Our 2-Week Tour of Ireland and Scotland With Insight Vacations - August 2022
In August 2022, we took a 2-week tour of Ireland and Scotland with Insight Vacations. This post is a review the places we visited, the hotels where we stayed and our opinion of the tour (which is very favorable, by the way).
Dublin, Trinity College and the Book of Kells
First, as I recommend with any tour or cruise, we arrived the day before the tour actually started. This has several benefits. First, you never know when you can be delayed, and if 2022 is remembered for anything, it will be the issues with flight delays and lost baggage. Second, the flights from the US to Europe and the UK are always overnight, so when you get there, you will need a day to rest up. You don’t want to sleep (or worse, snore) through the first day activities on the tour. Lastly, this gave us extra time to see things in Dublin that wouldn’t necessarily be on the itinerary.
Our hotel was the Clayton Charlemont, which is located in the south-central area of Dublin. It was about a mile walk from our hotel to the River Liffey, so not too far out of the city center. On that first day, after checking in to our hotel, we walked down Grafton Street, and through St. Stephen’s Green Park. That evening, we had dinner at a traditional Irish Pub called the Bleeding Horse.
The next day (after sleeping almost 12 hours), we again had most of the day to explore on our own. This time we walked again into the city center, and visited Christchurch Cathedral, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin Castle and the Temple Bar area. That afternoon, we continued our exploration of Dublin with a stop at the Irish Whiskey Museum. We didn’t have enough time to do the tour, so I had to settle for a whiskey tasting of 5 different whiskey’s (sometimes you just have to make do).
On our last full day in Dublin, we started with a tour of the city that included a stop at Phoenix Park. In the park is a large cross, called the Papal Cross, and was dedicated to Pope John Paul II. Afterwards, we went to Trinity College and visited the Old Library, which included a viewing of the Book of Kells and the original declaration forming the Republic of Ireland.
“Glendalough” is Gaelic for “the land between two lakes”. The area includes 6th century ruins for monastery started by St. Kevin, a cemetery, and other buildings dating back to the 10th – 12th centuries.
That night, we returned to Dublin and attended a show of traditional Irish Music and Dancing.
Ireland is famous for horse racing. Part of that fame is the National Stud Farm in Kildare. The farm is famous for its care and breeding of some very famous thoroughbred horses. The grounds also house a Japanese Style Garden.
After leaving Kildare, we stopped in the little town of Kilkenny. Located on the River Nore, Kilkenny was famous as the 13th century capital of Ireland. Kilkenny has Kilkenny Castle, dating back to 1190, and St. Canice’s Cathedral, a 13th century cathedral.
After Kilkenny, we continued on to Cork.
After spending the night in Cork we went to the town of Cobh (pronounced “Cove”). Cobh is famous as the last point of departure for ships crossing from the British Isles to the US, including famous ships like the Titanic and the Lusitania. The town includes an exhibit called “The Queenstown Story”, that chronicles life on board ships making this crossing over two centuries.
After leaving Cobh, we continued on to the famous Blarney Castle, where yes, you can still kiss the stone.
After leaving Blarney, we continued on to Killarney for a 2-night stay.
In the morning of day 6 of our trip, we spent the morning on a hike through Killarney National Park.
In the afternoon, we drove along the Ring of Kerry, on the Iveragh Peninsula. This is a 112 mile route along the outline of the peninsula.
The next morning we headed out for a stop at the Cliffs of Moher. To me, this was one of the highlights of the trip.
After leaving the Cliffs, we continued on the Galway, where we visited the medieval parts of the city, St. Nicholas Cathedral, and Eyre Square, a park dedicated to John F. Kennedy.
Cong is a small town on the edge of Connemara National Park, and was the backdrop for John Wayne’s movie “The Quiet Man”, filmed in the 1940’s. The town has the ruins of a 12th Century Abbey, and has Ashford Castle, a 5-Star hotel.
Connemara is a national park in western Ireland that is comprised of mountain ranges, lake and ocean inlets.
The day started with a trip into Derry/Londonderry. A local guide explained to us what life was like there during “The Troubles” and Derry was essentially a war zone.
After leaving Derry, we went to the Giant’s Causeway, to see the basalt formations. From there, we traveled to Ballygally for our last night in Ireland.
Early the next morning, we made the 70 mile crossing from Northern Ireland to Scotland on the Irish Sea. Our first stop was at Ardgowan Estate, the ancestral home of descendants of Robert the Bruce and the Stewart’s.
Glasgow was our next stop, where we visited St. Mungo’s Cathedral.
The next day we followed along the route from Loch Lomond, through the Highlands, and on to Loch Ness.
As you can see, the weather that day was highly changeable, and was typical weather for the Scottish Highlands. That afternoon, we listened to a local guide that talked about the legend of the Loch Ness Monster.
The next morning was spent at the battlefield of the Battle of Culloden on Drummossie Moor, where the Jacobite Army, lead by Bonnie Prince Charles faced off against the British Army in 1746.
Later, we spent the rest of the day exploring Inverness and having a Whisky tasting at a local pub.
The day starts with a visit at Blair Castle, near the town of Blair Atholl. the The castle is over 700 years old. After Blair Castle, the tour moved on to St. Andrews, the home of golf, and the home of St. Andrews College.
Lastly, the tour ends with 2 days in Edinburgh, where we visited Edinburgh Castle, Holyrood Palace, the Royal Mile, and above all, the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo at the Castle.
Dublin – Clayton Hotel Charlemont – Fair location.
Cork – Maldron Hotel South Mall – Excellent location. Sorry to have only spent one night here.
Killarney – Killarney Plaza Hotel – One of my two favorites. Located in the center of town, very traditional and elegant.
Galway – The Galmont Hotel and Spa – My least favorite. Extensive renovations needed.
Sligo – Radisson Blu Hotel – Very modern.
Ballygally – Ballygally Castle Hotel – My other favorite. Ocean views from our room. Very traditional hotel.
Glasgow – Radisson Blu Hotel – Very modern, strikes me as more of business hotel.
Inverness – Kingsmills Hotel – Nice hotel, very traditional, but not convenient to the city center.
Edinburgh – Sheraton Grand Hotel – Fair location, but I know of other hotels in Edinburgh that I would prefer, including the Indigo, The Scotsman, and the Radisson Collection Royal Mile.
I will definitely recommend Insight Vacations to my clients. They are at a higher price point than other tour operators, but you get some things extra with them that you don’t get with other tours – one of them being a smaller group. Insight Tours have a maximum of 44 guests and average 30. Our tour had 28. They have more, better, excursions built into their tours than some others.
Tours like this one can definitely be looked at as either “Glass half empty or glass half-full”.
This tour covered a lot of ground in just two weeks. Did we see everything that could have been seen? Absolutely not. But, to see everything over an area like this could easily be converted into a 3-month trip, and even then, there will still be more to see.
A tour like this is more of a way to whet your appetite. It’s a time to scout out those areas where you will want to come back and spend more time. I know it was for me.