Jewels of Ireland was a comprehensive tour of the Island
We hit many 'hot spots'.
1) Five Star - The driver, Tony Byrne was knowledgeable, entertaining, and safe on the winding back roads.
2) Four Stars- Most of the hotels were very nice, with pleasant staff & nice amenities. The Kinsale hotel had exceptional vistas, although dinner was the most mediocre included meal on the trip. The Skellig Dingle hotel was great top to bottom. I would not stay at Treacey's Oakwood Hotel in Shannon again - dirty, unresponsive staff. Galway Bay Hotel & The Mill Park Hotel in Donegal were very nice & had great locations & staff. While the Knightsbrook resort was a very fancy hotel, we could have skipped it & spent another night in Belfast. The Croke Park Hotel was great & a 15 min walk to the river.
3) 4.5 Stars - The sights we did hit were fantastic.
- Dublin speaks for itself.
- *The 'Walking Tour of Kinsale' was OUTSTANDING, led by historian & author Barry Moloney.
- A pass by Rock of Cashel & a visit to Blarney Castle were awesome.
- *The Dingle Peninsula in County Kerry was breathtaking, & the Blasket Islands museum was great.
- Cliffs of Moher were 'as advertised'. Dinner & show in Knappogue Castle was great! Sheep dog demonstration in the Burren in County Clare was surprisingly fascinating.
- the cruise on the Killary Fjord was incredible as was the trip to Kylemore Abbey Castle - STUNNING
- The Cliffs of Sliabh Liag (Slieve League) were amazing.
- Walking tour of Galway was a waste of time - horrible guide (I drink here. I drink there. There used to be a store here.).
_ *Walking tour of Derry" was OUTSTANDING - historian Sorcha Donner was our guide & told us facts about Derry past & present. UNESCO World Heritage site - The Giant's Causeway was awesome. Tour of Croke Park Skyline tour was excellent!
- * The FOOD everywhere was great - from fresh seafood to lamb to brown bread. (Special shout out to the Oslo Tavern in Galway that had the most fantastic seafood chowder EVER & in Dingle at the Reel Dingle Fish Co for INCREDIBLE choices of fresh fish for lunch).
4- Downside - We were rushed.
- ***We did NOT see "Brú na Bóinne". Many people on the tour had looked forward to this & we were not told before the day that we were supposed to visit (according to the itinerary provided) that they could not fit it in.
- We did NOT see "The Nine Glens of Antrim".
- We spent a total of 13 hours in Belfast including sleep.
- We only had 2 hrs at Blarney Castle & there was a 1 1/2 hr wait to see the Blarney Stone. Only a drive by the Rock of Cashel for photo shot.
- We had 2 "Stop & Shop" stops at "preferred shopping partners" - prices were higher than in any of the towns for the same brands.
On balance this was an excellent tour. The knowledgeable driver guide, 2 GREAT walking tours in Kinsale & Derry, Great food across the country, gorgeous scenery & castles, free time to interact with friendly Irish people all over, & all the side tours included in the price - all made this very enjoyable.