The 9 Best Ireland Tour Companies of 2019

The Emerald Isle awaits...

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The Rundown

  • Best Overall: CIE Tours "Guests rave about CIE’s tour directors, their infectious humor, and their ability to make each tour as enjoyable as possible."
  • Best Budget: Rail Tours Ireland "By using railways, travelers have the opportunity to experience as much of Ireland as possible in a short amount of time."
  • Best for Seniors: Vagabond Tours of Ireland "Like a safari adventure, Vagabond Tours prides itself on its ability to give its guests an abundance of free time to explore."
  • Best for Families: Wild Rover Tours "Their excellent value, high-quality day trips, and shorter tours allow families to get out of Dublin with comfort being top of mind."
  • Best for Singles: Fab Food Trails "Keeping the groups small with 12 to 14 guests means there are more treats to go around."
  • Best for Couples: Skellig Islands "Visitors should listen for the cry of gannets and puffins that nest on the cliff edge as they treasure this spiritual place."
  • Best for Young Adults: Wolfhound Tours "With a keen passion for folklore, Wolfhound Tours visits some of the more unusual sites of Ireland, like ancient tombs or stone circles."
  • Best Game of Thrones Tour: Game of Thrones Tours "Guests can cycle the forests, become an archer for the day or walk in the footsteps of Jon Snow."
  • Best Guinness Tour: Guinness Storehouse "One of the prides of Ireland, the Storehouse runs a number of tours, experiences, and seasonal events focusing on the stout’s production."

Our Top Picks

01 of 09

Best Overall: CIE Tours

CIE Tours

 CIE Tours

Celebrating 87 years of excellence, CIE Tours has provided the highest quality excursions around Ireland with their flexible options, including coach, self-driven, and private-driver tours.

Each of their tours is all-inclusive, with no hidden additional fees or features. If parties choose to travel without a group, CIE presents a range of hotel and dining choices that can be booked in advance. 

Boasting a range of tour additions, CIE’s adventures include guaranteed departures and prices when flying, travel protection plans, and group airport transfers. On every tour, a local guide meets guests upon arrival to provide unrivaled service along with in-depth commentary of each site visited. Guests rave about CIE’s tour directors, their infectious humor, and their ability to make each tour as enjoyable as possible. 

CIE’s “Taste of Ireland” tour is a top choice for Irish excursions. With either a five- or seven-day itinerary, the tour begins in Dublin before traveling south via Cashel, Blarney, the Ring of Kerry and then north again past the Cliffs of Moher, Shannon, and Galway. This loop around the south of the isle offers a first-hand look at traditional Irish border collies herding sheep, as well as a stop at the luxurious and majestic Dublin Castle, now the centerpiece of the Irish State. 

02 of 09

Best Budget: Rail Tours Ireland

Railtours Ireland

Railtours Ireland

With Railtours Ireland, getting from A to B isn’t just fast and affordable, but enjoyable, exciting, and informative. Established in 1998, the company works in association with Irish Rail, the national railroad service, to give travelers the opportunity to experience as much of Ireland as possible in a short amount of time.

The fast and comfortable trains include reserved seating and a Railtours host who will guide guests around each location with encyclopedic knowledge. Once off the train, many of the tours include a hop-on-hop-off bus to take adventurers to areas inaccessible by rail. 

Tours depart every day of the week, and the journeys offer interesting views of the countryside and towns that shaped Irish history, including the beautiful hills and gothic architecture of Connemara

And because many itineraries include admission to attractions such as museums, galleries, and castles, participants can count on Railtours Ireland being an affordable option worth considering.

03 of 09

Best for Seniors: Vagabond Tours of Ireland

Vagabond

 Vagabond

Established in 2002, Vagabond Tours was created to emulate the experience of an African Safari – just without the lions and elephants. Like a safari adventure, Vagabond Tours prides itself on its ability to give its guests an abundance of free time to explore and roam around Ireland. 

Constantly evolving, Vagabond has been shaped by years of client feedback, and their guided, small-group tours have won several awards. 

The company also has a range of less active tours, which are ideal for older tourists looking for relaxed trips across Ireland. Their “Seven-day Irish Castles and Kingdoms Tour” is a perfect tour for seniors, circling the Ring of Kerry, a famously verdant and scenic driving route around the southwestern tip of the country. 

The more active crowd can choose a hiking, biking, or kayaking expedition that’s tailored to their ability. The whole trip is chauffeured in a top-of-the-line Mercedes, so guests won’t have to worry about comfort when visiting some of the more remote Irish locations. 

Each stop on their tours focuses on different highlights of Ireland, yet Vagabond Tours still strives to show off-the-beaten-path locations that attract fewer tourists, including horse riding in Northern Ireland or exploring the small village of Dingle.

All of the itineraries developed by Driftwood are easily accessible on their detailed website. Pictures of the tours, price breakdowns, and reviews by previous participants let each prospective client understand what they’re getting for their money.

04 of 09

Best for Families: Wild Rover Tours

Wild Rover Tours

Wild Rover Tours

Multi-day tours with constant changes in location and lodging can be taxing for families with young children. That’s where local, family-run Wild Rover Tours comes in. Winners of “TripAdvisor’s No. 1 Tours in Ireland” award, their excellent value, high-quality day trips, and shorter tours allow families to get out of Dublin with comfort being top of mind.

Not only does Wild Rover extend a plethora of extras including luggage storage services, airlink express, and discounts for the Guinness storehouse, but each of the luxurious coaches has 4G Wi-Fi so the kids can unwind by watching a movie after a long day of sightseeing.

For those families who want a more exclusive experience of the Irish countryside, Wild Rover has four different private tours that begin in Dublin. The personal guide can tailor each trip perfectly to ensure each member of the family is content, and guests are all driven in comfortable Mercedes vans.  

One of their more action-packed tours is the “Kilkenny, Wicklow Mountains and Glendalough Day Tour,” which includes all transport and admissions. Guests travel to the east coast of Ireland, making stops at many rural highlights, including the stunning landscapes of Wicklow Gap, a medieval monastery that exhibits all the culture of Dark-age Ireland, and a traditional sheepdog trial where travelers can see traditional Irish dogs herd the famous sheep of the island.

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05 of 09

Best for Singles: Fab Food Trails

Fab Food Trails

Fab Food Trails

Immersion into a food-oriented masterclass is a sure way to meet like-minded people. After all, who doesn’t love learning how to cook new culinary delights from an expert? That’s why Fab Food Trails offers a selection of intriguing tours that introduce visitors to the local cuisine in every major Irish city. While traditional Irish cuisine such as stews and pudding might seem a little unappetizing at first, Fab Food Trails shows guests just how easy – and delicious – they are.

More than just cooking classes, the company hosts a “Food and Fashion Tour,” as well as food trails in both Cork and Dublin. Each guide knows the markets, stalls, and shops in each city like the back of their hand, and their fun and intellectual approach is refreshing. Reviews have stated that Fab Food Trails is an excellent introduction not only to Irish cuisine but to Cork and Dublin as well, giving information about the history and architecture of the cities.

Keeping the groups small with 12 to 14 guests means there are more treats to go around, and each participant can interact in-depth with the local food guides.

The Evening Trail tour is a great prelude to a night out in Dublin. Travelers take a three-hour guided stroll and explore the culinary delights that emerge after sundown. The tour lets guests meet purveyors of various Dublin restaurants while immersing themselves in the culture of the city. Guides pair each tasting with a stout or ale, and diners can even try some of the traditional Irish pudding at the end of the night.

If participants have any special dietary requirements, they should make sure to make contact with Fab Food Trails in advance of any food trail tour. 

06 of 09

Best for Couples: Skellig Islands

Skellig Michael

 Skellig Islands

Lying seven miles offshore from Kerry, the Skelligs are two small islands famous for their abundance of puffins and their unblemished beauty. Fans of Star Wars will recognize the steep-sided islands which were the settings for Luke’s hide-out in The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi. 

Casey’s Tours provides two separate tour options to these striking islands. The “Landing Tour” is both the more popular choice and the more romantic option for those looking to explore the further reaches of the Emerald Isle. The tour runs through May to the end of September, departing at 8:30 a.m. from Portmagee Marine. With a maximum of four people per booking, the tour is extremely intimate. The captain and guide are particularly knowledgeable and will be eager to show visitors the abundance of wildlife as the boat cruises towards the shore. Look for seals, dolphins, and even whales on the voyage.

Be prepared for a steep climb on Skellig Michael to reach the iconic beehive-style huts and the sixth-century monastery perched 500 feet above sea level. Visitors should listen for the cry of gannets and puffins that nest on the cliff edge as they treasure this spiritual place. 

Tours are dependent on sea conditions, and when the weather is good in the summer reservations are essential, so it’s wise to book far in advance. 

07 of 09

Best for Young Adults: Wolfhound Tours

Cliffs of Moher

 Getty Images

A relaxed, multi-activity adventure company that caters to small groups, Wolfhound Tours covers the best that Ireland has to offer. Ideal for young adults who want to explore as much of Ireland as possible, Wolfhound offers an abundance of different fully-escorted tours. With a keen passion for folklore, Wolfhound Tours visits some of the more unusual sites of Ireland, like the odd ancient tomb or stone circle. 

Their “10-Day All Ireland” package has long been a popular choice for adventure seekers. Beginning in Northern Ireland and ending in West Cork, this all-encompassing tour includes the Aran Islands, Cliffs of Moher, Dingle, Blarney Castle, and Galway, which makes a full loop of the coast of Ireland.

Each tour is sure to give adventurers a sense of the beautiful and verdant countryside. Tours also provide a wealth of history and culture, with visits to local pubs and traditional villages. Guests even kayak with seals, whale watch and swim with dolphins on the west coast if you choose the “Six-Day South West” tour. 

Tours include a private, 100 percent Irish guide, all on-tour transport, bike rentals, and escorted wilderness hikes. Guests love the guides’ passion for their native land, while their enthusiasm to share tales, folklore, and history leaves a long-lasting impression.  

08 of 09

Best Game of Thrones Tour: Game of Thrones Tours

Game of Thrones Tours

Game of Thrones Tours 

Since the inception of immensely popular HBO fantasy drama, Ireland has been synonymous with Game of Thrones. Game of Thrones Tours provides an abundance of options for those wishing to visit the sets of their favorite scenes. Whether guests cycle the forests, become an archer for the day or simply want to walk in the footsteps of Jon Snow, Game of Thrones Tours has plenty to keep visitors interested. Belfast plays host to the Castle of Winterfell and other Westerosi settings, so tours are sure to stop at a place recognizable place from the epic tale when adventuring around the city.

Many of the guides were extras on the show and have amusing insights into the cast and shooting, which is always an added bonus for enthusiastic fans. Running year-round, booking a spot is a great way to not only see the sights of the show but also the spectacular scenery of Ireland. 

The “Belfast Winterfell Locations Trek” is often the first choice for avid fans where a whopping nine filming locations will be visited during the trek, including the Twins, Riverlands and of course the iconic 16th-century castle that is the setting for Winterfell. Each of the tours provides photographic opportunities with props and locations, allowing for full immersion into the Game of Thrones world. 

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09 of 09

Best Guinness Tour: Guinness Storehouse

Guinness Storehouse

Guinness Storehouse

When one thinks of Irish cuisine and beverage, Guinness comes to the forefront of everyone’s mind. The iconic brew is created in Dublin and their famous Storehouse is a popular attraction for any tourist who ventures to the Irish capital.

Since opening in 2000, Guinness Storehouse has attracted over 20 million visitors. Each of their seven floors hosts a different experience, from a museum, to a bar, to a tasting atrium. One of the prides of Ireland, the Storehouse runs a number of tours, experiences, and seasonal events focusing on a different aspect of the stout’s production. 

During St. Patrick’s Day, the brewery takes out all the stops to throw a giant Irish festival, celebrating the country with food and – yes – lots of Guinness. To top it all off, the entire building is lit up green all weekend long, making it an unmissable centerpiece of the city. All tours and experiences are run by passionate staff who have worked in the brewing industry for many years. 

The “Skip the Line: Guinness Connoisseur Taste Experience” is, without a doubt, the most comprehensive and entertaining tour at the home of the dark Irish stout, giving an unparalleled look at everything that goes into making Guinness. Tours include samples of Guinness, and the chance to learn about the process and history of the brewery, which dates back to 1759. When the tour is over, venture to the Gravity Bar where guests can sip their final inclusive pint with scenic views over Dublin – sláinte!

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