On May 15, 2011 I led a group of nine people on a tour of mystical sites in Ireland known as “thin places.” Thin places are those where the veil between the physical world and the eternal world is thin – both worlds intermingle. The premise of the tour was that such places exist in the world, and in most cases the ancients knew how to identify these high energy sites. They frequently used them as centers of spirituality and community gathering. Ireland still has ruins that mark some of these old sites.
Our 2011 tour explored sites around Dublin and the south, south west of Ireland. The slide show embedded below offers images of the sites and the guests for that tour. The group spent eight days touring sites in seven counties. Below the slide show, I’ve added my daily journal of where we went and what we did and a link to a Flickr collection that has photos taken of that day’s activities.
If you are interested in joining us on a tour, our 2012 Thin Places Tour will run from May 13 to 22. You can read more about that tour on the home page of the Thin Places Tour website.
Enjoy this short video of our 2011 trip. And please add your comments and questions in the fields at the end of the post.
Thin Places Tour Journal – Mindie Burgoyne, tour guide
May 15 – Day 1: Tour of Newgrange, Hill of Tara and Irish House Party
Met the tour guests for the first time in the Dublin City Centre where we joined the Mary Gibbons Tour of Newgrange and the Hill of Tara. Mary Gibbons offered extraordinary information, both historical and anthropological on both these sites. The tour of Newgrange passage tomb was fabulous because our tour was small. The ancient stones with the spiral carvings are both rare and remarkable. The Hill of Tara tour was exclaimated by the opportunity to meet author, Michael Slavin who wrote The Book of Tara and The Tara Walk. The Hill of Tara was quite windy, which only added to its majesty and mystery. The evening was capped by all guests on the tour sharing a meal at an Irish House Party in Dublin. Good food and traditional Irish Music. Tomorrow – Kildare and Cashel.
May 16 – Day 2: Kildare, Holycross Abbey, Hoare Abbey, Rock of Cashel, Athassel Priory
Left Dublin by bus with first stop at Solas Bhride Spiritual Center, the Brigidine Sisters’ Motherhouse in Kildare. It was in Kildare that St. Brigid of Ireland founded her monastic community. That community still exists in Kildare. Sr. Mary Minehan hosted our group at Solas Bhride and spoke about the mission of her community and the life of St. Brigid. A visit to Kildare Cathedral and Tobar Bride (St. Brigid’s Holy Well) followed. Next the group visited Holycross Abbey in Thurles, Co. Tipperary where a relic of the true cross can be seen in an inside chapel. Then the group made it to the town of Cashel and visited Hoare Abbey ruins and Athassel Priory. The Rock of Cashel was closed due to the Queen’s visit. Cashel is a very spiritual place with many thin places.
May 17th – Day 3: Day Ardmore and Cork
Left Cashel early and stopped in Cobh where the group had lunch. Cobh is famous for being the port where the Titantic left Ireland on her maiden (and final) journey. Cruise ships still come into Cobh, and one mammoth ship was docked when we arrived. After a short visit in Cobh, we traveled to Ardmore in County Waterford. The town is said to be home to the first Christian settlement in Ireland, founded by St. Declan before St. Patrick began his ministry. It also has one of the most swim-able, beautiful beaches in the country. In Ardmore we saw St. Declan’s rock, St. Declan’s Holy Well and the monastic settlement with intriguing ruins and a roundtower. St. Declan is said to be buried there. The ocean views are spectacular from that site. After Ardmore we headed for Cork City where we had dinner and spent the night.
May 18 – Day 4: Free Day in Cork City
Each guest enjoyed the first free day of the tour in his or her own way. Dan and I visited the English Market and had lunch at the Farmgate Restaurant. We shopped a little and then I boarded the hop-on-hop-off bus for a complete guided tour of the City. Cork has many bridges and some spectacular sites – St. Anne’s Church with the magical Bells of Chandon, St. Finbar’s Cathedral, the Cork City Gaol, the Franciscan Monastery, and the public spaces on the river fronts. Had a relaxing dinner at the hotel with a few of the tour guests.
May 19 – Day 5: Kinsale, Drombeg Stone Circle and Gougane Barra
First stop for the day was Kinsale, not specifically known for its “thin places” but one of the most scenic Irish cities. It would be a shame for the visitor to miss it. Most had their lunch in town and shopped a bit. Then we moved on to Drombeg Stone Circle – a very thin place with strong energies. Following Drombeg, the group visited Gougane Barra, the smallest church in Ireland. Set in a West Cork on a tiny island surrounded by mountains and lakes, this was the place St. Finbar chose for his first monastic settlement. He grew up nearby and remnants of a ruined monastery still sit on the small island. Finally, the group settled into the Brooklane Hotel in Kenmare and had a wonderful dinner together.
May 20 – Day 6: Free Day – Optional Tour of Beara Peninsula
Second Free Day for the tour group. Some spent time exploring the Medieval City of Kenmare and others accompanied Dan and I on a wonderful tour of the Beara Peninsula. The Beara is seldom traversed by tourists because the roads can be narrow and treacherous. But the scenery is stunning. The rural areas are still rural and the people among the friendliest you’ll find anywhere in Ireland. We began with a drive through Bonane Heritage Park in the Caha Mountains. Then went on to Castletownbere where we saw MacCarthy’s Bar (same one made famous by the book of same name). Ate lunch and then explored the west side of the Peninsula which included the Hag of Beara, the death place of the Children of Lir, Allihies, and the Uragh Stone Circle.
May 21 – Day 7: Gap of Dunloe, Kilarney, Dingle – Slea Head tour, Great Blasket Heritage Centre, Gallarus Oratory
The day began rainy. The Gap of Dunloe, normally a stunning view, was misted over by rain and clouds. Tour stopped in Kilarney in a downpour for some shopping. Then on to Dingle where we first stopped at the harbor and had lunch. Then the group took a tour of around Slea Head stopping at the Great Blasket Heritage Center and the Gallarus Oratory. Then guests checked into the Benners Hotel (excellent) and explored Dingle town and its excellent nightlife and traditional music.
May 22 – Day 8: Free day in Dingle – Optional Archeological Tour, Farewell Dinner at the Benners Hotel.
Guests had the option to explore Dingle on their own for a full day. Most guests shopped, rested, ate and explored spots such as St. Mary’s Church, The Dingle Arts Center, The Carol Cronin Gallery, The Harry Clarke windows in the convent next to St. Mary’s. One guest and I took a 3 hour guided archealogical tour where we saw hidden parts of Dingle with excellent commentary. The views were spectacular and the time spent with our guide, Kevin was excellent. That evening the group came together for a farewell dinner at the Benners Hotel.
May 23rd – Day 9: Traveling day to departure cities.
Most of said good-bye on Day 9. After leaving Dingle, two of our guests went by train to Dublin to catch their flight to the USA, another guest stayed in town in Limerick and the rest of spent the day and evening relaxing at the Raddison Blu Hotel outside Limerick before saying our final good-byes at Shannon Airport the next day. Dan and I stayed behind for a few extra days to visit some sites in Sligo, Mayo and Galway.