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Best of Ireland Tour Question

We are booked for the "Best of Ireland" in July.

Those of you who are alumni of that tour....... the Book of Kells and Kilmainham Gaol are a part of the scheduled "official" tour. Did you feel that time seem adequate? Or had you wished you had also gone on your own visited at your pace? Thanks!

Posted by
447 posts

Book of Kells: We were on the tour in 2019. There was nothing scheduled after the tour, so you can walk through at your own pace...if I remember correctly. No pictures are allowed of the book itself.
Kilmainham Gaol: The experience was especially meaningful when you know the "history of the uprising," as explained by the tour guide. It was a very sobering experience, and I didn't feel like we needed more time.
We spent a couple of days in Dublin before the tour began, and had time to go to locations associated with the 1916 uprising, like the GPO (General P. O.), so we were well aware of what happened before going to the Gaol.
I love history, and so I appreciated going to "Epic: The Irish Emigration Museum". Not sure if my husband felt the same way.
We absolutely loved Ireland and the people and the tour. Even though we were probably the oldest ones on the tour, if there was a Pub with music in town, we went nightly...even though I don't drink beer! I just love the informal "sessions" in the local pubs.
I know, more info than you wanted or asked for.

Posted by
11 posts

WOW! Thank you, Carol, for sharing that great information. We are arriving 4 days early to take in more of Dublin. We are trying to budget our time wisely!!!!

Posted by
87 posts

Like Carol, I was also on the Best of Ireland tour in 2019. I agree with her that tour time at Trinity College library to see Book of Kells and at the Gaol is adequate. If you take the Best of Scotland tour you will visit the Isle of Iona and the 800 year old abbey where the Book of Kells originated. Both tours are fabulous. Enjoy your time in Ireland, we did.

Posted by
9906 posts

If you are arriving early, we did the tour out to Newgrange (with Mary something or other,lol....on my phone) which was excellent. We also enjoyed the National Museum as I particularly wanted to see the Bog People. I also really liked the Chester Beatty (museum and library). Not only was the collection interesting but it was actually well-airconditioned which might be something to keep in mind in July, lol!

I was disappointed in my experience at the Book of Kells. It was jammed around the book and you literally had to elbow your way to the front. This was a number of years ago so hopefully they've changed the system (or actually "added" a system, lol) and are restricting the number of entries so it is easier to see

Because of this, to me there seemed to be plenty of time for both the Book of Kells and Kilmainham Gaol.

editing to add: @Simpgolf - yes! to seeing Iona on the Best of Scotland tour. That was very cool to complete that connection.

Posted by
1729 posts

Included in a visit to the Book of Kells is the opportunity to see the Long Library, which is spectacular.

Posted by
11 posts

Thanks, Y'all!

Yes, We are already booked for Mary's tour of Newgrange. The other places you mentioned are on our bucket list. Still trying to decide on a half day tour to Wicklow or go for a full day. Dublin offers so much. We don't want miss out on too much there. Kind of thinking we will see plenty of nature throughout the rest of the tour.

Posted by
254 posts

I’ve visited both of the above sites on my own and with a group twice in the last 8 years but most recently in December, 2019.

Kilmainham Goal was not a part of the RS itinerary when I took their Best of Ireland tour in 2012 so I cannot comment on the process. However both tours through Kilmainham Goal (2019 & 2012) were conducted by guides. They were instrumental in and crucial to bringing history to life. Along with the free time before and after the guided tour I did not feel the need for extended time. There is a good bit to read in the final building but it’s not overwhelming. I was thrilled to see this stop added to the Best of Ireland itinerary.

Regarding my Book of Kells visits the first was over crowded and essentially a rush/push through with no time to stop and appreciate. My second visit was exceptional. There were no crowds and I was able to linger indefinitely around these great treasures and also in the library.

I’m confident that you may not find the need for additional time at either location.

Posted by
382 posts

I think the amount of time at the Book of Kells and the prison is adequate. Prior to the Rick Steves tour we did a full day tour of Glendaloch and Powerscourt. We really enjoyed our tour. Glendaloch was very interesting and the gardens at Powerscourt were very pretty..

Posted by
447 posts

rr: More info that you did not ask for:
I read that you have already booked Mary's tour of Newgrange.
Pre-tour, I listened to Ireland by Frank Delaney...(19 hours). He does weave "fact and fiction" concerning Newgrange in the book.
However, we ended up cancelling Mary's tour (even though it is so highly recommended) because we chose to spend the day in Dublin.

Posted by
106 posts

DH and I went in 2018 and we did Kilmainhaim on our own as it was not part of the tour then. We did visit the Book of Kells with the group. I also found book of Kells disappointing since the book is actually tiny and the crowds around the cases were really thick! But there are nice blown up photos of the pages so you can see the detail. I know it sounds hokie BUT we really enjoyed touring Guinness in Dublin. It was the first time I actually enjoyed the brew! As per advice from a cabbie, I asked to have Ribena added to my pint and it helped me with the transition to the traditional draft. Christ Church also has a belfry tour which we enjoyed. Warning, there are some high catwalks and very small doors to get to the room. We LOVED Ireland, enjoy!

Posted by
6510 posts

We also took a bus out to Roslyn Chapel for our ‘get the inner clock reset day’ and had a nice lunch in the visitors center there.

Rosslyn Chapel is in Scotland isn't it?

Posted by
726 posts

I will agree with those who say the time with the Book of Kells is sufficient. The library is cool, but I wish there was more of an explanation given.

Having read a lot about the 1916 Uprising, I was very interested in the visit to Kilmainham. My RS group in 2011 visited the jail for a decent amount of time. However, several years later, after learning more about the uprising and becoming familiar with Irish rebel music, I needed a longer visit on my own. Fortunately, I was able to return in 2016 (the 100th year anniversary) and spend all the time I needed at Kilmainham. I would go back however, if and when I can.

The visit to Derry was also very memorable

Posted by
21 posts

We took the train out to Howth. It is about a half hour ride. We took the Cliff Walk and enjoyed watching the sailors leave for a race. It was a very scenic ride and town. We were back in Dublin by early afternoon and got off the train and walked to the Epic Emigrant Museum.

Posted by
1 posts

I am excited to read the comments on this post. We are leaving on this tour in July as well. I am wondering if we are going to be on the same tour.

Posted by
1093 posts

My tour of Ireland was with CIE instead of RS. I believe that the guided tours of Kilmainham are compulsory, meaning that you can't go through on your own. I guess I got lucky when I saw the Book of Kells, no crowds, but either way, it doesn't take very long to visit the book and the library room. I absolutely LOVED Newgrange. I also enjoyed the National Museum and the bog people. I went to one of the fairy tales telling dinners. It wasn't great but I enjoyed it. It was at the Brazen Head Pub, which is supposed to be the oldest pub in Dublin, so that was cool. I would suggest stopping in at Sweny's pharmacy, where James Joyce bought his lemon soap. It only takes a few minutes.

Posted by
106 posts

Oh Nancy, you are quite correct! Roslyn is in Scotland…it’s been so long since we went anywhere I have blended all those fun trips together…