Remarkably, this year will see our 20th visit to Ireland and to celebrate a somewhat ambitious tour has been devised, taking a route around the whole of Ireland in just 11 days (10 nights), visiting several places that we have not previously stayed in. This “Circuit of Ireland” will give participants the opportunity to experience just how much the landscapes and peoples of Ireland change as you travel around the country.
Whilst there will undoubtedly be many regular participants, this trip is also particularly well suited to those who have never been to Ireland before.
By necessity, there will be a lot more driving involved than usual, but there will still be time for you to relax over a few pints and take life as it comes. The emphasis is very much on the social aspects and the fact that we all drive Alfa Romeo cars is almost incidental.
If you enjoy dramatic scenery, good company, interesting conversation, fine dining and the odd pint of Guinness, then this event is for you!
Apart from club members travelling from all over Britain, the event also attracts ‘Alfisti’ from other European countries, notably from Germany and Holland. All are made to feel very welcome by Irish club members and it should also be noted that this is a ‘family friendly’ event. “There are no strangers here, only friends who have never met!”
The full 11-day tour will take place between Thursday 3rd – Sunday 13th October, but it will also possible to join the tour at any point on the route, or even to extend your visit by a few days for any individuals that request it. *
Our route anti-clockwise around the country takes in Belfast, Buncrana (Co. Donegal), Sligo, Galway, Tralee (Co. Kerry), Cork, Dungarvan (Co. Waterford) and Wexford. One night will be spent in each location except Galway and Dungarvan (two nights at each). Although most participants will arrive and depart via Dublin, our itinerary does not include an overnight there, but anyone wishing to extend their stay in Ireland (either at the beginning or end of the tour) may do so and suitable accommodation in Dublin can be arranged if required.
All of our accommodation throughout the tour will be on a bed & breakfast basis in very good quality *** or **** hotels. Dinner will also be included at the hotel in Sligo only.
*Limited space is available in certain locations, so it is advisable to book early. If any of our chosen hotels fill up, every effort will be made to find alternative accommodation nearby, but an additional supplement may be payable. If the trip is over-subscribed, priority may be given to those participating in the full tour.
DAY 1 – Thursday 3rd October
Travel to Ireland on the Irish Ferries ‘Dublin Swift’ Fast Ferry (11.50 hrs sailing). Most people will be able to travel to Holyhead during the morning to arrive in time for this sailing, but anyone travelling a long distance may like to consider an overnight stay in North Wales on Wednesday.
Following disembarkation in Dublin, we will have an onward drive of around 2 hours to reach our first overnight halt in Belfast. For those who wish, there should be time to break the journey on the way, maybe with a visit to the Neolithic passage tombs of Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth in Co. Meath (which actually pre-date both Stonehenge and the Great Pyramids of Egypt), or maybe take a slight detour to the Cooley Peninsula for a late lunch in the medieval village of Carlingford. Those who opt to travel directly to Belfast may arrive there in time to take an open-top City Bus Tour.
Our hotel accommodation in Belfast is located in the leafy suburbs of the Queen’s Quarter (a relatively quiet part of the City), close to Queen’s University and the Botanic Gardens. There are plenty of good bars and restaurants nearby in Botanic Avenue (less than 5 minutes walk), but the City Centre is also a mere 15 minutes walk away, for those who want to experience everything that Belfast has to offer.
DAY 2 – Friday 4th October
Refreshed after a hearty breakfast, I’m certain that the first stop for many will be a visit to “Titanic Belfast”, the newly opened visitor experience celebrating 100 years since the launch (and subsequent loss) of the great liner. The iconic building features nine interpretive galleries, which explore the sights, sounds, smells and stories of Titanic, as well as the City and people that made her.
Please note that it may be advisable to book tickets in advance to guarantee a particular time slot for your visit. See www.titanicbelfast.com for more information.
Leaving Belfast behind, our journey continues along the North Antrim Coast (widely regarded as one of Europe’s most scenic routes), taking time to visit places of interest such as the
Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, Giant’s Causeway, Dunluce Castle and Bushmills Distillery.
You may also like to spend some time in the walled City of Derry (Londonderry), which has been designated “City of Culture 2013”. Derry is the only remaining completely walled city in Ireland and one of the greatest examples of a walled city anywhere in Europe.
Our ultimate destination today will be the town of Buncrana, located on the Inishowen peninsula in Co. Donegal. Our hotel in Buncrana nestles the shores of Lough Swilly, with spectacular views across the water to the mountains beyond. For those who wish to unwind, the hotel also has a Leisure Centre, featuring a 20m pool, fitness suite, sauna and jacuzzi.
DAY 3 – Saturday 5th October
Our journey continues through the sparsely populated Co. Donegal and onwards to our third overnight halt in Sligo.
You will have the whole day to explore the unspoilt wilderness of Co. Donegal, taking in such places as Malin Head, the Fanad Peninsula – including Ballymastocker Beach at Portsalon – once voted the “second best beach in the world” (the winner being in The Seychelles!!), Glenveagh National Park, Mount Errigal, Bloody Foreland, Gweedore (the family home of Enya and Clannad), the busy fishing port of Killybegs and of course Donegal Town itself.
Those of you with a ‘head for heights’ may like to visit the spectacular sea cliffs at Sliabh Liag (Slieve League), which at 600m are the highest in Ireland and almost three times the height of the Cliffs of Moher in Co. Clare.
Our luxury hotel in Sligo is located right in the centre of town overlooking the Garavogue River.
Be sure to arrive at the hotel no later than 7.00pm, as Dinner is included in the cost of our stay at this hotel (although this is not mandatory and you may still choose to dine elsewhere if you so desire).
Sligo's bustling streets are peppered with small boutiques, cafes and bars, as well as a myriad of craft shops offering handmade gifts, pottery and jewellery. The town is probably best known for its association with the poet W.B. Yeats and his artist brother Jack B Yeats, as well as the comic genius that was Spike Milligan.
DAY 4 – Sunday 6th October
You may like to take time to further explore Sligo and the surrounding area before departing, maybe with a visit to Yeats’ grave at Drumcliff, or to take in the lasting views of Ben Bulben, or even a visit to the beach and seaweed baths at Strandhill.
Our next destination is Galway, which is only a short drive if you travel there directly. I’m certain though, that many of you will opt to take a more scenic route, perhaps through north Co. Mayo to Westport (one of our favourite destinations over the years), then onwards through Connemara to Galway. However, this need not be done all in one go, as we shall be spending two nights at our luxury hotel in the centre of Galway.
DAY 5 – Monday 7th October
This is officially designated a rest day, to give a break from driving (although those who still want to drive may of course do so).
Everything in Galway City is within easy walking distance of the hotel. Even the beach resort of Salthill, with its long promenade alongside Galway Bay, is only 20 minutes walk (or 5 minutes drive) from the City centre.
Those who want to travel further afield may like to consider a visit to the Aran Islands. Trips are available either by ferry from Rossaveal (€25 return), or by air from Inverin (€45 return).
DAY 6 – Tuesday 8th October
Leaving Galway behind, we continue on our journey and our ultimate destination today will be Tralee in Co. Kerry.
We will take a route through Co. Clare, taking time to explore the stark wilderness of The Burren and view the Cliffs of Moher. On a clear day, there is a good view of the Aran Islands from the viewpoint of O’Brien’s Tower at the highest point of the cliffs.
After hugging the Clare coastline, we will take the short ferry crossing across the Shannon estuary, leaving a short onward drive to reach Tralee. Our luxury hotel in Tralee is set in its own grounds on the outskirts of town (just 10 minutes walk into the town centre). Whilst there is a very good restaurant and bar in the hotel itself, there is also an abundance of places to eat and drink in the town, with menus to suit every taste. Many of the bars also feature regular live music sessions.
Tralee is the capital of Co. Kerry and is well known all over the world as the home of the International “Rose of Tralee” Festival.
DAY 7 – Wednesday 9th October
We are on the move again, this time to Cork, which is only a short drive away, so there will be time for those who have not been to this area before to take the opportunity to maybe explore the Dingle peninsula, the Ring of Kerry, or take the scenic route via the Lakes of Killarney to Kenmare.
Some may prefer to take the scenic coastal route (N71) from Kenmare through West Cork, via Bantry, Mizen Head, Skull, Baltimore, Skibbereen, Clonakilty and Kinsale.
Those taking a more direct route to Cork (N22) may like to take the opportunity to stop off in the village of Blarney to visit the Woollen Mills, or “kiss the blarney stone” at Blarney Castle.
Our hotel in Cork is in the centre of the City, with all bars, restaurants, shops and attractions within easy walking distance.
DAY 8 – Thursday 10th October
You may like to spend the morning in Cork City, maybe to do some shopping, or visit the famous English Market.
Our destination today is Dungarvan in Co. Waterford, which, if travelling directly, is only a little over a one hour drive. However, there are several places of interest on the way, including Fota House & Gardens (and the nearby Fota Wildlife Park), Cobh (the last port of call for the ill-fated Titanic), the Jameson Distillery at Midleton and the well-preserved Round Tower at Ardmore (the oldest Christian settlement in Ireland, founded in the 5th century by St Declan).
Our hotel in Dungarvan is in the centre of town and will be our home for two nights, once again giving participants a break from driving if they wish. There may also be the possibility of an impromptu traditional music session from some of the Clancy family on one of the evenings!
DAY 9 – Friday 11th October
Another rest day for those who feel they may need it, maybe to just take a stroll around the town, or to stretch the legs a bit more with a walk in the Comeragh Mountains.
Our hotel serves some of the best food in town, but there is also a good selection of bars and restaurants in the town, with many of the bars also hosting regular live music sessions.
Those of you who have not been to this area before may like to take the scenic drive along the Copper Coast as far as the picturesque fishing village and seaside resort of Dunmore East (another of our favourite destinations over the years). If you time it right, this would be an ideal place to stop for a pint in “Power’s Bar”, or lunch in any of the other bars and restaurants in the village.
DAY 10 – Saturday 12th October
We are now nearing the end of our journey. Our final overnight halt will be in Wexford town, a drive of only around 1½ hours if travelling directly.
You may like to spend some time in Waterford City on the way and maybe visit the world famous “House of Waterford Crystal” for a factory tour.
Other options might include a visit to Ireland’s oldest lighthouse at Hook Head (also one of the oldest intact operational lighthouses in the world), or maybe to step aboard the “Dunbrody Famine Ship” in New Ross and experience the realities of life on board one of the notorious so-called ‘coffin ships’.
Our luxury hotel is ideally located in the heart of Wexford town overlooking the marina and boasts a popular Bar, an award winning Restaurant, as well as a fully equipped Leisure Centre & Swimming Pool.
Wexford is steeped in history and there is no shortage of things to see and do in the town and the surrounding area. More recently, Wexford has become better known for its International Opera Festival, which has attracted visitors and performers from all over the world for more than 60 years.
DAY 11 – Sunday 13th October
Our final day! Those who are travelling to South of England may opt for a return crossing on the early morning ferry (08.45 hrs) from Rosslare to Pembroke Dock. Rosslare is just 15 minutes drive from Wexford, so you will still have time for breakfast! Those who are only travelling as far as South Wales could also take the evening sailing (20.45 hrs).
Everyone else will be able to take a leisurely drive up the coast to Dublin for the afternoon fast ferry sailing from Dublin Port (14.30 hrs).
There should still be time for you to visit one or two places of interest on the way, including the village of Avoca (setting for the BBC TV series “Ballykissangel”), the monastic settlement of Glendalough (founded in the 6th century by St Kevin), or Powerscourt House and Gardens.
From any of these places, you could then take a scenic route through the Sally Gap between the Wicklow and Dublin mountains before finally making your way to the port.
Sadly, it will then be time to bring our memorable journey to an end, say our goodbyes and look forward to ……. NEXT YEAR!!
The format of the trip will as always be very informal, and any club members joining us for the first time will be made to feel especially welcome. Given the amount of driving we will have to do, there will be no Treasure Hunt this year, but there will be some surprise fun elements to the trip with spot prizes!
Prices are based on two people travelling together and sharing a Twin or Double room. Supplements are payable for Single occupancy. Prices are available on request for families, or where there are more than two persons sharing a car. Prices are valid until 1st June and any bookings made after that date will incur a £10 (€12) per person surcharge.
Limited space is available in certain locations, so early booking is recommended to guarantee your place(s). If any of our chosen hotels become unavailable, every effort will be made to find alternative accommodation nearby (but an additional supplement may be payable). If the trip is over-subscribed, priority may be given to those participating in the full tour.
Although not compulsory, it is recommended that you take out Personal Insurance to cover yourselves against illness, cancellation, adverse weather conditions affecting sea crossings etc. You may already have an annual policy, or if not, insurance is readily available from various sources.
It is also possible to fly to Ireland if anyone isn’t keen on the sea journey. Flights are available to Dublin from many airports in the UK and Europe. Flights are also available to other regional airports in Ireland for those who can only join us for part of the tour.
Ferry crossings will be with Irish Ferries on their ‘Dublin Swift’ Fast Ferry service (Holyhead – Dublin Port). The crossing time is just 99 minutes. Crossings are also available on the conventional ferry service from Pembroke Dock to Rosslare for those who may find that route more convenient.
OUTBOUND – 11.50 hrs from Holyhead on Thursday 3rd October
– 02.45 hrs from Pembroke Dock on Thursday 3rd October
RETURN – 14.30 hrs from Dublin Port on Sunday 13th October
– 08.45 hrs or 20.45 hrs from Rosslare on Sunday 13th October
The total cost of the full trip is £529.00 per person. This price is based on 2 people travelling together and sharing a Twin/Double room (prices for solo travellers and families available on request). This price includes return sea crossings, all hotel accommodation, administration fee, a souvenir Polo shirt and a surprise gift.
A booking form should be completed and returned to the address given by the due dates together with the appropriate payment.
Once places have been confirmed and you have paid your balance in full, certain elements become non-cancellable (the administration fee will be forfeited in all cases). However, if for any reason you do need to cancel, the following terms will apply;
· If you need to cancel before the balance is paid and your places are not confirmed, your deposit will be returned (less the administration fee).
· If you need to cancel after your places have been confirmed, but at least one month prior to the departure date, partial refunds will be available for unused accommodation (and depending on your circumstances, it may also be possible to defer your ferry booking to a later date).
· Any cancellations made within one month of the departure date will forfeit the full amount (although it may still be possible to defer your ferry booking to a later date).
If you have any questions, please contact the event organiser, Nick Clancy;
Tel: +44 (0)1902 764976 (evenings only)
Mobile: +44 (0)7712 299565 (evenings preferable)
All participants are advised that neither AROC nor the organisers of this event/trip are responsible for making any insurance cover or legal arrangements. Whilst personal insurance cover is not compulsory, it is your own responsibility to ensure that adequate cover (if required) is arranged in respect of Travel, Accident, Medical, Motor, Breakdown etc. to meet your individual circumstances.