A Great Testimonial and a Great Ireland Tour !!!!!

                                                    (Thanks to Ireland Luxury Tours and Maurice Dowle)
by: Richard Schmelzle
Exactly a century ago two families, one from Belfast and the other from Hilltown, County Down, emigrated from Northern Ireland to Toronto, Canada. In the ensuing years, not one member from either family ever returned to visit their homeland.
A little more than twenty-five years later, the daughter of the Belfast family, Edith Dempsey, and the son of the Hilltown family, John Perry (Jack), met in Toronto, fell in love and married. And there, as the saying goes, our story begins. Edith and Jack Perry's family consisted of five children - four daughters and a son. Although they were both very proud of their Irish roots, neither had any recollection of Ireland as Edith was born in Toronto and Jack was only four years old when his family left for a new beginning in Canada. Yet, they taught their children to appreciate their Irish heritage and to wear it proudly.

Over the years the children often talked of visiting Ireland. They had all married and now had children and grandchildren. The possibility of a group visit became a distant dream. But dreams can sometimes come true and in 2011 a plan came together to bring family members from: Arizona, North Carolina, Nebraska and Toronto to meet in Belfast for a family heritage visit to Ireland by the four sisters.
A tour operator was located and plans began to evolve. It became clear that the most viable idea was to hire a company to chauffeur the group. A tour company was found and engaged. It was at this point that the entire trip began to unravel. In order to travel in a mini-van, the travellers would be allowed only one backpack each - as there was not sufficient room for luggage. The itinerary was crowded and little time would be left to see important places. Every day there was a new problem to solve.  We were only a few weeks from our departure date. Would our trip become untenable?

A conversation with an ex-pat Northern Irelander led to a telephone call to England and an enthusiastic recommendation of Ireland Luxury Tours. Maurice Dowle quickly responded to our pleas for help even though he had no expectation of becoming our tour guide. His excellent knowledge and confident recommendations brought instant logic to our itinerary. He suggested a larger vehicle with ample legroom. He worked with us for several days fine-tuning our itinerary. It became obvious to us that we should use Ireland Luxury Tours. The decision was made - and we are totally delighted with it. 

Day One - Dublin and Hilltown
Some of our group were arriving in Belfast, others in Dublin. Maurice suggested that he would bring the group from Belfast with him to meet the others in Dublin. This manoeuver virtually gave an additional day for sightseeing.
Indeed, we were able to visit Hilltown on our way back to Belfast. In Hilltown, we found the exact location where our Father's family had lived. The view of the Mountains of Mourne was exactly as our Aunt had described it to us. Maurice talked to a local couple who told him of an old church and cemetery nearby (which we would have never found on our own!). We knew that our Father, our Grandfather and our Great-Grandfather had been born near Hilltown and were thrilled to find graves clearly marked "Perry". Maurice then took us to Dundrum Castle where the Lord of the area, which included Hilltown, had resided. A perchance meeting with the caretaker of the castle grounds added additional information to the visit. Imagine our delight, only a few hours in Ireland and already we had found valuable family history!  Elated, we continued our journey to Belfast. 

Day Two - The Giants Causeway, Dunluce Castle and Bushmills
A relaxing evening, a very sound sleep, a delicious Irish breakfast at the Europa Hotel and we were ready for a day of exploring the East Coast and Giants Causeway. We were totally entralled with the beauty of this "Emerald Isle". The perfectly laid out fields of green, hedges trimmed to perfection, quaint houses and the rugged coast. The drive was spectacular, puctuated by our "ohs" and "ahs". Soon we arrived at the Giants Causeway - a sight that must be seen to be appreciated. The legend of Finn MacCool as recounted by our tour guide entertained us as we travelled to the rock formations. Even a sudden rain shower didn't dampen our spirits. Dunluce Castle is definitely not to be missed. The history and rugged beauty of its surroundings are incredible as are the views of the west shore from the castle . Maurice knows his history and shared interesting facts and tidbits as we toured the grounds. It was definitely time for lunch and the Bushmills Inn was the perfect spot to enjoy the local offerings.
Our relaxing drive back to Belfast included wonderful shoreline scapes and were highlighted by Maurice's sidebars - including local facts and Dowle humour. We arrived back in time for a tour of Belfast and a scrumptious dinner at the Crown Bar - which, of course, included Sticky Pudding for dessert.

Our evening also included a taxi ride to the addresses where our Mother's family had lived. Once again, a wonderful surprise awaited us. We were able to locate two addresses where our Grandmother's family had lived. The houses on Bradenburg Street were boarded up ready for urban redevelopment but were still standing as they had be in 1900. The Acton Street houses were exactly as they would have been when our Grandmother's family lived there! It was absolutely magical to be transported back in time to see them as they have been for 100 years. Thus, Day Two also gave us another heritage gift and additional pieces to add to our family story.

Day Three - Campbell College, Magheraveely, a Boat Trip, Devenish Monastery and Ballynahinch Castle.
I had expressed to Maurice that C.S. Lewis is a favourite of mine and that I hoped to see the statue of him in Belfast. Always the consumate guide, Maurice explained that Lewis had attended Campbell College - and Maurice just happens to be one of the Campbell College Rugby Coaches. Before leaving Belfast, we were whisked off for a tour of the campus, where Maurice showed us the famous lampost from Lewis' stories and told us little-known anecdotes about the famous author. Our brother-in-law also has family roots in Ireland and a stop in Magheraveely was included. As we travelled by private boat to the 4th Century Monastery on Devenish Island, Maurice, always the gallant host, provided a picnic lunch for us to enjoy. Then it was on to Ballynahinch Castle where another amazing surprise awaited us. Our brother had not been able to join us for this trip - or so we thought - but when we arrived at the castle - our brother and nephew were waiting for us. Once again, all of the arrangements had been managed by Maurice.

Day Four - Aughnanure Castle. and family time over dinner at Ballynahinch Castle.
We spent two wonderful days with the entire family together at the Ballynahinch Castle, visiting Aughnanure Castle and shopping in Galway. Our time could not have been better. All, of course, arranged by Maurice!
Day Five - The Connemara Mountains, The Cliffs of Moher, and The Burren.
Our family time was over all too soon as our brother and nephew had to return home. It was a very short, yet absolutely perfect visit. Once again, thanks to Maurice for arranging all of the details. As they left for home, we journeyed on to visit the Cliffs of Moher, the towns of the Beara Peninsula and Kenmare. arriving in Kinsale - a picturesque fishing village on the west coast. Once again, Maurice found the perfect place for a delicious dinner. It was a balmy evening and after dinner we enjoyed a short walk around Kinsale.

Day Six -The Ring of Beara
This would be our final day of travel. We have fallen in love with the beauty of this Isle and want to drink in all that we can before we have to leave.
Day Seven - Dublin
We want to be in Dublin early so that we can enjoy as much of the city as possible. Maurice would be leaving us there and we plan to explore the city on our own before boarding our flight home early the next morning. We have not had nearly enough time but that means that we must return for another visit very soon.
We cannot say enough about how excellent Ireland Luxury Tours and Maurice are. Maurice wisely advised us not to try to do too much. He was absolutely correct. By pacing ourselves, we were able to be relaxed and well-rested. A fuller schedule would surely have drained us and we would have missed so much.
We highly recommend Ireland Luxury Tours. We know that any of their capable tour guides would have given us an amazing tour.
We cannot say "thank you" often enough. The Perry Family Heritage Tour of Ireland not only met but greatly exceeded our expectations. Thank you Mr. Dowle!!