geological formation, historical monuments and their linguistic and cultural heritage, and are home to a high number of ruins and sacred sites.
Inishmore (Inis Mór) is the largest of the islands (also known as Big Island) and where we explored after taking a 30-minute passenger ferry ride from the Ros a’ Mhíl Terminal.
To get around Inishmore, options include bike rental (watch out for wind and rain), Horse and Cart, or a mini-bus tour. As part of our Green With Envy Globus Tour, our private Mini-bus tour was included, and it was nice to step off the ferry and not having to worry about approaches from other outfitters!
But first, lunch, in another pub, a short walk up the hill from the ferry terminal. Joe Watty’s Bar had a spread of soup and sandwiches waiting for our group, a musician entertained us, and we heard from a local about life on the island before we set off to explore.
Our min-bus guide provided commentary as he navigated the windy roads past beaches (Kilmurvey Beach looked picturesque), and took in the rugged landscape, stone walls and cottages.
The Seven Churches (the old ruins of Na Seacht dTeampaill)
First stop was at The Seven Churches, which was for centuries one of the biggest monastic foundations and centers of pilgrimage in the west of Ireland dating back to the 7th or 8th century.
Despite its name, there are only two churches on site, ‘Teampall Bhreacán’ and ‘Teampall an Phoill’. The largest and most complete of the ruins is St. Breacan’s Church which bears the name of a saint that moved to the area in the 5th century and still features ornate stonework.
Surrounding the churches are the ruins of what are believed to have been a number of monastic dwellings which pilgrims would have stayed in, old graveyards and Celtic headstones.
The Irish word Dún means fort, and the Aran Islands are famous for their stone forts. One of the highlights of this Ireland tour was visiting Dún Aonghasa, a prehistoric Celtic hill fort perched at the edge of a 330 ft cliff.
Over 3,000 years old, this is an important archaeological site and deemed to be one of the best examples of its kind in Europe.
To visit the semi-circular stone fort involves a short up-hill hike, but once you reach the fort, the views overlooking the Atlantic Ocean are breathtaking, now one of my favorite places to visit in Ireland, up there with the views from the Cliffs of Moher (see down below).
Part of the hike is over rough ground, so wear appropriate footwear. And please stay back from the edge, you can get fantastic photos without putting yourself in danger!
While waiting for our ferry to depart back to Galway, we had time to sneak in a beer at the pub near the pier, simply called The Bar.
Live Music at Quays Bar
The day wasn’t over just yet. Any chance I can get, I’ll step inside an Irish pub for a pint of Guinness and to listen to live traditional music, and this night ended up being my favorite night of our Ireland trip.
Accompanied by fellow travel buddies, Dave and Lina from Divergent Travels, and Jon from My Global Viewpoint, we ventured inside the iconic Quays Bar, and like its namesake in Dublin is one of the most popular pubs in Galway for live music and good craic!
We scored a table near the stage, ordered a round of drinks (which led to several rounds of drinks), and thoroughly enjoyed the two live bands who had the whole pub singing and dancing the night away with original songs and classic covers (Zombie by the Cranberries is forever in my head!)
You can’t visit Ireland without at least one night in an Irish pub, and you can’t go wrong in Galway at the Quays Bar!
Day 6 (Galway > Cliffs of Moher > Rathbaun Farm > Dublin)
Cliffs Of Moher
Any tour of Ireland along the Wild Atlantic Way is not complete without a stop at the Cliffs of Moher, the second most visited of the places in Ireland (behind the Guinness Storehouse).
The vertical soft shale and sandstone cliffs rise 214m (over 700 ft) above the ocean and run along the coast of County Clare for almost 14 kilometers (8 miles).
Formed over 320 million years ago, they are a part of the Burren and Cliffs of Moher UNESCO Global Geopark, and standing at the top on a clear day provides for spectacular views of the Atlantic!
Since my previous visit in 2003, there are now paved pathways with a safety fence to explore different vantage points (it gets windy here). There’s also an on-site visitors center that’s dug into the hillside minimizing visual impact.
Driving through The Burren was almost like driving on another planet, the moon-like scenery is like nothing else in Ireland.
We were greeted with views of miles of barren limestone rock as they tumbled down to the ocean, stopping once for photos and to take a closer look.
Another local experience traveling around Ireland we had was a visit to Rathbaun Farm, a traditional Irish sheep farm that began with a warm welcome and lunch inside a 250-year-old thatched cottage – I would love another one of those scones with jam and freshly whipped cream right about now!
Stepping outside, we were given an interesting insight into life on the farm, fed the lambs, and given a live demonstration on how Fintan, the farmer, is currently training a young Border Collie to round up sheep!
This is not an experience I normally would have researched and planned, nor had access to without being on this tour, another example of the benefits of doing tours of Ireland with Globus.
Returning to Dublin
Back to Dublin we went, and we were given three more YourChoice options to choose from:
- Literary Pub Crawl
- Guinness Storehouse Tour
- Taylors Three Rock (Irish song and dance)
Probably not surprising to you, I chose the Guinness Storehouse, which the whole tour group ended up doing. Therefore, we got to choose between the other two. I went with the Taylors Three Rock Cabaret show.
Taylors Three Rock
A night of traditional Irish song and dance held inside Ireland’s largest thatched roof pub is what you get at Taylors Three Rock.
Drinks downstairs in Three Rock Pub kicked off the evening before we headed upstairs to the large hall where award winning Irish dancers and musicians entertained us as we dined on a three-course meal capped with an Irish coffee, because, Ireland!
Don’t expect a 5-star meal here, they’re feeding hundreds all at once and the focus is on the show, and all up, it was a lively evening of Irish entertainment filled with laughter and singing!
Overnight – The Samuel Hotel
We switched hotels for our second stay in Dublin, this time at The Samuel Hotel, a stylish 4-star hotel not too far from The Gibson Hotel on the north side of the Liffey with the Luas red line stopping directly outside.
Again, our accommodation was more than adequate with a buffet hot breakfast available each morning – I miss a lot of things about Ireland, add full-Irish breakfast to that list!
Day 7 (Dublin)
Morning Orientation Drive
A morning drive around Dublin city in our Globus tour bus with Helen providing expert commentary started our final day of this trip to Ireland.
We took in O’Connell Street, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and Trinity College. If you didn’t explore the city pre-tour like I did, this is a good way to get your bearings!
Guinness Storehouse Tour
I think you know me by now, and will hear me when I say there’s no better way to finish off a fantastic Ireland tour and trip to Dublin than at the home of Guinness!
The Guinness Storehouse is the number one visited tourist attraction of Ireland, so it definitely should be on your list of things to do in Dublin, as Guinness is a big part of what makes up the culture of Ireland.
When I said there’s no better place to drink Guinness than in Ireland, well, the best pint of velvety black sout is probably poured at the Storehouse facility at the historic St. James’s Gate Brewery – you can’t get any fresher than here!
The 7-story museum gives a fascinating insight into the history of Ireland’s favorite drink, how it is made, the 6-step ritual behind the perfect pour, and the influence it has over the world. And you might as well visit the place that is responsible for that strange malty hoppy smell that can be smelt all over the city.
Afterward, don’t miss going to the 7th-floor Gravity Bar to drink in the 360 degree city views as you try a perfect pint of the “black stuff”. If you haven’t tasted Guinness yet, it’s one of the unmissable things to do in Ireland.
Here’s your last chance. Sláinte!
One last group dinner at Ryleigh’s Rooftop Grill on the sixth floor of The Mayson Hotel overlooking the River Liffey gave us all the chance to recap and share our favorite moments from our tour of Ireland. My steak and calamari dishes were more than satisfying!
Writing this blog post brings back many memorable moments and has me inspired to see even more of Ireland. Next year is a big birthday milestone for me, the big 50, and I have an Ireland road trip (and UK) penciled in as part of that celebration!
I hope this article gave you insights into what it’s like to explore Ireland and a taste of group travel with Globus. If the idea of doing a group tour in Ireland that offers a good mix of structure and free time, definitely consider this 8-day Green With Envy tour!
And as far as Ireland tour packages go, the value is hard to beat. You can experience all this starting from $2,629 which is great value when you factor in the 7 nights of accommodation, 14 meals, entrance tickets to attractions, and transport over 8-days! See prices here.
If you have any questions about traveling to Ireland, or doing a tour with Globus Journeys, please leave me a comment below.