Top reasons to join small group tours in Ireland

A romantic mist hung over one of two lakes at Glendalough
Travel in comfortable style with Driftwood Tour Vehicles
Travel in comfortable style with Driftwood Tour Vehicles

Top reasons to join small group tours in Ireland

To experience Ireland’s beauty and learn about the long and varied history, small group tours are the easiest and most efficient way to tour this quiet and tranquil island of green. From touring rugged mountains to secluded beaches, Driftwood Tours of Ireland should be your first stop when searching for Ireland bus tours. Our group of two couples joined Vagabond Small-Group Tours of Ireland in April on their Driftwood Tour of Ancient Ireland. We had a trip of a lifetime with our party of ten people in a large, comfortable tour vehicle.

Leave the driving to someone else with small group tours

Traffic can sometimes look like this when traveling in Ireland.
Traffic can sometimes look like this when traveling in Ireland.

Renting a car in Ireland is very expensive, and driving can be problematic due to the tiny, winding roads and varied weather conditions — not to mention driving on the opposite side of the road/car can be a huge barrier to safe driving if you aren’t used to it. So why not leave the driving to someone else while enjoying the intimacy of a small group.

80 kilometers equals 50 miles per hour on this small road with grass growing up the middle!
80 kilometers equals 50 miles per hour on this small road with grass growing up the middle!

Beautiful accommodations are provided with Driftwood’s small group tours

The accommodations chosen by Driftwood Tours for small group travel were outstanding in every way. In fact, most accommodations were luxurious. We had comfortable beds, attentive staff, and upscale rooms. The restaurants within the hotels and manor homes served delicious meals and provided excellent service. Our accommodations are linked below:

Dunbrody House, County Wexford

Dunbrody House in County Wexford, Ireland
Dunbrody House in County Wexford, Ireland

We stayed our first two nights at a small, luxury country house hotel built in 1830 with extensive gardens and estate. We felt like we had stepped onto the set of Downton Abbey, and I caught my imagination running rampant looking for the bell to call the upstairs maid.

Our room at Dunbrody House, a tranquil, quiet manor house.
Our room at Dunbrody House, a tranquil, quiet manor house.

Dunbrody House has an acclaimed fine dining restaurant and very popular Seafood Bar combined with on-site cookery school. There is also a small boutique spa offering a range of holistic therapies, but it was closed on the days we were there. We really had time to get away from it all and relax. Our two nights at Dunbrody House were the wettest days of our trip — but this did not dampen our spirits — and our group practically took over the Seafood Bar for a couple of nights for dinner and drinks.

The fireplace and wallpaper add to this manor's charm at Dunbrody House.
The fireplace and wallpaper add to this manor’s charm at Dunbrody House.

It stopped raining just long enough for us to explore the trails at the back of the manor filled with bluebells and flowers blooming.

Walking trails behind the Dunbody House, County Wexford, Ireland
Walking trails behind the Dunbrody House, County Wexford, Ireland.

Pembroke Hotel, County Kilkenny

Our stay at the Pembroke Kilkenny Hotel, a modern decor, was a sharp contrast to our Dunbrody manor house stay. This hotel brought us into the current century to enjoy the amenities of the city. Pembroke Kilkenny is a four-star, boutique hotel in the heart of Kilkenny.

A beautiful hotel room with modern decor at Pembroke Hotel, Kilkenny
A beautiful hotel room with modern decor at Pembroke Hotel, Kilkenny.

Kilkenny is a wonderful city buzzing with history and culture, and this hotel is located right in the center of the city. Offering spacious rooms and a peaceful charm throughout, Pembroke Kilkenny is a welcoming hotel with a comfortable ambiance and friendly staff. The hotel is within walking distance of Kilkenny Castle, which we toured during our visit, and is another site not to miss.

Delicious cereal bar at Pembroke Kilkenny Hotel
Delicious cereal bar at Pembroke Kilkenny Hotel

You can enjoy a hearty meal, morning coffee, brunch, lunch, dinner and evening drinks at Statham’s Bar & Restaurant. We thoroughly enjoyed their extensive breakfast menu and their made-to-order options, as well as their buffet.

Pembroke Kilkenny offers live music to entertain guests every weekend. They also have a medispa called “Mint” offering manicures, laser treatments, skin care, or just a spot of pampering with a massage, facial, body treatment, and signature packages. To book Pembroke Kilkenny, click here.

Blue Haven Hotel, Kinsale, Ireland

Blue Haven Hotel in Kinsale was withing walking distance to everything in town
Blue Haven Hotel in Kinsale was within walking distance to everything in town.

If I had to pick, I’m pretty sure Kinsale would be the one city I would go back to again. Known as the gourmet capital of Ireland, Kinsale offers an array of fine dining and pub options that will satisfy the most adventurous of palates. Traditional Irish music and local bands can be heard nightly in the Blue Haven Hotel and other bars. Music in Ireland is such a treat. The lively sounds of fiddle ring out and make you dance your way to the next stop. I would love to spend more time in Kinsale. So much food and music; so little time! To book Blue Haven, click here.

The Blue Haven Hotel , Kinsale, Ireland
The Blue Haven Hotel , Kinsale, Ireland

Bayview Hotel Manor House, County Cork

Bayview Hotel, Ballycotton, Ireland
Bayview Hotel, Ballycotton, Ireland

We enjoyed our stay at Bayview Hotel, a fine manor house nestled on the cliffside of the beautiful fishing village of Ballycotton. It offers luxurious accommodations and stunning ocean views.

View from Bayview Hotel, Ballycotton
View from Bayview Hotel, Ballycotton

There was an exquisite view of the lighthouse from your room. You can hear the waves crashing as you wake up in the morning in this amazing location. Climbing the stairway to and from the beach offered a great morning aerobic workout before boarding our van with our new friends. To book Bayview Hotel, click here.

Getting our morning exercise before loading on the van
Getting our morning exercise before boarding the van.

Driftwood tour guides give site visits a historical context with small group tours

When touring Ireland, the country’s history is can be overwhelming. Our guides, Pat and Mark, regaled us with intriguing stories in great detail about each site we visited. They included the history, the religious context, as well as current day issues related to the area. They were extremely knowledgeable and were always ready to share more when asked. With inhabitants dating back to 7000 or 8000 BC, that’s a lot of history to carry around in your head. We were quite impressed with our guides’ knowledge. They told us all about lambing season in Ireland, and we got a kick out of watching the newborn lambs as we rode in comfort around Ireland.

New born lambs frolicking is what Ireland is all about

Stress-free travel planning with small group tours

When joining a tour with Vagabond Tours, there is no need to worry about planning. They do it all: planning the route; booking the rooms and tickets; changing of hotels, if needed; and all the driving and unloading and loading of suitcases. As a travel planner, I appreciate letting someone else take charge of the details for a change. There are no maps to read and no GPS to follow. Just sit back, relax, and enjoy the 40 shades of green passing by your window.

Travel in style with small group tours

Our 18-passenger tour vehicle was extra large for our party of ten people. There were large comfortable seats, and a few times there was room for me to stretch out on the long row of seats in the back to take a short nap.

Our Driftwood tour vehicle waiting for us to board
Our Driftwood tour vehicle waiting for us to board

Make new friends with small group tours

When traveling with a group of ten people, there’s plenty of time to converse, join others for a drink before dinner, and enjoy the varying personalities during the tour.

Our Ancient Ireland Driftwood Tour Group in Kinsale, with one of our tour guides, Pat.

Experience our Irish vacation itinerary below:

DAY 1 – DUBLIN TO KILKENNY

  • Visit the 6th century mountain monastery of Glendalough
  • Cross the Wicklow Mountains, the heathery home of Ireland’s largest National Park
  • Discover Rathgall hill fort, one of Ireland’s largest Bronze Age forts
Visit the 6th century monastery of Glendalough and nature trails.
Mist hanging over one of two lakes at Glendalough
A romantic mist hung over one of two lakes at Glendalough.
Pat and Mark gave us the ancient history of Rathgall Hill Fort, ancient Bronze Age Fort .

DAY 2 – KILKENNY TO WATERFORD

  • Explore Kilkenny with a morning of elegant castles, medieval townhouses and craft studios
  • Enjoy a characterful guided tour at Jerpoint Park’s ruins, including St. Nicolas’ gravesite
  • Step onboard the Dunbrody Famine Ship; an exact reproduction of a 19th century Irish emigrant vessel
Our tour of Kilkenny Castle was amazing
Our tour of Kilkenny Castle made the perfect rainy day activity.
Joe O'Conner proudly displays his dog's shepherding skills.
Joe O’Conner proudly displays his dog’s shepherding skills.
Tour the Dunbrody famine ship with live actors portraying the lives of passengers.
Tour the Dunbrody famine ship with live actors portraying the lives of passengers.

DAY 3 – WATERFORD/WEXFORD

  • Tour the unspoiled Hook Peninsula, home to the world’s oldest operational lighthouse at Hook Head
  • Guided tour of 13th century Tintern Abbey, once one of the most powerful Cistercian abbeys in Ireland
World's oldest lighthouse on the Hook Peninsula, Irealnd
World’s Oldest Lighthouse on the Hook Peninsula, Ireland
Tintern Abbey from the 1200s, County Wexford
Tintern Abbey from the 1200s, County Wexford, Ireland
Enjoy the picturesque views from Tintern Abbey, Ireland
Enjoy the picturesque views from Tintern Abbey, Ireland

DAY 4 – WATERFORD TO BALLYCOTTON

  • Wander the streets of Waterford, Ireland’s oldest city; established by Vikings in the 10th century
  • Admire the pinnacle of Irish craftwork at the House of Waterford Crystal
  • Gaze out at crashing waves, secluded coves and dramatic sea stacks on our ride along the Copper Coast
Wander the streets of Waterford, Ireland, or visit Waterford Crystal.
Wander the streets of Waterford, Ireland, or visit Waterford Crystal.
Visit the Viking Experience, Virtual Reality, in Waterford, Ireland
Visit the Viking Experience, Virtual Reality, in Waterford, Ireland.
Take a ride along the scenic Copper Coast of Ireland.
Take a ride along the scenic Copper Coast of Ireland.

DAY 5 – BALLYCOTTON TO KINSALE

  • Admire the ocean views from your lodgings in the quaint fishing village of Ballycotton
  • Explore the picture-perfect town of Kinsale, Ireland’s charming gourmet capital
  • Taste the water of life on a guided tour of the 18th century Jameson/Midleton Whiskey Distillery
A picturesque view from our hotel room in Ballycotton, Ireland.
A picturesque view from our hotel room in Ballycotton.
Jameson/Midleton Distillery and tasting was one of the highlights of our trip.
Jameson/Midleton Distillery and tasting was one of the highlights of our trip.
The most picturesque city of Kinsale, with excellent restaurants.
The most picturesque city of Kinsale, with excellent restaurants.
Tasting Jameson/Midleton Distillery samples. And Middleton, with two d's is my maiden name!
Tasting Jameson/Midleton Distillery samples. And Middleton, with two d’s is my maiden name!

DAY 6 – KINSALE TO DUBLIN

  • Sample the delights of the English Market in Cork city – proud locals call Cork the real capital of Ireland!
  • Imagine saints and scholars at the epic Rock of Cashel
  • Kiss the Blarney Stone amidst the lush surroundings of Blarney Castle Gardens
The English Market at Cork had lots of interesting food to browse.

The English Market at Cork had lots of interesting food to browse.

Plan your trip to Ireland today

After our six-day tour of Ancient Ireland with our guides, Pat and Mark, I can highly recommend small group tours with Driftwood Tours of Ireland. They have many other itineraries from which to choose. Their service went well beyond what I was expecting, and I would not hesitate to join them on another adventure. I’m thinking of planning a Northern Ireland tour to see the Game of Thrones filming sites! Wouldn’t that be really exciting!

A huge thank you to Vagabond Tours of Ireland for their generous hospitality. I enjoyed some services on this visit as a professional blogger, but as always, all opinions are my own.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, we will receive an affiliate commission to help fund the Grans On The Go blog. Regardless, we only recommend products or services we use personally and we think will add value to our readers.

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