Dubbed the “Emerald Isle” for its lush landscape, Ireland is a fabulous destination to explore, whether independently or as part of a guided group tour.
Dramatic cliffs, medieval castles and a rich culture steeped in literature, folklore, art and music are just some of the appeal of this fascinating country that occupies most of the island of Ireland, off the coast of England and Wales. And while travelling independently here is perfectly possible thanks to its relatively small size and well-developed transport network, there’s plenty to say for coming as part of a group, too. If you like the idea of meeting like-minded travellers during your Ireland adventure, we’ve picked out 5 of the best small group tours of the country currently available.
Irish Explorer (7 days)
Taking in almost the length and breadth of the island of Ireland, this action-packed tour will see you visit a huge number of cultural, religious and historic sites over a full week. Starting in Dublin, you’ll spend your first full day exploring the capital of Dublin, with some free time included. Next, it’s on to neighbouring Northern Ireland for an insight into the country’s often tumultuous past and a look around the capital of Belfast by car and foot. For the remainder of the week, there’ll be visits to Galway via the famous Wild Atlantic Way – the longest coastal drive in the world – the magnificent Cliffs of Moher, traditional pubs and art museums in Limerick, hiking trails, churches and golf courses in Killarney, and plenty more. The tour ends back in Dublin, via a stop at Blarney Castle, where you’ll have the chance to kiss the legendary Blarney Stone. In Dublin, you can celebrate your last night with an Irish music evening, including dinner and a show. From €958 per person.
Corners of Southern Ireland (7 days)
Focussing on the Republic of Ireland, this week-long tour starts and ends in Dublin and takes in some of the country’s most spellbinding scenery. After an introductory evening and dinner in the capital, the next morning you and your small group will head off into the countryside, passing through bucolic fields and past ancient castles, maritime towns and picture-postcard villages. Along the way, your guide will regale you with stories and facts about the country’s past and present. There’ll be plenty of stop-offs too, including visits to Molly Gallivan’s Cottage, where you’ll learn the story of a widow who supported her children by brewing illicit whiskey, a look around the famous House of Waterford Crystal, home to a traditional Irish craft, and a walk atop the sublime Cliffs of Moher. From €2,779 per person.
Best of the West (5 days)
Discover one of Ireland’s most beautiful regions on this immersive five-day tour of its western reaches. Each day you’ll be treated to different landscapes and landmarks, from dramatic sea cliffs with crashing Atlantic waves to ancient monasteries to historic castles. The tour also includes famous routes such as the Ring of Kerry as well as a number of “off the beaten track” sites and places of interest. Wherever you go, there will be the chance to meet locals in traditional pubs and quaint village cafes, sample authentic Irish cuisine, and listen to traditional music, all designed to get under the skin of this beguiling country. The tour starts and ends in Dublin. From €1,160 per person.
Blarney Castle, Kilkenny & Irish Whiskey Tour (3 days)
If you’re short on time or budget, this three-day whistlestop tour may well fit the bill. Visiting a total of ten destinations, you’ll take in unspoilt coasts that blend into rocky shores, ancient ruins, local pubs, and plenty more. Departing the capital, you’ll travel south towards Cork, through the lush farming counties of Kildare, Laois and Tipperary, and stopping in the heritage town of Cahir. You’ll continue to Blarney, on the outskirts of Cork, with time to wander the castle grounds and kiss the famous Blarney Stone, before visiting the Jameson Whiskey Distillery. Over the ensuing days, there’ll be visits to the historic port town of Cobh, Ireland’s oldest city of Waterford, the thriving town of Kilkenny, the Wicklow Mountains, the 6th-century monastery of Glendalough, and the famous Sally Gap, before the short journey back to Dublin. From €589 per person.
Amazing Ireland (14 days)
For those with plenty of time on their hands and a hefty budget to go with it, this incredible two-week adventure is certain to leave you with life-long memories. Over a leisurely fortnight, you’ll get to soak up tons of iconic sights, landmarks and places of interest in both rural and city settings, as you travel across the country by a combination of land and sea. Among the most notable stop-offs will be the Titanic Belfast, Kilkenny Castle, Giant’s Causeway, Belleek Pottery Visitor Centre, Kylemore Abbey, Connemara, Cliffs of Moher, Blarney Castle, the John F. Kennedy Arboretum and the Dunbrody Famine Ship. There’ll also be the chance to enjoy several special activities including a curated dinner with a celebrity chef at her home in Ballyknocken. The tour starts and ends in Dublin. From €3,380 per person.