Tuesday, May 28, 2013

A Taste of Ireland With CIE Tours International

Ah Ireland! One of the prettiest places on Earth with the friendliest people and what better way to see all the sights than with a tour through CIE Tours.

We recently experienced their five night, six day Taste of Ireland tour and added three nights with a car rental after the tour to see as much of Ireland as possible.

Our experience began before we left with wonderful documents  in beautiful cases, two backpacks, luggage tags, luggage straps and two vinyl ponchos so we'd be prepared for any type of weather.

One of the worries many people have about taking tours is packing and unpacking going to so many hotels, but our cube system packing makes this very easy. Click here to read our story on efficient packing. Because we would be staying in hotels for two nights at the most, the cube system makes this much easier.

We chose CIE's 5 night tour beginning in Dublin and ending in Shannon. CIE has another option to return to Dublin adding an extra night as well as many other tours. After our tour ended in Shannon, we had a rental car and spent two nights in a b & b and a third in a hotel before flying back from Shannon.

Because we knew we would be dealing with jet lag on arrival in Dublin, we chose the tour option to arrive in Dublin a day before the actual tour began. CIE included tickets for the Hop on Hop Off Bus and a choice of a free tour of the Guinness or Jameson factories.

When our flight arrived, we met our CIE representative and boarded buses to our first hotel, the Burlington Hotel in Dublin. When we arrived, a room was ready for us so we dropped our carry ons in the room (our checked luggage was brought to and from our rooms on the entire tour by CIE) and set out to find the Hop On Hop Off bus. (We'll review each hotel separately on this blog).  After our bus tour, a stop at the Guinness Factory and dinner in downtown Dublin we returned to the hotel early for a good nights sleep.

The next day we had the morning to ourself before we were to meet our group. At 2 pm we met our guide and driver, Liam Finnegan, for a bus tour of the city and a tour of Christ Church. We returned to the hotel for a welcome drink and briefing from Liam on what to expect and then left again an hour later for a trip to the Merry Plough Boy Restaurant for dinner and a wonderful show. Breakfast and dinner are included each day on a CIE Tour.

The next morning we left our checked luggage outside our hotel door, had breakfast and were off to Killarney. Liam is a fantastic guide who is a wealth of knowledge and briefed us on the history of each town we drove through. We stopped for a photo op at the Rock of Cashel and then were taken to a sheepherding demonstration, which was fascinating.

We also visited the Blarney Castle with the opportunity to kiss the Blarney Stone. Beware- there are over 100 spiral steps to go up to the top of the Castle and the stone, where two guides assist you laying down and bending your head backwards to kiss the stone. There was plenty of time st the Blarney Woolen Mills to purchase beautiful sweaters made in Ireland.

We continued on and went to our next hotel, Killarney Towers in the wonderful town of Killarney.  Killarney is exactly the type of small town in Ireland we expected, full of colorful shops, bars and restaurants. We had dinner at the hotel with our group and then were out on the town for the evening on our own.

Day four and on to a tour of the Ring of Kerry. We were taken to a great seaside restaurant on Valentia Island for lunch and then taken across the bridge to the Skellig Experience. I knew nothing about this but was captivated by the story of Monks who built a monastic outpost on Skellig Michael, a small rock island off shore of County Kerry. Skellig Michael is a Unesco World Heritage Site and should we go back to Ireland, a place we will take a boat tour to. We returned back to Killarney Towers for a free afternoon and evening.

Day 5 was checkout of our Killarney Hotel and on to Bunratty with a stop at the Cliffs of Moher. You  can easily spend a half day viewing the Cliffs from many different perspectives. We spent several hours at the Cliffs, eating lunch and walking the Cliffs.We also drove past the Lahinch Golf Course, one of the top 50 courses in the world, with stunning views and holes atop huge sand dunes.

We arrived at Bunratty Castle Hotel later in the afternoon where we had an hour to check in and shop at the woolen outlets before our Medieval Dinner and Banquet at Bunratty Castle. The dinner was great fun and after dinner we had a farewell drink with the friends we made on our tour who were going on to Dublin with the tour.

The next morning, we had breakfast and then were transferred to the Shannon Airport to pick up our rental car for our journey on to three more independent nights, which we'll review separately.

Our driver and guide, Liam, is what truly made our tour enjoyable. Liam, as most tour guides, loves his job and it shows in how he treats his guests. He was a wealth of information and we actually said to each other when we traveled independently that we wished Liam were with us to tell us about the towns we traveled to and what we were seeing along the way.

A tour is truly the most economical way to see a country and you will get the most out of a country you are not familiar with. The wealth of knowledge that guides offer (and this is not just with CIE, we have found this on independant tours as well) give you information you would never know by visiting on your own. For instance, at Bunratty Folk Park, before we went to dinner, Liam took us around the park and explained each area and building that was in the folk park. Other tour drivers simply led their passengers straight to the Castle. 

Besides the history you hear on your tour, breakfast and dinner and all tours are included on a CIE tour.  The only extras you have are lunch costs, gratuities to your tour driver and shopping.  Some tour companies offer "optional" excursions you must purchase on your tour if you want to see them. 

Ready to take a tour? Call us to help book the best vacation anywhere in the world. 516-608-0568.

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