Rick Steves' Best of Ireland tour kicks off with the best of Dublin, followed by Ireland's must-see historical sites, charming towns, music-filled pubs and seaside getaways — including Kinsale, the Dingle Peninsula, Cliffs of Moher, Aran Islands, Galway, Connemara, Giant's Causeway, Old Bushmills Distillery, and the compelling city of Belfast. All along the way, Rick's guides will share their stories to draw you in to the Emerald Isle, and the friendliness of the people will surely steal your heart. Join us for the Best of Ireland in 14 Days!
You'll get all this!
- A small, friendly group of 24-28 people — half the size of most tour groups
- Full-time services of a professional Rick Steves guide and local experts who will make the fascinating history, art and culture of Ireland come alive for you
- All tours and admissions — at no extra cost — covering at least 23 group sightseeing events • Dublin walking tour • Trinity College • Book of Kells • Kilmainham Gaol tour (when possible) or Powerscourt Gardens • Rock of Cashel • Kinsale walking tour • Charles Fort tour • Sheep farm tour • Dingle's Slea Head Drive • Blasket Islands Heritage Centre • Gallarus Oratory • Irish musical evening • Burren nature walk • Cliffs of Moher • Boat ride to Aran Islands (weather permitting) • Aran Islands minibus tour • Connemara drive • Derry coach and walking tour • Dunluce Castle • Giant's Causeway • Old Bushmills Distillery tour • Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge (weather & season permitting) • Belfast visit...and more
- All group transportation from Dublin to Dublin
- 13 nights accommodations in memorable, centrally-located hotels and B&Bs
- All breakfasts and half your dinners
- All tips for guides and driver
- Free stuff including Rick Steves' Ireland guidebook, moneybelt and earplugs
- Guaranteed tour price, locked in the moment you make your deposit
- Optional single supplements — this tour has a limited number of private rooms for solo travelers for an additional fee
- Tour alum discount of $50 for each tour you've taken prior to 2014
- 50% discount on a consulting appointment with our in-house experts to assist with your pre- or post-tour travel plans
- Flexibility should you need to transfer, or cancel/interrupt your tour
- Fine print: You are responsible for the cost of your drinks and free-time sightseeing. See our Tour Conditions Agreement for important details regarding everything listed above
Daily Activity Key
- Light = 2-4 miles of mostly level walking throughout the day.
- Moderate = 2-6 miles walking throughout the day with some hills and stairs.
- Strenuous = 2-8 miles walking throughout the day with lots of hills, stairs and uneven terrain.
Day 1: Welcome to Ireland
Meet your guide and fellow tour members at our hotel around 5 p.m. After a group meeting, we'll enjoy a traditional Irish dinner together, followed by an orientation walk through the heart of Dublin. Sleep in Dublin (2 nights). No bus. Walking: light.
Day 2: The Historic Heart of Dublin
This morning we'll take a walking tour through Dublin, learning about its rich history from the days of Viking raids to the hard centuries of British occupation to the proud and progressive city of today. We'll end at Trinity College for an illuminating look at the remarkable Book of Kells, a creative jolt that helped pull Europe out of the Dark Ages. You'll have the rest of the day free to feel the pulse of a city thriving with street poets and musicians. No bus. Walking: moderate.
Day 3: Kilmainham Gaol and Ruins
On our way out of Dublin, we'll stop at Kilmainham Gaol (when possible) and learn about its place in Ireland's stirring struggle for independence less than a century ago. Then, overlooking the green Plain of Tipperary, we'll tour the ecclesiastical center that thrived in St. Patrick's time: the evocative ruins of the Rock of Cashel. Our day will end with dinner together in the picturesque harbor town of Kinsale, where we'll sleep (2 nights). Bus: 5 hrs. Walking: strenuous.
Day 4: Kinsale and Charles Fort
This morning we'll be treated to a walking tour that brings Kinsale's past to life, places its story in the wider sweep of history, and makes the stony sights much more than buildings. Inspired by all we've learned, we'll continue on to explore the massive and (for its time) revolutionary Charles Fort which overlooks the harbor. You'll have the afternoon and evening free to make your own discoveries in Kinsale, known as Ireland's gourmet capital. Bus: 1 hr. Walking: strenuous.
Day 5: Killarney National Park and Dingle
Today we'll take a scenic drive along the forests (Ireland's largest), mountains and lakes of Killarney National Park. Then we'll balance-off this peacefulness with a visit to a local sheep farm, marveling at its talented dogs in action. We'll end our day in Dingle, where we'll enjoy dinner together and one of the country's best traditional music scenes. Sleep in Dingle (3 nights, groups may be split between two B&Bs). Bus: 5 hrs. Walking: light.
Day 6: Gaelic Heritage
It's a great day to experience some of Europe's wildest natural beauty and most ancient Christian sights. We'll hop aboard our bus with our local expert to follow the famous Slea Head Drive, our vote for the most beautiful road in Ireland. We'll stop to tour the strikingly-designed Great Blasket Centre, where we'll get an intimate look at the language, literature and daily life of a traditional Gaelic Blasket community. Tonight we'll return to our home village, Dingle, with as much dancing and singing with new friends as we can handle. Bus: 3 hrs. Walking: light.
Day 7: Roam the Dingle Peninsula
Today is all yours...free on the Dingle Peninsula. Take a long walk along the local paths and lanes, hire a bicycle and pedal the scenic 30-mile Dingle Loop, sail for the day to the rugged Blasket Islands, or simply savor your generous Irish breakfast and hang out in town. No bus. Walking: light to strenuous (your choice).
Day 8: Cliffs of Moher and the Burren
This morning we'll drive through County Clare to the dramatic Cliffs of Moher, where you'll find yourself leaning into the wind, teetering on the very edge of Europe, more than 600 feet above the churning waters of the North Atlantic. Farther up the road, we'll tour the rocky moonscape of the Burren to learn about its unique ecosystem and hardy prehistoric residents. Tonight we'll share dinner together and sleep in Galway (2 nights, groups will be split between three B&Bs). Bus: 5 hrs. Walking: moderate.
Day 9: Galway and the Aran Islands
Weather permitting, this morning we'll hop aboard a ferry bound for the stark beauty of Inishmore, the largest of the Aran Islands. There you can join your guide for a minibus tour 'round this dramatic island, including the site of its ancient, cliff-hanging Celtic fortress. Or, you'll have plenty of time to set out on foot, hire a pony cart or pedal a bike to explore this windswept island on your own. Boat: 2 hrs. Bus: 2 hrs. Walking: light to strenuous (your choice).
Day 10: Connemara Countryside
Today we'll drive through the Connemara region, enjoying the beautiful Irish countryside. We'll stop in the charming town of Cong — where Maureen O'Hara and John Wayne filmed "The Quiet Man" in 1951 — and stroll through the picturesque abbey ruins. Then we'll drive north to County Mayo and Westport, where we'll settle in for the evening. Sleep in Westport (1 night). Bus: 4 hrs. Walking: light.
Day 11: To Northern Ireland
We'll seamlessly cross into Northern Ireland today. In Derry, a local guide will take us on a tour of the town, sharing stories about "The Troubles" and the infamous "Bloody Sunday" of 1972. Then we'll drive on to the nostalgic seaside resort of Portrush, where we'll have dinner together and sleep (2 nights). Bus: 5 hrs. Walking: moderate.
Day 12: Antrim Coast and Old Bushmills
Today we'll explore Northern Ireland's spectacular Antrim Coast. We'll tour the romantic, cliff-top ruins of Dunluce Castle, then marvel at the bizarre basalt columns and local legends of the Giant's Causeway. After taking time to fortify yourself with a wee dram at the venerable Old Bushmills Distillery, you can test your nerve (optional, wind permitting) teetering across the scenic Carrick-a-Rede rope footbridge. Bus: 3 hrs. Walking: strenuous.
Day 13: Belfast and Return to Dublin
This morning we'll drive to Belfast, the capital of Northern Ireland, for a look at the city's troubled past, present-day beauty, and bright future. We'll also learn about the city's great industrial era and the remarkable Titanic, which was launched from Belfast's shipyard in 1911. After a relaxing drive back to Dublin — completing our circumnavigation of the Emerald Isle — we'll kick up our heels at a classy farewell supper together, where we'll share travel memories and toast new friends. Sláinte! Sleep in Dublin (1 night). Bus: 6 hrs. Walking: light.
Day 14: Tour Over After Breakfast
You can fly out of Dublin's handy airport, or take the ferry to Wales for further adventures in the British Isles. Your guide will help you with any post-tour planning, leaving you well prepared for the road ahead. Slán leat!
Itinerary specifics subject to change.
Rick Steves tours are physically active!
This is an integral, essential part of the Rick Steves tour experience. On our Best of Ireland in 14 Days tour — among other things — you'll need to happily...
- Carry/roll your luggage over uneven pavement (several blocks possible) and up stairways to reach your hotel; then up several flights of stairs to reach your room.
- Be on your feet, walking and standing for up to three hours, indoors and outdoors, in all weather conditions.
- Sleep with street noise and no (or weak) air conditioning.
- After orientation and transportation lessons, be able to navigate towns and cities on your own.
- Walk ½ mile uphill at the Giant's Causeway.
We've put together some specific information on what you should know about this tour before you go. You'll also find more general information about "Getting Ready for Your Tour" on our Tour FAQ.
Sightseeing On Your Own
If you arrive in Dublin before your tour begins, use Rick Steves' Ireland guidebook to get oriented. Ride the public transportation, try a pint in a cozy pub, and get over your jet lag with lots of fresh air and exercise.
Here are suggestions for sightseeing in Dublin that we will not be doing as a group: Hop-on/Hop-off bus tour; National Museum; National Gallery; Dublin Castle; Dublin Writers' Museum; Guinness Brewery and Gravity Bar. You may also enjoy visiting the Brú Na Bóinne archaeological site, home to the Newgrange burial tomb (shuttle bus available from Dublin). For complete details, see your Rick Steves Ireland guidebook.
Most tour members arrive a day or two before the tour begins — and those who don't, wish they had. This allows you ample time to get over jet lag and make the most of the first few days of the tour.
Dublin is a major transportation hub, making additional travel before or after your tour quite easy. Flying within Europe can be reasonable. Ask your travel agent or check Rick's list of European budget airlines. For links to helpful rail and air websites, go to www.ricksteves.com/plan/links and look under "Transportation."
As many flights connect through London, a quick visit is easy to add just before or after your Ireland tour. Both Rick Steves' Great Britain and Rick Steves' London guidebooks have London sightseeing, hotel, and restaurant suggestions.
Prior to your tour departure, you will receive detailed directions on how to get from the airport to your first tour hotel, as well as contact information for your first and last hotels in case you wish to book pre- or post-tour hotel accommodations.
If you need more information about additional European travel or for specific questions about your tour, contact the Tour Department at 425/608-4217 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
See a chart with monthly rain and temperature information for this tour.
For ideas on what to pack, check Rick's Packing List and our Women's Packing List.
Tour Guide Raves
"Barry is a credit to your organization. I don't know that I had a particular expectation but Barry is an extraordinary guide and a wonderful guy. If Rick couldn't lead our tour, Barry would now be my second choice. Barry is thoroughly professional, amazingly thoughtful, an extraordinary talent and as fine a representative for Rick Steves as you could want."
— Thomas in Las Vegas, NV
"Declan was a master in helping us understand the history, culture and people of Ireland from ancient to current. He integrated history, music, political events in a very creative and layered way. I enjoyed his use of various music in the bus — including singing to us! I would not suggest his making any changes."
— Mary in West Linn, OR
Favorite tour memories from recent alums:
"Ireland is full of 'wow'...beautiful countryside, wonderful people, great history, cute towns, great seafood, fun pubs and great music and dancing. With all of this, my 'wow' moment was the Burren. I have never seen anything like this in my life. The rocks as far as one could see, mountains of it, and to think that people actually were able to make a life here. Astonishing!!"
— Anthony in Solana Beach, CA
"The best part of the trip for me was taking the drive out around the Dingle Peninsula. The countryside was absolutely breathtaking and the weather was perfect. That drive was the defining moment where I fell in love with Ireland."
— Jenan in Russell, KY
"I was awed by the beauty of Ireland. The scenery exceeded my expectations. It was just breathtaking."
— Joan in Portland, OR
To see more comments on Rick Steves' tours, read through our tour member reviews.
Videos & More
This region is rich in history, art and culture. To help you get the most from your trip, we've put together this collection of travel resources from Rick's TV shows, radio interviews and articles, as well as recommended books, films and music.
Rick Steves' TV Clips & Shows
(For more Rick Steves' TV clips on this region, visit Rick on YouTube.)
- The Quiet Man (1952)
- In the Name of the Father (1993)
- Michael Collins (1996)
- Waking Ned Devine (1998)
- The Wind That Shakes the Barley (2006)
Rick Steves' Radio Interviews
(For more radio interviews on this region, see Rick's Audio Europe™ files for iPod, PC & MP3.)
- Traditional/folk: Celtic Woman, Clannad, Maire Brennan, The Chieftains, The Dubliners
- Opera: The Irish Tenors
- Pop/rock: Enya, Elvis Costello, U2, Van Morrison, The Cranberries
Rick Steves' Articles
(For more articles on this region, see Rick's Best Destinations.)
- Rick Steves' Ireland
- A Short History of Ireland — Richard Killeen
- How the Irish Saved Civilization — Thomas Cahill
- Angela's Ashes — Frank McCourt
- O Come Ye Back to Ireland: Our First Year in Co. Clare — Niall Williams & Christine Breen
- Are You Somebody? The Accidental Memoir of a Dublin Woman — Nuala O'Faolain
- Dubliners — James Joyce
- Dublin Saga — Edward Rutherford
- Trinity — Leon Uris
- Roddy Doyle's gritty portraits of working class Dubliners
- Maeve Binchy's soapy, family sagas