Day by Day Itinerary

Delve deep into the magic of the Emerald Isle, a land rich in history, legend, verdant landscapes, and stirring music. Begin your journey in Galway, an enchanting city on Ireland’s western coast where there’s a tune playing around every corner. Experience the natural splendor of the eerie landscape of the Burren and at the towering coastal Cliffs of Moher as we travel to Killarney, then on to Cork and its nearby seaport of Cobh. This is the place where multitudes of Irish emigrated during the Potato Famine. Departing Cork, you’ll continue on to Waterford, then finally arrive at the Irish Republic’s cosmopolitan capital, Dublin. It’s an in-depth discovery of everything Irish—the history, the land, and above all, the gregarious charm of the Irish people.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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 as you watch the sun go down over Galway Bay. Your optional tour includes a three-course dinner with entertainment.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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. Please note: This optional tour is available on late May-early September departures only.

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    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 see the famed Blasket Islands, rising like jewels from the Atlantic Ocean. 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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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 watch as a local craftsman demonstrates the art of hurl making.

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

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    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.

    You'll arrive in Dublin in the afternoon, and visit 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.

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    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 observe 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 at a local restaurant

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    • 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

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Questions and Answers

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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.

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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

  • Walk 2 miles unassisted and participate in 1.5-2.5 hours of physical activities daily, including stairs
  • Agility, balance, stair-climbing are required to kiss the Blarney Stone
  • 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
  • Program Directors reserve the right to modify participation or send travelers home if their limitations impact the group’s experience

Terrain & Transportation

  • Uneven walking surfaces, including unpaved paths, hills, stairs, and cobblestones
  • Travel by 45-seat motorcoach and jaunting car (horse-drawn carriage)


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


  • 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.

  • Kingsley Hotel

    Cork, Ireland

    Located along the banks of Cork’s Lee River overlooking the Weir, the Kingsley Hotel features a spa, health club, two restaurants, a bar, and a lounge. Each air-conditioned room includes wireless Internet access, widescreen TV, safe, coffee- and tea-making facilities, and a private bath with hair dryer.

  • 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

Customize Your Trip

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 customizing your trip—and creating your own unique travel experience:

Purchase Flights with Grand Circle

  • Choose the departure city and airline that works best for you
  • Depart from one city and return to another
  • Upgrade your air itinerary based on your travel preferences
  • “Break away” before or after your trip to explore independently or re-energize
  • Combine two or more trips to make the most of your value—and avoid another long flight
  • Extend your discoveries with pre- or post-trip extensions

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 sharing a pint with new friends in a pub, here are some memorable experiences our travelers shared from our Ireland tour.

Scenic landscapes
"There is no way to describe the beauty of this wonderful country ... you have everything from the seacoast with the bluest waters to the mountains covered in mist to the hillsides covered in every shade of green."
A 2-time traveler from Battle Creek, MI

Sheepdog demonstration
"One of my most memorable moments was visiting the sheep farm and meeting Hugh and Rose. Rose is an amazing sheep dog and herds sheep faster than most moms can herd their children!"
A 3-time traveler from Bellmore, NY

Connemara & Kylemore Abbey optional tour
"Probably the thing that made the biggest impression on me in Ireland was the vastness of land where the potato famine was, and miles and miles and miles of stone walls that quartered off each family's property. It just seemed to go on forever and makes one realize, with great sadness, what those farmers went through. It's really unimaginable until you see the area."
A 2-time traveler from St. Louis, MO

Waterford Crystal factory
"The skilled craftsmen at the Waterford Crystal factory were fascinating to watch as they fired, cooled, and etched so many lovely crystal pieces."
A 5-time traveler from Stillwater, MN

Dingle Experience optional tour
"The scenery was glorious. Every time we went on the coach for a ride, we experienced breath taking views ... The drive on the Dingle Peninsula was amazing ... It had spectacular scenery."
A 5-time traveler from Folsom, PA

Program Directors
"We learned so much about the Irish history and experience ... Barbara was so knowledgeable, presenting the information in a very interesting way ... she would recount a period of history then she'd play an Irish ballad that told the story by music. Or she would have a piece of poetry that shed light on the subject at hand ... the entire trip was one of countless experiences of 'discovery and learning.'"
A 20-time traveler from Naples, FL

Northern Ireland pre-trip extension
"Be sure to take the Northern Ireland pre-trip to get a full understanding of Ireland's history and issues—and its beauty. Toured the Titanic exhibition in Belfast along with the Gaol (wonderful guided tour) and City Hall ... and began to understand the history leading to The Troubles."
An 8-time traveler from Montgomery, AL

Home-Hosted Lunch
"I have never been anywhere where the people are so charming and friendly. Our Home-Hosted meal was with a delightful family who shared some of their history, past and present, with us."
A first-time traveler from Las Vegas, NV

Irish history & culture discussion
"We loved listening to Denis Kissane's presentation of 'Life in Rural Ireland.' He truly gave us a wonderful picture of what life was like on a farm through five generations of his family."
A 5-time traveler from Bayside, NY

Local pubs
"I spent the free evening in a pub just down the street from the hotel, listening to traditional music and having a fantastic conversation with my new friend Daniel, who told me all about life in Ireland from his perspective. We still keep in touch. ... Though I loved all the history and castles and scenery—my most memorable moment was sitting in the pub, listening to music and hearing the conversations of regular people living their lives."
A 2-time traveler from Denver, CO

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

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.

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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

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History, Culture & More

Bring this trip to life and learn more about the region’s history, art, culture, and more by reading the special features below.

County Kerry: Land of Lakes, Loss, and Legend

Uncover the millennia of history and spectacular geological features nestled within Ireland’s “rebel county.”

Read More »

Lucky or charmed? Irish folklore casts a spell

See how Celtic, Anglo- Saxon, and Christian customs grew into a wealth of charms, superstitions, and traditions.

Read More »

Women in Irish Music

Find out how a few notable talents transformed the genre in the 20th century, from Julia Clifford to Enya.

Read More »

History, Culture & More

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.

History, Culture & More

Lucky or charmed? Irish folklore casts a spell

See how Celtic, Anglo- Saxon, and Christian customs grew into a wealth of charms, superstitions, and traditions

by Lyette Mercier for Insider

With 5,000 years of history and mythology to draw from, it’s no surprise that Irish tradition is overflowing with charms and superstitions about everything—from finding love to buying a cow. The Emerald Isle’s inhabitants adapted and mixed Celtic, Anglo- Saxon, and Christian customs to create a rich and varied lore of folk wisdom.

When people talk about “the luck of the Irish” nowadays, it’s meant sincerely—but the origin of the phrase was dark, as Ireland suffered through centuries of poverty, famine, and political oppression under British rule. So it’s unsurprising that many Irish superstitions revolve around all things lucky and unlucky. Black cats, crowing hens, whistling girls, and knitting at night are unlucky. A hen wandering into your house, hearing a cuckoo call on your right, and meeting a white lamb on the road are all good omens.

Magpies, ubiquitous in Ireland and known for their cleverness and thievery, have a whole host of superstitions surrounding them. One magpie at your door foretells death, but two is a sign that good luck is coming. It’s unlucky to meet a magpie on a journey, though meeting two magpies on your right is lucky. But then again, three magpies on your left is unlucky.

These contradictory beliefs were most famously collected together in the book Irish Cures, Mystic Charms & Superstitions, compiled in 1888 by Lady Jane Wilde. Lady Wilde’s book brings together traditions from all over Ireland, and it’s certain that some were regional or even confined to a village or two. But the comprehensiveness of the traditions and lore in the book give a fascinating glimpse into life in pre-modern Ireland, where residents relied heavily on faith and folk wisdom in their everyday lives.

Although many of the home remedies Lady Wilde lists seem cringeworthy (it’s hard to believe anyone ever actually tried to cure a fever by eating a live spider rolled into a lump of butter) at least one now has modern science behind it. The seemingly poor choice to use spiderwebs to cover wounds and stop bleeding turns out to be based on the fact that spider webs are rich in Vitamin K, which encourages blood to clot.

Other superstitions took their basis from Christian beliefs. Killing a robin, whose red breast symbolized the blood of Christ, meant bad luck for life. And Friday was believed to have been the day of Adam’s creation, the expulsion from the Garden of Eden, and Christ’s death, “hence,” according to Lady Wilde, “its evil repute and fatal influence.” Haircuts, business deals, moving house, and starting trips were all verboten on Fridays.

Another major influence on Irish superstitions is belief in fairies, usually called “fair folk,” “good neighbors,” or just “The Folk” in conversation, since saying their name out loud is said to catch their attention. Irish fairies are not the pixie-dust sprinkling, benevolent creatures of modern children’s stories. Some legends say they are the Tuatha De Danann, the pagan gods of Ireland angry at being consigned to the underworld by conquering Christians. Other, Christianized versions of their origin call them fallen angels, demons who didn’t make it all the way to hell. In any case, they regard humanity with malice.

The Sidhe, the fairy race, were said to steal babies and replace them with weak, ugly “changelings.” So families were to lock every drawer and cabinet in a house as soon as a baby was born to keep fairies from lying in wait to kidnap the baby. Other fairy-related superstitions include avoiding building on a known fairy-path or moving a fairy mound, which is a doorway between our world and the fairies’ realm. Inconveniencing fairies led to their wrath, which meant personal and financial ruin for any human foolish enough to cross them.

While few people still believe in changelings, some fairy stories are taken seriously even today. When Irish developer Sean Quinn, once the nation’s richest man, lost his entire fortune in 2012, locals in County Cavan said it was the fairies revenge for Quinn moving a local fairy mound to build a quarry on the site. For the unfortunate Quinn, in this case, the original meaning of “luck of the Irish” held true.

History, Culture & More

Women in Irish Music

by Philip McCluskey for Insider

The people of Ireland have expressed their joys and sorrows through song for centuries— chronicling their pain and pride with haunting ballads and dance-friendly ditties. For most of that time, men dominated the Celtic music scene—but thanks to some talented women, the landscape of Irish music has been transformed over the past several decades.

During centuries of British occupation of Ireland, every aspect of Irish culture was suppressed. British forces even confiscated musical instruments, leading the Irish to express themselves through a cappella singing, known as sean-nos (“old-style”). When restrictions were eased in the late 1800s, there was enthusiastic interest in a revitalizing Irish customs—including participation in feis cheoil (“music festival involving competition”). Women were sometimes the subjects of songs at these events, but they weren’t often at the center of the stage. This started to change, however slowly, in the 20th century.

Julia Clifford was one woman who helped pave the way for women in Irish music during this time. Clifford was so well respected as a traditional fiddler in the 1960s that a type of Irish folk music was named after her style of play (as well as others from her area). The style, called Sliabh Luachra for the region from which she hailed, was rhythmic, wild, and suited to dancing.

The vocalist Bridie Gallagher was another trailblazer. Nicknamed the “Girl from Donegal,” she began as a singer in a ceili band in her native Creeslough before going on to sing at the Sydney Opera House, Carnegie Hall, and Royal Albert Hall.

Female musicians from Ireland continued to garner praise through the latter half of the 20th century, but it wasn’t until the 1990s that some became household names. One of the faces of modern Irish music is Enya, whose real name is Eithne Ní Bhraonáin. Like Gallagher, Enya is from Donegal, but her music is very different. She uses mostly synthesizers and multi-layered vocal tracks to achieve a distinctive style influenced by Irish music—in fact, many of her songs have Irish-language lyrics.

Enya has sold more than 75 million albums, making her Ireland’s most successful solo musician. Glenageary native Sinead O’ Connor skyrocketed to fame with her 1990 pop song “Nothing Compares 2 U.” In the mid-90s, Limerick-born singer Dolores O’Riordan and her rock band, The Cranberries, sold more than 35 million albums over a period of ten years. O’Connor and O’Riordan’s singing both included “keening”—a distinctive wail that is considered one of the oldest forms of Irish music. (The word “keening” is said to be derived from the Irish term caoineadh, meaning to cry or weep.)

Though each of these modern women was influenced by the music of her homeland, their songs were a departure from the oldtime tunes of Clifford, Gallagher, and their predecessors. As it turned out, though, this time period brought a renewed interest in traditional Irish music as well.

A prime example is A Woman’s Heart, a collaborative album created by esteemed Irish folk artists Mary Black, Delores Keane, Sharon Shannon, and others. Released in 1992, the album wasn’t expected to do well—the musicians only hoped to move a few thousand records—but it struck a chord with listeners: The record sold 750,000 copies worldwide.

More recently, the band Celtic Woman has built upon the global interest in female focused music from the Emerald Isle. The all-woman ensemble has been called “Riverdance of the voice,” and plays modern favorites as well as classic Celtic tunes. The group has become a cultural phenomenon, selling millions of albums and performing at sold-out arenas worldwide.

Today, Irish women continue to garner critical and commercial success, and have become some of the most well-known musicians in the world. It is clear that in a genre once dominated by men, Irish women no longer take second fiddle.

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We encourage you and your friends to compare our prices and value to the following companies:

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Solo Traveler Stories

Cultivating a Traveler’s Life: My Solo Journey to Ireland

by Jean Murray, 4-time traveler from Belleair Bluffs, Florida

Voltaire once said, “We must cultivate our own garden.” As a master gardener, I can certainly relate to that sentiment in a literal sense—I know the hard work that goes into making a garden look beautiful. Yet there is another meaning there: the idea of working to create the experiences you want to have.

I wanted to see some of the world, but my husband is not a traveler. So I knew that if I wanted to take a trip, I was going to have to take the chance of going solo. I wanted to go to Ireland, and a friend had recommended Grand Circle as a solo-friendly company. So I did my research and liked what I found—especially the free Single Supplement, which is a huge benefit.

I signed up for the Ireland in Depth trip, an exciting journey that visits Emerald Isle destinations like the Burren, Blarney Castle, the Ring of Kerry, and Dublin. I enjoyed seeing the Cliffs of Moher—particularly because my group saw them early in the morning, before the rush of tourist buses arrived. And of course, I especially enjoyed some of the beautiful gardens we saw.

Grand Circle made us all feel special on the trip, but they went out of their way to see that solo travelers like me were treated well. They did thoughtful little things to make me comfortable, like giving me an extra seat on the bus rather than automatically seating me next to another solo traveler.

Our Program Director, Sean, was a big reason why I enjoyed the trip so much. He gave 110% every single minute of the trip, and always made himself available. I really appreciated that he didn’t treat me differently because I was traveling by myself.

I appreciated having freedom to be on my own while I was traveling, but I also enjoyed the connections I made with my fellow travelers. People were very friendly, often inviting me to join them for a walk or sit with them at their table. And I found that I had quite a bit in common with others on the trip. There were several other ladies traveling single, and there were some other vegetarians like me. Best of all, perhaps, there were other master gardeners on the trip. We had a lot to talk about after seeing some of the beautiful gardens in Ireland.

The trip was such a success that I have another one booked with Grand Circle. This time, I’m off on the Holland & Belgium in Springtime River Cruise. I know I’ll enjoy so many parts of the trip, but I can’t wait to see the Aalsmeer Flower Market, the largest one in the world. Once a gardener, always a gardener!