on May 15, 2012
Having been in Ireland nearly a week, a guided motor coach tour seemed to be a good idea to let David have a break from the driving on the opposite of the road. I booked the Ring of Kerry tour with O'Connor Auto Tours largely for that reason. The added bonus of doing such was that we got to learn first hand about some of Ireland from the local guiding (and driving) the tour coach.Our day started by driving to Killarney from Tralee, about a 30 minute ride. We arrived in plenty of time to take care of the details before our trip. We arrived especially early so that we could have our choice of seats in the bus, which proved to be very fortuitous. We were in the first two rows which provided for some of the best viewing and "drive-by" photography. Given that our bus was barely half full, space was not a problem so it was equally nice to be able to spread out and have a seat each to ourselves.The Ring of Kerry tour takes in the full circle drive of the Iveragh Peninsula, which is a mix of waterfront and mountain view trip. The weather on our day was partially overcast with rain coming later in the afternoon. For some parts of the trip it was glorious but at the end, not so much. We made the most of it, enjoying not getting wet at the various stops we made along the way.As part of the tour, we did stop at two sites that charge an additional admission fee of €5 per person at each. The Kerry Bog Village and Kells Sheep Centre (see separate reviews on each in my "Ring of Kerry" journal). These are optional tours along the way, but frankly are an important part of the Irish culture in County Kerry. We were fully aware of the additional fees, while several in our group were not and could be heard grousing about it. For a family of four, the extra €40 is not a small matter. My opinion is that O'Connor would be better served to negotiate a deal and wrap the cost of these two stops into their ticket price. At the very least, this information should be on the main page of their website describing this tour, and not buried back in the FAQ's. Like I said, I found and knew about the added costs . . . but others didn't.Something else that was a bit of a frustration for other folks in our group was the lunch stop. It was a nice restaurant with a wonderful view. But contrary to their website, there were no other choices. This was a place pretty much in the middle of nowhere. Their FAQ states "Can you get lunch on the tour? Yes. Lunch stop is at Waterville where there are a number of reasonable family restaurants and snack bars."The irony of this is that some people read the FAQ's and knew about the lunch stop and were not happy and some of the others who didn't read the FAQ's seemed fine about lunch but unhappy about the added fees for the two optional tour stops. Maybe this can be chalked up to "You just can't please everyone". I don't know . . . we were happy with both situations.One other comment to make about the tour and the stops made has to do with the "shopping" stop. Throughout the tour our guide told us that if we kept on schedule, we'd have plenty of time to do some shopping. He used this as the motivation to get people back on the bus on time when we did stop. Well the shopping stop was the last of the day and we had about 30-45 minutes there. It was at Avoca, which is a small chain (around 0 store locations around Ireland) of boutique stores and cafes. We enjoyed our breakfast the first two mornings in Ireland at the Avoca near Glendalough, but the prices for merchandise were very high. I felt badly for anyone who use this as their primary shopping stop during a trip to Ireland. This stop was better served being the afternoon tea and snack stop.With these comments you may get the impression that we didn't enjoy our time taking the Ring of Kerry tour with O'Connor. That would not be the case, however. We did enjoy it and perhaps I've just noticed more than others would take in during the day. A lot of people self-drive the Ring of Kerry and relatively speaking, the roads are wide enough to easily navigate on your own. The number of stops provided were about right and we learned a lot during our time with John O'Neill (our guide/driver).The price for this tour was €23 for adults, with discounts for seniors and children. Additionally, there is a 12.5% discount if you book on their website.O'Connor Auto Tours does offer other tours including one of Dingle Peninsula. Frankly, if you really want to leave the harrowing driving to someone else, perhaps consider that tour. It is a little more expensive (€25) and only offers a 10% discount, but in my opinion having doing the self-driving of Dingle Peninsula and some of Slea Head, this would be money well spent. To really maximize your booking savings, take both of these tours (Dingle and Ring of Kerry) and get a 20% discount online.
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