Kathleen McGowan’s Sacred Ireland
June 15 to 24, 2016
Only Two Spaces Available on a First Come-First Served Basis
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.
I have waited for the time to be right to decide that I wanted to bring my friends across the world to the homeland of my heart, and share some of the places and people who inspired me from the earliest days of my journey. My first muses were the Irish goddesses and warrior women, like Queen Maeve and Macha the Horse Goddess. Ireland forged me from my earliest childhood, and made me much of what I am today: a writer, a dreamer, a poet and a warrior. It is a land of many facets. Introducing you to the many faces of Ireland is an honor and a joy for me. I hope you will consider joining in this family-friendly journey into a place unique in the world! I promise to show you things you will not find on other tours, places from my history, places from ancient history…
Come and dance with me in Ireland…
– Kathleen McGowan
Your Tour Includes:
- Eight 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 cafes, local pubs and restaurants as per itinerary
- Welcome dinner at the Cliff Townhouse in Dublin
- Seven dinners at your hotels
- 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: Bru Na Bóinne, Newgrange, Knowth, Loughcrew Cairns, Glencar Waterfall, Hazelwood Demesne, Tobernalt Holy Well, Knocknarea and Blasket Islands Heritage Centre
- Mini-bus tour of the Aran Islands
- Shannon car ferry ride across the Shannon Estuary
- Optional Jaunting cart ride to the stately Muckross House in Killarney
- Special surprise at your welcome dinner
- Summer Solstice celebration on the Island of Inishmore
Day 1 – June 15: To Dublin
Depart the USA for Dublin
Day 2 – June 16: In Dublin (D)
Morning arrival and proceed on your own to your reserved accommodations (transfer recommendations will be provided). Time to freshen up before we start an afternoon “Panoramic Tour” of Dublin to give you a short introduction to “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 get to know our fellow travelers and begin the Sacred Ireland bonding as we enjoy a Welcome to Ireland dinner at the wonderful Cliff Town House where a special surprise awaits us. Overnight in Dublin.
Day 3 – June 17: To Newgrange and Trim (B/L/D)
After breakfast, we travel through 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.
Continue to Trim, located in the heart of the Boyne Valley and check in to our hotel for dinner and our overnight.
Day 4 – June 18: To Loughcrew and Sligo (B/L/D)
This morning we put on the Irish music and depart for Sligo 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 at a local restaurant, we continue to Kathleen’s ancestral homeland of Sligo on Ireland’s western edge for dinner and our overnight.
Day 5 – June 19: 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 6 – June 20: To Queen Maeve’s Tomb, the Connemara Region and onto Galway (B/L/D)
We prepare to depart Sligo for Galway, but first we stop to visit Knocknarea Cairn – Queen Maeve’s Tomb. The 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!
Bidding farewell to Maeve and the holy land she once protected so valiantly, we continue through County Mayo, where 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. The relationship between those two powerhouse examples of the Divine Feminine, and its historic importance, will be explained by Kathleen.
Before we enter the Connemara Region for lunch, we will visit the Westport House to see the O’Malley exhibit. Then continue our journey to a land of lakes and rivers, bogs and mountains, and small villages where Gaelic is still spoken. It is one of the wildest and the most romantic part of Ireland. Connemara is a vast peninsula bordered by the arid and rocky coastline of Galway Bay in the south, a land characteristic for its stone walls and thatched cottages.
We stay in magical Connemara for our overnight and dinner.
Day 7 – June 21: In Galway – Excursion to Aran Islands (B/D)
It’s the Summer Solstice! 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 Solstice Celebration with some surprise Irish guests. Return to the village for some independent time and lunch on your 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 8 – June 22: To Killarney (B/D)
This morning we depart Galway for Kerry starting with a ride on the Shannon Car ferry across the Shannon estuary between counties Clare and Kerry. Upon arrival at the ferry slip, we continue to our hotel in Killarney for a free afternoon to explore this delightful Irish town in an incredibly beautiful surrounding countryside brimming with history, heritage, activities, great shopping and world class hospitality. Later in the afternoon, take an optional 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. Cost is $15 per person, payable to the drivers.
Then back to the hotel for dinner and our overnight.
Day 9 – June 23: In Kerry – 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 Blaskets 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 colours 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. Its 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 our hotel in Kerry for dinner and over overnight.
Day 10 – June 24: To Shannon (B)
Transfer this morning on our own to Shannon Airport for our flight home
- Dublin – The Dean Hotel (1 night)
- Trim – Knightsbrook Hotel (1 night)
- Sligo – Clarion Hotel (2 nights)
- Galway – Connemara Coast Hotel (2 nights)
- Killarney – Muckross Park (2 nights)
Please read the Terms and Conditions for this program.
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ALL INCLUSIVE PRICES FOR 10 DAYS (LAND ONLY)
Price Per Person
Per Person Double Occupancy: $3,999 by check or money order, $4,209 by credit card
Per Person Single Occupancy: $4,795 by check or money order, $5,047 by credit card
EARLY BIRD SPECIAL DISCOUNT (if prepaid by October 31)
Per Person Double Occupancy: $3,749 by check or money order, $3,949 by credit card
Per Person Single Occupancy: $4,445 by check or money order, $4,679 by credit card
ALUMNI SPECIAL DISCOUNT (For previous passengers on Kathleen’s European tours)
Per Person Double Occupancy: $3,599 by check or money order, $3,789 by credit card
Per Person Single Occupancy: $4,315 by check or money order, $4,542 by credit card
EARLY BIRD AND ALUMNI SPECIAL DISCOUNT (if prepaid by October 31)
Per Person Double Occupancy: $3,499 by check or money order, $3,689 by credit card
Per Person Single Occupancy: $4,215 by check or money order, $4,439 by credit card
COUPLES SPECIAL DISCOUNT Price Per Couple – Please note that this refers to two people sharing ONE bed.
Per Couple Double Occupancy: $7,498 by check or money order, $7,893 by credit card
SPECIAL FAMILY DISCOUNT Price Per Family of Two – Note that this refers to a parent and child in twin beds
Per Family Double Occupancy: $7,498 by check or money order, $7,893 by credit card
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 February 1, 2016)
Per Person Double Occupancy: $1,400 by check or money order, $1,475 by credit card
Per Person Single Occupancy: $1,500 by check or money order, $1,579 by credit card
Balances for payments (other than Early Bird reservations) are due on or before April 1, 2016 as per your invoice
Please note that Alumni Discounts will be split between the final two payments. Initial deposit is the same for everyone.
There is a limited number of rooms and configurations available. If you are willing to share a room, please let us know and we will do our best to match you up with a roommate with advanced introductions. We will create a private Facebook group for retreat attendees where we can all begin to get acquainted in advance and remain in contact afterward!
Attendance is strictly limited due to hotel capacity and the event is expected to sell out.
Early booking is highly recommended.
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Glencar waterfall photo by Bob Embleton