Welcome to Essential Ireland Tours



VIP Tours for the young-at-heart
Cost-effective, small groups & big Irish experiences

Essential Ireland


Award-Winning Adventures by Ireland's Leading Tour Guides

Essential Ireland

You may only visit Ireland once: experience the Essential Ireland

We bring over 20 years Experience Offering Life Enhancing Tours of Beautiful Ireland

Travel and Guided tours of Ireland

’Essential Ireland’ offers 4 specialised tours:
7 day Luxury Castles & Classics tour of Ireland (overnight in Ashford Castle)
7 day Wild Atlantic Way tour (Killarney, Dingle and Galway)
5 day True North Tour (Northern Ireland and Donegal)
11 Day tour of All Ireland (North & South)
14 Day epic All Ireland tour (North & South)
& Award-winning Private tours of Ireland for groups of friends and families

Our tours

‘Essential Ireland Tours’ emphasizes history and culture, and we travel in comfort. You'll experience the best of Ireland. We guarantee great music, food, pubs, and fun on every journey. You may only visit Ireland once; it’s important you experience the Essential Ireland.
The majority of our small group tours are led by Stephen McPhilemy, a passionate historian and renowned tour-guide who has been Rick Steves' right-hand Tour Guide in Ireland for over 25 years.
Click here to see our 2024 Tour Dates

’Essential Ireland’ offers 5 specialised tours: 5 day Northern Ireland tour, 7 day 'Castles & classics' luxury tour, 7 day wild atlantic way tour - Ireland West and South, 11 day All Ireland tour -around the whole island, North and South and our brilliant 14 day All-Ireland tour (North, South, East & West, this tour is far the best!)

Wild Atlantic Way

Ireland’s True North

Private Tours

Castles & Classics

Essential Ireland was lovingly created by Stephen McPhilemy, one of Ireland’s leading Tour-Guides who has been Rick Steves' Irish protege for over 20 years,
and Irish-American Entrepreneur and Ireland-lover, Patrick Wade. Hosting and welcoming guests to Ireland is their passion.

20% off all tours

We have a special discount code for you to celebrate the launch of our new website and VIP tour. It's valid until January 6th. Enter the following code in the checkout when booking your tour to get 20% off


Win a once in a lifetime tour of Ireland

Visit our Facebook or Instagram page to enter the competition. All you have to do is like, share and leave a comment as to what you'd most like to see on your visit to Ireland. Enter before February 1st to be in with a chance of winning a place on our April 2019 Wild Atlantic Tour.

Click Here to Enter

Black Friday special Offer

Get €150 off your next Wild Atlantic or Castles & Classics Essential Ireland Tours with this Black Friday special offer code: Ireland‍ or €115 off the True North Tours with this code: Ireland-North

Limited places so Book Now! Offer valid until 4 December

Fáilte - Welcome from stephen mcphilemy, ready for 2023!

Essential Ireland

Our travel philosophy

Our fun concept of cost-effective, VIP travel for small groups,  was a response to the hundreds of travel requests from international friends, our clan and families, and people in our extended networks who desired:

Luxury Tours - with a value-for-money, affordable price

Small-group Tours - 8 to 16 people average - safe & unique

Lively Tours - Itineraries framed by Stephen & Patrick’s unique travel style; relaxed, insightful, fun and focused on essential Irish experiences

Tour-time & Free-time - A nice mix of tour-time/free-time philosophy, freedom to enjoy your own free time while also maximising your tour activities.

100% Irish Experiences – A tour that emphasises authentic Irish experiences and meeting the Irish people, everyday!

Your Experience

We aim to have you experience life like a local for the week  (except of course you’ll sleep in luxury hotels and B&B’s). Our  tours immerse you in the local culture for a week

About US

Who We Are

Stephen McPhilemy and Patrick Wade are the co-founders of Essential Ireland Tours. One Irish and one Irish-American, they met 20 years ago while Patrick was backpacking through Ireland and Stephen was his tour-guide.

Two decades later they (and their Irish Wolfhounds) are experienced and respected figures in the Irish tour and hospitality scene with a passion for providing high quality tours. Authentic Irish experiences for unbeatable value.



"We loved our tour with Essential Ireland. Stephen was an excellent tour leader — professional and organised, a passionate Irish patriot and what really impressed us was the amount of local Irish characters and personalities he was able to introduce us to. The small group of 15 people was ideal for us and made our vacation a more authentic experience"
Brooke and Brad Antonioni
"Fantastic tour. Thanks to Patrick, Stephen and all the team. Oh and can't forget Seamus their gentle-giant Irish Wolfhound and handsome mascot. My family and I loved every minute of our Irish adventures. We will definitely return and we'll be sure to take your tours once again. Thanks for going the extra mile helping us reconnect with our Irish ancestry"
Ash Kelly and clan
"Great service and fun times in Ireland. Bravo to Essential Ireland Tours!"
Rob Sheridan


Catch up with the latest news from Essential Ireland Tours

March 1st


Stephen G McPhilemy Irish 'songs for the road'


Stephen McPhilemy

Jan 2024

Jan 24

We Never Cancel

We Never Cancel! Essential Ireland Tours have a 'never cancel' guarantee



Dec 16

Newgrange on Winter solstice. Stephen McPhilemy wins the lottery!

This is an incredible honour for Irish people. Newgrange is one of Ireland's most sacred ancient sites.

Stephen McPhilemy
Contact us


If you have any queries or questions, or would like to Stephen McPhilemy (who has Rick Steves' trusted right-hand man and tour-guide in Ireland for over 20 years) to custom build a special itinerary for your own private group of family or friends, send us a wee note right here

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Follow Essential Ireland on Instagram

Explore the wonderful world of Essential Ireland Tours