Tour to Ireland
Cairde Léann na hÉireann – The Friends of Irish Studies
Join the Friends of Irish Studies on a nine-day tour of Ireland this coming summer. This is a journey home, to the place where it all began for many of you. You will see the sites, meet and talk with the people, and immerse yourself in the culture. This tour is about reconnecting with the past and with the soul of a people whose descendants live all over the world. The tour runs from June 18 to June 27, is led by Dr. Traolach Ó Ríordáin, Professor of Irish language and Literature at the University of Montana, and is limited to 20 people.
June 18: Ag Tabhairt fé Éirinn/Heading to Ireland
Today we leave the United States and head across the broad Atlantic to Ireland. So say good-bye to Uncle Sam and hello to Mother Ireland
June 19: Fáilte Romhat go hÉirinn/Welcome to Ireland
This morning we arrive in Shannon, County Clare on the beautiful west coast of Ireland. Pick up your bags, proceed through passport control and meet your genial host in the arrivals area where you’ll receive a nice warm cup of Irish tea and a heavily buttered scone! We’ll board the coach and then off to Galway - the “City of the Tribes” and gateway to the west - via the Burren. The Burren [from the Irish word “Boireann’ meaning rocky place], is an unpolluted and unspoiled expanse of limestone rock that covers over 100 square miles. The barren appearance belies the richness of life here. The Burren is home to a diverse ecosystem of Arctic, Mediterranean and Alpine plants that extends into the Atlantic to form the Aran Islands. Our first stop will be at the Cliffs of Moher to take in the majestic beauty of the cliffs and look out upon the Aran Islands. We will have lunch here before heading north to see Poulnabrone Dolmen, one of the most iconic and frequently photographed sites in Ireland. Meandering along we will eventually arrive in Loughrea, a historic and rural town, known for its hospitality and love of hurling! It’s here where we will spend the first night and experience the hospitality of the people.
Dinner and Overnight: Loughrea
June 20: An Turas Go Conamara/The Trip to Connemara
Today we make our way north and west into the rugged and majestic beauty of Connemara and on to the village of Cong, over the border from Galway, in co. Mayo. This was the location of the famous John Ford film The Quiet Man; it is also the site of the ruins of a 13th century Augustine abbey where the last High-King of Ireland, Rory O’Connor spent his last days. Nearby is Ashford Castle, a five-star luxury hotel originally built as a fortress for the Burke family. From here we head west to Leenane where the movie The Field was filmed, and Kylemore Abbey one of Ireland’s most iconic buildings. If time permits, we’ll make our way to Clifden for lunch, or make a stop along the way. Nobody will go hungry! Our journey back takes along the south shore of Galway and through the most scenic landscape of Ireland.
June 21: Cuairt ar Chluain Mhic Nóis/Visit to Clonmacnoise
A fine hearty Irish breakfast will serve your constitution well for the next stage of our adventure. Today we travel north east to Aughrim, Clonmacnoise and Clonfert. Aughrim was the scene of the bloodiest battle every fought in Ireland when the forces of James II and William of Orange met on July 12, 1690. This was battle that ended the reign of the Stuart monarchs and established the House of Orange on the throne of England. From here we head to more peaceful and contemplative environs – the beautiful monastic site of Clonmacnoise Established by St. Ciarán in the 6th century it quickly grew because of its location to become a major centre of religious and intellectual life renowned throughout Europe. Its importance declined from the 11th century onwards as Ireland moved from a monastic to a diocesan church. It is still the most well-known of Ireland’s ancient monasteries. Leaving Clonmacnoise we head to Clonfert to view the stunningly ornate St. Breandan’s Cathedral, where Hiberno-Romanesque architecture reached its highest achievement.
Dinner and Overnight: Loughrea
June 22: Ó Dheas Don Daingean/Southwards to Dingle
A fine hearty Irish breakfast will serve your constitution well for the next stage of our adventure. It is southwards we go through Galway and west Clare, over the Shannon Estuary, and westwards to the beautiful seaside town of Dingle. Our first stop will be at Coole House and Gardens, home to Lady Gregory and inspiration for the great Irish writers of the Celtic Revival. Yeats, Synge, Shaw and many others visited here consulted the Muse, and carved their initials in the copper beach tree that still stands today. You can photograph this tree, walk the grounds at your ease, and get a sense of what inspired some of Ireland’s greatest writers. Leaving Coole, we travel back 14 centuries to the impressive Kilmacduagh Churches and Round Tower. First built in the 7th century, Kilmacduagh is home to the tallest round tower in Ireland and stands as witness to the golden days of monastic culture in Ireland. And it is south we go to the beautiful village of Adare where we stop for lunch and to stretch our legs. The afternoon will include one stop in nearby Newcastlewest to view the 13th century Desmond Castle. With our fill of ancient, medieval, and literary Ireland we head for Dingle and the little Irish-speaking village of Ballyferriter.
Dinner and Overnight: Ballyferriter
June 23: Corca Dhuibhne/The Dingle Peninsula
Today will be spent savoring the delights of the Dingle Peninsula, a place celebrated in story, song and poetry for centuries. Our morning will begin with a trip to Slea Head and its panoramic views of Dingle Bay, South Kerry, the Skellig Rocks, and the Blasket Islands. Our first main sto p will be the Blasket Heritage Centre in Dunquin, followed by a visit to Gallarus and the ancient monastic site of Kilmalkedar. We return early to Dingle, leaving time to wa lk the town, visit the shops, restaurants and bars of this popular destination. But June 23rd is midsummer’s night, Oíche Shan Sheáin, and we don’t want to miss the evening’s festivities. It could be a long night!
Dinner and Overnight: Ballyferriter
June 24: Contae Chorcaí/County Cork
Our itinerary takes south west to County Cork with a morning stop in to savour the beauty of the town and Lakes of Killarney. Our morning will be spent here before crossing into the rebel county and St. Gobnait’s Holy Well and monastic site in Ballyvourney. The church, with its mixture of Christian and pre-Christian icons, testifies to the incorporation of the old into the new and the graveyard holds the bones of some of the greatest singers, storytellers and poets ever recorded. It is at places like St. Gobnait’s the one comes into contact with the ancestral spirit and soul of Ireland. We head from here to Béal na Blath where the man who broke the power of the English in Ireland, Michael Collins, died in an ambush on August 22, 1922. Many have claimed the hopes and aspirations of Ireland died with Collins on that day. I leave to you to make your own mind up on that. But that being said, there is no denying that Béal na Blath has become a place sacred to Irish nationalists, a spiritual site that draws hundreds every year to commemorated the life and death of Collins. From here we make our way to Cork City.
Dinner and Overnight: Cork
June 25: Oirthear Chorcaí/East Cork
East Cork was possibly the last place in Ireland most emigrants saw before embarking for a new life on foreign shores. It is here that the town of Cobh, formerly known as Queenstown, the main port of departure from Ireland is located. It was at Cobh that the ill-fated Titantic made its final stop. Cobh is also the resting place of the victims recovered after the sinking of the Lusitania. We will visit Cobh Heritage Center and then walk part of this beautiful seaside town, stopping at the Lusitania Monument and St. Colman’s Cathedral. We will also have lunch here.
Leaving Cobh we head to the Midleton Distillery, where all the spirits come out of a bottle! Here is where such well-known liquors as Jameson, Paddy, Power’s, Redbreast and many more are distilled. Everybody who takes the tour leaves feeling much, much better about of life!
June 26: Ag Filleadh ar an gClár/Going back to County Clare
This morning we begin our day in Blarney, with a visit to the Woolen Mills or the castle. Some of you may want to kiss the stone; others may wish to do some last minute shopping - it will be up to you. The grounds around the castle are beautiful and, weather permitting, make for a great walk.
After this, we head for Bunratty in county Clare where we will tour the folk park and round off the evening with a farewell celebration of Irish music, dance and food.
Overnight and Dinner: Bunratty
June 27: Slán Abhaile/Safe Home
Make sure you have all your belongings, your bags, gifts and passports because today you leave for home. The bus will take you to the airport two hours before your flight and bid you a tearful farewell. We know that you will return again to the “Land of Hundred Thousands Welcomes” and the home of your ancestors in the not-too-distant future.