Touring Ireland with Brian Stack
Brian Stack has been managing director of the tourism company CIE Tours International since 2007, responsible for both the American and worldwide operations. He recently spoke with Patricia Harty about why a CIE tour is the best way to experience Ireland.
“If you tried to take one of our tours yourself, you’d have to go through about 300 different transactions. Just thinking about your breakfast, where you’re going to go during the day, where you’re going to visit, how do you arrange that in advance … having somebody like us worry about foreign currency and all of the other details takes the onus off people; they don’t have to worry about it, we worry about it.”
CIE’s coach tours range from the indulgent Supreme Tour, which takes only 26 visitors on one coach “to the Merrion in Dublin, Ashford Castle, Dromoland Castle, and the Park Hotel in Killarney,” to the very affordable Irish Spirit tour. All of the coach tours include a visit to “the Abbey Tavern in Howth, which is the oldest tavern in Dublin,” Stack explains. “Every evening, they have this incredible Irish group that have been going for 40 years, although the musicians change. They do a dinner cabaret and they do traditional Irish music. A lot of the “Wild Rover” and all the songs that you’ve ever expected to hear at an Irish party, you’re going to hear at the Abbey Tavern. And then they do a little bit of Irish dancing there as well. So that’ll be something that visitors can expect to do. And they can expect to go down to one of the medieval banquets down in the Shannon area, Bunratty Castle or Knappogue Castle, depending on which tour.”
Some packages include a catamaran tour of Ireland’s only fjord, near Westport in County Mayo. “This fjord goes for miles and miles and on each side there’s this beautiful scenery and you have this fabulous catamaran that has a bar on board,” raves Stack. “So the coach brings the people, the bus goes right down to the catamaran, you get off the bus onto the catamaran and take this two-hour tour up this fjord and see the most fabulous scenery and it’s a great, very relaxing thing to do.”
For travelers that desire a more independent experience, CIE offers the option of a more self-directed tour, where “you can rent a car with a navigation system and do exactly the same itinerary as one of our coach tours, and stay in exactly the same hotels, but you’re driving yourself.” A more luxurious choice is the tour with a chauffeur car and deluxe castle hotels. “So you’ve got a chauffeur driving the car and you get your premium hotels, full Irish breakfast, it includes the driver’s accommodation, it’s just an incredible value. If you had the premium hotels – like the Merrion, the Capella in Cork, Blarney Park, Ashford Castle, Ritz Carlton, the Powerscourt, say for two people, its about $4,000 per person including accommodations, breakfast every day, the driver’s accommodations and everything.”
Ireland is a lot to take in over the course of just a week or two, especially for first-time visitors. For this reason, CIE offers several packages that focus on different parts of Ireland, and at least ten tours that combine visits to Ireland and Britain. “Just to give you an example, there’s the Britain and Irish Delight, a ten-day deluxe tour, or the Taste of Scotland, the Scots-Irish tour. This is a tour that really caters to the Scots-Irish connection here in America. It’s a tour that goes from Glasgow to Loch Lohmond and Behr Castle in Edinburgh, then you take the ferry over to Belfast to the Giant’s Causeway to the Ulster American Folk Park down to Westport, Achill Island, then Viking Dublin, Kilmainham jail, then return home from Dublin. And the price is $1,798. That tour would suit a lot of Canadians of Scots Irish ancestry who would have more of an interest in the Scotland and Northern Ireland parts. We have some tours that arrive in Shannon and just visit the southwest of Ireland, and some that start in Dublin and go around the whole country including Northern Ireland. There are several tours that go into Northern Ireland.”
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