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Private Tours of Ireland: How to See the Emerald Isle on Your Terms

Do you want to see Ireland on your own terms? Does the idea of a large coach tour put you off?

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Or perhaps you’ve thought about renting a car in Ireland, but you’re not sure you’ll be able to comfortably and safely navigate the roads there.

I totally get it.

These are all legitimate concerns and to be honest, it’s totally up to you which way you want to see Ireland, whether it’s for the first time or even if you’ve been there before.

If you’re hedging toward the idea of a private tour of Ireland, read on to find out more.

If you’re traveling with a group of friends or arranging a family reunion, a private tour is the perfect way to see Ireland and to share that special experience with loved ones.

You can set your own pace and visit the places that you most want to see, not something that’s been added to a large group itinerary.

What’s more, the local knowledge you’ll acquire from a private tour guide is invaluable.

a rock in the ocean County Clare
The beautiful Cliffs of Moher off the coast of Co. Clare. Photo: Mustang_79

Here are 14 tour companies that offer the most bang for your buck when it comes to private tours.

Vagabond Small Group Tours of Ireland

In July 2019, 10 members of the Davidson family took a private 7-day tour of Northern Ireland thanks to Vagabond Small Group Tours of Ireland private tours division.

It would turn out to be one of the most enjoyable vacations they have had.

Three generations of the family, aged between 14 and 80, had the opportunity to discover Ireland and their ancestral roots.

The rugged landscape of Slieve Gullion in County Armagh. Photo: Ron Murray, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11287006

The adventures that followed included a hike to Slieve Gullion, where they found the highest passage grave on the island of Ireland, a black taxi tour of West Belfast, and then on to the Coastal Causeway to see the mighty Giant’s Causeway and more.

Vagabond’s private tours typically vary in size and duration, with a 7-day tour costing from €1,975 per person sharing during the months of March, April and October.

In addition, the company offers private versions of their scheduled small-group tours (such as the one above).

These are subject to availability, and while a tour's departure date, hotels and general route are all fixed, you are free to alter the day-to-day activities to suit your particular needs.

Participants in one of Vagabond's private tours enjoy the beautiful Beara Peninsula. Photo courtesy of Vagabond & Driftwood Small Tours of Ireland.

Vagabond 4×4 minibuses can carry a maximum of 13 guests on a private tour.

For more information, email Vagabond's private tour specialist Michael at [email protected] or call toll-free at 833-230-0288 from the U.S or 833-681-6903 if you're in Canada.

What's Included: Expert “VagaGuides” will help you plan every step of the way, with the total cost of your private tour covering transportation, accommodation, and admission to the various attractions along the way.

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My Ireland Tour

Want to immerse yourself in Ireland? Then My Ireland Tour, a small family-run business is the ideal choice for your private tour of Ireland.

A group of happy visitors on a My Ireland Tour. Photo courtesy of My Ireland Tour Facebook.

The company prides itself on creating private tours that are specifically geared to your wishes and the attractions you want to see.

If you’re seriously thinking about seeing Ireland with the help of a private chauffeur, there are a number of sample itineraries that you should take a look at on the My Ireland Tour website.

Depending on the length of time you plan on spending in Ireland, there’s a wide variety of itineraries that you can create, everything from a 6-day Iconic Scenes of Ireland Tour to the Historic Irish Castle Tour.

a bus on the road affordable day trips from Galway
Killary Harbour in Co. Galway is one of the places you'll visit on a My Ireland Tour. Photo: Christian McLeod, Failte Ireland.

My Ireland Tour’s prices range from €900/$980 US/£769/$1,325 CAD/$1,536 per person and up, with a maximum of 26 people allowed on a tour.

The company also arranges special garden, golf and genealogy tours.

For more information, email [email protected].

What's Included: Tour Attractions, Accommodation (breakfast each day and some lunches included in various packages), as well as transportation.

Read More: 7 One-Day Tours in Ireland that are Doable Without Renting a Car

Kennedy & Carr

Whether you’re looking to take a private day tour from Dublin or you’re eager to take a private tour of Ireland for 2, 3, 4, or more days, Kennedy & Carr’s tailor-made excursions are sure to please.

The round tower and headstones in the Christian burial site at Monasterboice, Co Louth, one of the stops on the Kennedy & Carr Northern Ireland tour. Photo: © Paul Lindsay at Chris Hill Photographic for Failte Ireland/Tourism Ireland.

On a two-day private Northern Ireland tour from Dublin, you’ll get to experience Belfast, The Giant's Causeway, the Titanic Docklands, Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, the Dark Hedges, the Monasterboice Christian ruins, a Political Black Taxi Tour as well as Dunluce Castle.

At the end of the two days, your chauffeur will take you back to Dublin.

The Private 6-Day Southern Ireland Tour from Dublin will expose you to popular places like Kinsale, the Cliffs of Moher, the Ring of Kerry, the Dingle Peninsula and more, with overnight stays in Galway, Cork and Killarney.

Kennedy & Carr’s private tours typically range from €695 to €1,895 per day per vehicle.

houses near a river 4 cities in Ireland to explore
Cork City is often included in Kennedy & Carr's itineraries. Photo: George Karbu Photography.

As per Kennedy & Carr's website, “tours are priced individually according to the route, group size, distances & hours required, date(s) in question, start & end locations, overnight locations (where applicable) and remaining supply at time of booking.”

For more information, you can email [email protected] or call toll-free from the US by dialing 1-888-690-1846.

What's Included: Pick-up and drop-off at your hotel; transportation, including private chauffeur guide; WiFi connection in vehicle while traveling; entrance fees to attractions; fuel, road tools and associated taxes; driver’s overnight and meal expenses. Accommodation and food/drink not included.

Consider Travel Insurance for Your Trip to Ireland

Walter's Way Tours

Small group tours are what the folks at Walter's Way Tours specialize in.

While custom tours are part of the assortment of experiences offered by the popular Walter's Way Tours, they do tend to be more expensive, which is why the company's Road n Rails tour is such a hit.

a beautiful castle overlooking a lake Kylemore Abbey
Kylemore Abbey in Co. Galway, a favorite stop on the Walter's Way Road n Rails tour. Photo: George Munday for Tourism Ireland.

The customizable tour includes 2 or 3 nights in Dublin, the train to Galway, with two nights accommodation in the city, as well as a day tour through Connemara, including Kylemore Abbey, Cong and more.

There is plenty more to this tour, including stays in Killarney and guided tours of the Ring of Kerry, the Dingle Peninsula and more.

Owner Walter Ryan-Purcell says customers can be as flexible as they want with their Ireland vacation plans. “We can organize it any way you would like,” he adds.

church on a lake the most beautiful places in Ireland
St. Finbarr's Church on Gougane Barra Lake in County Cork, one of the stops on the Walter's Way Road n Rails Tour. Photo: Carrig Photos for Getty Images.

Additional custom tours can also be developed for you based on a theme like researching your ancestors or a particular interest that you may have in Irish culture, such as music, song, or dance, or a love of Ireland’s remote island life, its wonderful architecture, farming, horse racing, and more.

Prices are not listed on the Walter's Way website, but to find out more, simply fill out the inquiry form at the bottom of the home page.

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Wolfhound Tours

While Wolfhound Tours is known for its multi-activity adventures around Ireland catering to small groups, the company also provides a number of family and private adventure tour packages.

You will be the navigator of your own private tour, with guides from Wolfhound there to help you plan it.

If, for example, you want to trace your roots, Wolfhound guides can divert you to towns, churches or graveyards where you may be able to find evidence of them.

You can also select the type of accommodation that best suits you, from hostels to hotels and castles to campsites.

While you’re traveling around Ireland in the company’s Wolfmobile, you’ll have full and free access to Wifi so that you can easily send photos to your friends and family back home.

For more information, email [email protected].

What's Included: Transportation, accommodation, Food (breakfast each day).

We Drive Private Tours

If you're staying in the Westport area or anywhere really in the West of Ireland, a We Drive chauffeur is ready to take you on a private tour of the region.

An aerial view of the Wild Nephin Wilderness Area, including the Nephin Beg Mountains in Ballycroy National Park. Photo: Courtesy Gareth McCormack/garethmccormack for Failte Ireland/Tourism Ireland.

That includes a number of day trips to the following locations:

Mayo & Sligo: (Jackie Clarke Collection, Ballina; Enniscrone; WB Yeats’s grave at Drumcliff; Mullaghmore; Lissadell House, and Gardens Turlough House, Castlebar).
Westport & Achill Island: (Newport; Mulranny; Achill Island via the Atlantic Drive; Keel-Doogort via the Deserted Village; Wild Nephin Ballycroy National Park; and Westport House).
Mayo North: (Turlough House, Castlebar; The Michael Davitt Museum, Straide; the Foxford Woollen Mills; Downpatrick Head; The Ceide Fields; The North Mayo Heritage Centre and Enniscoe Country House).
Cultural Connemara: (Croagh Patrick; Doolough Valley – Ashleigh Falls – Leenane; Connemara National Park; Clifden and the Sky Road Loop; Roundstone, and Kylemore Abbey).
South Mayo Lake District: (Ballintubber Abbey; Cong; Leenane via Clonbur and Finney; Killary Fjord Boat Trip, and Ashleigh Falls).

The Doolough Valley in Co. Mayo along the Wild Atlantic Way. Photo: Chris Hill for Failte Ireland.

Prices for the above tours start at €79 per person.

Owner Keith Mongan says that you can, however, create an itinerary unique to you, with pick-up at the airport and then transportation to various parts of Ireland dependent on what you want to see and do.

Be sure to fill out the contact form on the We Drive website for more information.

What's Included: Transportation in a luxury vehicle, pick-up and drop-off at your hotel.

Ireland Chauffeur Travel

Don’t let the luxury description of the Ireland Chauffeur Travel service put you off.

Ireland Chauffeur Travel, which is based in Cashel, Co. Tipperary, has been in the business of providing curated experiences for its customers for years.

Travel in style with Ireland Chauffeur Travel. Photo courtesy of Ireland Chauffeur Travel Facebook.

From Celtic storytelling evenings to private farm and museum visits as well as private whiskey tastings at some of the country’s best-known distilleries, there's a whole lot to choose from at Ireland Chauffeur Travel.

Driver guides will be matched to your group's specific interests, essentially serving as a personal concierge as you travel the highways and byways of Ireland.

Enjoying a food experience at Hook Lighthouse in County Wexford. Photo courtesy of Ireland Chauffeur Travel Facebook.

Some of the experiences that Ireland Chauffeur Travel offers include private food tours of Ireland, in addition to pub, brewery and distillery tours, countryside experiences, as well as more adventurous experiences that take advantage of Ireland's natural landscape and amazing coastline.

Each tour is jam-packed with things to do and see.

The average cost per day to hire a private chauffeur will be different for everyone, so it's best to contact the company to get a quote for your individual trip.

For more information, email [email protected] or call toll-free from the U.S. at 1-800-329-9138.

What's Included: Transportation, accommodation.

Read More: Oldest Whiskey Distilleries in Ireland

I Love Irish Tours

If your time in Ireland is short and you want to eliminate the fuss of trying to figure it all out for yourself, the small-group 5-day tours offered by I Love Irish Tours are a great way to start your Ireland adventure.

a cathedral private tours of Ireland
Cobh Cathedral, one of the places you'll see on a private tour of Ireland with I Love Irish Tours. Photo: Chris Hill, Failte Ireland/Tourism Ireland.

For example, a 5-day Wee Sample of Ireland private tour will take you to Dublin, Cork, Kerry, and Clare and the 6-day Legendary Ireland Tour includes all of the above with the addition of Galway.

Tours can be customized to your particular needs.

For more information, contact Edel at [email protected].

What's Included: Accommodation, with breakfast each morning; personal guide/driver; transportation in a luxury vehicle, tolls and road fees, entry to attractions listed on your itinerary.

 

Classic Ireland Guided Tours

If you’re looking for a tour company that is dedicated to bringing you just about anywhere in Ireland that you desire, then Classic Ireland Guided Tours is a good choice.

Specializing in bespoke private tours of Ireland, the Killarney-based company creates itineraries that are geared to the specific needs of its customers, including help with tracing your family’s roots in Ireland.

If price is a concern, you can easily share the cost of your private tour of Ireland with several other members of your family or friends since it caters to groups that range in size from solo travelers to a maximum of 50 people.

cliffs The Wild Atlantic Way
See the Dingle Peninsula on a Classic Ireland tour. Photo: Alana Beer.

Transportation is provided in either a luxury car or a large bus, depending on the number of people on any given tour.

Expect to see more than just the sights on a Classic Ireland tour.

Guides are known for their storytelling, focusing not only on the attractions themselves, but giving you a real insight into Irish culture.

The pretty town of Cobh in County Cork, where you can take a day tour from your cruise ship with Classic Ireland Guided Tours. Photo: BLFink for Getty Images.

The company also offers multi-day tours of Ireland, including its 12-night Wild Atlantic Tour, and its Best of Southwest Ireland Tour, among others, as well as a Ship-to-Shore Day Tour if you are cruising and land at the harbor in Cobh, County Cork.

Some of its more popular day tours include the Ring of Kerry tour, the Dingle Peninsula tour, and the Cliffs of Moher tour, to name a few.

For more information, email [email protected].

What's Included: Transportation in a luxury vehicle.

Connect the Dots Tours of Ireland

Self-confessed travel geek Mark Doherty established Connect the Dots Tours of Ireland after having spent years traveling the world himself.

Doherty, who is a National Approved Guide of Ireland, is passionate about showing his customers the real authentic Ireland, whether they’re in a private group or a small-group tour.

If you choose to take a private tour of Ireland with Connect the Dots Tours, the itinerary is totally up to you.

a group of people posing for a photograph private tours of Ireland
Visitors to Ireland on a Connect the Dots tour. Photo courtesy of Connect the Dots Tours of Ireland Facebook.

But don’t think you’ll be left alone planning. Mark will advise you on the best route to take and the hidden gems in Ireland that you should see.

The average cost of a private tour is €850 per day, which can be divided between you and your friends or family members, making this a more affordable trip than renting a car in Ireland.

Email [email protected] for more information.

What's Included: Transportation in a luxury mini-coach around Ireland together with a professional licensed driver-guide, in addition to tour guide consultancy from start to finish. Accommodation, meals, admission tickets to various attractions, and food are not included in the private tours offered by Connect the Dots Ireland Tours.

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Tenon Tours

The folks at Tenon Tours consider themselves the “custom Europe experts” and that includes helping visitors arrange awesome packaged tours of Ireland, including private tours of the country.

Their tours are perfect for small groups of people to plan that trip of a lifetime that they’ve always wanted to do but didn’t know how to do it.

Tenon Tours offers professional itinerary planning services for groups of all sizes, ages, and interest levels, with tours geared specifically to the needs of its customers.

building Guinness storehouse
The exterior of the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin. Visit the iconic attraction while traveling around Ireland with Tenon Tours. Photo: Tara Morgan for Tourism Ireland.

Its Best of Ireland 11-day tour includes an intro to Ireland by visiting Dublin’s most popular attractions (the Guinness Storehouse, EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum, the Book of Kells exhibit at Trinity College, and more).

cliffs 7 tour companies in Ireland
The Cliffs Of Moher in Co. Clare. Photo: Getty Images.

Other areas of the country covered on this tour include the Ring of Kerry, Connemara, the Cliffs of Moher, whiskey distillery tours, and a visit to the renowned Waterford Crystal, just to name a few of the sites you’ll see.

When you visit the Tenon Tours website, you'll have the opportunity to explore the itinerary of each featured tour and then personalize it.

For more information, click on the Request Information tab on the website.

What's Included: The company, which is based in Delaware, also offers a By Your Side ServiceSM, a personal concierge service, and a mobile app that helps with the planning process.

When you build your own tour with Tenon Tours, you'll have the ability to select where you want to go in Ireland, your travel style (e.g. private group), the type of accommodation you'd like to stay in, a tour based on your interests (adventure, arts & culture, beaches, castles, city, culinary and more), as well as budget expectations.

Butlers Tours

All-inclusive private tours and custom private tours of Ireland are the specialty of Butlers Tours, a family-owned business that has been taking visitors around the country since 1967.

On a custom private tour complete with a private driver and luxury minibus, you’ll be taken around Ireland based on a flexible itinerary that you can plan directly with the company.

That means you can go when and where you please, with diversions welcome in between!

a man in between two donkeys private tours of Ireland
One of Butlers Tours drivers/guides on the road in Ireland. Photo courtesy of Butlers Private Driver Tours Ireland Facebook.

Choose from the All-Inclusive Private Tours Package, includes Best of the West & South, Wild Atlantic Way Private Tour, and the Northern Ireland Delights Private Tour, to name a few.

Other private tours offered by Butler Tours includes the Private Driver & Mini-Bus Tour, the Luxury Chauffeur Tour, the Private Custom Golf Tours, and the Autumn & Winter Deals private tours.

Photo courtesy of Butlers Private Driver Tours Facebook.

Drivers, who are also experienced tour guides, are with you every step of the way, stopping for Instagram-worthy photos one minute and giving you a fun, running commentary on Irish life the next minute.

From the U.S., you can contact Butlers Tours by calling toll-free from the US or Canada at 1-800-659-4271 or by emailing [email protected].

What's Included: All-inclusive tours include accommodation, attractions, breakfast each day, and transportation.

Take a Tour in Ireland with a Local Guide

Magical Ireland Tours

Partners Rodney O'Callaghan and Sandra Sheehan are newcomers to the private tour business in Ireland but that doesn't mean that they don't have as much knowledge and expertise as the other, more well-known tour companies mentioned in this blog post.

Rodney O'Callaghan and Sandra Sheehan, owners of Magical Ireland Tours. Photo: Magical Ireland Tours Facebook.

Their company offers private, bespoke sightseeing tours covering all regions of Ireland.

Rodney is a well-known Irish landscape photographer who has traveled the highways and byways of Ireland for over 15 years, from the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland to the Ring of Kerry and everywhere in between.

He has been running photo workshops and tours in Ireland and abroad for over 15 years.

Travel in style in Magical Ireland Tours' luxurious minivan. Photo: Magical Ireland Tours Facebook.

​Sandra’s background in group planning, research and event organization is the perfect match, which means that Magical Ireland Tours can offer you a truly in-depth experience of Ireland, its traditions, heritage, and culture.

If it’s a private tour that you want, you’ll find multi-day private tours as well as private day tours available at Magical Ireland Tours, all from the comfort of a luxury 9-seater minivan complete with air conditioning, on-board WiFI and USB charging ports.

All tours are tailor-made to your unique specifications and to meet every budget.

Enjoy Kilkenny with Magical Ireland Tours.  Photo: Todamo, Getty Images.

Choose from the 7-Day Highlights of Ireland Private Tour, which includes an exploration of Kilkenny, Tipperary, Cork, Kerry, Clare and Galway or the 14-Day Best of Ireland Tour, which includes all of the above in addition to attractions in Counties Wicklow, Limerick, Mayo and Northern Ireland.

Of course, there are many more options, in addition to a special photography tour that is on offer for 1 day or over several days.

For more information, you can call Sandra at +353-89-4240319 or email at [email protected].

What's Included: Pick-up and drop off from hotel/airport, transportation.

Sean Patrick Tours

Sean Patrick O’Rourke, who holds the National Tour Guide qualification, has been bringing visitors throughout the island of Ireland for many years.

a derelict house in the mountains private tours of Ireland
The ruins of what was once a home in the Wicklow National Park, a place that you'll visit on a tour with Sean Patrick Tours. Photo: Rainbow79 for Getty Images.

On an extended private tour of Ireland, expect an insight into the capital city Dublin, a drive through the Wicklow Mountains National Park, a visit to The National Stud & Japanese Gardens in County Kildare, the Rock of Cashel in County Tipperary, a tour of the Jameson Distillery in County Cork, and so much more.

You’ll journey through Ireland in one of two vehicles, Sean’s own air-conditioned Mercedes Viano suitable for up to 6 people or for smaller groups of 1-3 people, you can choose the Mercedes E220 saloon.

For more information, contact [email protected].

What's Included: Transportation, pick-up/drop off. Accommodation and costs associated with food can be added to the total cost of a private tour.

Advantages of Choosing a Private Tour of Ireland

a road along the coast private tours of Ireland
Enjoy the scenery of the Coastal Causeway route in Northern Ireland without having to drive yourself. Photo: Stefan Schnebelt for Tourism Ireland.

Private tours can provide great value. You can relax, enjoy the scenery and let an expert show you around, plus you don’t have to drive!

Here are some of the other advantages:

  • You can choose your own adventure rather than being dependent on a pre-made itinerary that is typical of large group tours.
  • You can set your own pace. If you come across an attraction that seems particularly interesting, you can ask your driver to pull over so you and your family or friends can explore it.
  • In many cases, you have access to local experts – many private tour companies work hand-in-hand with guides across Ireland, which makes for a richer and more enjoyable experience.
  • Get behind-the-scenes access to specific attractions across Ireland.
  • Activities can be tailored to your budget – taking a private tour of Ireland needn’t be overly expensive. When booking your private tour, be sure to discuss your budget with the tour representative.
  • Tour arrangements are flexible – this is particularly true in a post-Covid world. If changes need to be made at the last minute, most tour companies will be happy to work with you.

How to Choose the Right Tour Operator

My advice is to read the various tour operator websites closely focusing on what is included in the final price.

Don’t be afraid to call or email with questions.

a castle private tours of Ireland
Blarney Castle is a favorite destination for many tourists to Ireland. Photo: Pixabay.

In addition, be clear on what you want to see on your private tour of Ireland. Most companies will expect you to ask several questions about your likes and dislikes as well as the attractions that are on your wish list.

In the end, you’ll need to look at the value that the tour provides.

While the cost may seem high at first, the value of booking a private tour of Ireland is priceless and can’t be matched by a larger group tour. The memories, experiences, and indeed photos that you’ll bring home with you will be worth it.

Additional Tour Companies that Offer Private Tours of Ireland

Little Gem Tours; Experiencing Ireland Tours; About Ireland Taxi Tours; Irish Music Tours; Ireland Travel Club; and Ireland Prestige Tours.

If you've used a private tour company in Ireland, I'd love to hear your opinion of it in the comments below.

colette

Colette is a County Sligo native who created Ireland on a Budget to provide her readers with money-saving tips on how to get to Ireland and then save even more when they're there. She's a professional copywriter who lives in the New York area with her husband and two children.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Paul Pittman

    Is Susan Byron company, Ireland’s Hidden Gems Tours, Ltd a legitimate company? If so, licensed?

    1. colette

      Paul, it is a legitimate company but I don’t know if it’s licensed. Maybe drop her an email. I think she lists it on her site.

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