Friday,  July 23, 2021  11:53 pm

Irish Insider: Royal Irish Tours' Jonathan Sargeant shares 5 must-do experiences in Ireland this spring

Irish Insider: Royal Irish Tours' Jonathan Sargeant shares 5 must-do experiences in Ireland this spring
Royal Irish Tours' sales manager for Canada, Jonathan Sargeant, poses at the Sliabh League Cliffs in Donegal, Ireland. Photo: Jonathan Sargeant
Christine Hogg

Christine Hogg is the Associate Digital Editor at PAX Global Media. Prior to joining PAX, she obtained her Honours BA in Journalism from the University of Toronto. Upon graduating, she went on to write for several travel publications while travelling the world. Her longest trip was a three-week stint in Europe, and the shortest was a 16-hour adventure in Iceland. Get in touch:

Royal Irish Tours (RIT) has been fulfilling Irish travel dreams for 19 years.

READ MORE: Royal Irish Tours offers new flexible booking policy for remainder of March

From sightseeing tours to self-drive trips; coach bus tours to city stays and so much more, the tour operator prides itself on being able to deliver a hand-crafted, authentic Irish experience that's due in part to the company's own Irish roots.

Ranging in length from four to 15 days, new this year, RIT has unveiled the following new tours through Ireland: Shamrock Royal (first-class coach tour); Causeway & Castles (sightseeing tour); Irish Adventure (self-drive tour); Ireland's Ancient East (sightseeing tour); and Dublin Delight City Stay.

With spring just around the corner, we caught up with RIT's sales manager for Canada, Jonathan Sargeant, who offers up some advice on exploring Ireland this spring from a local's standpoint—he's from Dublin, afterall!

1) Listen in on the local pub scene

Sure, music festivals are fun. 

But travellers looking for a more intimate experience with the locals should head on over to any one of Ireland's pubs, instead, advises Sargeant. 

"In Dublin, you get great live music year round, and tickets are free, as long as you sign up in advance," Sargeant said. "On our tours we include an Irish entertainment evening. And the Dublin, Killarney, and Galway City Stay tour, for example, includes a stop at Temple Bar."

But a word of advice from this local? 

"Don’t make eye contact with the dancers, because they'll definitely drag you up on stage to join in," Sargeant said.

2) Take a drive through the countryside

Unless you plan on staying in one of the big cities like Dublin or Belfast for your whole trip, renting a car in Ireland is a great way to see what the country has to offer.

Royal Irish Tours has 14 different self-drive packages that promise an epic adventure by car this spring. Self-driving tours are a great choice for travellers who crave more flexibility on vacation— there are no restrictions on where you can go, where you stay the night, or how long or how little you drive; this is a custom trip that you're in control of!

Royal Irish Tours sales manager for Canada, Jonathan Sargeant, driving around Ireland last spring.

A good route?

While the Wild Atlantic Way continues to get a lot of attention, Sargeant recommends the Causeway Coastal Route. Starting in Belfast, the drive includes some pretty famous scenery, including several spots that were used as filming locations in the hit HBO series Game of Thrones

All of RIT's self-drive tours include a full Irish breakfast daily, access to the online B&B website featuring more than 1,000 homes, a touring map of Ireland, an Ireland discount booklet, "ROYAL COVERAGE" self-drive standard car rental, and ensuite accommodation vouchers at a wide selection of B&Bs throughout Ireland, including three-, four-, and five-star properties.

Good to know

  • In Ireland, cars are driven on the left side of the road
  • The minimum age to drive is 17
  • Most car rental companies require a valid driver's license, your passport, and a credit card

3) Snack on tea and scones in an historic home

Hillsborough Castle. Photo: Tourism Ireland

Ireland is home to many old historic homes and manors, many of which are National Trust properties

The homes are generally accented by beautiful gardens. Come spring time, the flowers are in full bloom, and guests can walk amongst the flowers, or take a tour of the home and enjoy afternoon tea with scones.

The Itialian Gardens at Powerscourt House and Gardens. Photo: Tourism Ireland

"We go to Florence Court on our Causeway & Castles tour," Sargeant said. "It's a beautiful house that you can get a guided tour of, followed by exploring the magical gardens." Sargeant noted that guests booked on the Manor Royal luxury coach tour will also make a stop at Powerscourt House and Gardens, which rests on 47 acres of land, and is just 35 minutes outside of Dublin.

4) Have a sleepover in a castle

All RIT vacations come with accommodation vouchers at three-, four-, and five-star properties.

So why not a castle?

"For the most part, it’s the same price as staying in a four-star hotel in Dublin, and there’s really good value if you stay in the ones that are off-the-beaten-track," Sargeant advises. Another good tip? Booking a castle in the low-season also saves your clients a lot of money, and travel agents can earn commission on any of the accommodations RIT offers.

 Borris House, County Carlow, Ireland. Photo: Tourism Ireland.

Guests of the Causeway & Castles tour and the Manor Royal tour automatically get to spend the night at Kilronan Castle, but Sargeant says that RIT can book any castle on the self drive and chauffeur drive trips.

5) Check out new attractions—and avoid the crowds

Lough Eske Castle. Photo: Tourism Ireland

Plenty of new attractions have opened up, or are in the process of opening up in Ireland this spring.

Despite COVID-19, no major attractions in Ireland are currently closed down, though the country did announce that its St. Patrick's Day parades would be halted as a precautionary measure. Local businesses are still open, and many events are still taking place this spring.

Taking a tour through a castle (Ireland is home to more than 30,000 of them!) remains a popular option, and Sargeant recommends paying a visit to Lough Eske castle in Donegal, Ireland.

For a full list of local events happening all around the county this spring, click here!

Just for travel agents

RIT is currently offering a series of special promotions for the month of March, exclusive to travel agents.

A full list of St. Patrick's Day specials (most with airfare included) can be viewed here. The company is also running an agent incentive on now through Mar. 25, 2020. Full details can be accessed here.

RIT is also reminding travel agents that its new extended office hours are 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday to Friday, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays.

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