The traveler’s dilemma is how to find enough time to get into the heart and soul of a country.

One award-winning, home-grown tour operator that curates adventures across Ireland suggests the questions should be: How to find enough time for a country to get into your heart?

Our ever-popular 12 day tour does just this, promises Rob Rankin, co-owner with his wife, Amy Rankin, of Vagabond Small Group Tours of Ireland.
 
“Give Ireland 12 days on our Giant Irish Adventure and you’ll see more of Ireland than most Irish will see in a lifetime,” adds Rankin.

“When you leave your heart here, it’s always with the best intention to return.

But if that doesn’t happen, you can be content that from the Giant’s Causeway in the very northeast to the Blarney Stone in the south-west, you have seen the very best Ireland and her people have to offer.”

The per person double rate is €2,899 (€490 single supplement). Departures in 2019 are April 22 and 29; May 6, 13, 20 and 27; June 3, 10, 17 and 24; July 1, 8, 15, 22 and 29; Aug. 5, 12, 19 and 26; Sept.2, 9, 16, 23 and 30; and Oct. 7. Next year’s dates have also been set so reservations for 2020 departures are now also available.

Imagine a country of wild moorland, rugged mountains and unspoiled beaches. This epic journey circumnavigates the entire Emerald Isle, moving counter-clockwise beginning and ending in Dublin. Along the way travelers will explore natural, cultural and historical icons including sites where Game of Thrones was filmed. Legends of this ancient culture come to life in music and dance. Beauty exudes in the poetry of place names: Connemara, Galway, Iveragh (the Ring of Kerry), Limerick and Tipperary. And spirit emerges in the laughter over toasts in pubs – perhaps at one of Dingle Town’s 54 watering holes.
 
A former eight-day version of this experience was recognized by National Geographic Traveler as a Tour of a Lifetime, however the present 12-day route covers much more ground. This off-the-beaten track, flexible itinerary requires a fair level of fitness for horseback riding and kayaking, or for hiking and cycling 2.5 hours on undulating hill paths. Guests have the options to:

  • Kayak across Dingle Bay to meet a friendly dolphin
  • Surf an Atlantic wave
  • Hike over rugged landscapes
  • Horseback ride along a golden Irish strand
  • Bike or hike the wonders of Killarney National Park
  • Visit a working sheep farm for a herding and shearing demonstration
  • Journey to the Skellig Islands, one of Ireland's UNESCO World Heritage sites and a filming location for Star Wars
  • Shout from the battlements of mythical castles
  • Peer into portal tombs older than the pyramids
  • Stand in awe at ancient Neolithic stone circles and Celtic ring forts
  • Dig deep into Belfast with a Black Cab tour or a visit to the Titanic Experience
  • Walk the ramparts of Derry, Ireland’s only complete walled city

En route guests enjoy fresh and locally sourced food from Ireland’s clean waters and green farms. On all of its tours, Vagabond staff curate locally owned accommodations, pubs and restaurants that help serve their goal of authenticity. On one stop a hot, rejuvenating seaweed bath awaits. On another, guests live like lords and ladies in a castle-style country house. Transport is in a custom 4x4 Land Rover or Mercedes 'Vagatron' that allows access beyond where regular tour buses go.

In the end the mission is to have guests “love Ireland as much as we do,” says Rankin.

Feeling Less Active?

Those who prefer a less active, gentler pace, can opt for an 11 Day Discover Ireland Tour.

The per person double rate is €2,749 (€469 single supplement). This program that also circumnavigates Ireland shifts the focus slightly from outdoor activities to cultural sightseeing, with additional visits to stately homes and castles and opportunities to stroll through world-class gardens.

Vagabond Small Group Tours of Ireland offers two styles of culturally immersive travel. Vagabond Adventure Tours (the collection including the Magnetic North Adventure Tour) are for active travelers who want to mix up hiking and biking and other outdoor adventures with history, culture, dining and shopping. Driftwood Journeys of Discovery follow similar itineraries but at an intimate and in-depth looking and lingering pace, sans the physical exertion.

On all of its tours, Vagabond staff curate locally owned accommodations, pubs and restaurants that help serve their goal of authenticity. In the end the mission is to have guests “love Ireland as much as we do.” Transport is in a Mercedes-Benz VagaTron 4x4 tour vehicle that allows access beyond where regular tour buses go.

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