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Who can resist handmade Irish Chocolate?

Mmmm Chocolate! A little moment of happiness. Whether your traveling with children, friends or your hubby; who can resist the sweet temptation of handmade chocolate? Try these Irish Chocolate Shops:

Wilde Irish Chocolates
Tuamgraney | Clare
Chocolate is probably the one food that’s practically irresistible. Even the exotic names of the Wilde products are a temptation – Hazelnut Duet, Mocha Mocha, Truffle Temptation. Wilde is the only Irish maker of Organic Fairtrade chocolate, certified by the Organic Trust. There’s also a range of conventional and sugar free hand-decorated products. All the chocolates are handmade by the ‘Wilde Team’ in a small artisan outlet in Tuamgraney.

Skelligs and Cocoa Bean Chocolate Company
Ballinskelligs | Kerry
The Skelligs Chocolate Company and Cocoa Bean Chocolate Company have their production factory and shop on the tip of the Ring of Kerry Peninsula, right by St Finian’s Bay. Skelligs chocolates were created for the luxury market. These truffles use best chocolate from France and Switzerland, married with superb quality ingredients in the flavoured centres. Regulars on the choccie tasting menu include Vanilla Ganache, Strawberry and Champagne and Cognac and Cappucino.

Chez Emily Fine Handmade Chocolates
Ashbourne | Meath
Magical would seem to be the appropriate word for the Chez Emily Chocolate Boutique on Ashbourne’s Main Street. The shop front design with its two large windows offer a tantalising glimpse of the treasures inside, and oh what treasures! With a selection of over 30 different types, the counter is chock-a-block with the most delicious-looking individual chocolates – rum and raisin, cognac, vanilla, crème caramel are just some of the tempting names. Flake truffle supreme, amandine, (truffle coated in roasted almond flakes), cocoa delights, chocolate Florentines, candied orange segments, cherry liqueurs – even the names conjure up images of delights to come.

Marlenes Chocolate Haven
Westport | Mayo
Tucked away in a lovely little courtyard off James Street in Westport is the delightful shop that is Marlene’s Chocolate Haven. Not only a haven but also an absolute heaven for chocolate lovers. How can you choose between 30 varieties of chocolates and truffles? Especially when they have enticing names such as Love Potion or Rose Cream?

Planning a vacation to Ireland? Let Celtic Tours World Vacations help you plan the perfect Irish Vacation.

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European Group Travel

Here are just a few of Celtic Tours favorite group itineraries. So gather up your favorite group of people: your co-workers, church group, family members or affinity group and start planning your trip today!

1. Celtic Dream: Our premier tour offers you an updated itinerary in 2011. This tour has added attractions for 2011 and features most of the major historic and scenic attractions of Ireland. The Celtic Dream is acknowledged by visitors and Travel Agents as being the best value tour offered to Ireland.

2. St. Patrick’s Week: What could be more fun and exciting than celebrating St. Patrick’s Day festivities in Ireland with your favorite group of people?

3. Experience Italy: Experience a transforming journey to Italy featuring a visit to Turin to view the Shroud. For over 39 years, Celtic Tours World Vacations has provided spiritual journeys to connect travelers with their faith. There is no greater experience than visiting the sites where history, culture and religion connect people through a hands-on experience with their faith. This is a great tour for church groups or any group

4. Experience Spain: Our new Spain Experience tour is designed for small groups of 10 or more. Great for Family and Friends. Join Celtic Tours on this amazing vacation including 3 nights in Madrid and 3 nights in Barcelona.

5. Experience France: Our new France Experience tour is designed for small groups of 10 or more. Discover Nice and Paris with your family and friends!

6. Experience Portugal: Our new Portugal Experience tour is designed for small groups of 10 or more. Great for Family and Friends.

7. In a Tuscan Villa: Our Tuscan Villa Stay features an authentic Italian Villa stay for four nights. This is an excellent program for both individual and group travel and has become a popular base for touring the Tuscan region while enjoying the warmth and charm of Villa Casagrande!

8. Celtic Delight: Featured in many publications, this tour takes in some of the most scenic areas in Southern Ireland including Kilkenny Castle, Trinity College and the Book of Kells, Cobh Heritage, Blarney, Killarney, Foynes Flying Boat Museum and Limerick for a farewell Medieval Castle Banquet.

9. Heart of England: This new and unique program brings you some of the most famous landmarks in England, great for those with limited time! Great for small groups of 4 or more!

10. Corners of Cornwall: Gourmets will love the fine food, history buffs will relish the architecture, literature lovers will delight in scenes straight from the printed page and breathtaking views will impress absolutely everyone. This is the tour that has it all, but even its busy schedule allows ample scope to embrace the back roads and add a few adventures of your own.

At Celtic Tours, we do groups your way! If you do not see something here, just check out our website to see what other group tours we offer. Or call our group reservations and we can customize your group itinerary for you!


Plan an Irish Spa Vacation

There are many spas in Ireland to choose from, destination spas, specialized retreats and hotel spas. At Irish spas not only are you pampered but you get stunning scenery wherever you look. Bliss… Here is a list of some of the spas in Ireland to get you started in planning your Irish Spa Vacation.

Monart Destination Spa
Enniscorthy Wexford – Ireland South

Monart is located in Wexford in over one hundred acres of private woodland and their total focus is on helping guests to rest, rejuvenate and transform, through a combination of its magical private location, luxurious facilities, excellent dining and worldclass spa facilities and treatment.

Temple Country Retreat
Horseleap Westmeath – Ireland East

A spa break at Temple is a fully inclusive experience. As our guest, you will enjoy gourmet spa cuisine, unlimited use of the vitality suite and a complimentary programme of daily mind and body activities. Available Treatments Include: Indian Head Massage, ISHI ChocoTherapy and VinoTherapy.


Delphi Mountain Resort

Leenane Galway – Ireland West

A truly unique place where you can completely escape, unwind, contemplate and relax. Delphi Mountain Resort is set within 400 acres of prime Connemara forest, just a stones throw from the picturesque Cross beach, one of the world’s finest surf beaches and against the majestic Mweelrea mountain range.

Dromoland Castle Hotel
Dromoland Clare – Ireland West

Combining the luxury of Dromoland Castle and located within the castle walls, enjoy the experience of the latest natural beauty and holistic therapies. Products include The Anne Semonin treatment range and the Irish product range Voya. As a haven for pure relaxation the design reflects an air of tranquility and serenity with light wood furniture, shades of beige, stone floors, steel plated accessories and a feature water wall.

The Thai Spa at Lough Erne Resort
Enniskillen Fermanagh – Northern Ireland

Oriental philosophy regards beauty as a holistic concept embracing both the inner and outer self. The ritual applications of Asia’s Botanical heritage provides the means to nurture, relax, empty the mind and soothe the soul.

Brandon House Hotel and Solas Croi Spa
New Ross Wexford – Ireland South

A deluxe country manor house set, in landscaped grounds with panoramic views overlooking the River Barrow. Dine in the Gallery Restaurant or relax in the Library Bar. All rooms elegantly furnished. Luxurious health club and spa with twenty metre pool, fully equipped gym, kiddies pool and hydrotherapy grotto.

Nirvana Beauty & Day Spa
Coleraine Londonderry – Northern Ireland

Ultimate pampering. Northern Ireland’s premier luxury day spa. Awarded a 5 star rating by the UK and Ireland association ‘Good Salon Guide’. Full range of indulgent treatments for both men and women. Seaweed baths, chocolate facials, body massage, aromatherapy, rasul steam room, chillout room and luxury products.

SOAK Seaweed Baths
Newcastle Down – Northern Ireland

Soak Seaweed baths is situated in the beautiful County Down seaside town of Newcastle on the extremely pretty South Promenade. SOAK offers hot saltwater seaweed baths, individual steam cabinets as well as jet spa showering.

Still can’t decide, let our destination experts at Celtic Tours World Vacations help you plan the perfect Irish Vacation


Free Things to do in Ireland

Everybody loves FREE! And Ireland has plenty of it. Here is a short list of some of the free attractions and activities in Ireland.

Museums & Galleries: All Ireland’s National Museums are free of charge! Visit the Natural History, the Archaeology and History and the Decorative Arts and History Museums in Dublin and learn all about the country’s colorful past. Many Art Galleries are free too – try the National Gallery or Ireland’s Museum of Modern Art. http://www.museum.ie

St. George’s Market: One of Belfast’s oldest attractions, there has been a Friday market on the St. George’s site since 1604. Home to some of the finest fresh produce, this charming Victorian building attracts visitors from near and far to sample the delights of Friday and Saturday markets. Sample the produce, relax with a coffee and a newspaper against a backdrop of live jazz or flamenco music. This market is a real Saturday treat and a great outing for all the family.

St. Anne’s Cathedral, Belfast: Explore the treasures of this Irish-roman-style cathedral. Mounted on top of the cathedral is the new, modern spire, ‘Spire of Hope’, rising 100 metres above the city. http://www.belfastcathedral.org



The Causeway Coastal Route and the Giant’s Causeway (Co. Antrim): The Giant’s Causeway, the source of legends of gigantic proportions, is a 50 to 60 million year old landmark of Ireland’s natural and mystical beauty. Located in County Antrim, the causeway was named the fourth greatest natural wonder of the United Kingdom and is the most popular tourist attraction in Northern Ireland. Entry is free (although there is a fee for nearby parking). http://www.causewaycoastandglens.com

Downpatrick Cathedral and St. Patrick’s Tomb: This 19th century gothic cathedral was constructed on a sacred site. Its cemetery contains the tomb of St. Patrick. http://www.visitdownpatrick.com

Connemara National Park, Co. Galway: the park covers 2,957 hectares of magnificent landscape. The Interpretation Centre presents expositions on the fauna and flora, and a film. Visitors can make use of the hiking trails and picnic areas. http://www.connemaranationalpark.ie

Hunt Museum, Co. Limerick: Entry is free every Sunday between 14:00 to 17:00. One of the most beautiful private collections of art and antiques in the world, ranging from Neolithic to modern times, and includes a range of works by Renoir, Picasso and Yeats. http://www.huntmuseum.com

Croagh Patrick, Co. Mayo: The tradition of pilgrimage to this holy mountain stretches back over 5,000 years from the Stone Age to the present day without interruption. Croagh Patrick is renowned for its Patrician Pilgrimage in honour of Saint Patrick, Ireland’s patron saint. It was on the summit of the mountain that Saint Patrick fasted for forty days in 441 AD and the custom has been faithfully handed down from generation to generation. http://www.croagh-patrick.com

Killarney National Park, Co. Kerry: one of the most popular parks in Ireland, its history-rich scenery will leave you speechless. Walk amongst its 10.236 hectares to see its Torc Waterfall. http://www.killarneynationalpark.ie

Muckross Friary & Gardens, Co. Kerry: This Franciscan Friary was founded in the 15th century and is in a remarkable state of preservation. The cloister and its associated buildings are complete and an old yew tree stands in the centre.

Kilmacurragh Arboretum in Co. Wicklow: Around the ruins of a fine Queen Anne style house lie 52 acres of wild Robinsonian gardens began in 1715 and further expanded with the advice of the Directors of the Botanic Gardens in Dublin during the 19th century. Rare trees and shrubs abound for you to explore. Admission is free.

With so much to do and see in Ireland, it can be hard to choose. Let the travel experts at Celtic Tours help you. Visit our website to learn about our Irish Vacations!


The Ancient Art of Falconry

The ancient art of Falconry is reputed to be the oldest sport in the world. Evidence suggests that the art of falconry may have begun in Mesopotamia, China or Mongolia around 2000BC, as a means of catching food for yourself and your family.

Falconry spread westwards reaching the shores of Europe long before the end of the first millennium. Historically, Falconry was a popular sport and considered a status symbol among the nobles of medieval Europe and Asia. It was largely restricted to the noble classes due to the commitment of time, money and space. Falconry continued to be symbolic of status in art, long after it was popularly practiced.

Falconry is an art that requires long hours, constant devotion, finesse, subtlety and skill. The falconer must train a bird of prey to fly free, hunt and then return to captivity. A beginning falconer should begin with knowledge; learning about the various gaming birds, their stages of life, characteristics, prey, car, feeding and suitability for the falconer and the hunting environment.

Ireland’s First School of Falconry, at Ashford castle, offers visitors the chance to experience the ancient art of Falconry first hand on a private Hawk Walk. They specialize in lessons using beautiful Harris hawks, but in addition to hawks the school is home to a variety of eagles, owls and falcons. Within minutes of arriving, you will have a hawk on your glove and be setting off to fly your hawk or hawks in the gardens and woodlands surrounding Ashford Castle.

Ashford Castle is a medieval castle, located deep in the heartland of Mayo and set against a spectacular backdrop of forests, lakes and mountains. The stately architecture, surrounded by magnificent gardens makes Ashford Castle, a place where time stands still. Ashford Castle was built in 1228 for the de Burgo family, whose surname became the Burkes or Bourkes. They owned the castle for 3 and a half centuries until it was purchased by Noel Huggard in 1939. He opened the estate as a hotel, which became renowned for the provision of its country pursuits, such as angling, shooting and falconry.

In 1951, Ashford Castle played the backdrop to The Quiet Man starring John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara. In its time, the castle has played host to many notable guests including: John Lennon, George Harrison, King George V of the UK, Oscar Wilde, Ronald Reagan, Ted Kennedy, Brad Pitt, Princess Grace and Pierce Brosnan to name a few.

While staying at Ashford Castle, you can enjoy a wide range of relaxing or exciting activities. Book a Spa treatment or Fly a Hawk in the School of Falconry, take a Picnic in the Walled Garden or catch Wild Trout or Salmon here, in one of the most famous fisheries in Ireland. Just 40 minutes from Galway city, and within easy driving distance of Shannon International Airport, Ashford Castle is perfectly situated to welcome all ages of visitors, from every corner of the globe.

Enjoy the majesty of staying in a medieval castle with Celtic Tours. Ashford Castle is a featured hotel on many of our Ireland vacations, including our Deluxe Deluxe Self Drive Vacation.


Cooking Classes in Ireland

Cooking Classes in Ireland

Want to take a cooking class on your next vacation to Ireland? There are many to choose from with classes ranging from traditional Irish cuisine to fusion cuisine.

Rory O’Connell Cookery School

Snugboro, Ballybraher, Ballycotton, Co Cork

Things are cooking nicely in Ballycotton… Rory O’Connell, ex-Head Chef of Ballymaloe House and one of the principal teachers at Ballymaloe Cookery School, has struck a serious culinary note with his new Bespoke Cookery Classes. Classes at Snugboro are designed for groups from two to twelve people, which gives a really intimate feel. A sample menu: Spicy Moroccan Lentil Soup, Risotto of Autumn Greens, Roast Butterflied Leg of Lamb with Garlic and Herb mayonnaise, creamy Colcannon and a superb Chocolate Meringue Roulade with Blackberries and Sweet Geranium.

Dublin Cookery School
2 Brookfield Terrace, Blackrock, Co Dublin.

It is hard not to be affected by Lynda Booth’s enthusiasm. Her passion for food and teaching is apparent immediately and what better place to combine these two loves than in a cookery school? Housed in a dazzling purpose-built premises, the bright, spacious kitchens of the Dublin Cookery Schools are the perfect setting for novice cooks and seasoned chefs alike. With 12 fully-equipped workstations, complete with hobs and ovens, students learn tricks of the trade in a supportive and challenging environment. As they say themselves, ‘serious food in a relaxed atmosphere’. The course list is extensive, including fish and bread courses, barbecue, entertaining, Californian cuisine, teen friendly courses and many more. This, combined with Lynda’s exuberant style and the fabulous space makes for a seriously fun learning experience.

Donnybrook Fair Restaurant, Food Hall & Cookery School
89 Morehampton Road, Donnybrook, Dublin 4.

This urban restaurant, cookery school, deli and foodstore has everything a food lover will need from all over the country and even further a field. The extensive food-hall is stocked to the rafters with a mixture of fine artisan and gourmet speciality items and store-cupboard essentials. A dedicated butchery, fish counter and wonderful freshly baked breads, pastries, cakes and take-out hot and cold lunches, and not to mention the wonderful contemporary restaurant upstairs with menus that combine the finest seasonal Irish ingredients with flavours from around the world.

Tannery Cookery School (The)
10 Quay Street, Dungarvan, Co Waterford

Over a decade after Paul and his wife Máire opened their uber-stylish Tannery Restaurant, taking a high end food experience to a small Waterford town, they have now successfully opened, the Tannery Cookery School in pretty Dungarvan. Featuring a state of the art demonstration kitchen and with cookery courses for everybody, whether you are looking for a course to improve your home cooking skills, a short cookery course with friends or a tailored course to suit a corporate event The Tannery Cookery School is for you!

Ballyknocken House and Cookery School
Glenealy, Ashford, Co Wicklow

Set in private tranquil gardens in the heart of the glorious Wicklow countryside you will feel the stresses and strains of your other life melt away as soon as you arrive at Catherine Fulvio’s romantic Victorian country house. Catherine’s real passion is for local produce and this is reflected in the stunning breakfasts and dinners served and in the state of the art Cookery School, which is perfectly located in a renovated Milking Parlour. With seven beautifully decorated period bedrooms with Victorian baths and brass beds and a warm welcome awaiting you what better place to re-discover the joys of cooking than at Ballyknocken House and Cookery School.

Orchard Acre Farm
36 Moynaghan North Road, Lisnarick, Irvinestown, Co Fermanagh, BT94 1LQ.

Right at the very heart of Orchard Acre Farm’s success and certainly central to its charm is Teresa O’Hare. It is she, together with husband Hugh who is the driving energy of an operation so diverse in its offering that is hard to confine its labeling to any one category. It is a cookery and training centre, a gardening and vegetable hive, a wedding, conference or party venue, a voluntary work opportunity and most of all a sanctuary. Orchard Acre is a world of possibilities with one warm and very dynamic woman at its heart.

Let Celtic Tours help you choose a cooking class for your next culinary tour of Ireland. Visit our website for more details on our tours of Ireland.

Information provided by: Good Food Ireland