Ireland: Two Capitals and the Country Between
May 15-25, 2017
Day One - Monday, May 15
On our first day, we will meet at the Clayton Hotel, formerly Bewley’s, very near the Dublin Airport where Matthews Coach will pick us up at 10:00 a.m. and take us to our Dublin area hotel, The Boyne Valley Hotel and Resort in Drogheda, an easy 30-minute bus journey north. After we get settled into our hotel rooms, we will have a quiet lunch in the Boyne Valley dining room. We will board our Coach at 2:00 p.m. and be transported to Dublin City where your guide, Jim Vincent, will show you the sights along the River Liffey and the cultural centers of Dublin. We will see the Book of Kells at Trinity College and the Guinness Storehouse. Then we will dine together at The Oliver St. John Gogarty Restaurant in the Temple Bar area of Dublin, a lively night spot in the central city. Matthews Coach will meet us at about 9:00 p.m., after dinner, and take us back to our Hotel.
Day Two - Tuesday, May 16
We will start our day with a sumptuous or light breakfast in the Boyne Valley dining room. We will be picked up at Boyne Valley to go to Dublin at 9:00 a.m. After breakfast we will tour the Boyne River Valley with Matthews Coach. Our itinerary will include New Grange, the UNESCO site, the Boyne Battle Field, Hill of Tara, and other spots along the way. We will return to our hotel in time to freshen up for a wonderful dinner at the Spire Restaurant. A few quiet drinks at the hotel and some entertainment and then to bed at the Boyne Valley Hotel.
Day Three - Wednesday, May 17
On day three, we are back to Dublin for a very full day of culture, art and walking. After breakfast, Matthews Coach will pick us up at 10:00 a.m. and take us to the National Gallery in Dublin where we will be met by a charming and intelligent young UCD arts graduate who will guide us through several of the Galleries. After that, we will walk to the Chester Beatty Library, a hidden treasure of Dublin. The library is a two-story museum with a top floor garden, focused on holy books and sacred writing. We will tour the two floors and then meet at the Silk Road, the Library’s excellent Middle Eastern Café for lunch. There we will meet our guide, Kevin McDermott for a walking tour of Dublin, including Christ Church and Saint Patrick’s Cathedral and a few secret spots that Kevin loves. A snack along the way and then back to the hotel for a light evening meal. Time to pack up, for we leave for South Armagh in the morning.
Day Four - Thursday, May 18
Today, after breakfast, we leave for the Crossmaglen in County Armagh in Northern Ireland. In Crossmaglen we will be staying in the Cross Square Hotel in the village square in Cross. We will get settled at the Cross Square and have a light tea at the hotel and meet the proprietor, his wife and our friend, Fiona. Afterwards we will leave for Carlingford and the Cooley Peninsula. Carlingford is the site of the Thomas D’Darcy McGee center and we will find out about McGee’s career in Ireland, the United States, and Canada. After a late lunch at PJ’s, we will travel to Downpatrick to see the Saint Patrick Centre and visit Saint Patrick’s first church in Saul. The back to our Crossmaglen hotel for dinner and entertainment.
Day Five - Friday, May 19
Today we travel to Armagh, the Christian capital of all Ireland. But first we will go to Navan Fort of Emain Macha, one of Ireland’s most important archaeological sites, the legendary Emain Macha home of the famous Red Branch Knights and Ulster Cycle of tales and is a place where myth and reality meet. There we will learn about Celtic Christianity and how the old Irish way met the new religion. Our guide for this will be Grace Clunie, M.A. Grace is a Church of Ireland priest and co-author of the book The Celtic Spirit and Literature. We will have lunch at the Navan Centre and then proceed to the city of Armagh and its two majestic churches. We will have dinner in Armagh and then back to our hotel for a night cap and discussion with our hosts and Cross friends.
Day Six - Saturday, May 20
Today we will see the majestic sites of South Armagh and learn the area’s history and culture. And we will learn how the region is emerging as a must-see region of the island. Our guide will be Una Walsh, a local historian. Una also knows about every myth and legend in the area from Cuchulainn to Finn McCool to Deirdre of the Sorrows and everything in between. Una is also a Geo-Ambassador and tutors on the Ring of Gullion Ambassador course. Una specializes in the very popular Ring of Gullion Historical Coach Tour, village tours and the poets of south Armagh. South Armagh is a favorite place of mine both for its history but also for the resilience of its people. Halfway between the Victorian city of Belfast and the Pale of Dublin, South Armagh has a history both glorious and notorious. After our tour, we will dine locally and hear some of the local singers and musicians. Then back to Cross Square Hotel.
Day Seven - Sunday, May 21
For those who wish, church services are available to us in Crossmaglen. After a farewell breakfast at the Cross-Square Hotel, we will join our coach, driver, and guide for a pleasant short journey to Belfast, the capital city of Northern Ireland and our home for the next three nights. We will get settled in the Fitzwilliam Hotel, a five-star hotel in the heart of Belfast. We will find our rooms and be introduced to the city by our knowledgeable driver/guide. Then we will proceed to the Titanic Museum for a lengthy visit and afternoon tea. We will have dinner together that night at the Crown Bar upstairs and an opportunity to explore central Belfast where music can be found, along with a well-pulled pint. I suggest an early bedtime because the next day is packed with travel and action.
Day Eight - Monday, May 22
After breakfast, we depart for the beautiful north coast of Northern Ireland. Our first stop is Bushmills Distillery for a whiskey tour and a bite of lunch. Then on to Dunluce Castle, a crumbling moated castle perched on the edge of the sea. Across the car park is "The Wee Cottage" where tea and strawberry scones are served to visitors from around the world. Then it is on to the Giants Causeway where basalt slabs form a pathway for a giant to cross to nearby Scotland and find his way back. One of the most visited sites in Ireland, it has extensive walks for the active traveler and a collection of audio visual displays for the more sedentary visitor, and an excellent tea shop and gift shop. Dinner will be determined. I am sure all will be happy to return to the Fitzwilliam.
Day Nine - Tuesday, May 23
Today is the last full day of our tour. We will be staying in the environs of Belfast. A knowledgeable guide will take us to the Peace Wall where hundreds have signed their names in the name of peace and reconciliation. We will visit important sites of both Catholic and Loyalists neighborhoods and explore the roots of "The Troubles" and see the many signs of regeneration. Our route will take us to the Crumlin Road jail, recently reconditioned for visitors. We will have lunch along the way and get back to the hotel in time for a few hours of shopping before our farewell banquet.
Day Ten - Wednesday, May 24
After breakfast, we will depart for the Dublin Airport which is about two hours to the south. We will have a break on the way at Apple Green, the Irish turnpike stop. We will arrive at the airport at noon. Flights to the States leave mostly early in the morning and then again in the late afternoon. For those flying this is good bye. For those staying longer in Ireland or seeking further adventures in Europe, we can drop you in Dublin city.