Will This Be the Year You Go to Ireland?

AAA Ohio offers group tours to the Emerald Isle.

Admit it – you have always wanted to go to Ireland. Every year, as St. Patrick’s Day rolls around, you think about making the trip across the Atlantic Ocean and visiting the mystical land to explore the history, the myths and the legends. And your interest really took off when you found out that portions of “Game of Thrones” were filmed there.

AAA Ohio has you covered and is planning at least four tours this year to help you explore Ireland, three of which are AAA Member Appreciation tours, which come with exceptional benefits. The eight-day tours being offered, all with airfare from John Glenn International Airport, include Best of Ireland South, Enchanting Emerald Isle and Mystical Ireland & “Game of Thrones.” The other outing is a 14-day Iceland & Ireland Cruise.

Best of Ireland South

Geared toward travelers experiencing Ireland for the first time, the tour visits many of the nation’s most popular attractions, including both Dingle Bay and the cliffs above, Dingle Peninsula, which has been featured in a few films.

Your itinerary includes a visit to a sheep farm to watch dogs herd sheep before a trip to Blarney Castle to kiss the famed Stone of Eloquence and explore the castle’s gardens. From here, you will travel to County Kerry and the town of Killarney at the base of Carrauntoohil, the highest point in Ireland at 3,405 feet.

The stop at Dingle Bay will be a short cruise around the harbor and bay before departing for the Muckross Schoolhouse. At the schoolhouse, you will be immersed in rural Ireland of the 1930s and enjoy dinner.

Walk along the remarkable Cliffs of Moher, rising nearly 700 feet above the Atlantic Ocean, to the O’Brien’s Tower and catch glimpses of Galway Bay
and the Aran Islands. From there, make your way to Bunratty or Knappogue Castle for a medieval-style feast, where lords and ladies will serenade you.

This tour begins and ends in Dublin and also visits the Book of Kells, Taylors Three Rock Pub, Adare and Limerick.

The AAA Member Appreciation trip will be June 23-July 2. A deposit of $500 per person is due at time of booking with final payment due by March 6.

Enchanting Emerald Island

Focusing on the rich history and culture of Ireland, this experience will travel across the valleys of the ancient land, from Dublin’s Georgian Squares to the Anglo-Norman Kilkenny Castle on the Nore River.

On the shores of Lake Kylemore, you will find the Benedictine monastery of Kylemore Abbey, built in 1868 as Kylemore Castle as a private home for a wealthy doctor from London. The nuns bought the castle and surrounding gardens in 1920.

Some say a trip to Ireland is not complete without driving the Ring of Kerry, the most scenic drive in Ireland. This 111-mile loop around County Kerry offers a variety of landscapes that have been the muse for artists for ages.

Kilkenny Castle was built over the Nore River in 1195 and served as the junction of several routes of travel throughout Ireland. Today it is owned by the city, which runs the castle and gardens as a tourist attraction. And it is has used the space well. In the basement of the castle, you will find one of the best art museums outside of Dublin, the Butler Gallery.

This tour begins and ends in Dublin and also visits Stroketown, Enniscrone, Cliffs of Moher, Killarney and Blarney Castle.

The Brendan Vacations trip will be Sept. 5-13. A deposit of $500 per person is due at time of booking with final payment due by April 29.

Mystical Ireland & ‘Game of Thrones’

So if all you know about the Irish is St. Patrick’s Day, then this tour will help you out by taking you to the saint’s final resting place at Down Cathedral and letting you learn about his work. Also in Belfast, you will visit the Crumlin Road Gaol and find out how prisoners lived there from 1846 through 1996.

While still in Belfast, your tour includes a trip to shipyards where the RMS Titanic was built. Then, head off to Titanic Belfast to learn about the ill-fated ship as well its sister ships, the RMS Olympic and the HMHS Britannic.

From Belfast, you will head north, but not too far north as “Game of Thrones” fans know you do not want to travel there. Along the Glens of Antrim, you will view scenery made famous in the HBO series, whether it’s the coast, the valleys or the mountains. And, thankfully, not a dragon in sight.

This tour begins in Dublin and ends in Bunratty, departing from Shannon Airport. It also will visit Dublin Castle, Donegal, Killary Harbour, Westport House and the Cliffs of Moher.

This AAA Member Appreciation trip will be Sept. 15-24. A deposit of $500 per person is due at time of booking with final payment due by May 29.

Iceland & Ireland Cruise

Not only will you see the highlights of Ireland, but you will get two days in Iceland, the Land of Fire and Ice. But your adventure will start in England, just a short train ride away from London if you want to make a quick visit. You will board the Celebrity Silhouette for a 14-day journey, stopping in eight ports along the way.

Cork, known by some as the “real capital of Ireland,” is becoming a cultural center as music and theater have exploded here. From there, it’s off to Waterford, home to the famous crystal factory where artisans have been creating masterpieces since 1783.

The ship will spend 36 hours in Dublin over two days, so plan accordingly. It also will make a stop in Belfast. In between, it will visit Akureyri, Iceland, the country’s second-largest city, as well as another two-day visit, this time in Reykjavik, Iceland’s capital.

AAA exclusive amenities include priority check-in, onboard galley tour, chocolate-covered strawberries plated in the stateroom and a martini-tasting voucher for the first two guests in the stateroom.

This AAA Member Appreciation trip will be Sept. 5-29. Airfare is not included in the price of the cruise but can be arranged with AAA. A deposit of $450 per person is due at time of booking. Space on this cruise is limited, so book today.

John T. Garcia is the managing editor of AAA Magazine.

For these and all your travel needs, contact your AAA Ohio Travel Counselor by stopping in your local office, calling (888) 222-6446 or go to AAA.com.

All prices and itineraries are subject to change.