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RS Heart of Ireland--How strenuous are the 2 "strenuous" days?

Would like some advice/evaluation from those who have been on an HOI tour.

I'm looking at HOI for my husband and I this summer. I'm 61 yo and have a good bit of arthritis in my knees which makes me a super slow walker. I can get there, but it will take a bit of extra time. For my travel adventures (not everyday life), I bring along a cane. My husband is in entirely better shape than me (and a few years younger to boot)!

So, I'm thinking, can I do this tour? RS tours are totally upfront that 'our tours are physically active'. In November I did Israel with a tour group and I was very aware that I was always bringing up the end of the group. A couple of times I just said, 'hey, I'll stay here in the cafe and have a coffee while you do that site and catch you on your way back to the bus'. So I'm realistic about sometimes just taking a pass on a sight--but I wouldn't want that to be happening all the time. It has to be the exception (like twice in a week) and not the norm every day of the tour. Our most strenuous day in Israel my phone said 10,00+ steps. Other days were mostly 4,000 to 6,000 steps. Obviously, the walking was over uneven ground and cobblestones, etc as described as part of RS tours. Last summer I traveled 7 weeks without a tour group, including all over Rome up and down the many more than 7 hills, Assisi, Sorrento/Amalfi and then around Poland. As that was solo travel I was moving me and my luggage to hotels with walking, buses, trains, etc. Though stairs are pretty much my biggest enemy.

I want to be realistic about whether I can do this tour. I have used RS guides for years all over Europe, watched the show, listen to the podcasts on the app and the radio show. Yup, I'm converted by RS way of travel. I even watch the live stream of the tour weekend every year. I wouldn't even know how to find another tour I would trust.

Posted by
337 posts

I have not been on this particular tour, but I've been to these locations in Ireland, so maybe I can lend some insight.

The first "strenuous" day is the Rock of Cashel. I think the worst part would be walking the path up the hill to the site of the ruins. It's relatively steep, but short. Sort of like climbing 3 stories of stairs? (They are not actually stairs, just an inclined, paved path.) Can you do that? Once you're up the hill, you'll be walking, but it's all level ground. And you won't want to miss it. You'll want to keep up with the group so you don't miss the tour guide's information, but even if you bring up the rear I'm sure they'll wait for you. And then of course you'll have to walk back down afterward. I really think that will be the most challenging part of your day.

The other strenuous day is Glendalough. For that, you can probably do as much or as little walking as you want. The graveyard and chapel ruins are a short walk from the parking lot over flat but uneven ground. I don't think you'd need to keep up with the group, unless they have a tour guide planned. Once you're there, there's plenty to see at the main monastic site. You can walk around, or you can stay put. There are level walking paths that take you to the lakes, etc. but I think you'd be very happy just staying at the main site.

On the positive side, both of those days look like they have plenty of bus time as well, so you can rest up before and after.

Make friends of your tour group, so you'll have buddies to push and pull you along, and root for you as you go.

I hope this helps you to decide whether this tour will work for you. Best of luck!

Posted by
1736 posts

They have tweaked this tour since we took it, so I can only respond to the Rock of Cashel part. I would absolutely agree with Stacy that there is a short walk uphill, and then I thought I remember climbing up in the tower, but that wasn't too difficult. We are older and my husband has had a knee replacement and nothing about this tour caused us any problem. The amount of walking you do is really up to you, but most of the tour is on pretty flat or slightly elevated ground (when we went). One of our travel partners had a lot of physical constraints and he didn't have any problems. He travels with one of those canes that folds down into a seat. We've taken 5 RS tours and this was the least active.

Posted by
234 posts

I see no reason why you couldn't take this tour. As the others said the Rock of Cashel might be the only problem. but I even doubt that would be. It's a fairly steep but short walk up. When we took this tour I was 78 and my husband was 85 and we had no problem with keeping up with the group. We have done 11 Rick Steves tours (10 of them after I had 2 knee replacements) and they have all been wonderful. We have also been to Ireland 6 other times on our own and I know you will love it. I say go for it.

Posted by
2058 posts

I took this tour in September 2017. The only “strenuous“ day included the short walk up to the Rock of Cashel as the others have commented. It’s a great tour and I think you will enjoy it! You can do it!

Posted by
6448 posts

I've not been on this tour and I've not been to the rock of Cashel, but I didn't think Glendalough was strenuous at all. And, considering everywhere else you've been, as noted in your post, you shouldn't have too much trouble.

I would like to note though that someone living with arthritic knees is a bit different from someone who's had knee replacements. Not exactly comparable. I speak from experience - I have quite a bit of arthritis pain in my knees and can only do short stretches of walking on inclines or stairs before the pain gets to me. My friend who has had two knee replacements could walk circles around me.

Posted by
875 posts

I have bad knees with arthritis and now one year last August on my knee replacement. As others have said those two visits are the most . I have been on 7 RS tours and no issues. I have been on both Ireland tours and love Ireland. But I really enjoyed the 14 day better.!

You can do it and I am 62 in August


Posted by
4939 posts

have a good bit of arthritis in my knees which makes me a super slow walker. I can get there, but it will take a bit of extra time.

I'd be more concerned about the "super slow walker" aspect than about how strenuous two specific days are. I've not done this tour, but I have done 14 others, and there is a lot of walking on RS tours. The pace of the walking varies with the tour guide. I'm sure the guides try to take the abilities of the members into account, but I remember on our very first RS tour the guide said "Don't worry; I don't walk as fast as Rick." Then she took off, leaving us with our jaws dropping. On another tour we had a guide who kept a fairly brisk pace. A number of our group complained that he walked too fast - although my husband and I, both in our 60s at that point, found the pace comfortable. We were all humbled at one point, however, when that same guide had to call out to a local guide who was abut a half block ahead of us: "Slow down! They're Americans." Ouch.

If the long or brisk walks are toward the end of a day, or just before free time, there's no problem bringing up the rear. But if the group has an appointment somewhere else, slower walking can be a problem. There's not always a convenient coffee shop in which to wait for the group - sometimes the group is heading off to another destination.

A few years ago I came down with bronchitis at the beginning of a RS tour, which seriously impacted my stamina. I assured the guide that I would not hold up the group, which meant I also found myself occasionally skipping group activities. It also meant that there were times when I had to push myself farther than I should have. Frankly, that was not a good experience. I was tired, felt inadequate, and constantly worried about holding up the group. I will say that the other tour members were very thoughtful. More that once someone would reach out and take my arm, helping me over a rough patch, or grab my pack saying "My turn to carry this!" I was touched, but also realize that my situation affected everyone. I promised myself I would never do that again.

I'm not trying to be negative, or to dissuade you, but I do think you should take your pace into account. When you and your husband go for a walk of, let's say, one mile, how much longer does it take you than it does him? How far behind the Israel tour group did you lag?

Posted by
3254 posts

Hi Cindy,
First of all thank you for sharing your heartfelt question. After reading your travel history I think you may have already answered your unique concerns. As a healthcare provider I could not begin to know your health history or capabilities for this tour. I would hesitate to make a recommendation. Jane brought up some valid points to consider. I too do not want to be negative or dissuade your decision. Only you and your healthcare provider can make an informed decision. I sincerely wish you all the best.

Posted by
68 posts

Thank you all for your great and detailed replies.

@Jane Great input, no way I'm taking it as negative or trying to dissuade me. Maybe I'm challenging everyone to give me the worst and see if I'm dissuaded or evaluate that I'm up to it. On my other tours, as I said, I'm usually bringing up the end of the group. Even 5 years ago (before arthritis) I was the laggard and it was to my chagrin that I would start right behind the guide and inevitably be lapped by the 94 yo in the group. Even on my first trip to Europe at 21 yo, my friend was always faster than me. Walking a mile and how far ahead is my husband? I have no clue as I would never intentionally walk unless it was for touring (and my husband paces himself to me). Your insights were really great and helpful to me. Exactly the kind of real-life experiences I was hoping to hear about by posting on this forum.

Perhaps it is something about the heart of travelers or those who choose to travel in groups everyone in my group was just lovely about my pace. There was a group of 3 others in with me....I was slow at the start and slow at the end. They got slower and slower as the week progressed (it was quite a grueling tour with most days 6 am breakfast to 6 pm back to lodging in time for dinner with very limited free time.

Posted by
3659 posts

I'm 74 and I feel your pain, literally, plus I take a medication that slows my heart rate, so I can't walk very quickly either. My knees aren't bad enough for surgery, so I get shots before each trip. In December I got mid-year shots for the first time. Usually I just ignore the pain.

Up thread someone said, "even if you bring up the rear I'm sure they'll wait for you." My sarcastic response is that somebody has to be last, but my experience has been that the rest of the group waiting is not all that helpful. The pattern is that the group takes off at a fast pace, then stops and waits for the slow folks to catch up. When we do, they take off immediately at their previous fast pace.

So while us slower ones have been catching up, the faster ones have been resting. That means that the slower ones never get to rest. Over 5 RS tours I've had 3 RS tour guides with whom I could keep up and/or who warned me about parts of the walking that could be problematic for me, mostly involving stairs or steep slopes that lacked rails.

The local tour guides seemed to better understand that a pace that allows them, and us, to walk and talk at the same time is better for learning and for everyone.

I've found that using walking sticks really helps me to keep up, especially when there are no handrails. I tried a cane, but I found it heavy, awkward and ergonomically wrong for me. These are the walking sticks I have.

Sometimes I use one, sometimes two and sometimes I don't need a stick at all. I travel solo since my husband opted out of European travel, so the sticks are kind of a helpful replacement. I'll be taking the Best of Ireland in 14 Days tour in May. Based on the itinerary descriptions, it may be a 2-stick trip. 😉