My first trip to Ireland was the Brobdingnagian Bards Tour of Ireland. The trip was organized by CIE, one of the largest tour agencies in Ireland. I learned some valuable lessons from traveling with CIE.
You see, big tour groups have their ups and downs. On the upside, the bus guide's are totally awesome. I think some of my best memories from my first two trips to Ireland were from the stories the bus guide's told. They know the history. They know the legends. And they're great entertainers. It's one of the main things I haven't had enough of on my own Celtic Invasion Vacations (and I'm changing this year). Tour groups can also bring the price down to a more affordable level.
CIE taught me the downside of big tours most of all. We stayed in some mediocre hotels and some crappy ones. We had decent food, but generally it felt like it was catering to Old Folks homes. I'm a foodie. So that struck a nerve. We stayed in a new hotel every night, with long drives to destinations in between. It was exhausting. I needed a vacation from my vacation.
The absolute worst part of CIE was the generic entertainment. We went to The Merry Ploughboy. This “Irish pub”, but it was just a bad cabaret that was supposed to be a cross between The Clancy Brothers and Riverdance. It was neither. Just cheap and schmaltzy and bad. I was Extremely disappointed with that trip.
If you really want to go to Ireland and experience the music and culture then…
You Need a Trad Irish Music Tour!
When The Irish Tourism Group first contacted me, I was hesitant. The last thing I want to promote is another CIE tour. But the Irish Tourism Group is no CIE. They are better. I am happy to include them as the sponsor of the Irish & Celtic Music Podcast. Their Trad Irish Music Tour addresses all of my complaints. Plus they offer bonuses that I haven't even been able to offer since I stopped using tour buses.
This is a coach (bus) trip. However, you're not constantly traveling. Usually they stay in one place for a couple nights. They limit driving distances to about 2 1/2 hours. They have a full-time tour guide who joins you on the trip. That's pretty awesome in itself. Again, it's the stories I love. Having a good guide makes a big difference.
I checked out some of the reviews of the hotels you'll be staying at. All are highly rated. Food, of course, is in the taste buds of the beholder. However, there will be no cafeteria food. They feed you 6 of the 9 nights plus one lunch and daily Irish breakfasts (my favorite). Most of the evening food is provided by the hotel. Hotel food can vary. Typically, it's pretty decent, but you never know. But you're only eating fixed meals some of the time. So that means you get to experiment and find a lot of great places to eat on your own. Personally, I love that.
So right off the bat, this is sounding pretty good to my ears.
And for those ears… there's the music.
The big goal of this trip is to bring you closer to the traditional music of Ireland. So you're gonna have several nights visiting Irish music and dance sessions. They are also bringing in some experts on the subject (wait, isn't everyone in Ireland an expert? … nope)
You'll get a talk on the origins of Irish Music with Peadar O Riada. He is the son of famous Irish composer Sean O’Riada, and he is also a musician and producer himself. He is a big deal in the trad music scene in Ireland, hugely interested in it and loves to share his experience.
You'll get a a dance session with ‘Timmy‘The Brit’ McCarthy’, one of Ireland’s finest set dancers.
You'll get stories Through Song' with Joe Creedon. He'll share a short talk about Sean Os singing and how songs were used to tell stories & history.
And in Ennis, you will meet Jack Talty who will also be bringing some other musicians with him for a recital and questions and answers. I'm not sure what a “recital” is offhand (outside of the grade school context). But I assume it's a live performance with local musicians. I love concerts and an awesome trad concert in Ennis sounds fantastic to me.
All in all, this sounds like an absolutely awesome vacation and a great introduction to the music and culture of Ireland. If you've never been, and you're anxiously waiting the chance. I'd suggest you check out this Trad Music Tour. The thing I love most about Ireland is the music and the cool sites.
Wait! I didn't mention the sites. They're taking you to the Dingle Peninsula and Gougane Barra (two of my personal favorites). You'll visit several castles, the Blaskett Island (that'll get you hot to go to the island, rocks!), plus the Cliffs of Moher, another favorite of mine.
So again, the sites look fantastic too. They're going to one of the best parts of Ireland that I've seen.
Oh! And if you do sign up and go, I want to to hear all about your trip. Tell me the good stuff and the bad stuff. Give me all the gritty details so I can share them later.
And since these are the sponsors of the Irish & Celtic Music Podcast, I'd also appreciate it if you mentioned the show when you sign up. That will let them know that their sponsorship worked.
Find out more about the 9 Night Traditional Irish Music Tour.