I’m just back from… Ireland! ☘️

Happy Thursday Hidden Gem Travel community! I’m excited to report that I’m just back from an incredible trip to Europe, specifically Ireland!  Have you been to the Emerald Isle? If you’ve been, you know that there’s much more to do than can fit in a week’s time. The purpose of this trip was to scout the best hotels and experiences for my clients, and I must say that my travel partners in Ireland rolled out the green carpet (did you know that there are 40 shades of green in Ireland?). In fact, it was one of the best scouting trips I’ve ever experienced. I can’t wait to return and cover more ground, but as you’ll read, I covered a lot!

Some highlights from this trip include:

  • Ancient castles
  • Horses, hounds, and hawks
  • Delectable dining and drinking (distillery and pub) experiences
  • Golf
  • Spa
  • Irish heritage
  • Vibrant cities and quaint towns
  • History & culture
  • A Christmas Market!

If you’d like the emerald, green carpet rolled out for you on your first or next trip to Ireland, read on for part #1 of the scoop…

Note – Ireland has one of the highest covid vaccination rates in Europe (76% of the total population), and the protocols were strict while we were there. Personally, I felt as comfortable as I do in the US when out and about.

Itinerary Overview

Over 8 days, we crisscrossed the mid-section of Ireland from Dublin in the east to Galway on the west coast and back.  You might think the weather in November wouldn’t be pleasant, but that was not the case.  We enjoyed plenty of sun mixed with spritzes of rain and temperatures in the 50s (we even saw a few rainbows).  It was very comfortable for an active trip.  November is a quiet month for tourism in Ireland, so we didn’t have to contend with crowds (phew!). In fact, the flight over was smooth and took only 5 hours, 40 minutes.  We flew Delta Airlines direct out of JFK to Dublin – easy. 

We began our trip in Dublin and then drove to county Kildare for a private tour of the thoroughbred racehorse breeding center, the Irish National Stud and Gardens (a hidden gem experience in Ireland!).  Next, we checked into our first castle, Dromoland, where we were met with a glass of champagne and a castle tour. 

The next day, we drove to the Wild Atlantic Way’s majestic Cliffs of Mohr, along the unusual Burren coastline, and checked into 800-year-old Ashford Castle where we were escorted across the moat bridge by horses and hounds!  Our two-night stay at Ashford allowed us to have an incredible falconry experience as we walked the castle grounds. A round of golf and an afternoon at the award-winning spa were also highlights. The only sad part of the trip was checking out of Ashford (note I will devote an entire newsletter to my stay at Ashford as it’s a must-do for any bucket list Ireland trip).

Next, we drove into county Galway through the breathtaking landscape of Connemara National Park and historic Kylemore Abbey (an estate built by a wealthy businessman in the 1800s that has been inhabited by Benedictine nuns for the past 100 years).  We spend the night in central Galway, the European Capital of Culture in 2020, and enjoyed the first night of their Christmas Markets.

On the drive back to Dublin, we stopped at Sean’s Bar which the Guinness Book of World Records has verified as Ireland’s oldest pub (and possibly in Europe) – dating back to 900AD.  Our last night was spent in Dublin which was full of excitement as Ireland played top-ranked New Zealand in rugby and Ireland won the match! 

This newsletter focuses on my time in Dublin – what a fabulous, spirited, welcoming city!

💎 Hidden Gem Tip:  Wondering how we navigated the entry/exit protocols for international travel and Ireland’s protocols? Reply to this email, and I’ll talk you through it. 

Dublin: The Craic was Mighty!

Our Irish tour guide, Allie, who is incredibly well informed about the history and culture of Ireland, told us that when you say “the craic was mighty” you’re saying that it was an awesome time.  Our entire trip, including our experiences in the capital city of Dublin, would be described this way.

We stayed at The Merrion hotel which is centrally located but away from the noise.  I highly recommend this hotel, a leading hotel of the world, and my clients receive valuable Virtuoso perks. The environment is truly lovely and serene, and you’ll sleep very well each night – key!  The neighborhood reflects Georgian Dublin where you’ll see many of the iconic “Doors of Dublin” with their distinctive colors, knobs, and knockers.

The restaurants are fantastic! We ate many excellent meals for breakfast and dinner (forgoing a sit-down lunch most days to save on time).  The fresh fish melted in our mouths, and the hearty Full Irish breakfasts were enough for two meals.  Irish butter on sourdough toast is amazing with a cup of Irish tea!  I’ll recommend the best spots when you go.

Top Dublin experiences – we loved our private tour of the top 10 Dublin pubs with a local musician and a mixology class at the Jameson Distillery.  I made a tasty whiskey sour and old-fashioned under the tutelage of an expert mixologist. The tour of the Book of Kells and Long Room at Trinity College is a must-do whether you opt for the self-guided audio tour or arrange a private tour.

💎 Hidden Gem Tip:  For more Dublin hotel options with the perks check this out: Best Of The Best Hotels and Experiences

EPIC Emigration Museum – a world’s best museum and top attraction in Europe

Another incredible Dublin experience was our private tour at the new EPIC Emigration Museum. The fully interactive, award-winning museum takes you through the inspiring life stories of Irish people from all backgrounds. A staggering ten million people left Ireland, and their lives impacted the world in unique ways. According to EPIC, you’ll “swipe through video galleries, dance through motion sensor quizzes, listen to remastered audio from 100 years ago, and watch videos that bring Irish history to life.”  I found it to be a very impactful and unique experience!

Do you have Irish ancestry? If so, a trip to Ireland including customized ancestry experiences is a bucket list trip I can design for you and your family. 

For Pub Lovers

Dublin is home to some incredible pubs and distilleries.  Of course, Guinness is likely the first brand to pop into your mind, and it’s found everywhere.  Guinness beer is an acquired taste and dates back to 1759.  Jameson Whiskey is another iconic Irish brand that also dates back to the 1700s.  We had a private tour and mixology class which was full of laughs and learning.  I’m not a fan of whiskey but was able to create two very delicious drinks from two types of Jameson.

Many of the pubs in Dublin are festive, historic, and colorful. The Temple Bar is the most readily recognized, but there are many more to frequent.  We enjoyed a fascinating private tour of the top 10 pubs in Dublin with a local musician who shared stories from his life in Dublin and experiences singing and playing guitar in the pubs. He introduced us to his friends in the pub business along the way, and we heard first-hand how challenging it is right now to own and manage a pub.  BTW – this tour isn’t found on the major tour websites.  Yes, our vaccination cards were checked at every pub, and masking when not seated was enforced 😊

💎 Hidden Gem Tip: Wondering how we navigated the entry/exit protocols for international travel and Ireland’s protocols? Reply to this email, and I’ll talk you through it.

A Library of Libraries & Book of Books

When in Dublin, you must see the Long Room at Trinity College.  For lovers of libraries and bookstores like me, it’s an incredible experience!  On the tour, you’ll see and learn about the Book of Kells which is considered Ireland’s greatest cultural treasure. It’s an ornate, medieval 9th century manuscript with rich symbolism and intricate illuminated drawings of the gospels.

The Long Room is awe-inspiring and considered one of the most beautiful libraries in the world; the stacks are lined with busts of history’s most learned men (Aristotle, Shakespeare, etc).  You’ll also see Ireland’s oldest surviving harp and a rare original copy of the Proclamation of the Irish Republic. For history lovers, I highly recommend a private tour.  I can recommend one of the best options with a professional historian.

My next newsletter will focus on my time spent outside of Dublin and will be chock-full of inspiration for your own trip! 

Inspired? If you’re thinking about a bucket list trip to Ireland, here’s the link to schedule a chat with me www.hiddengemtravelconsulting.com/contact

💎 Hidden Gem Tip:  Follow my Facebook/Instagram pages this week for more travel inspiration:  www.facebook.com/hiddengemtravelconsulting or Instagram: www.instagram.com/hidden.gem.travel

Wishing you and your family continued good health,


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Hi, I'm Susan Wilson

I’m the founder of Hidden Gem Travel Consulting. As your personal travel advisor, I craft custom worldwide itineraries that astound and inspire you.


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