For many of us – and not too many generations ago – it was from the shores of Ireland and Britain that our ancestors stepped aboard ship to begin new lives on the other side of the world. This tour is a great opportunity to retrace some of their steps.
But you don’t have to be able to trace your heritage to the British Isles to take advantage of this farm tour. Despite the fierce rivalry between Australia and the “Old Country” on the sporting field, you will find the people of Ireland and Britain to be warm and welcoming to their colonial cousins. And we will be visiting during their “summer,” when the inhabitants are more likely to be in a good mood.
We will see the impossibly green countryside at its British and Irish best, including the spectacular Scottish Isles and Highlands, the Military Tattoo in Edinburgh, the Lake District, the Cotswolds, London and much more - with plenty of hi-tech and traditional agriculture in-between.
Depart Australia on Aug 7 from various Australian capitals and arrive into Dublin around lunchtime on Aug 8.
Some people may choose an earlier departure to enjoy some of your own touring in the UK or Ireland before the main group arrives.
We are met at the airport and transferred to our downtown Dublin hotel for check-in and a chance to freshen up before a light buffet lunch at the hotel. Then you are free this afternoon to relax and unwind, and if you like, have an early night.
Those hardy travelers wanting to tackle jetlag head-on might choose to step out on the town tonight with options including the Dublin theatre, a comedy show, live music or maybe even a guided bar-fly or James Joyce pub tour. The options are many and varied.
This morning we enjoy a guided tour of early Viking Dublin taking in the Liffey River and waterfront areas, Trinity College and the Book of Kells (one of the oldest books in the world), St Patrick’s Cathedral, Temple Bar and other sights. Lunch is at Ireland’s oldest pub – the Brazen Head. No tour of Dublin is complete without a visit to the beautiful St James’s Gate Guinness Brewery and the enjoyment of a ‘perfect pint’ in the magnificent Sky Bar with 360 degree views over Dublin.
The rest of the afternoon is yours to relax, shop or maybe take in some of the many cultural attractions at your own leisure. This evening we are off to the famous Merry Ploughboys for dinner and to enjoy Ireland’s best traditional music and dancing show.
Today we travel to the south-west of Dublin and into some of Ireland’s best grain growing country. We enjoy an arable farm visit in Tipperary – one the major grain producing counties. Our farmer host grows wheat, canola and oats across 500 hectares. Thanks to good soils, a favourable climate and lots of daylight hours during the growing season, Irish tillage farms have some of the highest average cereal yields in the world.
We will also visit The Rock of Cashel. This was the seat of medieval kings and bishops which flourished for 900 years until the early 17th century.
Onto Killarney for overnight. Killarney, located on the northeastern shore of Lough Leane, is rich in history and culture and one of Ireland’s most picturesque towns.
Today we tour the world famous Ring of Kerry (Iveragh Peninsula) via Killorglin, Glenbeigh, Cahersiveen, Waterville and Coomakesta Pass with its magnificent views over Derrynane – home of Daniel (The Liberator) O’Connell. Lunch today is at The Blind Piper Pub, Caherdaniel.
We will also visit a mountain coastal farm near Castlecove. Agriculture is particularly trying in this region but our farmer host plays an important role turning off weaner calves from his "suckler cow" enterprise. Beef production from grass is one of Irish farming’s greatest strengths. Ireland’s 1.1 million beef suckler cow herd is kept on about 80,000 individual farms!
We return to Killarney for overnight and a free evening.
We cross the River Shannon by ferry this morning and head north to the spectacular Atlantic west coast. We visit the magnificent Cliffs of Moher and a nearby and unique ‘co-operative’ where beef production and keen walkers are the major enterprises for the Sweeney farm. We also travel through the famous limestone barren outcrops of the Burren region. Towns along the way include Lisdoonvarna, Ballyvaughan and Kinvarra before we arrive at Galway – the “City of the Tribes” where the River Corrib meets the Atlantic Ocean. We have a brief walking tour of the historic centre to get your bearings. The city’s hub is the 18th-century Eyre Square, a popular meeting spot surrounded by shops and traditional pubs offering live Irish folk music. Stone-clad cafes, boutiques and art galleries line the winding lanes of the Latin Quarter, which retains portions of the medieval city walls. Then it’s a free evening. You might like to check-out some of the many great pubs including The Quays or Ti Neachtain, which once belonged to “Humanity Dick”, an 18th–century MP who promoted laws against cruelty to animals.
We travel into the Connemara region today with its landscapes ranging from seaside hamlets, rusty bogs, lonely valleys, mountains ranges and shimmering black lakes. We are now in Gaeltacht country where traditional Irish (Gaelic) is the local tongue. Sheep and wool production is also carried on by the local and very hardy farmers of Connemara.
We continue onto Kylemore Abbey and its magnificent walled garden, nestled majestically at the base of Duchruach Mountain on the northern shore of Lough Pollacappu. We also visit Joyce Country Sheepdogs which is part of a family-run Connemara hill-farm. Joe and Mary Ann Joyce grow Connemara Blackface sheep and train (and sell) Border Collie sheepdogs – which we will see hard at work. We continue onto the beautiful city of Westport on the shores of Clew Bay.
We continue northeast towards Sligo this morning with an arable farm visit on the way. We then cross into Northern Ireland to visit the historic and famed Belleek Pottery Centre. In 1849 John Caldwell Bloomfield inherited the Castlecaldwell Estate, which encompassed the village of Belleek. Mindful of the plight of his tenants in the aftermath of the potato famine he sought to provide some form of worthwhile employment. An amateur mineralogist, he ordered a geological survey of his land. The survey revealed the necessary raw materials to make pottery – feldspar, kaolin, flint, clay and shale. Nestling on the banks of the River Erne, John Caldwell Bloomfield built the imposing Belleek Pottery, home to the world famous Belleek Fine Parian china.
It’s then back into Ireland and Donegal County. Donegal’s motto is “Up here, it’s different”. The county’s interior is spectacular and rugged, making farming a particular challenge. But it is the precipitous cliffs, golden beaches and rugged peninsulas of Donegal that no other Irish county can boast in such number and beauty.
North this morning through the magnificent Glenveagh region and onto the spectacular north Antrim coast. We visit Giant's Causeway, the home of many legends and where an estimated 37,000 basalt columns extend from coastal cliffs down into the sea. We also visit a farm near Armoy. Here we see the complex intermingling of farm subsidies and programs such as "Countryside Management Schemes" and "Northern Ireland Beef Quality Initiatives". Pasture fed pedigree Belgian Blue and Hereford beef herds are the major enterprises with some cereals and silage.
We continue south via Ballymoney and Ballymena and into Belfast. In many ways this is a brand-new city. Once lumped with Beirut, Baghdad and Bosnia, in recent years Belfast has pulled off a remarkable transformation to be a very happening destination.
The head of the slipway where the world’s most (in)famous ocean liner – the Titanic – was built is now occupied by the gleaming new, angular edifice of Titanic Belfast. This is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the world and an unmissable multimedia extravaganza that charts the history of Belfast and the creation of the Titanic. After a guided city tour this morning to get our bearings – and a visit to this fantastic Titanic exhibit – it’s a free afternoon and evening in Belfast.
Depart Belfast early this morning and travel north to Ballycastle where we board our ferry bound for Port Ellen, one hour to the north on Islay – just one of the majestic western isles of Scotland’s Inner Hebrides.
These rugged, lush isles are made even more dramatic with a mixture of hills, moors, farmlands and sea lochs. While on Islay and nearby Jura we will visit farms and of course one of the whisky distilleries expertly transforming the local barley farmers’ produce into the world famous Islay single malts. Time has stood still in these venerable institutions, where methods have changed little for generations.
On fine, sunny days there are few places in the world that can match the dazzling beauty of the western isles of Scotland. Let’s hope for good weather as we further explore Islay and Jura and soak in the atmosphere of these remote, sparsely inhabitated isles. This isolation sinks in when you consider that George Orwell chose a remote Jura croft house to write his classic novel, 1984. He was originally going to call the book The Last Man in Europe, such was his sense of isolation. Jura is among the wildest and most rugged fragments of coastal Britain. There are stags on the hills, otters by the shore and golden eagles among the crags – and barely 200 people living by its only single-track road.
Free evening in Port Ellen.
This morning we catch our ferry from Port Askaig (Islay) and sail north through the Hebridean Isles to Oban on the west coast of the Scottish mainland. We are in the heart of the Scottish Highlands and in the shadows of Ben Nevis. At 1344 metres, Ben Nevis is the highest peak in the British Isles. We continue onto our overnight destination on the shores of Loch Ness. Welcome to Loch Ness Lodge, an elegant and exclusive retreat in the heart of the Scottish Highlands overlooking the mysterious and beautiful Loch Ness. This is a truly inspirational setting.
This morning we’ll do some monster spotting as we continue to the northeast and travel along the shores of Loch Ness. Loch Ness is the second largest Scottish loch in area (56 sq km) but due to its great depth (230 m at the deepest point), it is the largest by volume.
We leave Loch Ness and enter the fertile Scottish Lowlands. We visit the site of the famous Battle of Culloden Field – the final confrontation of the 1745-46 Jacobite Rising – and the last pitched battle fought on British soil. The Hanoverian (British loyalists) victory at Culloden stopped the Jacobite army’s (House of Stuart nationalists made up largely of Scottish Highlanders) attempts to overthrow the House of Hanover and restore the House of Stuart to the British throne.
We have a farm visit in the Lowlands before re-entering the Highlands where we will follow the full production trail from on-farm nurturing of malt barley through to the distilling of single malt whisky.
Built in 1893, where the rivers Fiddich and Spey come together, our 26-room Craigellachie Hotel stands at the very heart of Speyside and its whisky trail. Speyside is the largest whisky region in the world and with over 900 whiskies lining its walls, the Quaich Bar at the Craigellachie is widely regarded as the world’s leading whisky bar.
From wild Scottish berries, to Aberdeen Angus beef and Isle of Mull scallops or Shetland mussels, Speyside boasts a wealth of beautiful fresh produce.
More touring of this magical region, including a farm visit, before a free afternoon and evening... perhaps a spot of salmon fishing, canoeing, bike riding or a stroll along the Spey ... or just relax at our grand hotel with a good book and a wee dram.
We travel south through magnificent scenery this morning before arriving at Edinburgh. To get our bearings, we have a guided tour of this wonderful city including sights such as Edinburgh Castle, the famed Royal Botanical Gardens and Giles’ Cathedral. This evening we are off to the world famous Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo. Taking place on the esplanade of Edinburgh's iconic Castle, this is an unforgettable evening of music, ceremony, theatre and dance. The Tattoo is very much a 'global gathering' showcasing the talents of musicians and performers from every corner of the globe.
A leisurely start today before travelling south and into England with a farm visit on the way to the famed Lake District of Cumbria. Here we find out for ourselves what inspired people like William Wordsworth when surrounded by the spectacular hills, lakes, woodlands, villages and farms of this beautiful area.
The Lake District measures around 70 km from north to south and is 50 km wide.
Our accommodation tonight is the Burnside Hotel – set in mature gardens with views overlooking Lake Windermere and the surrounding lakeland fells.
Our hotel is ideally situated and just a short stroll from the steamer piers that travel the length of Windermere and the bustling village centre of Bowness-on-Windermere. It's a perfect location for exploring the many historic, cultural and contemporary attractions within the Lake District including Beatrix Potter's 'Hilltop'.
Some free time this morning before boarding our coach again bound for the nearby Yorkshire Dales. All Creatures Great and Small becomes real life as we meander through this spectacular undulating countryside. This is “James Herriott country”, the area where he lived, worked and wrote his books. We visit a Dales’ dairy sheep and arable farm before continuing onto Harrogate.
Harrogate is a beautiful Victorian spa town in North Yorkshire. It is home to the famous Betty’s tea rooms, Harlow Carr Gardens and Harrogate Spa Water and charming floral displays. Free evening in Harrogate.
Our accommodation – The Old Swan – is one of the most famous hotels in Harrogate, with a history going back nearly 200 years.
Surrounded by lawns and gardens, and just a short walk from the town centre, the hotel combines Victorian splendour with contemporary luxury.
From its revolving doors to its famous glass-ceilinged Wedgwood Restaurant, the Hotel exudes romance and mystery. It was to this tranquil haven that Agatha Christie famously disappeared in 1926, resulting in a public furore over the 11 days that she could not be traced.
Nearby is the city of York which has a history that dates back to before Roman times and boasts some wonderfully preserved historical buildings and structures. Time permitting this morning we will have a brief tour of York before continuing to the southwest and into the English Midlands. Here we visit Sturton Grange – an arable farm as well as hi-tech hydroponic and cold storage facility near Leeds. Operated by the Makin family and established in 1956, the farm has diversified into numerous successful ventures. Hydroponic strawberries and the UK’s largest importer of new potatoes are just two ‘diversified’ examples.
We continue onto Chatsworth House, a working farm estate and one of Britain’s grandest country homes. Chatsworth is home to the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, and has been passed down through 16 generations of the Cavendish family. The house is renowned for the quality of its art, landscape, gardens and hospitality, and it has evolved through the centuries to reflect the tastes, passions and interests of succeeding generations. We tour both the House and farm before continuing on to the bustling market town of Bollington for overnight. Our accommmodation is the historic Gothic/Tudor style Hollin Hall Country Hotel built on the outskirts of Bollington village in 1870.
Onto the Cotswolds this morning – a spectacularly beautiful region of rural England. We travel the backroads of the postcard perfect Cotswolds with its trademark and traditional drystone walls and thatched roofs of its country homes and cottages. We also visit a nearby arable farm before overnight in Cheltenham.
This unique regency town was specifically designed in its 18th and 19th century heyday as a pleasure health resort for wealthy visitors – today the town is often referred to as Cheltenham Spa. Many of the regency, architectural and heritage features remain, with the town maintaining much of its original culture.
We’re off to Old London Town this morning, about two hours drive to the east. On the way, we will stop for lunch and a guided tour of the hallowed grounds of Oxford.
We check into our hotel in the leafy and relaxed area of Central London's northern fringe. This is a fashionable residential area that contains some of London’s finest parks, buildings and grand garden squares – Russell Square, Bedford Square, Bloomsbury Square, and Coram Fields. We are in a great location with easy access to the British Musuem, and a leisurely 5 to 10 minute walk to London’s theatre-district and the shopping mecca of Covent Garden. There are also Tube stations a short stroll away.
We have an afternoon guided tour of just some of the many city highlights including Buckingham Palace and the Palace of Westminster. The tour will include a cruise on the Thames before a free evening to do your own exploring of this wonderful city. There’s also a great range of theatre and musical opportunities with scores of West End and other London theatre-district shows very near to the hotel. Most evening shows start at 7.30 pm.
A free day in London before we enjoy a farewell dinner at the hotel.
Transfer to the airport for our flight/s home.
Some group members might like to stay on for extra days in London or additional European travel.