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A tour on the Emerald Isle

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Once a year the combined forces of several U3A groups go on holiday. This year Lesley Titchmarsh, who organises the holidays, chose to go to Ireland and what follows is Lesley’s account.

“On Sunday June 10 2018, 45 members of Wetherby & District U3A, set off bright and early to Galway and the Arran Islands on the west coast of Southern Ireland. We stayed at the Menlo Park Hotel four-star dinner bed and breakfast in Galway for four nights and the last night had dinner and bed in the four-star Johnstown Estate near Dublin where they had excellent leisure facilities.

We travelled by coach to Holyhead, ferry to Dublin and by coach to Galway arriving at 8.15pm, where refreshments awaited us.

On Monday we had a full day touring Connemara including about 3 hours to explore Kylemore Abbey. We continued along the Wild Atlantic Way to join the catamaran Leenane for a spectacular cruise including Irish coffee on the Killary Fiord.

Tuesday, we had a free day after a short-guided tour of Galway by coach and enjoyed the Cathedral, historic harbour and Quay Street. Some did a walking tour of the centre, some did a river cruise, and some chose to use the hop on hop off bus.

The next day was a long day to traditional old Ireland and the weather was not kind to us. We took the ferry to Inishmore in the Arran Islands for a guided tour of the Island by mini buses. A visit to Dun Aengus historic fort which has magnificent views on a good day, for those that want to take the 20-30-minute uphill walk. Most of our group did the walk but alas due to the weather did not get the views. We then had time to explore Kilronan village, various craft shops and Heritage Centre. It was very interesting talking to our local guide, who said he had two small fields about a mile apart. He had five cows and five calves and three sons and a wife, who, he told us did not work as she had to look after him and the three children. When asked what he did in the winter he replied, “not a lot”.

We left Galway the following morning bound for the Irish National Stud and Japanese Gardens, where our amusing and informative guide took us to the paddocks and stables to see the world-famous stallions and all the mares and foals. We learned that a stallion called Invincible Spirit earned 80% of what it cost per year to run the stud farm. After the guided tour of the stud farm we had lunch in their beautiful cafe and then enjoyed the celebrated Japanese Gardens.

We moved on for a short visit to a silver factory and then on to the Johnstown Estate near Dublin for our last overnight stay, leaving for home in the morning. The group was delighted with how well Deidre Brown and John, our driver, looked after us, and we look forward to another holiday in 2019”.

I asked Lavina and Ken Beaumont, who went along on the trip, to tell me more.

“The luxury coach provided for the tour was equipped with leather reclining seats and modified by the removal of the rear seats to provide a kitchen for use whilst travelling. U3A members were able to eat and drink on the move as the tour guide (Deidre), produced sandwiches, toasted tea cakes, hot beverages etc as we travelled through England, Wales and Ireland. Afternoon beverages included G & T, wine, beer, etc making for very ‘relaxed’ afternoons for those who partook. One other feature of the coach was a front facing camera which allowed the front window view to be shared by all as it was displayed on drop down tv monitors inside the coach. It could be said that the coach was fitted with 45 front seats.

One other benefit of the tour was the opportunity to meet other members of the U3A, from groups that perhaps one would not normally encounter. Overall, this was a very informative, relaxing and importantly friendly tour”.