Ireland: Legacies & Landscape

Detailed Itineary


Tuesday & Wednesday, June 9 & 10, 2015 – Depart Home | Arrive Dublin, Ireland | Trim, County Meath
Depart the U.S. on June 9th on independent flights to Dublin, Ireland. Arriving on June 10th, you will be met upon arrival and transferred from the airport to your hotel in Trim, County Meath, where you will meet your tour leaders. Begin with a gentle walk through the medieval streetscape of Trim town. Once Ireland’s medieval capital, today Trim is one of Ireland’s most prominent heritage towns, boasting more upstanding medieval ruins than any other town in Ireland. The town is dominated by Trim Castle and St. Mary’s Abbey, a ruined Augustinian monastery founded in the 12th century and, later, a pilgrimage destination. Take a tour of Trim Castle, the largest and best preserved Anglo-Norman castle in Ireland, built in A.D. 1174. This twenty-sided castle, with its defensive towers and residential areas, will show us what life was like under Anglo-Norman rule in Ireland in the 12th and 13th centuries. Gather with your fellow travelers for an early reception and welcome dinner at our hotel. Overnight at the Knightsbrook Hotel for four nights. (L,D)

Thursday, June 11 – Trim | Newgrange | Knowth | Trim
This morning we will visit a traditional craft center to observe the traditional processes of wool carding, spinning, and weaving. Sheep were brought to Ireland by Ireland’s first farmers about 6,000 thousand years ago, and still play an important role in Ireland’s agriculture industry. We will visit the UNESCO World Heritage site of Brú na Bóinne to enjoy the Visitor Centre’s wonderful exhibits and audiovisual presentation, and have an independent lunch. We will be joined by Professor Muiris O’Sullivan, an archaeologist and leading expert in Neolithic art, for our visit to the megalithic passage tombs at Newgrange and Knowth, built about 3,200 B.C. Newgrange is the largest passage mound in Europe, covering more than one acre and enclosing an astronomically-aligned, 20-yard-long inner passage leading to a cruciform chamber with a corbelled roof. The Great Mound at Knowth is similar in size to Newgrange and is surrounded by 18 smaller satellite mounds. Both Megalithic sites contain the finest megalithic art in Europe. We return to our hotel in Trim for a short presentation on the archaeology and history of Ireland by your host, followed by dinner. (B,D)

Friday, June 12 – Trim | Bective Abbey | Blackfriary Community Archaeology Project, Trim
In the morning we will visit the nearby ruins of Bective Abbey, a Cistercian abbey founded in A.D. 1147 by Murchadh O'Melaghin, then King of Meath. Many of the buildings still survive, including substantial portions of the cloister. We will return to Trim for lunch, before visiting the multi-award winning Blackfriary Community Archaeology Project. The project, co-founded by your host, Dr. Stephen Mandal, is centered around the excavation of the ruins of a 13th-century Dominican Friary. The excavations commenced in 2010 and are under the direction of project co-founder Finola O’Carroll and Dr. Denis Shine, of the Irish Archaeology Field School. We will meet the excavating archaeologists and visit the site’s post-excavation facilities to see what has been uncovered and the processes used to record findings. We will be joined for dinner at our hotel by an author and expert on medieval Trim, Dr. Michael Potterton, who will give a short talk on local medieval history. (B,L,D)

Saturday, June 13 – Trim | Hill of Tara | Hill of Slane | Trim
This morning we will visit one of Ireland’s most iconic archaeological landscapes, the Hill of Tara. Although best known as the seat of the High Kings of Ireland, the Hill of Tara has been an important site since the Mesolithic Period. The Mound of the Hostages (a passage tomb) was constructed in the Neolithic Period around 3000-2500 B.C. In the early Christian period Tara was the political and religious center of Ireland. After lunch at Maguire’s, a charming restaurant at the Hill of Tara, we will drive the short distance to the Hill of Slane. Tradition holds that St. Patrick lit a Pascal (Easter) fire here in A.D. 432 to proclaim the coming of Christianity to Ireland. The Hill of Slane is the focus of a community archaeology project led by Dr. Conor Brady of Dundalk Institute of Technology, and Dr. Brady will join us on the hill to outline the results of the project and plans for further research. (B,L,D)

Sunday, June 14 – Trim | Clonmacnoise | Westport, County Mayo
After breakfast we depart Trim for the Early Christian site of Clonmacnoise. The monastery was founded in the 6th century by St. Ciaran at an ancient crossroads at the meeting point of the River Shannon and Esker Way (the ancient east/west land route in Ireland). By the 9th century the monastery became a center of learning, craftsmanship, and trade, and today contains the remains of two round towers, high crosses, and several churches from the medieval period. From Clonmacnoise, we will travel on to Westport, a picturesque town located at the stunning Clew Bay on the west coast of Ireland. In the 16th century the town was an important stronghold for the O’Malley clan and the infamous Pirate Queen Grace O’Malley. Overnight at the Westport Plaza Hotel for three nights. (B,L,D)

Monday, June 15 – Westport | Sligo | Carrowmore | Westport
After breakfast we will travel deep into the spectacular landscape of Yeats Country, including Ben Bulben and Knocknaree Mountains in County Sligo. Archaeologist Sam Moore, a lecturer at Sligo Institute of Technology, will join us to take in some of the most important sites in the region, including the well known and some hidden gems. Our tour will include a visit to Carrowmore, Ireland’s largest cemetery of megalithic tombs, with monuments ranging from 5,500 to 6,500 years old. Thirty of its 60 recorded tombs are visible. We will return to our hotel in Westport for dinner. (B,L,D)

Tuesday, June 16 – Westport | Ceide Fields | Killary Fjord | Westport
Our first stop this morning will be the Céide Fields, with its beautiful, rugged, rural scenery and stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean. Céide Fields are Europe's largest Stone Age land enclosure, covering more than two square miles along the north coast of Mayo. This site was once enclosed with dry-stone walls to create fields suitable for crops such as wheat and barley, and for grazing cattle. Bog growth that covered most of the settlement in the last 5,000 years has actually helped preserve it, and part of this bog growth has been cut away to reveal the settlement. This afternoon you will have the option of time at your leisure in Westport or enjoying a short cruise of Killary Fjord, taking in views of great mountains and traces of the incredible landscape of pre-Famine potato “lazy beds.”  We will return to Westport where dinner will be under your own arrangements. (B,L)

Wednesday, June 17 – Westport | Poulnabrone Dolmen | Cliffs of Moher | The Burren | Adare, County Limerick
We will depart Westport this morning for a guided drive through the 40-square-mile Burren National Park in County Clare, renowned for its unusual geology and unique mixture of Arctic and Mediterranean flora. This limestone wonderland contains remnants of the Neolithic, early Christian, and early medieval periods such as portal tombs, Celtic crosses, and a ruined Abbey. We will visit Poulnabrone Dolmen, a dramatic Neolithic portal tomb. Weather permitting we will visit the Cliffs of Moher. Standing 250 yards at their highest point and stretching more than five miles long, the Cliffs boast one of the most amazing views in Ireland. Overnight at the Dunraven Arms Hotel, County Limerick, for three nights. (B,L,D)

Thursday, June 18 – Adare | Lough Gur | Craggaunowen | Adare
Today we will visit Lough Gur, County Limerick. The lake is home to over 6,000 years of continuous human activity. We will visit the heritage center to learn about the botany, geology, zoology, and archaeology of the area. Weather permitting, we will enjoy a picnic lunch at the lake shore. We will visit the Neolithic remains encompassing Lough Gur including the Great Grange Stone Circle, which is Ireland’s largest stone circle, comprised of 113 standing stones. In the afternoon, we will visit Craggaunowen, the award winning Pre-Historic Heritage Park. Situated on 50 acres of wooded grounds, the Park interprets Ireland's prehistoric and early Christian eras, featuring a stunning recreation of some of the homesteads, animals, and artifacts that existed in Ireland during those time periods. We will see a replica of a Crannóg (Lake Dwelling), a Ring Fort, an Iron Age Roadway, and an outdoor cooking site. A major feature is the 'Brendan Boat' built by Tim Severin who sailed from Ireland to Newfoundland, re-enacting the voyage of St. Brendan, reputed to have discovered America centuries before Columbus. (B,L)

Friday, June 19 – Adare | Dingle Peninsula | Adare
Today we will drive to the breathtaking Dingle Peninsula, County Kerry, where we will be joined by local archaeologist, historian, and traditional musician Dr. Billy Mag Fhlionn for what promises to be a truly memorable and engaging tour. This peninsula is famous for its Celtic and pre-Christian monuments as well as its Christian churches. It is also a ‘Gaeltacht' (Irish-speaking) area, where the Irish language and traditional ways of life are preserved. The road around the Peninsula is spectacular; we will stop to enjoy the views of the coastline at Slea Head, where the aquamarine blue seascape surrounds the Blasket Islands, deserted since 1953. We will visit some incredible sites that are remote and off the beaten track, including the ruins of an Early Medieval ringfort, and a deserted early monastery at Reask. After lunch in the picturesque fishing village of Ballyferriter, we will visit Gallarus Oratory, an impressive early Christian monument. It has withstood the passage of time for over 1,200 years. Built in the shape of an upturned boat, the oratory formed part of a larger monastic site and was used as a place of prayer and reflection.  With its small entrance doorway and round-headed east-facing window, it is an excellent example of dry stone construction. (B,L,D)

Saturday, June 20 – Adare | Rock of Cashel | Dublin
We will depart County Limerick for Dublin this morning, visiting the historic Rock of Cashel in County Tipperary along the way. The beautiful Rock of Cashel was once the seat of the Kings of Munster. St. Patrick visited the rock in A.D. 450, while Brian Boru was crowned the first high King of Ireland here in the 10th century.  The evening is at your leisure in Dublin. Overnight at the Radisson Blu Hotel for two nights. (B,L)

Sunday, June 21 – Dublin | National Museum of Ireland | Trinity College, Dublin (including the Book of Kells)
This morning we visit the National Museum of Ireland to enjoy a private guided tour with the museum’s former Assistant Keeper, Eamonn (Ned) Kelly. The museum houses artifacts dating from 7000 B.C. onwards, including such highlights as the Broighter Hoard, Tara Brooch, Ardagh Chalice, Derrynaflan Hoard, and a number of bog bodies. After an independent lunch continue touring Dublin with a visit to Trinity College in Dublin city center, where the famous, 9th-century Book of Kells is on exhibition in the old library, or enjoy the remainder of the day at leisure until we gather this evening for a farewell dinner. (B,D)

Monday, June 22 – Dublin | Home
Transfer to Dublin Airport for return flights home. (B)

--------------------------------------------- Northern Ireland Pre-tour Extension ----------------------------------------

Friday, June 5, 2015 – Depart Home
Depart the U.S. on independent flights to Dublin, Ireland.

Saturday, June 6 – Arrive Dublin, Ireland | Carlingford, County Louth
Upon arrival in Dublin, you will be met at the airport and transferred to your hotel in Carlingford, where you will meet your tour leaders. After a light snack and meet and greet, enjoy an afternoon walking tour of the heritage town of Carlingford, founded by the Anglo-Normans in the 12th century. The town is sited at the foothills of the Cooley Mountains, famous in Irish folklore for the Tain Bo Culainge (the Cattle Raid of Cooley), an ancient Irish saga. The Cooley Peninsula is roughly divided along a northwesterly/southeasterly line with fine fertile soil to the southwest and rugged mountain terrain to the northeast. A welcome reception, dinner and overnight will be at Ghan House, a Georgian house built by William Stannus, which stands as an oasis of calm in the heart of the medieval town. (L,D)

Sunday, June 7 –  Carlingford | Tievebulliagh, Northern Ireland | Giant’s Causeway | Galgorm
This morning, travel to the east coast of Antrim to visit the spectacular Tievebulliagh axe factory. A clear powerhouse in Neolithic Europe, this factory and its sister factory on Rathlin Island, off the coast of north Antrim, account for more than half of the known 21,000+ stone axeheads found in Ireland. The axes are made from a highly unusual rock type known as porcellanite, and have been identified throughout Britain and in mainland Europe. A major focus of your host’s doctoral research, you could not ask for a better guide for a very special off-the-beaten-track site visit (N.B. the site is up a steep hill on very uneven ground). After lunch, travel through the beautiful landscape of the northern coastline to the Giant’s Causeway Visitor Centre, where we will explore the major themes of mythology, geology, landscape, ecology, culture, and social history based on the UNESCO World Heritage site that consists of 40,000 basalt polygonal columns formed 60 million years ago after a volcanic eruption. Transfer to our hotel, set in 160 acres of stunning parkland, for dinner. Overnight at the Galgorm Resort and Spa for three nights. (B,D)

Monday, June 8 – Galgorm | Mount Sandel | City of Derry | Galgorm
Make a morning visit to Mount Sandel, one of the most important archaeological sites in Ireland. Excavated in the 1970s, the site consists of the remains of a small collection of huts that provide evidence of the first people who lived in what is now Ireland, in the Mesolithic Period, some 9,000 years ago. Continue on the short distance to Derry, where we will enjoy lunch before taking a walking tour of the city. Founded in the 6th century by St. Columba, Derry is the second largest city and port of Northern Ireland. In 1613, the walls of Derry were built to protect the town from the Gaelic chieftains in Donegal. A walk on the walls is a must on any visit to Derry, as they are among the best-preserved fortifications in Europe. Today these walls separate two communities, the Bogside (a Catholic ghetto with its famous murals) and the Waterside (a Protestant enclave). Today Derry enjoys the advantages of the new peaceful atmosphere in Northern Ireland politics, and its city center is again lively and pleasant. Return to our hotel for dinner. (B,L,D)

Tuesday, June 9 – Galgorm | Navan Fort | Galgorm
This morning we travel to Navan Fort, the ancient capital and seat of the King of Ulster. Located just outside the city of Armagh, it offers visitors a unique appreciation of the history of the area through a stimulating exhibition full of information and hands-on activities. Enjoy a guided walk to the fort, on a hill, including cooking, weaving, and farming demonstrations. Return to our hotel for lunch, with the afternoon and evening at leisure. (B,L)

Wednesday, June 10 – Galgorm | Trim, County Meath, Ireland 
Transfer to Trim this morning, to join the main tour. (B,L)


If you have any additional questions, please email us at aia@studytours.org (and include your full name) or call us toll-free at (800) 748-6262 (toll: 603-756-2884).