Ireland

Ireland, North & South
Sacred Places, Gorgeous Sights

May 5-15, 2010
$2,580

Summary. We visit Skellig Michael (Monastery on an island), Kylemore Abbey, Croagh Patrick Visitor Center, St. Patrick’s Grave, Newgrange prehistoric site, Down Cathedral, Trinity College and the Book of Kells, and Glendalough early medieval monastery.

We drive through ten Irish counties, tour Belfast and Dublin, inspect The Giant’s Causeway, Dunluce Castle and Powerscourt Gardens, and visit the UlsterAmerican Folk Park. We visit the Guinness Brewery and spend an evening at the old Abbey Tavern (and other pubs). 

Jim Glendinning, born in Scotland, has been visiting Ireland for 45 years, and loves the country and its people. He sees the similarities and differences between Scotland and Ireland, and explains the Irish cultural uniqueness. He will escort the group throughout.

Wednesday May 5. Arrive at Shannon Airport at 7.00 a.m. from Newark. Meet our bus driver/guide for an easy departure. Breakfast at the picturesque village of Adare whose thatched roof cottages make it one of Ireland’s prettiest. Visit the Heritage Center and Trinitarian Priory dating from the thirteenth century. Then we drive for just over an hour to the bustling regional center Killarney (pop. 14,000). After lunch we will unwind from our trip by strolling past brightly painted stores or visiting Killarney’s neo-Gothic church. Overnight and dinner at the family-run Victoria House Hotel.

Thursday May 6*. We drive along the famous Ring of Kerry scenic route by the sea’s edge. From Portmagee we board a motor launch for the 50-minute passage of Skellig Michael. Upon arrival we climb the steep steps cut into the rocks by monks in the 6th century. For 600 years this small community worshiped and studied immune from mainland events. We will see the beehive-shaped cells in which they lived their Spartan lives. Our guide will regale us with stories of these dedicated men. Returning to port, we continue round the Ring of Kerry to the Killarney National Park, Ireland’s oldest. We visit the famous three lakes, look across to Innisfallen Abbey and visit Victorian era Muckross House, maybe passing a jaunting cart on the way. Return to Killarney where we will visit a pub after dinner.

Friday May 7. We travel north via Tralee to Tarbert and take a short ferry ride across the River Shannon into County Clare. Following the coast road we reach the Cliffs of Mohair, a five-mile stretch of 600-foot cliffs with a sheer drop into the Atlantic. Next comes the moonlike landscape of The Burren, known for its limestone hills home to many rare flowers. We visit Poulnabrone Dolmen and the Ailwee Caves, Ireland’s largest cave complex. Onwards into County Galway to visit the Rathbaun Farm, a showcase for traditional Irish farming methods, long the mainstay of the national economy. In Galway we check into the Salthill Hotel, looking across Galway Bay.  An optional after-dinner stroll will take us round the popular Quays area.

Saturday May 8. We head through the Connemara, the wild Western fringe of Ireland. Along the way we visit photogenic Kylemore Abbey with its beautiful gardens. We stop at Cong, where the movie, The Quiet Man, was made in 1951 and also at Lennane for a weaving demonstration. We drive through the melancholy Famine Walk valley and later in Westport, observe the powerful bronze sculpture, the Coffin Ship, commemorating the famine of 1846-1852. In Westport, one of only two planned towns in Ireland, we will learn about the previous linen-making industry. We settle into the Clew Bay Hotel right in the center of town, and may use their fitness center next door to get ready for our hike tomorrow. A visit to a famous pub, Molloys, is on the cards for after dinner.

Sunday May 9*. After breakfast, we head for the Visitor Center of Croagh Michael, the holy mountain. We will learn how in 441AD St. Patrick spent 40 days fasting and afterwards banished snakes from Ireland. Allowing 5 hours round trip to climb the 2,500-f00t mountain by a well-trod trail. Up to 20,000 pilgrims use this route each July to celebrate St. Patrick. We will take snacks, and rest at the top to visit the chapel and enjoy the views. This is an optional trip. For those who don’t want the climb, or for the whole group if the weather is bad*, we will return to Westport and visit Westport House, home of the local aristocracy, the Browne family, for centuries. We continue along the 25-mile Atlantic Drive to Achill Island. On the way, we’ll examine the remains of the sixteenth century tower house and walk around a deserted village at Slievemore, a poignant reminder of Ireland’s history. Return to Westport for dinner at the Clew Bay Hotel.

Monday May 10. We continue north through unspoilt countryside of County May to Sligo. Here we visit the megalithic tombs at Carrowmore, and the grave of W. B. Yeats at Drumcliffe Church. At the Yeats Memorial Building in town, a member of the Yeats Society will give a talk on the life and times of the great poet. Heading across the almost unnoticed border into Northern Island, we visit the excellent Ulster American Folk Park. This extensive outdoor museum traces the movement to North America of emigrants from the northern part of Ireland, and even includes dwellings first built by them in the USA. Continue to the historic city of Derry and check into the Everglades Hotel on the banks of the River Foyle. Time after dinner for a walk along the famous walls and to observe sectarian wall propaganda.

Tuesday May 11. After a full breakfast we head east along the coast of Antrim to the Giants Causeway, a World Heritage site, one of the great natural wonders of the world. Caused by volcanic activity, hexagonal columns, the tops of which form stepping stones, lead from the cliff and disappear into the sea. Our bus continues to Dunluce Castle, strategically situated on a cliff top, which we will tour.

A visit to the world’s oldest licensed distillery, Bushmills, is next on the agenda. Hopefully enough of us will still be awake to enjoy the drive along the beautiful Nine Glens of Antrim into Belfast. We check into Days Hotel for dinner and overnight, a large hotel and conveniently located.

Wednesday May 12. A local guide will accompany us on a morning walking tour of  Belfast city center. We will see Titanic Dock, the Cathedral Quarter, the Shankhill and Falls Roads with their political murals representing both sides of the community. After lunch near Queens University, we head south to Downpatrick to visit St. Patrick’s grave and nearby Down Cathedral. We spend the night in the coastal town of Newcastle facing the Irish Sea, checking into the Burrendale Hotel.

Thursday May 13. We leave Northern Ireland via the majestic Mourne Mountains to stop at Newgrange, where the megalithic tombs pre-date the Pyramids by 2,000 years. We take a tour inside of the huge mounds covering the tombs. Arriving in Dublin we check into our city centre hotel and enjoy a leisurely walking tour with a student guide including a visit to Trinity College to see the age-old Book of Kells, and culminating with a welcome visit to the Guinness Storehouse. After dinner at the Mont Clare Hotel, we will head for the Temple Bar area, a lively spot for people watching with many choices of pubs.

Friday May 14. On our last day we head south into Wicklow County, known as the garden of Ireland. We will tour the splendid aristocratic gardens of Powerscourt House, Ireland’s best, and also visit the mansion whose formal furnishings and fittings have been restored. Next is the 6th century monastic settlement of Glendalough surrounded by wooded slopes. A visit to the Visitor’s Centre will give us a useful 20-minute background to medieval monasteries as well as Glendalough’s long sometimes violent history.  We drop by the 110-foot-tall Round Tower, still standing. Before turning round and heading back to Dublin, we pause for afternoon tea at Avoca village as pretty as any we have seen since Adare in County Kerry. In Dublin we head for the famous Old Abbey Tavern in the suburb of Howth for dinner and enthusiastic entertainment, worthy of a last night in Eire (Gaelic for Ireland).

Saturday May 15. We catch a quick breakfast at the airport before our 9.00 a.m. departure to Houston with onward connections as required. Our Irish Odyssey is over.

PRICE. $2,580. Single supplement $325.  Price based on 20 persons.

Price includes: Ten hotel nights (3 and 4 star); breakfast and dinner; sightseeing as in the itinerary including entrance fees; evening excursions, local guides, private coach, Jim Glendinning as escort.
Not included: air fare ($850), travel insurance, lunches, tips, alcoholic drinks.
Payments: Deposit of $250 by December 15, 2009 .  Balance of $2,280 by March 1. Cancellation: Up to February 1, full deposit amount. After that date, the whole amount is forfeit unless a replacement is found.
To book: Send a check payable to Jim Glendinning Tours for $250 to Jim Glendinning, 904 N 11th Street, Alpine, TX 79830.
For information: 432.837.7320 or jimglen2@sbcglobal.net

Your tour escort: Scots-born, Oxford educated Jim Glendinning has been planning and leading small group tours for 40 years. He has visited 128 countries and now calls Alpine, Texas home.