Organised tours can be hit or miss. I have done one before and found that there were good points and bad points. I’m a big fan of planning things for myself and having the freedom to do as I please which can be counter productive when booking a tour! However, after a two year organised tour hiatus I took a chance on Paddywagon Tours and was not disappointed.
I thought it would be me and a bunch of retirees touring around Ireland for 6 days. I was pleasantly surprised when I met an awesome bunch of people in a similar age bracket! A few of us quickly formed a group that included: 4 Aussies- Myself, Emily, Billie and Stewart, 2 Kiwi’s- Brad and Vic, 2 Americans- Anna and Jordan and Englishwoman- Izzy. Apart from paying my money and knowing that I was going to see a lot of Ireland, I really had no idea what was in store. Dad’s daily messages wishing me a pleasant time in whichever city I was going to was very helpful. I’m glad someone knew where I was!
On our drive to Belfast our driver/tour manager, Leigh, filled us in on the history between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland as well as the ongoing tensions between the Catholics and the Protestants. Wow. It blows my mind that the level of violence and subsequent deaths occurred so recently. Major issues were faced in Northern Ireland between 1968-1998 and tensions still remain. This was evident to the people who went on the black cab tour and found the protestant guide wouldn’t get out at the catholic sights and vice versa. Yay religion.
We had a couple of stops on the way including the Round Tower and a photo stop for where some of Game of Thrones was filmed. I never got in to Game of Thrones, or plan to, but it made a cool picture!
After the photo stops we were on our way to Belfast and it was BLOODY cold, wet and windy. I wandered around the Christmas markets for awhile and the main square before we all met up to be taken to our hostel for the night. There were four Australians on the trip and we were put in the same dorm. We decided to take a nap before dinner and then head to a bar that was recommended to us with the name, Filthy McNastys. Yep, these were my kind of people!
Tuesday was spent at the Giant’s Causeway. What a place to see! We experiences rain, hail, wind and sunshine all within 30 minutes. The actual causeway was closed for repair, much to the relief of some on our tour but Emily and I braved the wind and the rain and climbed to the top.
After being somewhat frozen post Giant’s Causeway, a warm pub meal was most welcome. Leigh recommended places in each town and I have to say he was on the money. We ate delicious food the entire trip. Well done Ireland.
We spent the evening in Derry (or Londonderry as is it’s legal name) and were taken on a walking tour by a local. Not many of us were particularly keen on going as we had literally frozen our butts off all day and had wet feet. It was also raining but we knew it would be worthwhile and we weren’t wrong! It turns out the guide’s father was very high up in the Irish Republican Army (IRA) and he had seen some truly brutal things whilst growing up. Derry is the UK’s “first city of culture” and well worth a visit.
We left Derry for what I thought was going to be the absolute highlight of the trip, the Cliffs of Moher. As we were driving it was quite foggy and raining. Surely it would clear though, right? WRONG. As we approached Leigh mentioned that this was the worse visibility he had seen. Uhoh..
Sure enough the weather was terrible and the only thing you could do successfully was have a game of marco polo.
Here’s an illustration of what it usually looks like, to what it was when we were there. SO DEPRESSING.
It was so foggy we couldn’t even see our bus. The only way we knew Leigh was back to pick us up was because our phones connected to the Paddywagon wifi so we figured he must have been nearby. The last couple of days were jam packed with coastal stops, charming towns and many hilarious conversations ensured we we were sharing 10 bed dorms!
A highlight for me was horse riding through Killarney National Park. The weather was absolutely terrible as seems to be the case most of the time in Ireland, but the scenery was amazing and my horse, Ned, was a champ. He was happy to follow the crowd (quite different to me!), and was keen for some cuddles at the end of our ride.
Our last day was spent kissing the Blarney Stone in Cork (pretty overrated in my opinion) and touring the Guinness Factory in Dublin before saying goodbye to our lovely group.
It was an absolutely incredible week with a great group of people, exploring one beautiful Island (albeit 2 countries) and was a perfect way to round out 8 weeks on the road. I found Paddywagon Tours to be really affordable and great value for money. I would absolutely recommend booking a trip with them.
Next stop: Easily the most random, north, varied, brilliant, magical, rough, harsh and moon-like place I have ever visited… ICELAND!