The cast-iron Ha’penny Bridge allows pedestrians to cross Dublin’s Liffey River.
When you have been to Ireland six times in the past four years, you don’t expect that seventh trip to hold any surprises. But my recent fam trip to the Emerald Isle with Brian Moore International Tours, offered plenty of the pleasantly unfamiliar, reminding me why I had fallen in love with the country in the first place.
BMIT, a division of Europe Express, kicked off its six-night fam trip in Dublin in October. I arrived at 10 a.m. on a Monday at Dublin International Airport, where I was picked up by a BMIT coach and escorted to the Jurys Inn Custom House, about a 10-minute walk from the city center. Dublin is a small, walkable city, packed with history. Guests staying at the hotel are minutes from the city’s many museums, squares, restaurants and the famous Temple Bar nightlife.
A quick nap and a bite to eat at Wagamama, an Asian fusion restaurant just off the shopping hub, Grafton Street, and I was ready to tackle the day. The fam trip was designed to give travel agents a taste of one of the company’s many Ireland itineraries. Our particular route followed the company’s Best of Ireland escorted tour itinerary.
The first day was spent touring the Guinness Storehouse to learn how the famous Irish brew has been concocted for the last 250 years. The highlight was the Gravity Bar, where the floor-to-ceiling windows and circular design let in 360-degree views of Dublin and the surrounding areas. Admission to the Storehouse includes a free pint of Guinness at the bar.
The night concluded with a trip to a small suburb outside of Dublin to the Taylors Three Rock pub, where we were treated to a traditional Irish supper followed by live entertainment, including traditional Irish step dancing, music, comedy and more Guinness.
Walking Through Dublin
Day two began bright and early with a city tour. Led by our lovable guide Matt Nolan (one of the funniest, and most passionate and genuine guides I have ever come across), we wound our way through the streets of Dublin, passing by highlights like St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Trinity College, the General Post Office and Grafton Street. The rest of the afternoon was given to individual exploration. I ducked into an old favorite of mine, Porterhouse, which is a microbrewery next to Trinity College on Nassau Street. This is a perfect local hangout by day for a pint and a bite. By night, the scene heats up with music and a younger crowd.
Dining tip: I was lucky enough to check out The Church, a restaurant that was converted from a church about five years ago. (Arthur Guinness was married here in 1761 when it was St. Mary’s Church of Ireland.) The Church consists of a café, bar, restaurant and club, and it was here that I ate one of the best meals I have had in Ireland. Try the pork belly with scallion mash and a glass of pinot noir (and don’t forget the banoffee pie for dessert).
Day three of the trip began early in the morning as the sun (yes, sun in Ireland!) peeked out over Dublin. Our coach headed southwest out of the city where industries and people became outnumbered by green hills and sheep.
Stop number one was at the Rock of Cashel in County Tipperary. The Rock was once the traditional seat of the kings of Munster province, and the majority of the buildings on site date back to the 12th century.
After a 45-minute tour, we were back on the bus and en route to Cork, the second largest city in Ireland. As the mist began to disappear, we arrived at Blarney, a village outside the city of Cork, which is home to the famous Blarney Castle and Blarney Stone. Legend has it that kissing the Blarney Stone will bring eloquence of speech. But to kiss the stone, you have to be held backward over a ledge that overlooks a 100-foot drop-off. For those with a fear of heights (like me), the castle and grounds are worth the trip for the spectacular views alone.
That night we checked into the Killarney Towers Hotel & Leisure Centre in the town of Killarney, County Kerry.
The last few days were devoted to Ireland’s rugged west coast. When we left Killarney, we were taken to Bunratty Castle & Folk Park in County Clare. The recreated folk park gives visitors a peek into medieval life in Ireland. As a special treat, our group was welcomed to the castle with a period banquet where we dined on old-time favorites and listened to madrigal music. This is an optional add-on to the BMIT itinerary. (Note: While BMIT tours have pre-planned itineraries, there is a range of add-on options. Clients can also opt for the company’s “fly and drive” option, which allows them free rein.)
The most memorable day was our trip to the Cliffs of Moher, which tower 700 feet over the Atlantic. The cliffs are a must for any traveler to the west of Ireland. From the viewing area, visitors have a clear view of the Aran Islands (where the cable knit sweaters come from) and the craggy coastline.
The tour concluded in Galway City, where we were able to grab a bite and do a bit of shopping. This seaside city is also home to a famous cathedral and the well-known Spanish Arch, a salute to the many Spanish traders who once passed through the city.
Ireland is an easy sell, and BMIT has a long list of ways to do so. Travel agent Julie Gaumond of All Seasons Travel told me, “I have been selling Ireland for 23 years. It was great to finally see it and it will make it easier to talk about and sell. The country is so beautiful and the people are so pleasant. Everyone should experience Ireland.”
For group inquiries, agents can get in touch with David Gudgel (425-527-8050, ext. 2601, [email protected]).
The Rock of Cashel was once a seat of the kings of Muster province.