A native of County Monaghan in the northeast of Ireland, Pascal Fitzpatrick enjoys sharing his love for his country with travelers, from the romantic Dingle Peninsula to the breathtaking Antrim Coast. And when he's not guiding our Best of Ireland and Heart of Ireland tours, you can find him behind the wheel of the tour bus as our driver!
How did you get started as a guide for Rick Steves? Rumor has it you drove (and still drive) the coach for our Ireland tours?
Yeah, that rumor is true! My mum and dad run a coach company called Fitzpatrick Coaches in Ireland. We have provided the transport for all Rick Steves Ireland tours since 2010. I led my first Rick Steves tour in 2015, and when I'm not guiding, I'm driving. I really enjoy the challenges of both, and the transition from driver to guide happened naturally for me.
What is it like living in beautiful County Monaghan, so close to the Northern Ireland border? Do you notice differences in culture and music in your upbringing?
I count myself very lucky to live in the northeast of Ireland, in County Monaghan. Monaghan is known as the "Drumlin County," which refers to the many small hills scattered along the countryside. The county is filled with roaming green hills and is famous for its freshwater lakes for fishing.
My home village of Glaslough (meaning "green lake") won the Ireland Tidy Towns competition in 2019, and this is something I like to remind the other Irish guides of. This is wonderful achievement for my home village.
Even though Monaghan is so close to the Northern Ireland border, during the period known as The Troubles I wouldn't have crossed the border very often, as it was a turbulent time and the presence of the British army and checkpoints made it a frightening experience. If you did cross the border, the cultural differences were very obvious, e.g. the sporting Gaelic football culture and the Irish music culture were very unlike the Republic of Ireland.
Thankfully, that has all changed since the Good Friday Agreement which took place in 1998. Today the border is an invisible line, and I now cross without any hesitation and enjoy travelling around Northern Ireland, particularly along the breathtaking Antrim coastline.
Did you ever in your wildest dreams think that you'd become a tour guide? Do you think your children will follow in your footsteps?
I am very privileged to work as a tour guide and have the opportunity to show tour members around the country I love and am so proud of. As the saying goes, "Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life."
I have three children, two girls and one boy. My son Jack is very interested in Irish history, and its comical when we have a family day out, as Jack naturally becomes the tour guide, filling us with interesting facts. His famous one liner is "Did you know?"
What is your favorite stop on the Ireland tours and why?
There are many great stops on the Best of Ireland and Heart of Ireland tours, but my favorite — which is included in both tours — is Dingle. It's the craic (Irish for fun), it's the people, it's the music, and it's the beautiful Slea Head Drive. I think this is where you can capture the picture-perfect image of Ireland: the stone walls, roaming sheep, music, and Guinness.
What is your favorite "wow" moment for tour members?
My favorite "wow" moment is the School of Falconry at Ashford Castle. Each tour member gets to wear the falconer's glove and have a Harris's Hawk fly from their arm, all against the beautiful backdrop of the castle.
Tell us something about yourself that no one would ever guess.
In my younger days, I boxed for Ireland.
Here's what Pascal won't tell you…but his tour members will:
"Pascal was the ultimate tour guide. He was friendly, helpful, knowledgeable, and very entertaining. His storytelling abilities kept us entertained and informed and really made our Ireland experience. I would honestly take another Ireland tour if I knew Pascal would be our guide!"
— Linda Caldwell in Tulsa, OK