Kathleen McGowan’s Sacred Ireland

Highlighting the Autumn Equinox
September 18-28, 2016

Ireland… Even speaking its name calls forth images of magic and myth, saints and scholars, and a countryside almost too beautiful to be true. It is the land of my forefathers and mothers, and a place I have called home at various times in my life. I do not know anyone who visits this land, so rich in history and mysticism, who is not changed by it. And its greatest resource, even more astonishing than the gorgeous greens and the dramatic seascapes, is the people. The Celtic nature of warmth and welcome still prevails here and simply has to be experienced to be understood.

Because the June Sacred Ireland trip sold out so quickly, I have added this special 2nd departure to celebrate the Autumn Equinox along with the spiritual wonders and cultural legacies of this fascinating country.

Come and dance with me in Ireland this fall…
– Kathleen McGowan

Your Tour Includes:

  • Ten nights at good 4-star hotels, all rooms with private bath/shower as listed (or similar)
  • Service charges and taxes at your hotels
  • Breakfast at hotels each day
  • Five Lunches at a local pubs & restaurants
  • Seven dinners at your hotels
  • Welcome Medieval Banquet and entrainment at Bunratty
  • Storytelling evening and dinner at The Brazen Head
  • Farewell dinner at the Cliff Townhouse in Dublin
  • Glass of wine or Guinness with dinner
  • Half day Panoramic Dublin sightseeing tour
  • Transportation in Ireland by deluxe motor coach
  • Escorted throughout
  • Porterage of one piece of luggage per person per hotel


  • Visits to: Dingle Peninsula, Blasket Islands Heritage Center, The Burren, Cliffs of Moher, Knocknarea, Glencar Waterfall, Hazelwood Demesne, Tobernalt Holy Well, the Hill of Slane, Bru Na Bóinne, Newgrange and Knowth.
  • An afternoon at the wonderful Bunratty Folk Park
  • The Cliffs of Moher
  • Mini-bus tour of the Aran Islands
  • Shannon car ferry ride across the Shannon Estuary
  • Jaunting cart ride to the stately Muckross House in Killarney
  • Special surprise at your farewell dinner
  • Autumn Equinox celebration on the Island of Inishmore

surprise2Your Itinerary

Bunratty musiciansDay 1 – September 18: Arrival Shannon and onto Bunratty (D)
Your tour starts at Shannon Airport as we depart the airport by coach from our meeting spot at 11am. Please make sure your arrival in Shannon is by 9 am or earlier. If you cannot arrival in order to take the coach to Bunratty, there is a hotel shuttle service at a cost of approximately $20. Upon arrival, time to relax before meeting for our Welcome Dinner and entertainment at a festive Medieval banquet. Kathleen’s ancestors, the de Clare family, built the original Bunratty Castle! Overnight in Bunratty.

Day 2 – September 19: To Killarney (B/L/D)

Bunratty Folk Park

After breakfast we depart for the Bunratty Folk Park where 19th century life is vividly recreated. Set on 26 acres, the impressive park features over 30 buildings in a ‘living’ village and rural setting.  After lunch here, we can meet and chat with the Bean an Ti (Woman of the House) and various street characters including the “local” policeman and schoolteacher. Enjoy the tastes, scents, sights and sounds of this enchanting place as we stroll from house to house or around the charming village, complete with school, post office, doctor’s house, hardware shop, printers and – of course – the pub. We will have lunch here and then continue to our hotel for dinner and overnight in Killarney.

Day 3 – September 20: In Killarney – Day on the Dingle Peninsula (B/L/D)
Today we set off for one of the most breathtaking landscapes in Europe, the Dingle Peninsula.  This peninsula is famous for its Celtic, pre-Christian monuments.  It is also a Gaeltacht (Irish speaking) area, where the Irish language and traditional ways of life are preserved.  Dingle town itself is a thriving fishing town, famous as a place where traditional Irish folk music can be heard just about every day.  From Dingle, we drive around the coast to Slea Head. Here the blue of the marine landscape surrounds the Blasket Islands, deserted since 1953. In the distance are the two rocky Skellig islands, where the ruins of an early Christian Monastery can be found. The Dingle Peninsula will charm you with its villages painted in bright colors and will bewitch you with the dramatic beauty of its landscapes. Kathleen will tell a story of what happened to her here when she was a teenager, and how Dingle changed her life. Lunch at local pub/restaurant followed by a visit to the Blasket Centre on the mainland in Dún Chaoin (pronounced Dunquin – we will give you some Irish lessons, don’t worry!) on the tip of the Dingle Peninsula. It’s a fascinating heritage center/museum honoring the unique community who lived on the remote Blasket Islands until their evacuation in 1953. The Blasket Centre tells the story of island life, subsistence fishing and farming, traditional life including modes of work and transport, home life, housing and entertainment. The Center details the community’s struggle for existence, their language and culture, and the extraordinary literary legacy they left behind – classics such as The Islandman, Twenty Years A-Growing and Peig. Later return to Killarney and to take a traditional horse-drawn jaunting cart ride to stately Muckross House, built in 1843 and set in the heart of Killarney National Park. It recreates 19th century life with Victorian furnishings and magnificent gardens. Dinner and overnight at our hotel.

Day 4 – September 21: To the Cliffs of Moher, The Burren & Galway (B/L/D)
After breakfast we depart County Kerry for The Cliffs of Moher Situated on the Atlantic Ocean and bordering the Burren Area, the Cliffs of Moher are one of Ireland’s most spectacular sights. Standing about 700 feet above the ground at their highest point and five miles long, the cliffs boast one of the most amazing views in Ireland. On a clear day, the Aran Islands are visible in Galway Bay, as well as the valleys and hills of Connemara. To the south of the cliffs is Hag’s Head, once the site of a castle. The cliffs reach their highest point just north of O’ Brien’s Tower. Cornelius O’ Brien, a descendant of Brian Boru (who defeated the Vikings in battle), built a Tower at the cliffs in order to enjoy some tea with his lady friends. Continue through The Burren, a landscape that is one of Ireland’s six National Parks. The region is visually similar to a moonscape, yet shelters a mixture of flora and archaeological sites which have attracted visitors for centuries. Man came here over 6,000 years ago, cleared the forests and set in motion soil erosion. Centuries of weathering has produced a terrain of fissured limestone pavements, disappearing lakes, terraced mountains and underground cave systems. We end by arriving in Galway for our overnight and dinner.

Day 5 – September 22: In Galway – Excursion to  Aran Islands – the Autumn Equinox (B/D)
Dun Aengus tourIt’s the Autumn Equinox! We start the day by taking the ferry to Inishmore, the largest of the three Aran Islands.  Today the inhabitants live essentially off fishing and tourism while remaining strongly attached to Gaelic traditions and language. On the West Coast of Inishmore, majestic cliffs drop into the wild Atlantic Ocean.  This area is dominated by Dun Aengus, one of the most impressive Neolithic forts in Europe.  A trip to the islands offers a journey through time, as well as an encounter with the old Ireland, the mythical Ireland.  Here we also will visit a Labyrinth for our Equinox celebration with some surprise Irish guests. Return to the village for some independent time and lunch on our own and in the late afternoon return to Rossaveal, to the mainland and back to Connemara for our overnight and dinner at our hotel.

Day 6 – September 23: To Sligo (B/D)
Kylemore Abbey tourDepart Galway and journey to Sligo, as we first travel through County Mayo. Here we will stop at Westport House, home of the O’Malley Clan, to visit the displays illustrating the life of Ireland’s notorious and courageous pirate queen, Grace O’Malley. Grace famously sailed up the River Thames, flanked by her wolfhounds, to meet with Queen Elizabeth I and demand the release of Irish prisoners in the 16th century. The relationship between those two powerhouse examples of the Divine Feminine, and its historic importance, will be explained by Kathleen.
After lunch at a local restaurant, we stop to visit Knocknarea Cairn – Queen Maeve’s Tomb. queen maeve's cairnThe huge cairn is said to be the grave of the legendary Queen Maeve, an important figure in early Irish folklore who was Kathleen’s first Divine Feminine muse, and she will talk about this great and often misunderstood goddess-queen at length. The 40,000 tons of stone which cover the tomb have never been excavated, despite speculation that a tomb on the scale of the one at Newgrange in Co. Meath lies buried below. Local legend says that it’s bad luck to remove a stone from the cairn, which could be why it was never excavated – no one wants to incur the wrath of the great red-haired warrior queen! Conversely, it is good luck to take a stone or other natural offering up the hill to deposit at the cairn as a token of honor to the great lady – so please bring an appropriate offering if you are so inclined!
We continue to Kathleen’s ancestral homeland of Sligo on Ireland’s western edge for dinner and our overnight.

Day 7 – September 24: In Sligo – Excursion to Glencar Waterfall & Tobernalt Holy Well (B/L/D)
We start the morning with a visit to Glencar Waterfall which is 50 feet high and has been integral to the Sligo legends of Queen Maeve and the fairy cultures since ancient times – Kathleen will share stories passed down in her family and via Sligo storytellers about this and all of the locations we will visit today.  Magical Glencar served as an inspiration to William Butler Yeats and celebrates the fairy traditions of this special place in his poem The Stolen Child: “Where the wandering water gushes, from the hills above Glencar.”  Just beware of the fairies here – if you follow them, you won’t make it back to the bus!  Then we continue to the deep mystery of the Hazelwood Forest on the shores of Lough Gill with time at leisure to walk and explore the nature trails, sculptures and views of the lake. After lunch at a local pub, we continue exploring “the land of heart’s desire” with a visit to Tobernault Holy Well on the shores of Lough Gill, one of the most picturesque holy wells in Ireland, once a place of worship for the Celtic mother goddess, now a much beloved Marian shrine. The well, with water that gushes out from the face of the cliff, was blessed by St. Patrick, who is said to have baptized his converts on his way southward.  In the penal days when Catholicism was outlawed, its waters were used in the secret celebration of mass under cover of the great trees. Return to Sligo for dinner and our overnight.

Day 8 – September 25: to Drogheda (B/L/D)
Hill of SlaneThis morning we put on the Irish music and depart for Drogheda with an en-route visit  to Loughcrew Cairns, perhaps the best kept secret in archaeological and mystical Ireland. In a landscape of inspiring beauty and intriguing history, the cairns at Loughcrew form the largest complex of passage graves in Ireland. The cairns are megalithic structures originally built about 4000 BC – possibly as burial chambers, but are there other explanations for them?  Why is there a perfect alignment to the equinoxes here, whereas the first rays of light in both Spring and Autumn illuminate the gorgeous and enigmatic carvings in the site known as Cairn T? The old Irish name for this place is Sliabh na Caillí, which means “mountain of the hag” as it was once sacred to the crone aspect of the Celtic triple goddess. After lunch, we continue with a visit to the Hill of Tara before coming to Drogheda for dinner and overnight at our hotel.

Day 9 – September 26: To Bru na Bonnie, Newgrange and Dublin (B/L/D)
After breakfast, we travel to the scenic and ancient Boyne Valley. The Boyne Valley is one of the most historic and mystical regions of the whole island, with roots in pre-Celtic culture!  Here we will experience some the most important ancient monuments in the Western World: the stone cairns of Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth. These are megalithic tombs and temples, dating from approx. 3000 B.C, located along the valley of the river Boyne. We start at the lovely and informative Brú Na Bóinne Visitor Centre, designed to present the archaeological heritage of the Boyne Valley through interpretative displays and viewing areas. The extensive exhibition includes a full-scale replica of the chamber at Newgrange as well as a full model of one of the smaller tombs at Knowth for more in-depth exploration.  The megalithic passage tomb at Newgrange was built about 3200 BC. The kidney-shaped mound covers an area of over one-acre and is surrounded by 97 kerbstones, some of which are richly decorated with megalithic art. The 609-foot long inner passage leads to a cruciform chamber with a corbelled roof which is perfectly aligned to the sunrise on the winter solstice. It is estimated that the construction of the passage tomb at Newgrange would have taken a work force of 300 at least 20 years. We will have a quick lunch at a local pub before continuing onward to visit the sister-chamberof Knowth. The Great Mound at Knowth is similar in size to Newgrange and is surrounded by 18 smaller satellite mounds. The exact use of the Knowth site is still not know to us and is a fascinating speculation.  Knowth and the other megalithic sites of the Boyne Valley were designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1993.  We end this day’s touring at Dowth,  the least well known of the three great tombs of Brú Na Bóinne, but some say the one that still contains the most ancient energy.  Although as large as Newgrange and Knowth it has not been excavated in recent times. Like the other monuments it was built over 5,000 years ago. Towards the end of the day, we depart for Dublin and check in to our hotel for a wonderful evening if storytelling and dining at the famous Brazen Head. Overnight in Dublin.

Day 10 – September 27: In Dublin (B/D)
We start our day with a “Panoramic Tour” of “Dublin’s Fair City.” The tour will introduce you to the principal sites, seeing the elegant Georgian squares, famous for their architecture, and of course the famous doors. Pass by Trinity College on the way to St Patrick’s Cathedral. Built in 1192, it is one of Ireland’s largest cathedrals made famous by its former dean Jonathan Swift, author of Gulliver’s Travels. Pass by Christchurch, built by the Anglo-Normans in 1172 to replace an earlier Church built by the Vikings in 1038, on your way to the Phoenix Park. Return to the city center via the Quays, passing by the Guinness brewery before arriving back into O’Connell Street and on to our hotel. This evening we will end our Sacred Ireland bonding as we enjoy a Farewell to Ireland dinner at the wonderful Cliff Town House where a special surprise awaits us. Overnight in Dublin.

Day 11 – September 28:  In Dublin (B) – Tour ends
After our included breakfast, our sacred journey ends and we transfer this morning on our own to Dublin Airport for our flight home

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Price Per Person      

Per Person Double Occupancy: $4,529 by check or money order, $4,769 by credit card
Per Person Single Occupancy:  $5,329 by check or money order, $5,599 by credit card

Special Discounts

EARLY BIRD SPECIAL DISCOUNT (if prepaid by February 25, 2016)
Per Person Double Occupancy: $4,279 by check or money order, $4,499 by credit card
Per Person Single Occupancy:  $5,079 by check or money order, $5,599 by credit card

ALUMNI SPECIAL DISCOUNT (For previous passengers on Kathleen’s tours)
Per Person Double Occupancy: $3,999 by check or money order, $4,209 by credit card
Per Person Single Occupancy:  $4,798 by check or money order, $5,049 by credit card

EARLY BIRD AND ALUMNI SPECIAL DISCOUNT (if prepaid by February 25, 2016)
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Single Occupancy:  $4,739 by check or money order, $4,989 by credit card

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Per Couple Double Occupancy: $8,558 by check or money order, $8,999 by credit card

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Per Family Double Occupancy: $8,558 by check or money order, $8,999 by credit card

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FIRST NON-REFUNDABLE PAYMENT (Due as soon as possible in order to ensure a place on the tour)
Per Person Double Occupancy: $1,200 by check or money order, $1,265 by credit card
Per Person Single Occupancy: $1,500 by check or money order, $1,579 by credit card

2ND PAYMENT (Due on or before May 1, 2016)
Per Person Double Occupancy: $1,400 by check or money order, $1,475 by credit card
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Glencar waterfall photo by Bob Embleton