Ireland is known as the land of saints and scholars. This tour features a mixture of pre-Christian and early Christian Ireland. From the Rock of Cashel; the ancient crowning stone of Irish kings, to the holy mountain of Croagh Patrick, and St. Kevin’s bed and tower in Glendalough, to the Book of Kells; an illuminated manuscript containing the four Gospels transcribed by Celtic monks around 800AD, widely regarded as Ireland’s finest treasure, there is plenty to enthrall and enjoy. Together with spectacular scenery, opportunities to meet the locals, and the comfort of staying in deluxe hotels, you will enjoy an informed, educational, and worthwhile learning experience on your tour of Ireland.
DAY 1 – USA – DUBLIN: Depart from your hometown for an overnight flight to Ireland. Meals are served on board.
DAY 2 – ARRIVE DUBLIN: Cead Mile Failte – Welcome to Ireland! Upon arriving in Dublin you will be greeted by your guide and driver. We will have a panoramic city tour on both sides of the River Liffey, where we pass by the General Post Office on the city’s main streets, O’Connell Street, Custom House, and the Phoenix Park, the largest city park in Europe. On the other side of the river are Georgian squares characterized by colorful doors, Grafton Street and Trinity College which is the oldest university in Ireland founded in 1592 by Elizabeth I. Time permitting we visit the ancient library containing over 20,000 manuscripts, among which is Book of Kells, a manuscript from the 9th-century written by the monks at St. Colombo’s monastery on the island of Iona. Today we will also visit St. Patrick’s Anglican Cathedral, built in 1213. This Gothic Cathedral has a splendid interior, with some beautiful tombs, monuments, the ornate stained glass windows can be found in the Chancel. Late in the afternoon we transfer to hotel for dinner and overnight.
DAY 3 – WICKLOW – GLENDALOUGH – TIPPERARY: Today we will travel through the beautiful mountains of Wicklow, called the “Garden of Ireland‟ to reach Medieval Kilkenny and magnificent view of the Sugar Loaf Mountain. Morning visit to Glendalough, an ancient monastic city, established in the 6th-century by St. Kevin, in the heart of “the valley of the two lakes” (Gleann da Loch). It was a very important center of learning as well as a pilgrimage destination. There are many legends concerning St. Kevin and he is often compared to St. Francis of Assisi. We’ll be taken on a guided tour of the site, which includes a Round Tower, the ruins of the Cathedral, and “St. Kevin’s Kitchen” surrounded by an old cemetery. This route continues to Baltinglass where the ruins of a Cistercian Abbey are found. We will then pass by Castledermot, where we set eyes upon the remnants of a Franciscan Abbey, before arriving in Tipperary for dinner and overnight.
DAY 4 – ROCK OF CASHEL – KERRY: Today we are on to the “Rock of Cashel,” standing high in the middle of the “Golden Vale,” these religious buildings, dating from the 12th-century, form the most spectacular medieval set in Ireland. The Cathedral, the Round Tower and Cormac Chapel, which is the first Irish Romanesque church, testify to the importance of the site. This place used to be the seat of the High Kings of Munster, so once more we find two traditions and cultures meeting with one another where the story of St. Patrick’s Cross will tell us more. Then our journey continues towards Kerry for dinner and overnight.
DAY 5 – KERRY – DINGLE PENINSULA: This morning continue towards the Dingle Peninsula, the most northern of the Kerry peninsulas. From town Inch, where David Lean was shooting movie “Ryan’s daughter,” and the last part of the country where Gaelic language is spoken, we continue along the Eagle Mount and the cliffs of Slea Head. In Early Christian Ireland, monks were looking for isolated places such as Gallarus Oratory. It is dating from the 9th-century, and excellently preserved, testify very good construction quality. Oratory used to be a place of prayer for monks. Our next stop is Kilmalkedar Church, built in the 12th-century, once part of a complex of religious buildings in Romanesque style. Overnight with dinner in Kerry.
DAY 6 – SHANNON – CLIFFS OF MOHER – CORCOMROE ABBEY – GALWAY: After a good Irish breakfast we will be going north through Listowel and embark on the ferry at Killimer to cross the Shannon estuary. County Clare is a beautiful landscape, with a Victorian seaside resort, where we visit the Cliffs of Moher. The coastal road with Galway’s intensely blue bay on one side and natural rocky landscape on the other side. Our next stop and visit is to Corcomroe Abbey that is another Cistercian Abbey in ruins. It lies in its own valley and Donal Mor O’Brien founded it in the late 12th-century. In the abbey one can find fine Romanesque carvings. From here we go on to Galway, it has kept its medieval charm with its colorful streets and many authentic pubs. Dinner and overnight in Galway.
DAY 7 – GALWAY – CORRIB LAKE – CLONMACNOISE: Today we will enjoy a Corrib Cruise on Corrib Lake, which is the largest in the Republic of Ireland. It is also the best way to see Galway and its surroundings. Today we will visit to Clonmacnoise, which is Ireland’s most important monastic site, which is overlooking the River Shannon. The site was founded by St. Ciaran in the 6th-century and consists of a walled field containing numerous early churches, high crosses, round towers and graves. Overnight and dinner is in Galway.
DAY 8 – KNOCK: Today we will visit Knock and the shrine situated in the plains of East Mayo. It is one of the world‟s leading Marian shrines. On August 21, 1879 fifteen women, men and children, witnessed an Apparition of Mary. We will visit the Basilica, the largest church in Ireland. Knock is a very popular pilgrimage destination, and in 1979 Pope John Paul II visited this holy place. We will spend afternoon on our own, after Mass some private prayer time at the shrine, free time for lunch and shopping before returning to hotel for dinner and overnight.
DAY 9 – KNOCK – DUBLIN: Today we leave Knock, we will enjoy beautiful scenery travelling to Dublin. In the afternoon we are in Dublin and will visit the National Museum, situated in the heart of the city. Its collection of golden prehistoric jewelry is without a doubt the most beautiful in Europe. You will be particularly interested in the Celtic finery as well as numerous early Christian ornaments and relics of great beauty. In the afternoon there will be some free time. Dinner and overnight in Dublin.
DAY 10 – DUBLIN – USA: This morning your driver will bring you to Dublin Airport for your departure flight to the USA.