Day 1 :
Departure from North America
- Flight to Shannon:
Relax and enjoy our scheduled flight from North America.
Day 2 :
Arrive Shannon – Cliffs of Moher – The Burren – Galway Area
- Cliffs of Moher:
Spend time at the Cliffs of Moher, a series of dramatic undulating cliffs plunging 700 feet down to the Atlantic Ocean, offering unforgettable views of Ireland’s west coast. On a clear day, we may be able to see the Aran Islands in Galway Bay as misty shapes off in the distance. Those who choose may climb O’Brien’s Tower, a viewing point built for the benefit of Victorian tourists.
- The Burren:
Enjoy one of Ireland’s and Europe’s most interesting and scenic areas, The Burren. Carved by nature from carboniferous limestone, the view manages to be both desolate and beautiful. Sheets of rock jut out and seem to undulate in a kind of moonscape as far as the eye can see. Somehow delicate wildflowers and curling ferns thrive in this strange landscape that was created 300 million years ago.
- Kilfenora Cathedral:
- Base at Galway:
The historic city of Galway is strongly associated with Irish language, music, and dance, and is one of the most Irish cities in the country. The lively and bustling university town was very prominent in the Middle Ages and was the site of a nine-month siege during the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland. With history, culture, and beautiful surroundings, Galway is a favorite of visitors to the west coast.
Day 3 :
The Aran Islands (Sts. Enda, Brecan, and Ciaran on Inishmore)
- Dún Aonghasa:
Explore Dun Aonghasa, an Iron or Bronze Age promontory fort with four concentric stone walls.
Day 4 :
Galway Area – Clonfert – Clonmacnoise – Tralee Area
- Clonfert Cathedral:
Discover Clonfert Cathedral, built in the 12th century on the site of a monastery founded by St. Brendan the Navigator. It flourished for many centuries, even through the great invasions by the Danes. The cathedral was burned many times, but after a final assault in 1541, was not rebuilt. The highlight of the ruined cathedral is the West Doorway, a masterpiece of Hiberno-Romanesque decoration in red sandstone.
Explore the ruins of Clonmacnoise. Resting silently on the eastern bank of the Shannon, Clonmacnoise is one of Ireland's most profound ancient sites. Founded in 548 AD by St. Ciaran, it soon became one of Europe's great centers of learning and culture. In addition to the extensive ruins, our visit will include the exemplary Visitor Center, with a beautifully designed exhibition, a first-rate audiovisual program, and pleasant tearooms. We continue three kilometers east to view the Clonfinlough Stone, a large boulder near Clonfinlough Catholic Church. Its surface is engraved with crosses and markings resembling human forms in patterns similar to carvings found in Spain and France. Still a mystery, these carvings may date anywhere from the Stone Age to the Bronze Age, or even to early Christianity.
- Tralee Area:
We will continue to the Tralee area, which will be our base for the next 2 nights. While here, we will enjoy breakfast and dinner at the hotel.
Day 5 :
Day Trip to the Dingle Peninsula (Ancient Spirituality)
- Dingle Peninsula:
Tour the Dingle Peninsula, offering some of Ireland’s most beautiful scenery. During our scenic driving tour we will stop to view Dingle Harbor, where, if we are lucky, we may see Fungie the Dolphin. From here we will make many stops, including one to An Dun Beag, one of the best-preserved Iron Age forts in Ireland, and the Fahan Beehive Huts.
- Blasket Centre:
The Blasket Centre explains the way of life of the inhabitants of the Blasket Islands. We will also stop in Ballyferriter, a small village known for its pastel-colored cottages, and at Risac, an excavated monastic settlement dating from the 7th century. In addition, we will visit the famous Gallarus Oratory, a tiny drystone church and relic of early Irish Christianity, before heading to Kilmalkedar, once a pagan center of worship and home to a ruined Irish Romanesque church.
Our tour of the peninsula concludes in Dingle, where (time permitting) we will have time to shop.
Day 6 :
Tralee Area – Rock of Cashel – Dublin
- Rock of Cashel:
See the Rock of Cashel, an extraordinary ruined abbey at the top of a hill near the town center of Cashel. This outcrop of limestone, stretching 197 feet into the sky, possesses sixteen centuries of history. It was the castled seat of the kings of Munster as far back as 360 AD and remained a royal fortress until 1101. Today, there are ruins of a two-towered chapel, a cruciform cathedral, a round tower, and a cluster of other medieval monuments. Inside the cathedral, ancient carvings survive in excellent condition.
- Continue to Dublin:
- Guided Tour of Dublin:
Dublin is a complex small city, whose 19th-century architecture conceals a modern place filled with trendy shops, pubs, restaurants, and boutiques. Long perceived to be stuck in the past, Dublin has experienced a rebirth that has brought new life to the historic, modern, charming, and entertaining city. Spend time wandering the Victorian streets, visiting the incredible churches and museums, exploring the vibrancy of the Temple Bar area, and discovering why Dublin is one of the most popular destinations for Europeans and the world.
Day 7 :
Glendalough and Kildare (The Lives of St. Kevin and St. Brigid)
Visit Glendalough, a former monastery in an idyllic secluded setting. Its name is derived from Irish meaning “The Glen of the Two Lakes”. We will stroll from the upper lake to the lower lake and walk through the remains of the monastery complex, long since converted to a burial place. Although much of the monastic city is in ruins, the standing remains include a nearly perfect round tower, hundreds of timeworn Celtic crosses, and a variety of churches. Our visit will include the new Visitor Center, which provides a helpful orientation that comprises exhibits on the archaeology, history, folklore, and wildlife of the area.
- St. Brigid's Cathedral:
Visit St. Brigid’s Cathedral, which commemorates the saint who founded a religious community on this site in 490 AD. It is particularly interesting that monks and nuns once lived here under the same roof, although this was not the only unorthodox practice associated with the community. Curious pagan rituals, including the burning of a perpetual fire, continued until the 16th century. The fire pit is still visible on the grounds, as is a round tower with a Romanesque doorway, probably built in the 12th century.
Day 8 :
Dublin (Saints and Scholars)
- St. Patrick's Cathedral:
Visit St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the national cathedral of the Church of Ireland. It is said that St. Patrick baptized converts on this site. Consequently, a church has stood here since 450 AD, making it the oldest Christian site in Dublin. The cathedral’s design is primarily Early English in style, and features a 300-foot-long interior and a square medieval tower that houses the largest ringing peal bells of Ireland. St. Patrick's is closely associated with Jonathan Swift, who was dean from 1713 to 1745, and whose tomb lies in the south aisle.
- Christ Church Cathedral:
Spend time in Christ Church Cathedral. Built on high ground in the oldest part of the city, this cathedral is one of Dublin's finest historic buildings. It dates from 1038, when Sitric, Danish king of Dublin, built the first wooden Christ Church here. In 1171, the original simple foundation was extended into a cruciform and rebuilt in stone by Strongbow. The present structure dates primarily from the restoration begun in 1871. This is the mother church for the diocese of Dublin and Glendalough of the Church of Ireland. The new Treasury in the crypt is now open to the public. While there, we might hear the new bells pealing in the belfry.
- Trinity College:
Discover Trinity College, the oldest university in Ireland. Trinity was founded in 1592 by Queen Elizabeth I. The beautiful campus features cobbled squares, gardens, a picturesque quadrangle, and buildings that date from the 17th to 20th centuries. Trinity College is also home to the Book of Kells, an 8th-century version of the four Gospels decorated with elaborate scripting and illumination. We will view this famous treasure and other early Christian manuscripts in the Colonnades, an exhibition area on the ground floor of the Old Library.
- National Museum:
Tour the National Museum. Established in 1890, the museum is a reflection of Ireland's heritage from 2000 BC to the present. It houses many of the country's greatest historical finds, including the Treasury exhibit that features the Ardagh Chalice, Tara Brooch and Cross of Cong, the Wood Quay excavations of the Old Dublin Settlements, and an extensive exhibition of Irish Bronze Age gold ornaments dating from 2200 to 700 BC.
Day 9 :
Departure from Dublin
- Return Flight Home:
Our rewarding and enjoyable tour comes to an end as our guide accompanies us to the airport on our final day.