Day 1: We rendezvous at 'The Meeting Point', Arrivals Building, Shannon Airport, at NOON. We travel to the 16th C Craggaunowen Castle near Quinn, with its reconstructions of prehistoric village life. Onward, stopping at Ennis for lunch, to the Killinaboy Church, with its Sheela-Na-Gig carving, and to the impressive Poulnabrone Dolmen on the Burren. Finally to Galway for our overnight stay.
Day 2: Today we sail across the waters of the famous Galway Bay to visit the windswept island of Inishmore, one of the Aran Islands. This is a place of peace and rugged beauty where we visit the ancient ceremonial stone fort of Dun Aengus, perched precipitously on the edge of a high cliff overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. We view the other treasures of the island, such as the early Christian beehive huts and the curious seven churches, joined together as one. Overnight at Galway.
Day 3: Onwards by the shores of Lough Corrib, through the Connemara mountains to the pretty harbour village of Leenaun for lunch. We visit Carrowmore, the most extensive megalithic complex in Ireland, containing dolmens, ring forts and fairy rings. On the way, we admire magnificent views of the Atlantic Ocean from the wild and craggy coastline of County Clare. Overnight in Sligo.
Day 4: Today we climb a wonderful 4000BC monument to the Goddess, Queen Maebh's Cairn, on the hill of Knocknarea, with its extraordinary views across the west of Ireland and Sligo Bay. Here we will learn of the legends of this warrior queen and how as goddess of this place she is very much alive in the fertility of the land, the red of sunset and the rising moon. Nearby are the mysterious Bricklieve Mountains and the Neolithic site of Carrowkeel, with its chambered cairns aligned to the stations of the rising moon. From there we have a striking view of Lough Arrow, the site of the ancient battle between the Tuatha de Danaan and the Formorians. Overnight in Sligo.
Day 5: We journey east by way of Carrick-on-Shannon to Oldcastle, where lie the the enigmatic cairns of the Lough Crew mountains. Here we visit Cairn T, where the rising sun at spring and autumn equinox sends its beam of light down the passageway to illuminate the wondrous megalithic art of its deepest chambers. Onwards to Slane Friary where St Patrick challenged the power of the old gods and lit the first paschal fire in Ireland in 433AD. En route we view the the famous Celtic high crosses of Kells. Overnight in Drogheda.
Day 6: Today we travel to the magnificent valley of the Boyne River where we enter the quartz-encrusted neolithic monument of Newgrange and visit the great temple mound of Knowth with its fine decorated kerb stones and megalithic art. On to the Hill of Tara where in ancient times the sacred marriage of the goddess and the new king took place. Here is the site of the famous Lia Fail which, tradition recalls, cried out as a proclamation of acceptance of the rightful king. Tara has an ancient sanctity all of its own, with panoramic views across much of Ireland. Overnight at Drogheda.
Day 7: Onwards to the capital of Ireland, the lively city of Dublin, where we have free time to explore the city and visit Trinity College, with its magnificent Book of Kells, and the National Museum, repository of many stunning treasures of Ireland's past - such as the beautiful golden torques of the Celtic period and the Ardagh Chalice. We are joined by the eminent scholar and antiquarian John Michell, who will be with us throughout the rest of the tour. Overnight near Dublin.
Day 8: We visit Europe's largest dolmen, weighing over 100 tons, at Browneshill in County Carlow. On to Clonegal Castle near the Wicklow Mountains, where we meet Olivia Robertson, high priestess of the Fellowship of Isis, who will guide us through her castle and the grounds of her estate, where a beautiful ancient yew tree avenue exists to this day. Onwards for lunch and free time at Kilkenny, with its medieval castle and olde worlde charm. We visit St Patrick's holy well and then to Tipperary for our overnight stay at Dundrum.
Day 9: Today we visit the enchanted area of Lough Gur, a magical place where lie the remains of ancient dwellings, forts, cairns and stone circles that lie half hidden in the bracken and wild flowers, surrounded by grazing cattle and birdsong. It is said that the sacred waters of the lake were formed by the goddess Aine, who appears in different forms as mermaid, young woman and hag. We visit the otherworldly stone circle of Grange, the largest in Ireland, where the sun rises and sets through aligned stones at the ancient festivals of Beltane, Imbolc, Lughnasa and Samhain. As we journey on, we sweep around the famous Ring of Kerry, via Kenmare, to the little fishing village of Waterville for our overnight stay.
Day 10: A major highlight of the tour is to visit today the remote and awe-inspiring rocky outcrop of Skellig Michael. We sail across the waters to climb the slopes of this island sanctuary, dedicated to a dragon-slaying saint. The island once held a community of monks who built six beehive huts and two small oratories, which have enigmatic quartz stones enshrined within their walls. Here we can imagine the monks living in a world close to heaven, living only from fish, shellfish, birds' eggs in season and what few herbs and vegetables they could grow. The friendly puffins await us! Overnight at Waterville.
Day 11: We complete the beautiful Ring of Kerry by travelling north via Killorglin to the Dingle Peninsula, with views of the heart-stopping Dingle Bay. There we shall have free time to rest and relax, visit the unique shops, craft and art galleries in the picturesque little town of Dingle. Overnight at Dingle.
Day 12: Today we visit the many prehistoric and early Christian sites of the Dingle area, including the 8th C Galluras Oratory, Kimaldeker Church with its Ogham, Alphabet and Sundial stone, St Brendan's House and the nearby Keeler's Stone with its cup and ring marks. We return to Dingle town for free time or an optional swim with Fungi, the beloved dolphin of Dingle Bay. We celebrate our journey together with a farewell dinner. Overnight in Dingle.
Day 13: An early rise for our journey to Shannon Airport for international flights and transfers, arriving by 10.30am. Flight reservations should be made from 1pm onwards.
Note: We reserve the right to vary the itinerary as necessary to provide the best possible experience under the circumstances prevailing at the time.
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