Day 1 - Dublin to Longford
Cead Mile Failte, Heaney-McDonagh Family! One hundred thousand welcomes! Upon clearing customs, you will be met by your Irish Tour Director and escorted to your vehicle. We make the relatively short drive to Co. Longford, the home county of your ancestors. Longford is a tranquil and mainly low-lying county. Cairn Hill, referred to affectionately by locals as Corn Hill, is the highest point of the county, standing at 916 feet. Situated in the basin of the River Shannon and the upper catchment area of the River Erne, Longford is ideally located in the heart of the Lakelands region. The true beauty of Co. Longford lies in its rural charm, the hospitality of its people and the breath-taking views of its quiet countryside of farmland, lakes, bogs and the occasional low hill. You will be checked in to your “home away from home” — Viewmount House — located in Longford town. Longford town is a bright, bustling centre whose skyline is dominated by the historic St.Mel’s Cathedral spire. The town is home to several other fine buildings of architectural and historical interest including St. Mel’s College, Longford Court House, The Masonic Hall, St. Johns Church and the many beautiful private homes which line the Battery Road. The Market House, located in the old Connolly Barracks Complex, and currently in need of restoration, is Longford’s oldest building having been erected in 1627 on the site of the O’Farrell Castle. It was the O’Farrell Castle settlement which gave its name to the town; ‘Longfort Ui Fhearghail’ meaning the ‘O’Farrell Fortress’. We have arranged for your family to have exclusive use of Viewmount House. This magnificent Georgian residence was originally owned by The Earl of Longford. The house has been recently restored with flair and sensitivity. It is surrounded by four acres of magnificent gardens. After orienting yourselves with your surroundings, we will visit the nearby Strokestown Park – Irish National Famine Museum. Strokestown Park House is a Georgian Palladian mansion preserved with its original furnishings and fabrics. The House was the family home of the Pakenham Mahon family and is built on the site of the 16th century castle, home of The O’Conor Roe Gaelic Chieftains. The Landlord Major Denis Mahon was assassinated in November 1847 at the height of The Great Famine of Ireland and it is fitting that The Irish National Famine Museum was established at Strokestown Park in 1994 using the unique original documents which came to light during the restoration of the house. The six acre walled pleasure gardens have been restored to their original splendour and give an insight into horticultural design and architecture from the 1740’s to the present day. A tour of The House gives an intimate insight into life in The Big House, upstairs and downstairs. The Irish National Famine Museum tells a different story and highlights the parallels between a tragic chapter of Irish History and contemporary global hunger. The Walled gardens and Woodlands take you back again to the glorious surroundings of a planned Georgian estate. Within a short time you have been brought on a journey through Irish History, the good and the bad, from Ireland in the 1600’s, right up to the present day. We return to Viewmount House for dinner and a good night’s rest.
Overnight & Breakast: Viewmount House, Longford
Day 2 Exploring your hertiage in th Midlands
After a leisurely breakfast, your Tour Director will escort you to the townland of Tipper, which lies just a short distance from the village of Ballymahon. It is here where John and Mary (nee Heaney) McDonagh were likely married at the family homestead. As you’re exiting the village of Ballymahon — approximately 800m — lies the townland of Drinan. It is here that John and Mary first lived and where James was born. A visit to the Ballymahon graveyard will bring you to Mary’s burial site, alongside other Heaney relatives.On then, to nearby Newtowncashel (namely the townland of Kilteel), where James McDonagh’s family is from. Newtowncashel is a Tidy Towns National Award winning village and has many special features most notably the well maintained stone walls, but also several fine outdoor sculptures by local bog wood sculptor Michael Casey and his son Kevin. From here we traverse the western shores of Lough Ree to Athlone or Atha Luain: “The Ford of Luan”. Athlone is a thriving historical town located in the in the heart of the Lakelands of Ireland. We stop at Sean’s Pub for lunch, the oldest pub in Europe, here you join the uncountable number of visitors who have been stopping here for a drink, a chat and maybe a bit of music for more than a thousand years and they have the distinctions to support it. Sean’s Pub is located on the banks of the beautiful River Shannon next to Athlone Castle, a 12th century Norman Castle whose residents may have frequented the pub! From the sawdust on the floor to the old-style open turf fireplace and the musicians playing in the corner, some things about Sean’s Bar have changed very little over the centuries. After lunch, your family will be treated to a private boat tour of Lough Ree, the second largest lake on the Shannon. There are 52 named islands in Lough Ree, some are only 1 acre in size and some are over 200 acres. At the end of the 19th century 180 people live on these islands. Now there are none. Your cruise takes you to Clonmacnoise – a historical monastic site, founded in 545 by Saint Ciarán. The strategic location of the monastery helped it become a major centre of religion, learning, craftsmanship and trade by the 9th century and together with Clonard it was the most famous in Ireland, being visited by scholars from all over Europe. After your cruise, we return to Viewmount House.
Overnight & Breakfast: Viewmount House, Longford
Day 3 – Longford to Westport via Achill Island
This morning we head westward toward Achill Island. Often overlooked by the tourist, Achill Island provides some of the most stunning scenery in Ireland, and boasts no less than 5 Blue Flag beaches. We do the Atlantic Drive, which comprises over 40km of breathtaking coastal scenery. On route for the Atlantic Drive is the Tower at Kildavnet, the remains of a 16th century Irish tower house that was used by the legendary pirate queen Granuaile (Grace O’Malley). The Deserted Village at Slievemore is a haunting reminder of times past. Comprising some 80 stone cottages located at the foot of the majestic Slievemore Mountain, the Deserted Village offers a fascinating insight into life on Achill in former centuries. After stopping to enjoy a late lunch on Achill, we then venture toward the town of Westport. Westport is a designated Heritage Town and three-time overall winner of the National Tidy Towns Competition, the words picturesque and Westport go hand in hand. A safe haven, Westport kisses the South East shores of the Atlantic inlet of Clew Bay and lies against the backdrop of the protective Croagh Patrick – under the watchful eye of the chapel at its peak. We check in to the Westport Plaza Hotel. May we suggest after you enjoy dinner at any one of a number of excellent restaurants in Westport, that you visit Matt Molloy’s pub. Matt Molloy is the flute player for “The Chieftains” and he owns the pub. Most nights you can find a seisún in progress — traditional Irish music at its finest.
Overnight & Breakfast: Westport Plaza Hotel, Westport
Day 4 – Westport to Galway via Kylemore Abbey & Connemara
This morning we head southward through some striking scenery, through the village of Leenane, on the shores of Killary Harbour — Ireland’s only fjord. On to Kylemore Abbey — originally a castle that was built by Mitchell and Margaret Henry from 1867 to 1871.Tradition has it that the couple visited Connemara while on their honeymoon and were enchanted by the beauty of the landscape. It was the couple’s wish someday to own a home there and it is said that during those visits, the Henry’s rented Kylemore Lodge, the original building on the site where they later built Kylemore Castle. On the death of his father, a Manchester cotton merchant, and on receipt of a sizeable inheritance, Mitchell chose to buy Kylemore Lodge and construct the magnificent Castle, complete with gardens, walks and woodlands which eventually covered 13,000 acres of land at a cost of little over £18,000. In 1920, The Irish Benedictine Nuns purchased Kylemore Castle along with 10,000 acres for a little over £45,000. Some of the lands were later purchased by the Land Commission and divided out among the tenants, and the Castle was converted into an Abbey. At Kylemore, the nuns opened an international boarding school and established a day school for local girls. Today, Kylemore Abbey & its Victorian Walled Garden is the most visited attraction in the West of Ireland. Arrive Galway city in the afternoon. Afternoon free to explore this pedestrian friendly city. Among Galway’s attractions are:
The Spanish Arch – thought to be an extension of Galway’s medieval city walls, it was designed to protect ships moored at the nearby quay while they unloaded goods such as wine and brandy from Spain. Eyre Square – Galway’s central public square is a welcome open green space with sculptures and pathways. Its lawns are formally named Kennedy Park in commemoration of JFK’s visit to Galway, though you’ll never hear locals refer to it as anything but Eyre Square.
Galway Cathedral – Lording over the River Corrib, the Cathedral was dedicated by the late Cardinal Richard Cushing of Boston in 1965. Its high, curved arches and central dome have a simple, solid elegance even if the greater whole feels rather sterile (although a side chapel with a mosaic of the Resurrection does include a praying JFK in the tableau).
Salthill Prom – If you’re in need of some fresh, sea air consider a walk on the Salthill Prom. A favourite pastime for Galweigans and visitors, is walking along the seaside promenade running from the edge of the city along Salthill. Local tradition dictates ‘kicking the wall’ across from the diving boards (a 30- to 45-minute stroll from town) before turning around.
Galway is also a great place to get a dose of traditional Irish music. Some of the pubs almost sure to have a seisún – Tig Cóilí, Monroe’s, Naughton’s or Crane Bar.
Overnight & Breakfast: The House Hotel, Galway
Day 5 – Aran Islands
This morning after breakfast you may enjoy a visit to visit the Aran Islands. Your ferry departs from Rossaveel (Irish: Ros a Mhil) and crosses Galway Bay to Inisheer to Inis Mór, the largest of the three islands Aran Islands. Lying in a north-westerly direction across Galway Bay, Inis Mór is approximately 12km in length and 3km in width. Its principle port and village is Kilronan (Cill Rónáin) and it is here that most visitors are first introduced to the island.
There are three modes of transport available to visitors whilst on the island and these can all be picked up at the pier in Kilronan.
Bicycle hire ~ is the most popular form of transport, there are over a thousand bikes available for hire at the pier in Kilronan allowing visitors to travel the island at their own pace.
Mini Bus Tour ~ There are a number of companies offering mini-bus tours of the island, all tour guides are native to the Island, are well informed on the islands’ history and statistics and have a good sense of humour. The mini bus tours are about two and a half to three hours long, with about an hour allowed at Dún Aonghasa (Dun Aengus). These mini-buses double as taxis in the evenings.
Pony and Trap ~ The traditional means of transport of the Islanders’ is still available to visitors and you can choose from one of the many pony and carts available at the pier.
Be sure to include a visit and hike up to Dún Aonghasa – a spectacular stone fort sited on the highest point of the cliffs (300ft) on the southern coastline; it offers an unrestricted view down along the west coast of Ireland. Dún Aonghasa (Dun Aengus) is considered one of the most important pre-historic sites in Western Europe; it became a national monument at the end of the 19th Century and is conserved by the Heritage Services. Recent excavation found evidence of human activity dating back over two and a half thousand years! Early evening return to your hotel.
Overnight & Breakfast: The House Hotel, Galway
Day 6 – Galway to Killarney via the Cliffs of Moher
Galway to Killarney via the Burren and Ferry across the Shannon
After a hearty breakfast you have an exciting day of travel ahead as you leave Galway and head off to tour the Burren Region. The word “Burren” comes from an Irish word “Boíreann” meaning a rocky place. This is an extremely appropriate name when you consider the lack of soil cover and the extent of exposed limestone pavement. However it has been referred to in the past as “Fertile rock” due to the mixture of nutrient rich herb and floral species. For a truly unique perspective of The Burren, you may opt to hike with local historian, John Connolly, of Wild Burren Tours. John is the only walking guide in Ireland that gives tours on his own land. Burren Wild Walks is located in Oughtmama, Bellharbour, Co. Clare. Hikes depart at 10:40 a.m. daily. If you wish to reserve a place on the hike, although not necessary, phone 353 (0)87 8779565. Travel on in the afternoon to Killarney via the awesome & mighty Cliffs of Moher – one of the most outstanding coastal features of Ireland and its biggest tourist attraction. Rising sheer above the sea to nearly 700 feet and extending along the coast for nearly five miles the Cliffs are awe-inspiring.
Continue on through Co. Clare to Killimer, where you will board the ferry taking you across the Shannon River to Tarbert, Co. Kerry. From here you will continue southward toward the village of Listowel, home to one of Ireland’s most beloved authors and playwrights, John B. Keane. Then toward Tralee and down to Killarney. Killarney’s location in the “Kingdom of Kerry”, allows the visitor to use it as a base to tour the many nearby sites.
Overnight & Breakfast: International Hotel, Killarney
Day 7 –Day Trip to Dingle Peninsula & Slea Head
After breakfast we set out for our tour to the beautifully rugged Slea Head & Dingle Peninsula. This Peninsula has the most rugged Atlantic coastline in Kerry and is scattered with forts and pre-historic huts. We will visit the Blasket Visitor Center where you will learn about the group of Islands to the west of Slea Head. The main island was inhabited until 1953. Many of Ireland’s great Gaelic literary figures were born and raised on the great Blasket Islands. The countryside of Dingle was also used in the filming of the popular classic movie Ryan’s Daughter. You will have time to explore the famous town of Dingle and have lunch. As a market town and fishing port, Dingle has long been well supplied with pubs; in recent years the number has hovered around 52, and the variety is almost as great as the number. You can leisurely explore this colorful town and its many Irish craft shops or pubs. We return to Killarney in the late afternoon, on return to Killarney you could do some shopping on High Street or explore the many traditional pubs for some “Ceol agus Craic”!
Overnight & Breakfast: International Hotel, Killarney
Day 8 – Killarney to Kinsale via Kenmare
Our drive today to Kinsale is via Kenmare and the Beara Peninsula which is combination of Kerry and Cork. Since its’ origins in 1678, the heritage town of Kenmare, Co Kerry has been one of Ireland’s most idyllic destinations. Nestled peacefully at the mouth of Kenmare Bay, a visit to Kenmare will leave lasting memories with its colorful shop fronts, unrivalled range of restaurants and stunning scenery. Enjoy some free time to explore the town at your leisure. Later we continue our drive to Kinsale via the charming towns of Bantry, Skibbereen and Clonakilty before arriving at our hotel. Originally a medieval fishing port, historic Kinsale is one of the most picturesque, popular and historic towns on the south west coast of Ireland. It has been hailed as the Gourmet Capital of Ireland with no shortage of cafes, pubs and restaurants to suit every taste and budget.
Overnight & Breakfast: Acton’s hotel, Kinsale
Kinsale & Environ’s
This morning you may wish to consider a walking tour of Kinsale. The tour departs from the Kinsale Tourist Office on Pier Rd. Tours depart daily, March through October at 11:15 a.m. and from May to September an additional departure at 9:15 a.m. Afterwards why not enjoy the beauty of Co. Cork as you visit the harbour town of Cobh and tour the Cobh Heritage Centre located at the Victorian Railway Station. Between 1848 and 1950 over 6 million adults and children emigrated from Ireland — over 2.5 million from Cobh —making it the single most important port of emigration in the country. Cobh is where the Titanic made its last port of call before its one and only voyage. The Lusitania, at the time the largest passenger vessel, was also sunk by a German U-boat, just off of the Old Head of Kinsale. Many of its survivors found themselves in Cobh, receiving care from the locals. The museum offers displays depicting these events. You may then travel west of the city to the village of Blarney. Blarney Castle, one of the oldest landmarks in Co. Cork, is best known for the famous “Blarney Stone” which as tradition dictates confers the gift of eloquence upon all those who kiss it. Blarney Woollen Mills flagship store is located in this picturesque village and is housed in one of Ireland’s oldest and most authentic Woollen Mills.
Enjoy local sites, including Charles Fort – Charles Fort is a classic example of a late 17th century star-shaped fort. William Robinson, architect of the Royal Hospital in Kilmainham, Dublin, and Superintendent of Fortifications, is credited with designing the fort. As one of the largest military installations in the country, Charles Fort has been associated with some of the most momentous events in Irish history. The most significant of these are the Williamite War 1689-91 and the Civil War 1922-23. Charles Fort was declared a National Monument in 1973. Across the estuary is James Fort designed by Paul Ive in 1602. Returning to Kinsale, you may wish to make a stop at one of Kinsale’s finest pubs for lunch, The Spaniard. The Spaniard sits above the harbour, affording beautiful views. Inside, you’ll find a turf fire on most days and an engaging blend of friendly locals. This is also a great spot to catch a traditional Irish music seisún in the evening, typically starting around 9:00 p.m. This afternoon, consider a visit to Ringfinnan Garden of Remembrance, located just outside of Kinsale. The Kinsale Garden of Remembrance was established by a Kinsale lady, Kathleen Murphy who worked as a nurse for over 30 years in New York City. During that time she came to admire the work of the fireman and was shocked at the deaths of 343 of their number who died in 9/11. As a result she decided to provide a memorial in Ireland, on her land at Ringfinnan, Kinsale, with a tree for each of the firemen who died, as well as one for their chaplain Father Michael Judge who was a personal friend of hers. Since the garden was planted many relatives and friends of the dead have come to visit and leave prayers, photographs and flowers there. To get to Ringfinnan from Kinsale, go past the Trident Hotel along the road running parallel with the Bandon River in the direction of Cannon P. Duggan Bridge. At the bridge, turn left and go over the bridge, then take a right turn. After 200 yards, turn right up the hill to Ringfinnan following the signpost. A stroll through the cobble-stoned streets of Kinsale will reveal art galleries, unique shops and lively pubs.
Overnight & Breakfast: Acton’s Hotel, Kinsale
Day 10 – Saturday – Kinsale to Dublin via Cashel
With an early start today we bid farewell to the Southwest and travel north to Dublin via Fermoy and Cashel in Co. Tipperary. Here on the outskirts of Cashel we visit the Rock of Cashel, one of the most spectacular archeological sites in Ireland. This mound of limestone bristling with ancient fortifications and mighty stone walls encircle a complete round tower, a roofless abbey, a 12th century Romanesque chapel, and numerous other buildings and high crosses. The Rock of Cashel is composed of four structures which are the Hall of the Vicars Choral, the cathedral, the round tower, and Cormac’s Chapel. We arrive in Dublin in the afternoon and take a panoramic tour of the city. Upon arrival at your hotel, you will bid farewell to your Tour Director. This evening enjoy your very central hotel location to wander through Grafton Street & Temple Bar at your leisure for some “Ceol agus Craic” in the many traditional Dublin pubs.
Overnight & Breakfast: Brooks Hotel, Dublin
Day 11 – Dublin City
After a leisurely breakfast this morning why not enjoy a relaxed panoramic tour of Dublin on one of the many Dublin City bus “hop-on/hop-off” tours? These tours point out highlights such as Trinity College, O’Connell Street, Molly Malone, Kilmainham Gaol, The River Liffey, Ha’Penny Bridge, Christchurch Cathedral and St Patrick’s Cathedral. Explore everything Dublin has to offer at your own pace and visit the sights you want to see. You may choose to shop on Grafton or Henry Street, or enjoy a pint or two at one of the famous Pubs of Dublin. This evening we have arranged for you to enjoy one of Dublin’s most entertaining venues — The House Party. The Irish House Party is a truly unique experience in Dublin. Here you will enjoy a delicious dinner and traditional Irish music and Irish dancing at its very best, performed by All Ireland champion musicians, dancers and entertaining presenters. Consistently voted as one of the top ten things to do in Dublin.
Suggested visits: –
Trinity College & The Book of Kells
Overnight & Breakfast: Acton’s Hotel, Kinsale
Day 12 – Return to US
After a leisurely breakfast and hotel check out, you will make your way to Dublin Airport for your flight home. Be sure to allow enough time to handle any VAT refunds and last minute shopping in the duty-free shop. Also, passengers on all U.S. bound flights clear immigration, customs and agriculture inspections at Dublin Airport, making for a smooth re-entry in the U.S. Then, it’s on board, leaving behind the “land of a thousand welcomes”, sparkling in a setting of a silver coastline and decorated with a patchwork of emerald fields.