Mindie Burgoyne will guide guests across seven counties on the Thin Places Tour of Northern Ireland – September 5-15, 2013. Nine days and ten nights of touring will include overnight stays in 3 star hotels located in popular Irish cities – including Donegal, Iniskillen, Derry and Belfast. This will allow guests to experience the hospitality and culture of the Irish. Days will be spent touring the northern Irish country side in rural landscapes seldom seen by most visitors to Ireland.
DAY 1 – Thursday, September 5 – Welcome to Ireland !
Arrival in Dublin – Transport to Enniskillen – Welcome Event
Guests arrive at Dublin Airport and board bus for transport to hotel in Enniskillen. Time to relax or explore the city, then attend a welcoming event in your honor at the hotel.
DAY 2 – Friday, September 6 – Armagh and Tyrone
Armagh Cathedral – Navan Fort – Altadaven Wood
After a full Irish breakfast guest will travel to the historic city of Armagh, seat of Irish Christianity, and tour the St. Patrick’s Cathedral situated at the highest point in the city. This is the site of St. Patrick’s original bishopric. The bodies of Brian Boru and his sons are buried on this sacred hill. Guided tour will be offered through the Cathedral.
Then tour the Navan Fort, legendary training site of the Knight of the Redbranch. Hear the ancient legends and explore the sites with a guided tour. Navan fort is the principal archaeological site in Northern Ireland. The Egyptian geographer Ptolemy marked this site on his map of the known world in the 2nd century naming it Isamnium. Emain Macha, the Gaelic name for Navan Fort, translates as ‘the twins of Macha’ and it comes from just one of the intriguing legends surrounding Navan Fort. The hill was the site for homes and a huge temple during the Iron and Bronze Ages. Close by is a Bronze Age pond now called the King’s stables where remains of bronze casting have been found.
Lunch in Armagh under own arrangement.
Finally, venture to Altadaven Wood and see the ancient druidic / Christian sites, St. Patrick’s Chair and Holy Well. St Patrick’s Chair and Well (also known as the Druids Chair and Well or St Brigid’s Well or St Brigit’s Well) lies within Altadaven Wood, not far from the Ulster Way footpath. The chair is a huge 2m high stone block, shaped like a throne. The Well, which is said to never run dry is another rock, but this one has a 25cm bullaun, or depression in it. This is filled with natural water. According to folklore, the water within such depressions or bullauns has healing powers and this well is supposed to be good at curing warts. Though it has been suggested that Druids would have found the site of particular interest, I do not know of any archaeological evidence suggesting this was a Celtic site of worship. This has not stopped the site being referred to as an ancient druidic centre though. St Patrick probably became associated with it as Altadaven translates as ‘The Demon Cliff’ and the saint was said to have driven demonic creatures over it. This tale is also attributed to St Brigid. There are two Rag Trees between the chair and well where offerings have been tied.
Overnight in Enniskillen
DAY 3 – Saturday, September 7 – Lough Erne & Boa Island
Whites and Devinish Islands – Caldragh Cemetery
After a full Irish breakfast in venture to Castle Archdale on Lough Erne and board a boat that will go to two small island in the lough with monastic ruins and sacred stones – Whites and Devinish Islands.
Whites Island is a short distance from the town of Enniskillen and is situated at Castle Archdale Bay off the east shore of Lower Lough Erne. The island’s main feature is the ruined 12th-century church with its fine Romanesque doorway. The island is also known for its archaic carved stone figures which sit in a line and are set into the wall. These figures were used as building stones when the church was being constructed which means that they pre-date the church. There are 8 figures in total including a frowning face or ‘mask’, and also an uncarved figure.
Devinish Island has a monastic site that was founded in the 6th century by Saint Molaise. During its history it has been raided by Vikings (837AD), burned (1157AD) and flourished (Middle Ages) as a parish church site and St Mary’s Augustine Priory. There are ruins from different time periods on site; the earliest being St Molaise house (small church) and the round tower which are 12th Century. A second church from the 13th Century, which was extended over time, was the lower church. St Marys Augustinian Priory on the hilltop has been dated from the middle 15th Century to early 16th Century with a church, tower and small cloister. In the graveyard stands a distinctive, unusual, intricately carved stone cross from the 15th Century.
Return to Castlearchdale Park where there are numerous nature trails, Lough side and woodland walks and cycle trails run throughout this beautiful country park which is located on the shores of lower Lough Erne. Visitors can also explore a butterfly garden, wildflower meadow and deer enclosure. Visit the Archdale Centre, which is in the corner of the main courtyard. Here you can see various exhibitions, including ‘Castle Archdale at War’. The exhibition highlights Castle Archdale’s important role in WW2 as the most westerly flying-boat station, from which aircraft protected the allied convoys from the U-boat threat in the North Atlantic.
Lunch at Castlearchdale under your own arrangement.
Then travel to Boa Island, also on Lough Erne and visit Caldragh Cemetery famous for its ancient Janus figures. Boa Island at the northern end of Lower Lough Erne has the most striking pre-Christian stone figure in the area. The Janus Idol and a smaller statue, the Lusty Man, are in the ancient Caldragh cemetery near the eastern bridge, which connects Boa Island to the mainland off the A47. The Janus idol is a double-faced pagan figure with crossed arms and a warrior’s belt, and a phallus on one side. He could be a fertility symbol or a warrior god. The Lusty Man, which was moved to Boa from the nearby private Lustybeg Island, is more worn but you can still see that he has one blind eye. Offerings of flowers and coins are still left at the feet of the two idols. In Caldragh Cemetery on Boa Island, Lower lough Erne stand two unique stone carvings. The larger of these is a Janus figure, two figures back to back with pear shaped heads and interlacing between the heads representing hair. The East face pictured left is carved with a penis and is the male side of the figure, and the west face pictured above is the female side. Both of these carving are in high relief. The smaller figure which is known as “the Lustyman” because it was found on the nearby island Lusty More, may in fact be a female figure. Both figures are described as Celtic Idols.
Overnight in Enniskillen
DAY 4 – Sunday, September 8 – Inishmurray
All day cruise and tour to Inishmurray – off-shore island
After a full Irish breakfast enjoy a boat trip to Inishmurray, an off-shore island that is no longer inhabited. Inishmurray is a small island which lies in Donegal Bay off the coast of County Sligo Ireland approximately 7km from Streedagh the nearest point on the mainland. The islands main historical feature the Cashel is an early Christian monastic settlement ascribed to St Molaise and is estimated to date back to the 6th century. The discovery of a cist burial and carved stones suggests prehistoric occupation. Inishmurray was occupied in relatively more recent times until 1948 when the last remaining islanders left for a new life on the mainland. The remains of their homes are all that’s left of what was once a small thriving community living of the sea and a small area of arable land.
Overnight in Donegal town.
DAY 5 – Monday, September 9 – County Donegal
Slieve League – Glencolumbkille – Killybegs
After a full Irish breakfast visit Glencolumbkille and the Folk Museum there, and tour some of the devotional stations in a magnificent countryside. Settlement of the area dates back 5000 years and Stone Age remains dot the landscape. The name in Gaelic of this tiny settlement Gleann Cholm Cille ( Glen of Columba’s church) suggests that the 6th century St Colmcille (St Columba) lived in the valley and remains of his church can still be seen. Each year at midnight on the 9th of June the village becomes the focal point for a penitential walkabout known locally as the Turas (the journey). The Turas is a round of stations (places on a route used for prayer and devotion). These stations consist of megalithic tombs, natural landscape features and cross pillars. The latter are quite spectacularly beautiful.
Enjoy your lunch at the seaside town of Killybegs pub (under own arrangements)
Enjoy one of the most scenic drives in Ireland – through Slieve League
This is a mountain on the Atlantic coast of County Donegal, Republic of Ireland. At 601 metres (1,972 ft), it has some of the highest sea cliffs on the island of Ireland. Although less famous than the Cliffs of Moher in County Clare, Slieve League’s cliffs reach almost three times higher.
OPTIONAL FISHING TOUR ADDED FOR THIS DAY:
For guests who would rather forgo the Slieve League hike, Dan Burgoyne will escort those interested on a fishing expedition in the Glen River under the guidance of angling pro, Noel Carr who also serves as the Secretary of FISSTA – Federation of Irish Salmon and Sea Trout Anglers. Cost for the optional trip is $85 per person.
Overnight in Donegal.
DAY 6 – Tuesday, September 10 – Inishowen Peninsula
Grianán of Aileach – Beltany Stone Circle – Inishowen Peninsula
After a full Irish breakfast visit Beltany stone circle and experience some of the most powerful earth energy in all of Ireland. Beltany is a neolithic stone circle just south of Raphoe town in County Donegal, Ireland. It dates from around 1400-800 BC and comprises 64 stones around a low earth platform or tumulus, situated at the summit of Tops Hill. One stone is decorated with cup marks and many of the stones stand at an angle after being disturbed around a hundred years ago. There may originally have been about 80 stones. A single stone about 2 metres high stands to the southeast of the circle. It probably had some function related to the rites or ceremonies in the circle. A stone head was found at Beltany, probably carved between 400 BC and 400 AD. This may indicate that the stone circle was used for many centuries. It has been suggested that the name of the site is linked to the Celtic festival of fertility known as ‘Beltane; Properly known as Beltaine. Pronounced Bal-tin-neh, meaning Bal-tinne; ‘Bal’s fire’ Bal being the sun god and the fire ceremony being a homage and source of regeneration for his power to rejuvenate the sun for the following season.
Then visit Grianán of Aileach, a stone fort sitting on a rise 250 meters above sea level. The fort is build largely without mortar and dates back to 1700 BC. It’s one of the finest stone forts in Ireland. From the hill-top there are commanding views over Lough Foyle, Lough Swilly, and Derry, about 8km (5 mi) to the East. The massive stone wall is 3.9m (13ft) thick and encloses an area 23.4m (77ft) in diameter. In the walls are small chambers; a series of stairs at regular intervals inside the walls gave access to the wall-walk. The entrance is very long and lintelled. The structure is similar to an amphitheater.
Continue on to sites on the Inishowen Peninsula
The Inishowen Peninsula with Lough Foyle to the east and Lough Swilly to the west reaches out into the Atlantic and extends to Ireland’s northernmost point: Malin Head. The landscape is typically Donegal: rugged, desolate and mountainous. Ancient sites abound, but there are also some wonderful beaches and plenty of sites to visit. The peninsula is a European Special area of Conservation and home to over 100 species of migrating and indigenous bird life.
Overnight in Derry.
DAY 7 – Wednesday, September 11 – Derry and Tyrone
Derry town – Beaghmore Stone Circle – Tullahogue – Ardboe
After a full Irish breakfast meet with your local English speaking guide and enjoy Derry City Tour
Derry was the last walled city to be built in Ireland. 400 workers built these magnificent walls between 1613 and 1618. With measurements of 8m high and 9m wide, the walls were built to last and have never been breached. The four original protective Iron gates have been rebuilt and three new gates added. Today these gates remain open, making it possible to walk around the walls. Walking the walls enables you to enjoy the overview of the Bogside on one side and the Waterside on the other. You will also be able to see some of the historic murals still present in the city. A walk on the walls is a walk back in time as they have always played an important role in the history of this famous city.
Visit St Columb’s (Columba) Cathedral
Built between 1628 and 1633 in “Planters gothic” style, St Columb’s was the first Cathedral to be founded, in Ireland, after the reformation. An imposing Gothic structure, the interior was extensively restored on the 19th century. A small museum in the chapter house contains relics for the siege in 1689 including the 17th century locks and keys of the city. The stained glass windows depict heroic scenes from the great siege of 1688/89 and there is an audio-visual display inside on the siege and history of the cathedral. The flat tombstones in the churchyard are traditional. The tradition started during the siege of Derry when existing headstones were laid flat to minimise damage from cannon.
Enjoy the Beaghmore Stone Circle
Discovered during peat cutting in the 1940s the site at Beaghmore consists of 7 stone circles. All of the rings are associated with cairns and a stone row runs towards these cairns. It is possible that Neolithic occupation and cultivation preceded the erection of burial cairns and ceremonial circles and alignments: some irregular lines and heaps of boulders resembling field-fences or field-clearance may predate the ritual structures. At some stage peat started to form over the site, and it may conceivably be that the cairns and rows were erected in a futile propitiatory attempt to restore fertility to the soil by attracting back the fading sun.
Then visit Tullahogue (meaning Hill of the Young Warriors), an ancient fort that was once the dynastic center and inauguration place for the power O’Neil clan of Ulster. With its earth rings and mature trees, one can still sense the powerful presence of this place.
Lunch under own arrangements
Visit Ardboe Monastic ruins and high cross.
The Ardboe high cross stands at Arboe Point, ‘the Hill of the Cow’, on the west shore of Lough Neagh (pictured at the top of this page). It is a particularly fine specimen and belongs to a late period in the development of the sculptured free-standing ringed crosses. In its present form it is a reconstruction, the upper part having fallen in 1846, and now stands 18 feet high. The carved details depict biblical scenes some of which are self evident – Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes, the Crucifixion, David and Goliath, the Last Supper, Cain and Able, etc. – but weathering has obscured the meaning of other panels. There was a monastery hereabouts in the sixth century and pilgrimages are still made to the sacred site. Ardboe was an ancient pagan sacred site prior to the Christian settlement. The earth energies in this site are strong.
Overnight in Derry.
DAY 8 – Thursday, September 12 – Antrim Coast
Dunluce Castle – White Park Bay – Giants Causeway
After a full Irish breakfast head out to the scenic Antrim Coast.
Visit Dunluce Castle
The ruins of Dunluce Castle are located on the North Antrim coast and stand proudly on a 30m high column of basalt rock. The ruins portray the air of strength this site commanded. Before the advent of gunpowder it would have been almost impossible to conquer. The castle dates largely from the 16th and 17th centuries, however the outer walls with round towers are attributed to being built in the 14th century by the MacQuillans. The Castle can only be reached over a bridge, which now replaces an original rocky connection. The bridge leads to the “New” Scottish style gatehouse built after cannon destroyed the original in 1584. In the two openings of the old gatehouse wall are found cannon salvaged from the wrecked Spanish Armada Galleon ship the Girona, which sank nearby in 1588. On the “Mainland” area of the Castle complex, can be found the remains of the earl’s garden laid out in three terraces. This area also included the lodgings for the many visitors who graced the Castle in the 17th century. The visitor to Dunluce is invited to view an excellent audio-visual presentation on the history and legends of Dunluce Castle.
Enjoy the coast drive and White Park Bay
The spectacular sandy beach forms a white arc between two headlands on the North Antrim coast. In this secluded location, even on a busy day there is plenty of room for quiet relaxation. The beach is backed by ancient dunes that provide a range of rich habitats for bird and animal life. White Park Bay has a mystical presence. The sand is said to “sing.” When standing on the shore facing the land, it’s possible to see the traces of the sacred landscape which includes passage cairns and burial chambers. There is a powerful presence about White Park Bay.
Lunch under own arrangements
Visit Giant Causeway
The Causeway was formed more than 60 million years ago when red-hot lava erupted onto the surface of the earth. It was quickly cooled by the sea, which crystallized it and formed it into the 40,000 basalt polygonal columns, which today form the Giants Causeway. A must on any visit to the North of Ireland, the Causeway is an UNESCO World Heritage site, and is often referred to as the ‘Eighth Wonder of the World’. The Visitor Centre hosts a multi-lingual audio-visual show, which explains the origin, and the geology of the Causeway as well as adding credence to the various legends told of the Giants Causeway. There is a bus service from the heritage centre to the Causeway.
Continue to Belfast. Overnight in Belfast
DAY 9 – Friday, September 13 – Belfast
Belfast Town Tour and Slemish Mountain
After breakfast meet with your local English speaking guide and enjoy Belfast city tour.
A guided city tour is an excellent way to discover Belfast City. The tour will take in the leaning Albert Memorial Clock tower (Ireland’s answer to the Tower of Pisa) and the Opera House, which is one of Belfast’s great landmarks. Your tour will pass by the City Hall, the Opera house, The Crown Bar (dates from 1885), Queens University and the Botanic Gardens. Some tours will take in a visit to the Harland and Wolfe Shipyard, where the Titanic was built and launched in 1912. A visit to the Shankill and Falls road will be of interest as it will give the visitor an indication of how life was in Belfast during the troubles.
Lunch under own arrangements
Continue to Slemish mountain
Slemish Mountain, the legendary first known Irish home of Saint Patrick, is located in Co. Antrim. The mountain rises about 1500 feet (437 metres) above the surrounding plain, and it is actually the central core of an extinct volcano. According to legend, following his capture and being brought as a slave to Ireland, Patrick worked as a shepherd at Slemish Mountain for about six years, from ages 16 through 22, for a man named Milchu (or Miluic). It was during this time that Patrick turned to frequent prayer as his only consolation in his loneliness. In a vision he was encouraged to escape and return home.
Overnight in Belfast.
DAY 10 – Saturday, September 14 – Downpatrick
CNendrum monastic site, Downpatrick Cathedral and Gaol Museum
Today morning depart for county Down
On your way visit Nendrum Monastic Site
Located at Mahee Island, Comber, this is a classic example of a pre-Norman monastic enclosure. Created by Saint Patrick’s convert Saint Mochaoi, it sits on a beautiful site on Mahee Island in Strangford Lough. Also on the site are the remains of a round tower stump as well as the foundations of other buildings. The Nendrum bell founded on this site is now held in the Ulster Museum.
Visit St Patrick’s Cathedral – Down Cathedral.
Down Cathedral is also called the cathedral of the Holy and Undivided Trinity. It is a conglomerate of 1600 years of reconstruction. Viking attacks wiped out any trace of earlier churches and monasteries and the Irish Augustinians, who followed, produced little before being evicted by the Normans Benedictines. Today’s structure is an 18th and 19th century reconstruction of a 16th century cathedral with a few additions. The interior reveals a bygone era of churchgoing. The private pews are the last of their kind still in use in Ireland. Note the pillar capitals, the eastern window representing the Apostles and the fine 18th century Church organ. A tombstone in the cemetery, which surrounds the cathedral, bears the inscription ‘patric’ and is believed to be the resting place of St Patrick ~ the patron saint of Ireland. There is also a 9th century high cross but alas in poor condition. Also visit the 18th century Gaol (jail) on the Mall of Cathdral Hill.
Overnight in Dublin.
DAY 11 – Sunday, September 15 – Dublin Airport
Transport to Dublin Airport from hotel
After a final Irish breakfast transfer to Dublin Airport for your return flight home.