New in the North
The Giant’s Causeway Visitors Center opened this year to interpret the spectacular geological formation, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and help travelers explore the many other attractions of Antrim’s Causeway Coastal Route. Two experiences clients shouldn’t miss are touring theBushmills Whiskey Distillery (www.bushmills.com) and crossing the vertigo-inducing Carrick-a-Rede
Titanic followers will already know about this year’s other major opening, the Titanic Belfast Visitor Experience (www.titanicbelfast.com). Nine galleries filled with innovative interactive exhibits, life-sized reconstructions and other features that bring to life the tragic story, all on the site of the historic shipyard where the Titanic was built.
Just outside Belfast, the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum (www.nmni.com) has opened a major new feature this year, Titanica, telling the story of the Titanic and sister ships of the White Star Line, with previously unshown artifacts from the shipping line. The open-air museum includes cottages, farmhouses, shops and a church, populated by costumed interpreters who demonstrate crafts and preserve century-old skills. This living history museum is also a good place to shop for Northern Ireland crafts from Beleek, Eden Pottery and Ulster Weavers. Suggest stopping for tea in the Ballycultra Tea Room.
Although you’ll want to remind clients to carry their passports and be prepared to exchange money when they cross between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland (part of the United Kingdom), the two now join seamlessly for trip planners and travelers.
The other stop for Titanic fans is at the southern coast of Ireland, where the Queenstown Story Heritage Center explores Cobh’s role as the Titanic’s last port-of-call, and the mass emigration in the mid-1800s, when more than two million Irish sailed from Cobh to America and Australia. West of Cobh, both the Dingle and Iveragh peninsulas are known for their spectacular coastal scenery, the latter circled by the famous Ring of Kerry. The winding route is a challenge for drivers, but a delight for photographers and birders, who stop to see the islet beside Skellig Michael that’s home to 20,000 nesting seabirds.
Killarney National Park (www.killarneynationalpark.ie) is nearby, rugged mountains dropping to lakes, with an experience hardly any visitor can resist - a ride through the park in a horse-drawn jaunting car to the Victorian Muckross House & Gardens (www.killarneyjauntingcars.com).
Independent travel is easy in Ireland, and the best option for those who want to delve deeper into the countryside and do some exploring on their own. But Ireland is also very easy to see on one of the many organized tours available, and visitors choosing this option won’t miss out on their share of Irish experiences.
Touring and hotel Options
Globus’ tours include VIP access at all the ‘must-see’ sights, bypassing tourist lines, and they use only first class and superior first class hotels, so you can book with confidence. Globus offers agents 5% commission on all air bookings and the same on all optional excursions. Agents can also combine all Globus products to reach a higher commission level.
Their most popular Ireland itinerary is the 7-day Introduction to Ireland, including stays in Dublin, Ennis, Killarney and Waterford, offered year-round. The 12-night Scenic Ireland circles the island, with experiences such as traditional Irish ceili dancing, a cooking demonstration, and guided tours of ancient passage graves and Belleek pottery workshops (www.globusjourneys.com).
Also catering to Americans (who comprise 90% of their business), Railtours Ireland, First Class (www.railtoursireland.com) literally does it all for you, organizing everything from meeting clients at the airport to private sightseeing tours. Clients travel by train, and by private coach on routes such as the Ring of Kerry and the Antrim Coast to Giant’s Causeway. New this year is the 9-day Titanic tour, taking guests from Belfast to Cobh, visiting sites with connections to the ship, along with other top attractions.
Your upscale clientele will be well pampered at Ireland’s fabled country estates and hotels. Edward Hotels (www.edwardhotels.com) is a bespoke collection, each with its own character, for the essence of the Irish experience. Properties include the country estate Lisloughrey Lodge, historic Hotel Meyrick and the ultra-glamorous g hotel in Galway. A one-stop shop is Ireland’s Blue Book (www.irelandsbluebook.com), all independent family-owned and all luxury country houses and hotels, many in abbeys and castles. Several have Michelin-starred restaurants.
Ireland’s tourism promotion for 2013 will be The Gathering, inviting visitors to experience the best of Ireland, with an emphasis on family gatherings and groups, but aimed at FIT travelers, too. It’s an open invitation to get inside the Irish experience and get to know its heritage, culture and cuisine (www.discoverireland.com). With so many experiences to choose from, it’s no wonder this year’s slogan is “Jump into Ireland.”