THE Ireland Expert, Pat Preston

Dr. Jessie Voigts's picture

Wandering Educators know that we're headed to Ireland and Scotland this fall and as such, are compiling a great list of resources about Ireland and Scotland. Well, I've got THE BEST resource to share with you about Ireland! was created by long-time Ireland Expert (of course), Pat Preston. Pat's got the goods on travel to Ireland - she's got years of experience to share with readers. On Ireland Expert, you can find Money Savers, Smart Shopping, Hot News, Group Trips, Links, An Ireland Guide, and an "Ask Pat" Q&A - inarguably an extraordinary resource. Pat's book, Ireland Travel 101 (check back in a week, we've got a review and author interview!) won the NATJA 1st Place Travel Guide Award - and I can see why - it packs a wealth of details and leads to a great deal of imagining and travel planning!

But I digress. It is easy to get into Pat's site, and stay there. It's got such great tips and help that if you're NOT yet planning a trip to Ireland, you soon will be after visiting IrelandExpert. Pat's also very friendly (Irish blood will tell?!) and so enthusiastic about sharing Ireland with the world.

We were lucky enough to sit down and chat with Pat about her site, tours to Ireland, travel tips, and more. Here's what she had to say...



WE: Please tell us about your site,

PP: My web site, now 12 years old, is a one-stop portal for information about travel to and around Ireland.  Main features include a nine-part online travel guide (Dublin, Wicklow & The East, Southeast, Cork, Kerry, Shannon Region, The West, The Northwest, and The North). Each geographic section presents the latest information on Favorite Places to Stay, A-1 Attractions, Great Food & Drink, Special Places to Shop, Sightseeing Tours, and Internet/Cyber Cafés, plus 2010 Events & Festivals and schedules for Farmers & Country Markets. One of the most active features of my web site is the "Ask Pat Q& A" Forum - I answer questions from travelers several times a day, and strive to answer every question within 24 hours. And it's a free service.



WE: What was the genesis of your site?

PP: My web site just evolved in 1998 - I had been concentrating solely on writing books and magazine articles, but I could see that the future was in being online. At first I thought I would develop the web site to put out "what's new" in Ireland, but I quickly became inundated with emails from people planning trips who wanted to know everything - not just what was new, but all that Ireland had to offer. So, the "Ireland Guide" section evolved.  Then I was also get deluged with emails from people asking me questions about their itinerary and travel plans, so I designed a "Forum" where people could ask questions and I would answer, but everyone else could share in the information as well. It has become a real "community."


Pat Preston, Ireland Expert



WE: What are your top Ireland tips for beginners?

PP: Browse through my "Ireland Guide" and see what areas of Ireland appeal to you, and then make a rough wish-list of places and activities (the "must do's" and "must-see's"). Read guidebooks on places and areas of interest.  Next, decide how long the trip will be, and then make a rough itinerary.  You have to understand that you can't see all of Ireland on a first-time trip.  And you can't fit everything into one week, or even two or three weeks.  Remember when traveling around in Ireland: "less is more." The next big step is to decide how you will get around (1) escorted tour; (2) self-drive; or (3) independent travel using public transport.  You also need to decide your dates, and which airports you will fly into and out of. After those decisions have been made, it all falls into place, with a little help from my books or web site. All in all, the best way for first-timers to see Ireland is via an escorted tour.



WE: You have tours to Ireland - can you please share more about them?

PP: Since 1992, I have been leading tours to Ireland, twice or three times a year. In 2010, we have a Springtime Tour (May 16-23) and a Summer Tour (August 15-24). For seven years, we also had a Fall Tour, but not currently. The tours grew out of the books and web site - people would follow my advice and then say: "When are you going to Ireland - I want to go with you." We have taken more than 1,600 people to Ireland over the years. We write our own itinerary and go to places many other tours miss.  They are one-of-a-kind tours.  For instance, our summer tour this year concentrates just on the West of Ireland - spends 3 days/nights in Killarney and 3 days/nights in Galway (what other tour gives you three nights anywhere, and especially in these two much sought-after prime places?). Plus, we have a night in a castle and a final night at Bunratty near Shannon, with visits to both the Ring of Kerry and Dingle Peninsula, Adare, Cliffs of Moher, Connemara, Cong, and a day on the Aran Islands, plus lesser traveled areas of Roscommon, Leitrim, and Offaly. An Irish-born friend of ours accompanies the tour - he is a 4-time All-Ireland champion musician (concertina, flute, tin whistle and singing), so we have music all along the way. There just isn't another tour that can compare.

One other unique feature of our tours is that I take pictures each day of our tour members enjoying Ireland. Each evening I upload the day's photos into an online Blog on my website, so the folks back home can follow our travels.  They can also write comments which I, in turn, read out on the bus for all to enjoy. It's like "instant post cards" for the folks back home, and then next-day feedback for our tour members. It is a lot of work, but well worth every minute, for the joy it brings to all on our tour and their relatives/friends back home. It can also be viewed by anybody out there with a computer, so it also acquaints other people with the fun we have on our tours.



WE: You've written so much about Ireland - what drew your great love for the place?

PP: Ancestry and interest. I went to Ireland on vacation while still a student finishing off my masters. I had intended to be a teacher, but came back determined to promote Ireland. I was hired as the first American to work in the NY office of Bord Failte (Irish Tourist Board) and worked my way up to being Public Relations Manager (1967-1985). After that, I left the board and decided to write full time about Ireland and became a freelance writer and guidebook author.


Pat Preston, Ireland Expert



WE: How can families best prepare for travel to Ireland?

PP: Ireland is a very family-friendly place.  We often have three generations of the same family on our tours (grandparents, parents, and grandchildren - teens or young adults).  It adds a dynamism to the whole tour to have different age segments blending into one happy group.  Ireland lends itself to families enjoying travel together. Families also find self-catering accommodations to have great appeal - make your own meals, have an informal homey atmosphere.  Unless a family is visiting relatives in Ireland, it is best to wait till children are at least 8 or 10 to bring them to Ireland so they can appreciate the scenery and the activities. There are many attractions that appeal to families, from folk parks and zoos to steam trains, boat trips, and open farms.  



WE: How do you suggest families give back, while traveling?

PP: Be careful of the environment, do not litter. As they say, leave only footprints.



WE: Is there anything else you'd like to share with us?

PP: Ireland is a very senior-friendly destination. I am writing a new book aimed at seniors aged over 55.  It will include all the accommodations that provide discounts or special deals to seniors as well as senior-friendly attractions and activities. It will be a great companion to go with the new Golden Trekker rail pass which gives free travel to visiting seniors. The book will be out by late Summer/early Fall.



WE: Thanks so very much, Pat! I love your book, and website, and highly recommend them to our readers.

For more information, please see:


Photos courtesy and copyright Pat Preston