|The basalt columns of the Giants Causeway on Northern Ireland's Antrim coastline. (INROADS IRELAND)|
St. Patrick's Day symbolizes to many of us the imminent approach of spring while stirring thoughts of a lovely land of friendliness. Whether you are pondering your first trip or a return visit, here are some offers to get you thinking green.
In these more peaceful times, Northern Ireland is beginning to attract more visitors with its beauty and history. Inroads Ireland is offering weeklong Go North tours on dates in June, July, September, and October for $1,700 a person, excluding airfare but including stays in bed-and-breakfast inns, breakfast, and sightseeing that includes Belfast, Derry, the Antrim coastline, and the Giants Causeway. The trip begins and ends in Dublin so you will see a wee bit of the Republic of Ireland as well.
Visit inroadsireland.com or call 888-220-7711.
If Robbie O'Connell hosts a tour as well as he sings, then participants in the Best of the West tour are in for a treat. The trip, May 19-28, visits Sligo, Leenane, Galway, Ennistymon, Tralee, and Dingle, among other places, taking in castles, scenic and historical sites, the theater, and pubs where the music flows freely. The price of $2,999 a person includes Boston-Shannon airfare ($2,499 land only), eight dinners, nine breakfasts, admissions, and gratuities for hotels, and included meals. At last word, just a few openings were left, but there is always next year.
Visit celticatours.com or call 800-299-CELT (2358).
I have been getting excellent feedback about trips conducted by Patricia Tunison Preston in association with CIE Tours. Preston, the author of several books on Ireland, and her husband, John, have these trips for 2008: Springtime in Ireland, April 19-26, for $1,269, land only; the Monsignor Charlie Coen Ireland Tour, July 20-29, $2,599 with airfare from New York or $1,850, land only; and the 7th Annual West of Ireland Coastal Tour, Oct. 19-25, from $1,649 including airfare from Boston, or $1,159 land only. Tunison's website contains a lot of information about Ireland and the Irish, and a link for 5 percent off a regularly scheduled CIE tour.
The aforementioned CIE Tours International is one of the best-known Irish travel companies and offers a variety of trips to the Emerald Isle and beyond. The eight-day, six-night Irish Quest trip, with departure dates through mid-November visits both Irelands, giving participants a look at the Cliffs of Moher, Kylemore Abbey and Connemara, Derry (with a walking tour), the Giants Causeway, and the Ulster American Folk Park in Omagh. Prices begin at $1,008, land only, and include accommodations, sightseeing, guide services, six breakfasts, five dinners, and admissions.
Visit cietours.com or call 800-243-8687.
Maybe you don't want to travel with a group? No problem: Trips for independent travelers, featuring bed-and-breakfast stays and rental cars, are both available and economical. Boston-based Brian Moore International Tours, for instance, has an Amazing Ireland trip beginning at $329 with vouchers for five nights in B&Bs and a six-day economy car rental. A Friendly Ireland B&B Package with London includes six nights in Ireland and two nights in London.
Visit bmit.com or call 800-982-2299.
Many consider Boston the unofficial Irish capital of America. A good place to learn about all things Irish - travel, shopping, cultural groups and venues, pubs and restaurants - is the website of the Boston Irish Tourism Association.
When not included, hotel taxes, airport fees, and port charges can add significantly to the price of a trip. Most prices quoted are for double occupancy; solo travelers will usually pay more. Offers are subject to availability and there may be blackout dates. Richard P. Carpenter can be reached at car firstname.lastname@example.org.