Ireland – Derry

Day 1   Depart USA

We depart the USA for Dublin, with meal service en route.

Day 2   Dublin

After arrival in Dublin, we meet our driver/guides and USIT tour conductor and load our luggage for a short drive into the city. We get our first look at Ireland with a city tour, including visits to Trinity College to see the eighth century hand-crafted Bible, the Book of Kells, and then famous St Patrick’s Cathedral, the burial place of Dean Jonathan Swift. We also see the Georgian Square, St. Stephen’s Green, and the largest city park in the world, Phoenix Park, where the Pope said mass for over 1 million people. After lunch we check in to our hotel. After free time to rest, we have dinner at the hotel tonight.

Day 3   Glendalough & Christ Church Cathedral

This morning after breakfast we drive south to Wicklow County to visit Glendalough. The monastic site, here in the remote hills, is one of the most important in the country, with its 8th Century ruins and well-preserved Round Tower. We take a walking tour of the main sections of the site before taking time to explore this holy place. Returning to Dublin, we visit Christ Church Cathedral, located in the heart of Viking Dublin and one of the highlights of our visit. We visit the vaults below the main floor to see the artifacts housed there and to have refreshments in the Cathedral Cafe. The rest of the afternoon is free time for exploring the galleries and museums. Dinner is on our own tonight. A concert in Dublin can be scheduled.

Day 4   Strokestown Park & Derry City

We take a northerly route this morning as we head across the plains of County Meath, Westmeath and Roscommon to visit Strokestown Park, with its faithfully preserved 18th century mansion and National Irish Famine Museum, dedicated to the memory of the great potato famine of the 1840’s and great migration to America. After a guided tour of Strokestown House, the gardens and the unique potato famine museum, we have lunch here at the café, before heading on to Sligo. Just outside the town, at the village of Drumcliff, we visit the grave of the renowned writer WB Yeats. Next it’s off through Donegal to Derry City (Londonderry), where we check in to our hotel for two nights. Dinner is at the hotel tonight.

Day 5   Derry’s Walls

Our guide this morning is a native of the city with an uncanny knowledge of the history of the Bogside. We board our coach to see the Free Derry wall and the murals depicting the struggle for equal rights for all in this city, now a European City of Culture. We have time for refreshments and then a drive to the World Heritage Site, the Giant’s Causeway. This is basalt rock that formed while cooling into crystal-like formations. This causeway continues across the Irish Sea to nearby Scotland and is even visible from there on a clear day. We return to the hotel this evening, and tonight dinner is on our own.

Day 6   Kylemore & Galway

The counties of Donegal, Mayo and Galway will be crossed as we make our way to Kylemore Abbey for a possible concert performance at the miniature cathedral there. Built by Mitchell Henry as his Irish home, it is now run by the Benedictine order of nuns. This stunning location is miles from anywhere in the middle of the Connemara, Galway.  We travel on through the scenic Inagh Valley, viewing the rugged landscape of this region, to the City of the Tribes, as Galway is known, and check into our hotel. Dinner is provided at the hotel.

Day 7   Aran Islands

This morning after a hearty breakfast, we make the short drive to the ferry port of Rossaveel, where we board the ferry for a forty-minute cruise to Inis Mór, the largest of the Aran Islands in Galway Bay. By minivan, with local guides, we travel around the island to the promontory fort of Dun Aengus, which dates from the Bronze Age, 4000 years ago. The fort stands on amazing sheer cliffs overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.  The minivans then transport us to the rest of the island sights and return us to the ferry village of Kilronan. In the afternoon we return to the ferry port for our cruise back to the mainland. There the coaches take us to the hotel where we are free for dinner on our own tonight.

Day 8   Limerick & Kerry

County Clare is well known for its traditional music and also for the rocky region called the Burren. This morning we travel through the county, stopping for a while at Coole Park, once the home of Lady Gregory and made famous by W.B. Yeats.  Bunratty Castle, a well-preserved medieval castle, is the next stop; here we have a guided tour of the Folk Park and the medieval castle, stronghold of the Kings of Thomond, the O’Brien’s.  After lunching here, we travel to Limerick.  King John’s Castle (on the River Shannon, guarding the ford of the river), Thomond Park (home of Irish Rugby), and the gridded city streets are some of the sights here. Then we are on to Killarney, a drive through the best land in Ireland for dairy farming, called the Golden Vale. On arrival, we check in for two nights at our hotel. Dinner is on our own tonight.

Day 9   The Ring of Kerry

Today is a tour around the Iveragh peninsula, call the Ring of Kerry.  Bogs, sheep, and ocean are all to be seen today in this full day tour, along with an entertaining demonstration of how to work sheepdogs on the mountain.  Our next stop is Waterville Village, where the first messages were sent from Europe to the New World by telegraph.  Lunch is at a high vantage spot overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, and the next stop is in the quaint village of Sneem in the afternoon.  We return to Killarney and our hotel by way of the National Park with the three famous Lakes of Killarney.  Tonight is our last night in Ireland, and we celebrate with a Gala Dinner, provided at the hotel. A final concert can be arranged for this evening.

Day 10   Shannon Airport to USA

We board our motorcoaches for Shannon Airport, where we bid Slan Abhaile (farewell) to our driver and guide and check in for our return flight home. We depart with many fond memories of our time in the Emerald Isle of Ireland!

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