Ireland is a country known for its stunning landscapes, vibrant colourful villages, ancient Celtic relics, lush green valleys and abandoned castles. It is also synonymous with quality goods and 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.
Knitting has been part of Irish life since it was introduced in the 1600s. Knitting schools were established throughout the country, and knitting became an industry and a source of income for many households in the 18th century. An abundance of sheep and a surfeit of time on our hands have led us to produce an abundance of woolly goods. Knitting is one of the world’s greatest stress relievers and a personal and creative way to make a gift. Aran sweaters, with their detailed patterns, are a symbol of Irishness around the world and continue to inspire contemporary fabric designs.
Join us for this woolly tour that will get your needles clacking.
|PLEASE NOTE: This itinerary is for Private Group Tours & can be customized upon request. This is your own tour so we will work with you based on your dates & requirements. Please contact us for pricing: 2018/2019 Rates Available.|
• 2 Nights at the Ardiluan Hotel in Galway
• 1 Night at the Renvyle House Hotel in Connemara
• Nights at Harvey’s Point Hotel in Donegal
• 3 Nights at the Ashling Hotel in Dublin
• Full Irish breakfast Daily [except on morning of arrival]
• Tea and Scones on Morning of Arrival
• 4 Dinners at Hotels (1 x Galway, 1 x Connemara, 1 x Donegal, 1 x Dublin)
• Dinner and Entertainment at Taylors Three Rock in Dublin
• Entrances to Cliffs of Moher, Cnoc Suain Culture Exhibit, Sheep & Wool Museum, National Museum of Country Life, Glencolmcille Folk Village, Beleek Pottery Center, Ulster American Folk Park, Book of Kells & Glendalough Visitor Center
• Ferry to Aran Islands and Tour of the Islands & Dun Aonghasa
• Knitting Workshops in Galway, Donegal, & Wicklow
• Private Luxury Touring Motor Coach throughout
• Half Day Local City Guide in Dublin City
• All Taxes
Cead Mile Failte – Welcome to Ireland! Arrive into Shannon Airport, where you will by met by your driver/guide in the arrivals hall and escorted to your waiting motorcoach. Your tour of Ireland will begin by travelling northwards to Galway City via the area of Co. Clare known as the Burren and the Cliffs of Moher.
Enroute you will stop for some Tea/Coffee & Scones. Continue on to visit the Cliffs of Moher – Situated in County Clare and bordering the Burren area, the Cliffs of Moher are one of Ireland’s most spectacular sights. Standing 230 metres above the ground at their highest point and 8km long, the Cliffs boast one of the most amazing views in Ireland. To the south of the cliffs is Hag’s Head and the cliffs reach their highest point just north of O’ Brien’s Tower. The Tower was built by Cornelius O’ Brien, a descendant of Brian Boru, to impress female visitors.
The Burren is a vast, bare, eerie limestone plateau, which covers much of Co Clare. The limestone is deeply fissured and most of the rivers have gone underground creating an extensive cave system. 4000 years of farming has largely denuded the country of trees and vegetation but the Burren is noted for the “opposite” contrasts of its flower population with Mediterranean and Alpine species flourishing side by side.
Continue north to Galway City. Despite being a city, Galway feels more like a big town with its easy attitude and cool bohemian vibe. Known as the City of the Tribes, after the 14 affluent tribes who ruled during the middle ages, this thriving city is the most westerly in Europe and enjoys a strong artistic heritage and a flourishing arts, music, theatre and film scene. Enjoy the atmospheric pubs in this West of Ireland city with its beautiful location at the edge of Galway Bay, its pretty medieval streets and its lively weekend markets.
Enjoy an afternoon workshop at Galway School of Knitting which was founded by Niamh O’Máille of O’Maille’s, High St., Galway. Since she began teaching knitting classes in November 2008, Niamh has been amazed at how popular her knitting classes have been. Each pattern has been designed by Niamh for her new knitters and more experienced knitters. Reading patterns can be a daunting experience for many knitters so Niamh has simplified the patterns to ensure her knitters spend more time knitting rather than reading, pulling their hair out and ripping!
Check into the Ardiluan Hote for dinner and overnight.
Today you will continue your knitting tour in earnest, when you take the return ferry over to Inis Mor, the largest of the Aran Islands and enjoy a mini bus tour of the island. The Aran Islands are an extension of the Burren, County Clare, these three small Atlantic Islands about 30 miles out from Galway, are rocky and barren, with small holdings divided by unmortared stone walls. Pockets of soil have been manufactured by the islanders from sand and seaweed, to grow scanty crops for livestock. Stretch your legs as you walk up hill to Dun Aengus Fort – It is enclosed by three massive dry-stone walls and a “chevaux-de-frise” consisting of tall blocks of limestone set vertically into the ground to deter attackers. The fort is about 900m from the Visitor Centre and is approached over rising ground and uneven terrain.
Renowned for preserving traditional ways of life, they have been celebrated in the writings of JM Synge and in the 1934 film Man of Aran. Gaelic is the principal language of the islands. Fishing, the islands main industry, is done from currachs, frail-looking boats of laths and tarred canvas. Aran sweaters have been worn by West Coast fisherman for generations. In the past, the patterns were not written down, but passed on from generation to generation. As the patterns are so varied and intricate this meant that a particular design could be used to identify the body of a long-drowned fisherman. However, you can also use the knitted item as a means of less morbid identification. The banana or undyed wool came originally from the Aran Islands and makes the garment warm and rain resistant.
You can buy sweaters, cardigans, dresses, caps and mitts in Aran patterns. Ask for a card explaining the meaning of the pattern. A hand-knitted Aran Sweater (more expensive than handloomed) will last for more than 15 years if looked after. Here on the Aran Islands you might have the opportunity to meet with a small group of knitters to hear the story of knitting on the island the evolution of the famous Aran sweaters.
Return to Galway for your evening at your own leisure and for overnight again at the Ardilaun Hotel (B&B Basis)
Enjoy breakfast at the hotel before travelling to Spiddal, Co. Galway. A visit to Standún in Spiddal opens the door to centuries of traditional skills through the huge selection of traditional Irish merchandise that is available in the store. For over 60 years now and for 3 generations the Standún family have owned and managed this department store and built a reputation for the range of quality Irish goods including hand knits, delicate pottery, traditional tweeds and stunning hand cut crystal. Standún is a Bord Fáilte award winning craft shop and is highly recommended by all leading guide books including Folder’s, Frommers, TWA, Routard and Tommy Makem’s Ireland.
Further escape from the hustle-bustle of the city with the tranquillity of Cnoc Suain. At Cnoc Suain hill-village visitors are offered an opportunity to experience an enjoyable immersion in authentic Irish culture. Being from the locality, with a passion for the culture, nature and landscape of Connemara, Dearbhaill Standún and Charlie Troy have a combined background in the Irish (Gaelic) language, music and entertainment, Botany, Geology, horticulture and education.
See the beautiful Ashleigh falls before going to Leenane where you can visit the Sheep & Wool Museum and see how many different kinds of wool and sheep there are in Ireland. The North Connemara hills are steeped in sheep and wool tradition, and at Sheep and Wool Centre this history is depicted in pictorial and live forms. Several breeds of sheep, some of them ancient western European breeds, graze in a unique setting of pleasant walks and spectacular views. These sheep are gathered by a collie dog, and visitors are free to mingle with the flock, try to identify different breeds or take home a photograph of a Neolithic sheep. The museum offers a fascinating insight into a part of Connemara’s history, through a multi-lingual video, and a display of items, including Looms, Spinning Wheels and Hand Cards.
Continue to Renvyle House Hotel in Connemara to enjoy dinner and overnight.
DAY 4 – MAYO – DONEGAL
After a hearty Irish breakfast, drive north towards Donegal. En route north you will explore the National Museum of Country Life in Castlebar where you will learn about life in the West of Ireland and see how people have lived and survived for hundreds of years. Handcrafts feature heavily in the survival of generations past. What we now consider as luxury items was once a necessity. See how things were made such as ropes, thatch roofs, baskets, clothes, utensils and much more.
You next stop will be at the excellent Foxford Woollen Mills. At the heart of this unique working Woollen Mills, are first-class visitor facilities. Sights, sounds, smells and spirits from another century await you… In 1892 Mother Agnes Morrogh-Bernard, an Irish Sister of Charity, came to this small West of Ireland town and established a Woollen Mills. From a venture aimed at alleviating the post-famine poverty of a congested area a Woollen Mill famous throughout the world for its tweeds, rugs and blankets has grown. Step back in time. This spell binding journey leads you from Famine times right up to the present day. Watch the yarn being carded and spun. Walk through the original mill buildings. Feel the noise and clatter which surround you. Follow the famous Foxford Rug through each stage of its production process. Many of the tweeds which you see being woven here will wind their way to some of the finest fashion houses in Europe including Acquascutum, Cacharel and Hugo Boss.
You will then travel via Sligo & Ballyshannon to Donegal for dinner and overnight at Harvey’s Point Hotel. After dinner you can relax in the hotel while you “Sip & Knit” with an Irish Coffee.
After breakfast this morning, travel to Kilcar, County Donegal to visit Studio Donegal – For over one hundred years a hand-weaving mill has existed in the Donegal village of Kilcar. In the sixties, the mill made the shift from hand weaving to modern machinery with the hope of becoming more competitive. It was soon apparent, however, that something crucial had been lost. A decade later,
Studio Donegal was founded by Kevin and Wendy Donaghy with the goal of maintaining and preserving the long running tradition of hand-weaving in South West Donegal. Visit Kilcar and see the Handweavers at work. It is fascinating to watch the cloths emerging on the loom and if you are lucky, you may see traditional Donegal yarns being spun on the Spinning Mule. Located near Studio Donegal is Donegal Yarns Wool spinning Mill which can trace its origin back to the centuries old tradition of homespun Donegal (tweed) effect yarns. Unfortunately it is not possible to visit the factory which operates a complete production process from raw wool to a finished multi-coloured fleck yarn targeted at the weaving, knitting and craft industry.
Continue along the beautiful Donegal Coast to Glencolumbkille to visit the Glencolmcille Folk Village. The folk village was the idea of Father James McDyer who set up a cooperative to improve economic conditions in his poor and remote parish. Three cottages each appropriate to a certain period – the 1720’s, the 1820s and the 1920s are furnished with items presented by the villages reflecting the local way of life and the slow advance from rural poverty, household utensils, tools for spinning and weaving, items from the dairy, turf spades and fishing tackle. In addition, there is a reconstructed school house, sheebeen (pub), and a tea room/craft shop displaying the works of local artists, knitters, and weavers.
Since the mid-1700s, sheep-rearing and the associated domestic industries of weaving and knitting have been an important part of the Glencolmcille economy. As in other rural areas, these industries provided an additional income to many families without which they would have been forced to emigrate. Today, local tweed and knitwear have an international reputation and many people are permanently employed in knitting and weaving factories. Hand knitting, like weaving, is a craft with roots deep in the life of the Irish countryside. Handknit ‘ganseys’ or sweaters, caps, stockings, trousers and shawls were once commonly worn, but the ‘Cottage Industry’ of Irish Handknits has lasted longest along the Western Seaboard.
In 1984 the McNelis family established Rossan Knitwear Ltd, incorporating Glencolmcille Woollen Mill. Having a long tradition in handcrafts, the business survived through the production and marketing of hand knitted sweaters and accessories. As the home and overseas markets developed domestic knitting looms were used to produce the knitwear. Visitors are always welcome to the newly refurbished Rossan factory outlet in the Malin More Valley where you can view the Rossan Handknit and Designer Knitwear Collection. A relaxed atmosphere provides visitors with an opportunity to enjoy some refreshments in the Coffee Dock and then browse for a while. They also have a wide range of irish gifts and linen, childrens wear and local crafts.
Return to Harvey’s Point Hotel in Donegal for overnight (B&B Basis).
Leaving Donegal, travel to Belleek to visit the famous Parian China workshops at Beleek Pottery Center. Perched on the banks of the River Erne, visiting Belleek is like a step back in time. The methods and techniques developed by the very first craftsmen are still followed today. A video presentation in the visual theatre takes visitors through the production process before the guided tour begins. Then it’s on to the casting, fettling and flowering shops to see how craftsmen design, mould and shape the Parian. Visitors will learn how the intricate strands of the basket ware are woven together using techniques passed down from generation to generation. They will see how tiny petals, stems and twigs are created by hand and discover the secret that gives Belleek Parian China its distinctive pearly glow. The tour then passes through to the furnace area and ends in the painting rooms where the delicate colours of nature are artfully applied.
Visit the Ulster American Folk Park This folk park provides a living history experience with historic buildings transported from all over Ulster, expertly reconstructed and authentically furnished, while demonstrators in period costumes go about their everyday tasks, illustrating what life was like in Ulster centuries ago. There are around 30 exhibits in total, recreating the old world of Ulster and the new world of the US in the 18th and 19th Centuries from rustic Weaver’s Cottages, homesteads and a typical Ulster Street to a Pennsylvania Log House brought from Greene County and an American Street based on 19th Century Boston with a replica First Mellon Bank. Linking the two worlds is the excellent Ship and Dockside Gallery, using reconstructed buildings from Derry and Belfast and the Brig Union a replica of an early 19th century sailing ship, which would transport emigrants to new lives across the Atlantic
Continue the journey southwards to Dublin city, where you will check into the Ashling Hotel for dinner and overnight.
This morning after a leisurely breakfast a local guide will introduce you to the city during a half day panoramic city tour. Dublin City – capital of the Republic of Ireland sits on a splendid bay at the mouth of the River Liffey with the foothills of the Wicklow Mountains rising from its southern suburbs. It is internationally noted for its writers, Georgian architecture, witty natives and the production of Guinness! See the city’s scenic highlights on a narrated drive through Dublin City, including the River Liffey, the Customs House, O’Connell Street, the GPO (General Post office), the Four Courts, Saint Patrick’s Cathedral; Christchurch Cathedral and the city’s Georgian area, including Merrion Square, Fitzwilliam Square, St. Stephen’s Green, and Leinster House.
Visit the grounds of Trinity College and the Book of Kells – View the fine, grey stone buildings of Ireland’s oldest university. Distinguished alumni include Jonathan Swift, Oscar Wilde and Nobel Prize winner Samuel Beckett. The Book of Kells dates back to the 9th century and is an exquisite and lavishly decorated copy of the first four gospels in Latin. Even after such a long time, the grandeur and aura of this historical book has not diminished and is considered as one of the major tourist attractions. The book is on a permanent display in the Trinity College Library and evokes much passion among all those who witness this historical spectacle.
Enjoy the afternoon at your own leisure for individual sight seeing or shopping or to explore the many bars and restaurants in the temple bar area. You might like to visit “This is Knit” on the First Floor, Powerscourt Townhouse, South William Street, Dublin 2. This is Knit is owned and operated by mother and daughter team Jacqui and Lisa Sisk. The company opened for business in May 2006 with a small stall at the Blackrock Market. In September 2008 the City Centre branch of “This is Knit” was opened in the Powerscourt Townhouse Centre, Dublin 2. Both the Blackrock shop and the City Centre shop operated along side each other until June 2009, when a larger retail space was acquired in the Powerscourt Townhouse and the two branches were amalgamated. This is Knit also trades online and sends packages of yarny goodness all over Ireland and worldwide.
Overnight at the Ashling Hotel (B&B Basis).
After breakfast this morning travel southwards to County Wicklow. A land of heather hills and silver streams, and a sanctuary for the nature lover, County Wicklow is a realm of majestic mountains and breathtaking scenic beauty. Visit the Glendalough Woollen Mills, just outside Laragh Village on the scenic Rathdrum Road. A quaint stone bridge over the Glendalough River takes you to the 200 year old granite buildings – a leafy oasis of great charm of Derrybawn Mountain. Here you will find one of the Ireland’s finest collections of tweeds, hand knits, jewellery and craft items. The Hand Knits are produced from Wicklow wool and made by local knitters in both traditional and contemporary styles. A range of excellent loomed sweaters is also available. These natural fabrics are hard wearing and their classic lines will ensure enduring elegance. The loom at the Woollen Mills weaves a wide variety of blankets in a palette of wonderful colours.
Visit Glendalough Visitor Centre – Glendalough, situated in picturesque County Wicklow, was made famous by St. Kevin who came to the area in the 6th century. He was looking for a place of solitude and having found it, remained and lived a rather hermitic life. He founded his monastery here and over time, a school developed, attracting thousands of students from Europe. St. Kevin died in the year 618 at 120 years of age but the remains of his monastery can still be seen. The most famous of all the landmarks in the area, however, is the Round Tower which stands 110 feet above the ground. It was built almost 1000 years ago by the monks of St. Kevin’s monastery. The roof had to be replaced in 1876 when it was struck by lightning.
After Glendalough, stop off at the Yarn Room which is a small 2 storey yarn shop located in Ashford Village, County Wicklow, opposite the Avoca Café.
This evening you will enjoy a night of Irish music and entertainment with a farewell dinner at Taylor’s Three Rock. Overnight again at the Ashling Hotel
After a hearty breakfast this morning a private coach will transfer you to Dublin airport for your return flight.
Slan Abhaile! (Safe Home!)
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