Ireland Itinerary

Wild Mid-Atlantic Way Tour

April 1-10, 2020

Rev. Kathleen McKern Verigin, director/guide
Paddy Downs, driver/guide

Adults 18+ – Land Package $2699.00 per person, double occupancy
(Travelers provide own air travel)

(As of 8-20-2019, subject to change)

Tuesday, March 31 – ARRIVAL (Bonus night at Shannon, Co. Clare)

Travelers are encouraged to arrive Shannon Airport (west of Ireland) a day early in order to acclimate. Enjoy a pre-paid bonus night (March 31) at Treacy’s Oakwood Hotel, very near the airport and a quick taxi ride to Bunratty Folk Park and gift shops. Tour officially begins at breakfast Wednesday morning, April 1.

DAY 1 – Wednesday, April 1
Overnight: Westport Plaza Hotel

After our first of many complimentary Irish breakfasts, we’ll load our bags onto Paddy’s 24-seat coach, our traveling home for the duration of the tour. As we head north, our stops will include:

Kilmacduagh Monastery

Kilmacduagh sits at the edge of the Burren, dominating the rural landscape some 5km south-west of Gort, in Co. Galway. It was reportedly founded by Saint Colman, son of Duagh in the 7th century, on land given him by his cousin King Guaire Aidne mac Colmáin of Connacht. In the medieval period, it was the most important church of the Uí Fiachrach Aidhne, a powerful local dynasty who held lands that stretched from the Atlantic coast to the mountains of the Burren and Slieve Aughty.

By the twelfth century, Kilmacduagh had an enclosed settlement with the main church at the center, at least three subsidiary churches, a round tower, the grave of the founder, Cólmán mac Duach, and a holy well dedicated to him. The settlement was transformed when the main church was enlarged as a cathedral. A monastery for Augustinian canons was established in the thirteenth century. It is said that, in the Diocese of Kilmacduagh, no man will ever die from lightning. This legend was put to the test when one unlucky soul was struck, but the force of the bolt made him fly through the air into neighboring County Clare, where he died. On the other side of the road from the other buildings is Temple Mary, also known as The Church of Mary or The Lady’s Church. Also nearby are several other sites related to the Monastery, plus a massive cemetery where we will observe and ponder the meaning of the Celtic Cross.

Galway, both the center for Irish-speaking regions in the West and a lively university city, will be our lunch stop. It is the 4th largest city in Ireland, after Limerick, Cork and Dublin. Enjoy free time to roam around, visit shops, find a cozy lunch spot, and enjoy people watching!

Ballintubber Abbey & Celtic Furrow Center

Labeled “the abbey that never died,” Ballintubber has offered Mass without a break since its foundation in 1216. When St Patrick brought Christianity to Ireland in 441AD, he founded a church at Ballintubber. The present Abbey was founded by King Cathal O’Conor. It is the only church in Ireland still in daily use that was founded by an Irish king. A tour of the grounds reveals the Stations of the Cross depicted by craggy stones—a profound blend of pagan and Christian traditions. Across a grassy field, which might be shared with sheep, is a Holy Well where St. Patrick baptized his converts in the district. Nearby is the Celtic Furrow Center. Experience through models, the seasonal festivals of the Neolithic farmers of the Céide Fields (3,000 BC)

After settling in, we’ll enjoy a complimentary arrival dinner at Westport Plaza Hotel.

DAY 2 – Thursday, April 2
Overnight: Westport Plaza Hotel

Now anchored for three nights in Westport, this morning, after breakfast, we’ll hop aboard the bus and travel to Achill Island.

It is known for some of the finest beaches in Ireland. (Perhaps you’ll want to wet your feet in the Atlantic Ocean—off Ireland’s west coast!) Achill is a special, mysterious and deeply healing place with a strong tradition of Sidhe (fairy) connections. Achill has a history of human settlement that is at least 5,000 years old. The remains of megalithic tombs and monuments suggest settlement by Neolithic human in the 3rd or 4th centuries BC. We’ll visit Kildavnet Tower, home of the legendary pirate queen Granuaile (Grace O’Malley, 1530-1603).

The Deserted Village at Slievemore consists of some 80 – 100 stone cottages located on a mile-long stretch of road on the southern slopes of Slievemore Mountain. The area is a haunting reminder of times past. Hidden from the 21st century, this tranquil corner of a remote island is a perfect place for quiet reflection and remembrance.

Dinner and evening on your own.

DAY 3 – Friday, April 3
Overnight: Westport Plaza Hotel

After breakfast Paddy will drive us to the award-winning Museum of Country Life where amazing exhibits cover four floors. Discover the lives of our very recent ancestors (1850-1950) through agriculture, fishing and hunting, clothing and textiles, furniture and fittings, trades and crafts, transport, calendar customs, leisure and religion. Eye-catching displays include handcrafted harvest knots and wickerwork, spinning wheels and boats, traditional clothing, the hand operated machinery our grandparents used and even a life size blacksmith’s forge. We’ll enjoy lunch on-site, followed by a stop at Turlough graveyard and round tower. The massive cemetery offers a sign with lists of plot names. Will you find an ancestor?

We’ll return to Westport for a free afternoon and evening.

DAY 4 – Saturday, April 4
Overnight: The Station House, Clifden

After breakfast we’ll load our bags onto Paddy’s bus and drive south into the rugged and wild Connemara region.

Coffin Ship
This stark and striking monument, at the base of Croagh Patrick, is an appropriate – commemoration of the millions who perished in the Great Famine over one hundred and fifty years ago. Crafted in bronze by John Behan, the dramatic sculpture depicts a “Coffin Ship” with skeleton bodies in the rigging. “Coffin Ship” was the term used to describe the ships which left our shores horrendously overcrowded with emigrants fleeing the famine. The dire and un-hygienic conditions on board ensured that many did not reach their destination. -The National Famine Monument was unveiled in 1997 by President Mary Robinson.

Our travels will next take us through Louisbourg and the Doolough Valley. The area is embedded in a mountainous landscape of unspoiled nature, with two lakes on the eastside, where the Wild Atlantic Way winds its way through the Valley. A cross can be found on the northern edge of the valley, dedicated to the victims of the “Doolough Tragedy.” During the Great Famine in 1849, hundreds of people made their way from Louisburgh to Delphi Lodge, threatened by starvation, to ask their lord for food. Their suffering was ignored.

They were turned away and a lot of them died on the return to Louisburgh in Doolough Valley from malnutrition. “How can men feel honored by the humiliation of their fellow beings?” This question of Mahatma Ghandi is engraved in the cross. Weather permitting, we can get off the bus and walk the Dooulogh Valley road, following the footsteps of our Irish ancestors.

Leenane

We’ll enjoy a lunch stop at this quaint little village. Situated at the head of Killary Harbour, a 16km Fjord, it nestles under the Maamtrasna and Maamturk mountains on the Galway-Mayo border. The area has been inhabited since prehistory, evidenced by ancient tombs and the potato ridges climbing the mountains. Leenane is famous for the stunning and varied beauty of its location. It is this which has been attracting artists, sportsmen, geologists and leisure seekers for over 150 years. The contrasts of sea and mountains offer vistas alive with color all year long. Sheep dot the high hills, roaming wide and free, and salmon can be seen leaping the beautiful Aasleagh falls at the head of the fjord.

Kylemore Abbey

Next we’ll visit the restored rooms of the Abbey and learn about its history of tragedy, romance, education, innovation, and spirituality. Explore the 6-acre Victorian Walled Garden with its delightfully restored garden buildings. Discover woodland and lakeshore walks that will take you on a beautiful journey through our 1,000-acre estate. The beautiful Gothic Church is a short walk from the Abbey. Nestled nearby is the Mausoleum where Mitchell and Margaret Henry are buried side by side. The Abbey has a spectacular gift shop and delicious buffet dining room.

After settling into our rooms, we’ll enjoy a complimentary group arrival dinner.

DAY 5 – Sunday, April 5
Overnight: The Station House, Clifden

Enjoy breakfast at your leisure, giving you time sleep in, get acquainted with Clifden or attend a church service. After lunch, we’ll visit…

Maam Cross

Maam Cross is a meeting point of several of the roads that traverse the different parts of Connemara. The effects of the Ice Age are clearly visible. Majestic mountains rise from a land that contrasts sharply between bog lands and rock. Maam Cross has, at times, been described as “The Piccadilly Circus of Connemara.” Cattle fairs are still held here and there is a 60-foot Viewing Tower that gives breathtaking panoramic views. The word Maam is derived from the Gaelic word “MÁM” meaning mountain pass. The Maam Valley, which extends from Maam Bridge north-westwards to Leenane, lies at the center of a deeply dissected mountainous region.

The area is considered Joyce Country, named after James Joyce, (1882-1941), Irish novelist, short story writer, poet, teacher, and literary critic.

Our journey takes us on Sky Road, a 7-mile exhilarating drive with views including D’arcy Castle, and the Islands of Turbot and Inishturk. We leave The Sky Road and go to the area where Alcock and Brown landed their Vickers Vimy in the Derrygimlagh Bog after flying 1900 miles from Newfoundland on June 15th 1919.

Roundstone

This sweet little village is known as a home for creativity and the arts. For many years some of the most important figures in Irish art have painted there, including Paul Henry, Jack B. Yeats, Gerard Dillon and Nano Reid. After lunch on our own, we will visit Roundstone Music & Crafts run by Master craftsman Malachy Kearns, better known as Malachy Bodhrán amongst folk musicians. He crafts bodhráns (pronounced bow-rawn—bow as in bow wow) at his Roundstone base in County Galway. Malachy is respected as a fine bodhrán maker and is one of the only dedicated, full-time bodhrán makers in the world. Our group will enjoy a private demonstration!

Dinner & evening on your own.

Day 6 – Monday, April 6
Overnight: The Station House, Clifden

FREE DAY Mandatory day off for our driver. Travelers will be given a list of suggested things to do in the area, all at their own expense.

DAY 7 – Tuesday, April 7
Overnight: The Falls Hotel, Ennistymon

After breakfast we will again load our bags onto the bus, this time heading south to County Clare.

Moycullen Marble Shop

Enjoy a private tour of Connemara Marble Industries, Ireland’s largest manufacturer of Connemara Marble jewelry and gift items. Connemara marble is regarded as one of the most authentic Irish products available in Ireland. Geologists estimate that it is about six hundred million years old. The color and markings in the marble reflects the natural beauty of the mountains of Connemara. The marble is quarried, fashioned and polished by skilled craftsmen at the Connemara Marble Factory Visitor Centre in Moycullen.

Ballyvaughan

Our lunch stop will be in this tiny finishing village in The Burren, overlooking Galway Bay. It’s Kathleen’s home village! She’ll treat you to a visit of what she believes is an enchanting Fairy Forest.

Birds of Prey Centre

Since 2008 the Birds of Prey Centre has been educating and entertaining visitors with dynamic flying displays set against the dramatic Burren Landscape. The mission of the Centre is to aid the conservation of Birds of Prey through visitor awareness and education, whilst actively fund raising for Raptor conservation monitoring efforts within Ireland. We get to interact and get up close and personal to the birds.

Poulnabrone Dolmen

This haunting stone structure is the oldest dated megalithic monument in the land. The name means “Hole of the Quern Stones”, but the site is also commonly referred to as “Hole of the Sorrows”. Dated to 4200 BCE it stands 5.9 feet high and 12 feet long in a field surrounded by the karst stone formations which make up the Burren. It is defined as a dolmen: a single-chamber, megalithic tomb distinguished by a capstone resting on upright stones. We’ll find our own stone slab for contemplative time.

After settling into our hotel, we’ll enjoy a complimentary arrival dinner.

DAY 8 – Wednesday, April 8
Overnight: The Falls Hotel, Ennistymon

Burren Perfumery

We’ll start by watching a brief film highlighting the unique flora and fauna of The Burren. Organic creams and balms are handmade in the Blending Room. The products are made in small batches, usually 30 to 50 units at a time. They never hold large stocks of products, choosing instead to manufacture only as needed. You can relax in the rose-covered Tea Rooms, which serve a mouth-watering selection of organic cakes, scones and pies. Homemade soups with freshly baked bread, selections of local cheeses and salads all made with organic vegetables.

St. Colman’s Well

Around 595 A.D., St. Colman set out to be a hermit within the solitudes of the Burren forest. The Burren forest at that time was very dense, with pines, oaks and ash trees without number. St. Colman sought in the depths of the Burren, for perfect solitude and seclusion to commune alone with his Creator. He had resolved to give himself to the practices of penance and contemplation with all the strength of his soul in complete solitude and retirement. Providentially, the Burren Forest was well fitted to be a hermit’s chosen home.

There is a beautiful natural fountain close to the oratory which is dedicated to St. Colman with the purest of water flowing from it. This Holy Well is enclosed by a circular structure and its water is said to possess healing properties for the faithful who drink or apply it to themselves.

Father Ted’s House

“Father Ted” is a wacky mid-90’s British sitcom about 3 priests and their housekeeper who live on Craggy Island. It is the private home of the McCormack family of two parents, five children, four dogs, two cats and five fish. Patrick McCormack will be our guide to St. Colman’s Well and back to his home. His wife Cheryl will whip up a gourmet feast for us of tea and scones, served in their quaint and rustic home.

Dinner & evening on your own.

DAY 9 – Thursday, April 9
Overnight: The Falls Hotel, Ennistymon

After enjoying a locally sourced breakfast, we’ll visit these nearby sites:
Cliffs of Moher

The Cliffs of Moher have majestically faced the Atlantic for over 350 million years and their beauty is incomparable – it is Ireland’s most visited tourist attraction and when you visit, you will understand why. Even when shrouded in mist or buffeted by Atlantic gales, the Cliffs are breathtaking, rising to a height of 690 feet out of the sea and extending for five miles. The sheer rock face, with its layers of black shale and sandstone, provides sheltered ledges where guillemots and other sea birds next. We’ll have time here for a private concert given by Tina Mulrooney, music shop owner and renowned singer/harpist. Also, a dear friend of Kathleen’s!

Lahinch

Lahinch is a small, welcoming and truly lively holiday resort with an atmosphere and energy that’s all its own. It nestles at the head of Liscannor Bay, beside a 2 km long beach of golden sands. The shape of the area creates Atlantic breakers that attract surfing and canoeing enthusiasts from all over the world. Lahinch has earned a reputation as a top ‘surf center’ – with surf schools, social life and great atmosphere to boot. The village offers a variety of lunch options, as well as working, non-touristy stores to peruse.

St. Brighid’s Holy Well

A 19th century survey stated that Ireland has no fewer than 3,000 holy wells and at least fifteen of them are dedicated to St. Brigid (one of Ireland’s 3 patron saints and also a Celtic goddess known by the same name). However, few compare to the one that is located between Liscannor and the Cliffs of Moher in County Clare. A sacred well steeped in pagan roots on the West Coast of Ireland, this holy well is in a cave-like setting, filled with relics of deceased loves ones. We’ll offer own prayers and take a bit of the holy water home.

Weather permitting, we will close our day at the Doolin Peer for a boat cruise that takes us beneath the Cliffs of Moher.

Dinner and evening on your own. Perhaps a night cap at Eugene’s Pub, a hot spot in this tiny town.

DAY 10 – Friday, April 10 – Travel to Dublin
Overnight: Treacy’s Oakwood Hotel, Shannon

After breakfast, we’ll load our bags back onto Paddy’s bus and return to our first hotel at Shannon. There you can enjoy a free afternoon of touring Bunratty Folk Park, shopping and packing.

Bunratty Castle Banquet

Bunratty Castle was built in the 15th century by the Earl of Thomond and stands on the banks of the Rathy River. From here The Earl ruled over his Chiefdom and entertained lavishly, in fact he was famous for his hospitality. Following this tradition, the world renowned Bunratty Medieval Banquet is held twice nightly throughout the year.

Enjoy a lively complimentary feast with only a knife as your utensil. Wine and water flow generously, as does the shenanigans of the entertainers. The musicians and singers are top notch!

We’ll return to our hotel for a private goodbye gathering of our own.

Monday, April 11 – DEPARTURES

Although the tour is considered finished, you are still entitled to Saturday breakfast. For those with early flights, the hotel graciously provides either a continental breakfast in the lobby or a breakfast bag to take with you. Travelers are responsible for all transports.

Rev. Kathleen McKern Verigin, Anam Cara Tours LLC
kathleenverigin333@gmail.com
503-970-3615

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