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The Best of Scotland and Ireland

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3.0 stars(6 reviews)
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Discover three of the British Isles’ most scenic countries

You are viewing the 2023 itinerary. Select your departure year
20222023
13 days From £2,895 per person

2023 Tour code: CEG23

About the tour

Experience three of the British Isles' most scenic countries on a holiday that showcases the best of these Celtic beauties. Beginning in Scotland, we explore the majestic Highlands before travelling to Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, nations with intertwined culture and history.

Highlights

What’s included

Itinerary

Day 1 - Edinburgh

We begin our Celtic adventure in Edinburgh, meeting at our hotel where we spend the first night. The heart of this monumental city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with its medieval Old Town, elegant Georgian New Town, and award-winning modern architecture. Until the late 18th century Edinburgh consisted mainly of what is known as the Old Town, including the Royal Mile and Grassmarket. The wide neoclassical streets, buildings and gardens of the New Town were designed in the Georgian period. Besides its fascinating history, the city offers incredible views, a wealth of museums and galleries, and a vibrant culture.

Includes
  • Dinner
Day 2 - Inverness

We take the train to Inverness, a city nestled at the north end of the Great Glen where the River Ness flows into the Moray Firth. Known as the 'gateway to the Highlands', the city boasts a handsome sandstone castle, thriving culinary scene, and warm and welcoming locals - as well as a fantastic location. We get a taste of Scotland with a visit to the Glen Ord Distillery for a tour and whisky tasting, before checking into our hotel for two nights.

Includes
  • Breakfast, Dinner
Day 3 – The Kyle Line and Eilean Donan Castle

Today begins with a journey to Kyle of Lochalsh on the wonderful Kyle Line, a journey that takes us through stunning Highland scenery. Here, we visit the 13th-century Eilean Donan Castle, nestled on a tiny island in Loch Duich and joined to the mainland by a small and elegant bridge. The photogenic castle is a popular tourist icon in Scotland, and has been used in many films. Next, we continue to Fort Augustus where we enjoy an entertaining 'Clansman Show'. We learn about the culture of the Highlands of old, discovering how families lived, dressed and survived here.

Includes
  • Breakfast
Day 4 - The Jacobite

We transfer to Mallaig this morning, stopping to admire the excellent views over Glenfinnan Viaduct, a historic viaduct which featured in three of the 'Harry Potter' movies. There's some free time before we board the iconic Jacobite Steam Train and travel to Fort William, our base for the night. Recapturing a golden era of steam rail travel for a new generation of visitors and enthusiasts, the Jacobite Steam Train was introduced in 1984 and takes us through beautiful scenery, passing dramatic mountains, skirting the shores of lochs and winding past quaint villages and railway stations.

Includes
  • Breakfast, Dinner
Day 5 – Glasgow

We re-join the wonderful West Highland Line for a journey to the vibrant city of Glasgow, an epic rail adventure that takes us through some of the world's most beautiful landscapes. We watch from the comfort of the carriages as the scenery outside the window changes dramatically, with the rugged Highlands giving way to the modern metropolis of one of Scotland's largest cities. Once in Glasgow, we're treated to a delicious afternoon tea at a local tea room before checking into our hotel.

Includes
  • Breakfast
  • Afternoon tea
Day 6 - Belfast

We bid farewell to Scotland today. We travel to Cairnryan then board the ferry to Belfast, taking a guided coach tour of the city on arrival. Birthplace of the RMS Titanic, and standing on the banks of the River Lagan, Belfast is Northern Ireland's capital city and has a rich industrial heritage. After getting to know the city, we check into our hotel for the next two nights.

* Please note: your luggage will travel on the ferry with you, rather than via our luggage service.

Includes
  • Breakfast, Dinner
Day 7 – Giant’s Causeway

We visit the atmospheric Dark Hedges, a stunning natural tunnel of beech trees that's one of the most photographed natural phenomena in Northern Ireland. We continue to Ballycastle where there's some time for lunch. Later, we enjoy a visit to Giant's Causeway, one of Northern Ireland's most beloved attractions. Here, perfectly hexagonal columns of basalt rock rise from the sea and we have plenty of time to admire this iconic natural sight.

Includes
  • Breakfast
Day 8 – Hillsborough Castle and Cork

Today we visit Hillsborough Castle, an official government residence and the spot where Queen Elizabeth II resided while visiting Northern Ireland. Enjoy some time to look around the glorious royal residence, set within 100 acres of gorgeous gardens of meticulous ornamental lawns, peaceful woodlands and gently trickling waterways. Later, we take a coach to Dublin, crossing the border into the Republic of Ireland. Here, we board the train to Cork, where we check into our hotel for the night.

Includes
  • Breakfast, Dinner
Day 9 – Blarney Castle

We explore Ireland's most famous castle today, Blarney Castle. The castle's most renowned attraction is the Blarney Stone. Also known as the Stone of Eloquence, anyone kissing the stone is said to be given the 'gift of the gab'. There's also a selection of beautiful gardens in the castle's extensive grounds to explore. This evening, we're treated to a holiday highlight as we're whisked off to watch a Celtic Steps show, a lively performance of traditional Irish music and dance.

Includes
  • Breakfast, Dinner
Day 10 – The Ring of Kerry

We take a coach trip around part of the stunning Ring of Kerry, taking in some of the most dramatic mountain and coastal scenery in the whole of Europe. The route around the Ring of Kerry is 112 miles in its entirety and passes through picturesque villages and breathtaking natural scenery. We pay a visit to the Kerry Bog Village Museum to learn more about Ireland's rural heritage, before taking a trip back in time with a ride on Killarney's Jaunting Cars, a traditional mode of transport here since the early 19th century.

Includes
  • Breakfast, Dinner
Day 11 – The Cliffs of Moher

We transfer to Tarbet, crossing to Killimer by ferry. Here, we visit the striking Cliffs of Moher, Ireland's most iconic natural attraction and a UNESCO Global Geopark. Puffins and razorbills nest in the cliffs, while dolphins and sharks can often be spotted in the sea. We continue to the Burren Centre, a fascinating visitor centre, where we learn more about the local history.

Includes
  • Breakfast, Dinner
Day 12 – Dublin

Today we travel by rail to Dublin, where there's free time to discover the colourful city. With its myriad of cultural offerings, historical monuments and famed entertainment scene, Dublin is one of Europe's finest cities, brimming with things to see and do. You could visit the Trinity College Library, Ireland's largest library, to see the Book of Kells. Or maybe discover St Patrick's Cathedral, which was founded in 1191 and has the title of the National Cathedral of Ireland. This evening, we enjoy dinner at the famous Merry Ploughboys Pub, the perfect way to end our explorations.

Includes
  • Breakfast, Dinner
Day 13 – Hollyhead and home

We take the ferry from Dublin to Holyhead, where our tour comes to an end.

*Please note: your luggage will travel on the ferry with you, rather than via our luggage service.

Includes
  • Breakfast

Additional information

Departure times

Provisional departure and return times, where available, can be found together with our dates and prices by clicking on the 'Prices & Availability' button. We write to all booked customers approximately 10 weeks prior to the start of their tour to advise the exact departure and return time for their particular group.

Mobility information

Due to the nature of our tours they are generally unsuitable for those with restricted mobility. If you’d like to discuss any particular holiday with us in this respect, then please don’t hesitate to call us.

Hotels

Maldron Hotel South Mall

Maldron Hotel South Mall, Cork

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Cruachan Hotel, Fort William

Cruachan Hotel, Fort William

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Castelrosse Hotel Kerry, Killarney

Castelrosse Hotel Kerry, Killarney

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DoubleTree by Hilton, Edinburgh

DoubleTree by Hilton, Edinburgh

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River Ness Hotel, Inverness

River Ness Hotel, Inverness

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Maldron Hotel, Glasgow

Maldron Hotel, Glasgow

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Europa Hotel, Belfast

Europa Hotel, Belfast

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Belvedere Hotel, Dublin

Belvedere Hotel, Dublin

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Trains

Irish Railways
Jacobite Steam Train
The Kyle Line
West Highland Line

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UK Rail Connections

Reviews

3.0 stars3.0 / 5 · 6 reviews

  1. 5 stars
    (1)
  2. 4 stars
    (1)
  3. 3 stars
    (1)
  4. 2 stars
    (3)
  5. 1 star
    (0)

Derek Kershaw

2 stars

Submitted 27/Sep

On our rail tour of Scotland and Ireland in September 2022 we experienced some sensational scenery as well visiting some iconic places all with great weather. However, on arrival in Edinburgh it became apparent that there was two small groups setting off on this same holiday together at the same time. Each group travelling on the trains at the same time but each group having a separate coach which travelled on the same itinerary as the train journeys which enabled us to travel by coach in between the rail journeys. I have to say that at times it would have been more comfortable to stay on the coach rather than travel on some of the trains which were overcrowded and uncomfortable. There was one occasion when the two groups came together on one coach when one of the coaches didn’t turn up. On another occasion one coach was used for the two groups when we went to Giants Causeway from Belfast. On this occasion this concerned us as at least two people on group 2 had tested positive for COVID. As Great Rail have no policy in dealing with Covid we did not go on the excursion as in our opinion they should not have been allowed to travel on a coach made up of the two groups. In addition at each of the hotels the two groups came together for meal times - breakfast and dinner. The passengers with Covid sat amongst the two groups at meal times. On two occasions we were in close proximity to them in the dining room and we had to remove ourselves to another part of the restaurant. As the Tour Managers did not separate the two groups in the dining room or even make provision for those with Covid we had a conversation with Great Rail regarding our concern and only on one night were the two groups separated. On the last night of the holiday a meal was planned in an Irish pub with typical Irish music. We informed the two groups would be together along with those who had Covid. We therefore did not attend this event. Whist we understand that we have to live with Covid we would not sit in close proximity with someone who we know has tested positive. On the penultimate day we became aware that an individual with Covid had been informed of our concerns and as a result we receive some verbal abuse from that individual along with three other members of his party. In conclusion, be careful when you book a small group tour as there may be another group on the same itinerary etc which in our case meant 40 plus people on this tour. In addition be aware that individuals with known Covid will be allowed to continue with the holiday and share coaches and dining rooms with you and sitting within short distances away from you.

Collected by Trustpilot

Dear Mr Sutton

3 stars

Submitted 1/Aug

Good holiday but was to rushed. There was no free time to visit places and some hotels were over a mile and a half from the town. I do not consider arriviving in Cork at 6.30 pm and leaving before 9 am visiting the city. That overnight stop could have been anywhere. The whole holiday was rescued by the tour manager and the excellent coach drivers who each hitch as a problem to solve (which) they did.

Collected by Trustpilot

B Smith

4 stars

Submitted 1/Jun

Two hotels were not up to standard, we had two train rides changed to coach, one of which was the Steam train. Not the tours fault but a disappointment none the less. Tour manager was brilliant. Didn't rate The Dark Hedges, would rather have gone to the Titanic Museum. Tours were excellent, well organised. Coach drivers were very experienced and well informed of local history. We thoroughly enjoyed our holiday.

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kjl

2 stars

Submitted 31/May

Scotland was better than Ireland but we were disappointed overall. We had enjoyed our previous holiday with GRJ and looked forward to many more. Unfortunately some of the days were very long without the best choice of attractions together with very little free time in the cities. However, the main detractor was that we chose GRJ for a small group tour, maximum 25. In this case we were two tour groups put together, thus de facto, a tour group of 37 all staying in the same hotels with the concomitant crowding at mealtimes and check in. Our group was “number 2” and we always had to wait for the other group to go ahead at visit attractions and boarding trains. The Irish trains were very mediocre with no on board service; we could have stayed on our coaches for better comfort and less wasted time waiting at stations.

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T Wylie

5 stars

Submitted 28 Sep 2021

An excellent trip, helped by a brilliant tour manager and two excellent coach drivers

Collected by Trustpilot

Trevor Aver

2 stars

Submitted 28 Sep 2021

They delivered on the main highlights of this tour but all but two of the hotels were terrible and cheap. I never thought a company like this would use such poor quality budget hotels where the food was at times disgusting. An expensive tour this which in my view should have been cancelled.

Collected by Trustpilot

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