🙋♀️ Who Wants A Seat On My Bus?
I'm Bebhinn O'Malley, a VagaGuide — and pirate queen progeny — from Clare Island off the wild west coast of Ireland.
Join me on this day-by-day diary, to get a fuller picture of what happens on a small-group tour of Northern Ireland.
You can jump ahead to any point in our day-by-day itinerary here:
🛳️ Day 5 - Belfast to Newcastle
Now, read on for 6 days of fun, frolics, twisting laneways, ruined castles and smiling craftsmen in a land of a 100,000 welcomes. I know I can't wait...
Are you ready? Let's go!
😁 Day 1 - Dublin to Mayo
All aboard and welcome on tour!
Our 6 Day Driftwood Northern Island tour is ready to go!
For the next 6 days, we will be touring the beautiful northern half of Ireland together.
I'm Bébhinn - pronounced BAY-VIN - and I'm your personal VagaGuide. My job is to show you the very best of the Wild Atlantic Way and Northern Ireland for the next 6 days.
Our comfortable Mercedes tour vehicle is full of excited faces and ready for launch.
Strap yourselves in and away we go! 🎉
🌷 Welcome to Mighty Mayo!
Funnily enough, we happen to be starting our tour in my native county: Mayo.
It's a less-visited part of Ireland, nestling in the northwest.
But Mayo is just as beautiful, if not more so, than more famous parts of Ireland.
Here's a map of our planned route across the island of Ireland:
We're going to draw a semi-circle around its northern half, moving counter-clockwise.
We'll start in the Republic of Ireland, dip into Northern Ireland for the second half of the tour, and then head south again to finish in Dublin.
🙋 Questions, Questions...
Our small-group tours often start with questions. You've just touched down in Ireland. Naturally, you're inquisitive.
A frequently asked early query is, what was life like in Ireland long ago?
Well, this afternoon you're going to find out.
One of our favourite Irish heritage sites to visit and a superb introduction to Ireland is the National Museum of Ireland - Country Life.
Exhibits cover topics like folk music, weaving, architecture and sports. It's the perfect introduction to daily life in historic Ireland.
This being a relaxed Driftwood tour, you'll enjoy plenty of time to explore the museum and wander its magnificent grounds.
You will also tuck into a hearty lunch here in the picturesque surrounds of mighty Mayo.
🦅 Relax Tonight At Mount Falcon
Your hotel tonight is at Mount Falcon Estate, a romantic and characterful 4 star hotel.
Choose a welcoming drink in the bar. Or why not relax in the spa before dining?
In the landscaped hotel grounds, you may get the chance to experience birds of prey first-hand with the hotel's resident falconer.
Supper is a sumptuous feast of some of the finest local food that Mayo has to offer.
Mount Falcon is the perfect way to unwind after an exciting first day on tour in Ireland.
🚐 Day 2 - Mayo to Donegal via Sligo
After a restful night, we enjoy a hearty Irish breakfast at Mount Falcon before hopping onboard for our second day touring.
Today we travel from Mayo to Donegal in Ireland's remote northwestern corner.
Our route hugs the coast and takes us through the county of Sligo.
Look to the left out of your Drifter tour vehicle and waves are crashing on the Atlantic shore. To the right, dramatic mountainscapes emerge from the mist.
⛪ Soaking Up Sligo History and Culture
Our first stop is at the ancient village of Drumcliffe.
View the remains of a 1000-year old high cross and ruined round tower. Listen as I relate the story of Saint Colmcille, one of Ireland's most influential early Christians. He founded a monastery on this very spot in AD 574.
In later times, this graveyard has become famous as the final resting place of a literary giant; the magical and mystical W. B Yeats.
Indeed, all of this picturesque corner of northwestern Ireland is known today as Yeats Country.
Read more about Yeats in our dedicated guide to Sligo.
🌊 Boat Trip To Slieve League Cliffs
How are your sea legs, me hearties?!
Slieve League Sea Cliffs is the setting for a fun and spectacular boat trip.
This being a flexible and easy-going Driftwood Tour, however, the boat trip is totally optional.
Donegal has so much more than scenery though. We could take a guided tour of 15th century Donegal Castle, ancestral home of the O'Donnell chieftains.
Or we could enjoy some retail therapy in Donegal town, discovering the best of handmade local Donegal tweed followed by a traditional Irish pub lunch.
Have you taken the Slieve League boat trip? Tell us about your experience.
🧶 Step Into An Irish Craft Studio
As the end of our second day draws near, we'll have the opportunity to meet a true master craftsman at work.
Eddie Doherty is one of Ireland’s few remaining hand-weavers. 60 years experience means Eddie has a wealth of knowledge to share with you all.
Your stay in this part of Donegal is a great opportunity to sample live Irish music.
Talented musicians perform nightly in the small and authentic Irish country towns dotted around south Donegal.
🌳Day 3 - Donegal to Derry
A beautiful morning greets us on Day 3.
We drive north through gorgeous, green glens of Donegal. This route leads us to Glenveagh National Park.
Here we have time to explore the hauntingly beautiful Glenveagh Castle & Gardens, nestled on the shores of romantic Lough Veagh.
Find out more about Ireland's most beautiful National Parks
😲 Our Next Stop Will Take Your Breath Away...
One of our favourite — and most spectacular — places to visit in Donegal is the Grianán of Áileach.
This stone ringfort dates back to the 6th century. Some say Grianán even features on Ptolemy's 2nd century World Map.
From the top we'll look out over incredible 360° views across Lough Swilly and Lough Foyle at the very northern tip of Ireland
☘️ Our Tour Enters Northern Ireland
Crossing the border into Northern Ireland, remember to switch to using £ pounds sterling.
Aside from differently-coloured licence plates on cars, that's about the most noticeable difference that you've just left the EU and the Republic of Ireland. There are no border controls and everyone looks and sounds the same!
Our end goal is the city of Derry/Londonderry. We actually have to drive under its still-intact 17th century walls to reach downtown.
The Maiden City enjoys a dramatic location on the River Foyle. It has been the setting for stories of siege and conflict for centuries.
We think the best introduction to Derry/Londonderry is on the famous walls, which had their 400th birthday in 2014.
So we're going to leave you in the capable hands of Martin for an interactive, historical walking tour.
🌅 The Sun Sets On Another Day...
After soaking up the culture of Derry/Londonderry, how about retiring to your country house for the evening?
Your accommodation tonight is at the charming Beech Hill Country House, just outside the city.
⛰️Day 4 - The Causeway Coast
Day 4 dawns and we're about to cross the Giant's Causeway off our Northern Ireland Bucket List!
This UNESCO World Heritage Site is a geological wonder.
Science tells us it was formed millions of years ago. Massive volcanic eruptions poured out magma, which then cooled into thousands of identical, hexagonal basalt columns.
Irish folklore, on the other hand, tells a different story. According to the legend, Finn McCool and his giant-fighting ways are to blame!
😱 Would You Dare?!
Now you have the option to brave Carrick a Rede rope bridge, suspended over the rolling waves of the Irish Sea.
Or, y'know, you can just watch...
🥃 Take A Guided Irish Whiskey Tour and Tasting
This afternoon, you have the option to take a guided tour of Bushmills, since 1608 (believe it or not).
Raise a glass to the world's oldest licensed whiskey distillery.
👻 Ready For Your Haunted Castle Stay?!
Don't worry, only me, Bébhinn, jumping out at you from the haunted room at Ballygally Castle Hotel.
Ballygally — what a great name! — is located right on the gorgeous Causeway Coast.
Not only is it an excellent boutique hotel but it features a 17th century castle tower too, replete with ghost (allegedly).
Ballygally is just one of the castles you'll see on your Northern Ireland tour.
Others include the mighty 12th Century Carrickfergus Castle, clifftop Dunluce and the medieval Norman stronghold of Dundrum.
🛳️ Day 5 - Belfast to Newcastle
This morning, we're heading for the beautiful and historic city of Belfast.
The capital of Northern Ireland is bursting with things to do.
Explore the city's vibrant history on a historical Black Cab Tour
Or visit the Titanic Centre, the world's largest Titanic visitor experience
Whichever you choose, you are guaranteed a great time.
🧖♀️ Not Another Spa Hotel!
After a relaxed and delicious lunch in Belfast, we make a beeline for the coast once again.
If we have time, we'll unearth the life and legend of Ireland’s patron saint at the Saint Patrick’s Centre and Down Cathedral.
But our priority on easy-going Driftwood tours is always to relax.
So I've planned an early arrival tonight at our hotel. It's our final meal and get-together so we're looking forward to it.
👋 Day 6 - Newcastle to Dublin
The last day of our tour behins...
Today, we're headed due south from Newcastle, in Northern Ireland, to Dublin, in the Republic.
Of course, there’s still time for some amazing highlights on your final day
First, we'll watch out for wildlife and wildflowers at Murlough National Nature Reserve.
✝️ A Fitting Finale
After crossing back into the Republic of Ireland (and the eurozone), we'll take a last step back in time.
Our appointment is with the ancient monastic settlement at Monasterboice.
Aside from the wonderful story of its patron saints, the clear highlight for us at Monasterboice are the collection of Celtic high crosses.
Muiredach's High Cross is arguably the best example in the whole of Ireland.
It's over 1000 years old and stands 5.5 metres high; that's nearly 19 feet tall!
Then it's back onto our Drifter tour vehicle for the last time.
We speed south to Dublin to disembark.
😢 A Sad Farewell...
For the past 6 days and nights, we've explore a less-visited corner of this incredible island together.
We discovered the ancient beauty of Northern Ireland. We dropped by Donegal, stepped onto the Giant’s Causeway, boogied into Belfast and got merry in Derry. And so much more!
As a past guest said in her TripAdvisor review,
"Where did six days go? They went into my memory as six great days to disconnect and soak in Ireland."
Bébhinn O'Malley is my name. I'm proud to have been your driver, your guide and your resident storyteller/joker/choir leader.
Please share this tour diary with your friends and family. There's never been a more important time to dream about travel!
☘️ Want To Tour For Real?
What do you have to do to come tour with us for real?
A great first step is to get more details on the 6 Day Driftwood Northern Island Tour page.
You may also care to download and read the 2021/2022 tour itinerary [pdf, 733kb].
Or check out our other easy-going Driftwood Journeys of Discovery.
Alternatively you can see which other tours visit beautiful Northern Ireland in our helpful FAQs section.