Ireland boasts tremendous opportunities for any traveler – from walking tours of historical sites, to ancient ruins and castles, to the birthplace of the Titanic. One of the most enjoyable ways to get around is by bus. Bus tours offer visitors a relaxing way to get around the countryside, make friends in other travelers, and provide even more opportunities to learn about the country’s heritage and lore.
Dublin itself has the hustle and bustle you’d expect from any compact city. It has a compelling mixture of history, traditional pubs, elegant architecture, and modern shopping and dining. Because it’s so compact, Dublin makes a great starting off point for any Irish vacation. The city is very walkable with many of the highlights within a short walking distance. For example, the Bank of Ireland was built in the 18th century to house the Irish Parliament. St. Patrick’s Cathedral is a stunning example of traditional architecture, and was built in 450 AD. In 1191 it was rebuilt, and remains the largest church in Ireland!
Visiting Ireland is a quite a treat. The country is alive with traditions and folk lore centuries old. And while we may be familiar with Ireland’s most recognizable icon, the leprechaun, our tour director filled us in on several other, less famous fairy-like creatures of Irish lore. This is one of the great things about taking a bus tour of a place; not only can you sit back and enjoy the scenery, but the drives from one sightseeing spot to another offer great opportunity for the tour guides to fill travelers in on local customs, points of interest, and other interesting tidbits and facts.
The sightseeing itself ranges from natural rock formations to ancient architecture and castles.
The Rock of Cashel is remarkable to see. Sitting 200 feet above the surrounding area, it is a cluster of historic ruins. This spot dates all the way back to the 4th century. Neighboring city, Cobh, is a beautiful seaside town that sits on a hilltop overlooking a harbor. This harbor holds particular fame as it was the departure point for over 2.5 million emigrating Irish (most were leaving for America). And perhaps even more noteworthy, Cobh was the Titanic’s last port of call in 1912 before shipping out on her maiden and final voyage. If you end up visiting Ireland, make sure to plan a stop at the Titanic Belfast Visitor Center. The center is located at the spot where the doomed liner was built. You can tour full-scale reconstructions, learn about the construction process, and learn facts and details about her infamous maiden voyage.
The castles in Ireland are not to be missed. The famous Blarney Stone (actually called the “Stone of Eloquence”) is located at the famous Blarney Castle. As the tradition dictates, whoever kisses the stone will be blessed with “the Gift of the Gab.” This is a world-famous landmark that simply cannot be missed.
The Bunratty Castle is quite possibly the most complete medieval fortress in Ireland. The castle itself was initially built in 1425. The country decided in 1954 to restore the castle to its original splendor. The building is perfectly intact and even contains art and furnishings from the 15th and 16th centuries. A visit to the Bunratty Castle is akin to taking a trip back in time. Imagine being able to walk through the halls exactly as they would have been nearly 600 years ago.
One final stop that cannot be missed on any Irish vacation are the Cliffs of Moher. These are on the Western coast and gained recent fame for their appearance in the movie, Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. They also appeared in The Princess Bride. The cliffs themselves stand 700 feet tall and stretch across 5 miles of coast line.
May your blessings outnumber
The shamrocks that grow.
And may trouble avoid you
Wherever you go.
~Traditional Irish Blessing