McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

March 16, 2014

JOY OF TRAVEL

Irish Odyssey

By Joy Gawf-Crutchfield
Special Correspondent

McALESTER — Have you ever been somewhere and literally yearned to go back? That’s how we feel about Ireland. We toured Ireland back in 2011, and with pricing that’s extremely affordable in 2015, we’ve decided that’s when we are going to return.

The 11-night Irish Odyssey is the most perfect tour of Ireland I’ve seen available in over nine years. The tour offers all of the expected inclusions: round-trip airport transfers, sightseeing by luxury coach, the services of a professional driver/guide, full Irish breakfast daily, eight dinners, two lunches, a welcome reception, all taxes, hotel fees and service charges, and porterage. But it’s the sightseeing that puts it over the top.

Included in the itinerary are tours of Dublin and Belfast with local guides. In Dublin there will also be an open-top bus tour with a visit and drink at Guinness Storehouse or Old Jameson Distillery. You’ll love the views of Dublin from the top of the Guinness Storehouse while you’re drinking your dark beer. Don’t forget to peek at the Book of Kells at Trinity College; it’s amazing.

Then there is a farmhouse visit for tea and scones. Walking tours of Cork, Derry and Drogheda with local guides are included, as well as the Sheepdog trials on the Ring of Kerry. Won’t that be great?

My favorite experience will be the horse-drawn jaunting car ride in Killarney. (Remember those in the “Quiet Man” with John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara?) There’s also a “Quiet Man” walking tour of Cong.

We’ll love the step dancing display and our overnight stay at Cabra Castle, home to a huge Irish wolfhound who escorted us around the grounds back in 2011.

We’ll visit Kilmainham Gaol, Russborough House, House of Waterford Crystal (a great souvenir stop), Blarney Castle (yes, we will kiss the “stone of eloquence” again), and the Blarney Woollen Mills, a great outlet to buy even more Irish souvenirs.

Blasket Centre, the magnificent Cliffs of Moher, Kylemore Benedictine Abbey, Museum of Country Life, W.B. Yeats grave, Belleek Pottery Factory, and the Tower Museum are other wonderful attractions that are included.

One of the strangest formations on Earth, the Giant’s Causeway, is included in the tour, as is Titanic Belfast, Boyne Valley Visitor Centre, and the Newgrange or Knoth Tomb.

Whew. With two nights in Dublin, one night in Cork, two nights in Killarney, two nights in Galway, two nights in Knockranny, two nights in Derry, one night in Cabra Castle and one night in Drogheda, this tour makes a huge loop around Ireland.

These tours also include headsets for the walking tours which make a wonderful difference in your experience. It’s so nice to actually be able to hear what your professional guide is saying.

This tour is available from early March through early November annually. We are going in April because I prefer to go during the spring when the hundreds of contrasting greens of Ireland are literally exploding out of the ground.

But no matter when you go, Ireland will make you wish you were Irish. The people are friendly and welcoming, the attractions are fascinating, the scenery is breathtaking, the food is sumptuous, and the cost is unbeatable.

Joy Gawf-Crutchfield owns The Joy of Travel. Contact her at www.thejoyoftravel.net.