93% of our travelers rated this extension “Excellent” in 2014
Your discoveries in Northern Ireland begin with two nights in Belfast, where the peace process has brought a revival of optimism to this city rich in Victorian elegance and blossoming with culture. Then spend two nights in the walled city of Londonderry before continuing on to Galway to join your guided tour of Ireland in Depth.
- It's Included:
- Accommodations for 2 nights in Belfast at the First-Class Europa Belfast or similar, 2 nights in Londonderry at the First-Class City Hotel Derry or similar, and 1 night in Galway at the Superior First-Class Ardilaun Hotel or similar
- 5 meals: 5 breakfasts
- Included tours: Belfast, Giant's Causeway, Londonderry
- Exclusive services of a Grand Circle Program Director
- All transfers
- Now included for 2015
- Gratuities on this extension are now included for local guides and motorcoach drivers
Depart from the U.S. today on your flight to Belfast, Northern Ireland.
Arrive this morning in Belfast. You'll be met at the airport by a Grand Circle representative who will assist you with the transfer to your hotel. Belfast is a robust northern metropolis of nearly half a million people. This is a scenic city, situated between the waters of Belfast Lough, the Belfast Hills, and the forested slopes of Cave Hill. Belfast was the catalyst of the industrial revolution in Ulster, and specialized in the development of industries like linen, rope-making, and shipbuilding, with the world's largest dry dock. The city's Victorian heritage can be seen in the stately buildings of this area and at Belfast's Grand Opera House.
The balance of the day is free for you to relax after your overseas flight. Gather in the late afternoon with your fellow travelers for a Welcome Drink briefing from your Program Director, followed by a short orientation tour to get acquainted with the area around your hotel. Dinner is on your own tonight; ask your Program Director for suggestions.
On a panoramic city tour this morning, you'll see Belfast’s compact center in Donegall Square, which is dominated by the elaborate City Hall. We will drive through West Belfast’s Protestant neighborhood of Shankill Road, and the Catholic neighborhood of Falls Road, where large, vivid murals painted on the sides of buildings express the feelings that still run deep on both sides. Though the names of these areas were much in the news during “the Troubles,” the gate in the Peace Wall between them now stands open.
Spend the remainder of the day exploring Belfast on your own. The city’s main shopping district is just north of Donegall Square along several pedestrian-only streets. Belfast’s most famous historic pub, the Crown Liquor Saloon, is also in this area (it’s always packed, but worth a look for its gaslit Victorian architecture even if you can’t get a seat).
Or you might head for Belfast’s Golden Mile neighborhood or the beautiful Botanic Gardens, with the campus of Queen’s University nearby.
Your evening is free for your own explorations. You can ask your Program Director for suggestions for dining on your own this evening.
Today, travel from Belfast to Londonderry (Derry). On the way, we’ll stop to view the Giant’s Causeway, an amazing geologic formation of approximately 40,000 basalt stones—some as tall as 130 feet, and mostly hexagonal in shape. As Northern Ireland’s premiere landmark, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, you’ll be free to decide for yourself whether the Causeway is a result of accelerated cooling of lava outflows 60 million years ago. Or is it the work of the legendary Irish giant, Finn MacCool, in his attempts to a) woo a distant lady giant, or b) meet a Scottish giant in battle to determine who was the stronger giant? You’ll arrive in Londonderry in the afternoon and have the remainder of the day at leisure.
Dinner will be on your own this evening.
This morning, you’ll enjoy a city tour of Londonderry.
Londonderry is situated on a picturesque hillside on the banks of the Foyle Estuary. Founded by St. Columba in the sixth century, this is the fourth-largest city on the island of Ireland and is known today for the vitality of its cultural life. On our walking tour this morning, we will explore the city walls dating from the 17th century, which encircle Londonderry’s historic center. Londonderry is also the birthplace of poet Seamus Heaney, whom many consider a latter-day Yeats. He’s one of four Irish writers to have won a Nobel Prize for Literature.
The rest of your day is at leisure. You might visit the Tower Museum, with exhibits illustrating the maritime history of Londonderry, or the Guildhall built in 1890 and in the Gothic architectural style, similar to its London counterpart. Today, it’s the seat of the local government. For insight into the contemporary art scene in Northern Ireland, visit the Orchard Gallery.
Or, join an optional excursion to the Ulster American Folk Park. This fascinating facility tells the story of emigration from Ulster to America in the 18th and 19th centuries and provides visitors with a “living history” experience on its outdoor site. In the Folk Park, costumed guides and craftspeople recreate the past in an outdoor museum that includes a weaver’s cottage, forge, schoolhouse, log cabin, church, and a 19th-century Ulster street. The Ship and Dockside Gallery features a full-size reconstruction of an early 19th-century sailing ship of the type that carried thousands of emigrants across the Atlantic. A major indoor exhibition, “Emigrants,” complements the outdoor site.
Dinner this evening is on your own.
After breakfast in Londonderry, begin your transfer by coach to Galway, which is on Ireland's west coast.
En route, you may stop at the Belleek Pottery Visitor Centre (depending on the day of the week) in County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland—a world-famous pottery works that has been producing fine china since 1857. The techniques used for making Irish pottery have been handed down from generation to generation.
Upon leaving Belleek, you'll continue on to County Sligo to lunch on your own before stopping by a churchyard where Nobel Prize-winning poet, William Butler Yeats, was laid to rest in the neighboring village of Drumcliffe.
You'll arrive at your hotel in Galway in the late afternoon. Dinner will be on your own this evening.
Your day is at leisure until you join your fellow travelers for your main trip, and begin your discoveries of Ireland in Depth.