It may not astonish you to hear that the Guinness Factory Warehouse is the #1 visitor attraction in Ireland, but have you heard about Cruise Ireland?

Jump into Ireland at the Beverly Hilton, Los Angeles on October 24th treated travel agents and writers to Ireland’s rich heritage and the latest and greatest tourist opportunities.  At a pub-like meet and greet with a glass and a bite to eat in hand, a trio greeted us with traditional lively Irish sound.  Trade representatives shared their specialty one-on-one, and set the stage for more to come.

The Gathering Ireland 2013 is a year-long Irish party on the Emerald Isle.  Welcomed are the seventy million individuals claiming Irish ancestry today, and anyone for any reason.
Seated at small rounds with plates of local Irish cheeses, breads, and salmon with capers, actors transported us through Ireland via a grand sketch.
Guinness’ Fiona Herald opened with a spotlight on the Guinness Storehouse Tour in Dublin at St. James’ Gate Brewery.  From the history to the hops, taking in the lesson of the correct pour and the rooftop Gravity Bar, I was taken back to my own visit with a smile.  Moments before I volunteered for future service when Fiona informed me Guinness was developing cocktails for women. On the horizon, too, is a special concierge bar for fifteen guests at the brewery.

John Godfrey from Brendan Vacations passionately highlighted their “Taking You Personally” motto for destinations and chauffeured driving experiences.
Manor House Hotels and Irish Country Hotels’ Roisin Wallace offered us their portfolio of superb hotels and castles. The latter are independently owned and promote Irish economy through jobs and locally produced food.

Joe Hughes and Stan McIlvenny enlightened us on Cruise Ireland.  Many large cruise lines (Crystal, Silversea, Holland America, Cunard) now include Irish ports (Londonderry, Belfast, Dublin, Cork) on British Isles cruises. Because of the way these ports were planned and structured, passengers can easily access Ireland’s coastal cities, providing yet another way to enjoy a taste of the Emerald Isle.

Luring us to the west, Regina O’Donaghue presented Ashford Castle, dating to 1228, and once owned by Sir Benjamin Guinness.  Simply stunning, on the shores of Lough Corrib, the iconic castle has hosted many famous guests.  On this list are actors John Wayne and Maureen O’ Hara from The Quiet Man, filmed in the early 1950s in the nearby town of Cong in County Mayo and adjacent County Galway.  Ashford Castle remains a must for many lucky travelers.

Adams & Butler’s Siobhan Byrne Learat showcased unusual, authentic luxury agendas in Ireland featuring chauffeurs with roots in the aristocracy and intimate knowledge of private places in Ireland.
In the southeast, Waterford ’s  David McCoy enticed us with the spectacular House of Waterford Crystal, its factory tour and retail store, as well as the Waterford Museum of Treasures and Waterford Castle Hotel.
Globus Family of Brands provides escorted and independent vacation experiences in Ireland, offered Cheryl Ormond.

Jeroen Quint from Solis Hotels took us to Lough Eske (translated, a lake full of fish) Castle, a 5 star hotel in Donegal.  Originating in the fourteenth century, the site was restored from ruins to a lavish five-star hotel in 2007, offering luxury for the leisure or business traveler in its 96 rooms.

A gourmet supper with Irish fare, a jig with audience participation, and a mini golf championship complimented our mythical tour of Ireland. 

All eyes were on …the gossamer- winged female duo of Sapphira.  Their fiddling stole the show with typical Irish intensity, finesse and fun.

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