Ireland was on tap this year for the Howard County Chamber of Commerce’s (HCCC) annual international travel program, adding to past trips exploring the historical and commercial wonders of China, the visual and gastronomical wonderland of Italy and the cultural grandeur of Eastern Europe.

The trip departed March 25, and the highlights of this one-week Emerald Isle visit included Dublin, the Guinness Storehouse, Blarney Castle, Killarney, Dingle Peninsula, Cliffs of Moher, Dromoland Castle, Whiskey Distillery and a local pub visit.

The undisputed highlight of the trip was staying overnight in the 500-year-old Dromoland Castle. “It was just spectacular, and you get a sense for what life was like hundreds of years ago,” said Bill Erskine, one of the travelers.

Phil Krug, another traveler who went with his daughter Amy, was impressed with the school of falconry at the castle. “We got to interact and walk with the falcons — and owls, too.”

Mary Cannon was surprised to see palm trees on the Emerald Isle. “It never gets too hot or too cold there, so they survive. I just never expected to see them.”

When asked where they would like to go next, the answers were literally all over the map, from France and Germany to southern Italy; or Brazil, Argentina and other countries in South America.

All of the Chamber trips include airfare and transfers and are traditionally seven days of scintillating sights and sounds. As Krug stated, “Dealing with an organized group, you end up doing things and having opportunities you might not have otherwise. These people know where to go and what to do when, so you have the best experience. And the price was great.”

“Our members enjoy the opportunity to visit beautiful areas of the world for such a reasonable price,” said Joanne Birdsong, the Chamber’s vice president of operations. “They return with fresh ideas and an appreciation of different cultures and customs. Plus, they get to know their fellow members better and form lasting business relationships.”

Individuals interested in future travels with the Chamber can learn more at or may contact Joanne Birdsong at 410-730-4111.