New ways to see Ireland

An array of new tours and multi-centre trips mean clients can see the Emerald Isle with ease, writes Cathy Toogood

Sparkling loughs, undulating green hills, dramatic cliffs and lively cities keep visitors coming back to Ireland year after year – especially those who prefer to forgo a flight and travel by ferry from Great Britain or overland from Northern Ireland. The Emerald Isle’s picture-perfect scenery attracts film crews, which have used its landscapes as the setting for big hits including Normal People, The Banshees of Inisherin and The Tourist. In March, Netflix’s Irish Wish was released, showcasing Ireland’s eastern coast.

A spike in popularity soon followed: Tripadvisor-owned online booking platform Bókun reported that searches in the UK for ‘Ireland holidays 2024’ rose by 22% that month, while two of the movie’s filming locations – the Cliffs of Moher and Lough Tay – saw even more impressive spikes of 143% and 402% respectively.

If your clients have been inspired to experience the beauty of Ireland, there are a number of new tours taking in the best of the country this year. From self-drive and classic coach trips to walking tours and family-focused adventures, check out our pick of trips to suit every client.

Diamond Hill, Connemara, National Park, County Galway

1. Self-drive exploring Ireland’s Ancient East

McKinlay Kidd’s ‘Slowly…’ range of holidays is designed to allow clients to explore at a leisurely pace and get under the skin of a destination. The latest addition to this repertoire is a self-drive called Slowly Discovering Ireland’s Ancient East.

Starting with a two-night stay in Carlingford in the northeast, close to the border with Northern Ireland, the trip’s route takes in the Unesco-listed Neolithic tomb at Newgrange, the mountains and lakes of Wicklow, historic Kilkenny with its 12th-century castle, Ireland’s oldest city at Waterford, and ends with three nights in Youghal, a seaside spot in County Cork where clients can learn about everything from piracy to espionage.

Book it: The 10-night self-drive holiday starts from £1,345 per person, and includes B&B accommodation, a car and two passengers on the Carlingford Lough Ferry crossing, entry to Powerscourt Hotel and Gardens, a tour and tasting at a Wicklow berry winery and a guided walking tour in Youghal; car hire and ferry crossing to Ireland not included.

Cliffs of Moher, Co Clare

2. See the Giant’s Causeway by coach

Starting in Belfast and finishing in Dublin, the new Best of Ireland’s Heritage (North and South) coach tour from Titan covers a lot of big-hitting sights across the island.

In Northern Ireland, clients will visit the Titanic Belfast exhibition and the impressive Giant’s Causeway – home to ancient tales of warring giant Finn McCool and his Scottish counterpart – before crossing the border to admire the astonishing Cliffs of Moher and wind around the gorgeous Ring of Kerry peninsula road.

The tour ends with two nights in Dublin, where clients can see the beautifully illustrated Book of Kells at Trinity College.

Book it: The seven-night escorted tour starts from £1,995 per person, including B&B accommodation, flights from Heathrow, some meals, coach travel and excursions. Based on a September 24 departure.

Lough Tay, Co Wicklow

3. Cycle the Wild Atlantic Way

Clients can tackle some of the most scenic sections of Ireland’s jaw-dropping Wild Atlantic Way at their own pace with another recent addition – an eight-day self-guided cycling trip from Wilderness Ireland.

Part of the ‘plus+’ range, the trip combines the benefits of a self-paced cycle ride with the back-up of a soigneur (support guide), who can transport luggage and help with bike maintenance each evening, plus a support vehicle if those rolling hills become too much.

Covering distances of up to 50 miles a day through Counties Kerry, Cork and Clare, this southwest sojourn takes visitors through wildflower-filled mountain passes, windswept clifftop paths and the peaks of Killarney National Park, before a final stretch amid the wilds of the Burren to the pub-filled streets of Galway.

Book it: The six-night Self Guided plus+ Cycling – Wild Atlantic Way Southwest costs from €2,225 including rental of a Trek bike fitted with GPS.

Blarney Castle and gardens, Co Cork

4. Luxury small-group tour from the Blarney Stone to Jameson’s whiskey distillery

Clients who enjoy delving into the history of a destination will love the new Escape to the South West small-group tour with Scotland-based operator Rabbie’s. Travelling on a comfortable 16-seat Mercedes mini-coach from Dublin, the group will head to one of Ireland’s southernmost points, Mizen Head, to take in the rocky moonscape vistas before looping back towards the capital.

Memorable moments include leaning over the battlements of Blarney Castle to kiss the legendary Blarney Stone, sampling neat Irish whiskey at the Jameson’s Old Midleton Distillery near Cork, learning about the harbour town of Cobh (formerly known as Queenstown) and its links to the Titanic, plus taking in the ethereal beauty of the 11th-century monasteries at Glendalough.

Book it: The five-day tour starts from £557 per person for departures in October, or from £591 for June-September, including transport and a driver-guide, but excluding entry fees and accommodation, which can be added on at extra cost.

Midleton Distillery Experience, Co Cork

5. A family adventure through Ireland’s folk culture and Gaelic heritage

G Adventures’ National Geographic Ireland Family Journey: Castles, Folklore and Gaelic Traditions brings Ireland’s history alive through immersive activities and demonstrations.

Designed for families with children aged seven to 17, clients will visit headline attractions including the Ring of Kerry, verdant Inisheer island and the Cliffs of Moher.

Children can immerse themselves in Ireland’s heritage through a treasure hunt in Dublin, a visit to a sheepdog farm with a herding demonstration near Killarney, an Irish dancing lesson in Limerick and the chance to try traditional Gaelic games in Cork.

Hands-on activities are complemented by guided tours of the landscape and attractions, plus there’s ample free time to explore the cities as a family.

Book it: The eight-night tour starts from £2,847 per adult and £1,614 per child for an August 3 departure, including B&B accommodation, lunches, one evening meal, transport and activities.

Ask the expert

David Wood, trade, industry and business tourism manager, Tourism Ireland – GB

“The island of Ireland has hospitality woven into its DNA. You can have so many different types of holiday, from vibrant city breaks, road trips along the rugged Wild Atlantic Way to hiking in the beautiful Wicklow Mountains or embracing slow travel. It’s this diversity of experiences and landscapes, along with the warm, welcoming people, that keeps our visitors coming back.”

PICTURES: Fáilte Ireland, Tourism Ireland/Chris Hill; Cathal Noonan; Bernice Naughton

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