Latest news and reviews.....both the May and June Tours of Ireland's Hidden Gems have been completed for 2018. What a great time we all had...The weather was spectacular for all of the May Tour, not as good the first week of the June Tour but the second week made up for it and it certainly didn't dampen the spirits of this wildly enthusiastic group! There was plenty of time for the high stools and they even tried their hand at Hurling and Irish dancing....Starting to get all geared up for the 2019 Tours if you are interested click on the following link? Or read on for some lovely reviews of this year tours, Susan
Dear Susan , both Meredith and I would like to thank you for one of the most beautiful, magical and spiritual trips of a lifetime. Not only did I fall in love with Ireland but felt a kinship and peace that I didn’t know I would find. This was my "trip of a lifetime" and first ever European trip ! Your tour was perfect as neither Jim, Susan, me or Meredith wanted to drive . We wanted to immerse ourselves in the culture ! Immerse we did . Your trip indulged us all and made our personal likes a reality too!.This kind of trip would never have been provided on another tour ! Thank you so much for sharing your country with us !
Mary & Meredith Haney, New Hampshire, USA
Hi Susan, Thank you for a wonderful Ireland tour experience in June 2018. We visited Ireland on-our-own in 2015 for a week, and saw just enough of your beautiful country to know we needed to return. We were pleased to find your “small group tour”, so that we didn’t have to plan an itinerary or drive on the “other side of the road” again. Susan, your personality, hospitality, knowledge and love of your country makes everyone feel welcome. Upon return to Kentucky, friends have asked what we liked best about the tour, and the answer is everything! Your unique tour itinerary is very well-planned and includes amazing scenery, interesting and historic sightseeing, great food, lovely comfortable accommodations, and just enough free time in the towns and villages to shop and pursue a few interests on our own. Thank you for sharing Ireland’s Hidden Gems with our family!
Linda, Glenn and Austin Jennings, Kentucky, USA
Dear Susan: Thank you for a wonderful tour of Ireland this June! We were a bit skeptical at first about a taking a “bus tour”, but your expert commentary and guidance, the skill of and interaction with our drivers, the comradery of our small group, and of course, not having to personally do 15 days of route and lodging planning erased any doubts for us about doing this again. We particularly enjoyed the free time in Dublin and Galway as well as the optional days along the way, schedule flexibility I don’t think we would have had on a bigger, less personal tour. For me, having a go at hurling at the Cusack Center, the traditional music session at Matt Malloy’s, our private Irish Step Dancing exhibition (including my forgettable dancing debut), the comparative taste testing at the Jameson Distillery, and our evening with an authentic Irish story-teller, Eddie Lenihan, were truly the “hidden gems” promised.
Thank you again for your sincere investment in making our trip so enjoyable and for sharing your country with us! All the best,
Jim and Susan Dougherty, Massachusetts, USA
Susan, I am so pleased that I was finally able to go on one of your “hidden gems” tour! I found your page in 2016 and finally was able to go with a dear friend this past June…. and it was exactly what I was hoping it would be! Beginning with time on our own in Dublin was a perfect way to adjust or start running, whatever a person needed. The overnight locations were wonderful, some elegant ( I did enjoy my massage at Solis Lough Eske!) while others more simple, and I cannot pick my favorite! The sights from Newgrange, Giant’s Causeway, the Titanic Museum and the disappearing Cliffs of Moher were wonderful and of course on my list to see. But some of my favorites were Derry, the 800 year old hand-carved stone crosses, Malcom and his sweet blessing, the Museum of Country Life, Tom and his dog Roy, the evening with Eddie Lenihan, the thatched cottages of Adare, the exquisite rose garden of Tralee, the Ladies View and Uragh Stone, would have gone unseen if I had tried to plan this myself or been on a large tour! I could go on about your wonderful descriptions of “bashy waves” and “sheep with Velcro feet” or the food or my special necklace made by a jeweler in Dingle but I need to stop somewhere and the longer I think the more I remember. As Maureen said, some of my favorite pictures are those I keep in my heart and I have many because of your beautiful planning, ability to adapt to the day and your obvious knowledge and love of your country. Thank you for such a special tour!
Barbara Roberts, White Stone, VA
The Hidden Gems Tour with Susan Byron was incredible! While researching tours of Ireland for myself and my daughter Susan's tour package caught my eye. We wanted a tour that included Northern Ireland and took us to places we had not been on a previous trip. Susan's tour more than satisfied our expectations. The days were full, to be sure, but not so fast paced that we felt rushed from one site to the next. Highlights included, monastic ruins, my favorite, abbeys, a holy well, neolithic discoveries, a stone circle, museums, castles, gardens, a distillery, a sheep farm, a fjord, beautiful mountain valleys and passes, bogs, gorgeous lakes, sea-side cliffs, and the fantastic panoramic vistas of the Atlantic.
I loved the historical and geographical information, stories, and other treasures Susan shared about her country as we made our way through Ireland. Susan's witty and humorous observations added to our enjoyment and as she said "shortened the road". I appreciated Susan's travel flexibility as we had a few days of wild, windy, and rainy weather which resulted in adjustments to the itinerary. She took us to alternative places that were unique and enjoyable. At the sites we visited Susan would ask if the time allotted was enough for us, and if we needed more time we were given that luxury. Speaking of luxury, the hotels we stayed at were stellar. My favorites were Solis Lough Eske Castle in Donegel where I took advantage of the spa and swimming pool, and Muckross Park Hotel in Killarney located right across the street from Muckross Abbey.
As a vegetiarian I was always accommodated at restaurants as were those who needed gluten-free meals or had any other food allergies. Susan took us to lovely cafes and restaurants which served homemade and delicious entrees and were not frequented by many tourists.
Often, entertainment was offered in the evenings which added to our understanding of Irish culture such as the young and gifted Irish dancers at Solis Lough Eske, the famous Irish Seannachi, Eddie Lenihan, and a music session in Westport at Matt Malloy's Pub.
One evening we were invited to join a private music session with our gracious and talented bus driver, Paul, who played his guitar and led us in Irish songs. Being of Irish heritage I relished the time I spent in Ireland learning about my ancestors' country and the life they left behind. Thank you Susan for the trip of a lifetime and for sharing Ireland with me and enticing me to return.
Barbara Woller & Sarah Fry, Indianapolis, USA
Anyone who wants to explore Ireland and get a real sense of its history, people and out of the way places should join Susan Byron on her "Hidden Gems" tour. The trip's best gem was Susan herself. Her vivacious personality. superb organizational skills, knowledge of Ireland and its history and culture as well as creativity in planning a tour that takes you places most tourists will never see sets this trip apart from others. We also experienced the usual tourist "must sees". Arrangements were beautifully planned. Accommodations were just right. from luxurious to country casual and always set in a special historic and picturesque area. The "Downton Abbey" moment in a gentle Irish rain as we drove up to Solis Lough Eske Castle will be with me forever. The group size was perfect. Susan had a knack for planning unusual events for the group as well as introducing us to an Ireland, one would not find in large tourist environments. How else would I have found out about Smuggler's Bay, the delicious mussels found in Donegal and down the entire Atlantic west coast, the talent of our bus driver who serenaded us with guitar and song during after dinner cocktails, and the appearance of a rare Irish storyteller for another after dinner gathering. Walking by Galway Bay back to the hotel with the wind howling off the water after a marvelous Trad on the Prom performance, was truly memorable. Normally I don't participate in group trips. How fortunate I was to break this rule which resulted in one of the most memorable trips of my travels.
Nicki Browne, Texas, USA
What a great time we had on the May Tour of Ireland's Hidden Gems in 2018, it was like travelling with a gang of good friends! In fact, they are already demanding that I organise a re-union tour for them with me in 2020 ! Watch this space, there could be a queue for that one....
Seriously, though we had the best fun and glorious weather, just one damp day out of 15, not bad going at all..... Susan
Hi Susan, we are back home in Staten Island after two wonderful weeks in beautiful Ireland. Thank you so much for such a fantastic vacation experience! We had a grand time touring your most beautiful country, and we are so happy we elected to take our first European trip together with such a wonderful tour guide and now friend. Your love of your country and culture was evident in your enthusiastic and very knowledgable commentary throughout the trip. You are a great ambassador for Ireland, and I think every person on that trip who had never been to Ireland before is now in love with it, in no small part thanks to you and your selection of stops along the way....gorgeous vistas, fascinating history, great food, beautiful accomodations, warm people, and not to mention plenty of good craic with a guide full of personality and humor. Our visit to Ireland not only met but exceeded every expectation, and for both my husband and I, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. Miss you already, Liz
Hi Susan! Getting back into the swing of life back home.Thank you so much for such a wonderful experience! It really was the best trip we've ever taken together. I felt like I really got to see and know the beauty of your country and people. It's true...you will be a hard act to follow. We plan on returning (you'll be the first call :) Would love to stay in touch, Kate
Susan, we are now home, rested, and reflected on a wonderful and memorable two weeks in Ireland. There is a reason every on of the testimonials here deal primarily with the relationship developed with you. Through your commentary, personality and transparency you provide a window into what it is to be Ireland. We have come away with an understanding of the Irish character far beyond what the normal "big bus tour" or I'll drive it myself" Ireland trip reveals. The Hidden Gems you include took us to places and experiences very few would discover without your guidance. And you deftly avoid the tourist traps. If you are looking for a Gatlinburg, Daytona Beach, Daytona Beach or such experience, this trip is not for you. We visited places everyone wants to go: Dingle, Ring of Kerry, Newgrange, etc., but also places you never hear of where the driver of our van shut his eyes and prayed the van would fit (it did) that revealed magnificent structures and vistas. If you enjoy discovering the culture, character and spirit of a country and a people through the people, places and activities that are meaningful in their history and thought then sign up with Susan soon rather than later. She offers insight, helpful hints, and places to go before and during the trip. We just can't say enough good things about our time with you in Ireland. Thank you so much, Sally and Bill Lockett
Dear Susan, I have spent the past week joyfully reflecting upon our recent tour of Ireland with you. Saying it was "the trip of a lifetime" just does not do the experience justice. We are avid travellers who prefer to strike out on our own, using extensive research and my own experience as a travel agent, along with a touch of whimsy, to guide us on our adventures. We kept putting a trip to Ireland off due to my resistance to a "bus tour" and Mike's aversion to driving every day (missing out on the scenery). In fact, we had our own DIY two-week itinerary completely mapped out, based on your very own book! So it took a lot for me to finally let go and put my trust in you. Best decision ever. The trip was nothing short of extraordinary. Instead of just viewing sights and places, we came away with a deep sense of understanding of the very essence of your beautiful country. You made it possible to see with our hearts and souls, not just our eyes. Thank you for your wisdom, attention to detail, flexibility and sense of humour. And while you are out and about with your next group, keep an eye out for the piece of my heart I willingly left behind in Ireland.
Dona & Michael Mahoney (aka Moloney)
Thank you, thank you - for sharing your stories and humour - for making our tour posh, comfortable and beautiful - for your kindness, compassion and friendship - for making us feel welcome in your historical and beautiful country. And most of all, for being you. Susan, you are our very favourite hidden gem of Ireland. You have given us lovely memories that will last a lifetime! Love Cathy & Jeanne
A few testimonials from Ireland's Hidden Gems first ever Guided tour of Ireland with Susan Byron in May 2017 when we were blessed with amazing weather and a great crew! Susan
Susan, herself is a most special gem. It was a most unforgettable trip as she introduced us to the hidden wonders of Ireland that probably most travellers would miss out-from unique flora and fauna that flourished on the wild Atlantic coast, getting up close and personal with the local craftsmen and women, savouring the freshest food harvested from the sea and land, cooked to perfection in restaurants and pubs where the locals eat and a a selection of fine accommodations - Susan planned an itinerary so engaging that it mirrored all the richness and diversity of the Emerald Isle.
Tech & Lay Eng Yeo, Singapore
Dear Susan, When I was planning my trip to Ireland, it was theoretical in my head—a “some day” kind of thing. I really had no idea even where to start. When I saw your tour description, I knew it was just the right thing for me. The trip itself was more than I could have imagined (and trust me, I spent many, many years imagining what it would be like to visit Ireland)! You took care of all the details; I didn’t have to worry about a thing. The accommodations were first rate, the sights were amazing, our driver was the BEST, and well, I think we were lucky with the weather, and that was fabulous too! But the personal touch you provided with your narrative along the way was the icing on the cake. Your enthusiasm and love for your country was infectious! I really enjoyed getting to know everyone in the tour group, and the time I got to spend with my Irish cousin was very special to me. William Butler Yeats sums it up well, “There are no strangers here, only friends you haven’t yet met.” Thank you for everything! Until we meet again, Sara
Sara McKee, North Carolina, USA
Hi Susan, I so appreciated all of the energy and joy you showed on this tour. Hurray for the 1st gem !!!
Peggy Remke, Kentucky, USA
Thanks Susan, found the Church where my Great, Great, Great Grandfather was baptised on the 21st of May 1809. It was a strange feeling really sitting on the steps of this church, I don't know how to explain it but a feeling of pride and happiness came over me....strange really! I felt a connection, him being Baptised in May and my birthday being in May and the Church called St, Paul's. No, it must have been that pint or two I had for lunch, lol?
Paul Duffy, Sydney, Australia
Best trip of my life so far! What a blast we had in Ireland. Susan was the best tour guide ever. I just can't say enough about Ireland, the most beautiful place I have ever been to. I'll never forget the magic of this Emeral Island. I hope to go back again some day. Thank you Susan, I can honestly say this was the highlight of my adult life (except for kids and dogs) of course....
Marcia Van Dalsem, Long Beach, California.
Dear Susan, so happy you gave me a little push to come to Ireland, I really loved the trip. You and Tony made it so special for me. I have photos of the sea on my screensaver and look forward to returning. I really love Ireland and miss the clean air, pristine water and green and blue everywhere. Not to mention I would really enjoy seeing you again.Thank you so much for sharing you enthusiasm and love of the beautiful gems.
Mary Carlin, Brooklyn, NYC.
And the fun goes on, I will have a big head before I know it! More testimonials from Ireland's Hidden Gems second tour of Ireland with Susan Byron in June 2017, talk about high jinks and good fun, we all had an amazing time! Susan
Thank you Susan. For my sister Colette and myself your June 2017 tour was a GRAND adventure. From the moment I read the itinerary I knew this was the tour for us. Our first trip to Ireland and your planning made it so easy for us to just relax, enjoy and see so much more than we could have on our own. You showed us such a diverse selection of sites and regaled us with their histories and lore. I still hear a narrative with the Irish brogue. Everything was presented with such a professional and personal touch that provided us a trip of a lifetime. I am still dreaming of Ireland. Slainte! Cathryn
Cathryn Russell & Colette Sands USA
Hi Susan what an amazing trip, our senses are still intoxicated with that will nourish us forever. We can not express in words what this adventure has meant to us and we thank you for enough for making it so incredibly magical and enchanting. You are an absolutely amazing spirit and we were so fortunate to have you as our guide.
Will & Beth Avgerakis, USA
Dear Susan, Anita and I want you to know how much we enjoyed the Ireland’s Hidden Gems Tour in June 2017. The memories of all we experienced, including the goodness of the Irish people, will be with us always. We truly realize that a tour like this doesn’t just happen; it takes a caring person like you who loves her country and wishes to share it with others. Your dedicated planning, preparation, scheduling, and joyful guidance all along the way made the tour a delight for everyone. Thank you, Susan from the bottom of our hearts. It was grand to be with you!
Tadhg & Anita Baxter, Pennsylvania, USA
Susan, we had put off visiting Ireland for many years until we found just the right tour and yours was it! The beauty and history of Ireland moved us so much - more than we had imagined. The Derry wall, Slieve League, Slea Head, Burt’s Church, the sheep dotted countryside - too many beautiful places to list. Dingle gin, the Aiden Dooley book, the “hike” on top of the Cliffs Moher with Pat Sweeney, Eddie Lenihan's stories, the "Trad on the Prom" and the friends we made were highlights. Your informative and entertaining commentary on the land, the history and the people of Ireland was always “grand.” Thank you, also, for including Yeats’ grave and taking the detour to the South Pole Inn for us.This experience is at the top of our list of great trips! We hope to visit Ireland again and you will be the one we contact for planning assistance!
Sharon Congdon and Julaine Salem, Big Bear California
I will leave the last word for now, to Jane who has fallen truly, madly, deeply in love with Ireland....
After our second trip to Ireland in October of 2016, my husband remarked to me that he wasn’t done with Ireland yet. And shortly after that, Susan Byron’s Facebook postings caught my eye. It was her way with genuinely expressing in her posts her love for her country. In the past, we had traveled with guides who lived outside of Ireland. After pursuing her E-books, I knew she was the one who would make Ireland grow into our bones. And we weren’t disappointed with our 18 day tour around the whole isle. From the very beginning in Dublin, she displayed a true love for the history, culture and mainstay of her homeland. She did not disappoint us in her stories, either. We learned more about the country than previous trips exposure. The trip allowed us to meld with the true Irishmen. I remarked to her one day, that I finally understood the culture through the love of telling a good story, to knowing a good song or dance, and being immersed in a community; something solely missed in the United States at this time. The places we visited were an extension of the best sites to feel this immersion. And her ever smiling face and warm welcomes to establishments that she personally knew their reputation and supportiveness of true entrepreneurship of the locals. It is a trip that we will always cherish..Susan, thank you for sharing the true Irish spirit (s) with us…much gratitude for a front row seat!
Jane & Rod Mullens, Utah, USA
And here's a lovely surprise I received from the June Tour group last year. Thanks guys, I am so glad you enjoyed your time with me in Ireland, Susan
For more information re next years tours please click on the following link Ireland Hidden Gems 2019 Tours