Ireland, Scotland trips kick off ToursMMC excursions

By Mike Warren

If you’re anything like me, you enjoy traveling, but don’t enjoy making all of the necessary arrangements that go with planning and preparation. I found the solution in the latest venture by this newspaper’s publishing company, Multi Media Channels.

ToursMMC was launched in mid-March, when I and 40 other readers joined two MMC representatives on a week-long visit to Ireland, and a smaller group – myself included – enjoyed a three-day stop in Scotland prior to that. More on that in a moment.

Leading up to the trip, there was a lot of anxiety, in our rapidly-changing COVID environment. However, ToursMMC, in conjunction with Chamber Discoveries, took care of everything and kept the group well-informed prior to departure, with constant COVID-related updates on required testing and documentation, and payment deadlines.

Once all of the negative COVID-19 tests came back, and all of the necessary paperwork and passports were signed and stamped accordingly, we were cleared for takeoff and free to have fun. And we did.

The pre-Ireland tour group – 18 of us – endured an eight-hour flight from Chicago to Frankfurt, Germany, followed by a one-hour flight to Edinburgh, Scotland, where we were met by our Chamber Discoveries Tour Director Colin Birkbeck. We liked him immediately. Not only was Colin’s native tongue entertaining to listen to, but so was his vast knowledge of Edinburgh.

As soon as we arrived at our hotel, we embarked on a one-hour bus tour of the city, which gave us all ideas of what to explore on our own.

The next morning, our first stop was the city’s main attraction – Edinburgh Castle. This centuries-old fortress dates back to the Iron Age, and stands atop Castle Rock, which is actually a volcanic plug overlooking much of the city. Our self-guided tours of the grounds took us through the castle’s Great Hall and St. Margaret’s Chapel, Edinburgh’s oldest building. We also viewed the Honours of Scotland, the oldest crown jewels in Britain. The visit also allowed for some of the most spectacular views of the city below.

From Edinburgh Castle, we ventured north to the seaside town of St. Andrews, which features a castle of its own. But with St. Andrews Castle temporarily closed for renovation, we headed straight for lunch at Forgan’s, a very chic, skylit restaurant.

I opted for the herb-crusted salmon with baked potatoes in a mussel cream sauce – one of the best meals my normally-picky palate has ever experienced. I followed up the main course with a delectable warm sticky toffee pudding, something the Scots do very well.

After lunch, some of us took the short stroll down to the Old Course at St. Andrews Links, considered the birthplace of golf. I even managed to persuade a club house attendant to let me knock around some golf balls on the practice green for a few moments. Don’t worry Wisconsin, I represented the Badger state well, complete with my Ryder Cup pullover from Whistling Straits.

The following day, March 15, we were left to tour Edinburgh on our own. Most of us used the time to do some shopping while also enjoying a few of the city’s many restaurants.

The next day’s itinerary had us departing Edinburgh bright and early on a short, 45-minute plane ride to Dublin, Ireland, followed by a two-and-a-half hour bus ride to Limerick, where the Savoy Hotel became our temporary home for the following six days. A good night’s sleep had us all ready for the country’s big holiday the following day, St. Patrick’s Day.

The main event – the city’s annual St. Patrick’s Day parade – went right past our hotel, so we didn’t have far to go to get a good spot. The parade featured the usual floats, fire and police vehicles, and bands. The rest of the day was ours, and some used the free time to shop, while others got a great view of the city from the Panoramic Wheel. Situated on the banks of the Rivers Shannon and King John’s Castle in Arthur’s Quay Park, the ride gave those of us who took advantage breathtaking views of the rivers, the castle and the city itself.

The main event – the city’s annual St. Patrick’s Day parade – went right past our hotel.

The following day, we met our Ireland tour director, Donal Culloty, who also doubled as our bus driver. As was the case with Colin in Scotland, Donal was very entertaining and a wealth of knowledge. He guided us to the Dingle Peninsula, where we shopped, ate, and took in the magnificent scenery along the southwestern coastline of the Emerald Isle.

The following day’s excursion also featured spectacular views of Ireland’s western coastline, during stops at the Cliffs of Moher and then Galway further north. We were back in Limerick for the evening to enjoy some of the city’s finest eateries.

Multi Media Channels’ Tim Schreiber and his wife, Janet, at the Cliffs of Moher. Contributed photo.

My group headed for The Locke Bar & Restaurant, in the heart of Limerick’s Medieval Quarter, where the Abbey River meets the Shannon. The Locke also sits on the original site of one of the city’s oldest pubs dating back to the early 1700s. The Locke is where yours truly enjoyed his first taste of one of Ireland’s other great treasures, Guinness.

Our March 20 adventure took us to the “Rock of Cashel” and Kilkenny Castle.

On our final full day in Ireland, some of us took advantage of the opportunity to visit Blarney Castle near the country’s southern shores. Most in our group also opted to kiss the infamous Blarney Stone.

Multi Media Channels’ Kris Leonhardt and Mike Warren inside Blarney Castle.

That evening, the entire group got back together to enjoy a medieval dinner event at Bunratty Castle, just to the west of Limerick.

The next day, most of us departed Limerick for home, while some opted for a brief, post-tour visit to Dublin.

As you might guess, Ireland is even more picturesque in person as it is in the history books, magazines, and online.

Now, for those of you who may have seen the ads for this Ireland trip but were not able to join us, your chance awaits. ToursMMC intends to offer these bucket-list type vacations in the years to come, with a spring and a fall trip each year. I can now speak from experience when I say this hassle-free, door-to-door service really is the way to go, especially for an overseas visit.

The next ToursMMC adventure begins Oct. 18 in Sorrento, along the Amalfi Coast of Italy. The group will stay in Sorrento for eight days, and the entire trip is within very close proximity to the hotel, with minimal bus travel. The itinerary includes stops in Pompeii and the Island of Capri, with an option to venture into Rome.

Go to for more information or to register online. For a personal contact, call or email our travel leader from Adelman Discoveries/Chamber Discoveries, Sarah Van Elsen Dunn, at [email protected] or 599-244-6600.

The Emerald Isle is everything that you’ve seen and more. MMC photos.
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