Celtic megalith at Carrowmore
Celtic megalith at Carrowmore

Ireland: Celts, Vikings & Saints


15 days From $7,990

July 18 2019

Ireland’s serene and welcoming rural landscapes, fringed by one the most beautiful of Europe’s coastlines, are peppered with a plethora of prehistoric and historical sites, elegant country houses and unique cultural monuments. They all fuse into a remarkably fertile and much excavated 5,000-years-old hunting-ground for the archaeologically-minded traveler looking to acquire insights into an ancient civilization of a distinctly ‘different’ kind.

Although evidence exists of earlier influences from afar (such as megalithic passage-graves that may have originated in Brittany, Portugal or Spain), until invasion and settlement by seafaring Vikings in the 9th century Ireland’s relative remoteness had largely sheltered its societies from the ceaseless turmoil previously afflicting the rest of Europe.

A major surviving legacy imprint from the long pre-Viking era is that of the Iron Age Celts, whose tradition began a thousand years earlier in central Europe and whose ancient language is still preserved here. Ireland’s other dominant cultural legacy is owed to the arrival of St Patrick and other Christian missionaries in the early 5th century – when the old indigenous pagan practices were suffused into the new religion and the rich culture of Celtic monasticism and scholarship began to blossom.

What's included?

  •  Expert Scholar & Tour Manager
  •  Accommodation
  •  Meals - as per the itinerary
  •  Local Transport
  •  Entries & Tips

Led by...

Prof. Charles Doherty

Prof. Charles Doherty

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.

Book Now $7,990
Includes deposit: $1,250 Single supplement: $1,150

Tour highlights:

  • Follow the trail of Ireland’s past civilizations – Iron Age Celtic, Viking and early-Christian – on this all-encompassing exploration of the Emerald Isle
  • Visit Dublin’s famous Trinity College library to admire the lavishly illuminated Book of Kells, created by Celtic monks and one of the great treasures of medieval Europe
  • Witness breathtaking views around the Ring of Kerry, a circular tourist route located in south-west Ireland
  • Relish in the opportunity to explore the iconic sites of Belfast, and cheers on our final night with a Guinness or two
  • Experience the wealth of heritage and culture that Ireland has to offer on this unforgettable tour

Tour details

Dates July 18 2019 - August 1 2019
Duration 15 days
Cost $7,990
Single supplement: $1,150
Deposit: $1,250 , balance due by April 25 2019
Activity Level Easy-Going
Tour code A19IRE

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

July 18 2019: Itinerary

After arrival in the Irish capital we transfer to our hotel, where our group meets up later for dinner.

Meals include: Dinner

Hotel: Radisson Blu Royal Hotel, Dublin

One of Europe’s smaller capitals it may be, but here on the banks of the River Liffey hospitable Dublin more than compensates in heritage and character for any possible lack of grandeur. Yet, while an often quirky individuality remains the essence of its charm, Dublin is no sleepy backwater but rather an increasingly cosmopolitan city whose famous traditional Irish pubs now rub shoulders with a lively contemporary scene. It’s also something of a living museum, with medieval castles and cathedrals on show alongside the legacy of an 18th century heyday that saw the construction of some of the British Empire’s finest Georgian architecture. Our first Dublin morning is dedicated to the spectacular finds exhibited in the National Museum - which houses artifacts from 7000 BCE to our own times, including the world’s largest collection of Early Bronze Age gold. Centerpiece of the collection is the Ardagh Chalice, dating back to 800 CE and among the greatest treasures of the early Irish Church. After lunch our city exploration takes in Dublin’s major monuments, among them the Georgian elegance of Merrion Square, once the most fashionable address for the city aristocracy; St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Ireland’s 12th century national cathedral; and Trinity College, the country’s leading ancient university, where we can marvel at the world's most famous medieval manuscript - the richly-decorated Book of Kells, a 9th century copy of the four Gospels.

Meals include: Breakfast, Lunch

Hotel: Radisson Blu Royal Hotel, Dublin

We leave Dublin for the day to travel 50 miles to the green hills of County Meath and Slieve na Caillaigh ("Mountain of the Witch"), setting of one of Ireland’s four main passage tomb sites. The impressive clusters of prehistoric cairns at this atmospheric complex are thought to date from about 3300 BCE - with one of the most accessible cairns facing the rising sun at the spring and autumn equinoxes so that it shines through the passage to illuminate symbols carved into the back wall of the chamber. We also explore the nearby Hill of Tara, a grassy archaeological site once one of early Ireland’s most venerated religious spots and the coronation place of its pre-Christian kings. No buildings survive but of interest are a passage tomb (the Mound of the Hostages) and evidence of an Iron Age hill fort (the Fort of the Kings) - and the legend of the site’s roaring “Stone of Destiny”, perhaps once a coronation stone. Later in the afternoon we return to Dublin.

Meals include: Breakfast, Lunch

Hotel: Radisson Blu Royal Hotel, Dublin

This morning we head south-west into County Wicklow at the start of our circular journey around the beautiful “Emerald Isle”.  Within little over an hour we reach the romantic setting of Glendalough, whose peaceful glaciated valley is home to one of Ireland’s major early monastic sites. This 6th century settlement was long one of the country’s great ecclesiastical foundations until its destruction by the Normans in 1214 CE. Today’s remains include beehive huts, grave slabs, crosses and early churches. We now continue south into County Kildare, pausing at Old Kilkullen to view the remains of an Iron Age hill fort, a round tower and 9th-century crosses. A brief onward drive takes us to Brownshill’s Early Neolithic period dolmen - a portal tomb whose granite capstone is said to weigh over 100 tons. Time permitting, we break the last leg of our journey to Kilkenny to admire a finely sculptured 9th century high cross and the ruins of the 13th century Franciscan abbey at Castledermot.

Meals include: Breakfast, Lunch

Hotel: Kilkenny Hibernian Hotel

A short drive from Kilkenny brings us to Jerpoint, where we walk amid the evocative ruins of the ancient Abbey, founded in 1160 by the King of Ossory. One of Ireland’s best-preserved Cistercian monasteries, Jerpoint is renowned for its beautiful 15th century cloister arcade with its wealth of intriguing sculptures. The relatively intact adjoining church has a notable collection of sculpted tombs. An hour’s drive takes us west now into County Tipperary to the celebrated Rock of Cashel, dominating the skyline from atop a 200-feet-high limestone outcrop - and undoubtedly among Ireland’s most dramatic historical monuments. Once the seat of the High Kings of Munster, it was visited by St. Patrick in 450 and long rivaled Tara as a center of power. Here Brian Boru was crowned the last High King of Ireland in the 10th century. There’s much to see among its walled remains, including a vast medieval cathedral and beautiful Romanesque chapel. A 60-mile journey to Cork, Ireland’s second city and the southernmost point of our tour, ends our travels for the day.

All meals included

Hotel: Maryborough Hotel & Spa, Cork

We enjoy a relaxing free morning in picturesque Kinsale, just a brief drive from Cork City and a quaint little coastal fishing town and yachting harbor with an interesting history. Before leaving the area we call at Kinsale’s partially-restored Charles Fort, overlooking the river. This formidable-looking star-shaped riverside fortress, built in the 17th century on the site of the earlier stronghold of Ringcurran Castle, was in continuous use until 1921. We then travel to Drombeg Stone Circle (known as the “Druid’s Altar”), an important megalithic circle of 17 standing stones, oriented towards the winter solstice, and believed to be Middle-Late Bronze Age in origin. From here it’s a drive of about 60 miles north-west to Killarney, our home for the next two nights.

 

Meals include: Breakfast, Lunch

Today’s circular west coast tour takes us on one of Ireland’s most spectacular road journeys - through the flawless natural scenery of the Iveragh Peninsula (better-known as "The Ring of Kerry"). Our winding 120-mile route unfolds ever-changing views spanning the pristine beaches of the island-dotted Atlantic and serene landscapes of mountains, forests and lakes. We explore en route the Staigue Stone Fort, one of the country’s largest and finest stone forts, built without mortar, using undressed stones, and believed to date from the Late Iron Age. We also call at the Skellig Experience Visitor Center to learn more about the offshore Skellig islands and the 6th - 12th century monastic sites of Skellig Michael.

Meals include: Breakfast, Lunch

Our morning drive takes us north-east now to County Offaly and Clonmacnoise, whose 6th century monastic site sits in a timeless setting on the peaceful banks of the River Shannon. Here we are in one of Ireland's holiest and most important complexes of its kind, with the ruins of a cathedral, seven 10th - 13th century churches, two round towers, high crosses and Western Europe’s largest collection of Early Christian grave slabs. Once bustling with religious, literary and artistic activity, Clonmacnoise drew patronage from royalty and is the burial place of distant kings of Connaught and Tara. From here a journey of about an hour brings us to the west coast harbor city of Galway.

All meals included

Hotel: Clayton Hotel, Galway

Today we take to the water on the ferry-crossing to the main Aran Island of Inishmore at the mouth of Galway Bay – whose remote and unspoilt terrain of limestone pavements was first populated in about 3000 BCE and is notable for its ancient features and sites. We visit two of most significant of these: the prehistoric Dun Aenghus, a dry-stone fort spectacularly poised on the very edge of a cliff over 200 feet above the sea; and the ruins of Na Seacht dTeampaill (“The Seven Churches”) complex, recalling a medieval Christian era when this would have been a major pilgrimage site. We have free time in the harbor village of Kilronan before boarding the ferry back to the mainland.

Meals include: Breakfast, Lunch

Hotel: Clayton Hotel, Galway

We head north now to the lonely beauty of County Mayo’s rugged cliff-edged shores, the setting of Céide Field. This is Europe’s largest Neolithic land enclosure, whose natural wild ecology of blanket peat bog and dramatic sea-cliffs embrace the world’s oldest-known stone-walled field systems - dating back over 5,000 years. The modern Visitor Center provides fascinating insights into interpretation of the site’s history and significance. After our visit a drive of 60 miles brings us to the town of Sligo. 

 

Meals include: Breakfast, Lunch

Hotel: Southern Hotel, Sligo

Nearby Carrowmore, an important cluster of megalithic tombs on the Cúil Irra peninsula, is our first call of the day. Dating from the 4th millennium BCE, this is Ireland’s largest megalithic cemetery, with evidence of some 60 passage tombs, a dolmen, a large cairn and stone circles. Not far away, in Drumcliff, is an exceptional high cross, thought to be 1lth century and bearing finely sculpted biblical scenes. On a more literary note we also visit the graveside of revered Irish poet W.B. Yeats. We continue to Creevykeel, location of one of Ireland’s finest Court Cairns, whose oldest grave has been dated to 3200 BCE. Our afternoon return to Sligo allows time for a little independent sightseeing - perhaps to explore the natural harbor that once saw trade with Phoenicians, Greeks and Romans.

Meals include: Breakfast, Lunch

Hotel: Southern Hotel, Sligo

After breakfast a two-hour drive brings us to County Donegal, where we admire the handsome circular stone fort of Grianán of Aileach. Said to go back to 1700 BCE, the origins of the fort are steeped in myth and legend - something easy to appreciate as we take in its breathtaking hilltop views over the surrounding loughs and three counties beyond. After lunch we cross into Northern Ireland to reach historic Derry on the River Foyle. We break our journey to enjoy a walking tour of one of Europe’s finest examples of a completely walled city. Almost a mile in circumference, and reaching 35 feet at their widest, the 17th century walls were built as a defense against attack from the Gaelic chieftains of Donegal. Today they form a unique walkway around the inner city, as well as separating Derry’s Protestant Waterside and Catholic Bogside communities. Points of interest we see before continuing to Belfast include Columb’s Cathedral (displaying artifacts from the 1688–9 Siege of Derry); the Tower Museum near the Peace Bridge, with city views and historical exhibits; and the superb stained-glass windows adorning the neo-gothic Guildhall.

Meals include: Breakfast

Hotel: Maldron Hotel, Belfast

Our day is devoted to Belfast - Ulster’s ancient and once-troubled capital that has now brilliantly reinvented itself as a vibrant and welcoming city with an array of lovingly restored Victorian architecture, a strikingly contemporary waterfront and burgeoning entertainment scene - not forgetting those traditional music-filled Irish pubs.  Our morning city tour includes the leaning Albert Memorial Clock Tower; the Grand Opera House (a showpiece Victorian city landmark); Belfast Cathedral and the surrounding Cathedral Quarter; the political murals of West Belfast; and “The Entries” – now-restored narrow 18th century alleyways often thought of as the area where the city was born. After lunch we travel a few miles out of Belfast to see the last prehistoric monument of our tour - the Giant’s Ring, an impressive henge earthwork, 600 feet in diameter, with a central megalithic chamber believed to date back nearly 5,000 years.

Meals include: Breakfast, Lunch

Hotel: Maldron Hotel, Belfast

Our last morning’s two-hour drive brings us back to Dublin - leaving time for an afternoon at leisure to explore the city’s great galleries and green parks (or even the old Guinness factory!) before we enjoy our farewell dinner at one of the city’s excellent restaurants

Meals include: Breakfast, Dinner

Hotel: RIU Plaza The Gresham, Dublin

We transfer to the airport for our individual flights home or onward travel.

Meals include: Breakfast

July 18 2019: Additional Info

July 18 2019: Accommodation

Set beside St Patrick's Cathedral the Radisson Dublin BLU is just a 5-minute walk from Dublin Castle. It has large air-conditioned rooms with flat-screen TVs, free WiFi and a French brasserie.

Rooms at the Radisson BLU Royal Hotel Dublin have luxurious baths and showers. Most have views across the city whilst some rooms have Nespresso coffee machines.

The Verres en Vers brasserie serves French classics and is open all day. The Vintage Room nestles under a marble staircase and offers vintage whiskeys, wines and fine dining.

The SURE Bar serves cocktails and has magnificent views over Dublin.The O Bar has mosaic ceiling tiles and a circular bar with leather seating.

In Kilkenny city center, the award-winning Kilkenny Hibernian Hotel offers luxury accommodation, the new Harper's Restaurant and 2 leading bars.

In the shadow of Kilkenny Castle, the Hibernian Hotel is in the heart of Kilkenny city. Originally the Hibernian Bank, this building overlooks the Parade, popular because it's close to Kilkenny Castle and the Kilkenny Design Center.

Just under 2 hours from Dublin, the Kilkenny Hibernian Hotel offers you traditional charm in this vibrant city. Guest parking is available in a multi-story car park opposite the Hibernian Hotel, free of charge between 18:00 and 12:00 the next day. 

Set in 14 acres of 300-year-old listed gardens, Maryborough Hotel & Spa boasts elegant rooms with bathrobes, a luxurious spa, and an AA Rosette restaurant. Cork is just 10 minutes’ drive from this 18th-century house, free WiFi and free parking are available.

With cotton duvets and slippers, guests can relax in each modern room. Guests can enjoy free bottled water and a 42-inch LED TV. Some rooms feature scenic garden views.

The Maryborough Hotel & Spa offer free access to the Thermal Suite, with its luxurious range of heat and cooling experiences including a rock sauna, vitality pool, heated lounges, lifestyle showers and an ice fountain.

Guests can enjoy the leisure club, with its 20 yards pool, relaxing hot tub bath, and steam room. Guests can exercise in the modern gym with fitness classes, or enjoy the sauna.

The newly launched Bellini's restaurant provides classical gourmet cuisine with an extensive range of fine wines. Surrounded by the vast gardens, The Garden Room serves afternoon teas, lunches, and snacks. 

This contemporary hotel with leisure facilitiesfree parking and free internet access is opposite the racecourse, close to Galway city.

The rooms in the hotel are equipped with a TV, a desk and the private bathroom is fitted with a bath and a hair dryer.

In the evenings, relax in the comfortable Enclosure Bar, which serves drinks and bar snacks. Head to the restaurant to sample fine Galway cuisine.

Clayton Hotel’s leisure center has a swimming pool, sauna and steam room. Service at Clayton Hotel is precise, friendly and of a high standard.

Sligo Southern Hotel is located in Sligo city center, beside Sligo Train and Bus Station. It offers a restaurant, free parking and a leisure center with a pool and a gym.

Rooms at the Sligo Southern Hotel feature TVs, radios and tea/coffee-making facilities. Free WiFi is available throughout the hotel.

The air-conditioned leisure centre also has a steam room, sauna and fitness classes including aqua aerobics.

The restaurant serves local cuisine and a buffet-style breakfast, and the bar has a lively but cosy atmosphere with open fires.

Boasting a bar and on-site dining, Maldron Hotel Belfast City is located in Belfast, 900 yards from The Belfast Empire Music Hall. The property is a 10-minute walk from The Waterfront Hall and an 18-minute walk from Odyssey Arena. The property offers a 24-hour front desk.

All rooms at the hotel come with a seating area and a flat-screen TV. The rooms at Maldron Hotel Belfast City feature air-conditioning and a desk.

A buffet breakfast is available daily at the property.

Titanic Belfast is 1.7 miles from the accommodation, while St. George's Market is a 9-minute walk from the property.

 

Situated in the heart of Dublin city center, The Gresham Hotel benefits from its own restaurant, and bar. The hotel offers free WiFi and spacious en suite rooms overlooking O’Connell Street. 

Each en suite bedroom features an LCD TV, a safe, iron and ironing board and tea and coffee making facilities. The majority of bedrooms overlook the rear of The Gresham Hotel, at neighbouring buildings.

The Gallery Restaurant serves breakfast each morning. Toddys Bar and Brasserie and Writers Lounge serve a wide variety of food and beverages throughout the day.

The River Liffey, Temple Bar, and the shopping districts are a few minutes’ walk away. Dublin Airport is 6.2 miles away and the port is 1.6 miles from the hotel. 

July 18 2019: Enquiries

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