This is the year of the Emerald Isle. From across the world, anyone with Irish ancestry and heritage is flocking to the country for a year of special events, festivities and reunions, known as ‘The Gathering’. Here are some suggestions for making the most of a group visit to Ireland.

VISIT

One of Ireland’s most visited gardens and a highly popular tourism destination, Powerscourt Estate is just 20km south of Dublin city centre. Set in the wild Wicklow countryside, overlooking the Sugarloaf Mountain, the gardens stretch over 47 acres and offer magnificent views of the surrounding countryside. From the ornate Italian Gardens, to the formal walks of the Rose and Kitchen Gardens, there is much for groups to see and explore. Unique features include the Japanese Gardens which offer a maze of walkways and hidden grottos and a tower modelled on a pepperpot. Groups can enjoy the lovely display of summer colour in the Walled Garden as hundreds of perfumed roses come into bloom and experience the long tradition of gardening at Powerscourt with a visit to the herbaceous border, which features over 700 varieties of plants and shrubs and is the longest border of its kind in Ireland. In autumn, the tree-lined avenue at Powerscourt sees hundreds of trees turn to golden yellow and red. The maple in the Japanese Gardens is also a beautiful sight in autumn as its leaves turn to vibrant red, pale yellow and deep purple.

The Terrace Café offers home-cooked cuisine including soups, salads, sandwiches and desserts. It is run by the Avoca Group, a highly popular food brand in Ireland. After lunch, visitors can browse the craft and interior shops or the nearby garden centre. Powerscourt has parking for both cars and coaches. Group rates are available and the travel trade are welcome to enjoy a familiarisation visit.

Info:   00353 12046000  carmel.byrne@powerscourt.net      www.powerscourt.ie/groups

Down south in County Cork, Bantry House and Garden is a beautiful privately-owned stately home, sitting in a stunning location with views over Bantry Bay. It has been in the White family since the mid 1700s and has always been lived in, creating a unique sense of luxury and homeliness rolled into one. Guided tours for groups can be booked in advance. The Bantry House tearoom serves light lunches and teas, all homemade by a team in the kitchen. They are now also serving a traditional afternoon tea in the library of Bantry House (advance booking required) for €25 per person/€30 with glass of prosecco. A group lunch and tea menu is available.

Info:    00353 2750047   info@bantryhouse.com


TRAVEL

“You’re never late for the ferry, just early for the next one”

Shannonferry Group Ltd. operates the Killimer-Tarbert car ferry, linking the main tourist routes of Ireland’s Shannon Region on the ‘Wild Atlantic Way’. There are scheduled sailings every day on the route from Killimer, County Clare, to Tarbert, County Kerry. There are spectacular views from the ferry during the crossing and if you are lucky you will spot some of the many bottle-nosed dolphins that are resident in the Shannon Estuary.

The pleasant twenty minute journey across can save up to one and a half hours of travel if going the long way round and there are multiple attractions on both sides of the estuary. In Co. Clare, groups should not miss the Cliffs of Moher, The Burren, Doolin, Lahinch, Kilrush and the medieval town of Ennis along with The Loophead Penisula and many more. When travelling to Kerry, you can take in Ballybunion, Listowel, Tralee, Dingle, Killarney, and The Lakes and The Ring of Kerry. Both counties are blessed with beautiful scenery and some of the best golfcourses in the country.

A number of ferry ticket options are available. No reservation is necessary as fares are payable on board, but reduced fares are available if you buy online in advance: foot passenger tickets will cost €4.50 and car tickets (including passengers) start from €16.20, with multi-trip saver deals available. Each ferry can carry all types of vehicles, including cars, coaches, caravans, commercial vehicles and motorcycles.

Tea, coffee and snacks are available on board and groups departing from the Clare side can take advantage of the visitor centre and coffee shop. There is also a picnic area with a lovely view.

Info:   0353 65 905 3124    www.shannonferries.com

For groups extending their trip on to the continent, Celtic Link Ferries run a service from Rosslare in County Wexford to Cherbourg in France. Offering the best rates available, they were established in 2005 and run three sailings a week in each direction. Onboard facilities include the Cherbourg Bar for drinks, a restaurant, cinema, shop and play area for children. Celtic Link Ferries also offer cabins for the crossing, ranging from 2-berth to 6-berth.

Info: 00 353 53 9162688 groups@celticlinkferries.com   celticlinkferries.com