Anam Croí Ireland Tours

Wellness Tour of Ireland

Wellness Destination Ireland Europe

Relax, Refresh and Reset with a unique Ireland Vacation

Wellness Destination Ireland Europe

Breaking News- we launch our brand new 7 Day Wellness Tour of Ireland this week. It includes meditation, forest bathing, restorative yoga, sea and sauna, and shoreline foraging. All that, added to the other great elements of all our wonderful small group tours, ensures this is definitely an Ireland tour with a difference.

Just one tour runs in 2023 (September), and is limited to 12 guests. The full itinerary will be uploaded here on on February 1st – the feast of Brigid – Celtic godess and saint.

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Packing for Ireland

Credit cards Ireland, packing for travel to Ireland

Your Ireland vacation packing list – let us help – after all, we live here all year round

Your trip to Ireland is booked (hopefully with Anam Croí Ireland Tours). Now it’s time to test the attic or basement ladders, pick a case from your collection, and practice packing for Ireland.

But, before you make that ascent or descent, hang tough for a few minutes and read on, as we outline some suggestions on packing for Ireland. Use this article to reconcile your own list. You have made one, haven’t you?

Remember – it’s an Ireland vacation, you’ll be returning home, so the golden rule is don’t overdo it. Only take what you need for your time in Ireland. So let’s split it in two – your main luggage and your carry-on that’s going into the aircraft cabin with you.

Carry-on Luggage for your flight to Ireland

Your cabin bag should contain what you need to get you through a day or two in the event of your main bag going astray. So we suggest:

What to pack for travelling to Ireland

Toiletries – it’s personal to your own needs, but make sure you follow your airline’s advice to ease your passage through security. In addition to toothbrush and your normal washbag contents, consider adding these: Facecloth – if you use one. Irish hotels generally don’t provide them. Small pack of wet wipes (eco-friendly ones please). Lipbalm and suncream. Though your trip to Ireland may not align with our annual two-day heatwave, you can still get sun or wind burn- especially along the Wild Atlantic Way. Some insect repellent may also come in handy.
Medicines – if you’re on regular medication make sure you’ve enough for your trip. Apart from that, something for tummy upsets is always handy to have. We carry a first aid kit on our luxury Mercedes mini-coach, so don’t overdo it on plasters and such like.

Clothing – Just enough to get by for a couple of days. But if you forget, don’t despair. You can pop into Irish clothing store PENNEYS, where 50 bucks will outfit you top to toe for a couple of days (Ask any Irish person you know to explain this one😊).

Ireland Trip Essentials

Passport (check that it’s in date well in advance of your Ireland trip). Other travel documents, such as travel tickets, booking reference numbers, contact details for your tour/hotels, etc.

Adapter and charging cable for you phone or other device. In Ireland we use a three square-pin type. Btw, you don’t need to bring your hairdryer. All hotels used by Anam Croí Ireland Tours have them in bedrooms. In fact, we sometimes play a little game of hunt the hairdryer! We also have USB charge points on our mini-coach.
Emergency information – Set up ICE (In Case of Emergency) details and contacts on your phone. This willl also help reunite you with your phone should you lose it. Here’s a ‘how to’ for both Android and Iphone.

You probably don't need a visa for travel to Ireland but check your passport

How long is your Ireland trip?

Packing for travel to Ireland

Why do we ask? It’s simply to get you thinking – do you actually need to bring more than will fit into a carry-on? Again, it’s subjective and personal – you may be buying Irish gifts for your loved ones (or yourself). If so, you’ll need to leave enough room. Have you read your tour information? Is there a size restriction? Anam Croí Ireland tours, like most small-group tour operators, does have a maximum bag size (30″ long).

Clothing – In the main, casual smart is the dress code for dining out in Ireland. When you hear Irish people say we get four seasons in one day, we’re not joking (find out more here). You do need to pack accordingly.

Comfort is key

As we tour around the byways of Ireland, we’re hopping in and out of our luxury Mercedes mini-coach. Whether standing at the majestic Cliffs of Moher, strolling or taking a jaunting car through Killarney National Park, or simply taking a photo of some breathtaking views, comfort is the name of the game. This is key when it comes to your feet. We know how attached some can be to their footwear, and we’re not brave or foolish enough to dare suggest how many pairs to bring, but…….🤔
In Summer, some form of sturdy sandals may suffice, or trainers. Even if you do get wet, it won’t be too cold and they should dry out quickly.

Pants – In Ireland, a term to describe underclothing! Trousers, as we say here – along with boot (trunk), bonnet (hood) and more. Whatever the terminology, comfort again is key. Hiking style that can zip into shorts, or a light comfy dress. Synthetic materials work better than cotton. Cotton absorbs and holds moisture, no matter which of the two ‘p’s – (perspiration or precipitation) are the cause. In Spring or Fall tee or long sleeve base layer, and for summer, tees/polos. Denim jeans should really be kept for the visit to the pub in the evening.

Jacket – Simple rule – Waterproof – end of story! And if you travel with Anam Croí Tours – no need to bring an umbrella – we’ll supply that.

What clothing you should pack for your Ireland tour

Top tips for Ireland Trips

Essentials for packing for your Ireland vacation

If you’re using public transport to and from the airport or meeting point for your tour, you’re the one lugging the luggage. Also, no matter what sort of Ireland tour you’re doing, (unless porterage is specifically included ) you’re also toting your bag to and from your room. Of course, your Anam Croí Tour guide will always endeavour to assist with this when needed. Don’t forget to label it securely – if it goes a different direction to you – the more info on it, the easier it’ll be to get it back.
Emergencies: Ensure you’ve access to sufficient funds to cover delays or the unexpected. And please do take out suitable travel insurance.
Credit cards: Most outlets in Ireland do not accept American Express. Mastercard or Visa are your friends here.
Currency exchange: Shop around for the best rate. Don’t change at airport currency desks. Banks in Ireland no longer carry Foreign Exchange (unless you’ve an account with them). You should be able to use your ATM card (but check out what charges your bank may impose).

Accessories for Ireland Travel

Handbags/Manbags/Backpacks – whatever you are comfortable with. In our luxury Mercedes mini-coach, we do have overhead shelving – but it’s not airline overhead bin size. Many people also carry a journal. When you finally get around to sorting the hundreds of amazing Irish photos to a location or day, this will really help you remember.

Luxury travel Ireland. Guided tours in Mercedes mini-coach

Best time to Visit Ireland?

Best small group Ireland tour. Six or seven days, private customized Ireland tours

The best time to visit Ireland is a question oft asked and answered. Here, we present you with some facts and (subjective) thoughts. Hopefully, it’ll help you decide the best time for your Ireland vacation. Let’s take a bit of licence with the calendar and use the old Celtic way of Spring being February to April, Summer – May to July and Fall (Autumn) – August to October

Irish people will naturally say anytime is good – but let’s introduce a sense of realism. For visitors to Ireland there are some constrictions – not least of which is that we are an island. You can’t impulsively scream ‘ROADTRIP’ and jump in your car. With that in mind, we’ve broken down the pros and cons under Travel to Ireland, Cost of an Ireland Vacation, Weather in Ireland, Scenery and Nature in Ireland and whether Ireland is Crowded and Busy. Finally, we take a reluctant peek from under the duvet (comforter) at Winter.

Flights to Ireland

Direct flights to Ireland from USA and Canada

Spring -Most airlines start ramping up the frequency of flights around February. Seat sales are commonly advertised in January giving great bargains for travel up to the end of March and sometimes into April. March is also when we hit the road with our small group tours.

Summer – Flights may be somewhat more expensive, but the upside is that airlines ramp up routes and capacity. For visitors to Ireland this may reduce cost, as there may be a departure airport closer to you. There are also more direct flights to Ireland from North American and European airports. And, you may have acculumated air miles that you can cash in!

Autumn (Fall) – Similar to Spring in that more bargains are to be had, but towards the end of the season capacity may be reduced and seasonal routes start to wind down.

Top tipsbooking early will always get you better value. Try Skyscanner to source airlines and routes and then check out the airline websites.

Cost of an Ireland Vacation

Spring – Generally cheaper – but times like Easter school holidays, can occasionally negate that. We have a standing 10% discount for our March and April tours.
Good rates abound for hotels in Dublin and other popular cities – but watch out for major sporting or entertainment events coinciding with your visit. These will always see price hikes.

Summer – Peak season, but as with flights – early booking can grab you a bargain Ireland vacation. This gives you up to 10% off your Ireland summer tour. A deposit of just 10% secures your booking and takes the pressure off upfront payments.

Fall (Autumn) – Airfare and hotel prices start reducing and we’re back to our 10% discount prices for October.

Ireland vacation cost

Weather in Ireland

Spring -Temps – average 9-10°c/50°F in March/April but can go to 15°/55° in April. Daylight increases to 14 hours. You get to watch Atlantic sunsets before dinner in March with after dinner sunset strolls in April. The light can be perfect for getting scenery shots as the cooler air is clearer.

Summer – May and June are the sunniest months in Ireland. Average temps are 18-20°c/64-68°f – though we do hit the odd day of late 20s/low 80s. But hey, chill out! Our luxury Mercedes mini-coach is fully air-conditioned. Daylight is from before 5am to after 10pm. Irish summer sunsets are truly stunning- lasting close to an hour.

Fall (Autumn) – Temps from 12-17°c/53-63°f. The curtain is drawing on the long days but still more than enough daylight to illuminate our day. Romantic after dinner sunsets are replaced by star filled nights.

Irish Scenery and Nature

Spring – The countryside is a blaze of yellow as daffodils and gorse (furze) burst into flower.
It’s lambing season and it’s truly a joy to watch as they gambol around the fields with their almost 4 million brethren! We see them up close and cuddly when we visit a working sheep farm on tour.

Summer – Areas like Killarney National Park and the Ring of Kerry are bursting with colourful (yet invasive) Rhododendron. Hedgerows come alive with wild Fuchsia and Purple Loosestrife, while Ireland’s coastline wears a garland of Sea Thrift. Those lambs are a-growing and it’s getting to shearing time for their mammies. The scent of April showers/slurry being spread on fields fades, to be replaced by that of freshly cut grass.

Fall (Autumn) – Mid-August/September into October is stunningly beautiful in Ireland. The verdant patchwork vista gradually yields to a kaleidoscope of colour. It begins when heather and montbretia start blooming in August. In the likes of Killarney (Six day south west tour ) and Glenveagh National Parks (7 Day Northern Ireland and best of the West), you’ll see stags at their most magnificent as they battle for dominance. As we drive our coastal route along the Wild Atlantic Way, we may see dolphins or whales. Rain showers align with the sun to create the most fantastic rainbows as we trundle along the country roads. As we’d say in Ireland – “soft day thank God” (please, please don’t ever greet us with “top a the mornin”…!!).

Leap Year Ireland movie location.12 day Ireland Tour. Check out our discounted Ireland Vacations

Is Ireland Crowded and Busy?

Family trip Ireland

Spring – No, that’s the beauty of it. But – spoiler alert- some visitor attractions don’t open until mid-late April. However, there are still plenty of ‘must-sees’ along with some hidden gems we take you to. Craicometer level: 8.5

Summer – Not as busy as you might expect. Like yourselves, many Irish people head overseas during June, July and August. Everything is in full swing with all visitor attractions open. We time our visits to big ticket places like the Cliffs of Moher, to avoid the crowds. More music and entertainment in more venues (free in the pubs) and on more evenings each week. It’s a ‘hoot’ really! Craicometer level: 9.5

Fall (Autumn) – Crowded – most certainly not! All the Irish kids are back in school in the last week of August. This means great photo ops with uncluttered background and more time and space to take it all in. August is a good time to consider our 12 day Ultimate All-Ireland Tour. Craicometer level: 8.5

Winter in Ireland

Maybe the bees, bats and hedgehogs are right as they hibernate for a while. As a sustainable tour operator, we partner with locally owned hotels and guesthouses. Many of these are family owned and staffed and our custom helps sustain local economies and social fabric.

Our business partners take good care of us from March to October as we tour Ireland. Winter is their time to relax and refresh (themselves and their premises). Many Irish visitor attractions also close for winter.
So it’s time to turn the wool donated by the sheepies into winter jumpers (sweaters).
Craicometer level: a simmering 7 (but 9.5 in the cities!).

So, do Anam Croí Ireland Tours hibernate? Nope. After a break to recharge the batteries, we use winter to work on improving and innovating the Anam Croí Ireland experience for future (and old) “friends”. As Irish Nobel Laureate W.B. Yeats is said to have said “there are no strangers here only friends who haven’t yet met”.

Winter in Ireland

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Ireland Vacation Discount Offers 2024

Leap Year Ireland movie location.12 day Ireland Tour. Check out our discounted Ireland Vacations

Boutique 6 to 12 day Ireland Tour Discounts

6 day Ireland Tour. Boutique small group tour of southwest Ireland

Ireland in 2024? Great offers on all our scheduled small group Ireland Tours, giving you the best value Ireland vacations. Save with our range of discounts.

Discounts apply to our boutique Ireland tours outlined below – 6 days in Southwest Ireland, 7 day Northern Ireland and Best of the West, our 12 day All-Ireland Tour or our unique Wellness Themed Tour.

Guaranteed Quality Irish Tours

When you choose Anam Croí Ireland Tours, you partner with a company that carries the ‘Guaranteed Irish‘ symbol of quality and takes Sustainability seriously. Our customers seem to like us too! Here’s what they have to say abous us:

“A Gold Standard for touring Ireland”

We can’t imagine a better way to see Ireland ..

“The amount of time, thought, and care into ensuring customers have the best possible experience is unprecedented.”

When you choose to tour with Anam Croi you become part of a great adventure into Ireland’s history and culture.”

“Anam Croi tours are by far the best trip I have ever had!”

Six Day South West Ireland

This great 6 day Ireland tour takes in Galway, the Cliffs of Moher, Dingle, Killarney National Park, Kinsale, Blarney and the Rock of Cashel. You’ll also uncover some of our little-known Irish gems. Why not avail of our shoulder season discount – when air fares are generally cheaper too.

Boutique Ireland Vacation Offers. Northern Ireland, along the Wild Atlantic Way to Kerry and Cork

12 Day All-Ireland Tour

Star Wars Beehive huts Ireland. 6 and 12 day boutique Ireland Tour

Only one opportunity in 2023 to take this bucket list ultimate Ireland tour. Covering North, South, East and West, beginning August 21st, it’s limited to just 12 lucky customers.

7 day Northern Ireland and Best of the West

Four of these super Northern and West of Ireland tours are happening in 2023 – and only three have spaces remaining.

Giants Causeway, Northern Ireland and All-Ireland 6, 7 and 12 day boutique Ireland tour

Wellness Themed Ireland Tour.

Wellness Destination Ireland Europe

You don’t have to be as fit or flexible as those in the image – this is just as full with fun and Irish culture as our other tours. It is a unique way to see Ireland in that it includes guided meditation, beach sauna/sea, shoreline foraging and easy restorative yoga. Options of gentle hikes combined with comfy accommodation and stunning scenery make this a truly exclusive Irish experience.

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Guaranteed Irish Tours

Anam Croí Tours Earns Quality Irish Symbol

Breaking News – We have been awarded the prestigious national symbol of trust and provenance for business in Ireland – the ‘Guaranteed Irish’ symbol.

Quality 6, 7 and boutique private Ireland tours 100% Irish

The Guaranteed Irish symbol is only awarded to businesses based in Ireland that support sustainable jobs, contribute to our local communities and are committed to Irish provenance. In the case of Anam Croí Ireland Tours, it also adds value to your experience while in Ireland.
We are proud to have been awarded this Irish mark of quality and it underpins and emphasises not just our ongoing commitment to sustainable practices, but our core value – that we put our heart and soul into helping you Discover the Heart and Soul of Ireland.

The very best of Ireland Vacations

We’re not claiming to be the best, but our previous guests seem to like us! Check out what our customers say about us on TripAdvisor and Google. Here are some tributes from our clients :

We can’t imagine a better way to see Ireland ..“.

“The amount of time, thought, and care into ensuring customers have the best possible experience is unprecedented” –

When you choose to tour with Anam Croi you become part of a great adventure into Ireland’s history and culture” –

“Anam Croi tours are by far the best trip I have ever had!”

Boutique Ireland private family tour. 6 and 7 day Ireland trip

Sustainable Ireland Tours

Sustainable boutique 6 day 7 day private Ireland trip

When you chose to tour Ireland with Anam Croí Tours, you select a company that takes its responsibilities seriously. Whether that be offsetting our carbon footprint, or ensuring that local communities and businesses are supported by us and our customers. We are also members of Leave No Trace Ireland, and follow the 7 Leave No Trace principles.

Irish History, Culture, Language and Sport

Did you know Ireland has its own, ancient unique language? ‘Officially’, it’s our first language and is a recognised EU language. You’ll have fun learing a few Irish (Gaeilge) words when you tour with us.
We’re also proud of our national sports of Gaelic Football and Hurling – as much about community as it is sport. We’ll even teach you the rudimentary skills of hurling.
No trip to Ireland would be complete without immersing yourself into Irish music and song. All our tours stay in towns that are renowned for Irish music and song. And yes, we’ll have you singing as we wind out way through the scenery of the Irish countryside

boutique private family tours of Ireland

Boutique Ireland Vacations and News

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Flying From America to Ireland – a transAtlantic first

Best airport to fly to Ireland from US or Canada? None existed when the first flight landed in the west of Ireland

It’s hard to imagine, as we fly from the US or Canada to Ireland, cosseted in comfort during an approximate 6.5 hour (east coast) flight, that we’re only a couple of generations removed from the first pioneers of aviation to achieve this feat. In fact, it was one hundred and three years ago today, June 15th 1919, that the first Transatlantic flight landed in the West of Ireland

It was a race which saw four aircraft and their crews competing for a prize of £10,000. This included a crew with an Irish connection – Norwegian Tryggve Gran, who had been a fellow polar explorer of Kerryman Tom Crean, on Scott’s famous Antarctic expedition. Another plane came from the manfacturer of the famous Sopwith Camel (preferred aircraft of comic and cartoon characters Biggles and Snoopy!). The enterprising aircrews would explore every possible angle to give them a competitive advantage. One even stripped the paint from the wing bracing wires – calculating it would gain them an extra half mile per hour. But ultimately, the names to become synonymous with the first successful flight from North America to Ireland, were John Alcock and his navigator Arthur Whitten Brown,

Both men had been prisoners of war during WWI – Alcock having been shot down over Turkey and Brown captured in Germany.

Getting to Ireland from Canada as never before

Ireland wasn’t intended to be their final destination – though Alcock was confident that Brown’s navigational skills would take them to the Galway coast, boasting “we shall hang our hats on the aerials of Clifden wireless station”. It was meant to be a simple overnight stop before flying onwards to England. Heading towards challenging and little known weather conditions, they lifted off from Lester’s Field, St. John’s Newfoundland, at 1.41pm on 14th June 1919, to fly the wild Atlantic in their open cockpit Vickers Vimy.

Within five hours they had managed to climb to 4,500 ft but were continously enveloped in heavy fog and cloud. Suddenly, they burst through the cloud – but it was to be shortlived exaltation – a ten minute window with Brown using just the sun to get bearings but no visible horizon to enable sextant use.

How did Brown navigate to Ireland?

At the core of his equipment was a standard sextant – having had the engravings etched deeper to allow him better view against the vibrations of the aircraft. He had ancillary equipment adapted to help him measure drift, ground speed and horizon. It was also more challenging with the speed and drift of the plane compared to shipping. However, the heavy fog which they encountered not long after take-off was to linger for some hours. Further hampering their efforts, a faulty wireless meant they could only receive messages.

By 8pm they were in darkness and hoping for some glimpse of the stars to aid navigation. But they remained cocooned in the cloud. Eventually, after eight hours in flight and managing to gradually climb to 6,000ft, Brown spotted the Pole star through a gap in the clouds. He calculated they were over halfway between Canada and Ireland and close enough to their original planned course. Despite the challenging navigation conditions, the following wind was proving stronger than anticipated and propelling them (excuse the pun) towards Ireland three to four hours sooner than expected.

As Alcock skilfully took the aeroplane to 4,000ft he must have envied Brown, who was able to move about his cockpit while tending to his instruments and checking gauges. Alcock was virtually welded to his seat, feeding constant manual inputs into the controls to keep them on course. Suddenly, they were struck by turbulence in the middle of thick fog. The plane went into a spin with pilot and navigator unable to tell the dive angle, praying that they would exit the fog before they hit the Ocean. Then, as suddenly as the turbulence had hit, they were free of cloud. But a new danger immediately presented itself. They were still descending, and the swell was at right angles to them, less than 100 feet below. Using all his skill and experience, Alcock managed to right the Vimy and ascend, opening up the engines again. On checking the compass, the aviators discovered the spin had put them facing back in the direction from whence they had come.

Pushing on to the West Coast of Ireland

Estimating they had more than enough fuel, Alcock now had no compunction about burning it to again gain height. Yet, despite being at 7,000ft, there was still no dawn greeting them. They were now flying for almost twelve hours and Brown estimated they were no more than 450 miles from the west of Ireland. But, more gauntlets were about to slap their faces – heavy rain turned to sleet and snow. Brown, forced to kneel on his seat, steadied himself against the fuselage to clear snow off the petrol overflow gauge – a vital instrument.

Having nursed the engines for hours, Alcock now pushed them, reckoning on finding clearer weather somewhere above. He eventually got to 11,000ft – finally allowing Brown a glimpse of the sun and a reading to check their course. But that same altitude that was now assisting them, was to throw up one final challenge – ice. Alcock began to descend again, until at about 500ft they caught sight of the seas below. Brown gave him a new reading and they began to approach Ireland. After almost 16 hours of flying they crossed the Irish coast, zooming low over the town of Clifden. Despite all the challenges and travails, they found themselves just 20 miles north of the course Brown had originally plotted.

From Fog to Irish Bog

It was time to land. They spied the massive aerials of Marconi’s wireless station at Derrygimla and amongst the granite rocks and pools of Connemara’s ‘savage beauty’, spied what in Alcock’s own words – ‘… looked like a lovely field’. They touched down, Alcock killing the engines, but to their horror discovered that the lovely field was sphagnum moss-coated bog. The nose dug in and they tiltled, as we might say in Ireland, ‘arse over head’! Uninjured, they were helped by soldiers and workers from the nearby station. When the puzzled soldiers asked from whence they had come, Alcock uttered the immortal words, that no man or woman had ever before spoken: “Yesterday we were in America”.

Flights to Ireland - you've a better landing spot that the pioneers that first landed on Ireland's Wild Atlantic Way

After the Ireland Adventure

Having made history by becoming the first airmen to fly across the Atlantic, both were knighted shortly afterwards. But Captain Sir John Alcock would not live to reflect on his achievements. Just six months later, while delivering an airplane to the Paris air show he was killed when he crashed into a field near Rouen, France.

Arthur Brown died in 1948, at the age of 62, and was said never to have recovered from the death of his RAF pilot son shot down over Holland in 1944. He had objected to a proposed monument in Clifden in 1939, citing his belief that it was too soon and that in any case, monuments should be presevered for the dead.

And of the venerable Vickers Vimy? Having managed to prevent the locals totally scavenging the canvas to cover their cocks of hay, she was restored shortly afterwards and presented to the British Science Museum.

Flights from North America to Ireland - the first

It was to be another twenty years before transatlantic flights became a commercial reality. And it was to be on water, rather than land. Foynes, Co. Limerick on the River Shannon estuary became the regular landing spot for flying boats – the preserve of the rich and famous.

Maureen O’Hara’s husband, Charles Blair flew the first Foynes to New York direct flight. And the first Irish Coffee was made at Foynes. Ireland also claims the first east-west flight. Capt. James Fitmaurice of the fledgling Irish Aer Corps being amongst the crew who flew from Baldonnel military airfield in Dublin. This was also where the famous ‘wrong-way around Corrigan’ landed.

More on Anam Croí Ireland Small Group Tours

Hear this story and more and even visit the landing site or cross the estuary that once served as a runway for the flying boats on our small group (max 14) tours. Did you know we also love collaborating with our customers to help build bespoke itineraries for family and friends on private customised tours? Here’s an example from TripAdvisor of our customer servie:

“Anam Croi ireland tours was a great experience….helped us plan our trip down to every last detail, and also helped us with other trip plans we had made before we joined the tours and also helped us to catch our flight home!”

So now you know why our ethos is: “We put our heart and soul into helping you discover the Heart and Soul of Ireland”

Best of Ireland small group tours. Bespoke private tours of Ireland for family and friends

When researching this story, we naturally visited Derrygimla and used information gleaned from many sources over the years. But we found the book ‘Yesterday we were in America’, by Brendan Lynch, (Haynes Publishing 2012), an especially good read.

How the West of Ireland decided the date of D-Day

world war ii memorial

Approaching the 78th anniversary of D-Day , we salute the Irish woman who was responsible for saving perhaps thousands of lives on the beaches of Normandy on that pivotal day in 1944.

Ireland was neutral during World War II , and with our penchant for understatement, it is officially known in Ireland as ‘The Emergency’. Our coastline remains dotted to this day with white painted rocks forming the Irish language name – ‘Éire’. These were strategically placed to alert air crews and help prevent our splendid Irish landscape being unwittingly cratered with bombs.

Despite our neutral stance, it was an Irishwoman’s weather forecast that decided the final timing of the invasion which heralded the beginning of the end of six years of war and devastation.

An unusual Irish landmark birthday

Visit Ireland West

On June 3rd 1944, Maureen Flavin turned 21 years of age. She spent this landmark birthday carrying out her daily duties of collecting information from the lighthouse keeper at Blacksod, Co. Mayo, on Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way. Collating keeper Ted Sweeney’s reports with her own hourly barometer readings, Maureen was able to forecast that a storm would hit Normandy, France some 500 miles away on June 5th. This was the date that Eisenhower and his allied generals had chosen for the landings.

Irish Weather in June – Stormy then Sunny

When Maureen’s readings and forecast were sent to the UK Met office from Dublin, the Allies took the decision not to launch the invasion on the scheduled date. Yet, Maureen wasn’t aware her readings were going any further than Dublin. How surprised she must have been, when the next day while working in the Sweeney family post office, she received a rather mysterious call. The lady caller, with an English accent, requested her to repeat and confirm the information previously sent.
Not only did Maureen confirm, but soon after, she and Tom sent further data and forecasts which predicted a window on 6th June. This coincided with favourable tides and still skies that were needed for the air and sea assaults.

West of Ireland - a pivotal role in D-day.

The decision was taken to attack on June 6th. The Nazis were behind the game. They had no weather ships in the North Atlantic, so were unaware of the approaching good weather.

Recognition and Birthday Wishes

It would be another year before Maureen became aware of the significant role she and Tom had played in the invasion. And much longer before any official recognition arrived. In 2021, Maureen’s contribution was marked with the presentation to her, of a US House of Representatives Special Recognition Award.

West of Ireland and D-day

So, today we salute you Maureen Flavin Sweeney, native of Kerry, woman of Mayo, unsung heroine, and wish you a Happy 99th Birthday.

And what of her forecasting collaborator – lighthouse keeper Tom? Well, they worked together so well, they married and had a family. The family lighthouse tradition also endures. Their son Vincent followed in his father’s footsteps and is the current Blacksod Lighthouse keeper.

You can read more about Irish heroines here. And, whether it’s one of our scheduled South West Ireland or Northern Ireland and Best of Ireland West tours, you can experience the beauty of our Wild Atlantic Way coastline and perhaps get up close and personal with one of the Éire signs. Don’t forget our very special private bespoke tours. Being customer-centric, we love collaborating (just like Maureen and Ted!) with our guests to develop customised tours for family and friends. Reach out to us by email for more information on any of our tours.

Lost in Ireland

Irish food. Six day Ireland southwest, Seven day Norther and West Ireland. Fully escorted luxury Ireland trip

From Potato chips to crisps to an Irish Famine trail. A sample of what to expect on your six or seven day Ireland tour

Irish vs American food and other terms!

Irish food in Ireland

Cookies are Biscuits as Candy is Sweets and Soda is ‘Minerals’ – and we even have red lemonade in Ireland. Chips are to crisps (and we were the first to flavour them) as french fries are to chips. In your hotel, our ground floor is your first floor (to which you might take the ‘lift’ instead of the elevator’). Instead of putting on a Bonnet, in Ireland we raise it – we keep Hoods for our jackets. After after you pop the bonnet, you might need to go the Boot of your car for some tools, rather than the Trunk, which we confined to Dublin Zoo – one of the oldest in the world, which is located in Dublin’s Phoenix Park, the largest enclosed park in Europe.

Prices in Ireland

How much does an trip to Ireland cost

“The price you see is the price you pay” – Okay, maybe not quite a translation, but unlike North America, the price displayed in Ireland is what you pay. Be it in hotels, restaurants, bars or shops, when you get your Bill (check) or when you’re costing your Ireland vacation, all taxes are included in the cost presented. This makes it far easier (we think) to budget your spend for your Ireland trip.

The Fightin’ Irish?

The fighting Irish, six or seven day tours of Ireland

“I’ll do the….” – This is one us Irish find unusual when dining out with North Americans. It conjures up images of the fightin Irish, as in – “I’ll do him, hold me coat/back”. Either that, or if you’re helping someone cook, we might say – “I’ll do the spuds” – translation – “I’ll peel and cook the potatoes”.
Now…Potatoes, or spuds (prátaí (praw-tea) in Irish) – there’s a story in itself. So let’s meander off the path and into the potato field for a few moments..

How did the Potato get to Ireland?

Ireland guided and escorted tour story of the Irish famine

It’s said that it was introduced by Sir Walter Raleigh, in the mid 1580s. However, others reckon it came to us from Peru via Spain. Cheap and nutritious, it was easy to grow in the damp poor soil of the west of Ireland. A 19th century English writer commented on the size and strength of Irishmen when compared to their English counterparts. It is said the average Irish male consumed up to 14lbs of potatoes per day back then. When the potato blight struck in 1845 and again the following year it thus removed the main food source for many Irish. But it wasn’t just starvation that caused the 1 million deaths- most died from malnutrition related diseases, such as typhus, dysentery, fever and diarrhoea.

The Famine was all Britain’s fault, right?

While everyone reckons we Irish love to blame our neighbours for all our historical ills, one must take a serious look at the Irish Catholic class divide back then. Many middle class Catholics (e.g. traders) increased their wealth during the famine, profiting off the backs of their starving, dying brethren. A good indicator of this was the price of oatmeal – £2 per ton in 1845, £20 by the end of the following year! Also during the famine period a number of great Catholic cathedrals were being constructed around the country. As we were exporting food to England to the value of £15m at the time, some refuse to call it a famine. However, it’s often overlooked that food imports exceeded exports by a ratio of 2:1.

So why it was that, while the Netherlands and Belgium lost more of their crop to the blight compared to Ireland’s, those countries didn’t experience famine?

The Role of Politics

Perhaps what can be said is that, while the British Administration (and its refusal to interfere with ‘market forces’) may not have caused the famine – it certainly caused the deaths. A change of government in London didn’t help. Prime Minister Robert Peel, who had a fair understanding of Ireland, had ensured a supply of Indian corn from America. As there was no market for this in Britain, its distribution would not interfere with normal trade. Contemporary 19th century Irish newspaper, the Freeman’s Journal, wrote – “No man died of famine during his administration”.
However, once Peel lost power, all changed. Charles Trevelyan, of the Treasury – and basically the man who controlled the purse strings famously said – “famine had been ordained by God to teach the Irish a lesson, and therefore not be too much interfered with”. Trevelyan’s name rings out at every Ireland international Rugby or Soccer game – in ‘The Fields of Athenry’.

Relief and Aid come to Ireland

Irish famine history and scenery escorted fully guided Ireland tours

If you owned more than a quarter acre of land, you had to surrender the land to receive any relief. This proved to be a great land clearance tool for the landlords, who wanted to use new more efficient farming methods that the industrial revolution now offered. This in turn led to a further one million emigrating.
Overseas aid began to pour in for the starving Irish. The most remembered and respected donation here in Ireland, is that of the Choctaw Nation. Though of pitiful means themselves, they donated $170 – a princely sum to them. There is an especially poignant connection between the Choctaw ‘Trail of Tears’ and an 11 mile trudge inflicted on hundreds of starving Irish. Staggering through a March storm over the Connemara mountain pass of Doolough, many dropped dead on the road or were blown into the lake.

Experience more on your Ireland trip

Well, we certainly went off track with this story, and we didn’t really touch on emigration. Maybe we’ll keep it for another day. You can learn more while experiencing the beauty of the Irish countryside and the Wild Atlantic Way on our scheduled Six Day Southwest Ireland tour, Seven day Northern Ireland and Best of the West or your very own Private Tour of Ireland. And, don’t forget to take a peek at our shoulder-season discounts and cash back for Covid-19 frontline workers on our offers page.

If you want to do your own reading, there are many publications on this tranch of Irish history. One of our favourites, and the source for much of this blog’s research is ‘The Irish Famine’ by Colm Tóibín and Diarmuid Ferriter. It’s a nice slim tome as well! Tóibín is an award winning novelist and the film Brooklyn is based on his book by the same name. Ferriter is Professor of Modern Irish History at University College Dublin, author and broadcaster.

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Mná Na hÉireann – Six Irish Heroines

Ireland's Queen of History

‘Mná na hÉireann’ (Women of Ireland) has become synonymous as a shout out to all good things achieved by the better species of Irish humankind!  Here we take a look at six of our favourite Irish women from Mythology, through history right up to contemporary 21st century.

Pride of Ireland

Mythical Queen Meadhbh of Connaught (a province in the west of Ireland) is one of the main characters in the Ulaidh (Ulster) cycle of Irish Mythology and Legend. Perhaps best known for her role in the legend of a great cattle raid, which resulted in the death of another hero of Irish legend, Cú Chulainn.

Back in Celtic times in Ireland, cattle raiding was almost a pastime. Money as a currency didn’t exist and the measure of your wealth was the amount of cattle you owned, so such raids were quite common.

The greatest cattle raid of all came about simply because Maedbh’s husband, Aillil, had one thing she didn’t – a great white bull.  And the only one to match or better it, was the Brown Bull of Cooley, over in the east of the country. 

Queen Maedbh’s pride and ambition led to her mustering her armies and leading them to capture the bull. Naturally the story doesn’t have the happiest of endings, as per the reference to poor Cú Chulainn, who single-handedly fought them off for days,  but you’ll have to join us on one of our great small-group tours to find out the full story (Editor’s note: Larry takes so long to tell it most people fall asleep before he’s halfway through!).

Still Upstanding on the Wild Atlantic Way

Even thousands of years after her death, Meadhbh lives on.. ..legend has it that she is entombed beneath a massive stone cairn (30 feet high and 190 feet across) on the top of Knocknarea mountain in Co. Sligo, overlooking the Wild Atlantic Ocean. Within, she is said to be  buried standing tall, facing her enemies, even in death.

Pirate Queen of the West of Ireland

While Meadhbh may be a character from Irish legend and mythology, another feisty west of Ireland woman, Grace O’ Malley, is noted in history from Elizabethan times. The daughter of a sea-faring Irish chieftain, she had a number of sobriquets – the ‘Pirate Queen’ amongst them.  She followed the family tradition of extracting ‘taxes’ from other ships that plied their way along the Wild Atlantic Way off her home of Clare Island. There are many true tales of her derring do (yep, you’ll have to come on tour to hear them). One our favourite’s relates to her schooner being boarded by Barbary pirates as Grace was resting in her cabin, having only recently given birth. Though she heard the commotion, she didn’t stir until one of her crew broke the news that they were in danger of losing the battle on deck.  Swinging into action she quickly rallied her crew to turn the tide and repel the boarders. We think that both the pirates and her own men were equally afraid of this feisty Irish woman and reacted accordingly!

The Pirate Queen Ireland

We spend two nights in Grace O’Malley territory on our 7 Day Northern Ireland and Best of the West tour, with our stopover in Westport, Co. Mayo. If you want to read more about the life of this amazing Irishwoman, we recommend the books of Anne Chambers 

Women of 20th Century Ireland

Jumping forward in time, may we introduce you to the first ever female Member of the British Parliament – Irish  revolutionary, close friend and kindred spirit of Irish Nobel Laureate, W.B. Yeats. Countess Markievicz, aka Constance Gore Booth of Co. Sligo (not far from Queen Meadhbh actually).  

A Heroine of Irish Independence

Born into a wealthy Anglo-Irish family, she married Polish Count Casimir Markievicz, hence the title and surname, though there is some doubt about the provenance of his ‘royalty’ tag. Constance  was not just a republican but a suffragette and tireless worker for the downtrodden. Having played an active role in the 1916 Easter Rising, she was only saved from suffering the safe fate of execution of some of her comrades in arms, by virtue of her gender. She was sentenced to life imprisonment instead but was released as part of an amnesty in 1917.   Her death, at the age of 59, in 1927 saw tens of thousands line the streets of Dublin to pay their respects to this truly heroic woman of Ireland.

All the Presidents’ Women

For the fourth in our list, we’re actually going to double up- as both these ladies held the highest office in Ireland with distinction – Mary Robinson became the first woman to hold the office and she was succeeded by Mary McAleese, who served two terms totalling 14 years.

Great women of Ireland
Former Presidents McAleese and Robinson together

Former President Robinson actually resigned her presidency just prior to the end of her seven year term, to take up a post as United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.  Former President McAleese, a native of Northern Ireland, will be remembered for the binding and healing role her presidency played in the Northern Ireland peace process in the 1990s.

An Irish Jab

Undisputed women’s World Lightweight Boxing Champion and Olympic Gold Medallist, 35 year old Katie Taylor has been in the vanguard of Irish sport for many years. Katie is just one of a handful of boxers (male or female) to hold all four major belts concurrently. Since turning professional in 2017 she has been undefeated in 19 bouts.  As an amateur, she won Olympic Gold in 2012, when women’s boxing first featured as an Olympic sport. 

An Irish female sporting hero

Her fancy footwork was also noticeable on the soccer field.  Before putting it aside to concentrate totally on boxing, Katie represented Ireland at underage and senior levels, playing 11 times for the senior team.

Katie is also a devout Christian, and has ‘Psalm 18’ embroidered on her shorts. Her sporting behaviour inside the ring and on the field, allied to her humble modest demeanour, makes her an ideal role model for young Irish sportspeople. The ups and downs of her career were captured in this critically acclaimed documentary: Katie

A Song of Tribute to the Women of Ireland

In honour of these these and all Irish women, we’ll close this post with one of the most beautiful, haunting pieces of Irish music ever written. It’s been recorded, sung or played by many diverse musicians – from  Kate Bush, Sinead O’ Connor and the Chieftain, to rock guitarist Jeff Beck. However, we’d like to present you with this version of Mná na hÉireann (Women of Ireland), featuring Irish singer Sibéal Ní Chasaide and Steve Cooney (an Irish-speaking Australian who we’ve claimed for ourselves for many years now). The music was composed by Seán Ó Riada and this is a fitting tribute to him on the 50th anniversary of his death.

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Before you travel to Ireland

To learn more about these great women, Irish history, culture, people, music and ‘the craic’, check out our super Ireland Summer Sale

From Ireland to America – some Major Contributors

Irish Heroes of History Ireland South West Guided Tour

A few weeks back we featured some great heroines of ancient and contemporary Ireland. In the interests of balance and fairness we now present to you some notable Irish men of historical note. While many people are aware of JFK and other presidential Irish connections, we thought it only right to reveal some less famous, but noteworthy Irishmen.

John Dunlap – Declaration of Independence

John Dunlap, Irishman who printed Declaration of Independence

…all men are created equal….with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

These words in the US declaration of Independence may have been written by Thomas Jefferson, but it was Irishman John Dunlap who printed them, at his printing works in Philadelphia.
Born in Strabane, Co. Tyrone, Dunlap had taken part in the War of Independence and served as bodyguard to Washington at the battles of Princeton and Trent. However, we’re not sure if we’re too proud of his role in leading the militia to help put down the ‘Whiskey Rebellion’ in western Pennsylvania in 1794!
He evolved from being a printer to publisher, to property developer, buying cheap land seized from colonists who refused to recognise the newly independent State.
Apparently poor John developed a fondness for the whiskey himself in middle age, and he died in 1812, aged 65 years, and is buried at Christ Church, Philadelphia.

Gen. Phil Sheridan – Irishman yay or neigh?

Irishm-American General Philip Sheridan

‘Little Phil’ – all 5’ 5” of him, was born in…. who knows where really? Where he first saw the light of day is the subject of some debate. Officially he’s noted as being from Albany, New York, of Irish parentage. Many claim his birthplace is County Cavan in Ireland.
So why the controversy? Well, if the latter birthplace is correct, it’s rumoured that he changed it, as he had aspirations of becoming US President. This he would not have been able to achieve without being US born.

He is quoted in one interview as stating he thought his parents were from Co. Westmeath, but unlike many past (and present) Irish Americans, he tended to completely play down his Irishness. It is also speculated that he may have been born aboard ship en route to the United States from Ireland.
Wherever his place of birth may have been – and it does seem rather strange that he wouldn’t know his own heritage – he is remembered in US history for his Civil War role and rising to become commander of the entire US army.

He and his trusty steed Winchester are immortalised in Sheridan’s Ride – a poetic account of the Battle of Cedar Creek. “Here is the steed that saved the day, By carrying Sheridan into the fight, From Winchester–twenty miles away”

Under Atlantic Waves

Submarine Inventor John Holland from Ireland

“I’d like to be, under the sea, in an Octopus’s garden in the shade”. Whatever about the Beatles underwater wants, it was thanks to the West of Ireland that underwater exploration became a reality.

Many Irish people, as they stand on the west coast looking out over the Atlantic, have notions of sailing across the oceans. But John Holland didn’t want to sail over seas – he wanted to sail under them.

Holland was born in the tiny village of Liscannor, Co. Clare, just minutes from the famous Cliffs of Moher.
In 1873, Holland went to the US where he found employment as a teacher in Paterson, New Jersey. But he never let go of his dreams and worked continuously to realise them – work that culminated in the invention of the modern submarine. Unbelievably, he was so ahead of his time that his diving principle used in the first submarine he sold (at a loss) to the US Navy, still applies to today’s vessels.
John Holland died in 1914, just around the outbreak of WWI. He never lived to see how effectively his invention would evolve (for better or worse).

P.S.- we know all knowledgeable US Naval people will claim the civil war era Hunley as being the first – but in fairness, its one engagement did see it sink with all hands, off Charleston, SC.

Ireland's Argentina link
The Irishman who founded the Argentine Navy

Anyone from, or who has visited, Argentina, may be struck by numerous school, streets and squares named after Admiral Guillermo Browne. He was in fact – William Brown, from Foxford in Co. Mayo, who emigrated to Philadelphia as a boy in 1778. Starting his sea-faring career as a cabin boy, he was later press-ganged by the British and forced to fight in the Napoleonic wars. It is said he scuttled his ship, but ‘malheureusement’ – the French didn’t believe him. He was imprisoned but escaped at the second attempt. After marrying, he went to Argentina via Uruguay and Chile, becoming a successful businessman with his own ship. He was appointed to lead the fledgling Argentine Navy which had been hastily formed to counter Spanish blockades of parts of the Argentine coast. Brown died in Buenos Aires in 1857, and is honoured not just with place names, but a succession of ships named after him and statues in his home town and Dublin

Irish father of the US Navy

We also lay claim to the father of the US Navy – Commodore John Barry, from County Wexford, the son of a poor tenant farmer who was evicted by his British landlord.
Arriving in Philadelphia aged 17, he eventually became senior commander of the entire United States fleet. Barry’s war contributions are unparalleled. During the American Revolution he captured over 20 British ships, and fought the last naval battle of the American Revolution aboard the frigate Alliance in 1783. He remained head of the American Navy until his death in 1803, and is buried in Philadelphia’s Old St. Mary’s Churchyard.

We hope you’ve enjoyed reading about some possibly lesser know Irish historical figures. And we hope it gives you some flavour of the historical side of our 6 day Sojourn of Southwest Ireland and 7 Day Northern Ireland and Best of the West. And check out our Special Offers page for some great bargains for Frontline workers, shoulder season and more.