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Private Tour Company Experience Little Gems Travel, Rabbies or Other and 15 day itinerary feedback

My husband and I will be traveling to Ireland for 15/16 days in September 2024. We plan to spend 2 nights in Dublin and taking the train or bus and 2 nights in Galway. We are looking for a private tour company for the rest of our trip. We spent a week in Scotland last year and rented a car. Typically I do our travel itineraries and love it. However, I'm the driver and as a US driver I found the driving in Scotland to really detract from my experience because it took so much concentration.

I looked at Rabbies small group tours and am considering them - I don't love the group/van and predetermined routes or the fact that they typically only do 1 night in a place then move on. We prefer to spend at least 2 or 3 nights in a place and do day trips from there. I am going to inquire about the cost of a private driver through them and have also reached out to Little Gem. I would love to hear feedback from people who have experience with these companies or if you have other recommendations. I would also love thoughts on itinerary. Thank you

My thoughts are as follows but am happy to adjust based on further reading and my interactions with the tour company.
Arrive Dublin - 2 nights
Train to Galway 2 nights
Start private tour -
2 nights County Galway/Mayo/Connemara
2 nights Doolin with possible day trip to Aran Islands and Cliffs by water
2 nights Dingle
2 or 3 nights Kenmare with daytrips to Beara, Skellig, Killarney
1 night in Kinsale - maybe just stop on way to next but considering overnight with daytrip to Cobh
1 night in Cashel - touring Cashel Rock, Hore Abby, possibly gardens at Blarney
Return to Dublin through Glendalough and Wicklow Mts
Airport overnight and fly home

Posted by
4175 posts

Rabbies would be recommended by any of us who have ever taken their tours. We did a 5 day tour in London and the guide was the best we have ever had at connecting with those on tour.
EDITED: The driver/guide we had on our Heart of England Rabbies tour was the best tour director we have ever had.(We have not been on any RS Tours-one TWA, one Globus, two Gate One)

Posted by
2678 posts

I would suggest looking at McKinlay Kidd, a tour company that offers a large variety of tours in the British Isles. Most are self drive, but they also offer guided tours and individual tours that rely solely on public transportation supplemented by private drivers. The latter may interest you. They arrange all the transport and accommodations for you, as well as set up full and half day tours, some of which are group tours and some of which are private. You have a good deal of free time as well. They supply all the information you need in an app, and this includes suggestions for how you spend your free time.

We took their tour of the Orkney and Shetland islands this summer and absolutely loved it. The accommodations and tours were excellent. We had rental cars on the main islands of Orkney and Shetland, which we don’t normally like, but it was fine there because there is so little traffic. For some of the other islands, they arranged flights, ferries and driver/tour guides for us to get around.

I believe McKinlay Kidd also does custom itineraries.

Go to their website (mckinlaykidd.com) and select Ireland from the pull down list. Call if you need more information. I thought they were wonderful to work with, and we are currently looking at doing another tour with them next year.

Posted by
6 posts

Thank you. I will definitely check out McKinlay. I would love to hear specific feedback on anyone who has taken a private, Ireland Rabbies tour or Little Gems. I would also love to hear feedback on our itinerary related to locations and pacing.

Posted by
61 posts

I took two Rabbies tours in Ireland in 2019. We enjoyed both. The first was a 3 night/ 4 day tour to Ring of Kerry, West Cork, Kinsale, and Cashel. However, it is no longer one of their tours. We spent two nights in Killarney and one in Kinsale. The van was very comfortable and it was a good value for the money. You can choose your own accommodations which is nice, but it can also be a little inconvenient with people staying at various places. The other tour we did was a day trip to Slane Castle and Trim from Dublin. I don’t think they have day trips anymore, so that trip is also not available anymore.

The tours are pretty much just transportation only with a driver/guide. They do go to some places that are difficult to reach without a car. We definitely got to see much more than we could have in that same period of time on our own. Of course a private driver would give you way more flexibility and freedom, but it will cost quite a bit more.

Posted by
3829 posts

I have not used them yet, but am booking day trips in June and have 2 booked with Paddywagon Tours.
https://www.paddywagontours.com/private-hire

My trips will be bigger bus tours from Cork but they offer custom trips and tours. Might be worth checking. I found them as I was searching for day trips through Viator and Get Your Guide - but then I booked direct.

Posted by
18 posts

Take a look at Vagabond Tours. They offer small bus group tours that might fit your interests. I took their 11 day Driftwood tour and thought it was well done. They offer shorter tours as well, all begin and end in Dublin.

Posted by
6 posts

Thank you for all of the feedback. We ended up booking a private tour with Little Gems for a 13 day tour the end of August. I have had a very good experience with them so far. Rosie and I emailed several times and did a 30 min call. What I liked best when exploring options, was the flexibility and effort to understand our interests. I love travel planning and Rosie is completely open to my input for lodging and will then do the booking once agreed. That said, she's also been great sharing what she thinks might not work based on first hand knowledge. I'll let everyone know how it goes.

Below is the framework of our itinerary. I would love any input on pacing and on off the beaten path activities in the various areas.
Arrive Dublin - 3 nights on our own to explore Dublin and possibly taking Coastal beer and seafood tour to Howth.
Start private tour with Little Gems
Day 1: Old Military Road, stop Victor's Sculpture Garden, Glendalough, Overnight Cashel
Day 2: Cashel area in morning, stop in either Cobh or Cork, Overnight Kinsale
Day 3 - 5: 3 Nights Kenmare, Beara Peninsula, Gougane Barra, Killarney
Day 6-7: 2 Nights Dingle, Dingle Peninsula
Day 8: Overnight Doolin - Cliffs, Burren
Day 9:Overnight Inishmore
Day 10: Overnight Galway
Day 11 and 12: Connemara, Farm Stay County Mayo (ancestry)

Posted by
170 posts

It sounds like you managed to find a good tour that works for you! Ireland is lovely. I am curious if you are still attempting to see the Skelligs? If you are, hopefully your tour company has explained to you how it works and you are prepared for it to be canceled or to not be able to get a ticket (they limit the number of licenses and people who can visit in it's small tourist season.) We were fortunate enough to visit Skellig Michael in 2019. The day was absolutely perfect--72 degrees, water like glass and not a cloud in the sky. We realized how lucky we were as the next day's tours were all canceled due to fog. If you have the opportunity and it is part of your tour, I highly recommend visiting.

Also a recommendation for you (if you enjoy chocolate) is to visit Hazel Mountain Chocolate. Their factory is in the Burren but they have a brick and mortar store in Galway City. Bean to bar and delicious!

Posted by
1771 posts

Some thought about off the beaten track places...

When at Cashel, try and find time to visit the ruined Hore Abbey. It’s just outside the town and a lovely place for a picnic lunch..

Ring of Beara - do drive down to the end and take the cable car across to Dursey Island. Also do go and find the Hag of Beara. It definitely has a strange feel to it. .

Connemara - don’t miss the Sky Drive from Clifden. In good weather when the sun is shining, this must rank as one of the best short drives in the world. Near by is the tiny village of Roundstone set around its harbour with views across to the Twelve Bens.

If you are interested in traditional music, ask about a visit to Malachy Kearns Bodhram maker who has his workshop in Roundstone.

Also think about driving the narrow unclassified road across Roundstone bog from Ballinaboy to Tombegla. This is an isolated wild and deserted area of peat bog with numerous small lakes. It was typical of what Ireland used to be like before most of the peat was removed for power stations of agricultural use.

Posted by
6 posts

Thank you for your responses. We will not be doing Skellig. I want to give more time to explore and enjoy each place we decide on, so of course had to cut some things out. I've already decided we'll need to come back. We will devote a full day to Beara. We are definitely going to Hore Abbey. We are holding of on Connemara because we just don't have the time to devote what it deserves. We will spend a slow morning in Galway and then head directly to Ashford Castle to do the Hawk Walk. I do have some specific questions -
When leaving KInsale I need to choose between the Clare Coastal Route - Clonikilty, Drombeg.... and Gougane Barra. Would love some input here.
In Dublin in our 1.5 days I'm looking at these options or a combination of them. We'll have a full afternoon/evening and a full morning, afternoon evening. The literary pub crawl, the Original Dublin Historical Walk and/or the Hop on Hop off. I'm planning on also seeing the Bog Bodies exhibition.
Thanks again!