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St Patrick’s Irish Trail

Christian Heritage Tour of Ireland

Ireland is a country known for its stunning landscapes, vibrant colourful villages, ancient Celtic relics, lush green valleys and abandoned castles.As an ocean ‘outpost’ at the western edge of Europe, it has a natural character quite different to the Continental landmass. Irelands past has been remarkably tumultuous provoking a tradition of courage, humour and creativity. More recently it has become synonymous with quality goods and excellent shopping“ with a wealth of Irish crafts, clothing and gifts available throughout Ireland. Creative crafts are flourishing original designs in metalwork, ceramics and glass, as well as the traditional crafts such as knitting, basketry, lace-making and woodworking have been revived. Jewellers make use of Celtic patterns and hand-knitted woolen knitwear such as Aran sweaters are never out of fashion!

DAY 1 SHANNON TO GALWAY

Cead Mile Failte “Welcome to Ireland. This morning you will arrive into Shannon airport in the early morning, where you will be met by your driver/guide and escorted to your luxury motorcoach. Your travels will bring you northwesterly where you will stop for a refreshing morning coffee and homebaked scones.

Continue to the Dysert O’Dea Castle. Built in 1480 by Diarmuid O’Dea, Lord of Cineal Fearmaic, the castle today houses an extensive museum, an audiovisual presentation on the history of this unique area, and various exhibitions. Dysert O’Dea Church stands on the site of an early Christian monastery founded by St. Tola.

The present building dates mainly from the 12th century. Its most famous feature is the beautifully sculptured Romanesque Doorway with its carved geometric motifs and foliage, surrounded by an arch of twelve human and seven animal heads. Near the church’s northwestern corner stand the remains of a Round Tower. The High Cross sometimes called St. Tola’s Cross, is situated east of the church. Dating from the 12th century, this cross is one of the finest examples of its kind in Ireland.

You will also see the ruins at Corcomroe Abbey. This 12th century Cistercian Abbey was given the name ‘Sancta Maria de Petra Fertili’ – ‘Saint Mary of the fertile rock’ – a very well chosen name for this remarkable Abbey, which stands near the head of a limestone valley which brings forth lush green grass.

Continue to Galway City where you will overnight with dinner at the Ardilaun House Hotel.

DAY 2 GALWAY TO KNOCK

This morning you can travel west to Connemara. Connemara is a wild and beautiful region of mountains, lakes, tumbling streams undulating bog, unspoilt beaches and panoramic views. It is a Gaelic- speaking region and has attracted many artisans, who can be visited at work in their studios.

The centre of Connemara is composed of mountain peaks, the Twelve Bens or Pins, which culminate in Benbaun. The sharp grey peaks of quartzite rock which is resistant to weathering are too steep and hard to be clothed in blanket bog. The region is now largely uninhabited, although in the past the more fertile lowlands were cultivated and the uplands were used as pasture for cattle and sheep.

Visit Kylemore Abbey, which is the only home of the Benedictine nuns in Ireland. The nuns acquired the Abbey in 1920. Set in the heart of Connemara, this unique Abbey offers the warmth and hospitality of its peaceful environs. It’s enchanting history is interpreted in detail in rooms at the Abbey. Mitchell Henry as a gift for his wife originally built the Abbey as a castle, in 1868. The Gothic Church, set in the grounds of the Abbey, is the jewel in the crown of Kylemore. It has been lovingly restored and any visit would not be complete without seeing it. Here you will celebrate Mass in the Gothic Cathedral.

Continue to Co. Mayo for dinner and overnight at the Knock House Hotel.

DAY 3 KNOCK

This morning, you will visit the Knock Shrine and Knock Folk Museum. Knock was once a small, inconspicuous Irish town in the west until August 21st 1879, when two local women said they saw an apparition of Mary, Joseph and St John the Evangelist at the south gable of the parish church.
Thirteen other local people came to the site following their report and confirmed the apparition. Since then, the town has grown up as a Marian shrine, with the spot where the visions were seen enclosed in glass to form a small chapel.
Knock is now a destination for many pilgrims, including the ill, who come seeking miracle cures. Many have claimed miracles after visiting Knock, and various church investigations have confirmed Knock’s status as a holy site.

Visits by Pope John Paul II in 1979 and Mother Teresa in 1993 have added to its profile. The site boasts several churches, and a Basilica that dates from 1976 and holds 12,000 people.

After the guided tour you will have the rest of the morning free for private time and prayer.

Overnight with dinner at the Knock House Hotel in Knock.

DAY 4 ACHILL ISLAND AND WESTPORT

This morning you will travel to Achill Island, the largest island in the Country. Easily accessible by road bridge from the beautiful Currane peninsula, Achill encompasses dramatic land and seascapes, which have provided inspiration for artists and writers for many years.
Travel the breathtaking Atlantic Drive along the coast and visit Keel village to view the magnificent Minaun Cliffs.

Achill Island provides many historical sites including the famous Deserted Village at Slievemore and Kildamhnait Castle.
Travel back to the mainland towards Croagh Patrick and the town of Westport. The conical Croagh Patrick looms (a 762 metre-high mountain associated with the Irish patron saint). It was from its summit that Saint Patrick is said to have banished snakes from Ireland, and it was also here that he is said to have spent 40 days and nights in meditation, fasting and prayer. It takes about two hours from the 15th century Murrisk Abbey to climb to the summit, where a small chapel sits on a flat plateau. At the foot of Croagh Patrick lies a statue of St.Patrick and a monument to the Great Famine – a bronze sculpture of a coffin ship with the skeletons of starving Irish people making up the rigging.

Before returning to Knock you may like to spend some time shopping in Westport- the essence of Ireland’s magical west. Nestling safe at the foot of towering Croagh Patrick, overlooking Clew Bay and its enchanting islands, the town weaves its spell around everyone it meets. Unique and charming, Westport is a captivating blend of traditional and modern. From the coziest corner of an antique pub to state of the art conference facilities; from the heart-stirring beat of traditional music to the cosmopolitan approach, contrast and paradox are just part of its charm.
Return to Knock for dinner and overnight at the Knock House Hotel.

DAY 5 KNOCK TO CAVAN

Following mass in the Old Church or the Church of the Apparitions, you will head northwards to Co. Sligo – Yeats Country. Stop at St. Attracta’s Well, where St. Attracta received the veil from St. Patrick.
You will then travel via St. Bridgets Holy Well to Drumcliff Graveyard where the poet William Butler Yeats is buried.
The site under the square escarpment of Benbulben by the Drumcliff River was also chosen by St. Columba for the foundation of a monastery in about 575, the round tower was damaged by lightning in 1396, the high cross, which was probably erected in 1000, shows Adam and Eve, Cain killing Abel, Daniel in the Lions’ Den and Christ in Glory on the east face, and the Presentation in the Temple and the Crucifixion on the west.

Continue to Cavan for dinner and overnight at the Cavan Crystal Hotel.

DAY 6 CAVAN TO DUBLIN VIA ARMAGH

After a Full Irish Breakfast you will travel to Armagh, Ireland’s Christian capital with a long tradition as a major European heritage centre.

At the heart of this ancient City stands St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Tradition has it that St. Patrick chose Armagh as the center of his mission in Ireland. It was on the hill of Ard Macha ‘The Height of Macha’ that a church was built in 445 AD.The church has remained on this site for over 1,500 years, being destroyed and rebuilt at least 17 times.

Visit the St.Patrick Centre, which is an exciting interpretative exhibition and tells the fascinating story of Ireland’s Patron Saint. Through Patrick’s own words a light is shone on the arrival of Christianity in Ireland and its development throughout his mission.

Continue southwards to the Hill of Slane rising above the Boyne River valley in Co. Meath. At the top of the Hill of Slane are the ruins of a Franciscan Monastery (built in 1512 by Christopher Fleming) capped by the commanding bell tower of Saint Patrick’s Church.On the eve of the Christian feast of Easter, 433 A.D, St. Patrick lit a bonfire upon the Hill of Slane.

Visit Mellifont Abbey founded by St. Malachy in 1142. It was the first Cistercian monastery in Ireland. Most of the abbey has been destroyed over the years, but the basic stone layout still exists, as well as the chapel.

Continue on to Dublin City for overnight with dinner at the Mont Clare Hotel in Dublin.

DAY 7 DUBLIN AND WICKLOW

This morning after breakfast, your driver and a local City guide will pick you up at your accommodation and you will begin your half-day tour of Dublin City. You will experience all the wonderful sights and landmarks of this ancient city.

The tour includes some of Dublin’s most renowned sites, such as St Patrick’s Cathedral, Christchurch Cathedral and the Book of Kells.

St Patrick’s Cathedral is the national cathedral of Ireland and it is also the largest cathedral in the country. Traditionally the place where the cathedral lies today was the place where St. Patrick baptized the pagans to Christianity in the 5th century and there has been a church there since. The cathedral was badly damaged during the Cromwellian invasion in Ireland and it was eventually completely re-furbished by the Guinness family in the 19th century. Jonathan Swift, author of Gullivers’ Travellers was dean of the cathedral for 32 years and his remains are buried within the cathedral.

Christchurch Cathedral is one of the finest cathedrals in Ireland. Originally built by Cromwell in the 11th century. It has been reconstructed many times over the centuries and the building that remains today is truly magnificent.

Trinity College is a residential college in the heart of the city. Here you will visit the Colonnades, which houses the college’s greatest treasures, of which the most famous is the Book Of Kells. The book is a magnificently illustrated, in Celtic design, version of the Gospels designed by unknown hands in the monastery of Kells in Meath about 800. It was presented to Trinity College in the mid-17th Century in order to save it from Cromwell’s army.

In the afternoon, your tour ventures south towards the hills and valleys of Wicklow, known as the “Garden of Ireland”.

Continue through the mountains to Glendalough (the Valley of the Two Lakes). Expanses of bog cover the higher slopes of the mountains in ever-changing hues. In the valleys ruined castles provide shelter for the hardy local breed of sheep and the tea-coloured rivers are teeming with trout.

The flinty character of Wicklow granite must have inspired the hermit St. Kevin to situate his sixth-century monastery in remote and lovely Glendalough. The round tower, built as a refuge from the Vikings who looted Glendalough at intervals from the ninth century onwards, looks as if it has grown out of the very earth itself.
Close to the round tower is St. Kevin’s Church with a 12th century bell tower projecting from its roof. The bell tower is oddly shaped and resembles a chimney stack, thus the colloquialism of St. Kevin’s Kitchen. St. Kevin’s Kitchen and Cross are highlights of this monastery. Visit the Heritage Center and watch the audio visual which helps explain monastic life.
Drive through Roundwood, which is the highest village in Ireland.

Return to Dublin for overnight with dinner at the Mont Clare Hotel in Dublin.

DAY 8 DUBLIN TO BUNRATTY

This morning you will bid farewell to Ireland’s capital city and travel south west to Cashel, Co. Tipperary, where you will find a unique combination of history, hospitality, scenery, sport and entertainment.
The history of Tipperary is as old as it is fascinating. You will visit the famous Rock of Cashel dating back a thousand years before St. Patrick was born.

The Rock of Cashel, is a large outcropping mass of limestone, rises steeply above the rich pastures of the Golden Vale. The group of medieval buildings, which crown the Rock, catches the eye of the visitor from afar and is well worth a closer visit. St. Patrick’s Rock situated in the town of Cashel is crowned by the 13th century Gothic Cathedral.

Outside Thurles, visit the Holy Cross Abbey, which was founded in 1169 by the King of Thomond of the Cistercian monks. A relic of the true cross owned by the King was given to the Abbey.

Travel towards the village of Bunratty in Clare, famous for its Castle and Folk Park. The Castle was the ancient stronghold of the Princes of Thomond. The most complete and medieval castle in Ireland, and the only example restored as a faithful picture of 15th and 16th century life.

Overnight with dinner at the Bunratty Castle Hotel in Co. Clare.

DAY 9 DEPART

After a Full Irish Breakfast your driver will transfer you to Shannon Airport for your departure flight back to the US.

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