Below is the itinerary as planned. Click here to see Jeanne McCann’s account of what really happened. Thanks Jeanne!!
Monday, 13 April 2015, Fly from USA
Tuesday, 14 April, Welcome to Ireland
Arrive at Dublin Airport. After picking up luggage and clearing customs, find the Travel Information desk in the Arrivals Hall, Terminal 1 which opens at 8am Tel: 00353 1 7033028. Exchange your voucher at this desk for your Freedom Pass. This ticket allows you to use the Airlink 747 Dublin Bus and follow the directions to the Airlink Bus stop outside the terminal building. Get off at Trinity College & Temple Bar and walk around Trinity College towards Grafton Street. Take a left and walk down Nassau Street along the side of Trinity which leads onto Lincoln Place and you should be able to see the Davenport Hotel from there. This is a 10 minute walk. If not, ask a local for directions. Your room may not be ready yet, so drop off your luggage.Then use your Freedom Pass for the “Green Hop On, Hop Off” buses and just hand your ticket to the driver to explore Dublin. The nearest stop is at the National Gallery on Merrion Square West. Please ask reception for directions. All rooms are to be available by 3:00, but some may be ready earlier. Be back at the hotel at 6:30 for announcements, introductions, and dinner at 7:00.
Lunch independent, dinner bed & breakfast at the Davenport Hotel, at Merrion Square, Tel: +353 (0)1 6073500
Wednesday 15 April – Explore Dublin
Breakfast at the hotel (every morning on tour.) Continue using your “Hop On, Hop Off” bus pass. When you tire of the bus, visit the National Museum of Ireland which will serve as an excellent introduction to Ireland. The National Museum houses artifacts which date from 7,000 BC to the 20th century. The Kildare Street site is home to artifacts from Viking times displayed alongside Celtic masterpieces and it houses one of the largest collections of Bronze Age gold in the world. The centerpiece of the collection is the Ardagh Chalice, which dates back to 800 AD. The museum also includes an exhibition dealing with Ireland’s struggle for independence from 1916-1922. The Museum has many excellent displays. Of particular note are the Broighter Hoard, Tara Brooch, the aforementioned Ardagh Chalice and the Derrynaflan Hoard. The museum has a pleasant cafe and bookstore.
Lunch independent, dinner (7:00), bed & breakfast at the Davenport Hotel.
Thursday, 16 April, Depart Dublin for Belfast via Giants Causeway
9:00 departure from hotel for coach transfer to Belfast. Encounter Northern Ireland’s favorite giant, Finn McCool, at the new Giants Causeway Visitor Centre on the North Antrim coast which opened in the summer of 2012. According to legend Finn McCool created the Giants Causeway by building stepping stones to Scotland to challenge the Scottish giant Benandonner! The new Visitor Centre explores 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. There are various interactive exhibits and short video presentations within five designated interpretive exhibition areas and the self-guided visit will culminate with a spectacular two minutes audio-visual projection of a volcanic eruption flowing over the walls and onto the floor. Other services and facilities include a large craft and souvenir shop, Tourist Information and restaurant. To enhance the wider visitor experience around the site, a hand held audio guide is included which will bring the wider World Heritage Site to life and inform visitors of unique features to look for across this amazing landscape. The walks and trails around the World Heritage Site have been upgraded, with the addition of a new accessible cliff top walk for families and people with disabilities. It might even be possible to glimpse Northern Ireland’s favorite giant, Finn McCool whilst walking around these new trails!
Lunch independent, dinner bed & breakfast in the Europa Hotel, Great Victoria St, Belfast BT27AP Tel: +44 (0) 28 9027 1066
Friday, 17 April, Belfast and the Titanic
9:00 departure for guided city tour, an excellent way to discover Belfast City. The tour will take in the leaning Albert Memorial Clock tower (Ireland’s answer to the Tower of Pisa) and the Opera House, which is one of Belfast’s great landmarks. Your tour will pass by the City Hall, the Opera house, The Crown Bar (dates from 1885), Queens University and the Botanic Gardens. There is a possibility that our tour will include a visit to the Harland and Wolfe Shipyard, where the Titanic was built and launched in 1912. A visit to the Shankill and Falls road will be of interest as it will give the visitor an indication of how life was in Belfast during the troubles.
11:00 visit Titanic Belfast Located in the heart of Belfast, the Titanic Belfast recreates the story of the world’s most famous ship in a new iconic, six floor building right beside the historic site of the original ship’s construction. Opened in April 2012 to coincide with the centenary of its launch, the self-guided journey begins on entering the building’s giant atrium, where the visitor is surrounded by the four ‘ship’s hull’ shaped wings which house the Titanic Experience. As you journey through the nine large galleries of the interactive exhibition, you will uncover the true story of the Titanic, from her conception in Belfast in the early 1900s, through her construction and launch, to her famous maiden voyage and subsequent place in history. Guided tours are available on request at a supplement. Highlights include breath taking views to the slip-ways where the Titanic was launched and the Voyage to the bottom of the sea in the unique Ocean Exploration Centre with live links to contemporary undersea exploration. The centre includes restaurants and the Titanic Store for a shopping experience.
Lunch independent, afternoon free, dinner bed & breakfast in the Europa Hotel.
Saturday, 18 April, Belfast to Galway
This morning depart Belfast for Galway via Fermanagh. En route we will visit the Belleek Pottery factory and showroom (shopping alert). The world famous brand of Belleek pottery has its home in an imposing Victorian building in the village of Belleek on the river Erne. Awarded a 4 star visitor attraction grading in 2013, it features a museum, tearoom, video theater and a showroom. The guided tour covers all of the production areas offering guests the possibility of meeting with the craftspeople, observing their craftsmanship working on the different handmade pieces (no production on Sundays). As you walk through the museum you will experience the journey through the life of the Pottery from the early earthenware days to the present day fine translucent Parian China.
At 13:30, 2-course Lunch in Enniskillen at Killyhevlin Hotel. Continue on to Galway. NOTE: Give me any unwanted Brit pounds and I will credit your account in US$. I will not accept coins after we leave Enniskillen.
Since lunch was included, dinner is on your own. Bed and breakfast in the Meyrick Hotel, Eyre Square, Galway Tel: +353 (0) 91564041.
Sunday, 19 April, Connemara
Today we will explore the Connemara Region. Connemara is a land of lakes and rivers, bogs and mountains. A land of small villages where Gaelic is still the spoken language and where little has changed since the beginning of time. It is without a doubt the wildest and the most romantic part of Ireland. Connemara is a vast peninsula bordered by the arid and rocky coastline of Galway Bay in the south ~ a land characteristic for its stone walls and thatched cottages. On its northern shore the land is harsher and more secret, with spectacular views of the Ocean and the beautiful fjord of Killary Harbour, as well as the steep mountains overlooking numerous lakes and large bog areas. Connemara is a real paradise for Nature lovers and those in search of strong emotions.
After lunch (independent) we will visit Kylemore Abbey. Kylemore Abbey is located in the Kylemore Pass in Connemara. A Mitchell Henry built the House in 1868, after having spent his honeymoon in the area. The architecture is best described as neo-gothic and the house still displays all the characteristics of that period. One of Kylemore Abbey’s most famous features is its miniature cathedral, built in 1870 and known locally as the Gothic church. Today, the abbey is home to the Irish order of Benedictine nuns. They bought the house in 1920, having fled their convent in war-torn Belgium in 1914. They established a private school for young girls, which today is the renowned Kylemore Abbey International School for young girls. Facilities at Kylemore include a visitor centre, an exhibition housed in the main reception rooms of the house and a video which takes the visitor through the history of the house and its occupants
Overnight, dinner, bed & breakfast in the Meyrick Hotel, Galway.
Monday, 20 April, Depart Galway for Dingle via the Cliffs of Moher
Situated on the Atlantic Ocean and bordering the Burren Area, the Cliffs of Moher are one of Ireland’s most spectacular sights. Standing 230 meters above the ground at their highest point and 8km long, the Cliffs boast one of the most amazing views in Ireland. On a clear day, the Aran Islands are visible in Galway Bay as well as the valleys and hills of Connemara. To the south of the cliffs is Hag’s Head and was once the site of a castle. The cliffs reach their highest point just north of O’ Brien’s Tower. Cornelius O’ Brien, a descendant of Brian Boru (he who defeated the Vikings in battle), built a Tower at the cliffs in order to enjoy some tea with his lady friends. The Tower is adjacent to the sea stack, Breanan Mór, which stands over 70 meters above the foaming waves and is home to some of the Burren’s wildlife.
Continue via the Killimer to Tarbert car ferry to Dingle.
Overnight, dinner, bed & breakfast at our hotel in the Dingle Skellig Hotel, Dingle.Tel: +353 (0) 66 915 0200
Tuesday, 21 April, Dingle Peninsula
In the morning, we will visit West Kerry on the Dingle Peninsula, the most northern part of the Kerry Peninsula. It has some of the finest coastal scenery to be seen in Ireland. This peninsula is famous for its Celtic, pre-Christian monuments and Christian churches. It is also a ‘Gaeltacht’ (Irish speaking) area, where the Irish language and traditional ways of life are preserved. Dingle town itself is a thriving fishing town and offers plenty of opportunity for shopping or simply savoring the atmosphere of a typical country Irish town with its plentiful pubs, narrow streets and busy harbour. The road around the Peninsula is truly spectacular. It passes through a chain of Mountains, called Slieve Mish. From Inch, a long beach bordered by dunes and made famous by David Lean’s movie “Ryan’s daughter,” admire the Iveragh Peninsula and Rossbeigh Beach. From Dingle, drive around the coast to Slea Head. Here the blue of the marine landscape surrounds the Blasket Islands, deserted since 1953. In the distance are the two rocky Skellig islands, where the ruins of an early Christian Monastery can be found. The Dingle Peninsula will charm you with its villages painted in bright colors and will bewitch you with the dramatic beauty of its landscapes.
After lunch (included) at John Benny Moriarty’s in Dingle, the rest of the day is free to take in the scenery, pubs, cafes, craft shops and the locals..
Bed & breakfast in the Dingle Skellig Hotel, dinner is on your own.
Wednesday, 22 April, Dingle to Kinsale
Along the Beara Peninsula en route to Kinsale visit Garnish Island (Ferry only runs from April – October)
The Harbour Queen Ferries provides a regular service to the Gardens of Ilnacullin on Garnish Island. Ferries depart from Glengarriff Pier every 30 minutes during the season (April 1 – October 31). The ferries are enclosed water buses which will whisk you to the island in safety and comfort. Garnish is a unique Island that plays host to a multitude of plant variations, and the blanket of summer coloring which covers the Island creates a rainbow of color. The Island has a wonderful history and its unusual microclimate allows a range of exotic subtropical plant species to flourish. There are a number of walks and interesting buildings on the Island. En route to the Island you will enjoy the magnificent views of the bay and also pass Seal Island with its colony of harbor seals. The seals are very photogenic and are happy to pose for photos!
Continue onto to Kinsale via Bantry where we will have a 2-course lunch in the Eccles Hotel Glengariff.
After lunch, we will visit Bantry House & Gardens. Bantry House is the ancestral home of the Earls of Bantry. The title lapsed in 1891 but the House is still owned and lived in by the direct descendant of the 1st Earl of Bantry, Egerton Shelswell-White and his family. It has been open to the public since 1946. The House has an important collection of art treasures mainly collected by the 2nd Earl of Bantry on his Grand Tour. The treasures include a unique collection of French and Flemish tapestries, furniture, and carpets and objects of art. The Garden is laid out in the Italian style over seven terraces, with the house sitting on the third terrace. A Parterre was created facing south surrounding a wisteria circle which again surrounds a fountain. From there the famous Hundred Steps rise, a monumental staircase built of local stone, set amidst azaleas and rhododendron. From the top garden at the top of the stairs, stunning views over Bantry Bay await the visitor. Bantry House hosts a number of events including classical and traditional music festivals, food festivals, outdoor theatre, and is a popular location for filming. A small cafe is open in the house during the season.
After the visit, we will continue on to Kinsale where we will check into the Trident Hotel, World’s End, Kinsale,
Tel: +353 (0) 21 4779 300. Since lunch was included, dinner is on your own.
Thursday, 23 April, Kinsale Bay Cruise
This morning enjoy a scenic and relaxing cruise along Kinsale Bay. Step aboard for a unique trip that offers you a spectacular opportunity to view Kinsale from the water. A perfect combination of culture, information, relaxation and stunning scenery. Kinsale has a wealth of historic sites and our tour gives you a birds eye view and an opportunity to appreciate them in context. Our local guide will give us a brief history with anecdotal legends and an insight into how the town has developed over the centuries. Leaving the quay, the boat passes the yacht marina and on by the picturesque former fishing village of Scilly. The boat goes close to the shore to allow passengers a chance to glimpse seals, otters, herons, shags cormorants, terns and other flora and fauna. Further on the boat passes by Charles Fort, which was built in the late 1600’s to reinforce the defenses of the harbor.
After the cruise, spend the rest of the day exploring the coastal town of Kinsale. Kinsale is a lovely picturesque little town, considered the gourmet capital of Ireland and famous for its gourmet festival. The town was the site of one of the most important battles in Irish history when in 1601 the Spain and Irish joined forces against a common enemy the English. Despite a defeat, the Spanish influences can still be seen in the winding streets and architecture of the town’s buildings today.
Dinner at the Fishy Fishy Cafe, bed & breakfast in the Trident Hotel, Kinsale.
Friday, 24 April, Blarney Castle & The English Market in Cork City center
This morning we will visit Blarney Castle. Attracting visitors from all over the world, Blarney Castle is situated in Blarney village, 8 km from Cork City. An ancient stronghold of the McCarthy’s, Lords of Muskerry, it is one of Ireland’s oldest and most historic castles, and indeed one of the strongest fortresses in Munster. Built in 1446, Blarney Castle is famous for its Blarney stone, The Stone of Eloquence, which is traditionally believed to have the power to bestow the gift of eloquence on all those who kiss it. Many legends tell the story of the Stone, but why not kiss it and find out the truth behind the legend. The Castle gardens covering 60 acres of land are under constant change and over the past few years, a water garden, fern garden and poison garden have been developed and are all open to the visitor.
After lunch (independent). we will transfer to Cork city and the English Market. This English Market is a covered market for fish, fruit, meat and vegetable with entrances on Princes Street, Patrick Street and the Grand Parade. The origins of the market can be traced back to James 1st in 1610, but the present building dates from 1786. The tradition of the market is for meat and fish selling and you’ll see butchers walking around wearing white coats covered in blood. But in recent years the range of food available has broadened considerably to include fruit and vegetables, as well as an organic stall, a traditional French deli stall, an olive stall, a cheese and pasta stall which also serves coffee and a bread stall.
Return to Trident Hotel for dinner, bed & breakfast.
Saturday, 25 April, Depart Kinsale for Dublin via County Tipperary
Early departure for Dublin this morning. En route we will visit Ballyowen House, one of the finest remaining examples of neo-Classical Georgian architecture for a large Irish country house (Designed by Duchart). Dating back to 1750, it is set in an elegant and elevated parkland setting near Cashel town in Tipperary. The lively tour, conducted by the owners, is a guided visit of approximately 1 hour and includes the main rooms of the beautiful Ballyowen House and of the Stableyard and grounds outside. The guided tour includes interesting talks on the history of the house and the Georgian architecture. Visitors have the option to have teas, coffees and freshly baked scones in Ballyowen House’s elegant main dining room at the end of the tour with a family member. There is also the possibility of a rider on horseback meeting the group on arrival.
Continue on to Dublin and check into the Davenport Hotel. Dinner at Cafe en Seine (7:00), overnight in Dublin, Davenport Hotel.
Sunday, 26 April, Newgrange
Morning excursion to County Meath to visit Bru na Bóinne Visitor Centre & Newgrange. The Megalithic Passage Tomb at Newgrange was built about 3200 BC. The kidney shaped mound covers an area of over one-acre and is surrounded by 97 kerbstones, some of which are richly decorated with megalithic art. The 19 Meter long inner passage leads to a cruciform chamber with a corbelled roof. It is estimated that the construction of the Passage Tomb at Newgrange would have taken a work force of 300 at least 20 years. The passage and chamber of Newgrange are illuminated by the winter solstice sunrise. A shaft of sunlight shines through the roof box over the entrance and penetrates the passage to light up the chamber. The dramatic event lasts for 17 minutes at dawn from the 19th to the 23rd of December.
Return to Dublin. Free time either to do some last minute shopping, or visit the National Museum of Ireland if you weren’t able to visit it earlier. We will then make our way back to the Davenport Hotel for dinner, bed & breakfast.
Monday, 27 April, Dublin City Tour
Today we will visit two museums which are within easy walking distance of the hotel
Thomas Burgh built the Old Library building in the 18th century. Today it houses one of Ireland’s most illustrious books, the 9th century “Book of Kells”. Before viewing the famous book visitors pass through an excellent exhibition based on the Book of Kells and other important books written in monasteries around Ireland from the 9th century. After viewing the Book of Kells visitors are invited to visit the Long Room built in 1745. Once the principal library of the University, it now contains over two hundred thousand books and manuscripts of the Trinity’s oldest volumes. Brian Boru’s harp said to be the “ oldest harp in Ireland” and a copy of the 1916 proclamation, one of the most important documents relating to Irish history are also on display in the Long Room. Trinity was founded in 1592 by Queen Elizabeth 1st on grounds confiscated from an Augustinian priory and is the oldest University in Ireland. The Campanile, erected in 1852, was built on what is believed to be the centre of the monastery. Built to further the education of the ruling Anglo-Irish families, restrictions were imposed to prevent Catholics from attending courses. These restrictions were not fully lifted until the 1970’s. Trinity however admitted women in 1902, earlier than most British universities. Most of the main buildings off the main square were built during the Georgian period, some of which replaced older buildings. Within its walls, you will be able to admire Parliament Square and its 18th Century edifices. Trinity College has had many famous students such as Jonathan Swift and Samuel Beckett who later became a lecturer in French at the university. The Inter-denominational Church is very much worth a visit, should it be open during your visit.
Opened in 1864 the National Gallery of Ireland houses some fine pieces, from artists such as Jack B Yeats, Rembrandt, El Greco, Goya and Picasso. More than 600 works are on display in the gallery and, although there is much emphasis on Irish landscape and portraits, every major school of European painting is well represented. A Caravaggio ~ the Taking of Christ, was rediscovered in a Dublin Jesuit study in 1990 and it now proudly hangs in the Italian room of the Gallery. The gallery has 4 wings. The Dargan wing houses the imposing Shaw room lined with full-length portraits and illuminated by a series of spectacular Waterford crystal chandeliers. The Central Milltown Rooms were added in 1899 and house the Russborough House collection, while the North wing was added in 1964 and it houses British and European artists. The Millennium wing was added in 2000 to accommodate a visiting Impressionist exhibition.
Our final dinner will feature fun, food, and a Irish Folklore show at The Brazen Head Pub. Coach transfer from the hotel at 6:15. Alternately, if you know the exact location and are near there, be at the pub at 6:30. Coach transfer to hotel after dinner and show. Overnight in Dublin, Davenport Hotel
Tuesday, 28 April Return to USA
After a final Irish Breakfast, transfer to Dublin Airport for departure flight home. It looks like we can all make it out in two shifts–one at 6:00 for the 9:00AM flights, another at 8:00 for the 11:00AM flights. Times may be adjusted.
Paddy Irwin & Rebecca Marti
Pat Busch & Courtney McDonald
Deb Wilbur & Michelle Wallace
Jeanne McCann & Pam Bainbridge
John Blue & Gary Behnke
Robert Mancino & Darrell Lindsey
Dale Fleishman & Ron Jenkins
Dale & Patsy Meyers
Greg & Judy Parks
Sara & Charlie Lewis (Handicap room if available)
Roy & Diane Ellis
Carrol Ann Smith, Gretchen Quinn, & Mary Ann Griffin