St Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin
St Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin

Archaeological Tours

Ireland: At the Edge of the Ancient World

Although Ireland’s isolated geographical position cut it off from many of Europe’s upheavals until the invasion of the Vikings in the 9th century, it has surprisingly far-flung links. Innovations such as passage-graves may have traveled from Brittany, Spain and Portugal, while knowledge of Christianity, writing and military fortification was most likely introduced through England. No less intriguing are the remains from the Iron Age Celts, whose ancient language and culture are still preserved by their descendants. Our travels will bring us from Dublin, home to the Book of Kells; to the Aran Islands, where vast Celtic defense systems and stone forts perch on 200-foot cliffs; and from the monastic settlements at Clonmacnoise Monastery, the burial place of the Kings of Connaught and Tara; to the great megalithic cemetery at Carrowmore in the north. Throughout, we will study the distinctly Irish remains of these civilizations. The history of Ireland has been turbulent, giving each hill, lough and pile of stones a story. We will also experience a slice of ancient Irish tradition as we relax with the locals at typical pubs along the way.

What's included?

  •  Expert scholar & tour manager
  •  Accommodation
  •  A/C coach
  •  Entries & tips
  •  Meals - as per the itinerary
  •  A name badge, luggage strap and bag tag

Led by...

Professor Charles Doherty

Professor Charles Doherty Expert Scholar

Professor Charles Doherty recently retired as senior lecturer in Early Irish History at University College Dublin. Since 2009 he has been president of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland.

Full Price
$8,495

Today's Price
$8,295

Saving
$200

Deposit: $1,250 Single supplement: $1,500

Tour highlights:

  • Follow the trail of Ireland’s past civilizations, from the Iron Age Celts and the Vikings, to the early Christians
  • Visit Dublin’s famous Trinity College library to admire the illuminated Book of Kells, created by Celtic monks and considered to be one of the great treasures of medieval Europe
  • Explore Newgrange and Knowth, both Neolithic passage tombs, forming part of the UNESCO Brú na Bóinne complex
  • Discover monastic settlements, including the burial place of the Kings of Connaught and Tara, and Ireland’s first Cistercian monastery
  • Tour Belfast’s iconic sites and toast the trip with a Guinness or two

Tour details

Dates May 2 2020 - May 16 2020
Duration 15 days
Cost
Full Price
$8,495
Today's Price
$8,295
Saving
$200
Deposit: $1,250 Single supplement: $1,500 Balance due by February 8 2020
Activity Level
Tour code A20IRE

Book Now or call 866-740-5130 if you have any questions

May 2 2020: Itinerary

We arrive into Dublin, the capital of Ireland, and transfer to our first hotel. We have some time to relax before meeting up for a welcome lecture and our first dinner as a group.

Meals include: Dinner

Hotel: The Westbury Hotel, Dublin

Our first morning is dedicated to the extraordinary finds exhibited within the National Museum. The museum houses artifacts from 7000 BCE to the 20th century, which include the largest collection of Bronze Age gold in the world. The centerpiece of the collection is the Ardagh Chalice, which dates back to 800 CE. After lunch, we visit some of the major monuments of the city, including Trinity College – where we view the mythical Book of Kells – and Saint Patrick’s Cathedral.

Meals include: Breakfast

Hotel: The Westbury Hotel, Dublin

Today, we head for the glorious countryside of County Meath. We travel about an hour northwest to the green Hill of Tara, once one of early Ireland’s most venerated religious spots and the coronation place of its pre-Christian kings. Here, we explore the site while learning about its impactful past and admiring its traditional Celtic motifs. Next, we visit the World Heritage Site of Brú na Bóinne, exploring the passage graves of Newgrange and Knowth. Newgrange was constructed about 5,200 years ago (3200 BCE), which makes it older than both Stonehenge and the Great Pyramids of Giza. It is also known for the dramatic illumination of its passage and chamber, which occurs only during the winter solstice sunrise.

Meals include: Breakfast, Lunch

Hotel: The Westbury Hotel, Dublin

Our day begins with a visit to Glendalough, a 6th century monastic settlement set in a glaciated valley. Monastic remains here include beehive huts, grave slabs, crosses, and early churches. After lunch, we make our way to Old Kilkullen and view the remains of an Iron Age hillfort, a round tower, and 9th century crosses. Keeping with our monastic theme, we also see a finely sculpted 9th century high cross and a Franciscan abbey at Castledermot before visiting Brownshill, where we find a dolmen with a capstone that is said to weigh 100 tons. After a day teeming with archaeological wonders, we drive to Kilkenny. Upon our arrival here, we have dinner together.

All meals included

Hotel: Kilkenny Ormonde Hotel

Touring begins today at the imposing Jerpoint Abbey. Built in 1160 CE by the King of Ossory, these ruins are distinguished by the 15th century cloister featured here. Our next stop is the famous cathedral known as the Rock of Cashel. This site is situated on a 200-foot-high outcrop of limestone and was once the seat of the Kings of Munster. Our day ends in Cork, a historic trading port situated on the River Lee, where we can unwind and reflect on the day’s fascinating visits.

Meals include: Breakfast, Lunch

Hotel: Actons Hotel Kinsale

We enjoy a calm morning in County Cork before driving to Charles Fort. This massive star-shaped structure was built by Sir William Robinson in 1677 and it was in use right up until 1921. The fort was constructed on the earlier stronghold of Ringcurran Castle, whose defenses were featured during the Siege of Kinsale in 1601 CE. We enjoy a traditional lunch in Kinsale before we continue to the Drombeg Stone Circle, an impressive group of 14 stones that date back to 100 BCE.

Meals include: Breakfast, Lunch

Hotel: Randles Hotel, Killarney

Some of the finest coastal scenery in Ireland can be found in West Kerry, on the Dingle Peninsula. It is also a Gaeltacht (Irish speaking) area, where traditional ways of life are preserved. Our first stop is the Iron Age Dunbeg Fort, an elaborate example of a promontory fort. We then examine the beehive hut settlements, characteristic of this part of the country, as well as the 9th century corbel-built Oratory of Gallarus. We also visit the Blasket Heritage Center and we round off our day with several other sites on the peninsula.

Meals include: Breakfast, Lunch

Hotel: Randles Hotel, Killarney

Today begins with a long drive to the Clonmacnoise Monastery, where we explore the burial place of the Kings of Connaught and Tara. This site includes the ruins of a cathedral, seven 10th-13th century churches, two round towers, and Western Europe’s largest collection of Early Christian grave slabs. After a break for lunch, we get back on the road to the city of Galway. This evening, we will be warmly welcomed with a night of dinner and traditional Irish music.

All meals included

Hotel: The Galmont Hotel & Spa, Galway

Hold on to your sailors’ caps as we travel by ferry to the Aran Island of Inishmore this morning. This island bears a wealth of pre-Christian and Christian features and monuments, and here we view some of the island’s most spectacular sites. We begin at Dun Aenghus, a dry-stone fort set on the edge of a cliff 200 feet above the sea, before continuing on to Na Seacht dTeampaill – otherwise known as ‘the Seven Churches’ complex. Free time in Kilronan follows before we return to the mainland.

Meals include: Breakfast, Lunch

Hotel: The Galmont Hotel & Spa, Galway

Our schedule today is packed with the archaeology of Ceide Fields. Not only is this Europe’s largest Neolithic land enclosure, but it is also the oldest-known field system in the world. If you’re wondering how it has survived for so long, we can reveal that the preservation of this site is thanks to the natural growth of the marshlands that have surrounded the fields for the past 5,000 years. Recent excavations have revealed Stone Age pottery and a well-used primitive plow, highlighting the age of this locale. After dedicating our day to Ceide Fields, we depart on a 90-minute drive to Sligo.

Meals include: Breakfast, Lunch

Hotel: The Glasshouse Hotel, Sligo

For our first full day in Sligo, we begin at the Carrowmore Megalithic Cemetery – the largest in Ireland with over 60 passage-graves, dolmen, a large cairn, and stone circles. We continue to Drumcliff, where, in addition to viewing a high cross (1000 CE) showing fine sculptures of biblical scenes, we will indulge the bibliophiles among us with a visit to the grave of W.B. Yeats. Then, at Creevykeel, where artifacts dated to 2500 BCE have been excavated, we see one of the finest Court Cairns in Ireland – the oldest of which dates from 3200 BCE. Next, we return to Sligo and have the evening to ourselves.

Meals include: Breakfast, Lunch

Hotel: The Glasshouse Hotel, Sligo

After breakfast, we depart for Belfast and travel via Derry. On the way, we visit the reconstructed circular stone fort, Grianan of Aileach. Built on the site of an older hill fort in prehistory, it was thought to be a place of sun worship, or the place of hibernation of Gráine, a Celtic sun-goddess. After lunch, we continue to Derry and explore on foot. In 1613 CE, the walls of Derry were built to protect the town from the Gaelic chieftains in Donegal. Today, these walls separate two communities, the Bogside and the Waterside. We then continue to Belfast.

Meals include: Breakfast, Lunch

Hotel: Europa Hotel, Belfast

Northern Ireland’s history is tumultuous and through our walking tour of Belfast this morning, we learn about these troubled times. We will see sites such as the leaning Albert Memorial Clock Tower and the Opera House, one of Belfast’s great landmarks. We view St. Anne’s Cathedral – also known as Belfast Cathedral – as well as the political murals of West Belfast and the narrow alleys known as The Entries. After lunch, we venture a few miles outside of Belfast to see the last prehistoric monument of our tour, the Giant’s Ring. This impressive earthwork is 600 feet in diameter and possesses a megalithic chamber in the center thought to date to 3000 BCE.

Meals include: Breakfast, Lunch

Hotel: Europa Hotel, Belfast

After breakfast, we depart for Dublin. On the way, we visit Mellifont Abbey – the first Cistercian monastery in Ireland, founded in 1142. The Abbey was built by St Malachy, Bishop of Down, who brought in a new group of monks from Clairvaux in France to combat the corruption of the Irish monastic orders. Its most unusual feature is the octagonal Lavabo dating to around 1200 CE. The Visitor Center houses an interesting exhibition on the work of masons in the Middle Ages with fine examples of their craft on display. Continuing to Dublin, we check into our hotel and spend our afternoon at leisure. Why not explore Dublin’s amazing galleries, its numerous green parks, or even get a pint at the old Guinness factory! Later this evening, we enjoy our last dinner together.

Meals include: Breakfast, Dinner

Hotel: The Westbury Hotel, Dublin

Today we transfer to the airport and take our individual flights home, or continue with our onward travel.

Meals include: Breakfast

May 2 2020: Additional Info

May 2 2020: Accommodation

A minute's walk from Grafton Street, the hotel is a 5-minute walk from the Little Museum of Dublin and an 11-minute walk from Dublin Castle.

This hotel is a 5-minute walk from Ormonde College and Kilkenny Castle. 

Overlooking the River Bandon and Kinsale Harbour, the hotel in a townhouse is 7 minutes' walk from Desmond Castle and 5 km from Kinsale Golf Club.

On the Ring of Kerry, this elegant hotel dating back to 1906 is a 10-minute walk from both the town centre and Killarney National Park.

This waterfront hotel on the Lough Atalia lies 230m from the Galway railway station and a 5-minute walk from Eyre Square.

Overlooking Garavogue River, this contemporary, glass-fronted hotel is shaped like a docked ship and offers city views.

Opposite the 19th-century Grand Opera House, this hotel is a 3-minute walk from Great Victoria Street train station and 3 miles from the Titanic Belfast museum.

May 2 2020: Enquiries

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