Escorted Tour - Coach
County Cork, Ireland
167 people found this review helpful
We travelled with GB Tours via coach and ferry to Bantry Bay, County Cork in the south west of Ireland. We boarded the coach at a local pick up point in the morning. From there we travelled to Holyhead stopping off at Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwrndrobwillantysiliogogogoch – yep the longest place name in Europe, I just had to write it! This stop off was on the island of Anglesey where we had a snack, browsed the gift shop and took a few selfies on the railway station. Our ferry trip was very pleasant aboard the Irish Ferries ship Ulysses with its Art Deco style comfort. On board, there was a cinema and family entertainment centre, but we just relaxed and had lunch in one of the restaurants. From Dublin, we travelled south-west to arrive at our hotel about 10.30pm. We should have arrived much earlier, but the traffic on the Irish motorway was pretty congested. However, the staff at the hotel were very good and laid on soup and sandwiches for us. That really was the downside of the holiday as it is advertised as 5 day when in fact it’s really only 3 day.
The Westlodge Hotel was excellent with beautiful views of Bantry Bay and the Sugarloaf Mountain from the bedrooms and dining area. There was also a leisure centre with indoor pool, sauna and Jacuzzi. It is set in acres of grounds with waterfalls, sculptures and at the far end a tidal lagoon where you can watch a variety of seabirds. We took this route into town in the evenings rather than stay for the hotel entertainment. Bantry has some pleasant pubs, one of our favourites being Ma Murphy’s – full of character and characters some of whom spoke the old Gaelic language.
All the tours on the holiday were included in the price and the first one took us to the village of Glengarriff where we boarded a small ferry to Garnish Island. The boat drifted through the Blue Pool where we spotted some rare birds and a group of seals basking on a rock.Garnish Island or Ilnacullin is famous throughout the world for its horticulture and we were taken to the 19th century walled garden with its exotic plants, trees, Italianate follies and Martello Tower.From there we crossed to the Beara peninsular to the town of Kenmare.On the Caha Pass mountain road we stopped at Molly Gallivan’s cottage. The building is over 200 years old with its authentic interior, traditional farm and Poitin Still. You can visit the 5000-year-old Neolithic Stone Row arranged to mark the sun rise position on the Summer Solstice. There is also an ancient lime kiln,and an oats and barley field. Oats were grown to feed the animals, barley milled to make flour or to distill into whiskey or “mountain dew”. The straw was used for bedding and to thatch the roof. The orchard provided fruit for home-made jam with beehives for honey. While we were there, I browsed the craft and gift shop to buy some quality souvenirs to take home.
The next day we were taken to Skibbereen and the Heritage Centre where the excellent guide told us all about the potato famine. It was a fascinating if harrowing tale about how the whole area suffered in 1840 when over a million people died of starvation. I had heard about this before, but had no idea of the scale or the details of how it happened. From Skibbereen we were taken by coach to Baltimore for a cream tea, where again there were wonderful views.
Then we had a free day,on which we chose to walk into town and take the small ferry over to Whiddy Island. It was so peaceful on the island, with the only sound being birdsong and the only life we saw being horses, rabbits and other wildlife.We walked up to the top of the hill, where there was a magnificent view of the sea, mountains and Bantry in the distance. Obviously, there were no facilities open so it was a case of going behind a stone wall! On returning to the mainland we explored the town of Bantry. The other main attraction nearby is Bantry House and Gardens, a stately home, but we preferred to discover the town itself.
Then on Day 5 it was time to return home by coach via Dublin and the Ferry. The ship on this occasion was Stena Lines, which we thought was not up to the standard of the Irish Ferries. There was the all-pervading smell of fish and chips plus the noise of young families without much distracting entertainment for them.
All in all, however, the tour was excellent value for money. The coach driver, who we had throughout the trip, was friendly and helpful. I would recommend this type of relaxing holiday for those who prefer not to fly.
167 people found this review helpful
This review is solely based on the opinion of a Silver Travel Advisor member and not of Silver Travel Advisor Ltd.