Day by Day Itinerary

As you travel through Ireland, delve deeply into a land rich in history, legend, stirring music, and verdant landscapes. Begin your journey in Galway, an enchanting city on Ireland’s western coast where there’s a tune playing around every corner. Explore the eerie landscape of the Burren and the captivating Cliffs of Moher as you travel to Killarney, home of the 110-mile scenic Ring of Kerry. Then embark for Cork and its nearby seaport of Cobh, where thousands of Irish emigrated during the Potato Famine. Departing Cork, you’ll continue on to Kilkenny—where you'll stay for two nights in this historic city—before finally arriving at the Irish Republic’s cosmopolitan capital, Dublin. This Ireland guided tour is an in-depth discovery of the Emerald Isle—its lore, its lands, and above all, the gregarious charm of its people.

Galway Dublin Expand All
  • hidden

    Depart from the U.S. today on your flight to Ireland, arriving on Day 2. Please refer to your individual air itinerary for exact departure and arrival times.

  • hidden

    Arrive in Galway today. A Grand Circle representative will meet you at the airport and escort you to your hotel, where you'll meet your Program Director and your fellow travelers, including those returning from their Northern Ireland pre-trip extension. Galway is a bustling young city with a lively nightlife. After your arrival, your Program Director will take you for a vicinity walk to explore the area around your hotel, and provide suggestions on how to maximize your day and explore on your own.

    Tonight, get to know your fellow travelers over a Welcome Drink, followed by a Welcome Briefing. Then sit down for your first dinner together at your hotel.

  • hidden

    This morning, your Program Director will introduce you to Galway on a walking tour through the city. You have the remainder of the day at leisure to explore Galway on your own. This enchanting city is a medley of narrow lanes, wood and stone shop fronts, and bustling restaurants and pubs. Originally presided over by the local O’Flahertys, Galway was taken over by Anglo-Normans and became a thriving center of trade and commerce by the 14th century. European galleons were a regular sight in the city, which was “home” to Spanish merchant ships during their western voyages. Galway declined after being damaged in battle with the forces of Oliver Cromwell in the mid-17th century, but regained its prosperity and vitality in modern times. Today, Galway remains a merchant town, but it is also a burgeoning center for technology and a lively bohemian mecca.

    Dinner is on your own tonight. Or, join us for an optional Irish ceili, a celebration of the harvest that usually includes a hearty meal followed by song, stories, and dance. You’ll join local musicians as they explain this traditional Irish celebration. Feel free to join in song and dance with us as we watch the sun go down over Galway Bay. Your optional tour includes a three-course dinner with entertainment.

  • hidden

    Spend the day at leisure, exploring Galway on your own. The city’s compact center spans both sides of the River Corrib. In the center of Eyre Square stands the Quincentennial Fountain, constructed in 1984 to mark the 500th anniversary of the Royal Charter granted by King Richard III that created Galway as an independent city-state. Nearby are some of the oldest streets in Galway, narrow winding lanes that curve in and around old wooden buildings, often meandering off toward the Corrib and the docks. Yet turn a corner and you will find modern Galway—certainly one of the liveliest cities in Europe. Artists and musicians crowd the sidewalks and almost every pub seems to offer live music.

    Or, join us for an optional journey through the Connemara region of Galway. Once home to more than two million Irish, it still retains its regional heritage, as you will discover while we ramble around its lakes, mountains, and bogs. We'll visit the former Gothic mansion of Mitchell Henry, now the home of Benedictine nuns and better known as Kylemore Abbey. You'll have time to wander both the mansion and the Victorian gardens. Then cruise Killary, a charming fjord. You’ll enjoy lunch while cruising. On your return, we'll travel through the Inagh Valley to the coast, where we'll see the deserted village of Clough Na Mara and discover a sense of hardship the Irish experienced in the 18th and 19th centuries. Today, only the shells of their homes remain—set amidst hundreds of miles of stone walls.

    This evening, enjoy dinner on your own.

  • hidden

    This morning, you depart Galway for Killarney after a hearty breakfast. On the way, discover the intense natural beauty of Ireland on an included excursion to the Burren and the Cliffs of Moher. The Burren's name is derived from a Gaelic word meaning “stony place,” and it is like no other place in Ireland. Instead of peat bogs and pastures, you'll find a surreal moonscape full of huge limestone crags.

    Despite this seemingly inhospitable setting, a diverse array of plant life—including wild orchids and rock rose—thrives here. Alpine plants nestle in crevices beside temperate species. The white, deeply crevassed limestone conceals “micro-environments” rich in potholes and hollows. The ample rainfall and strange topography have resulted in a paradoxical profusion of arctic and semi-tropical vegetation growing side by side.

    The majestic Cliffs of Moher are precipitous rock formations—towering more than 700 feet above the crashing ocean surf at their highest point—that offer breathtaking panoramic views of Ireland's Atlantic coast. These magnificent cliffs provide nesting sites for tens of thousands of seabirds. If the wind is strong, the sea foam and spray flies up and over the cliffs along with the rain; while on clear sunny days, fantastic views can be seen from every angle.

    Over the centuries, people have also made their mark, with towers, quarries, and well-worn paths, but they're almost lost in the scale and grandeur of the sea cliffs. One that does stand out is O'Brien's Tower, a huge structure built to house the guests of Cornelius O'Brien, County Clare's legendary Member of Parliament from the 1830s until he died in 1857.

    You continue on to Killarney to spend the next three nights. This market town is known for its verdant, rolling hills and glittering loughs (lakes). This afternoon, you'll enjoy an introduction to this area during a ride on a jaunting car (a traditional Irish horse-drawn carriage) for a tour of the forested hills of Killarney National Park, and the Kenmare Estate, a former residence for an Irish noble family.

    Dine with your fellow travelers at your hotel this evening, then enjoy an exclusive Discovery Series discussion with a local resident on rural Irish life and growing up on a small farm in the 1950s.

  • hidden

    On this morning's included tour, you'll discover the Ring of Kerry, a drive that traces the coastline of the Iveragh Peninsula and offers breathtaking views. There is always something new to appreciate in the combination of ocean, islands, mountains, light, and ever-changing weather patterns. We ride most of the way, making scenic stops.

    The first town along the route is Killorglin, where an elegant eight-arched bridge crosses the River Laune. Then you'll advance to the water's edge at Kells, an attractive fishing village with panoramic viewing points.

    The next stretch is one of the highlights of the Ring, with outstanding views of the coastline. On the return to Killarney, the route takes you through Moll's Gap, where you'll have an included lunch, and Ladies View, named after Queen Victoria's ladies-in-waiting. The vistas of lakes and mountains remain magnificent today. We'll continue on and return to Killarney, where the afternoon is yours.

    Dinner tonight is on your own. Or, join us for an optional performance by the National Folk Theatre, the country's only repertory company, with an included dinner. Using traditional Irish disciplines, the group offers a cultural experience dramatizing the essence of Irish culture, including the folk life of a bygone era. Please note: This optional tour is available on late May-early September departures only.

  • hidden

    Your day is at leisure to pursue your own interests.

    Or, join us on an optional tour as we venture out along the Dingle Peninsula. You’ll stop first at Tralee’s Kerry County Museum, where you’ll enjoy the fascinating experience of a recreated medieval street. Then follow the rugged Dingle Peninsula with its wild mountains and some of the most spectacular coastline Ireland has to display. You’ll view the famed Blasket Islands, the most westerly point of Europe, and their prehistoric ring forts and beehive huts. One of Ireland’s largest Irish-speaking areas, the peninsula has attracted many writers and artists for the inspiration the wild landscape offers. The movies Ryan’s Daughter and Far and Away were made here. We will stop in the fishing town of Dingle to enjoy locally caught fish (and chips) for lunch, included with the cost of the optional tour.

  • hidden

    After breakfast, we will stop at a working sheep farm and see Ireland’s finest Border Collies in action at a sheepdog demonstration. Please note: This is an outdoor event and is weather-dependent. It will not be conducted in wet, muddy conditions.

    Next, you’ll transfer to Cork, stopping for a visit to Blarney Castle, where a 129-step staircase leads up a tower to the famed Blarney Stone. According to legend, anyone who manages the backward lean to kiss it receives the “gift of the gab”—a smooth, soothing way with words that at best mean nothing.

    The word “blarney” was coined by Elizabeth I to describe her endless and fruitless discussions with Dermot McCarthy over his surrender of the castle to the Crown. The McCarthys built the present castle with its 85-foot-high keep in 1446, replacing an earlier castle. Though the Blarney Stone gets all the publicity, the castle’s tower house and surrounding gardens are superb in their own right. The castle’s grounds also include caves, dungeons, and a rock garden of ancient trees and weathered stones.

    Continue on to historic Cork, Ireland’s second-largest city. A walk through this island city takes you into the famous English Market, noted for its wide selection of fresh Irish produce. Discover the rebel city of Cork through its many medieval lanes and back streets.

    This evening, you’ll enjoy dinner at your hotel with your fellow travelers.

  • hidden

    This morning, ride to Cobh (pronounced “cove”). This picturesque town long served as the main harbor for the city of Cork, and is dominated by the spire of St. Colman’s Cathedral, which contains the largest carillon in Ireland. This morning, a local historian will give you some insight into Cobh's history.

    Cobh was a major emigration point for families who left the country during the Great Potato Famine, when some two-and-a-half million emigrants departed this port for North America. Here you’ll discover the story of Irish emigration and the era of the great ocean liners, when Cobh was a very active port. This was the last place the Titanic dropped anchor before heading across the Atlantic on her tragic journey.

    Here you can also pay tribute to the victims of the Lusitania at a quayside memorial. In 1915, this ship was sunk off the coast of Cobh by a German submarine, with a loss of 1,196 passengers, including 127 Americans. This action helped bring America into World War I. Then, enjoy a short, leisurely walk around Cobh accompanied by our local historian. You'll have some free time afterward for your own explorations.

    Then, learn about contemporary life in Ireland—and savor a traditional meal—during a Home-Hosted Lunch with a local family.

    In the late afternoon, return to Cork, and enjoy dinner on your own.

  • hidden

    Travel from Cork to the city of Kilkenny today, stopping en route to visit Cahir Castle and Waterford.

    In its time (13th-15th centuries), Cahir featured a state-of-the-art defensive design, and is now one of Ireland's best-preserved castles. Situated on a rocky island in the River Suir, the castle still boasts its keep, tower, and much of its original structure. The last Lord Cahir died in 1961, at which point the castle came into state stewardship.

    Continue on to visit the Waterford Crystal factory, prized the world over as the standard for the highest quality lead-cut crystal. Founded in 1783 by George and William Penrose, the Waterford branch of the company is now part of a worldwide operation that includes such notable brands as Wedgwood and Royal Doulton. You'll learn about the organization's history, and witness a glassblowing demonstration before free time to explore further or shop their fine products. Then, head to a local pub to enjoy a drink and some live music.

    Arrive in Kilkenny this evening, where dinner is included at your hotel.

  • hidden

    Kilkenny city straddles both banks of the River Nore in the center of County Kilkenny, and you'll explore it this morning on an included walking tour with your Program Director. Your tour will take you to the sprawling gardens of Kilkenny Castle, an 800-year old stronghold that lords over the city center. Though originally designed to defend a crossing over the River Nore, the castle's grounds today provide a peaceful place for locals and visitors alike to stroll about and admire the impressive artisanal floristry on display.

    Later, partake in an exclusive Discovery Series event as you learn about hurling, an energetic and uniquely Irish sport, similar to field hockey or lacrosse, with traditional Gaelic roots. The Irish have been playing the game since the Celts invented it 2,000 years ago, and today you'll learn about it for yourself during a demonstration.

    The rest of the day is yours to discover Kilkenny at leisure, and dinner is on your own this evening.

  • hidden

    From Kilkenny, you'll journey to the river town of Avoca, made famous by the Avoca Handweavers. This clothing manufacturer is Ireland's oldest line of business, active since the early 1700s. During an exclusive Discovery Series event, you'll meet with some of the handweavers when you visit Avoca's mill, which happens to be the oldest of its class in all of Ireland.

    Then, you'll advance to lovely Glendalough, a glacial valley that would come to be known for a monastery founded here in the sixth century by St. Kevin. The settlement thrived for centuries, but was destroyed by the English in 1398. Among the monks' great achievements was manuscript writing and copying, including the creation of the spectacular Book of Glendalough around 1131. Now at the Bodleian Library at Oxford, the book—containing historical chronicles, genealogies, and religious poems—is one of the most important and beautiful Irish manuscripts from the pre-Norman period.

    You'll arrive in Dublin in the afternoon and visit to Trinity College to view the ancient Book of Kells. Believed to have been crafted in AD 800, the Book of Kells is a stunningly illustrated collection of the four Gospels of the New Testament. This evening, join your companions for an included dinner.

  • hidden

    This morning, learn about the history of Ireland's famous brew during a tour of the Guinness Storehouse, a 7-story museum located in a former brewing factory inside the St. James's Gate Brewery. You'll also have a chance to master the technique behind pouring a perfect glass of "the black stuff" during a pint-pulling demonstration.

    Continue your exploration of Dublin, the modern-day capital of Ireland, on a guided panoramic tour followed by lunch on your own and an afternoon at leisure to make your own discoveries.

    This evening, gather with your Program Director and fellow travelers for a Farewell Dinner.

  • hidden

    • Meals included:

    After breakfast, transfer to the airport for your flight home. Or continue your discoveries of the Emerald Isle on an optional post-trip extension in Dublin, Ireland.


Traveler Reviews

There's no better way to learn what a trip is like than from the firsthand experiences of your fellow travelers, and our Traveler Reviews are the real deal—unbiased and unedited—giving you an honest appraisal of the experiences that await you on this trip.

Have you been on this trip? Share Your Thoughts, Sign In

Please note: If you have taken this trip, please log into your My Account & return to this page. You will be prompted to post your review. Reviews are limited to 10,000 characters. Due to our moderation process, please allow up to 72 hours for your review to appear.

loading reviews

Questions and Answers

Want to know more about one of our vacations? Now, when you post a question, travelers who have been on that trip can provide you with an honest, unbiased answer based on their experience—providing you with a true insider’s perspective.

Sign in to ask a question

Questions and Answers

Want to know more about one of our vacations? Now, when you post a question, travelers who have been on that trip can provide you with an honest, unbiased answer based on their experience—providing you with a true insider’s perspective.

Sign in to ask a question

Weather & Regional

Before you travel, we encourage you to learn about the region of the world you'll discover on this trip. From weather and currency information to details on population, geography, and local history, you'll find a comprehensive introduction to your destinations below.

Visit our “What to Know” page to find information about the level of activity to expect, vaccination information resources, and visa requirements specific to this vacation.

Currency Cheat Sheet: Submit

What to Know

For more detailed information about this trip, download our Travel Handbook below. This document covers a wide range of information on specific areas of your trip, from passport, visa, and medical requirements; to the currencies of the countries you’ll visit and the types of electrical outlets you’ll encounter. This handbook is written expressly for this itinerary. For your convenience, we've highlighted our travelers' most common areas of interest on this page.

Download the Travel Handbook

What to Expect


  • 5 locations in 13 days

Physical requirements

  • Not accessible for travelers using wheelchairs or scooters
  • Travelers using walkers, crutches, or other mobility aids must travel with a companion who can assist them throughout the trip
  • You must be able to walk 2 miles unassisted and participate in 1.5-2.5 hours of physical activities each day, including stairs
  • Agility, balance, and stairs are required to kiss the Blarney Stone


  • Daytime temperatures range from 48-67°F during touring season
  • June-August are the warmest months
  • February and November-December weather can be unpredictable and change quickly within a short period of time
  • Rain is common and should be expected


  • Travel over uneven walking surfaces, including unpaved paths, hills, stairs, and cobblestones


  • Travel by 45-seat motorcoach and jaunting car (horse-drawn carriage)


  • Meals will be based on the local cuisine

Travel Documents


Your passport should meet these requirements for this itinerary

  • It should be valid for at least 6 months after your scheduled return to the U.S.
  • It should have the recommended number of blank pages (refer to the handbook for details).
  • The blank pages must be labeled “Visas” at the top. Pages labeled “Amendments and Endorsements” are not acceptable.


U.S. citizens do not need a visa for this trip.

If you are not a U.S. citizen, do not travel with a U.S. passport, or will be traveling independently before/after this trip, then your entry requirements may be different. Please check with the appropriate embassy or a visa servicing company. To contact our recommended visa servicing company, PVS International, call toll-free at 1-800-556-9990.

Vaccinations Information

For a detailed and up-to-date list of vaccinations that are recommended for this trip, please visit the CDC’s “Traveler’s Health” website. You can also refer to the handbook for details.

Before Your Trip

Before you leave on your vacation, there are at least four health-related things you should do. Please check the handbook for specifics, but for now, here’s the short list:

Step 1: Check with the CDC for their recommendations for the countries you’ll be visiting.
Step 2: Have a medical checkup with your doctor.
Step 3: Pick up any necessary medications, both prescription and over-the-counter.
Step 4: Have a dental and/or eye checkup. (Recommended, but less important than steps 1-3.)

What to Bring

In an effort to help you bring less, we have included checklists within the handbook, which have been compiled from suggestions by Program Directors and former travelers. The lists are only jumping-off points—they offer recommendations based on experience, but not requirements. You might also want to refer to the climate charts in the handbook or online weather forecasts before you pack. Refer to the handbook for details.

Insider Tips


Main Trip

  • Ardilaun Hotel

    Galway, Ireland | Rating: Superior First Class

    This family-owned hotel is situated on landscaped grounds just half a mile from Galway's city center. Recreational options include access to the Leisure Club, which contains a fitness suite, aerobics studio, spin studio, swimming pool, Jacuzzi, and steam room. Each bedroom features a telephone, TV, high-speed Internet access, coffee- and tea-making facilities, and private bath with hair dryer.

  • Killarney Towers

    Killarney, Ireland

    Located in the heart of the town of Killarney, guests don’t have to travel far to enjoy a variety of leisure activities, since the hotel offers a sauna, steam room, swimming pool, and gym, as well a restaurant and several bars. Your air-conditioned room features a safe, wireless Internet access, coffee- and tea-making facilities, and private bath with hair dryer.

  • The River Lee Hotel

    Cork, Ireland | Rating: Superior First Class

    Located along the banks of Cork’s Lee River, the Superior First-Class River Lee Hotel provides guests with an up-close view of the area’s verdant scenery. The hotel is within walking distance of many of the city’s attractions, from bustling local pubs to Cork’s historic monuments. Hotel amenities include a fitness center, indoor pool, spa, library, and bistro/bar. Each air-conditioned room features a flat-screen TV and complimentary wireless Internet access.

  • Pembroke Hotel

    Kilkenny, Ireland

    Centrally located in Kilkenny’s historic city center, this boutique-style hotel is within walking distance of the Kilkenny Castle and its verdant surrounding grounds. The hotel features an on-site bar and restaurant, while each room includes air conditioning, coffee- and tea-making facilities, free wireless Internet, and private bath with hair dryer.

  • Ballsbridge Hotel

    Dublin, Ireland | Rating: Moderate Deluxe

    This Moderate-Deluxe hotel offers convenient access to locations like St. Stephen's Green, Temple Bar, and Grafton Street—one of Dublin's fashionable shopping areas. Hotel facilities include a restaurant and pub. All non-smoking rooms feature a TV, trouser press, complimentary coffee- and tea-making facilities, and private bath with hair dryer.


  • Europa Belfast

    Dublin, Ireland | Rating: First Class

    Situated in Belfast’s city center, the First-Class Europa Belfast is within close proximity to the city’s shops, museums, and many of Belfast’s famous venues, including the Grand Opera House and Waterfront and Odyssey concert venues. You don’t have to stray far to enjoy a bite to eat, as the hotel features three restaurants. Each of the 272 rooms feature a telephone, flat-screen TV, Internet access, coffee- and tea-making facilities, iron, and hair dryer.

  • City Hotel Derry

    Derry, Ireland | Rating: Moderate First Class

    Located on the banks of the River Foyle, the Moderate First-Class City Hotel Derry is about a five-minute walk from the historic Derry Walls, which form a promenade around the inner city. The hotel offers a restaurant, bar, and health club. Your room includes telephone, TV, coffee- and tea-making facilities, and private bath with hair dryer.

  • Ardilaun Hotel

    Galway, Ireland | Rating: Superior First Class

    This family-owned hotel is situated on landscaped grounds just half a mile from Galway's city center. Recreational options include access to the Leisure Club, which contains a fitness suite, aerobics studio, spin studio, swimming pool, Jacuzzi, and steam room. Each bedroom features a telephone, TV, high-speed Internet access, coffee- and tea-making facilities, and private bath with hair dryer.

  • Ballsbridge Hotel

    Dublin, Ireland | Rating: Moderate Deluxe

    This Moderate-Deluxe hotel offers convenient access to locations like St. Stephen's Green, Temple Bar, and Grafton Street—one of Dublin's fashionable shopping areas. Hotel facilities include a restaurant and pub. All non-smoking rooms feature a TV, trouser press, complimentary coffee- and tea-making facilities, and private bath with hair dryer.

Flight Information

Your Flight Options

Whether you choose to take just a base trip or add an optional pre- and post-trip extension, you have many options when it comes to personalizing your air—and creating the Grand Circle vacation that’s right for you:

Purchase Flights with Grand Circle

  • Work with our expert Air Travel Consultants to select the airline and routing you prefer
  • Upgrade to business or premium economy class
  • Customize your trip by staying overnight in a connecting city, arriving at your destination a few days early, or spending additional time in a nearby city on your own
  • Combine your choice of Grand Circle vacations to maximize your value

Make Your Own Arrangements

  • Make your own international flight arrangements directly with the airline
  • Purchase optional airport transfers to and from your hotel
  • Extend your Land Tour-only Travel Protection Plan coverage and protect the air arrangements you make on your own—including your frequent flyer miles

OR, leave your air routing up to us and your airfare (as well as airport transfers) will be included in your final trip cost.

Estimated Flight Times

Traveling to Shannon, and from Dublin, will involve long flights and some cities will require multiple connections. These rigors should be a consideration in planning your adventure.

The chart below provides estimated travel times from popular departure cities. Connection times are included in these estimates.

What Makes This Trip Unique

Exclusive Discovery Series Events

  • Irish history & culture discussion. In Killarney, join a local resident to learn about Irish history and culture in an educational presentation.
  • Sheepdog demonstration. Visit a local farmer at his family farm in Killarney, where he will demonstrate the extraordinary shepherding skills of his border collies (weather permitting).
  • Home-Hosted Lunch. Learn about contemporary life in Ireland as you share a home-cooked meal with a local family in Cobh.
  • Hurling demonstration. Discover this Irish sport with Celtic origins during a demonstration in Kilkenny.
  • Avoca Handweavers visit. Converse with workers—and tour the mill—at Ireland's oldest clothing manufacturer.

10 Reasons to Experience Ireland in Depth—in the Words of Our Travelers

We often find that the best endorsements of our discovery-rich vacations come directly from our travelers. From lush landscapes dotted with grazing sheep to hearty soups served with fresh-baked bread, here are some memorable experiences our travelers shared from our in-depth Ireland tour.

Scenic landscapes
“Each day of Ireland in Depth was beautiful, with all the green of spring and thousands of sheep ... Masses of bluebells and wild yellow iris contrasted beautifully with the deep green of the grasses. This was an unexpected delight!”
An 8-time traveler from Cincinnati, OH

Local cuisine
“The Irish brown bread was so yummy, I had it every day ... Had the best potato leek soup ever. Our Home-Hosted Lunch was wonderful. Guinness Stew, salad, and brown bread.”
A 4-time traveler from Benson, AZ

Northern Ireland pre-trip extension
“The first thing I will tell anyone contemplating this trip is: Take the N. Ireland pre-trip. The two local guides were wonderful in explaining the history of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. That knowledge and seeing the physical 'history' in Belfast and Derry was so important for the remainder of the trip.”
An 8-time traveler from McKinney, TX

Program Directors
“We felt very fortunate that Sean Curran was our tour leader. This guy is incredible!! Very professional, extremely knowledgeable, and just really enhanced our trip and adventures.”
A 26-time traveler from Rockport, TX

Killarney, Ireland
“I fell in love with the town of Killarney and its surrounding landscape (which includes the Ring of Kerry and the Dingle Peninsula). To me, this area represented everything ‘Irish' that I had envisioned before my visit—the small green fields surrounded by dry-stone walls, the sheep and watchful sheep dogs, the thatch-roofed cottages, the smell of peat fires in the air, the misty atmosphere and the warm pubs helped meet my admittedly high expectations and exceeded them in good measure.”
An 8-time traveler from Aspen, CO

Galway, Ireland
“Galway is a very vibrant city. There is plenty to see and a lot going on. We had plenty of time there and got to see first-hand how the Irish know how to have fun and enjoy life. They don't seem to let the little things bother them.”
A 9-time traveler from Bonita, CA

Home-Hosted Lunch
“A highlight for all of us was to share a meal in a local home in County Corka tasty Shepherds Pie and an opportunity to visit with a local family.”
A 17-time traveler from Waleska, GA

Blarney Castle
“A highlight for me was kissing the Blarney Stone! I never thought I'd be able to make it up all those steps but it was easy! There are huge ropes on both sides of the stairway that are incredibly useful during the ascent!"
A 6-time traveler from Carmel, IN

Cobh, Ireland
“The tour we took in Cobh with a historian was so informative about the Lusitania and the Titanic. Plus knowing that my grandmother (a Collins) probably left from that same building was just awesome.”
A 6-time traveler from Sneads Ferry, NC

Connemara & Kylemore Abbey optional tour
“We began our trip in Galway, and from there took the optional expedition to Connemara. ... We first visited Kylemore Abbey, which is a castle-like building in a beautiful, rugged setting on a lake ... We also boarded a small ship for a luncheon sail up Ireland's only fjord, again surrounded on all sides by the hauntingly beautiful landscape. The trip was one of our peak experiences and is not to be missed.”
A 5-time traveler from Chester Springs, PA

For reservations and information on our Ireland tour, call us toll-free at 1-800-221-2610

County Kerry: Land of Lakes, Loss, and Legend

The millennia of history nestled within the Emerald Isle’s “rebel county”

by Lyette Mercier for Grand Circle

Thanks to its geographic diversity and relative inaccessibility before modern-day travel, much of County Kerry continues ancient Irish traditions.

Located in Ireland’s southwest, County Kerry is home to some of the Emerald Isle’s most ethereal natural beauty and iconic history. Best known for the scenic Ring of Kerry, Kerry’s spectacular geological features date back to the end of the last ice age ten thousand years ago, when retreating ice sheets cut into the landscape, creating the lakes, valleys, and mountains that enchant visitors to this day.

These spectacular sights—including the interconnected Lakes of Killarney, the breathtaking mountain pass of Moll’s Gap, and the verdant flora throughout the ring—are the rolling green hills of Ireland writ large. Killarney National Park’s 25,000 acres of pristine landscape encompass Ireland’s magical natural beauty: Much of what is today known as the Ring of Kerry rests in this park. Established in 1932, when the owners of the grand Victorian estate Muckross House gifted their 4,000 acres of land to the Irish government, the park was expanded in the 1970s to cover more than 25,000 acres of protected land.

The Lakes of Killarney—glacial Lough Leane, Muckross Lake, and the Upper Lake—make up about a quarter of the park. Each lake boasts a unique and diverse ecosystem, with thriving populations of cormorants, deer, salmon, and trout. The park also boasts the country’s largest area of ancient oakwoods, and is home to MacGillycuddy's Reeks, Ireland’s tallest mountain range, whose peaks top out at a modest 3,414 feet.

Humans have inhabited the area for more than 4,000 years, since the Bronze Age; the remains of a copper mine on the Ross Island peninsula provide evidence of Ireland’s earliest known metalwork. And Christianity arrived in Kerry in the middle of the first millennium, leaving behind early Christian settlement ruins still visible today. Among them is the monastery Saint Finian the Leper founded on Inisfallen Island in Lough Leane (Gaelic for “Lake of Learning.”) Established in the seventh century AD, it remained occupied until the 14th century.

“Rebel county” turned tourist hotspot

In addition to ancient roots, Kerry has a long and proud history as “The Kingdom County,” intermittently warring against British subjugation from the 12th century Norman invasion to the 1918 War for Independence, when Kerry was a republican stronghold. Among its most significant losses in the long fight against England was the end of the Nine Years' War in 1603, when much of Kerry’s land was confiscated by the British and given to English settlers. Irish farmers, unable to own land and forced tenants to the British, were kept poor by the rents they were required to pay the crown.

A century and a half later, Thomas Browne, 4th Viscount of Kenmare and a prominent Irish landowner and politician, came up with the idea of improving the local economy through the modern tourist trade. By promoting the area’s pristine nature as an idyllic spot for visiting English gentry to enjoy their fishing and hunting holidays, the town of Killarney developed from a modest village into a thriving center for tourism and trade.

Kerry’s renown had grown so much by 1861 that Queen Victoria herself came to see the sights. Ladies’ View, a scenic spot between Killarney and Kenmare, was named for the queen’s ladies in waiting, who vocally admired the magnificent views there. The writings of famed poets, including Tennyson and Wordsworth, further cemented Killarney’s reputation as an international vacation destination.

While English rule developed the world’s appreciation for Kerry’s beauty, it proved ill-suited for the management of the county’s people. The landlord/tenant system disintegrated when farmers’ main crop and food source—the potato—failed. During the Great Irish Famine of 1845-1852, approximately one million citizens died; just as many emigrated to escape such a fate. Areas of County Kerry lost up to 30% of their population, a loss that still contributes to the county’s areas of windswept isolation today.

Ancient traditions in a modern day

Thanks to its geographic diversity and relative inaccessibility before modern-day travel, much of County Kerry continues ancient Irish traditions. Six Kerry towns are classified by the government as Gaeltacht (Irish-speaking), with Gaelic spoken as the primary language. The fishing town of Dingle, on a craggy peninsula of the same name, is the largest of these, with a population of nearly 2,000. Although areas where Gaelic Irish is spoken as a first language are in decline, it is still taught in schools, in hopes of preserving this precious tradition for the future.

From its formation in the ice age to 4,000 years of human habitation, County Kerry retains memories both natural and manmade from its entire varied history. Its beauty and longevity will no doubt continue to enchant visitors for generations to come.

Photos From Our Travelers

On location in Ireland

Here’s how Grand Circle travelers have captured moments of discovery, beauty, friendship, and fun on previous departures of our Ireland in Depth vacation. We hope these will evoke special travel memories and inspire you to submit your own favorite Grand Circle Travel trip photos.

  Galway Bay Ireland  

Our tour guide wanted to show us some of the sites in the vicinity of Galway and took us to Salt Beach. This is the part of town where the locals get their walking and swimming in. She encouraged us to test the water ... a good icebreaker (no pun intended) since the tour members on the pre-trip and main trip had just joined up and hadn't had a chance to get to know each other yet.” Photo by Paul Motyka, 7-time traveler from Acton, Massachusetts.

Thumbnail 1 Thumbnail 2 Thumbnail 3 Thumbnail 4

How to submit your photos:

Please submit individual photos in jpeg format to:

Please be sure to include the name of your Grand Circle vacation, along with the travel dates. Tell us where you took the photo and, if you’d like, tell us why. And don’t forget to include your name and contact information.

Please note: By submitting a photo, you (i) represent and warrant that the photo is your original work created solely by yourself and does not infringe the intellectual property rights of any party; (ii) grant to Grand Circle LLC and its affiliates a worldwide, royalty-free, perpetual, transferable, irrevocable, non-exclusive and fully sublicensable right and license to use, in any and all related media whether now known or hereafter devised, in perpetuity, anywhere in the world, with the right to make any and all commercial or other uses thereof, including without limitation, reproducing, editing, modifying, adapting, publishing, displaying publicly, creating derivative works from, incorporating into other works or modifying the photo and (iii) hereby release and discharge Grand Circle LLC and its affiliates, officers and employees from and against any and all claims, liabilities, costs, damages and expenses of any kind arising out of or relating to the use by Grand Circle LLC of any photo submitted.

Inspired to see Ireland by a friend, Vacation Ambassador pays it forward

By David Valdes Greenwood for Grand Circle Travel

Discover the Emerald Isle through the eyes of first-time traveler Sally Robbins, who was referred to Grand Circle Travel by a friend, and see why Ireland in Depth is our most referred Land Tour.

Retired dog groomer Sally Robbins of Mashpee, Massachusetts, had never traveled on a group tour—and wasn’t planning on it either. That is, until she saw the brochure for Grand Circle’s Ireland in Depth vacation on her friend Andre Corbeau’s coffee table. “Andre’s been on 12 of your trips and he’s a great ambassador for you, but I hadn’t really considered it until seeing that catalog,” she recalls. “I asked if there was a trip to Ireland in his future and when he said yes, I said, ‘I’ve always dreamed of going there.’”

As an avid reader, Sally has long favored books set on the Emerald Isle after being “hooked” by her first few. And while she was still a little nervous about going on a group trip, she trusted Andre and reserved her vacation on his referral. “I wanted to go my whole life, so I had very high expectations—and Grand Circle exceeded them. It was fascinating to see the places I’d only read about. I’m not a city girl, so I especially liked Connemora and the Dingle Peninsula. I loved watching how the landscapes changed as we went on.”

It wasn’t just the charming landscapes of Ireland that made her vacation so memorable—Sally was impressed by the “fantastic” accommodations throughout her trip. And for a traveler hesitant to take a group tour, like Sally, a communal touch makes a big difference. “Everyone was so friendly and welcoming in the group. By the second day, we were like a big family, including our awesome Program Director and our bus driver, who was great. …You could never on your own see all of the things that I saw with Grand Circle. Honestly, I was in awe of everything.”

With such a positive experience under her belt from a Vacation Ambassador, she decided to become one herself. “I came home and just couldn’t stop talking about the trip. I just couldn’t say enough good things about Grand Circle. A friend was thinking of going to London, and I told her to take your trip to see Scotland and Wales as well. She and her friend are now booked—my first referrals!”

It’s easy to earn rewards as a Vacation Ambassador:

REFER: Inspire new travelers to reserve any vacation and they’ll save $100 instantly
when they mention your name and Customer Number

EARN: You’ll earn $100 CASH for your first referral, and up to $5900 for eight referrals

REPEAT: Enjoy increasing CASH rewards for every additional new traveler you refer—
it’s unlimited

Find tips and tools for sharing your love of travel—and start earning rewards!

Travel Parties

Hosting a travel party is an easy—and fun—way to earn a free trip


Referral Cards

Print your own referral cards so you’ll always have some handy


Referral Kit

The complete guide to referring and earning as a Vacation Ambassador


A new traveler is a person who has never traveled with Grand Circle or Overseas Adventure Travel and does not currently have a departure reserved with Grand Circle or OAT. Standard Terms & Conditions apply. Every effort has been made to represent this information accurately. We reserve the right to correct errors.