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Day 1 – Fáilte go hÉireann
Welcome to Dublin. On arrival you pick up your car at the airport and transfer to your hotel. In the afternoon you can explore this capital city with its many historic buildings, Georgian streets and colourful gardens. Take the opportunity to visit some of its many attractions such as the Christchurch Cathedral. You can also visit the Guinness Storehouse. Built in 1904, the building currently where the Storehouse is located was an operational plant for fermenting and storing Guinness. Today it houses a very fine exhibition dedicated to the Guinness story. After visiting the exhibition, you are invited to the Gravity Bar to enjoy your pint of Guinness. This evening why not enjoy dinner in one of Dublin’s many restaurants?
Overnight: Dublin area
Day 2 – Boyne Valley
This morning depart towards Boyne Valley. The Boyne Valley is a World Heritage Site and is the largest and one of the most important prehistoric megalithic sites in Europe. The Prehistoric inhabitants of the area built huge burial tombs on the banks of the river Boyne and on hilltop sites such as Loughcrew. The area was also hugely important in pre-Christian times when the Hill of Tara seated the High Kings of Ireland. Christianity was brought to the region by St. Patrick, forever associated with the Hill of Slane on which he lit a fire on Easter Eve, 433 to challenge the druids who were holding a festival at Tara. Visit today to Loughcrew Cairns. Loughcrew is the largest complex of passage graves in Ireland. Legend has it that the impressive burial mounds were created by a witch flying overhead and dropping stones on the landscape. The tombs are believed to date from around 3300 BC and are located on three different hills – the largest of the tombs and centrepiece is Cairn T. Inside Cairn T lies a cruciform chamber and a corbelled roof as well as probably some of the most beautiful examples of Neolithic art in Ireland. One of the great secrets of Loughcrew is the Vernal and Autumnal Equinox illumination at sunrise in Cairn T when the backstone of the tomb is illuminated by a ray of sunshine.
Continue to Trim, one of Ireland’s Heritage towns which is dominated by the impressive medieval Trim Castle dating from 1173. The largest Anglo-Norman castle in Ireland, it was constructed over a thirty-year period by Hugh de Lacy and his son Walter. Hugh de Lacy was granted the Liberty of Meath by King Henry II in 1172 in an attempt to curb the expansionist policies of Richard de Clare, (Strongbow). Construction of the massive three storied Keep, the central stronghold of the castle, was begun c. 1176 on the site of an earlier wooden fortress. This massive twenty-sided tower, which is cruciform in shape, was protected by a ditch, curtain wall and moat.
Overnight: Meath area
Day 3 – Kildare
Today travel to Celbridge and visit Castletown House, Ireland’s largest and earliest Palladian style house, built between 1722 and 1729 for William Conolly. The façade was almost certainly designed by the Italian architect, Alessandro Galilei, while the Irish architect Sir Edward Lovett Pearce added the wings. The house remained in the hands of the Conollys until 1965 when it was purchased by a property developer. Fortunately it was saved in 1967 when along with 120 acres it was purchased by the Hon. Desmond Guinness, founder of the Irish Georgian Society for £93,000. The house was opened to the public in the same year and restoration work began. The diverse and fascinating history of Conolly family members who lived in the house are explained and visitors get a chance to view the stunning architecture, furniture and vast collection of paintings within the rooms.
In the afternoon you can visit the Irish National Stud and Japanese Gardens, the only stud farm in Ireland open to the public offering daily tours. Ireland’s world class reputation for the breeding of the thoroughbred horse is well known. In the grounds of the stud farm are the world famous Japanese Gardens. The significance of the Japanese Gardens is not only artistic and horticultural, but also philosophical.
Over the years a horse museum was built where the skeleton of the legendary Arkle stands along with many horse artefacts. To celebrate the Millennium, another garden was added, St. Fiachra’s Garden and it opens up a different, yet satisfying experience.
Overnight: Kildare area
Day 4 – Kilkenny
After breakfast, depart for the medieval city of Kilkenny and visit to Kilkenny Castle, 12th century castle remodeled in Victorian times and set in extensive parklands which was the principal seat of the Butler family, Marquesses and Dukes of Ormonde. Due to major restoration works, the central block now includes a library, drawing room, and bedrooms decorated in 1830’s splendour, as well as the beautiful Long Gallery. A suite of former servant’s rooms is the Butler Art Gallery, which mounts frequently changing exhibitions of contemporary art.
Continue to Jerpoint Park where you will be immersed in a unique experience of country living, heritage and traditional activities. Unearth the unique history following in the footprints of a deserted 12th Century Medieval town. You will be immersed in the importance of this once thriving town called Newtown Jerpoint (situated near Jerpoint Abbey) mostly recognised within academic circles until April 2011 – when it was opened to the public. The site contains the Tomb Effigy of St Nicholas (Bishop of Myra). While there enjoy a sheep dog demonstration with sheep or geese! A fun and fascinating event to watch as it shows man and dog work together as one – herding.
Finally travel via New Ross. Visit to Ros Tapestry Exhibition – a massive community initiative conceived in 1998 and being developed by over a 150 dedicated volunteers. The exhibition features fifteen striking embroidered panels – 6 x 4 foot each – depicting events around the Anglo-Norman arrival in the South East of Ireland, specifically the founding of the town of New Ross, Co. Wexford by William Marshal and Isabel de Clare.
Overnight: Wexford area
Day 5 – Wexford
Start the day with a walking tour of Wexford town, founded by the Vikings who named it Waesfjord (meaning ‘harbour of mud flats’) and its handy location near the mouth of the Slaney encouraged landings as early as AD 850. The Normans captured the town in 1169; traces of their fort can still be seen in the grounds of the Irish National Heritage Park. Cromwell included Wexford in his Irish tour from 1649 to 1650. Around 1500 of the town’s 2000 inhabitants were put to the sword, including all the Franciscan friars. Visit to Selskar Abbey in the heart of the town which dates from the early 12th century. It is a 12th-century structure that replaced a pre-Christian temple dedicated to Odin. The complex, which is part of the Westgate Heritage Tower, was the location where the first Anglo-Irish treaty was signed. In 1172, Henry II also spent Lent at the Abbey, as he did penance for having Thomas Becket beheaded. After years of suppression, the abbey was destroyed by Oliver Cromwell in 1649. The present Protestant church was built in 1818.
Continue to Hook Head. Discover the natural beauty and tranquillity of the unspoiled Hook Peninsula. Stretching out from the scenic Southeast corner of Ireland, Hook is famous for its breath-taking vistas and magnificent natural landscape – this is the untouched ancient Ireland you’ve been longing to visit. The area is a pinnacle point of Ireland’s Ancient East coast, from the 6th-century monk who kept the beacon of Hook Lighthouse aflame to warn sailors of possible shipwreck, to the arrival of Strongbow in 1170, who vowed to take Waterford ‘by Hook or by Crook’, to the famous Knights Templar who strategically placed their Irish headquarters here, the Hook Peninsula is an area where heritage runs deep.
The Visitor Centre at Hook Lighthouse is at the tip of Hook and offers guided tours of the lighthouse tower, one of the oldest operational lighthouses in the world. It is a 13th Century Norman structure, culminating with the spectacular view from the balcony.
Overnight: Wexford area
Day 6 – The Garden of Ireland
This morning depart for Wicklow. On route, pay a visit to Wells House & Gardens in Gorey, a stunning Victorian Walled house & garden, boasting over 300 years of history.
County Wicklow has several world famous sites and attractions but there is also an abundance of smaller, less well known, but equally interesting places to visit and things to see.
From golden sandy beaches to rolling hills and valleys, Wicklow’s unique topography means that yet another stunning scene awaits just minutes away no matter where you are in the county. True to its name the Garden County also boasts some of the most beautiful gardens and homes in Ireland. Enjoy a visit to the monastic site at Glendalough and to Killruddery House and Gardens. Glendalough, an early Christian ecclesiastical settlement was founded by St. Kevin in the 6th century. Set in a glaciated valley with two lakes, the monastic remains include a superb round tower, stone churches and decorated crosses. The Visitor Centre has an interesting exhibition and an audio-visual show.
This afternoon, visit Killruddery House home to the Earls of Meath since 1618. The house was commissioned in the 1820’s by the 10th Earl and designed by Richard and William Morrisson. With much of the Morrisson’s design and architecture still remaining, it is the most significant Elizabethan Revival mansion in Ireland. The Orangery built by William Burn in 1852 houses an interesting collection of marble statues gathered between 1830 and 1850.
Killruddery is unique in having one of the most extensive early formal gardens, in their original style, surviving in Ireland today. Laid out in the 17th century and added to in the 19th century, they are amongst the most important of their type in Ireland and the UK.
Overnight: Wicklow area
Day 7 – Dublin
Today why not spend your day in Dublin. Enjoy a walk in Temple Bar Cultural Quarter, one of the oldest parts of Dublin. The city of Dublin was born in and around Temple Bar. Some of the earliest Temple Bar residents were Vikings, The area is rich in Viking and medieval history. Enjoy an Irish Coffee in one of the pubs. Visit the Trinity College and see the famous Book of Kells. 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. In 2015, Conde Nast Traveler magazine included visiting the Book of Kells as one of the ’50 things to do in Europe before you die’.
Alternatively visit Howth, a picturesque fishing village which is situated at the foot of a huge rock peninsula. Howth, a huge rock massif with footpaths ideal for small walks, offers beautiful views of Dublin Bay. You can also visit one of the numerous seafood restaurants.
Overnight: Dublin area
Day 8 – Dublin Departure
Travel to Dublin Airport for return flight home.
Ireland’s Ancient East
|7 Nights Package 4* (excluding transport)||
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