Guided tours are a good option when you don't want to do it all yourself. The companies here all offer tours to Ireland on a "land-only" basis. A "land-only" tour includes all your travel (by bus, in most cases) once you arrive in the destination country, but not necessarily your flights to your destination. And remember that you'll be expected to tip your guide (in cash) at the end of the tour.
CIE Tours International is one of the biggest and longest-established (75 years) tour operators in the Irish market. They offer a selection of fully inclusive, escorted bus tours, or independent fly-drive vacations. An eight-day itinerary with car rental and confirmed hotel bookings starts at $796 per person, with two people traveling. The Heritage Tour is an eight-day bus tour, starting with two nights in Dublin, and taking in Bunratty Castle and Folk Park, Blarney Castle, the Cliffs of Moher, the Skellig Experience, and the Lakes of Killarney, among other attractions, with accommodation in top hotels.
Myguideireland, a young company set up by three friends on their return to Ireland from living and working in Philadelphia, aims to create the best holiday experience by using enthusiastic local guides. A customized seven-day self-drive tour across Ireland starts from $513 per person, with two people traveling. The price includes six nights at a B&B, car rental, and toll-free calls to your vacation specialist. Escorted bus tours include the Irish Jaunt, which includes one day in Dublin, a drive to Blarney Castle via the Rock of Cashel, Killarney, the Ring of Kerry, and the Cliffs of Moher, and offers five days, four nights, five meals, and accommodation in superior hotels, and costs from $708 per person.
CIE Tours International (800/243–8607. www.cietours.com.)
myguideireland (800/965–9612. www.myguideireland.com.)
Irish Cycling Safaris. Irish Cycling Safaris pioneered cycling holidays in Ireland, and offer easygoing to moderate cycling trips along rural back roads with luggage transfer and accommodation in small family-run hotels and guesthouses. A weeklong tour of west Cork and Kerry, including Killarney, costs €735 per person sharing. Tour groups are accompanied by a local guide who drives the support van. Alternatively, you can opt for a self-led tour that includes bike rental, itinerary, and prebooked accommodation, €715 per person sharing.
Iron Donkey. Iron Donkey gets raves from Fodor's readers. Offering something for everyone from novices to hammerheads, their mainstay are guided group tours: for instance, the Clare and Burren itinerary sets out from Ennis and includes Kilkee, Loop Head, Spanish Point, the Cliffs of Moher, the Burren coastline, and Bunratty Castle (cost is about €1,545 per person sharing). But others swear by the super-thorough and well-run custom tours, where they meet you at the first lodging (all great options, incidentally) with your bikes and size them to you, go over your route, and beautifully prep you for the ride.
Most airlines accommodate bikes as luggage, provided they're dismantled and boxed.
Irish Cycling Safaris (01/260–0749. www.cyclingsafaris.com.)
Iron Donkey (www.irondonkey.com.)
Adams & Butler. Ireland's leading purveyor of customized vacations, Adams & Butler has an unbeatable range of contacts in the upper end of the market. Most of its tours are for groups in chauffeur-driven cars or on small luxury buses. It can offer you a week in Ireland with a self-drive car, an itinerary, and stays in houses of character from $750; up that price to around $4,000 per person for a luxury hotel with driver-guide and five-star accommodations. 01/288–9355. www.adamsandbutler.com.
Adams & Butler (800/894–5712 or 01/288–9355. www.adamsandbutler.com.)
Executive Golf & Leisure. These Scotland-based golf specialists offer customized golf breaks or packages, such as an eight-day golf tour of Ireland for about $7,400 with luxury accommodation, transfers, and rounds on some of the finest courses: the K Club, Old Portmarnock, Waterville, Ballybunion, Killarney, and the Old Head of Kinsale. www.execgolf-leisure.com.
Golfbreaks.com. This company will customize a golf tour for you, and also have tours of different regions of Ireland. Their Northern Ireland and the Northwest package includes rounds at the legendary Royal County Down and Royal Portrush courses.
Executive Golf & Leisure (877/295–2247 or 1786/832–244. www.execgolf-leisure.com.)
Golfbreaks.com (800/279–7988. www.golfbreaks.com.)
Isle Inn. A long-established concern, Isle Inn offers self-drive holidays and escorted tours, and has an interesting range of activity holidays and escorted hiking holidays averaging 16 to 19 km (10 to 12 miles) a day, staying in family-run guesthouses and characterful small hotels, while walking through scenic areas, including Donegal coast, the Glens of Antrim, and Achill island and Mayo. Escorted hiking holidays start from $1,420. A chauffeur-driven itinerary (from $1,170) combines culture and cuisine, offering six nights at top hotels with gourmet dinners and a driver to escort you. 800/237–9376. wwww.isleinntours.com.
Isle Inn Tours (800/237–9376. www.isleinntours.com.)
Railtours Ireland. This top outfitter uses the Irish railway network for major transfers, and coaches for sightseeing at the destination, avoiding long, leg-numbing stretches of coach travel. The five-day tour starts with a train ride from Dublin to Cork (2 hours, 45 minutes) including breakfast, and continues with a bus tour to Blarney, train to Killarney, bus tour of the Ring of Kerry, and also visits Galway, the Cliffs of Moher, and Connemara, starting at €669 per person, with accommodation in B&Bs and modest hotels. 01/856–0045 (in Ireland); 800/5008 0200 (toll free from US). www.railtoursireland.com.
Railtours Ireland (01/856–0045 (in Ireland); 800/5008 0200 (toll free from US). www.railtoursireland.com.)
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