Welcome to our

Ireland's True North

A 5 day / 4 night tour of the North of Ireland
(a very unique guided tour of Northern Ireland & Donegal)

True North

Epic Northern Ireland

An incredible 5 day journey into the history, politics, culture and fun of the North and Donegal

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 of the True North Tours with this code: Ireland-North

Limited places so Book Now! Offer valid until 4 December

Price Per Person Sharing from only €1,099 to €1,499

Reserve Place with 20% Deposit

Max Tour Sizes: 16 People

Solo supplement of €400 applies to solo travellers, see FAQs for details. The €1,099 price applies to all our March tours  (€400 discount!)

Check Out our 2024 Dates!

Essential Ireland and Stephen McPhilemy offer a limited number
of very popular tours to Northern Ireland and beautiful Ulster each year, all sell out.
We are one of the few companies to offer a tour exclusively of Northern Ireland and Donegal! 
Stephen McPhilemy has led Rick Steves tours through Northern Ireland for 20 years as part of longer all-Ireland tours and now, due to public demand, offers his own shorter 5 day tours focusing exclusively on the the highlights of  North of Ireland.  Book early to avoid disappointment

If a particular date does not suit your group please get in touch about organising a private tour

Click to See Dates

MARCH 2024:
19th March
(€400 discount!)

APRIL 2024:
1st April & 19th April

MAY 2024:
13th May & 20th

JUNE 2024:
3rd June

JULY 2024:
22nd July -

AUGUST 2024:
26th August -

2nd September -
23rd September - OPEN

October 4th - OPEN
October 22nd - OPEN

Note: Over half of the departures for our 'True North' tours of Northern Ireland and Donegal have already sold out. To book a tour please click here or email Stephen McPhilemy and our team at info@essentialirelandtours.com

Explore Northern Ireland with us, truly essential!

We at ‘Essential Ireland’ are passionate about including the beautiful and fascinating North of Ireland and Donegal in our tours. We highly recommend you visit!

Our tour-guests are fascinated by the story of Historic Derry, the beauty and legend of the Causeway, modern peaceful Belfast and its troubled past, the characters and the communities of this beautiful part of Ireland that only 25 years ago was a no-go zone for tourists and is now one of Europe’s top attractions.

On our Northern adventures we take pride into introducing you to the fun and endearing locals from both cultures and communities, the indigenous Irish community and Northern Ireland’s ethnic British culture.

We also venture into majestic Donegal, a remote magnificent corner of Ireland that is often overlooked by mainstream tours. Join us for a unique adventure!

Price: Only €1,150 per person

Highlights of our northern tour

Walk the walled city of historic Derry (1613). See its fully intact 17th Century battlements

Enjoy the views from Grianan Aileach, a 3,700 year old ringfort while exploring beautiful Donegal

Experience the majestic Giants Causeway a natural phenomenon and UNESCO world heritage site

Learn of Belfast troubled past and wonderful peaceful present

Brave the famous Carrick a Rede rope bridge 100 ft above the rugged Antrim coast

Visit the world famous titanic experience and step back in time to a period of luxury & elegance

Visit Monasterboice a 5th Centruy Irish monastery and home to Muirdach's High Cross

Newgrange tombs - A 5,000 year old Tomb, a UNESCO world heritage site that is older than the pyramids of Egypt

Whats included in the tour package

All activities are fully covered in the Essential Ireland Tour Package

All Breakfasts are Included. From cooked gourmet feasts of eggs and bacon; and healthy fruit, homemade muesli and porridge

All accommodation costs are covered, you will stay in a range of luxury accommodation outlined below

All tips to guides, drivers, local guides, bar-staff, servers etc ALL covered while on a tour activity or meal

All transport, from luxury coach travel, shuttle buses, taxis etc used for tour activities are paid for.

Unlimited Snacks are provided while aboard our small luxury coach going from destination to destination.

3 picnic lunches are provided - hand-picked artisan Irish cheese board , cold meats, homemade breads and fresh-fruit

1 group meal by private chef serving local produce, this takes the form of a gala banquet.

What type of accommodation will I stay in?

We handpick quality accommodation based on quality, location, and the best customer-service on offer. We like to provide a balance between 5 star luxury hotels and also high-quality Guesthouses, to give a variety of experiences, we also offer one night in a traditional B&B to experience life with an Irish family environment ned world-class quality customer-service.

Our co-founder, Patrick, always like to remind guests that we “dont stay in generic big-brand hotels, we prefer to offer you historic and luxury homes of character, that have housed Hollywood stars and withstood sieges”.




Day 1: Dublin to Belfast (2 nights)

  • Welcome Irish-coffee

  • Tour ancient site of Monasterboice

  • Visit St. Peters Cathedral, Drogheda.
    See the head of St. Oliver Plunkett (yes, his head!)

  • Belfast City Tour

Day2: Belfast in-depth

  • Black taxi-tour

  • World famous Titanic Experience

  • Pub tour of Belfasts pubs and drinking saloons.

  • Group dinner in Belfast

Day 3: Belfast to historic Derry (2 nights)

  • Carrick a rede rope-bridge

  • The Giants Causeway UNESCO world heritage site

  • Dunluce Castle

  • Complimentary lunch at the wee cottage 

  • Award-winning Walking Tour of Historic Derry

Day 4: Derry in-depth

  • Visit Derry’s historic guildhall & plantation museum.

  • Scenic day tour to rugged Donegal

  • Glenveagh National Park

  • Group lunch at ‘Leo’s’ - Enya’s family pub

Day 5: Derry/Londonderry to Dublin

  • Grianan Aileach, ancient hilltop ring fort

  • Visit the Cathedral city of Armagh

  • Slane Castle & Distillery

  • Battle of the Boyne site.

  • Newgrange tombs - UNESCO world heritage site 





Day 1: Dublin to Belfast (2 nights)

  • a 'Welcome dinner' in ‘The Crown’

  • Tour ancient site of Monasterboice

  • Visit St. Peters Cathedral, Drogheda.
    See the head of St. Oliver Plunkett (yes, his head!)

  • Belfast City Hall & City tour

[9am] Depart central Dublin. Pick up in one central location (for 2023 & 2024, the Leonardo Hotel at Christchurch Cathedral)

[10.30] Our first stop is the historic, and surprisingly - usually unvisited town of Drogheda. Destroyed by Oliver Cromwell in 1649. You’ll be hearing a lot about him on this tour, a lot!Visit the elaborate Chruch of St. Peter that resembles a grand medival Cathedral, maybe light a candle to invoke blessing on our travels and see the head of St. Oliver Plunkett (much different to the previous Oliver) who was hung, drawn and quartered in London in the year of Our Lord 1663 and whose head is preserved in an ornamental glass case beside the altar!

[11am] Coffee and a wee cream-bun on us!

[12 noon] Visit Monasterboice, glorious Monastic ruins deep in the countryside and lush farmland of County Louth. Learn of its majestic Round Tower and its famed Celtic-Christian High Crosses, the finest in Ireland. Your guide will help you recognise the messages and stories contained in the carvings.
This is a truly special archeological site.

[2pm] Arrive in Belfast, the proud Northern capital. Free for lunch.

[3pm] We’ll enjoy a city tour and experience a good introduction to our temporary hometown, including the majestic Belfast City Hall.

[5pm] Check into our downtown hotel. Enjoy an included 'welcome dinner' together in the famous Victorian  ‘Crown Saloon’, maybe the most beautiful bar in the world!

Day 2: Belfast in-depth

  • Black taxi-tour

  • World famous Titanic Experience

  • Queens University

[9.30am] After a delicious breakfast (perhaps you’ll try the traditional ‘Ulster Fry’) we will experience one of the most unique Belfast activities - the ‘Black Taxi tour’. Our hand-picked team of local black-cab drivers will bring us into the divided neighbourhoods of West Belfast. Learn of ‘the Troubles’, our 1969-1998 conflict which tore Northern Ireland apart, you’ll see the ‘Peace Wall’, the impactive political art and murals and all areas of political/historic interest.
* note: every month the amount of actual London-style Black taxis in Belfast get fewer & fewer as drivers upgrade to more modern vehicles, which are not always Black! The tour will be as good as always, just not always guaranteed to be literally in a 'Black Taxi'.

[12noon]:  Visit Queens University Belfast. Free time for lunch

[1.30pm]: The afternoon is devoted to the epic Titanic Museum, voted the #1 visitor attraction in the world. (yes, the world!). You’ll be amazed at this state of the art visitor centre, no expense has been spared to bring to life the story of one of the most famous ships in history, built in Belfast 1912.

[4pm]: Free time for shopping in Belfast’s Royal Victoria Avenue or sightseeing in gardens of City Hall, a short stroll from our hotel.

[7pm]: A free-evening to enjoy Belfast’s unique nightlife and meeting the lively locals.

Day 3: Belfast to historic Derry (2 nights)

  • Photo-stop at the Carrick a rede rope-bridge

  • Visit the famous Giants Causeway, UNESCO world heritage site

  • Tour Dunluce Castle

  • Award-winning Walking Tour of Historic Derry

[9.30am]: After another tasty breakfast we’ll bid farewell to Belfast and take the scenic drive to the world-famous Antrim Coast, famed in song and story long before it hit the headlines as location for hit TV series ‘Game of Thrones’.

[11.30am]: Photostop at the carrick-a-rede rope bridge before we visit the masterpiece - the Giants Causeway, a UNESCO world heritage site and beautiful geological marvel. 60,000 Basalt pillars carved into hexagons by violent volcanic eruptions, though we’ll be happy to also share the story of how it was really built by Celtic Giant Finn McCool! Time to hike, enjoy the scenery, and explore the impressive interpretive centre.

[1pm]: Free for lunch at the Giants Causeway

[2pm]: Tour Dunluce Castle, ancestral home of the McDonnell clan and one of the most haunting ruins anywhere in Europe. Glorious scenery.

[4.30pm]: Arrive in historic Derry (founded 546 AD by St. Columba), aka Londonderry (1613). A walking tour around the city walls is the perfect introduction to Ireland’s most historic city.

[6pm] Check into our city-centre hotel and enjoy free time in Historic Derry. 
Evening free for dinner, but we offer an evening of music in Peadar O’Donnells historic pub, which  Tour-Guests enjoy immensely due to our subtle small-group size, a great chance to meet the locals.

Day 4: Derry & Donegal in-depth

  • Visit Derry’s historic guildhall & plantation museum.

  • Scenic day tour to rugged Donegal

  • Glenveagh National Park

  • Group lunch at ‘Leo’s’ - Enya’s family pub

[10am] Our daily offering of authentic Irish experiences and activities begins with a visit to the Guildhall, Derry’s ornate city hall that resembles a Cathedral, complete with the largest organ in Ireland.

[11am] We’ll depart on the coach for our fun, relaxing day trip to beautiful Donegal. A short drive over the border.

[12noon] Visit Glenveagh National Park. We’ll tour the castle and you’ll have free time to roam its lakeside lush gardens carved from this rugged Irish valley.

[2pm] Enjoy a group lunch in West Donegal Gaeltacht. Our friend Bartley, is brother of grammy winner Enya and runs his family pub ‘Leo’s Tavern’, far off the beaten path, fine food and great fun.

[4pm] A scenic drive through the highlands of Donegal back to the city of Derry.

[7pm] A grand finale group-dinner in historic Derry.

Day 5: Derry (a.k.a. Londonderry) to Dublin

  • Morning free to enjoy Historic Derry.
    Visit Armagh City. Photostop at Slane Castle

[11am] Farewell to the North-west. We shall drive through the rolling farmland of County Tyrone.

[12.30am] Visit the Cathedral city of Armagh, found by St. Patrick in the 5th century and its 2 Cathedral’s, both named in his honour, are now the HQ for both the Catholic Church and Church of Ireland (Protestant)

[2pm] Photo-stop atidyllic Slane Castle on the banks of the River Boyne, learn of the Battle of the Boyne (1690) fought long the Riverbank between Catholic James II and his Protestant nephew (and son-in-law) William of Orange.

[3pm] Arrive back in Dublins fair city, where we will say our goodbyes and drop you safely back to your hotel (or to Dublin airport).

Go n-éirí an bóthar leat, may the road rise to meet you.

Ireland's true north tour dates 2019

We run a limited number of tours each year, book early to avoid disappointment

July 7th to July 11th - SOLD OUT

September 8th to September 12th

If a particular date does not suit your group please get in touch about organising a private tour

Check Out our 2020 Dates!

Click to See Dates

Sunday 5th April - Thursday 9th April

Sunday 13th September - Thursday 17th September

Book Now

Reserve your space with a 20% deposit 

Book now

Contact Us to Find Out More

Any Questions we are happy to help!



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.