DAY 1, Friday, May 3, 2019: Depart the US for Ireland.
DAY 2, Saturday, May 4: Arrive in Shannon and transfer to Rossaveal for the ferry to the Aran Islands. We enjoy some free time to explore the island, shop for Aran Island sweaters, and take in the incredible views. Dinner and overnightat Dormer House Bed and Breakfast. BD
DAY 3, Sunday, May 5: After breakfast this morning we meet with local Tour Guide Cyril O’Flaherty a native of the island. He has studied the heritage of the island for many years and is renowned as an expert on the Island’s history, features, and legends. Cyril is also a successful artist and finds the inspiration for his work in the island landscape. Tour by mini coach and visit Dun Aengus, the Iron Age fort built as four concentric stone walls. The fort has been called the “most magnificent barbaric monument in Europe”. We enjoy lunch in a local restaurant. We visit ‘Na Seacht dTeampaill’, the Seven Churches which make up a monastic settlement dedicated to St. Brecan. We visit St. Ciaran’s Church, a hauntingly beautiful site where there is a Holy Well dedicated to St. Ciarán, known locally as the Salmon of Knowledge Well. Overnight at Dormer House. BD
DAY 4, Monday, May 6: This morning we depart the Aran Islands by ferry for our journey to Moycullen, County Galway where we visit the Connemara Marble Factory. Connemara marble is regarded as one of the most authentic Irish products available in Ireland. Geologists estimate that it is about six hundred million years old. The color and markings in the marble reflect the natural beauty of the mountains of Connemara. The marble is quarried, fashioned, and polished by skilled craftsmen at the Connemara Marble Factory Visitor Centre. We continue on our way toward Tralee in County Kerry for Overnight at the Ashe Hotel. BD
DAY 5, Tuesday, May 7: After breakfast, we begin an extended drive along the beautiful coast of the Dingle Peninsula. We visit ancient beehive huts from the Bronze Age and an ancient Christian Church, the somewhat mysterious and corbel-vaulted Gallarus Oratory, dated possibly as late as the 12th century. We continue to the early and medieval Christian site of Kilmalkedar with its 12thcentury Romanesque church (once stone-roofed) and a standing stone carved with ogham characters. We will stop at An Raisc, a 6thcentury Celtic monastic ruin. This early Christian center is a memorable site, excavated during the 1970s, and famous for its wonderfully carved cross slab bearing Classical, Celtic, and Christian motifs. The enclosed site also has the remains of other cross slabs, an oratory, burial grounds, shrine site, paved pathways, corn drying kiln, and several dry-stone huts. It was first used in the late 5th or early 6th centuries and appears to have continued in use up to the 9thor 10thcentury. The finds of the excavation are on view, with further information on the site, at the museum in Ballyferriter. We return to the Ashe Hotel for dinner and overnight. BD
DAY 6, Wednesday, May 8: We depart Dingle this morning with our first stop in County Tipperary at the Rock of Cashel, a giant circular mound rising 200 feet above the surrounding plain. Legend has it that the devil, flying over Ireland in a hurry, took a bite out of the Slieve Bloom Mountains to clear his path and spat it out here in the Golden Vale at Cashel. We see a spectacular group of medieval buildings in a stunning site that was the seat of the Kings of Munster in the 4th and 5th centuries. From Cashel, we continue on to the Sheraton Hotel Athlone for dinner and overnight. BD
DAY7, Thursday, May 9: This morning we depart for Clonmacnoise. This sixth-century monastic site, located on the banks of the River Shannon is home to three high crosses, a cathedral, seven churches, and two round towers. The strategic location of the monastery at a crossroads between the major east-west land route through the bogs of central Ireland and the River Shannon helped it become a major center of religion, learning, craftsmanship, and trade by the 9th century. After lunch, we continue on to Dublin where we visit St Michan’s Church that was founded in 1095 and was the only church located on the north side of Dublin City until 1686. The present structure dates from 1685 and was renovated in 1825. The interior, which has changed little since Victorian times, still has its original organ. Below the church are five long burial vaults containing the mummified remains of many of Dublin’s most influential families from 1600 to 1800. In the vaults, we view the death mask of Wolfe Tone and the coffins of the 1798 rebels John and Henry Sheares. Time permitting there will be an optional tour of Jameson Distillery at our own expense. We have dinner and overnight at Emmaus Retreat Centre in Dublin. BD
DAY 8, Friday, May 10: This morning we attend Christ Church Cathedral for Morning Prayer. We have time to soak up the atmosphere and enjoy lunch at our leisure in Dublin. In the afternoon we visit Trinity College to see the magnificent Old Library and the 1200 year old Book of Kells, the beautifully illuminated version of the Gospels, designed by monks in the 9th century. We head north to the heart of County Down where we have dinner and overnight at the Tobar Mhuire Retreat Centre set in sixty acres of woodland near Belfast. BD
DAY 9, Saturday, May 11: After breakfast, transfer to airport for flight to the USA.