DAY 1 | TUESDAY, AUGUST 31, 2021Depart from Boston Logan International Airport on an overnight flight bound for Shannon, Ireland. Select meals, snacks, and refreshments will be served on board the flight. Enjoy reading through the great tips and travel information in your American Expeditions tour handbook!
DAY 2 | WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 1, 2021
Arrive in Shannon, your American Expeditions tour manager will greet NHPBS travelers at the airport.
Together with your NHPBS ambassador, load your waiting motor coach and begin your exploration of Ireland! From the Shannon Airport, transfer to nearby Bunratty Castle and Folk Park. One of the most complete and authentic medieval castles in Ireland, Bunratty Castle was built in 1425 and was restored in 1954. On the castle grounds, you’ll discover Bunratty Folk Park, where 19th-century life is vividly recreated on the park’s 26 acres. Enjoy the opportunity to stretch your legs after your journey as you stroll the grounds, wandering from house to house around the charming village complete with a school, post office, doctor’s home, hardware shop—and of course, the pub! Take a moment to enjoy some Irish tea and scones made on site.
Travel through beautiful County Kerry to the town of Killarney, located on the shores of Lough Leane. Located in the southern part of the County, Killarney is a sweet town full of cozy pubs and shops selling locally made handicrafts. It is a perfect starting point for exploring some of Ireland’s most beautiful natural attractions.
Check in to the Killarney Plaza Hotel and join your tour manager on an optional orientation walk of the town, which established itself as a local center when a Franciscan monastery was built in 1448. The downtown is charming and walkable, and you’ll soon have a good grasp of the layout of your first Irish home base. Dinner will be arranged for the group in a local restaurant serving Irish specialties, as Willem regales us with stories, and our guide previews the days ahead with your Tour Manager, NHPBS Ambassador, and fellow travelers.
DAY 3 | THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 2, 2021
Have breakfast in the hotel dining room, then board your motor coach and depart for a day of discovery on the Wild Atlantic Way.
Some of the finest coastal scenery to be found in Ireland lies in West Kerry, on the Dingle Peninsula, the most northern of Kerry’s peninsulas. This area is noted for its Celtic monuments and early Christian churches and is a Gaeltacht area, where the Irish language and traditional ways of life are preserved. As you travel on the spectacular road around the Peninsula, passing through a chain of mountains called Slieve Mish, your local guide will share insight on the region, where people have made their home for over 6,000 years. The area is blessed with never-ending sandy beaches, Ireland’s highest mountain pass, and no shortage of enchanting scenery.
In this section of Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way, you’ll make your way along the Iveragh Peninsula and the MacGillycuddy Reeks, Ireland’s highest mountain range. Pass Inch, a long beach bordered by dunes, en route to Dingle town, a thriving fishing village, and Ireland’s westernmost town. Continue along the coast to Slea Head, where the blue of the marine landscape surrounds the Blasket Islands.
Stop at the Blasket Island Centre, on the tip of the Dingle Peninsula. This heritage center honors the unique community that lived on the now deserted remote Blasket Islands. The Blasket Centre tells the story of island life, subsistence fishing, farming, and traditional life including modes of work and transport, home life, housing, and entertainment. The Centre details the community’s struggle for existence, their language and culture, and the extraordinary literary legacy they left behind, including classics like The Islandman, Twenty Years A-Growing, and Peig.
Continue by boat to the Great Blasket Island, now uninhabited by man, but home to a huge number of breeding seabirds, grey seals, and a few friendly dolphins. Visit the deserted village and perhaps take a short hike around the quiet island.
After immersing yourself in the Centre’s interactive displays, exhibitions, artifacts, artwork, and audio-visual presentations, and exploring Great Blasket Island, continue to the Dingle Whiskey Distillery.
In 2017, Dingle Distillery became the first independent Irish distillery to release a single pot still whiskey for decades. This is a signal of the resurgence of the Irish whiskey industry, which suffered a period of severe decline in the 20th century, with most of the country’s distilleries closing, and those remaining in operation amalgamating under the ownership of Irish Distillers. In the 1980s, only two distilleries were operating in Ireland. Dingle was the fifth when it opened in 2012—now, there are nearly 20.
It released its first bottles of whiskey in late 2016 since, by Irish law, a spirit must be matured for at least three years to be called “whiskey.” Enjoy a visit to the distillery, learn about how the Dingle Distillery team achieves the unique flavors that can be found in its spirits, and how the revitalization of craft distilling is impacting the Irish economy, and of course enjoy a taste or two.
Return to Killarney and enjoy a free evening.
DAY 4 | FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 3, 2021
After breakfast, board your motor coach and transfer to nearby Killarney National Park. Here, tour Ireland’s first park in a Jaunting Car. On board, this traditional Irish horse and buggy, ramble through the Killarney National Park with a local Jarvey, who will share the history, legends, and folklore of the area, as he drives you through areas otherwise difficult to access.
After admiring the region’s natural beauty in the park that was created thanks to the donation of Muckross Estate to the Irish Free State in 1932, visit Muckross House and Gardens, a nineteenth-century Victorian mansion set close to the shores of Muckross Lake. Built for Henry Arthur Herbert and his wife, the water-colorist Mary Balfour Herbert, the house was constructed between 1839 and 1843, and its extensive gardens were prepared in the 1850s to prepare for a visit by Queen Victoria.
After visiting this lovely manor house, visit Muckross Traditional Farms, where you’ll participate in a workshop on the Irish Language. Irish Gaelic is still spoken by about 138,000 as a primary language, and over a million people as a second language. This Celtic language has been the dominant language of the Irish people for most of their recorded history and was brought with them to other regions—notably Scotland and the Isle of Man, where it eventually gave rise to Scottish Gaelic and Manx. Irish Gaelic has the oldest vernacular literature in Western Europe and has constitutional status as the national and first official language of the Republic of Ireland.
Equipped with a greater understanding of the structure and history of the language, and armed with a few Gaelic phrases, return to Killarney for an evening on your own.
DAY 5 | SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 4, 2021
Arise this morning in Killarney and enjoy breakfast at the hotel before checking out of your hotel and departing Kerry bound for Galway.
Take the Shannon Car Ferry to Clare, and from here, enjoy a spectacular cruise of the famous Cliffs of Moher. Admire the Cliffs from the sea and hear and see the thousands of seabirds, including Guillemots, Razorbill, Kittiwake, Herring Gull, and Ireland’s largest Puffin colony.
Next, visit the Doolin Music House, where Christy Barry and his partner Sheila have entertained friends and musicians for many years, sitting around the fire playing songs and telling stories. Listen to traditional music in the intimate and relaxed environment of their home, where Christy discusses the history of traditional Irish music and plays great tunes together with his friend James Devitt. Enjoy a light lunch during your visit, and truly experience Irish hospitality.
Continue on to Galway and check in to Jurys Inn Galway upon arrival.
Galway is a delight with its narrow streets, old stone and woodshop fronts, lively restaurants and busy pubs. The city has attracted a bohemian crowd of musicians and artists, which adds much to the character of this interesting town. Your tour manager can lead the group on an orientation walk of the neighborhood near the hotel, on which you’ll get an excellent opportunity to scope out some of the local pubs and restaurants to consider for dinner on your own this evening.
DAY 6 | SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 5, 2021
Enjoy a leisurely breakfast at the hotel, then depart on a walking tour of Galway led by an Irish local guide. The city center of Galway is mainly pedestrian, so a walking tour is an ideal way to enjoy its atmosphere and discover some of its most famous landmarks and monuments. Begin at Eyre Square, passing Lynch Castle, home to the mayors of Galway; the 13th-century Saint Nicholas Church; and the famed Spanish Arch, as you make your way to the Claddagh village.
Prior to a free afternoon, visit Galway Cathedral, the largest Catholic church in the city. Located on Nun’s Island, on the west bank of the River Corrib near the Salmon Weir Bridge. The Cathedral was the last church in Ireland to be constructed from stone and features a huge octagonal dome. The inside and outside of the church are filled with treasures of religious art.
The remainder of the day will be left free for you to explore Galway based on your own interests, or have a relaxing afternoon at the hotel or curled up with a book in a pub.
This evening, experience the culinary offerings of Galway on an Irish Food Trail, exploring Galway’s most popular–and hidden–Irish restaurants. This is a wonderful opportunity to become immersed in the local atmosphere and history and meet friendly local people—and of course, taste delicious local food!
DAY 7 | MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 6, 2021
Following breakfast in the hotel, depart for a full-day excursion into the countryside.
Today you’ll explore the Connemara region, a land of lakes, rivers, bogs, and mountains. In this region, small villages dot the landscape, Gaelic is still the spoken language, and little has changed in centuries. Considered the wildest and most romantic part of Ireland, Connemara is a vast peninsula bordered by the arid and rocky coastline of Galway Bay in the south. On its northern shore, the land is harsher and less hospitable but offers spectacular views of the ocean and the beautiful fjord of Killary Harbour, as well as steep mountains overlooking lakes and large bogs.
As you travel through the heart of Connemara, make a stop in Roundstone. Located in a former Franciscan monastery, Roundstone Music and Crafts is the home of Malachy Kearns—better known as Malachy Bodhran, a master craftsman who manufactures bodhrans—the oldest instruments that accompany traditional Irish music. Malachy is currently the only fulltime bodhran maker in Ireland and will be delighted to talk about his work and the traditions that surround it. He’ll share insight on the construction of these frame drums and will demonstrate how they are played.
Depart Roundstone and travel north, bound for Joyce County Sheepdogs, a family-run farm. This working hill sheep farm is nestled between the Maumturk and Partry Mountains, where Joe Joyce is the third generation of farmers to farm sheep using border collies to maintain his herd of Connemara Blackface Sheep. The Joyce family will be happy to welcome NHPBS travelers to the farm and share their love of sheep farming and dog handling.
Return to Galway, traveling through the beautiful Connemara landscape, and return to the hotel for your final night in Galway.
DAY 8 | TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 7, 2021
After breakfast, this morning, bid farewell to Galway and check out of the hotel. Travel east from Galway on your motorcoach, bound for Dublin.
En route, make a stop in County Kildare to visit the Irish National Stud & Gardens. Home to some of the most magnificent horses in the world, responsible for producing Irish thoroughbreds, the Stud was formally established in 1946. In addition to the state-owned National Stud Farm, where you can admire the stallions whose racing track records allow them to command gigantic fees to cover mares and see young foals who may be destined for racing greatness, visitors can experience a world-famous Japanese Garden and St Fiachra’s Garden, a reflection in woodland, rock, and water, of Ireland’s natural beauty.
After lunch at the Stud, continue on to Dublin, about an hour east of Kildare. Upon arrival, embark on a panoramic tour of the city’s capital. First, discover the north side of the River Liffey, which offers striking monuments such as the General Post Office on the city’s main thoroughfare, O’Connell Street. See the Custom House, located along the quays of the river, and Phoenix Park, the largest public park in Europe.
The south side of the river appears more sophisticated with its vast Georgian squares, including Marrion Square, where Oscar Wilde’s house can still be found. In this part of the city, you’ll find colorful doors adding personality to the rigid symmetry and elegant beauty of the Georgian rowhouses. Dublin’s high-end shops and boutiques can be found along Grafton Street. Trinity College dominates the area facing the medieval district where Dublin Castle and two Anglican Cathedrals can be found.
Your tour will end at your hotel, Camden Court Hotel, where you’ll check in to your rooms. Dinner will be arranged for the group at a nearby restaurant.
DAY 9 | WEDNESDAY,SEPTEMBER 8, 2021
After breakfast in the hotel dining room, spend the morning with a local guide visiting sites that will reveal fascinating details on the Irish struggle for independence.
Visit Glasnevin Cemetery, Ireland’s largest, and the final resting place of over 1.5 million people—rich and famous, paupers and politicians, artists, warriors, and heroes, all resting side by side in this Victorian Garden Cemetery. Established by Daniel O’Connell as a place where people of “all religions and none” could bury their dead with dignity, the cemetery has grown to become a national monument and stands as a vital reminder of Irish Heritage. A visit to the award-winning museum and a guided tour of the cemetery itself allows for amazing context into the social, historical, political, and artistic development of modern Ireland through the lives of the generations buried there, and through stories of gravediggers and grave robbers, epidemics and wars.
Continue on to the GPO Museum. Here at the General Post Office building on O’Connell Street, visit the Witness of History exhibition, an immersive look at the 1916 Easter Rising, which set into motion an unstoppable chain of events which would ultimately result in the creation of the Irish Republic. The GPO served as the headquarters of the men and women who were responsible for the armed insurrection during Easter week, 1916.
At the conclusion of these visits, join your local expert guide at a pub to discuss the transition to Irish independence.
Enjoy a relaxed afternoon and an early dinner on your own before gathering this evening for a Musical Pub Crawl. This musical visit to Dublin pubs is led by two professional musicians, who will explain the history of Irish music as well as its influence on contemporary music, all while playing traditional airs. Your group will move from pub to pub in the company of the musicians, enjoying the unique atmosphere of a number of pubs in the Temple Bar area.
DAY 10 | THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 9, 2021
Following breakfast, depart for a day-long excursion to County Wicklow. Known as the “Garden of Ireland,” Wicklow has been a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts due to its scenery, beaches, walking, hiking, and climbing options. As you pass the beautiful scenery, enjoy a “lecture on wheels,” as a local expert details the early history of Christianity in Ireland.
Your first stop will be to the Glendalough Monastic Site, where St. Kevin, son of the King of Leinster, founded a monastery in the 6th century, which grew to become a famous center of learning throughout Europe. Located in a glacial valley (its name Gleann Da Loch, translates as Valley of two lakes), the site features a 1000-year-old round tower, several ancient churches, and St. Kevin’s Cross, which has arms over a meter in length and was remarkably carved from a single granite stone.
Transfer from Glendalough to Orchard Farm, a 200-acre farm which is home to a 140 cow dairy herd, which produces milk for Baileys Irish Cream. Upon arrival to the farm, enjoy lunch then gather for a Baileys Talk and Tasting.
Return to Dublin and take a few moments to freshen up for this evening’s farewell dinner. Your group will celebrate your time together in Ireland at the Merry Ploughboy Pub, where you’ll enjoy dinner, along with a highly entertaining performance of live traditional music, song, and dance.
DAY 11 | FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 10, 2021
Following breakfast, check out of the hotel and load luggage onto your motor coach before transferring to the airport for your flight back to Boston.
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