Sceptre Tours (tel. 800/221-0924;, which specializes in travel to Ireland, the U.K. and Italy, frequently comes up with some great independent trips with even better prices, and their "Emerald Ritz" is no exception.

The lowest advertised price of $599 includes round-trip airfare from New York-JFK, six nights' accommodations and a rental of a manual transmission car with unlimited mileage. Some might balk that the travel period this low price reflects January 1-February 15, but Ireland does not typically experience extremely cold temperatures like most of North America does in winter. Departures do not include taxes, which can range up to $175 per person. Departures from Boston, Chicago and Los Angeles start from $619, $669, and $829, respectively. There's no booking deadline.

The price would be smart even if you didn't know that in addition to four nights of homey hospitality in bed and breakfasts, the package includes a night at Croke Park Hotel in Dublin (within walking distance of Temple Bar and not far from Trinity College and Dublin Castle). The sixth night puts you, however, at the Ritz-Carlton Powerscourt, a five-star luxury property in Enniskerry, just south of Dublin. It's located on a Palladian estate with two championship golf courses, an enormous spa, gardens, and a restaurant from chef Gordon Ramsay.

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