Seniors on Europe tours that explore Ireland get a first-hand look at the lush nature and rich culture of the stunning country, from its rolling green hills to unique Gaelic cuisine. As visitors make their way from the capital city of Dublin, through Killarney and onto Belfast, they're exposed to many of the most popular features of the nation, such as gorgeous cathedrals, sculpted gardens and a medieval fortress. Get ready to be awed by these intriguing Emerald Isle attractions:
St. Patrick's Cathedral
During a Best of Ireland Tour, travelers will stop by the largest church in the country: St. Patrick's Cathedral. Situated in the heart of Dublin, the building was erected in 1220 as the first school in the country, and it received cathedral status four years later. Today, it is officially recognized as the National Cathedral of the Church of Ireland and attracts tourists from all around the globe.
The place of Anglican worship is a sight to behold, designed in the Gothic and Early English architectural styles. Tour members can learn about the rich history behind this church and the many renowned figures who've visited, such as Queen Victoria, Prince Albert and King James I. Seniors may also be surprised to learn that it's the resting place of "Gulliver's Travels" author Jonathan Swift, who was the head of the cathedral in his day.
Rock of Cashel
While making the way from Dublin to Cork, travelers will make a stop at the Rock of Cashel in South Tipperary. This collection of historic ruins is perched atop a lofty hilltop 200 feet high, providing a spectacular view of the expanse of plains below. Guests can explore the Medieval buildings, some of which date as far back as the 1100s, though archaeological digs have revealed proof that people resided here as early as the 9th century.
While visitors will see features like a castle built in the 1400s and Gothic church from the 1200s, the highlight of the site is the 12th-century Romanesque cathedral that some believe was intended for use by Benedictine monks. Known as Cormac Chapel, it contains the oldest wall paintings in Ireland - they were hidden by paint for more than 400 years before being discovered in the 1980s.
It's no big surprise that most affordable travel packages that tour Ireland include a visit to Blarney Castle. This famous attraction is a Medieval structure situated near Cork; however, it's not the first structure to be built on this location. The original was erected in 1210 and was later replaced with another stone building that was, in turn, demolished and became the foundation for the current version of Blarney Castle that seniors see today. The one that remains now was built in 1446 by the King of Munster, Dermot McCarthy. It remained under the royal family's power until 1646 when Oliver Cromwell took over with the help of cannon guns, though the McCarthy's took back power when King Charles II took the throne. The fortress is also home to the Blarney Stone, the famed bluestone block incorporated into the settlements of the castle.
Ulster American Folk Park
While discovering this gorgeous locale, tour members can learn about the intriguing story of Irish emigration at Ulster American Folk Park. This landscape is speckled with features that take visitors back to a simpler time - 18th and 19th century Ulster. Throughout its several cottages, it teaches about the exodus and adaptation of the settlers after they arrived here aboard a sailing ship. Characters adorned in era attire tell old folk stories and put on demonstrations, while an outdoor museum comprised of several buildings expose the difficult conditions of emigrant life - the famous Mellon Homestead, for example, gives you a peek into the 19th century residence of a settler family.
During this tour, senior travel groups will be exposed to a little-known secret of Ireland - Belfast is birthplace of the Titanic. The city embraces this intriguing aspect of history with Titanic Belfast, an attraction that has attracted more than 1 million people since opening in March 2012. Guests will stroll through four wings of the institution, each of which is shaped like a hull. The six floors of space contain nine huge galleries that teach patrons about the history of the ship and its production in Belfast in the 1900s. Along with being able to look at re-creations of the Titanic from the inside, seniors can delve into the stories of the crewmembers and passengers as well as the details of its sinking in April 1912.
These attractions are just a select sample of the cultural, historical and natural attractions featured on an affordable travel tour of Ireland. Other intriguing sites include Killarney National Park, Bunratty Castle & Folk Park and Moll's Gap.