ITINERARY – Discover the North 2014

Mindie Burgoyne will lead you on a unique journey through the northern part of Ireland – a land few visitors get to see in such an intimate way.  The tour includes 39 sites in Northern Ireland’s six counties plus Counties Louth, Meath, Donegal and Dublin.  This tour’s special attraction is a visit and overnight stay on Tory Island, an inhabited island off the coast of County Donegal known for its culture, its art, its “king” and its thin places.

The Itinerary listed below gives a brief overview of the 39 sites we’ll be visiting.  It is subject to change based on availability of access to some sites and hotels.
 Beltany Stone Circle - County Donegal

Thin Places Tour guests at Beltany Stone Circle – County Donegal
 
 

ITINERARY – Discover the North of Ireland 2014

DAY 1 – Thursday, May 15 – Welcome to Ireland !
Arrival in Dublin – Lough Crew – Welcome Dinner
As guests arrive at Dublin Airport, they’ll board a public bus that will transport them to a hotel in Dublin’s City Centre.  Take the morning to explore the city and settle into your hotel.  At 2:00 pm, guests will head out to Lough Crew in County Meath and see the passage tombs there.  See the Hag’s Chair and the fabulous vistas from Sliabh na Caillíghe (Hill of the Hag). Return to your hotel and relax before attending a welcome dinner at 7:00 pm in your honor.
Lunch under own arrangement.  Dinner and overnight in Dublin.

DAY 2 – Friday, May 16 – Dublin to Belfast
Kilemock Jumping ChurchFaughart – Proleek
As you begin your journey north stop off at the Kildemock Jumping Church and see the strange wall on a medieval church ruin that has apparently “jumped” into a new position. Then explore the area around the Proleek Dolmen and Passage tomb, followed by a visit to the shrine of St. Brigid and the holy well at Faughart where she is said to have been born. We’ll also see a “motte” or ringfort on the Faughart site that was once the site of a castle or dwelling.  Then arrive in Belfast and settle into the hotel.  Enjoy the evening in the city.
Lunch and dinner under your own arrangement. Overnight in Belfast.

DAY 3 – Saturday, May 17 – Belfast & Carrickfergus
Belfast City Tour – Giant’s Ring – Carrickfergus – St. Nicholas Church

After breakfast meet with your local English speaking guide and enjoy Belfast city tour.
A guided city tour is 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. Some tours will take in 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.
After the Belfast City tour head out to the Giant’s Ring, a ring fort with passage tomb on the outskirts of Belfast.  Then head over to Carrickfergus, a town at the base of the Antrim Coast road. The town is the oldest settlement in Antrim and one of the oldest in all of Northern Ireland. Explore the Castle ruins then visit St. Nicholas Church, the Victorian Cemetery, Friary and if there’s time head out to the seaside walk at Whitehead.

Lunch and dinner under your own arrangement. Overnight in Belfast.

DAY 4 – Sunday, May 18 – Tyrone and Armagh
Ardboe Church – Beaghmore Stone Circles – Navan Fort

After a full Irish breakfast enjoy a tour of the grounds at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Armagh (United Church of Ireland).  This old church is built on the same site where St. Patrick ruled as Bishop of Ireland. It is also the site believed to be where Brian Boru is buried – a wonderful thin place.  Also visit the Navan Fort – also known as Emain Macha, one of Ireland’s most ancient monuments and the capital of the Kings of Ulster.  Guests will be escorted on a guided tour learning about the connection Emain Macha has with the Otherworld.

Enjoy a group lunch at the Tilly Lamp in Ardboe – Menu includes potatoes prepared twelve different ways.

Meet local guide Maura Brooks who will lead your visit to Beaghmore Stone Circles in County Tyrone. Set at the base of the Sperrin Mountains, they were discovered during peat cutting in the 1940s. The site at Beaghmore consists of 7 stone circles. All of the rings are associated with cairns and a stone row runs towards these cairns. In the midst of all the stones the circle is a portal – a gateway to the Otherworld.  After Beaghmore, Maura will guide a visit to Ardboe on Lough Neagh where you’ll see the ruins of the old Ardboe church and the Ardboe High Cross.

Dinner under your own arrangement. Overnight in Belfast.

DAY 5 – Monday, May 19 – The Antrim Coast
Giant’s Causeway – Whitepark Bay – Dunluce – Dark Hedges

Prepare for some of Ireland’s most magnificent scenery.  Guests will leave their Belfast hotel and head for the Antrim Coast where you’ll see the Giant’s Causeway, White Park Bay, Dunluce Castle and the Dark Hedges.

The Dark Hedges
300 year old beech trees line a lane in County Antrim making a natural tunnel.  The site seems dreamlike – unearthly. This road was featured in The Game of Thrones and is one of the most photographed sites in Ireland.

White Park Bay
The spectacular sandy beach forms a white arc between two headlands on the North Antrim coast. In this secluded location, even on a busy day there is plenty of room for quiet relaxation. The beach is backed by ancient dunes that provide a range of rich habitats for bird and animal life. White Park Bay has a mystical presence. The sand is said to “sing.” When standing on the shore facing the land, it’s possible to see the traces of the sacred landscape which includes passage cairns and burial chambers. There is a powerful presence about White Park Bay.

Giant Causeway
The Causeway was formed more than 60 million years ago when red-hot lava erupted onto the surface of the earth. It was quickly cooled by the sea, which crystallized it and formed it into the 40,000 basalt polygonal columns, which today form the Giants Causeway. A must on any visit to the North of Ireland, the Causeway is an UNESCO World Heritage site, and is often referred to as the ‘Eighth Wonder of the World’. The Visitor Centre hosts a multi-lingual audio-visual show, which explains the origin, and the geology of the Causeway as well as adding credence to the various legends told of the Giants Causeway. There is a bus service from the heritage centre to the Causeway.

Dunluce Castle
The ruins of Dunluce Castle are located on the North Antrim coast and stand proudly on a 30m high column of basalt rock. The ruins portray the air of strength this site commanded. Before the advent of gunpowder it would have been almost impossible to conquer. The castle dates largely from the 16th and 17th centuries, however the outer walls with round towers are attributed to being built in the 14th century by the MacQuillans. The Castle can only be reached over a bridge, which now replaces an original rocky connection. The bridge leads to the “New” Scottish style gatehouse built after cannon destroyed the original in 1584. In the two openings of the old gatehouse wall are found cannon salvaged from the wrecked Spanish Armada Galleon ship the Girona, which sank nearby in 1588. On the “Mainland” area of the Castle complex, can be found the remains of the earl’s garden laid out in three terraces. This area also included the lodgings for the many visitors who graced the Castle in the 17th century. The visitor to Dunluce is invited to view an excellent audio-visual presentation on the history and legends of Dunluce Castle.

Lunch and dinner under your own arrangement.  Overnight in Derry.

DAY 6 – Tuesday, May 20 – Derry and the Inishowen Peninsula
Derry City Tour – Grianan of Aileach – Malin Head

As if the scenic drive along the Antrim Coast wasn’t gorgeous enough, this day will bring through more ruggedly beautiful shoreline along Ireland’s Inishowen Peninsula.

Start the day with a tour of Derry City offered by a local guide who will take you along the walled city pointing out historic sites including the site where St. Columba founded his greatest monastery in a grove of oak trees – the same monastery that gave Derry its name – Dair = Oak in Irish.  Derry was the last walled city to be built in Ireland. 400 workers built these magnificent walls between 1613 and 1618. With measurements of 8m high and 9m wide, the walls were built to last and have never been breached. The four original protective Iron gates have been rebuilt and three new gates added. Today these gates remain open, making it possible to walk around the walls. Walking the walls enables you to enjoy the overview of the Bogside on one side and the Waterside on the other. You will also be able to see some of the historic murals still present in the city. A walk on the walls is a walk back in time as they have always played an important role in the history of this famous city.

Then visit Grianán of Aileach, a stone fort sitting on a rise 250 meters above sea level.  The fort is build largely without mortar and dates back to 1700 BC.  It’s one of the finest stone forts in Ireland. From the hill-top there are commanding views over Lough Foyle, Lough Swilly, and Derry, about 8km (5 mi) to the East. The massive stone wall is 3.9m (13ft) thick and encloses an area 23.4m (77ft) in diameter. In the walls are small chambers; a series of stairs at regular intervals inside the walls gave access to the wall-walk. The entrance is very long and lintelled. The structure is similar to an amphitheater.

Continue on to sites on the Inishowen Peninsula
The Inishowen Peninsula with Lough Foyle to the east and Lough Swilly to the west reaches out into the Atlantic and extends to Ireland’s northernmost point: Malin Head. The landscape is typically Donegal: rugged, desolate and mountainous. Ancient sites abound, but there are also some wonderful beaches and plenty of sites to visit. The peninsula is a European Special area of Conservation and home to over 100 species of migrating and indigenous bird life. There are many thin places along this drive including the Fahan Cross, Carndonagh Cross, Marigold Stone, Malin Wee House, and the Bocan Stone Circle

Lunch and dinner under your own arrangement.  Overnight in Derry.

DAY 7 – Wednesday, May 21 – Beltany and the Folk Park
Beltany Stone Circle – Ulster American Folk Park

Enjoy a day of history and mystery.  You’ll travel to one of the most mysterious stone circles in Ireland – Beltany Stone Circle. Then enjoy the afternoon visiting the Ulster American Folk Park near Omagh.

Beltany is known for some of the most powerful earth energy in all of Ireland. It is a neolithic stone circle just south of Raphoe town in County Donegal, Ireland. It dates from around 1400-800 BC and comprises 64 stones around a low earth platform or tumulus, situated at the summit of Tops Hill. One stone is decorated with cup marks and many of the stones stand at an angle after being disturbed around a hundred years ago. There may originally have been about 80 stones. A single stone about 2 metres high stands to the southeast of the circle. It probably had some function related to the rites or ceremonies in the circle. A stone head was found at Beltany, probably carved between 400 BC and 400 AD. This may indicate that the stone circle was used for many centuries. It has been suggested that the name of the site is linked to the Celtic festival of fertility known as ‘Beltane; Properly known as Beltaine. Pronounced Bal-tin-neh, meaning Bal-tinne; ‘Bal’s fire’ Bal being the sun god and the fire ceremony being a homage and source of regeneration for his power to rejuvenate the sun for the following season.

The Ulster American Folk Park is an outdoor museum which tells the story of emigration from Ulster to America in the 18th and 19th centuries – particularly during the Irish Famine – or Great Hunger.  Located in Omagh, Northern Ireland, you will follow the emigrant trail as you journey from the thatched cottages of Ulster, on board a full scale emigrant sailing ship leading to the log cabins of the American Frontier. Costumed characters will meet you on your way with traditional crafts to show, tales to tell and food to share. See scenes from this Ulster American Folk Park Video.

Lunch and dinner under your own arrangement.  Overnight in Derry.

DAY 8 – Thursday, May 22 – Tory Island (tentative)
Overnight on Tory Island
After a full Irish breakfast head out to the north coast to board a ferry bound for Tory Island.  Once on the island check into your overnight accommodations then go for a guided tour of the island offered by one of the locals.  In the evening attend a Ceilidh (pronounced kay-lee), an evening of traditional Irish music, dancing and storytelling.

Tory Island has the last offiicial “king” in Ireland.  You’ll have the opportunity to meet the king and explore this quiet island on your own.
*arrangements dependent upon the weather

Lunch and dinner while on the island are under your own arrangement.
Overnight on Tory Island.  ** this is weather permitting.  If boat is unable to cross on the day scheduled, alternate visit and stay in Donegal town will substitute.

DAY 9 – Friday, May 23 – Tory Island to Donegal
Gartan – Rock of Doon – Donegal Town

Catch the Ferry from Tory Island and head for the Town of Donegal, one of Ireland’s towns most rich in history and culture, particularly in the arts.  Donegal – the entire county is a thin place that has been drawing out the creativity of its natives for ages.

On the way to Donegal town you’ll make a brief stop in Gartan, the birthplace of St. Columba, and you’ll visit the “Worry Stone” also known as the “Stone of Loneliness” where pilgrims leave their worries.  Additionally you’ll have the opportunity to see the Rock of Doon, a summit in the Donegal countryside where tribal chieftains were inaugurated by their clans.  It was believed that in this spot the crowned kings were able to unite / be joined with the powers of the earth.  The site is linked to the famous “O’Donnell” clan.

Settle into your hotel in Donegal town and explore to magical streetscape that includes Donegal Castle, the Diamond and lots of traditional Irish music in the pubs.

Lunch and dinner under your own arrangement.  Overnight in Donegal.

DAY 10 – Saturday, May 24 – Donegal to Dublin
Caldragh Cemetery – Altadaven Forest – Farewell Dinner
On you last full day in Ireland you will head back to Dublin from Donegal after you enjoy a morning to in Donegal town.  After lunch the group will head to Caldragh Megalithic Cemetery and St. Patrick’s Chair and Well in Altadaven Forest – also known as the cliff of the demons.

Boa Island, on Lough Erne is home to Caldragh Cemetery famous for its ancient Janus figures.  Boa Island at the northern end of Lower Lough Erne has the most striking pre-Christian stone figure in the area. The Janus Idol and a smaller statue, the Lusty Man, are in the ancient Caldragh cemetery near the eastern bridge, which connects Boa Island to the mainland off the A47. The Janus idol is a double-faced pagan figure with crossed arms and a warrior’s belt, and a phallus on one side. He could be a fertility symbol or a warrior god. The Lusty Man, which was moved to Boa from the nearby private Lustybeg Island, is more worn but you can still see that he has one blind eye. Offerings of flowers and coins are still left at the feet of the two idols. In Caldragh Cemetery on Boa Island, Lower lough Erne stand two unique stone carvings. The larger of these is a Janus figure, two figures back to back with pear shaped heads and interlacing between the heads representing hair. The East face pictured left is carved with a penis and is the male side of the figure, and the west face pictured above is the female side. Both of these carving are in high relief. The smaller figure which is known as “the Lustyman” because it was found on the nearby island Lusty More, may in fact be a female figure. Both figures are described as Celtic Idols.

Altadaven Wood and see the ancient druidic / Christian sites, St. Patrick’s Chair and Holy Well. St Patrick’s Chair and Well (also known as the Druids Chair and Well or St Brigid’s Well or St Brigit’s Well) lies within Altadaven Wood, not far from the Ulster Way footpath. The chair is a huge 2m high stone block, shaped like a throne. The Well, which is said to never run dry is another rock, but this one has a 25cm bullaun, or depression in it. This is filled with natural water. According to folklore, the water within such depressions or bullauns has healing powers and this well is supposed to be good at curing warts. Though it has been suggested that Druids would have found the site of particular interest, I do not know of any archaeological evidence suggesting this was a Celtic site of worship. This has not stopped the site being referred to as an ancient druidic centre though. St Patrick probably became associated with it as Altadaven translates as ‘The Demon Cliff’ and the saint was said to have driven demonic creatures over it. This tale is also attributed to St Brigid. There are two Rag Trees between the chair and well where offerings have been tied.

Then your group will head to Dublin for a Farewell dinner at the hotel.

Lunch under your own arrangement.  Dinner and overnight in Dublin.

DAY 11 – Sunday, May 25 – Dublin Airport
Transport to Dublin Airport from hotel
After a final Irish breakfast transfer to Dublin Airport for your return flight home.

NOTES:    Additional nights in Dublin can be arranged for before or after the tour. Let us know and we’ll be happy to help you make the arrangements.   We are also happy to make suggestions concerning airfare.

RESERVATIONS: To book your reservation download the registration form.

BROCHURE: Download the Discover the North 2o14 brochure

Still have questions? Email Mindie at mindie@travelhag.com

This ITINERARY is subject to change based on availability of hotels and sites.
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