Irish Music Tours: Meet Sean Kearns and Bronagh Given

When was the tour company established and how did the idea of creating an Irish music tour company come about?
Bronagh Given and Sean Kearns, the creators of Irish Music Tours. Photo courtesy of Irish Music Tours.

The business came about literally by accident. Over the summer months, we used to play sessions each night and we noticed a lot of travelers wanted to find good music but it wasn’t part of their itinerary.

They were left to find it for themselves and sometimes they went days before they found a good session. We then decided to run a tour guided by musicians so that music was readily available each day. Since then, it has grown from strength to strength.

Where are you based?

We’re based in the village of Ardara, County Donegal in the northwest of Ireland. It’s a little heritage village on the Atlantic coast famous for its handwoven tweed and of course, traditional Irish music.

Bringing traditional Irish music and culture together is a great combination for a tour. Tell me how it all comes together.

All of our tours have music and culture at their core. So when we are designing an itinerary, we use our knowledge and contacts within the music scene to plan our route.

people playing Irish music Irish Music Tours
A traditional Irish music session is enjoyed by guests on an Irish Music Tours trip. Photo courtesy of Irish Music Tours.

It helps when your guide is a musician too. We can then plot a route to take in the beautiful scenery and historical landmarks by day in the knowledge that we will have top-class music at night.

How many musicians and tour guides are typically on your tours?

This depends on the size of the group.
The Irish Music Tours van. Photo courtesy of Irish Music Tours.

With a small group, there will only be one guide (who is also a musician) and we will go to the authentic Irish music sessions each night and the guide will join in. The larger the group, the more musicians travel on the tour.

We encourage musicians who book a tour with us to bring their instruments and, where possible, join in. A lot of people have benefited from free tuition from our guides while on our tours and now understand the music better and also the etiquette involved in the session scene.

Can local Irish musicians join the fun while you’re on tour and visiting the local pubs?

Absolutely. It works both ways because we know a lot of musicians throughout the country.  We can join in with them and they can join in with us. We have had some amazing nights where there have been more musicians than guests!

What is your most popular Irish music tour?
Photo courtesy of Irish Music Tours Facebook.

I think the Wild Atlantic Way tour has proven to be our most popular tour. It’s 10 nights beginning in Donegal and traveling down the west coast of Ireland before returning to Dublin. Along the way, we have some amazing surprises in store, fantastic music, and beautiful people.

What kinds of people typically book your tours and where do they come from?

Our guests cover the complete spectrum. Singles, couples, old, young, as well as musicians and non-musicians from the four corners of the globe.

We get great satisfaction seeing our guests form friendships with each other. We have a high number of returning guests, which is the ultimate form of avouchment.

What do people like most about your tours?

I think it’s the personal touch we provide. We begin each tour with a bunch of strangers and leave lifelong friends. Our Irish music family just keeps growing.

What makes your particular tour packages different from all the other package tours in Ireland?

We like to do things differently from normal tours. As well as visiting the popular tourist sites, we also visit instrument makers and see firsthand the processes involved.
Irish Music Tours co-founder Sean Kearns, second from right, is pictured at one of the stops on their popular tours. Photo courtesy of Irish Music Tours Facebook.

Music is guaranteed each night and sometimes during the day if the opportunity arises. Our guests get to know the musicians personally. It’s like traveling on a band’s tour bus!

If someone was to ask you what county in Ireland is the best place to visit to get a feel for Irish traditional music, which would one you choose based on your experience traveling throughout Ireland?

I can’t choose one. It’s impossible. I’ll be biased and say Donegal but equally, Galway and Kerry are fantastic places for music. There is great music on the island of Ireland but you have to come with us to find it!

Are you planning to add different tours to your list of offerings in the future?

We’re currently working on a number of new tour options as we go forward. We learn new things on every tour and we use this to improve or add to the experience of the next tour.

The most exciting news is that we now offer tours that include both Ireland and Scotland, where the music is every bit as good as Ireland and the two styles are very similar. We still prefer Irish whiskey though!!

Where can people find more information on Irish Music Tours?

All information about all of our tours can be found on our website.

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