Ireland Flying into Shannon International Airport, visitors look down on a patchwork quilt in countless shades of green. The Shannon Region's County Clare in the west of Ireland has a wild, expansive landscape dotted with castles, craggy cliffs, and championship golf courses, plus an array of meeting venues, all within a few hour's drive of the airport.
A relaxing way for small incentive groups to get acquainted with the region's picturesque villages is a cruise along the River Shannon in a Derg Line Cruiser. Groups can rent the luxurious, four- to eight-berth cruisers by the week at the Derg Marina Village in Killaloe.
There are hundreds of castles in the Shannon Region. High-end groups can even rent their own: Ballyhannan Castle, a beautifully restored 15th-century Irish peel tower, accommodates six guests. Or there's Dromoland Castle, which is sited on a 375-acre estate. Dromoland has its own championship golf course, a private lake, and 73 superbly decorated suites and rooms. Brian Boru Hall, Dromoland's 6,000-square-foot conference center, seats 450 theater-style.
Less than an hour's drive from Dromoland is Galway City. Chartered in 1484 by Richard III of England, Galway has evolved into the center for arts, shopping, and culture in the west of Ireland. In the city's Latin Quarter, pubs pulse with traditional Irish tunes. In the heart of Galway City, The Great Southern Hotel Eyre Square offers 116 rooms and suites and a full complement of conference facilities. Or, for small groups who prefer a country setting, there's the Ardilaun House, a Georgian-style country house built in 1840. Converted into a hotel in 1962, the 90-room Ardilaun can accommodate meetings for groups of up to 450 persons.
Using Galway City as a base, take a day trip through the nearby Connemara Region into Clifden, an early 19th-century market town. Don't miss the seven-mile Sky Road to the Connemara Golf Club. Other popular day trips from Galway City include the Burren Region, 100 square miles of limestone rock that is often referred to as Europe's largest rock garden, and the majestic Cliffs of Moher, which are less than an hour's drive away from the Burren. Rising 700 feet above the pounding Atlantic Ocean, they stretch for five miles along the coast.