5 Super Summer Rugby Books

Summer holidays are a great time to get through some rugby books. Though the men and women of the rugby world might be taking a well-deserved break from the oval ball, it doesn’t mean that we, the rugby mad fans, have to do the same. With that in mind, the gang at the offices of Irish Rugby Tours huddled together and came up with a list of some literature on lineouts, ligaments and lads on tour that we think you might enjoy.

Irish Rugby Tours top 5 Rugby Books for Summer

The Last Amateurs, Jonathan Bradley

Irish Rugby Tours recommends 5 great books for summer

In the early autumn of 1997, Ulster suffered a record-breaking 56-3 defeat away to Wasps in front of a jubilant crowd of four and a half thousand. Few would have wagered then that just over a year later they would be lifting the Heineken Cup. 

The Last Amateurs by Belfast Telegraph journalist, Jonathan Bradley, tells the story of how a team went from zeros to heroes in the most unlikely of fashions. 

This is a compelling read based on interviews with key members of the squad, including David Humphreys, Mark McCall, Simon Mason, Andy Ward and many more. The book focuses on the players, their varied backgrounds and how the team came together to become Ireland’s first European champions.




Proud: My Autobiography, Gareth Thomas

First published in 2014, Proud tells the story of the great centre’s struggle to deal with his own identity. A gay man in an outwardly heterosexual world of rugby, the only place where he could find any refuge from the pain and guilt of his secret was, somewhat paradoxically, on the pitch where he excelled.

All his success didn’t make the strain of hiding who he really was go away however. His fear that telling the truth about his sexuality would lose him everything, drove him close to the edge on at least two occasions, both of which are vividly described on these pages.

As well as his struggles, with his sexuality, we discover much about the former Welsh captain’s leadership skills and his desire to be the best in the game. Winner of the British Sports Book Awards Sports Book of the Year, this is a compelling read of a true rugby trailblazer.


Playing the Enemy, John Carlin

Irish Rugby Tours recommends 5 great books for summer

Another oldie but goodie. Playing the Enemy by John Carlin tells the story of the of the 1995 Rugby World Cup final and the role it played in creating a post-apartheid South African nationalism (for a while).

Originally published in 2008, Carlin interviewed many of the big players both within and without the immediate world of rugby.

Much of the squad and its management are involved but so too are Nelson Mandela’s bodyguards, ANC insiders and the head of the apartheid South African intelligence service. Carlin skilfully weaves their lives and reactions to the game into the fabric of South African society during its immediate transition to democracy. This book was the inspiration behind the movie Invictus.




The Oval World: A Global History of Rugby, Tony Collins

Tony Collins tells the often complex history of rugby and its development and doesn’t hide away from the game’s less than proud moments. While the oval ball has united nations such as Ireland it has divided others and excluded groups based on ethnicity. And it we are not just talking South Africa.

In 1921, the Springboks played the Maori All Blacks in New Zealand and won by a point. Because that win was too close for comfort, and would have cut against apartheid theories, Maoris were excluded from selection on tours to South Africa for many succeeding decades.

In 1949, New Zealand’s prime minister, publicly explaining why non-white citizens were being excluded, said otherwise New Zealand would not be able to tour South Africa. There are nuggets like this right throughout this excellent history which will give you a clear picture of the game’s history – both good and bad.

The Battle, Paul O’ Connell

Irish Rugby Tours recommends 5 great books for summer

There is violence, silliness and injuries, lots of injuries, in this mammoth biography from the former British and Irish Lions Captain.

We get fascinating insights into Declan Kidney, Eddie O’Sullivan and Joe Schmidt as well as a journey through O’Connell’s head, his battles with injuries, success and the pain-killer Difene.

An intelligent, sports-mad athlete who harboured dreams of being a professional golfer, he took the decision, with some help from his father, to concentrate on rugby. It turned out to be a great decision for Munster and Ireland but only time will tell if his fifty-year-old body will feel the same.    





Canadian High School’s “amazing experience” on Rugby Tour to Ireland

Last month Strathcona Girls High School Under 18s Rugby Team spent nine glorious days on a rugby tour to Ireland. The team from Alberta are a major player in Canadian High School Rugby and we were delighted to look after them during their Irish rugby tour.

“The girls had an amazing time and I’ve heard nothing but good words,” said Head Coach, Kara Haslam. “They came home with huge smiles and lots of stories of a great experience and happy memories.”

 Canadian High School rugby tour to Ireland

The Canadian School’s itinerary was packed with both rugby and non-rugby activities and showcased Ireland as a place for people with a wide variety of interests. With the help of our partners we were able to balance the team’s pursuit of all things Irish rugby and sport with the students’ interest in culture and history.

Strathcona High had three matches against top class teams; St Mary’s RFC in Munster, Ashbourne RFC and Wexford Wanderers in Leinster. They also had three training sessions with former rugby internationals and coaches in Dublin, Galway and Limerick.

Action Packed Nine Days on Rugby Tour to Ireland


The team from Alberta were treated to a visit to Ireland’s largest stadium and the home of Hurling and Gaelic Football, Croke Park. They were later invited to try their the hand at the same games at the nearby Experience Gaelic Games in Glasnevin.

After a visit to Dublin Castle, the squad headed west to the home of the Irish language, The Aran Islands, before setting sail past the dramatic rock faces of the spectacular Cliffs of Moher.

Strathcona Girls High School - Irish Rugby Tours, Rugby Tours To Ireland

One of the highlights of the tour was a morning spent Kayaking on Britain and Ireland’s longest river the River Shannon in Limerick. There was too a visit to Bunratty Castle and Heritage Centre where the team learnt all about life in ancient Ireland.

The squad spent a night under the twinkling hilly lights of Cork City before travelling to the sunny Southeast and the spectacular Curacloe Beach, famous for the opening scenes of Saving Private Ryan and the more recent Oscar-nominated movie Brooklyn.

Strathcona Girls High School - Irish Rugby Tours, Rugby Tours To Ireland

“As a trip leader and head coach, this was my first time planning an international rugby tour for high school students,” said Kara. “I would definitely travel with Irish Rugby Tours again in the future and plan to recommend Irish Rugby Tours to other club and school groups. Thank you for a fantastic experience.”

About Irish Rugby Tours

Irish Rugby Tours is based in the heart of Munster. The company has been organising and hosting both Irish and international rugby tour groups for over sixteen years. In that time, it has built strong and trusted relationships with rugby communities, rugby coaches, activity and accommodation providers across Ireland, the UK, continental Europe, the United States of America, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.


7 things you (maybe) didn’t know about Sevens

Shorter game times, less set pieces and more fluid, free flowing rugby have meant that for many sevens has a broader appeal than the fifteen-a-side game. Purists may slate is as something of a modern gimmick; a symptom of late twentieth century impatience. But sevens, or seven-a-side rugby, has a long and proud history that stands up when compared to its more eminent cousin.

With the sports greatest competition, the Hong Kong Sevens, set to kick off this weekend, we give you seven things you (maybe) don’t know about sevens.

Sevens is old…

OK so it might not be as old as the game allegedly conceived by William Webb-Ellis but Rugby sevens is till pretty old. Sevens was dreamed up by two butchers from Melrose in Scotland. In 1883, Ned Haig and David Sanderson, put together a fund-raising event for their local club, Melrose Rugby Football Club and sevens rugby was born.

Ireland missed out on a (kind of) World Cup…

The first-ever officially sanctioned tournament for national teams was the 1973 International Seven-A-Side Tournament held at Murrayfield. Although it is not officially recognised as being a World Cup, there was a tacit acceptance that it was. Eight teams took part in two pools of four. Pool toppers, England and Ireland contested the final. In injury time, and with Ireland leading 18-16, KEith Fielding latched onto a loose pass and ran the length of the pitch before touching down to win the tournament.

Ireland at last year’s World Cup in San Francisco. Pic: Inpho/Billy Stickland

World Cup

The first official Sevens World Cup was held in Melrose in 1993. There have been seven tournaments since then. New Zealand have won three of those, Fiji have the won the tournament twice while both England and Wales have won the trophy once.


Find out more about our Rugby Tours to Spain


Hong Kong Sevens

Many argue that the Hong Kong Sevens tournament did much to modernise rugby. Started in 1976, it was the first rugby tournament to attract corporate sponsorship. It also gave the gave a much needed dose of glamour and in many respects internationalised the game of rugby. It is still the showcase tournament of Rugby Sevens and this weekend it promises to be greater than ever.

Hong Kong Sevens


In 2016, Rugby Sevens made it to the Olympics in Rio. In the men’s competition, Fiji won the gold medal, Great Britain took silver while South Africa won bronze. The women’s gold medal was won by Australia, with New Zealand taking silver and Canada bronze.

Marika Vunibaka

Vunibaka, now forty-four, is the top try in World Cup with 23 tries. The Fijian was top scorer in 1997 when his country claimed their first World Cup. He also appeared in 2001 and popped up again to wreak havoc on defences when Fiji were crowned champions for the second time in 2005.

Some of the rules are a bit funny

Well it is a different sport after all and the whole point of the game is attack, entertainment and speed. Each half is just seven minutes long but usually stretches out to ten as tournaments reach their grand finales. HAlf time breaks are just two minutes long and with only five substitutes allowed you can be sure that everyone is duly knackered by the end of the day. Conversions are always drop goals and you only have thirty seconds in which to knock them over. Another curiosity about the sevens game is the rule that the team who has just scored restarts the game thus handing the impetus back to their opponent.


It’s a funny old game


Would you like to find out more about taking your team to play in a Sevens Tournament? If the answer is yes, please get in touch with us at Irish Rugby Tours. 



Three Things Irish Rugby Gave the World

For a small nation, Ireland punches well above its weight on the global stage. At least that’s what we keep telling ourselves. Whether its music or literature, cinema or stage, you will find little nuggets of green gold at the bottom of all of life’s many rainbows. Rugby is no different, and we thought we’d look at three rugby phenomena, terms, phrases, call them what you will, that the Irish have given to the greatest sport on earth.

The Garryowen

Perhaps the most famous linguistic  gift we have given the game is the term garryowen. In its basic form, the high up and under kick is designed to put the opposing team under pressure, by allowing the kicking team time to arrive under it and compete for the high ball. The term comes from the Irish club of the same name,  Garryowen RFC, who are based in Limerick. The club has been on the go since 1884. Legend has it that the term became part of the rugby landscape when the club won a hat-trick of Senior Cup titles between from 1924 to 1926 and made the garryowen an integral part of its tactics. It must have been frightening!

Garryowen’s Conor Murray in 2009
©INPHO/James Crombie

The Choke Tackle

The choke tackle to the world via Ireland’s defence coach, Les Kiss, in the lead up to the 2011 World Cup. Rule changes had decreed that the side taking the ball into a maul and not emerging with it would lose it. The change in the law was duly noted by Kiss who saw an opportunity to exploit it. IN his mind there was little point getting the ball carrier to the ground and trying to turn the ball over when you could hold the same player up, stop him from moving and win your team the ball. It caused something of a seismic shift in rugby and became something of a trademark for Irish rugby teams. That was until others began to use it. Still, we’ll chalk it up as one of our ideas.

Stephen Ferris in 2011.

The 99 

Definitely not an ice-cream and one that harks back to a somewhat rougher times in the sport’s history. During the controversial 1974 British and Irish Lions tour to South Africa, captain, Willie John McBride came up with an odd call. It wasn’t a move or a line out code but was something of a call to arms. The tour was marred by violence with more boxing than box kicks and fisty-cuffs than fly-half flare. The 99 ball was allegedly based on the emergency telephone number 999 and the concept was simple – when there was a fight and the 99 ball was called, every Lions player on the pitch was expected to dive in and take part.  Rather than causing any actual physical harm, the point of the call was more to obfuscate the referee’s view and therefore discourage him from sending any one individual from the pitch……so were told anyway.

Willie John McBride in 1974



Get your Bunnies ready for an Egg Chucking Easter Rugby Festival Abroad!

At Irish Rugby Tours we know that Easter is a great time to hop on a plane and spend some time with the people you love most. That’s right – YOUR RUGBY TEAM!

There is a colourful array of  Easter rugby festivals and tournaments taking place right across Europe over the coming break and each of them have their own unique characteristics and surprises.

Irish Rugby Tours offers tours to great venues in fabulous cities right across Europe. These festivals book out quickly. So if you’re thinking of taking your team abroad, here are few suggestions for you. Let us know, when you need our help.

Portugal Rugby Festival – Lisbon

Portugal Rugby Festival in sunny Lisbon takes place this year from April 13th – 14th. It is a whirlwind cracking weekend of rugby fun across fifty pitches and gives you and your team the opportunity to meet rugby fans from other parts of Europe. It is a trip you are unlikely to forget in one of Europe’s most beautiful cities.

Players at last year’s event in Lisbon

Find out more & feel free get in touch

Find out more about rugby in Portugal

Tournoi de Cornouaille – Brittany

It’s selling out fast but there are still a few places left at this year’s Tournoi de Cornouaille in Quimper in Brittany. The tournament itself takes place over two days at Easter. Included in this great value package are hot lunches, player snacks and an end of festival party for those who took part. And it’s all happening right in the heart of the beautiful town of Quimper.

Find out more & feel free to get in touch

The beautiful town of Quimper has some excellent local restaurants.

Ghent Rugby Festival – Ghent

When you think of rugby, Belgium may not be the first place that springs to mind yet they have a strong tradition of playing the game in their part of the world. Indeed one of rugby’s longest running festivals takes place in the beautiful city of Ghent. The Ghent Easter Rugby Festival is now in its 31st year and each year it gets bigger and better with more teams, more food stalls and more entertainment. Ghent itself is a stunning city to walk around and enjoy some much needed downtime.  

Find out more & feel free to get in touch

Hilversum Rugby Festival – Amsterdam

If there were prizes going for inclusivity and family friendliness then surely this delightful festival one at Hilversum would be up there. This one day event takes place at Hilversum Rugby Club, a thirty-five minute drive from Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport and just forty minutes from central Amsterdam.

A wonderful one day festival that encourages rugby from children as young as eight up to sixteen, the festival will, this year, take place on April 21st.

After a hard day on the pitch, Amsterdam is the perfect city to visit to wind down. Its canals, cobbled streets and exceptional galleries are true jewels of Europe as are the people themselves.

Find out more & feel free to get in touch

Half-time talk at Hilversum.

International SQY Festival – Paris

If you fancy springtime in Paris then maybe the International SQY Rugby Festival is the very trip you have been looking for. This year’s event takes place on 19th – 21st April 2019 and includes an awards ceremony and gala dinner for team managers. The tour also includes a transfer to Paris for a boat trip down the Seine and there is the chance of taking in some Top 14 rugby while there.

It is a a fully immersive rugby weekend for ages 10 -14 and might just be the very trip that builds dreams of being an international star!

Find out more & feel free to get in touch



Scrummy Spain a Great Place for Rugby

In the years years since we first started taking teams to Spain, the country’s rugby landscape has changed immeasurably. The decision to host last year’s European Cup Final in Bilboa was more than a nod to how the Spanish Rugby Federation has developed the game over recent years. Those efforts have paid off. Spain now has 221 clubs and over 51,000 players listed on its books.

Last year a crowd of 35,000 turned up the final of the Copa del Rey de Rugby to see VRAC Quesos Entrepinares beat Silver Storm El Salvador 20 -16 in a scintillating final. Rugby is becoming more popular by the day and though it will be long time before it can even dream of overtaking football, Spanish rugby fans (and their players) are a passionate lot.

Why choose Spain for a rugby tour?

Irish Rugby Tours has no fewer than four bases in Spain. Valencia, Madrid, Barcelona and Salou are home to the best rugby facilities and coaches in the country. Each city has its own unique features and many of those are already world famous. But while you may know Gaudi’s Cathedral in Barcelona or the Prado Museum in Madrid, we have discovered many of our own historical hideaways and cultural gems over the last two decades of coming to this rich country.

Salou is home to Port Aventura Theme Park plus an aquatic centre.

Many of these local landmarks have been brought to our attention by the rugby teams we source to play games against our touring sides. The famous spirit of rugby camaraderie is alive and well in Spain and the locals are keen to show off their unique take on the ethos.

As well as exposing your team to the different tastes, food and culture of Spain, there is, of course, the weather. There is no better rugby bolthole than Spain in mid-winter and we have many teams who will testify to that.

Valencia has some of Spain’s most stunning beaches and its city centre is full of history.

Spain in the Rugby World Cup

Spain have qualified just once for the Rugby World Cup. In 1999, they lost all three pool games against Uruguay, Scotland and South Africa and failed to score a try. They narrowly (and controversially) missed out on automatic qualification for this year’s tournament.

Who are Spain’s Best players?

Spain have a number of players who have played in the French Top14. Flying full-back, Charly Malié plays for tenth placed Pau. But perhaps their most famous player in these parts is Oriol Ripol. The centre-cum-winger from Barecelona scored a try in Sale Sharks first and only Premiership Final victory against the mighty Leicester.

Oriol Ripol playing for Sale Sharks.

You can read a little bit more about some of the hot spots we’ve discovered in our years of visiting this beautiful country here.

Rugby Tours to Portugal – Building Bonds on Beaches & in Bodegas

Irish Rugby Tours has a long and proud history of bringing rugby tours to Portugal. Both our Lisbon base and our base at Faro in the Algarve are favourites with groups who are looking for somewhere a little off beaten track.

Why choose Portugal for a rugby tour?

For teams facing into lengthy spells of training in the mud baths and biting wind of Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales, trips to the sunnier winter climes of Portugal are hugely beneficial.

Not only can teams perfect the nuances of their game plan and hone their skills, taking a trip abroad with your teammates inevitably leads to a degree of bonding they just do not get at home. Bringing your team abroad, exposes them to different cultures, different food and different ways of doing things that they may not see at home.

Facilities at our training camps in Portugal are second to none and as always we have done our homework on local teams so we can provide you with top quality opposition should you be on the lookout for some real game time. The Portuguese Rugby Federation has over 42,000 registered on its books with scores of clubs and teams of all levels spread across the country.

***TOP TOUR***

The Portugal Rugby Youth Festival runs from the 13th April – 14th April. The festival is located at the Lisbon University Stadium with easy access to and from hotels, hostels and campuses in the city. As a special treat, this trip is something really worth considering. Not only will it give your youth team a chance to play in an international tournament, it will also give them a chance to see one of Europe’s most beautiful cities and meet other rugby players from across the continent.

Is rugby popular in Portugal?

Rugby in Portugal is on the rise. Arguably, the national team’s golden period was just over ten years ago when they qualified for their first and so far only World Cup in 2007. Os Lobos (The Wolves) had a bit of a howler against the All Blacks, losing 108 – 13. They took something of a drubbing from the Scots (56 – 10). Against Italy they fared a little better (31 – 5) and they gave tournament veterans Romania a right scare losing out to a try on the 72nd minute (14-10).

Since reaching the heady heights of 13th in the world rankings their star has fallen somewhat in recent years. The Wolves are now ranked 27th in the world – four places down from their last ranking and six places behind their arch rivals and neighbours Spain.

Who are Portugal’s best rugby players?

Second row Goncalo Uva has been capped by Portugal 101 times. He has scored nine tries and is one of the few members from the current squad to play at a World Cup. The 6’7” lineout specialist is a tireless worker around the pitch. He currently plies his trade back home in Lisbon with 11- time Portuguese champions Grupo Desportivo Direito but he had long spells in France with both Montpellier and Narbonne. Goncalo’s brother, Vasco, has also played for Portugal 101 times.

Check out this piece of skill from Goncalo Uva…

As well as sunshine to play in, empty beaches to practise on and great facilities for training, there is so much to do and see in your downtime. You can read a little bit more about some of the hot spots we’ve discovered in our years of visiting this beautiful country here.


About Irish Rugby Tours

Irish Rugby Tours is the go to tour company for your team. We have been planning, organising and delivering incoming rugby tours to and from Ireland, Europe and further afield since 1997. Our tours combine rugby, culture and travel to provide you with some of the best life experiences you are likely to have as a team. We don’t just build itineraries, we build memories, great ones that you will share for years to come.

Whether you are part of a club, college or school team, we can arrange customised sports tours for you in Ireland or abroad.

We have unrivalled experience and expertise in designing and facilitating customised tours. Over the last twenty plus years, we have brought more than 1500 teams to Ireland to experience its passion for both rugby and showing people a good time.

Every sports tour is designed to meet your requirements. If you want rugby, we will match you with carefully selected opposition you can compete against at your level. We also know that tour groups like to have fun. If you want to party, we know where you can do that too.

Let us know what you want on your tour and we will deliver.

Having flown to Ireland you don’t want to miss any sports fixtures – our on the ground team work hard to ensure you get your full complement of games whatever challenge comes our way.

Why Choose Irish Rugby Tours for your next Tour:

  • All our staff are rugby mad and have been involved in rugby all their lives.
  • We have worked in the hospitality industry at all levels – we know what works.
  • Irish Rugby Tours look after professional teams – both club and international.
  • We are a sports tour company and always have been.
  • Great value & tailored to your needs.
  • Irish Rugby Tours source the best standard accommodation, transport and all other service providers.
  • You can contact us 24/7, 365 days of the year.

Paris City Of Lights

Eiffel Tower

Paris City Of Lights - Irish Rugby Tours, Rugby Tours To ParisThe Eiffel Tower, one of the most visited attractions in the world. It welcomes almost seven million visitors per year and will be 130 years old next year in March.

Since its opening more than 250 million people have visited the tower.

Completed on March 31st, 1889 by Gustave Eiffel, the tower was the world’s tallest man-made structure for 41 years. The completion of the Chrysler Building in New York in 1930 then overtook that record. Its construction took two years, two months and five days – 180 years fewer than Paris’s other great attraction, Notre Dame.

Did you know that Eiffel died while listening to Beethoven’s 5th symphony?


Paris City Of Lights - Irish Rugby Tours, Rugby Tours To ParisDisneyland Paris, originally Euro Disney Resort is in Marne-la-Vallée, located 32km east of the centre of Paris.

It comprises of two theme parks, many resort hotels, a shopping, dining, entertainment complex and a golf course. In addition to the park there are several additional recreational and entertainment venues.

Disneyland Park is the original theme park of the complex, opening with the resort on 12 April 1992. A second theme park, Walt Disney Studios Park, opened in 2002. Disneyland Paris celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2017.

In 25 years, 320 million people visited Disneyland Paris. The resort is the second Disney park to open outside the United States following the opening of the Tokyo Disney Resort in 1983.

The Louvre

Paris City Of Lights - Irish Rugby Tours, Rugby Tours To ParisThe Louvre or the Louvre Museum is the world’s largest art museum and a historic monument in Paris.

You’ll find it on the right bank of the Seine in the city’s 1st district. 2017, the Louvre was the world’s most visited art museum, receiving 8.1 million visitors.

Located in the Louvre Palace, originally built as a castle in the late 12th to 13th century under Philip II.

Remnants of the fortress are visible in the basement of the museum. Due to the urban expansion of the city, the fortress eventually lost its defensive function. Francis I converted it into the main residence of the French Kings.

1682, Louis XIV chose the Palace of Versailles for his household, leaving the Louvre primarily as a place to display the royal collection. During the French Revolution, the National Assembly decreed that the Louvre should be used as a museum to display the nation’s masterpieces.

Palace of Versailles

Paris City Of Lights - Irish Rugby Tours, Rugby Tours To ParisThe Palace of Versailles was the principal royal residence of France from 1682. Firstly, under Louis XIV until the start of the French Revolution in 1789 under Louis XVI. It is located in Yvelines, about 20 kilometres southwest of Paris

The palace is now a historic monument and UNESCO World Heritage Site. Notable for the ceremonial Hall of Mirrors, the jewel-like Royal Opera and the royal apartments.

In 2017 the Palace of Versailles received 7,700,000 visitors, making it the second-most visited monument just behind the Louvre.

Arc de Triomphe

Paris City Of Lights - Irish Rugby Tours, Rugby Tours To ParisThe Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile is one of the most famous monuments in Paris.

Arc de Triomphe honours those who fought and died for France in the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. Inscribed on its inner and outer surfaces are the names of French victories and generals.

Beneath its vault lies the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from World War I.

Designed by Jean Chalgrin 1806, its iconographic program pits heroically nude French youths against bearded Germanic warriors in chain mail. It set the tone for public monuments with triumphant patriotic messages.

Notre Dame Cathedral

Paris City Of Lights - Irish Rugby Tours, Rugby Tours To ParisNotre-Dame de Paris meaning “Our Lady of Paris”, also known as Notre-Dame Cathedral is a medieval Catholic cathedral. Widely considered to be one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture 12 million people visit the cathedral yearly.

The innovative use of everything inside the building sets it apart from earlier Romanesque architecture.

Build began in 1160 and completed by 1260 and modified frequently in the following centuries.

Soon after Victor Hugo’s novel The Hunchback of Notre Dame in 1831, popular interest in the building revived. A major restoration project supervised by Eugène Viollet-le-Duc began in 1845 and continued for twenty-five years.

Beginning in 1963, the facade of the Cathedral was cleaned of centuries of grime, returning it to its original colour. Another campaign of cleaning and restoration was carried out from 1991-2000.


Paris City Of Lights - Irish Rugby Tours, Rugby Tours To ParisThe Avenue des Champs-Élysées is an avenue in the 8th district of Paris. It runs between the Place de la Concorde and the Place Charles de Gaulle where the Arc de Triomphe is located.

The name is French for the Elysian Fields, the paradise for dead heroes in Greek mythology.

Throughout its history, the avenue has been the site of military parades. Most famous were the victory parades of German troops in 1871 and again in 1940 celebrating the Fall of France. Happier parades were the Allies victory in 1919 and the parades of Free French and American forces in 1944.

Moulin Rouge

Paris City Of Lights - Irish Rugby Tours, Rugby Tours To ParisThe original house, which burned down in 1915, was co-founded in 1889 by Charles Zidler and Joseph Oller, who also owned the Paris Olympia.

Originally introduced as a seductive dance by the courtesans who operated from the site, the can-can dance revue evolved.

Growing into a form of entertainment of its own led to the introduction of cabarets across Europe. Today, the Moulin Rouge is a tourist attraction, offering musical dance entertainment for visitors from around the world.

The club’s decor still contains much of the romance of fin de siècle in France.

The Concierge

Paris City Of Lights - Irish Rugby Tours, Rugby Tours To ParisThe Concierge is a building located on the west of the Île de la Cité meaning “Island of the City”.

Formerly a prison but now acts as the city’s law courts. It was part of the former royal palace, the Palais de la Cité, which consisted of the Concierge. The Concierge prison became the main penitentiary of a network of prisons throughout Paris and was the last place of housing for more than 2,700 people, who were summarily executed by guillotine.

Dank dungeons were a stark contrast to the beautiful architecture of the palace above. Trials and executions progressed in a rapid, unpredictable manner.

Condemned people would be walked through the Salle de la Toilette, where their personal belongings were confiscated. Once they reached the May Courtyard they were then brought to guillotines throughout Paris.

Paris Catacombs

Paris City Of Lights - Irish Rugby Tours, Rugby Tours To ParisThe Catacombs of Paris are underground ossuary’s which hold the remains of more than six million people.

Created as part of the effort to eliminate the city’s overflowing cemeteries. The Catacombs of Paris became a curiosity for more privileged Parisians. From their creation, an early visitor being Charles X of France during 1787.

Public visits began after its renovation into a proper ossuary. First allowed only a few times a year with the permission of an authorised mines inspector, but later more frequently.

Catholic hierarchy closed the catacombs in 1833 as they found exhibiting human remains immoral.



Hospitable Holland

The Canals

Hospitable Holland - Irish Rugby Tours, Rugby Tours To HollandSimilar too many other cities that sit over water such as Venice, Amsterdam has a vibrant canal system.

The pretty waterways are one of the best loved attractions in Amsterdam and you can explore the idyllic routes. This is done by taking a boat tour or a water taxi that lets you hop around the locations.

If not a water lover, then you can still enjoy the canal sights with a leisurely stroll along the banks.

Zaanse Schans

Hospitable Holland - Irish Rugby Tours, Rugby Tours To HollandAnyone out there who wish they could time travel back into Dutch history? Those who wish they could visit the Netherlands of the 17th and 18th centuries have come to the right place.

Zaanse Schans is located around 15 kilometres to the north of Amsterdam and is styled as an open-air museum. Here you can take a stroll around a traditional Dutch village and find out how ancient craftsmen would have worked.

Just some of the sights include a shipyard, grocery store, pewter factory and a range of dainty green wooden houses.

Keukenhof Gardens

Hospitable Holland - Irish Rugby Tours, Rugby Tours To HollandKeukenhof, also known as the Garden of Europe. Here you will find a riot of colour with blooms of every hue as far as the eye can see.

Tulips are the signature flowers of this country and the Garden of Europe. Located just outside of Lisse is the largest public garden anywhere in the world.

Covering 70 acres of land, you will find gorgeous flower exhibitions. In addition to a wide variety of flora there are daffodils, hyacinths, and crocuses.

Grote Kerk

Hospitable Holland - Irish Rugby Tours, Rugby Tours To HollandGrote Kerk is found in The Hague and is a large church that is built from red brick in Gothic style.

The original building here would have been built in the 13th century. It was razed to the ground in 1539 and rebuilt in the present structure.

The church has an illustrious history as the spot where many members of the Dutch royal family where baptised.

Things to look out for at the church include the dominating bell tower which is the highest in Holland. This bell tower contains 51 bells, also to be found are the ornate wooden pulpit and the huge pipe organ.

The Rijksmuseum

Hospitable Holland - Irish Rugby Tours, Rugby Tours To HollandThe Rijksmuseum is the Dutch National Museum located in Amsterdam and is filled with amazing collections which date from 1809.

The building houses over 7 million items and has more than 5,000 paintings that sprawl over 250 rooms.

There’s a library here with 35,000 books. Walking around you can see some of the most impressive paintings in the world created by the ‘Old Masters’.

Much of the museum focuses on traditional Dutch artefacts like ancient handicrafts and sculptures from the medieval period.

Make sure you leave ample time to see everything as you can easily spend a full day here exploring every nook and cranny.

Anne Frank Museum

Hospitable Holland - Irish Rugby Tours, Rugby Tours To HollandThe Anne Frank Museum is one of the most famous attractions in Amsterdam and makes for an extremely moving visit.

The building is the former home of Anne Frank who hid from the Nazis here during the Second World War.

Anne Frank died two months before the war ended but her diary that she wrote in the home was found. Her diary went on to become one of the most important books in the world.

The home has been restored although the hiding place in which the family lived is much as it would have been.

Absolutely not to be missed if you are in Amsterdam and offers a poignant personal view on this well-known story.

Marken Village

Hospitable Holland - Irish Rugby Tours, Rugby Tours To HollandThe little village of Marken is known for being one of the prettiest spots in the Netherlands. This is due to its strategic location on the Ijsselmeer Lake.

Crowds of visitor’s flock to the town every year to take in this picture-postcard village.

In the summer months festivals are held here. The residents dress in period garb and you can see traditional crafts like clog making taking place.

Efteling Amusement Park

Hospitable Holland - Irish Rugby Tours, Rugby Tours To HollandEfteling is the biggest amusement park in the Netherlands and is located at Kaatsheuvel.

The park’s divided up into zones that are known as realms and each one focuses on ancient myth’s or legends.

Efteling has the claim to fame for being one of the oldest theme’s parks in the world. Having first opened its doors in 1952 and has been entertaining visitors ever since with fast rides and lush gardens.

Highlights include the George and the Dragon as well as The Flying Dutchman and The Python.

For younger ones there’s Raveleijn. Nightly performances that tell the story of 5 siblings who battle and defeat an evil monster in a magical world.

Madurodam Model Village

Hospitable Holland - Irish Rugby Tours, Rugby Tours To HollandIf you want to see the whole of the Netherlands but don’t have time, then travel to Madurodam in The Hague.

Here you will find a mini version of the Netherlands on a 1:25 scale. See all the county’s top destinations including cute windmills, main landmarks, and decorative features like bridges.

This model city even includes its own harbour as well as a railway system and an airport.

Van Gogh Museum

Hospitable Holland - Irish Rugby Tours, Rugby Tours To HollandThe Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam is an ode to one of the greatest artists ever to have lived.

In addition to that, the Van Gogh Museum is regularly voted one of the best art museums in the world. Art-lovers shouldn’t really leave this off their itinerary when in the city.

1.5 million visitors make visit each year and the museum have the largest collection of Van Gogh pieces in the world.

Two hundred paintings, five hundred drawings, and seven hundred letters that give you a unique insight into the life of the artist.


Hospitable Holland - Irish Rugby Tours, Rugby Tours To HollandThe Heineken Experience in Amsterdam is the place to come to if you enjoy your beer.

The experience takes place in an old Heineken brewery.

This starts from the kind of water used all the way through to the bottling process. You will also see classic examples of the iconic Heineken logo and see how it has changed over the years.

As if that wasn’t enough, sample this famous brew and end the trip with a tasting session.


Hospitable Holland - Irish Rugby Tours, Rugby Tours To HollandEdam cheese is famous the world over for its red hued rind and signature round shape.

Many people won’t realise however that Edam is actually not just the name of the cheese but also the place it comes from. The town dates back to the 12th century and has an array of cheese related sites to enjoy.

Edam cheese looks a little different here, as it is actually sold with a yellow rind rather than a red one.

Some of the signature attractions for cheese lovers here include a large cheese market and a famous cheese-weighing hall.




Spectacular Spain

Eating Tapas – Nationwide

Spanish Tapas - Spectacular Spain, Irish Rugby Tours, Rugby Tours To SpainGo from bar to bar trying tapas as you go, while you might as well get a pint with every small meal.

Eventually you will work out your favourite bars and favourite dishes.

Some of the most well-known dishes include, tortillas, patatas, bravas and a large amount of chorizo-based meals.

Alhambra – Granada

Dawn Charles V Palace Alhambra - Spectacular Spain, Irish Rugby Tours, Rugby Tours To SpainThis giant fortress will take an entire day to walk around, make sure you do, it’s a highlight on any European guide.

The first Nasrid king, El Ahmar, chose this building as it overlooked the entire city of Granada.

It offers you a great view for some quick snaps, the price for entry is between 13 and 9 Euros. Alhambra is only ever fully open between March and October.

So, make sure you time your visit perfectly, as you would be disappointed through the winter.

Ski on the Sierra Nevada Mountains – Malaga

Sierra Nevada Mountains - Spectacular Spain, Irish Rugby Tours, Rugby Tours To SpainIf you are staying in Malaga, the Sierra Nevada Ski Resorts you have to visit.

Not only are they famous worldwide but one of the finest you will find in Europe.

Once you have skied and reached the bottom you can head to the beach for a tan, all in a day.

Nou Camp Stadium – Barcelona

Nou Camp Stadium - Spectacular Spain, Irish Rugby Tours, Rugby Tours To SpainYou do not have to be a football fan to appreciate the size and structure of Barcelona’s football stadium.

If you are a football fan, purchase some tickets and bear witness to possibly one of the greatest footballers, Messi.

If you do, try and learn some of the chants before you head to the game.

La Tomatina – Valencia

La Tomatina - Spectacular Spain, Irish Rugby Tours, Rugby Tours To SpainI expect this to be on everyone’s list, as possibly the greatest festival in the world.

The party starts with a massive feast on Paella. The following morning thousands of people take to the streets tomato’s in hand, ready to throw to their hearts content.

This is potentially one of the biggest food fights in the world. Make sure you squeeze the tomato before throwing so that it bursts upon impact, preventing them from feeling any pain.

As soon as the bottle rocket sounds, it’s clean up time and everyone heads on to a bar or to wash themselves.

Rastro Market – Madrid

Rastro de Madrid - Spectacular Spain, Irish Rugby Tours, Rugby Tours To SpainMadrid’s flea market attracts a huge audience and looks the same as you imagine it would 50 years before.

Find yourself a bargain and if you end up getting bored, the streets are coated in bars for a quick one.

I would keep an eye on your possessions however as this flea market does tend to attract some unwanted pickpockets.

Guggenheim Museum – Bilbao

Guggenheim Museum - Spectacular Spain, Irish Rugby Tours, Rugby Tours To SpainThis is by far one of the most interesting museums you will visit.

Frank Gehry’s masterpiece highlights some of the most bizarre art you will find, mainly from the 20th century.

The shape of the building itself is something of a wonder, with more curves than David Beckham’s free kicks.

Benicassim Festival – Barcelona

Festival Internacional de Benicàssim - Spectacular Spain, Irish Rugby Tours, Rugby Tours To SpainSpain’s biggest music festival is growing in reputation every year as people leave the muddy festivals for a party on the beach in Barcelona.

Festival Internacional de Benicàssim, as it is known in Spanish, lasts for four days on a beach, music pumping, drinking mayhem.

This year the likes of Liam Gallagher, The Killers, Pet Shop Boys and The Vaccines headlined.

Party Time – Ibiza

Party Time - Spectacular Spain, Irish Rugby Tours, Rugby Tours To SpainThere is no bigger party than the ones in Ibiza, from April till October.

The welcome parties and ending parties are legendary as they welcome in the re-opening of the clubs for the summer.

Be prepared to spend a lot more than you would like to however, as entry to clubs is normally expensive



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