Come renew yourself in Ireland – the Land of Saints & Scholars……..When missionaries such as St Patrick, came to Ireland they did more than introduce Christianity to the people on the island, they brought about change that would last thousands of years. Travel some of the footsteps of the early Irish saints & scholars. Visit landmark, spiritual sites from pagan times. Relax and unwind along the wild Atlantic coastline, renewing your spirit on this cultural select experience of a lifetime……….
Arrive into Dublin Airport, where you will travel northwards to Belfast City. From Dublin to Belfast there are plenty of optional visits along the route including –
Hill of Tara – Tara was the political & spiritual centre of Celtic Ireland and the seat of the High Kings until the 11th century.
Bru Na Boinne Visitor Centre – located near the village of Donore, this centre interprets the Neolithic monuments of Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth.
Mellifont Abbey – The first Cistercian monastery in Ireland founded in 1142 by St. Malachy of Armagh.
Monasterboice – known for its remains of the monastic settlement founded by Saint Buite in the fifth century. Consists of an old graveyard, two churches, three sculptured crosses, two early grave slabs and a sundial.
The Saint Patrick Centre in Downpatrick – the first permanent exhibition to tell the story of Ireland’s Patron Saint. The exhibition uses state of the art interpretation that gives visitors a real understanding of the arrival and establishment of Christianity in Ireland
Down Cathedral – fine 19th Century Gothic Cathedral is built on the Hill of Down, one of the holiest Christian sites in Ireland. Its graveyard contains the traditional burial place of St. Patrick, St. Bridget and St. Colmcille.
Arrive into Belfast City for overnight at the Malone Lodge Hotel Belfast – Nestled in the peaceful suburbs of the Queen’s Quarter of South Belfast – just minutes from the City Centre, the Malone Lodge is one of Belfast’s finest boutique townhouse hotels
With its picturesque location and fascinating history, Belfast is a wonderful city that has emerged from decades of strife into a vibrant destination. This beautiful Victorian City offers lots of things for visitors to do.
Spend the day touring Belfast City & maybe visit some of the main attractions including –
Queen’s University Belfast – the fine facade of the Main Building, designed by Charles Lanyon, conceals a quiet, restful quadrangle. This was the original Queens College: the University has expanded throughout the immediate area, including all the houses on University Square, the imposing terrace to the left of the Lanyon Building. The visitors centre host exhibitions as well as selling University memorabilia.
The Crown Bar – The Crown Liquor Saloon in Great Victoria Street, Belfast was perhaps the greatest of Victorian Gin Palaces which once flourished in the industrial cities of Britain. Today wonderfully preserved, the Crown is cherished and still well used by the people of Belfast.
The City Hall – completed in 1906 to commemorate Queen Victoria giving Belfast the status of City in 1888, the City Hall was built in the classic Renaissance style in Portland Stone
The Botanic Gardens – With its unique glasshouses, collections of tropical plants, outdoor plantings and mature trees, Botanic Gardens is a key part of Belfast’s Victorian heritage.
The Titanic Tour ~ Scheduled guided Titanic tours take in the historic Harland & Wolff shipyards and the famous Titanic sites around Belfast Harbour
The Grand Opera House – Designed by leading theatre architect, Frank Matcham, and opened in 1895, the Grand Opera Houses lavish interior is an unique and glorious combination of the Victorian architects, painters and craftsmen.
You might decide to take a day trip across to Armagh City – one of Ireland’s oldest cities which dates back to the age of St. Patrick and the advent of Christianity.
Overnight again at the Malone Lodge Hotel Belfast.
Today travel the Causeway Coastal Route, where some of the highlights (all optional visits) include –
Carrickfergus Castle – Built by John de Courcy in 1177, conqueror of east Ulster, and garrisoned until 1928, this is a striking feature of the landscape from land, sea and air.
The Giants Causeway – renowned for its polygonal columns of layered basalt from a volcanic eruption 60 million years ago, this is the focal point of a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and has attracted visitors for centuries.
The Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge – traditionally fishermen erected the bridge to Carrick-a-Rede island over a 23m-deep and 20m-wide chasm to check their salmon nets.
The Old Bushmills Distillery – The guided tour includes the ingredients and processes, spring water from Saint Columb’s Rill and the finest malted barley, to the art of triple distillation in copper stills and ageing in oak casks. Of course, no visit would be complete without enjoying a complimentary glass of Bushmills whiskey.
Dunluce Castle – this medieval castle stands where an early Irish fort was once built and where its history can be traced back to early Christians and Vikings.
Derry City – Meander through the bustling streets of the only completely Walled City in Northern Ireland and listen to the echoes of 1450 years of history.
Continue to Letterkenny, which lies on rising ground above the River Swilly overlooking the outflow of the river into Lough Swilly. The principal landmark of Letterkenny, a long straggling town on the slopes of the O’Cannon Hills, is the high spire of St Eunan’s Cathedral (1901), finely decorated with Celtic motifs and stained glass by Harry Clarke and Michael Healy.
Overnight at the Silver Tassie Hotel, Letterkenny, Donegal, located in a spectacular setting on the shores of Lough Swilly. The Silver Tassie Hotel is located just 4 miles outside Letterkenny on the road to the heritage town of Ramelton. It is ideally located to explore the natural beauty of Donegal.
Donegal has something for everyone, its primary visitor attraction is Glenveagh National Park and Castle, or you could travel one of the many touring routes passing through some of the most picturesque towns and villages and witness spectacular coastal views.
When travelling southwards to the Pontoon Bridge Hotel there are lots of different options –
Belleek Pottery Visitor Centre – Nestled along the banks of the scenic River Erne in County Fermanagh, the pottery is an imposing Victorian building with modern facilities and a fascinating history that will make each visit an experience to remember.
Drumcliffe – The esteemed Irish poet W B Yeats is buried at this beautiful spot perfectly placed beneath the Benbulben Mountains and on the site of a sixth-century Columbian monastery. The visitor centre offers information on Yeats, Columba and the county of Sligo.
Carrowmore Megalithic Cemetery – This is Ireland’s largest megalithic burial site with over 60 tombs, the oldest of which predates Newgrange (3200BC) by 700 years. The site also includes a restored cottage and contains an exhibition relating to the history of the cemetery.
Ballina Town – Ballina, home of the famous River Moy, is Mayo’s largest town. There is a rich variety of pubs, restaurants and nightclubs in the town, which is famous for its hospitality and excellent accommodation base. Among Ballina’s key visitor attractions are the ruins of Moyne Abbey, and Rosserk Friary dating back to the 15th century and the impressive St Muredach’s Cathedral stands imposingly on the banks of the River Moy.
Overnight at the Pontoon Bridge Hotel. Situated between the shores of Lough Cullen and Lough Conn Pontoon Bridge Hotel boasts some of the finest breathtaking views.
Spend the day touring Co. Mayo or maybe travel southwards towards the wonderful scenery of Connemara, Co. Galway. There are plenty of visits to pass the day including
Achill Island – Achill Island is the largest island in the Country and is accessible from the mainland by bridge. Visit the beautiful villages of Dooagh and Dooega, the high cliffs at Slievemore and Minaun, the magnificent beaches at Keel and Keem, under the Achill Head. The famous Atlantic Drive takes you on a journey of scenic splendour, a must for all visitors to Achill.
Castlebar – Castlebar was originally a garrison town and derives its name from a settlement around the de Barra Castle in the 11th century. A town steeped in history with one of the oldest buildings being Christchurch whose foundation stones were laid in 1739. Since then it has featured in the battles of 1798 and has been the birthplace of many a famous son.
Westport – Westport, designated as one of Failte Ireland’s Heritage Towns, is growing in popularity as a tourist centre. It is also a major angling centre, especially for Clew Bay. It has a wide range of excellent sports and leisure facilities, including an 18-hole golf course, horse riding, sailing and forest walks.
Croagh Patrick – a place of tremendous importance in the pre-Christian era, as indicated by the discovery of a Celtic hill fort encircling the summit of the mountain.
Ballintubber Abbey – Ballintubber’s history goes back to pre-Christian times, people came from the east through Ballintubber on their way to the holy mountain on the west coast – now called Croagh Patrick. When St Patrick brought Christianity to Ireland in c.441AD, he founded a church at Ballintubber. The present Abbey was founded in 1216 by King Cathal O’Conor. It is the only church in Ireland still in daily use that was founded by an Irish king.
Knock Shrine – The Virgin Mary, with St Joseph and St John the Evangelist, appeared here on the 21 August 1879, and since then Knock has grown to the status of an internationally recognized Marian Shrine.
Connemara – The distinct region of Connemara is located in the north west corner of County Galway. Connemara’s breathtaking landscape is a mixture of unspoilt rivers, lakes, woodlands, rich meadowlands, rugged hills, dramatic mountains and stunning coastline of sandy beaches and crystal blue waters. Connemara is a Gaeltacht (Irish-speaking) area, rich in Irish culture, heritage and traditions. The main town in the Connemara region is Clifden. It has lots of quirky shops, restaurants and traditional Irish pubs to explore.
Kylemore Abbey – Kylemore Abbey, built in 1868, is one of the great baronial-style Castles remaining in Ireland and it’s six acre Victorian walled garden, created by Mitchel Henry in tandem with the building of Kylemore Castle (now Kylemore Abbey) is one of Ireland’s finest gardens. In 1920, the Castle was turned into an Abbey when it was purchased by the Irish Benedictine nuns
Overnight at the Pontoon Bridge Hotel.
After breakfast today you will travel southwards to Co. Clare.
Maybe stop off in Galway City – Galway is still often known today as the City of the Tribes, the name referring to 14 important Anglo-Norman merchant families, who lived there and dominated the life and trade of the city during the Middle Ages. Galway is a medieval city that is rich in culture. It is also a university city which is partly responsible for its vibrancy and love for the arts. It has much to offer visitors, both young and old.
The Ailwee Caves – Located near Ballyvaughan, Co. Clare. The overwhelming impression left after a visit to Ailwee is of how insignificant a century or even a millennium is in terms of the life of our planet. Ailwee is part of a cave system created by the action of melt waters from a prehistoric ice age on the limestone below the Burren. The stalagmites and stalactites and columns within the cave have formed over about a million years, with an inch of change taking a century or more to occur.
The Burren – The Burren, is an area of limestone rock covering imposing majestic mountains, and tranquil valleys with gently meandering streams. With its innate sense of spiritual peace, extraordinary array of flora and wildlife, and megalithic tombs and monuments older than Egypt’s pyramids, the Burren creates a tapestry of colour and a seductively magical aura which few people leave without wanting to experience again.
Poulnabrone Dolmen – This is one of Ireland’s most famous dolmen. It is located in the Burren and was excavated in 1968 and found to contain the remains of between 16 and 22 adults and 6 juveniles, including a newborn baby. Radiocarbon dating suggests that the burials took place 3800 and 3200 BC.
Thoor Ballylee – Thoor Ballylee is a four story 16th century keep which was bought and restored by W. B. Yeats, who lived there from 1921 to 1929. His residence there is commemorated by a stone tablet with some lines of verse by him. The castle now contains a museum with mementos of the poet, including the first edition of his works
The Cliffs of Moher – looming over County Clare’s west coast, the Cliffs stretch for 8 kilometres and 214 metres over the waters of the Atlantic ocean. Unchanged for millennia the landscape of the Cliffs of Moher has, for centuries, welcomed visitors who come to marvel at their splendour and be at one with nature. Atlantic Edge Exhibition is the exciting interpretive centre at the Cliffs of Moher New Visitor Experience. Housed at the centre of the underground building a huge domed cave contains images, exhibits, displays & experiences that will delight young and old alike.
Continue for overnight at the Falls Hotel located in the centre of the market town of Ennistymon. The Georgian Manor entrance to the Falls Hotel reveals a spacious hotel where comfort is the key. The 50 acres of gardens and riverside walks offer a haven of peace and tranquillity.
Alas, it is time to bid farewell.Travel to Shannon Airport for your transatlantic flight to the US.
Slan Abhaile (Safe Home).
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