Sligo in the Rugged Northwest

Hidden away just north of county Mayo is the charming county of Sligo, a place rich with history, culture and breath-taking sights. We were contacted by the McDonnells from New York to plan a trip for the day while they were exploring the Wild Atlantic Way. We picked them up from their hotel in Sligo town and set off with a jam packed itinerary in mind for them.

Sligo is a mountainous county so we made sure to navigate a route that took in the majesty of Benbulben Mountain along the way. It has such a distinct shape, it is often referred to as Ireland’s answer to Table Mountain. Formed when glaciers melted centuries ago, it is home to some alpine tree species seen nowhere else in the country. Our visitors were definitely the outdoorsy type so we decided to head straight to Glencar Waterfall for a wander around. This waterfall is one of the most popular to visit in Ireland and definitely one of our favourites. Also known as the Devil’s Chimney, there’s a lovely walkway through the woodland around the waterfall to enjoy. Best of all there’s a tea room where you can enjoy a relaxing brew overlooking the Glencar Lough after your walk. Bill and Joanne were travelling with their daughter Tiffany who really loved the playground located just next to the Tea Rooms!

Onwards, we wanted to show our guests some of the local history of the area too. We stopped off in the quiet Drumcliffe cemetery to show them where the famous Irish writer William Butler-Yeats was laid to rest. It’s located in a peaceful area next to a small church. His grandfather John Butler-Yeats served as rector there for 35 years. We told them about some of the poet’s work, much of it inspired by the local surroundings. We couldn’t visit Drumcliffe and talk about WB Yeats without a visit to the beautiful Lissadell House. This was home to one of the most historic female figures in Irish history, Countess Constance Markievicz, where she grew up with her family, the Gore-Booths. She was a pivotal figure in the 1916 Easter Rising during the War of Independence and the first woman elected to Irish Government. William Butler-Yeats and his brother Jack were friendly with Constance, her sister Eva and their brother Josslyn. The latter created a successful horticulture estate on the farm even developing a daffodil bulb farm of 237 different flowers. The estate sadly went into ruin but was restored by the Cassidy family who currently reside there. Today, you can visit the stunning Alpine and Kitchen Gardens with their intricate rockeries and gorgeous flowerbeds overlooking the bay. Given the rich history of the estate, there are also exhibitions about the historic figures of the house and the wartime history the house bore witness to. It’s a real hidden gem in this beautiful corner of the country.

We still had a little daylight left so we went as far as the breathtaking Rosses Point before we left our guests. Tiffany had a great time running through the surf while we strolled along the beach. We pointed out Coney Island to Bill and Joanne, the largest of the three islands around the Coolera peninsula. We told them how this was the original Coney Island which gave its name to the one they’d be more familiar with back home. The name Coney Island comes from the Irish term for Island of Rabbits. The captain of a ship named Arethusa travelled from Sligo to New York and observed all the rabbits on the New York island. The story goes that he named the island Coney Island after the one back in Sligo! The island is actually accessible by land when the tide is low and they promised us they’d be back to explore it when they returned.

We delivered our guests back to their hotel in Sligo town after our relaxing walk and they were delighted they had taken in a day of such history and culture as well as the sightseeing. We were thrilled they had enjoyed our stories and recommendations; it’s one of our favourite parts of the job.If you’re thinking of taking on the Wild Atlantic Way, don’t overlook Sligo as a destination, there’s a lot to see in this picturesque corner of the country!

Contact us for a tailor made tour taking in all of the beauty this side of the country has to offer.

Lough Derg Way

We met with Tom and Diane who were vacationing in the picturesque town of Killaloe over the spring break and wanted to discover some more of the local area during their trip. The weather was unseasonably warm so we were lucky to set out in the sunshine that morning. We picked them up from the B&B they were staying in and set off to the lake.

There are so many great vantage points along the way that we could choose from. As one of the largest lakes in Ireland, it’s worth exploring during your vacation here. There are some great activities to enjoy too from kayaking to fishing to gin tasting cruises! We headed north and first stopped in Ogonelloe, a charming village on the banks of the lake. We stopped off to snap a few pictures and take in the breath-taking view. It’s arguably one of the best lookout points along the way so we took our time to have a stroll around and take it all in. We journeyed further along the banks of the lake then until we reached the small village of Mountshannon. Yachting is a major attraction here and we saw some locals out in their boats on the lake. We stopped into The Snug which serves amazing fresh pizza to keep our energy up for the rest of the journey. We took a stroll around the harbour after and told our visitors that Mountshannon was known for many things, but one of these is that it is home to the fourth largest eagle in the world, the white tailed sea eagle! We kept a keen eye skyward to see if we could spot them but unfortunately, we weren’t in luck on the day.

From here, we ventured to the northernmost point on the lake in the town of Portumna, county Galway. A scenic lakeside town with a bustling harbour, it’s also home to a Forest Park where we stopped for a wander around. Adjacent to this, we had to visit the beautifully restored Portumna Castle. Originally built around 1618 by Richard de Burgo, it was eventually almost destroyed by a fire in 1826. Following much restoration, you can see the building now in its former glory and catch a glimpse into times gone by. We took a tour around the castle and the walled gardens on the demesne which were well worth stopping for. Tom and Diane had a keen interest in Irish history so they were delighted they were able to learn something new during the day trip with us.

We crossed the bridge to return back into the county of Tipperary and ventured south through the small villages of Terryglass, Ballinderry and Coolbaun. We decided to carry on until we got to Portroe for one of the best vantage points in Tipperary. We took some great pictures of the late afternoon sunshine over the calm water of the lake. It was just a short journey from Portroe to drop our guests back to their B&B in Killaloe. We gave them some recommendations of some great pubs in the area for music later that night so they had something to look forward to after their day.

Ireland is full of hidden gems like the villages dotted along the banks of Lough Derg and we know them all! Book with Laura or Tom today to get planning your tailor made trip around Ireland.

Summer in Galway

Galway is a favourite destination of ours for so many reasons. The festivals, the atmosphere and the distinct feeling of welcome that is best experienced in the west, it really is one of our favourite places to return to with our vacationers. We had the pleasure of taking Tom and Maureen around the locality during their stay last summer.

They were staying in Galway for the world famous Galway Races, an annual horse racing meet that happens in the last week in July just outside the city centre. National and international jockeys compete over the seven days and the city comes alive with visitors from around the globe. This was Tom and Maureen’s second time here at the festival and they decided it was time to explore a little more of what Galway had to offer.

Given the time of year the festival falls on, we were blessed with warm days all week. We picked them up at their hotel just after breakfast and headed west of the city to the region known as Connemara. This is a Gaeltacht area, where the first language is Gaeilge or Irish, our historical native tongue. It is still widely spoken to this day in these regions around the country. Galway is proud to preserve the Irish language and you’ll find almost half of all native speakers of the language here. It’s a great way to experience Irish heritage by listening to the language spoken here in every day settings.

Another great thing about Connemara is the rugged beauty it holds. Tom and Maureen were excited to see some of the mountains and lakes along the way. We stopped to take in the Twelve Bens, a majestic mountain range overlooking the wild landscape. Given the lovely weather we were enjoying, we took a detour to stop into the picturesque village of Roundstone and take a stroll at Dog’s Bay and Gurteen beaches. These are our favourite beaches to show visitors. The white sand on the crescent shaped beaches always take people by surprise! You can walk from one beach to the other on either side of the tombolo so we took our time to take a wander through the marram grass and explore it fully.

We suggested a quick bite in O’Dowd’s pub in Roundstone village on the way back, their chowder is famous and they also have some of the best Guinness in west Galway. The pub was a hive of activity when we walked in with tourists and locals alike enjoying a few drinks and delicious fresh seafood. We enjoyed a tasty meal before heading back to the city along the coast road. We enjoyed unspoiled views of the Atlantic Ocean as we passed. It was just nearing sunset when we entered Salthill.

Tom and Maureen thanked us for adding an extra element to their vacation to Galway, having never heard of Roundstone or the surrounding beaches, they would not have found them on their own. We always like to surprise our clients and show them another side to a region that they may not have known about so we were delighted they had enjoyed the day.

If you have a vacation to Ireland coming up soon, why not get in touch and we can design a tailor made private driving tour for you. Just email Laura or Tom today on info@vipchauffeur.net.

Ring of Kerry

There’s no doubt that the Ring of Kerry is one of the most visited regions in Ireland for vacationers globally and it’s easy to see why. Between rugged mountainsides and lush green fields, you really do get to see the best of Irish scenery in this corner of the country. The best way to see it is definitely by car. It is possible to cycle it or take the odd horse drawn jaunting cart, but to see it in all its glory, most of the best points are most easily accessible by road. This is where we come in! Let us take you on a tailor made journey of some of Ireland’s most famous attractions, all designed with your interests in mind and most importantly, at your pace.

We were recently contacted by Meg and Rob from Vancouver who were visiting Killarney for a few days and the Ring was on their bucket list. We picked them up at their hotel and set off on a bright sunny day. Our first stop was just outside the town in Killarney National Park where we stopped just outside Ross Castle, a superb example of a 15thcentury Irish castle. We paused for a while to take in the scenery on the edge of Lough Leane before setting off on the road again.

Next on our list of must-sees was Torc Waterfall. The falls are nestled just a five minute walk from the main road within mature forestry, perfect for some photo opportunities! As we were there early, we almost had the place to ourselves to take in the beauty of the cascades.

Just another twelve miles along our way, we just had to stop at Ladies View. Famous the world over from postcards sent by vacationers, this is one of the most breath taking scenes you can experience on the drive. Named after Queen Victoria’s ladies in waiting who visited in 1861, this vantage point offers stunning views over the lakes and hills of the National Park. There’s a nice café with a gift shop next door at this point, handy for picking up some souvenirs! Meg picked up a gorgeous hand knitted scarf, perfect for the breeze that had picked up around us.

From here we headed south to join the coast road which would take us along the Atlantic  shoreline. Meg and Rob had the joy of taking in the scenery as we navigated the twists and turns of the road. We had left early enough that we were ahead of the tour buses so traffic was light along the way. We stopped up in Waterville, a town famous as Charlie Chaplin’s favourite vacation spot with his family. It was just coming up to lunch time at this stage so we popped in to An Corcan, a great spot to grab a delicious fresh lunch before taking a stroll along the beach. Waterville is such a friendly town, we always try make time for a stop here along the way!

Refreshed from our stopover, we set off on the home stretch back to Killarney. Rather than taking the same route as the tour buses, we brought Meg & Rob off the beaten track, through the mountains so they could get a good look at Ireland’s tallest mountain, Carrauntoohill. Rob was an avid hill walker so he was eager to see it up close. The road we took was winding and steep so it offered spectacular views across the valleys. We stopped a couple of times to take some photos of the impressive scenery around us. This route also took us away from the dreaded tour bus traffic so we dodged the afternoon rush that can hinder so many tourists braving it alone!

We arrived back in Killarney late afternoon, just as the music was starting to pour out of the windows and doors of the many bars that line the town’s streets. We said our goodbyes to Meg and Rob and gave them some of our top recommendations for a few drinks later that night! The Ring of Kerry is a drive we think everyone should experience once in their lifetime. We are lucky enough to have driven it probably hundreds of times by now so we know it inside and out, including all the best off the beaten track destinations so many overlook! Email us today for more information on how we can help you make the most of your vacation in Ireland.

Hidden Gem of Howth Village

We regularly spend time in the capital city of Dublin with our guests, whether it’s an airport pickup in the impressive Dublin Airport or taking guests on tours around the area. It’s a well-known tourist destination for many reasons – history, churches, museums, culture and music; you’ll find it all in Dublin. However, if you’ve had enough of the city during your stay, give us a call and we can whisk you away on a day trip to one of the many great attractions within an hour’s drive of the city centre.

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Winter Wanderings in Kilkee, County Clare

We ventured as far as Kilkee in County Clare to blow the cobwebs off after our Christmas break with some fantastic guests of ours from Canada.

Kilkee is a great seaside town on the west coast of Clare, a really popular destination throughout the summer months for its unique horseshoe shaped beach. However, we passed on the sandy dunes today in favour of a cliff walk around the headland on the West End of Kilkee.

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Two Castles – One Day

Squeezing two of Ireland’s most famous and well-preserved castles into one day sound impossible? Not to us! Let Laura and Tom whisk you on a private driving tour along the Wild Atlantic Way and see the legendary Bunratty Castle and King John’s Castle on one day trip to the west of Ireland.

Our driver will pick you up in the morning bright and early and take you first to Bunratty Castle in County Clare. Immerse yourself in the history, preserved so impressively in the walls of the 15th-century castle. Take one of the guided tours to learn more about how this castle changed hands numerous times down through its interesting history. The folk park on the grounds of the castle is also well worth a look while you’re there. Keep an eye out for the resident Irish wolfhounds, Meabh and Saoirse. As you stroll down the village street, you’ll get a glimpse into times gone by with authentically restored storefronts and farmhouses recreated to represent a bustling 19th-century rural village.

Our top tip while in Bunratty – Durty Nelly’s! Don’t let the name throw you, this place has been part of the landscape of Bunratty now for nearly 400 years. Stop in for a bite of lunch, either in a cozy snug or out front on the terrace. An ideal spot for pictures with its bright facade and views over the river Shannon.

After your lunch, your driver will take you 20 minutes down the road to Limerick city. An often overlooked gem in the west, Limerick is known for its warm welcome and friendliness. The next stop on your trip is King John’s Castle, located on King’s Island in the heart of the city. Built in the 13th-century, it’s slightly older than Bunratty but with the same amount of charm! Recently restored with some new interactive experiences for visitors, it’s a great place to learn more about Irish history and our Norman roots. The castle has a tumultuous past, it saw an incredible five sieges in Limerick during its lifespan. Climb to the very top for some breathtaking views across the city skyline and the river rapids below.

You’re only a stone’s throw from one of the locals’ favourite watering holes at the Curragower once you’ve left King John’s. Cross the bridge over the Shannon and you’ll see the pub right on the riverside. Famous for their award-winning food (including one of the best seafood chowders), it’s the perfect place to relax while you mull over the history and sights you experienced during the day. If you manage to get a seat in the risen outdoor terrace, you’ll get some fantastic views over the Curragower Falls in the river, for which the pub is named.

So if you want a crash course in all things medieval Ireland, we’ll be more than happy to assist! Contact Tom from VIP Chauffeur today and let’s get started on planning your perfect, tailor-made trip around Ireland.

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Private Driver Tours to the Cliffs of Moher

Everyone’s bucket list destination when visiting Ireland: the famous Cliffs of Moher!

We’re lucky enough to get to see the Cliffs on a very regular basis in the company of visitors from all around the world. Just last week we were joined by Tom and Barbara from South Carolina on their vacation to celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary.

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Visit Blarney Castle and come away with the gift of the gab

Visit Blarney Castle and come away with the gift of the gab, as the famed folklore promises!

Located in the heart of County Cork, the ruins of Blarney Castle date back to the 15th century which replaced the original 11th-century building which was destroyed by fire. You can still visit some rooms such as the Great Hall and climb to the top turret to see the spectacular views of the surrounding gardens. It’s at this point where, if you’re up for it, you can kiss the famous Blarney stone and see for yourself if it lives up to the legend! Continue reading “Visit Blarney Castle and come away with the gift of the gab”

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