Ah, Ireland, land of leprechauns, four-leaf clovers, Irish whiskey and boundless shades of green. You don’t really appreciate how green Ireland is until you’ve been there. The sheer depth and variety of the “greens” that decorate the landscape are astounding. You can look at a hillside in front of you dotted with sheep, and then look right to the hillside opposite, dotted with cows and they are quite, quite different colors. The “green” phenomenon was just one of the many wonders of Ireland revealed during my recent CIE International tour, Southern Supreme.
CIE is an excellent company to use for Ireland tours. They are so inclusive (no optional tours and 90% of all dinners are included), so it’s great value for your travel dollar. On this particular tour you see all of the major areas in the south of Ireland, while staying at the finest deluxe hotels and castles along the way.
You get out of the blocks quickly on this tour as on arrival day in Dublin, after checking in at the deluxe Westbury Hotel, you’re off to enjoy a guided tour of Russborough House, a Palladian mansion set in the lovely Wicklow Mountains. Our dinner this night was at O’Connell’s Restaurant, where a lively Irish band entertained.
Next day on our guided tour it was all things Dublin. The highlight was a visit to Trinity College, founded in 1592 by Queen Elizabeth I of England. Entering the magnificent Old Library building, our guide explained about the 8th century manuscript of the Book of Kells, created by Celtic monks.
Ross Castle near Killarney, County Kerry, Ireland
Cliffs of Moher, County Clare, Ireland
The following day we were off for a scenic drive southwest to Ireland’s most beautiful county, Kerry. Our destination for the next two nights was Killarney, an ideal base to explore this area of mythical Ireland. Perhaps a true high point of the tour was the drive around the Ring of Kerry. This area is the showcase of Ireland, with craggy cliffs above perfect harbors, and the ever changing landscape of rolling hills and sleepy villages.
Ashford Castle (now also a hotel) and Gardens in Ireland
All of Ireland is peppered with castles… ancient castles in ruins, and more recent castles that have been restored to their former glory. Many travelers are drawn to this particular tour because of the included overnight stays at two of Ireland’s most famous castles, Dromoland and Ashford. On day 5 of the tour we took a ferry ride across the River Shannon Estuary and visited the iconic Cliffs of Moher. These magnificent cliffs stand 702 feet above the sea and stretch for five miles along the Atlantic Coast. On a clear day you can see the Aran Islands and Galway Bay.
Leaving the lovely Dromoland Castle Hotel we were off to Galway for a short tour, then onward to Ireland’s most famous residential castle, Ashford Castle. Built originally in 1228 by the Anglo Norman House of Burke, the ensuing 900 years have seen the property expand and develop by various owners. Boasting 26,000 acres, with lovely gardens, a golf course and beautiful views over Lough Corrib and onward to the sea, visitors enjoy marvelous accommodations and superb dining. Our two days in this area and staying at Ashford Castle were the perfect end to this delightful tour of Ireland.
Jaime Fernandez Jr.