Day 1 & 2 (Thursday, Aug. 8, 2013 & Friday, Aug. 9, 2013)
We Departed for Dublin, Ireland
Our Irish adventure began our trans-Atlantic Overnight flight. First we flew from Tampa to New York's Kennedy Airport, then to Dublin. We left for NY at 3:30, arriving about 6:00, then our transatlantic flight left at 9:20 PM Arriving in Dublin at about 9:30 AM. We were met by Mike, driver of bus #1 (we were on Bus #2). Off to the Belvedere Hotel, a smallish oldworkd hotel, where we checked in, went to our room and took a 3 hour nap (we had not been able to sleep on the plane).
We awoke in time for our group meeting and dinner in the hotel's restaurant. We stayed in tonight in an attempt tp combat jet lag and lack of sleep.
Day 3 (Saturday, Aug. 10, 2013)
This morning we enjoyed a sightseeing tour of the highlights of this rich historical city. Its graceful Georgian townhouses with noted colorful doors, prominent public buildings and peaceful gardens make a delightful sight along the River Liffey. See the Bank of Ireland, built in the 18th century to house the Parliament; and Leinster House, where the government convenes today. We stop to see famous St. Patrick’s Cathedral, originally built in 450 AD, then rebuilt in 1191, it is still the largest church in Ireland.
This afternoon is at leisure This evening, we attended an optional Irish Night with a 4-course dinner and a lively show of Irish music and a full cast of dancers. Unfortunately we had the worst table in the show room, even though we were the 1st bus to arrive. I had to stand the through the whols show to see the dancers' feet, which is the whole idea of going to an Irish dance show at Taylor's Three Rock. The food was good, the dancers good to average, the comedian was stale and a leftover from Vaudeville genre. (From the way we were treated/place we were seated, I would advise you to save your money).
Day 4 (Sunday, Aug. 11, 2013)
Today, we began our motor coach tour of Ireland heading south to our first destination, the Rock of Cashel – a cluster of historic ruins that sits on a towering hilltop rising 200 feet above the surrounding plains. We continued to Cobh (formerly known as Queenstown), a pretty seaside town, set on a hill above a harbor that was the Titanic’s last port of call in 1912. Learn the history of the town when we visit the Cobh Heritage Centre and watch the multimedia exhibition in the Victorian Railway Station. Cobh was also the departure point for over 2.5 million emigrating Irish, the majority to the US and you’ll learn their full story as it is told in the exhibition. Arrive in the city of Cork, now Ireland’s second largest city, by early evening.
Day 5 (Monday, Aug. 12, 2013)
It was a short drive to visit Blarney Castle, one of Ireland’s oldest and most historic castles. Explore the castle, and Tom climbed the 125 steps of the spiral staircase and kissed ‘The Stone of Eloquence’ (the Blarney Stone). Before we left we visited Blarney Woollen Mill, to see some of Ireland’s famous high-quality woolen products. While we were there, a girl's dance academy gave us a free show. Our drive continued to where we took a horse drawn carriage ride to Muckross House & Gardens in the Killarney National Park. This elaborately restored Victorian mansion was owned by Lord Ardilaun (of the Guinness family) and then by the Bourn Vincents.
(Tuesday, Aug 13, 2013)
Today we toured one of Europe’s most famous scenic drives, the Ring of Kerry (or Iveragh Peninsula to give it its correct name), offering spectacular views of lakes and rivers. We made several stops along the way where we take photos of the stunning views. We encountered some road-hogs on the trip today. #1 a man pulling a boat on a trailor who tried to manuver across a bridge and make a left turn--way too wide, blocking the road for us; #2 a motorcoach going around the ring of Kerry in the wrong direction (with roads WAY too narrow for 2 motor coaches to pass) and #3 a family who rented an RV that was too wide for them to drive. Barry, our bus driver siad he was going to have a pint or 2 that evening.
Day 7 (Wednesday, Aug., 8, 2013 )
Today enjoyed a full day of captivating sightseeing as we drive north to Galway. Our first stop is Bunratty Castle & Folk Park, to see one of the most complete and authentic medieval fortresses in Ireland. Built in 1425, the Bunratty Castle was restored in 1954 to its former splendor. It now contains 15th and 16th century furnishings, tapestries and works of art that capture the mood of those times. Next, we drove through the scenic Burren area, stopping to view the picturesque Cliffs of Moher, standing 700 feet tall and 5 miles long with incredible views of the Atlantic.
Day 8 (Thursday Aug. 9, 2013)
Today was a very rainy day! First we drove through the beautiful and rugged landscape of the Connemara region, then, on through the quiet hills and maze of gentle lakes and rivers. Next we visited the palatial Kylemore Abbey, majestically nestled at the base of Druchruach Mountain. Originally built as a castle in 1867 by local icon Mitchell Henry, it became an Abbey in 1920 and today is the oldest of the Irish Benedictine Abbeys. Much of this stop was ourdoors, and since it was raining, we mainly visited the gift shops. :)
Day 9 (Friday, Aug 10, 2013)
This morning we enjoyed a delightful 30-minute visit to Belleek Pottery, learning about the history and creation of delicate Irish porcelain. Next, we visited the Ulster American Folk Park, a living history settlement showing Ireland in the mid 1800’s, and the story of how and why so many Irish immigrated to America. We explored the ‘village’ with its inviting countryside cottages, farms, schools and costumed docents. Our drive then continued east, to arrive in Belfast, Northern Ireland, our home for the next two nights.
Day 10 (Saturday, Aug. 11, 2013)
Today enjoyed a scenic full day excursion all the way to the North Channel of the Irish Sea. We drove along the beautiful coastal road and take in some stunning scenery from the motor coach. We spent time exploring “The Giant’s Causeway,” a UNESCO World Heritage Site with remarkable rock formations made up of over 40,000 hexagonal stacks.
Day 11 (Sunday, Aug. 11, 2013)
This morning we made a visit to Titanic Belfast; the brand new $150 million Titanic visitor experience in the city where the doomed liner was built. 2012 marked 100 years since she sank and here you saw full-scale reconstructions and learn about her conception, through her construction and launch to her infamous maiden voyage and catastrophic demise. The journey goes beyond the aftermath of the sinking, to the discovery of the wreck and continues into the present day with a live undersea exploration center. Before we left Belfast we continued on a panoramic motor coach tour of the city taking in sights such as the impressive Parliament buildings at Stormont, Belfast City Hall and the murals of the Falls Road which depict the religious-political strife of the 20th Century. In the afternoon we drove south to Dublin. This evening we had a farewell evening at Jameson’s Distillery.
Barry consented to stop enroute to Dublin at the village of Loughbrickland in County Down where my great great great grandfather William Campbell was born in 1790. He took my picture standing below the sign.
Our Your of Ireland came to a close after a Commercial/Tour or the Jameson Distillery where we had a thing Irish stew for dinner.
Day 12 (Monday, Aug. 12, 2013)
We were up at 4:30 Ireland time (11:30 PM Aug 11 Eastern Time) since our bags had to be in the hall by 4:45. Down for a continental breakast. One last check of the room then down to the bus and we were off to the airport. We did security and US Immigration/Customs in the Dublin Airport. After a long flight we landed in Atlanta where we changed planes and were on our way to Tampa. We arrived home by 6:30 PM. We were exhausted but home.