What’s it like for an unbiased solo traveler on a gaggle tour?
It is a query that’s usually requested in our Fb group, the Solo Journey Society.
Sturdy opinions are typically expressed. There are those that consider that solely those that journey independently are solo vacationers. There are those that consider that so long as you set out alone to affix a tour, you might be touring solo. Some desire the corporate of others on a tour. Some desire solitude.
At Solo Traveler, we take the extra expansive view that you could determine for your self what constitutes solo journey. So whether or not you intend each little element your self or desire to have another person maintain it, whether or not you wander a few vacation spot alone or within the firm of individuals you meet alongside the way in which, whether or not you set out alone and be part of day excursions every so often or e book your self on a gaggle tour in a personal room and even share with a stranger, you might be working towards your individual fashion of solo journey.
Virtually all of my journey has been of the unbiased selection, so when Globus invited me to expertise their new journey fashion referred to as Alternative Touring, I jumped on the probability. I took their Inexperienced with Envy: Eire by Design tour so I may offer you a perspective as an unbiased solo traveler on a gaggle tour.
Solo Traveler on a Group Tour: 8 Days in Eire
Day 1: Arrive in Dublin
Relying on arrival time, some vacationers had time to discover a little bit of Dublin on the primary day. The primary scheduled occasion within the itinerary is dinner at your resort to satisfy your tour director and the remainder of the group. We stayed at The Gibson, a contemporary, 4-star resort within the Dublin Docklands space.
A very nice buffet breakfast is included day by day, with numerous selection. If you’re a espresso lover, I’ll enterprise to say that you’ll not be impressed with any common espresso served to you in a resort restaurant in Eire. The secret is to search for a espresso machine that makes cappuccinos and lattes. That is the most effective you are going to do, however it additionally provides the added bonus of takeout cups so you may seize and go.
If, like me, you are not a morning particular person, you’ll admire that takeout espresso. It’s possible you’ll not admire the 7:00 am breakfast time in case you are accustomed to waking by yourself schedule while you journey. Because the journey progressed, although, I found that as a solo traveler on a gaggle tour, I obtained extra out of my day by having an outlined wakeup time. With a deadline to be packed and have my baggage able to be picked up and loaded on the bus, my day was prolonged and I really ate breakfast, which I regularly do not do.
Day 2: Dublin-Kilbeggan-Athlone-Westport
On Day 2, we hit the highway and began the journey off with a bang with a guided tour of a distillery and a morning whiskey tasting at Kilbeggan Distilling Co. Established in 1757, there’s numerous historical past inside these partitions. The tour was actually attention-grabbing, however I am afraid I wasn’t sturdy sufficient to style the three whiskeys that had been supplied. My fellow vacationers made up for it, although.
Subsequent up: extra whiskey! We traveled to Athlone and visited the oldest pub in Eire, Sean’s Bar. As our Tour Director identified, many locations declare to be “the oldest in Eire” however this one has some credentials; Sean’s Bar has been formally acknowledged by the Guinness E book of Data as Eire’s Oldest Pub. They make a imply Irish Espresso. It was nonetheless earlier than lunchtime once I visited, however it struck me as a pub I’d like to return to within the night.
I wandered round Athlone, marveling on the stained glass home windows in St. Peter and Paul’s Church, created by the Harry Clarke Studios. I joined a few of my group members for lunch in one other pub, after which it was off to Westport.
I discovered the pacing of the tour to be glorious. There was loads of time to wander and do your individual factor, however not a lot that you simply had been ready round for the bus to take you to the following vacation spot. It was additionally a deal with to not need to be continually determining get from place to put. Having that half taken care of by another person meant that I may cowl extra floor extra simply than if I had been touring independently.
When you’re contemplating a gaggle tour however are deterred by excessive single dietary supplements, try our continually up to date record of excursions which, like this one by Globus, function dietary supplements of 20% or much less.
In Westport, we stayed on the 4-star Westport Plaza Lodge. The rooms had been spacious, some with jacuzzi tubs, and mine had a small balcony. A gastrobar was positioned on the bottom flooring, the place I joined the tour group for dinner. This was additionally the place breakfast was served. The resort has a spa, which I used to be not in a position to make time to go to. All in all, a really comfy place to relaxation your head on the finish of a day of exploring.
Day 3: Westport
In Westport, we had our first alternative to choose from a roster of actions. This is likely one of the benefits of the Alternative Touring by Globus choices–you do not have to do the identical issues as your journey mates, you may select based on your pursuits.
In my case, I used to be actually excited to study to make Irish soda bread and scones. Childhood mates, Mary (beforehand a medical scientist) and Carmel (beforehand a house economics trainer), personal and function The Irish Soda Bread Approach in Westport. Since just one different traveler within the group joined me, Mary drove us to Carmel’s dwelling for our baking class as a substitute of the business kitchen the place they might usually host bigger teams. What a beautiful alternative to not solely study to make conventional baked items, however to sit down round a desk and chat about life with locals over tea and Irish espresso!
For individuals who weren’t fascinated with baking, there have been extra outdoorsy choices to select from. A few of the group selected a guided e-bike tour of Westport and others explored the seashores and cliffs of Achill Island, Eire’s largest island.
Dinner was on our personal on Day 3, so my classmate and I loved a beautiful, leisurely meal of native, seasonal components at The Curious Fish then wandered again by way of the gorgeous city of Westport to our resort.
Day 4: Westport-Kylemore-Maam Cross-Galway
Having visited Kylemore Abbey on a earlier journey to Eire, this time I bypassed the Abbey and took the shuttle bus out to the gardens. Despite the truth that it rained continuous, it was a colourful, solitary stroll and a breath of recent air.
From the formal flower backyard, planted within the late Victorian fashion and containing solely plant varieties that had been launched previous to 1901 to the glasshouses the place fruit and tropical vegetation had been grown to the much less formal wooded trails, the great thing about all of it transcended the gray and wet climate. As somebody who wants numerous alone time, it was good. I significantly loved the Fern Stroll, the place a mess of ferns develop alongside a burbling stream within the shade of tall bushes.
I really like the panorama of Connemara and the drive from Kylemore to Galway is certainly one of my favorites. With the ability to sit again and take within the view is such a pleasure. Our Tour Director organized for us to cease alongside the way in which to take pictures.
One of many issues I had puzzled about group excursions was whether or not I’d discover it exhausting speaking to folks on a regular basis. Our group, at the least, fell into a really comfy sample of chatting after we felt prefer it, staring out the window (and even snoozing) after we felt like that. There was no strain to be “on” and we had been all respectful of each other’s area.
Our Tour Director, Helen Lee was astounding. Her information of Irish historical past and tradition is encyclopedic. She regaled us with tales of myths and legends, private anecdotes from her family, historic occasions, and extra. She was humorous and enjoyable but in addition stored us all in line so we had been all the time on time and by no means missed a factor. I sat near the entrance of the bus, so I may see how laborious she labored. I realized a lot greater than I’d have whereas touring independently, and the knowledge was all delivered in such a private method that it felt like a dialog with an outdated good friend.
The subsequent cease was Galway and time for one more Alternative Touring possibility. We may select from a strolling tour of town adopted by dinner and drinks in an area pub or a meals tour of Galway’s specialties with tastings at each cease.
I heard nice issues concerning the strolling tour, and I can vouch for the meals tour. We tasted every part from espresso to ice cream, pastries to cured meats, oysters to cheese, and extra, washed down with beer, brandy, whiskey, and gin. My favorites had been the gin and pink peppercorn ice cream at Murphy’s and the gin and tonic (is there a theme right here?) on the Galway Metropolis Distillery Co. If I had been to go once more, I’d plan forward to take their gin-making class.
One other good night time’s sleep was had, this time on the Maldron Lodge Galway. This one was slightly out of the way in which, which was high-quality for me, as I used to be able to put my ft up. However even for individuals who had been able to maintain going late into the night, it was only a cab journey away from the pubs.
Day 5: Galway-Inis Mór
On Day 5 we had probably the most stunning climate of all the journey–and it could not have occurred on a greater day, as we had been taking a ferry to Inis Mór, one of many Aran Islands. The skies had been so brilliantly blue and the solar so shiny on the intensely inexperienced grass, it appeared unreal.
After lunch at Ti Joe Watty’s pub, together with a musical efficiency by an area musician, we set out on a minibus tour of the island. It was an effective way to cowl numerous floor, with enormous home windows and a working commentary from the motive force.
We made a couple of stops to wander about and take pictures, then headed for the prehistoric clifftop fort of Dun Aengus. Many of the group made the trek as much as the fort, however I selected to not climb up. As a substitute, I wandered across the outlets, watched a thatched roof being put in (one thing I had by no means seen earlier than), admired the surroundings, met a girl who shared with me a recipe for Sea Spaghetti Salad (so after all, I had to purchase sea spaghetti!), and bought among the beautiful Aran Island wool merchandise (which, a lot to my shock, they shipped dwelling to Canada for me for gratis).
Following the go to to Dun Aengus, the motive force took us again to the place we had began. Alongside the way in which, we noticed extra Island sights, together with the realm the place the movie The Banshees of Inisherin was filmed. Some went procuring, a few of us gathered at a pub for refreshment, then we headed again to the ferry.
Day 6: Galway-Cliffs of Moher-Rathbaun Farm-Dublin
The Cliffs of Moher are a type of iconic Irish landmarks that I might seen in pictures, movies, and journey books, however by no means in particular person. They don’t disappoint! Our tour took us there on Day 6 to view the cliffs, take pictures, and wander by way of the customer heart. This was actually the one level the place I felt like I used to be on my concept of a stereotypical group tour, the place buses pull up, folks empty out right into a crowded customer heart, there are massive lineups for washrooms, and so on. However, if you wish to see a well-liked website like that, there’s actually no getting round it.
The Cliffs of Moher had been adopted by an expertise that was fully completely different and wouldn’t have been out there to me as an unbiased traveler. We visited Rathbaun Farm, a working sheep farm, for a scrumptious lunch, together with recent baked scones, a tour, and an indication of sheep herding by a canine in coaching. It was a wee glimpse right into a life I knew little about.
Night introduced us to a different Alternative Touring choice: a night at Taylor’s Irish Cabaret, together with a 3-course dinner with wine and a present or a literary pub crawl round Dublin together with dinner and drinks. I selected the cabaret as a result of I had by no means seen Irish dancers carry out reside, and I am glad I did. These weren’t simply any dancers, however world champions who traveled the world representing their nation. The dinner, despite the truth that they had been serving an enormous crowd, was scrumptious and it was enjoyable to satisfy different vacationers seated close by.
Again in Dublin once more, we stayed at The Samuel Lodge, only a stone’s throw from the place we had stayed on the primary night time, within the Docklands.
Day 7: Dublin
On our remaining tour day, we began with an orientation tour of Dublin. It was an amazing overview of among the highlights, and gave folks concepts of issues they wished to discover extra on their very own. We then toured the Guinness Storehouse, which was fairly spectacular. I am not likely a beer drinker, and even I discovered it fascinating. Ground after flooring of reveals concerning the historical past and manufacturing of Guinness can actually make you’re employed up a thirst. Which is why, once I reached the seventh flooring, I took a seat within the Gravity Bar and loved a beer. It is true that it tastes completely different in Eire!
The remainder of the day was free time till all of us gathered for a remaining farewell dinner at a close-by restaurant. It was a enjoyable wind right down to an amazing week, and an opportunity to thank our superb information and Tour Director–and decide her mind for extra issues to do in Dublin, for these of us who had been staying on.
Day 8: Depart or Proceed Exploring on Your Personal
The ultimate day ended with breakfast and folks departed for the airport at varied occasions or, if they’d time, caught round to take pleasure in Dublin for a day or two.
You’ll be able to learn extra about how I spent my free time in Dublin on this publish: Solo in Dublin: A Incredible Vacation spot to Discover.
Did I Get pleasure from Being a Solo Traveler On a Group Tour?
So there you will have it: a blow-by-blow of my expertise as a solo traveler on my first group tour. Would I do it once more? A tour like this one, with a lot free time and selection of non-obligatory excursions, sure. Most of the tiresome points of unbiased journey had been eradicated, and plenty of issues had been made simpler: no worrying about get from A to B or calculating the timing, no lugging luggage on and off buses and trains, no stress over resort reservations or day excursions that will not take single bookings. Would I quit unbiased journey? Not an opportunity. However there’s a completely happy spot in between group and unbiased journey the place this tour sits, and I loved every part it needed to provide.
Thanks to Globus for sponsoring my journey on their Inexperienced with Envy: Eire by Design tour. All experiences and impressions are my very own, and Solo Traveler maintains full editorial management over all content material.
Final up to date: seventh January, 2023