An Irish Castle Stay & Scottish Pomp, that’s no Blarney!

Scotland & Ireland Sold Out

Aug 5-13, 2017

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What a perfect dual destination vacation this is, 2 countries rooted in history a thousand years old yet perfectly blended with new modern enticements. Our past groups loved royal Scotland, land of heather, whiskey, kilts and bagpipes and equally loved Ireland, the Emerald Isle of dramatic scenery in a thousand shades of green. This year we made it exceptionally exciting! Imagine attending the Greatest Show on Earth of massed pipes and drums at the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo. It’s a global gathering of 48 countries showcasing theater, ceremony and more pomp then you can dream of: drill teams, camels, steel drums, cavalry, fireworks, marching marines, flag wavers, motorcycles to police dogs and more. The annual extravaganza sells out a year ahead but we already reserved your seats. The Tunes of Glory spectacle will linger forever in your travel memories.

Overview

Now imagine spending 3 glorious days in a 5-star 16th century castle set on an enchanting lake in Ireland. Magnificent Dromoland Castle and Estate rivaling Downton Abbey exceeds any travelers’ dreams with its Luxe Spa, internationally renowned golf course, boats, horses, 6 course dinners, falconry with its majestic birds and more. Like a Duke or Duchess descending the grand staircase under glittering chandeliers through elegant halls to the Library for High Tea in this ancestral home of the King of Thurmonds.

It begins in St. Andrews at our luxury Fairmont Hotel for 2 days touring the world renowned golf courses and historic sites. On to the ‘cultural capital’ Edinburgh which is a buzz with endless delights in summer time. Tour the castle, stroll the Royal Mile, explore museums, taste the haggis. Everyone loves visiting Edinburgh.

Fly to Shannon ‘Cead Maile Failte’, one hundred thousand welcomes. During our castle stay in County Clare, we travel to Kinsale. Marvel at the towering Cliffs of Moher and discover the wild region of The Burren. In Blarney, shop the incredible Blarney Mills complex then we pop into delightful Blarney Castle for some iconic Irish pics. Each night there’s plenty of ‘Craic’ and fun in the popular pubs with traditional music and dance.

August is high season and the best time to visit and our dollar now goes far here. Scotland and Ireland are dripping with atmosphere, history and authenticity. Our space is limited, this special AFS escape will sell out fast. Don’t miss your chance to feel like royalty!

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Our Glorious Itinerary

Aug 5 - Depart USA

(Air details later in Trip Tips)


Aug 6 – Welcome to Scotland!

You will be met at the airport and transferred to St. Andrews (1 ¾ hours) and check into your hotel.
One of Europe's finest towns coastal resort towns, St Andrews is filled with history, culture and is the ‘Golfing Capital of the World’.  Stroll along the cobblestone streets popping into shops, pubs and cafes. Retrace Will & Kate’s college romance here at Scotland’s oldest university and see the famous Links golf course.

We check into the 5-Star Fairmont, a truly unique venue with its lavish surroundings, peaceful setting and stunning cliff top views of St Andrews and the North Sea.  The hotel has 3 restaurants, 2 world-famous golf courses, free WIFI, Signature Spa and Wellness Center and 16-meter swimming pool. A complimentary shuttle service to and from the hotel and town center runs every hour.

Remainder of the afternoon on your own to explore. Consider a visit to the British Golf Museum, Secret Bunker, Aquarium, taste ales at Eden Mill Brewery, whiskeys at Killsland Distillery or water sports and walking the white sands at famous West Beach.

Get to know your fellow AFS travelers over a Welcome Dinner at a local Scottish pub.

Overnight: Fairmont Hotel St Andrews     D


Aug 7 – St. Andrews Sightseeing Tour

St. Andrews is a medieval town and a 1000-year old capital of the Scottish Church. After your Scottish breakfast, we depart for a half-day walking tour of St Andrews.

It’s a bit like a mini Oxford or Cambridge, but next to the ocean with the ruins of the 12th-century Gothic cathedral in the center. Dotting the streets and cobbled alleyways are the university buildings, many of which date back to the 15th century. This is the world’s oldest university attended by Prince Charles. We will check out the cathedral, castle, churches, the Old Course, Dunferm line Abbey, other historic landmarks by the sea, golf courses and more.

Along the way we'll stop at the Forth Bridge South View Point to see the iconic cantilever railway bridge over the Firth of Forth – longest of its kind in the world and the picturesque fishing village of Anstruther where you can pause for a moment overlooking the harbor. Have your binoculars at the ready as seals and puffins can sometimes be spotted in the distance.

Remainder of day free to explore on own.

Overnight: Fairmont Hotel St Andrews         B


Aug 8 – Edinburgh Walking Tour & Tattoo Festival

After we check out, we drive to Edinburgh. Scotland’s hilly capital has a medieval Old Town and an elegant Georgian New Town with beautiful parks and neo-classical buildings.

We embark on a guided walking tour to explore the famous landmarks, hidden secrets and learn more about its past. Along the Royal Mile we gain insight into the famous people who called the city home like Sir Walter Scott, Alexander Graham, Robert Burns and more. See the famous sites such as St. Giles Cathedral, the National Museum of Scotland, Palace, Parliament and more. We’ll tour Holyroodhouse Palace and fabulous Edinburgh Castle to view the famous crown jewels. The entire city is an historic jewel. Prepare to be awed.

Time permitting, visit the National Gallery, world’s oldest department store Jenner’s on Prince Street, take High Tea at Balmoral hotel or see the Royal Yacht Britannia.
Check into our hotel Marriott Airport Hotel with a great health club and indoor pool.

Lunch and Early Dinner on own

Edinburgh Royal Military Tattoo

6:15 pm Meet assistant who accompanies us to the fairgrounds.

7:30 pm Military Tattoo begins.

Against the brooding backdrop of Edinburgh Castle under a star-filled sky, performers from every corner of the globe (48+ countries) will showcase their talents. Musicians, performers, dancers, cheerleaders, acrobats, motorcycle display teams, fife & drum troops, drill teams, aboriginal ceremonies and more.  The international spectacle draws 220,000+ spectators each year from around the world and an annual worldwide television audience of 100 million.

With the popularity ever-increasing, we had to secure tickets over 1 ½ years out. This event has a unique ability to bring together thousands of people for this annual celebration of music and entertainment which continues to thrill people’s appetite for pomp and ceremony showing no sign of diminishing.

After the performance, our coach will transfer us back to our hotel. For those who want to linger in town, there is a tram, bus or taxi available to get back to the hotel on their own. You can hoist a pint at popular venues like Brew Dog, Dirty Dicks, Whiskey Bar and more with live music.

Overnight: 4-Star Marriott Airport Hotel        B


Aug 9 - Fly to Ireland & Newmarket-on-Fergus, Co. Clare

After breakfast, transfer to the airport for flight to Shannon, Ireland where we will be met and transferred to our Castle – YES, you read it correctly - Our Castle!

As we pass through the gates, it’s time to embrace your royal surroundings! This stunning 16th century castle is a quintessential landmark of Irish tradition and class. It was the ancestral home of the O’Briens of Dromoland who became the Kings of Thormond with a lineage 1000 years old.  Relax as the unsurpassed, experienced and friendly staff takes special care of you.  The Earl of Thomond’s Restaurant offers you a 6-course dining experience, cocktails in Dromoland’s Library Bar are sublime, or try Shannigans’s Gastro Pub and cafes. All the food is locally produced. They’ll even pack you a picnic to appreciate the natural beauty as you explore the peaceful Dromoland Estate (400+ acres). Along the enchanting lake, stroll through the breathtaking ‘Walled Garden’. It’s totally old world.

Besides living in the lap of luxury, there are a multitude of activities on the castle grounds that are available:  fish for trout from the banks of Dromoland lake, feed the ducks, ride a boat, test your steady hand with clay shooting or archery, ride bikes, horseback or carriage rides or just meander the winding paths through the many gardens to the lily pond.  The Golf and Country Club features an indoor pool and luxury Spa with hydro-pools and fully equipped gym.

Rest of day at leisure to explore the castle and grounds.

Join our AFS Royal Court for a feast in our honor (Group Dinner) here tonight.

Overnight: Dromoland Castle         B, D


Aug 10 – The Burren & Cliffs of Moher

This morning, we board our coach to drive through a wild region of bogs and mountains on a full day tour. It begins with the Burren region (meaning "great rock") on a windswept rocky coast. Lack of water has created this surreal landscape along with the accumulation of fish bones and sea shells dating back millions of years. The blooming flowers here attract butterflies on this lunar like region. Set in the pretty village of Kilfenora, this Geo-park stretches from the Atlantic coast to Galway Bay. There’s a new exhibit dedicated to the music and history of the Kilfenora, considered the birthplace of the traditional Celtic Music.

The highlight of the day is on everyone’s bucket list – the world famous Cliffs of Moher capturing hearts of a million visitors each year. Majestically rising up to 820 feet straight up from the sea, allows breathtaking views of the Aran Islands and Galway Bay on a clear day, as well as seeing some of the 30,000 colonies of birds who make it their home. The Cliffs stretch 5 miles along the coast. Climb up O’Briens Tower at the highest point for your best photo advantage. The Visitor’s Exhibition Center has interesting displays and images in 4 themed areas. Get yourself a cool digital selfie at ‘Postcard on the Edge’. Good shops and café here.

We return to our castle, remainder of evening at leisure.

Overnight: Dromoland Castle   B


Aug 11 – A Day Filled with Blarney

Morning free to enjoy the castle grounds and activities.

We depart and travel south to Kinsale stopping at the world renowned Blarney Castle and equally famous Blarney Woolen Mills. Blarney Castle is Ireland’s most famous castle. It also boasts handsome gardens and interesting rock formations known collectively as Rock Close, these formations have been given whimsical names like Witches Cave and Wishing Steps, adding a sense of enchantment to this 600-year old fortress. There’s no time (with 3-hour lines) to “Kiss the Stone” but we’ll get some awesome photos of the lush grounds and ancient castle. Group photo here.

Blarney Woolen Mills built in 1823 and used mainly for spinning and weaving wool, today you'll be invited to part with some our US dollars in exchange for their beautiful local gifts such as the world’s finest woolens and sweaters from the Aran Islands, lace, silk, crystal, Celtic art and jewelry, Irish Belleek pottery and unique gifts. It’s the best “retail therapy” in Ireland with something for everyone. If you don’t care to shop, there’s excellent cafes here where we will have lunch.
Entrance to Blarney Castle is included for a 2-hour visit.

On to Kinsale, a charming medieval fishing port. It holds significant military history, guarded by a massive 17th-century fortress and surrounded by twisting narrow lanes that beg to be explored.  This is Irelands colorful gem on the coast of County Cork with narrow streets lined with galleries, gift shops, lively bars and suburb restaurants.  The village is considered one of the pretties along the Wild Atlantic Way with an excellent reputation for fantastic restaurants, and pubs with quality food. Chefs use the highest quality ingredients available from the local farmers here. It’s known as the ‘Gourmet Capital of Ireland,’ with a culinary school and is proud to be considered a ‘Foodie Town’. Kinsale sits on River Brandon with a tiny population of 5,000 which doubles in summer yet it’s the authentic Ireland few Americans see. You find beaches, yacht hire, famous Kinsale pottery, galleries and even Ghost Tours at night.

Check into Actons Hotel overlooking Kinsale Harbor & Yacht Club. There is a health & leisure club, large indoor pool, Sidney’s Bar & Fisher Street restaurant.

At night locals love music at the Black Pig Wine Bar and Black’s Brewery.

Overnight: 4 Star Actons Hotel         B


Aug 12 – Kinsale Free Day

After our Irish breakfast, there’s many things to explore in this region. You may want to taxi over to the seaport town of Cobh set on a glistening estuary dotted with brightly painted houses. It is home to Irelands only cruise terminal. Tourists flock here for the maritime legacy associated with the Titanic. You could visit the Cobh Heritage Museum located in the last port of call of the Titanic, this museum shines a light on emigration and depicts stories of famous vessels including the dreaded coffin ship and the Lusitania that was torpedoed off the Old Head of Kinsale. There are boat, bike & food tours that the hotel can direct you to.

Say “Slainte” to your fellow AFS travelers during group Farewell Dinner in a local Kinsale bistro.

Overnight: 4 Star Actons Hotel        B, D


Aug 13 – Depart to USA

Transfer to the Shannon Airport for your flight home.


Activity Level:

2. I have no trouble walking and if necessary, can walk for 3+ miles. Uneven surfaces are not a problem. I do not need a cane or walking device.

Pricing

A $400 deposit will secure your space on first come basis. 

Land price - $2595 + $120 domestic air

Includes all services above in first class hotels, and castle, daily guided tours with entrance fees, meals as stated, A/C private coach, AFS trip leader. 

Not included – gratuities & optionals.

International Air – See Trip Tips.

Options

Name
Description
Price
Gratuities

This 'option' is a required additional charge for this trip.

It is protocol to tip your drivers, porters and local guides - we have the absolute best. $13 pp per day should suffice as minimum and will be added to your final bill. We will give this to your GTL to disperse accordingly throughout. It’s easier this way. Tips are for local guides, drivers, group meals (except breakfast) and hotel porters that bring bags from bus to lobby.
$85.00
Internal Air

This 'option' is a required additional charge for this trip.

Flight from Edinburgh, Scotland to Shannon Ireland
$120.00
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Please review AFS Terms and Conditions as well as Heading Abroad with AFS. Group air - Airlines may add surcharges to offset fuel inflation or taxes. The total ticket cost is not final until we receive your final payment and are ticketed. If doing own air, airport transfer may or may not be included depending on your air schedule. Do not buy air until we either group air is set or we advise - dates can change! Itineraries are prepared often a year in advance. Though not likely, AFS and our suppliers reserve the right to change or modify such to meet local conditions. Although rare, hotels can change – all hotel rooms are run of the house. Our prices are based on current taxation structures. In case any revision in taxes, sudden fluctuation in currency levels, change in Visa fees or increase in fuel charges, we will amend our prices and inform you accordingly. Land price is based on minimum number of trip participants.