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Almost everyone who visits Ireland wants to experience the ‘Irish Factor’. Top of the list of ‘Things to do and see’ are Irish Pubs and Irish Music so we asked our past guests, what would their favourite irish drinks be at Christmas based on their experience of an Irish Pub while on one of our Irish Music Tours. We’ll count them down from 5……….

At Number 5……… Smithwicks

This was originally brewed in Kilkenny City until production was moved to Dublin. This red ale always proves popular with visitors and locals alike. The Smithwicks Experience in Kilkenny City gives guided tours of the original production facility with a tasting at the end of the tour. As one visitor commented, ‘just it’s colour reminds me of Christmas’

At Number 4………Donegal Blonde

Brewed by the Donegal Brewing Company in Ballyshannon, Co. Donegal (Ireland’s oldest town), Donegal Blonde has became an instant hit with both locals and visitors alike since the company was established in 2011. The company set up production facilities in the beer garden of the family run pub ‘Dicey Reilly’s’ and are still there to this day. Our guests tell us that it’s flavour, colour and name evoke fond memories of their trip to Ireland with Irish Music Tours and it’s the ideal gift to give someone at Christmas.

At Number 3………. Dingle Gin

This gin is brewed by the Dingle Whiskey Distillery on the outskirts of Dingle Town. As it’s title suggests, the brewery started out in 2012 brewing whiskey and gin soon followed. Our guests comment on it’s refreshing taste and it reminds them of Dingle, County Kerry, the great people, stunning scenery and wonderful music.

At Number 2……… Silkie Whiskey

This may surprise some people. As the youngest of our irish drinks, Silkie Whiskey has came out on top of all the whiskeys, which may raise a few eyebrows. Based in Carrick, Co. Donegal, at the foot of the majestic Sliabh League Cliffs, the distillery is the first in the county for over 175 years. Guests often tell us how Silkie Whiskey reminds them of Donegal, the rugged coastline, amazing scenery and friendly people and great music.

And At Number 1………. Guinness

No real surprises here then. Known throughout the world as a symbol of Ireland and of all things Irish, a pint of Guinness came out on top as the favourite tipple to be had at Christmas. It encompasses all things Irish, and regardless of where in the world you come from, when you have a pint of Guinness in your hand in an Irish pub, you know you are really home!!!

Top 10 Things to do with IrishMusicTours.ie

IrishMusicTours.ie is Ireland’s leading Traditional Irish Music tour operator, providing a range of tour packages that suit both non-musicians and musicians alike. Below are 10 reasons why you should book an Irish Music Tour today.

1. Instrument Makers. Irish Music Tours are the only Irish based tour operator to incorporate all aspects of Traditional Irish music in our tours. A major focus of our tours are instrument makers. Throughout the island of Ireland are fiddle makers, flute makers, harp makers, banjo makers, pipe makers etc. and these craftsmen are the unsung heroes of traditional Irish music, providing the instruments that are so widely played week in, week out. The tours visit the workshops to get a better understanding of the process involved in producing these wonderful instruments.

2. Nightly Sessions. At the core of all or tours is the Traditional Irish Music Session. Each night on our tours we have a session wherever we stop off and we meet up with some of the local musicians from that area. Our sessions are recorded, mastered and transferred to CD for you as a gift to remind you of your time with us.

3. Traditional Music Venues. Our years of experience playing music around Ireland enables us to visit the authentic traditional music venues so often overlooked by the major tour operators. We pride ourselves in giving our guests the authentic Irish music experience.

4. Straw Craft Ireland. As part of our Great Northern Traditional Music Tour, we pay a visit to Straw Craft Ireland who have been carrying on the old tradition of weaving and sculpting with the medium of straw as was done hundreds of years ago. There is a demonstration and a workshop giving the guest an opportunity to make an item with straw using old techniques which they can keep as a memento of their visit.

5. Musicians Travel on the Tour. Irish Music Tours have a pool of more than 30 of the finest traditional musicians and some of these musicians travel with the guests on each tour to guarantee nightly sessions and craic along the way. This is a great opportunity to get to know the musicians and understand the importance of Irish music on everyday Irish life.

6. Arranmore Island. The jewel in the crown is our visit too Arranmore Island off the coast of Co. Donegal. We spend a night on the Island getting to know it’s often tragic history, meeting the King of Arranmore and taking in it’s breathtaking beauty and scenery. And of course we’ll have a session.

7. Traditional Irish Music Festivals. New to our tour schedule for 2015 is the introduction of tour packages covering some of the major Traditional Music Festivals that take place throughout the year in all parts of Ireland. A chance to experience the sights and sounds whenever musicians come together.


8. The Wild Atlantic Way. Covering 2500kms of Ireland’s western seaboard, The Wild Atlantic Way is the longest coastal drive in the world. Our Wild Atlantic Way Traditional Music Tour takes you on a journey exploring all Ireland’s coastline has to offer while enjoying Ireland’s hidden musical gems in the company of the finest musicians.

9. Eddie Doherty Hand Weaving. Based in the picturesque heritage village of Ardara, Co. Donegal, we visit the workshop of world famous weaver Eddie Doherty and learn more about the history of hand weaving while Eddie gives a demonstration on his hand weaving loom.

10. The Authentic Irish Experience. Irish Music Tours prides itself on providing an authentic Irish experience, enabling the guests to get true insight to Irish life, customs, and traditions while having at it’s core, genuine Traditional Irish Music. See the Sights, Meet the People, Enjoy the Music.

For more details on available tour packages, visit www.irishmusictours.ie



Instrument Makers and Irish Music Tours

One of the most important aspects of our tours is our visits to the workshops of some of the dedicated instrument makers and craftsmen who actually make the instruments that are played on a nightly basis in every town and village in Ireland and further afield. Mass produced instruments are freely available in any music shop but there is something special about researching, ordering and receiving your very own hand made instrument.

In 1996, after playing a standard factory made bouzouki for a number of years, I decided to invest in my very own hand made Joe Foley bouzouki. The process of being able to pick your type of wood, instrument size and decoration is very satisfying as normally this is an instrument you will have for the rest of your life. It’s an investment.

Once all the details of the construction of the instrument has been agreed, you just have to wait. In 1996 I waited about 9 months to get my new bouzouki. Nowadays, because of the popularity of hand made instruments, some people can wait up to 2 years for theirs. When my bouzouki was eventually ready I had agreed to meet Joe in Miltown Malbay, Co. Clare, at the Willie Clancy Traditional Music Festival for the official handover. It was like being a child at Christmas all over again. The excitement and anticipation was almost unbearable.

The moment I opened the case is something that I will always remember. The smell of the varnish was almost over-powering. This was mine. A sense of satisfaction sets in and as Joe went his way and I went mine, a new chapter of this musical journey begins. It’s still special to be in a session and another Foley instrument joins in and so the conversation and comparisons begin.

At Irish Music Tours we feel it is important to visit the often forgotten stalwarts of Traditional Irish Music, the instrument makers. Included in our tours are visits to Tom Cussen (Banjo), Ray Sloan (Uilleann pipes), Kevin Sykes (Fiddle), Martin Doyle (Flutes), Paul Doyle (Guitar, Harp,Bouzouki), Malachy Kearns (Bodhran) and Jan Muyllaert (Harp).

To join us on our unique journey, check out a tour option to suit you and be a part of something special.


Irish Music Tours and Straw Craft Ireland

At Irish Music Tours.ie we pride ourselves in bringing our guests to experience, not only Traditional Irish Music, but also the Culture and Heritage of Irish life. As time moves on and technology and innovation take over, alot of the old skills and crafts are often lost. There are a few who dedicate themselves to preserving these old traditions, either because it is an old family tradition or they believe it is important to keep these skills as a reminder of the old ways that generations before us lived.

One such person is Co. Armagh native Paul Carville who runs Straw Craft Ireland. Paul is continuing on the tradition of using straw to weave and sculpt anything from household items to items of clothing using only the medium of straw. Paul is carrying on a tradition he learned from his grandfather, himself a master craftsman. Nobel laureate Seamus Heaney’s poem, ‘A Harvest Bow’, was penned about his own father who was also a master craftsman working with straw. The poem is Heaney’s recollection of his father and his experience of watching this master craftsman at work. You can listen to the poem here, read by Seamus Heaney himself, and you can picture the scene in your mind as Heaney draws the image through his words as only he can.

Paul’s work is widely used and recently he was commissioned to provide some of the props that are seen in the latest blockbuster movie, ‘Dracula Untold’.

As part of our Great Northern Traditional Music Tour, we are delighted to have Paul conduct a workshop with our guests when we visit the Lough Neagh Discovery Centre on the outskirts of Lurgan, Co. Armagh. Our guests will get the opportunity to see this master craftsman at work while at the same time get to make their own item in straw that they can keep as a reminder of their visit.

Our Great Northern Traditional Music Tours depart from Dublin, visiting Dundalk, Armagh, Belfast, The Causeway Coast and Donegal. Click here for  Great Northern Traditional Music Tour  departure dates.

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Gift Certificates/Vouchers

Gift Certificates/Vouchers are now available to purchase through our website here. These are an ideal gift for anyone thinking of taking Ireland vacations in 2015. They are available in €100, €200, €300, €400 and €500 and are redeemable against any of our 2015 tour packages. Purchase a gift certificate/voucher between now and Christmas and you’ll receive a free IrishMusicTours.ie 2015 calender. Contact us for more details.

Ireland Vacations – Diary of the Turas Ceoil Johnny Doherty Festival Tour


Our final tour of the 2014 season certainly was one of the highlights of the year. The main item on the tour was the Johnny Doherty Traditional Music and Dance festival in Ardara, Co. Donegal. As usual, our guests were excited at the prospect of experiencing Traditional Irish Music at first hand in one of the most iconic villages in Donegal, renown for it’s warmth, it’s people, it’s scenery and most importantly, it’s music.

Over the course of the tour we had the most amazing weather for the time of the year which added to the experience, but, even on a bad day, the scenery is stunning on this part of the Wild Atlantic Way.

Sliabh League never ceases to take your breath away. A stop off in the Rusty Mackerel Bar in Teelin for ‘refreshments’ where Tony and his staff were only too happy to give our guests an insight into Teelin and the surrounding area. The costal drive from Kilcar to Glencolumcille resulted in alot of stops for photo opportunities as the meandering roads and stunning costal views literally appear at each turn of the corner.

Glengesh Pass is another viewing point that sees the jaws of our guests drop open as the view towards Ardara comes into focus. Another stop here for photos and the guests are saying ‘this can’t get any better’……think again!!

Arranmore Island is Ireland’s second largest populated island. The drive from Ardara to Burtonport to get the ferry takes us along the Wild Atlantic Way northwards. Following the contours of the coast to Dungloe and onto Burtonport will test the batteries on any smart phone or camera as the photo opportunities are plentiful. As we wait on the pier, the important thing I tell my guests is that the visit to Arranmore Island literally starts with the ferry crossing. Lasting approx 15 minutes, it weaves through the small islands before the short hop across open water to what is an enchanting place, almost frozen in time, and what seems like hundreds of miles away from the mainland. We’re greeted as we dock by the old wooden boats of times past, lying up in dry dock. If only they could talk.

Excitement and anticipation is at fever pitch and it doesn’t disappoint. We make our way south around the island, stopping numerous times to photograph and take in the stunning views out to sea, the quaint cottages and the ruins of homes, long since abandoned, that hold the secrets of a time long past. As we climb the narrow winding road to the highest point on the island, we pass the turf bogs, still dug by hand to this day.

Then, like an oasis in the desert, the monument to Beaver Island appears. (Arranmore Island is twinned with Beaver Island on Lake Michigan as islanders settled there around 1851 during famine times). Further on we reach the old lifeboat station, were many tragedies were attended from, and to the lighthouse, where the sight of crashing waves on the sea cliffs is truly magnificiant.

Back around to where we started and it’s time for lunch in Early’s Bar. Jerry and Pat Early and their staff look after our every needs, providing us with a warm welcome, stunning food, and more insight about the island and it’s, often tragic, past. A couple of pints in Phil Bán’s Pub sees us ready for the return ferry journey with an experience never to be forgotten.


Now what can I say about the Johnny Doherty festival? Evening concerts, pub and street sessions, ceilis and set dances. The ultimate traditional music experience.

Friday night is the opening concert in the Beehive Bar. (Our guest’s tickets for all the concerts are included in their Ireland vacations). There’s a session already started in the public bar from early evening and the concert starts at 9pm in the upstairs venue. There are musicians from all over Ireland, Scotland and further afield, playing and singing and the atmosphere is enchanting. It’s a late night with the music continuing into the early hours.

Saturday starts late after the night before and we make our way to Eddie Doherty’s Hand Woven Tweed Workshop. Eddie’s shop is a pleasure to go into as there is a vast array of hand woven goods for sale, but importantly, Eddie is on hand to demonstrate on his loom, the process of how the tweed is made. He always has time for a chat with everyone and his passion and personality is infectious.

A workshop in Ceili or Set Dancing is the perfect way to bring us round, ready for the day ahead. By afternoon the sessions have already started and we ready ourselves for the main evening concert, Cherish The Ladies, in the Nesbitt Arms Hotel.

A packed house is treated to the wonderful tunes and songs of the very talented women and then it’s back to the Beehive Bar to finish off the night in the company of some of Ireland’s finest musicians long into the wee hours.

More dancing workshops on Sunday for the hardy festival goers as, once more, the sound of sessions can be heard coming from almost all the pubs in this wonderful village. The Friel Sisters from Scotland is tonight’s concert and, again, musicians and music lovers alike play, listen, chat and make friends, but most of all, celebrate our wonderful culture like no-one else can.

After another late night, reality sinks in as it’s time to leave this beautiful and culturally rich part of Ireland. Some guests will go home, some move onto other locations but one thing is guaranteed, this part of Donegal will hold a special place in their hearts.

As our final tour of 2014 draws to a close the memories will live on. New friends forever, old friendships re-kindled, our extended musical family continues to grow.

2015 can’t come soon enough.




Ireland Vacations

Johnny Doherty Festival 2014

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