IRELAND 2023

IRISH SPRING TOUR

Scenic HIKES, Friendly PEOPLE, Perfect PINTS & Delicious DINNERS!

11 DAYS in the SOUTH of IRELAND…THE TRIP OF A LIFETIME!

Saturday June 17 to Wednesday June 28, 2023
Departs Toronto on Friday 16 June. Arrives in Dublin on Saturday morning 17 June.

(Note: Move the arrows under the top photo on this page to see all photos)

“Ireland where the wit flows as freely as the drink.”

 

Personal concierge services of Kato Wake and Billy Munnelly • Eleven Nights Accommodation • Ten Delicious Dinners with Wine • Six Lunches • Eleven Irish Breakfasts • Welcome Reception • Touring the Wild Atlantic Way • Artist House and Studio Tour • Visits to Romantic Gardens • Scenic Hikes • A Stone Circle • Ferry to Island • Wine Tastings • Beach Walks • Daily Pints at Traditional Pubs • A Castle or Two • Unspoiled Villages • Arts & Crafts Galleries • Half Day Cooking Class at an Iconic Cooking School • Tour at Jameson Distillery • Georgian Architecture • Visit to the heart of ‘Horse Country’ • A Hurling Lesson • Private Coach Transportation • Airport Pick Up and Return to Dublin Airport • Great Craic! (If you don’t know what that is, you will!)


It may be illegal to have so much fun in such a short time.”
V. Taylor, Toronto

 

Our Ireland trip focuses on back-roads and places less known and travelled. Away from the tour buses. We offer a real Ireland experience – tromping about, popping into pubs, and meeting lots of locals. Toss in a ruined castle or two, delicious food and you’re in heaven. Worry not that you’ll be scaling mountains or carrying heavy knapsacks … everything in moderation, except for the fresh air and Guinness. You’ll experience a huge range of terrain, from coastal to mountainous, to pastoral – and maybe a bog or two. Each of the four regions we’ll visit has a different landscape and feeling, which is part of Ireland’s appeal. Travel fifty miles and you’re in another world, with people speaking another strange version of English, and fiercely proud of their place, their songs and, of course, their hurling team.

 

Our second trip with Billy and Kato and once again a fabulous vacation. Their in-depth knowledge of the area and close personal connections with the local population gave us an experience not accessible to the average tourist. Every day brought new and fun adventures with a small, eclectic group of travelers who were a delight to be with. Would we travel with Billy and Kato again? Yes, in a heartbeat. Highly recommended.” The Seybolds, Picton

 

The lively, pub-plentiful city of Kilkenny is our first stop on the itinerary, where we’ll spend three nights at our favourite city-centre, boutique hotel. After popping into castles, churches, breweries, and boutiques, we’ll head out for a short hike around a country estate on the banks of the River Nore. Postcard perfect. Followed by the first of many visits to country pubs. Our memorable Kilkenny dinners will mix city upscale with back-street fun.

Next, we’re off to a coastal fishing town in County Waterford. So much fun to be had in one small place. However, we will tear you away for a picnic and a stroll through the magnificent gardens of the former home of Sir Walter Raleigh, followed by a dramatic cliff-top walk with stunning ocean views. Dining will be at farm-to-table restaurants with lots of good things from the sea.

Staying with the food theme, next we will spend half a day in the kitchens of the famed Ballymaloe Cooking School. After a tour of their glorious organic gardens you will create a slew of dishes – sure to amaze you and your future dinner guests. Learning will never be so fun and delicious!

“Our tour with Billy’s Best Bottles proved to be a wonderfully unique travel adventure we have not experienced through our own guided trips or anyone else’s. We joined a small diverse group of interesting and active people keen to learn about the history, food and culture in Ireland. Each meal was accompanied by new affordable wines with some understanding of how to select them in the future. Each day we were exposed to new aspects of Irish culture including a lesson on how to play the national game called Hurling (a cross between soccer and lacrosse), tours of castles, private estates, gardens and private artist studios, a Potato Famine Museum tour (huge impact on Ireland history), among other events. While we had the general itinerary in advance, each evening at our pre-dinner cocktail party, the next days tour was only then detailed. This provided a surprise for the next day that just got better and better each day. There is no way we could have pulled this type of trip together for ourselves and we would certainly travel with Billy’s Best Bottles to one of their other chosen European countries again in the future. We can’t recommend them enough or do justice in a few words to the service and experience we had.” I. Hill, Prince Edward County

 

The next three days will be spent in our beloved West Cork, along the Wild Atlantic Way. Expect super-scenic walks around Sheeps Head, and nearby islands. The market town of Skibbereen offers a glimpse of rural Irish life, along with a sprinkling of history, art, and delicious local food. You’re sure to be smitten by the magical quality of this part of the country. And you’ll not go hungry, nor thirsty. Interested in researching your Irish genealogy? We have the place for you.

On a more sobering note, we will learn about the devastation caused in this part of the country by the Great Famine, and why so many people need not have perished. Traditional music is alive and well, as you’ll discover.

“If one is fortunate enough to sign on for one of Kato and Billy’s tours of Ireland, be prepared: for this is not a tour, it is a cultural immersion. Daily you will see and do and go places that are not on the tourist trail. You will enjoy beautiful food and really fine wines and your accommodations will be excellent. There will be scenery that nearly stops your heart.You will walk along a rugged cliff top peninsula which drops precipitously into crashing seas and never feel more alive. You may stop along the way into a small and dark pub. A fire will be lit, the Jameson’s will be poured and locals will sing the old songs. Perhaps someone will dance and there certainly will be laughter. Ireland will sing to your soul and free your heart. All I can say is go and soon. Let Kato and Billy show you the true Ireland.” Becky Pace, NY

Next stop is to one of Ireland’s best and longest beaches (beach bocce anyone?) on a small island off West Cork – but not before visiting a wonderful organic farm where we will taste what they do best! Our accommodation will be at Ireland’s First Seawater Spa and Lodge and twice winner of Ireland’s Leading Spa resort – relax, indulge and take in the incredible panoramic views of the Atlantic.

Horses, and in particular racehorses, are much loved in Ireland and we’ll visit one of the richest stud farms in the world. Which happens to be close to the horse museum in Co. Tipperary (not a long way!) All of this, and a view of Ireland’s iconic Rock of Cashel will happen enroute to Birr – the location of our final dinner where you’ll feel like Lords and Ladies, or something like that. Just another one of the many surprises on our Tour.

Note: While most of our hikes and walks on this tour will be easy, and not longer than a couple of hours, it is important that you be in fairly good physical shape. We recommend good walking shoes or light hiking boots, and rain wear of course.

Our tour ends at Dublin airport, so it is a natural fit to add on more days in Dublin City. We will send you our recommendations of what to do, where to eat, and where to stay. Read our Dublin recommendations HERE!

 

“Everyday I was treated to the best of Irish countryside and life. We toured lesser known parts of this beautiful country and experienced fabulous food and wine, magnificent gardens, stately homes and many other wonderful experiences too numerous to detail. Everyday was filled with surprises that truly delighted. I am the grateful recipient of Billy and Kato’s knowledge and expertise in bringing the finer details of Ireland to life.Hilarie Woods, Creemore

 

IRELAND: PINTS & HIKES

Saturday June 17 to Wednesday June 28, 2023 (leaving Toronto Friday June 16)
This is a LAND ONLY TOUR.

18 participants

TICO #2392471

COST $6,895 –  per person, based on double occupancy. Prices are in Canadian currency, including all taxes.
Note: We cannot guarantee 2 large beds for friends travelling together, but will try our best. Ireland often has what is called intimate twins, which means two single mattresses very close together, and ‘dressed’ with separate linens.
Single supplement $1,895 based on Canadian currency, including all taxes.

 

OFFICIAL FLIGHTS with AIR TRANSAT
DEPART: Toronto Friday June 16 @ 23:55 Flight TS230, direct fight arrives Dublin 11:30 Saturday June 17 @ 11:30
RETURN: Dublin Wednesday June 28 @ 13:15, Flight TS231, direct flight arrives Toronto 15:30

TOUR INCLUDES
Conceirge Services of Kato Wake and Billy Munnelly
Ten 3-Course Dinners with Wine
Six Delicious Lunches
Eleven Irish Breakfasts
Eleven Nights in Comfortable Accommodation, Ensuite
Welcome Reception
Traditional Music Sessions
Visits to Romantic Gardens
1/2 day Professional Cooking Class
Scenic Hikes and Cliff Walks
Visit to a Stone Circle
Ferry to Islands
Tour and Tasting at Jameson Distillery
Irish History Talks
Visit to the heart of ‘Horse Country’ with a tour of a prestigious Stud Farm
Artist Studio & House Tour
Private Hurling Lesson
Georgian Architecture
Lots of pub visits!
Airport Pick Up and Return to Dublin airport, connected to the official flights
…PLUS carefully curated surprises!

 

NOT INCLUDED
Air travel and medical insurance
Five lunches and one dinner
Before and after dinner drinks not included in the lunches and dinners
Personal items
Gratuities for housekeeping, breakfast and lunch service, guides and drivers

 

TO BOOK
Email katowake@gmail.com with IRELAND 2023 in the subject headline if you are INTERESTED.
We will contact you with further details about where to send your non-refundable deposit, etc. once your spot is confirmed.

We expect everyone to be in good physical shape – able to easily walk for a few hours a day – and to participate in every daily excursion.

Our official partner for TICO is Ellison Travel & Tours #2392471.
Billy’s Best Bottles reserves the right to make changes in the itinerary.

Tours will be cancelled or postponed if Canadian ‘Do Not Travel’ advisories apply to the destination, or if Ellison Travel & Tours deems it unsafe to travel, in which case, all monies paid will be transferred to a future travel credit.

Read Ellison Terms and Conditions HERE.


HOW DO WE DIFFER FROM OTHER TOURS?

We must start by telling you that we never set out to conduct tours. However, after a few trials with friends we sensed that there was an interest in our style of travel. Found a niche as they say. Original and generous were the two most used words we heard to describe what we offered, and not surprisingly as our itineraries were of our own making. We did not see the point of taking people to over-crowded guide book places. It is impossible to catch the feeling of a place when you’re lost in a sea of fellow travellers. We still deliver WOWs, but without the hassles and crowds. And generous might have something to do with how much wine we were pouring.

We have sought out parts of a country that offer a sense of the whole, thereby delivering the experience without long travel times. Spending less hours on the road attempting to see it all gives us more quality time in towns, galleries or cafes. Feet on the ground as opposed to bum on a bus, seeing better over seeing more.

Most of the experiences we offer are either not available off-the-street, or would require a lot of work to secure.

We love the time at table so most evenings we all dine together, at a hand-picked restaurants where we have arranged something special – an experience not available to the general public. You can expect everything from gourmet to rustic with seating in small groups for an intimate experience. But we’re not opposed to a little rowdiness! We stay at smaller, non-chain hotels away from the tourist bustle.

Have to admit we are not huge history buffs, but we do allow enough free time for those who want to visit churches and museums. Think of us as the anti-Trip Advisor seeking instead, the alternative to the unexpected. The kind of tour you’d imagine from a local, as opposed to a Tour company. If you have never travelled with a group before, fear not. Think of the possibilities for fun with a group “adult camp” as Kato calls it. It may be the best party you ever attended.

Expect to eat and drink too much, and love every minute of it.

In each of our destinations we concentrate on the things that are special or unique: rural pubs in Ireland as they are the hub of a community, historic grandeur combined with sleek contemporary design in Portugal, and the effortless, indescribable sense of style in France. Crafting beauty in everything is Italy’s great skill, and that includes food and wine. We ask that our travellers take the time to know something of, and respect the culture we are visiting… reconsider bringing your comfy Adidas!

 

WHO SHOULD TRAVEL WITH US?

Those with a love of adventure and social interaction are obvious candidates. On the physical side, good walking ability and drinking stamina are not only essential, but mandatory. Meals are on the European clock, starting late and finishing late , and celebrating time at the table. Basically we invite people who are interested in stepping outside their comfort zone and embracing a European experience. Filling the eyes, bellies and imagination with things unfamiliar. We welcome people who come hungry for activity and participation. Please do NOT come with us if you want a conventional “sightseeing” tour with no participation on your part.

Finally a word on why we do not publish detailed, daily itineraries. One reason is we like to remain flexible and work around weather and local events. But more importantly, we believe that the best travel experiences are built around daily surprises – a trust between the host and the guests. Those who have travelled with us have said that they enjoyed the surprise element as it kept them in the moment. We ask that you greet us with enthusiasm, a trusting open mind, good health, and an empty wine glass (not for long!).

Every tour we’ve run has been sold out, and many guests are repeat offenders.

READ ALL TESTIMONIALS HERE!

“We loved Ireland and once again you spoiled us thoroughly! Everything was so beautifully organized with superb attention to detail starting well before our trip. The accommodation was delightful, the wine and food delicious, the itinerary creative and beautifully paced with interests for all, and the other guests a pleasure to be with. Thank you for introducing us with such care and fun to the magic of Ireland!” The Simmons, Ottawa

“It truly was a trip of a lifetime. The people, the history, the food, the gardens, the castles, the beaches, the bocce, the churches, the hikes, the sheep, the music and of course the Guinness and the best tour organizers in the world made for the most spectacular trip we could ever have hoped for.You both are so knowledgeable, kind and thoughtful and always made us feel at home – it was like a group of old friends brought together by you! We are just so grateful to have had the privilege to have shared your Ireland with us.” C. Huff, Prince Edward County

“A simple “thank you” seems most inadequate after the wonderful days we spent with you and the other travelers. Loved the villages, gardens sites and pubs, the fun activities and the delightful company every step of the way. You showed us an Ireland that most visitors would miss, while setting a pace perfect for enjoyment and reflection. Excellent food, ample drink, lively conversation, gorgeous locations, consummate hosts. It couldn’t get any better.” Bill and Gerry Smyth, Peterborough

“Thank you Billy and Kato for this amazing tour of Ireland and the wonderful friendships which made the adventure even better. Looking forward to booking another trip in the future.” T. Burnison, St. Catharines

“Billy and Kato’s attention to detail in creating an outstanding adventure speaks miles in the smiles.” N. Morris, Toronto

“Thank you, both Billy and Kato, for our wonderful experience in Ireland. It wasn’t a tour, but a trip “home” to meet the locals of West Cork. My wife Diane and I have travelled on a number of tours with highly respected tour companies, but those trips do not compare to the experience of our trip with you to Ireland. It will always be fondly remembered as one of my favourites.” A. Madden, Brampton

“We enjoyed roads less travelled, getting to know both the land and the people, and avoiding heavily tourist circuits. West Cork is a calm slice of heaven. Our travel companions were delightful, funny, and musically gifted. Billy and Kato are warm, genuine, multi-talented hosts who are always ready for fun and conversation. At the end of the trip it felt like we had been friends for years. If you are wondering if one of their trips is right for you…YES, it will be!!!! Do it.” B. Murdoch, Waterloo

“Thanks, Billy and Kato, for a truly wonderful trip. I’ve often dreamed of a vacation that would incorporate fabulous food, wine, culture, scenery and fantastic company – our Ireland excursion was all that and more. Outstanding!” E. Helps, Ariss

“Our trip was fabulous. Scenery, accommodations, company, food, drink and transport all first class. Kato and Billy sure know how to be unobtrusive and charming hosts, catering to the group’s needs and desires.” D. Suarez, St Catharines

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