2014 Northern Welcome 8 Days/7 Nights
Start your tour at Dublin Airport with a 30-minute transfer to Drogheda, departing at 8:00 am, 10:00 am and 12:00 noon. Your hotel is in the center of the town and overlooking the River Boyne. At 2:00 pm take a gentle walking tour around this historic and attractive town that Oliver Cromwell besieged in 1649 and killed 2,000 people, making him the most reviled man in Irish history. See the head of St. Oliver Plunkett, the first Irishman to be canonized in 700 years, and 14th century St. Laurence Gate in the medieval walls. Join your tour director and fellow travelers for a welcome drink and dine in the hotel restaurant.
This morning visit the Boyne Valley Visitor Centre to learn about the 5,000-year-old burial tombs of Newgrange and Knowth. Tour one of them to see how primitive people managed to align huge boulders precisely with the movements of the sun. Travel past the gentle slopes of the Mourne Mountains to Belfast for a panoramic tour around central Belfast to see Victorian buildings, the imposing City Hall in Donegall Square and the shipyards where RMS Titanic was built in 1912. Visit Titanic Belfast to learn about this ill-fated famous liner through state-of-the-art displays.
Drive north along the “Nine Glens of Antrim,” a scenic route with lovely views of mountains, valleys and coastline. Visit Sheans Heritage Farm for tea and scones. Also learn about cutting turf and the local history. Stop at the Giant’s Causeway, hexagonal columns formed by volcanic activity over 60 million years ago. The different rock formations rocks have spawned a number of legends about the mythical giant, Finn McCool. Continue to your hotel in Derry and relax before dinner.
This morning join a local guide for a short walk around Derry’s medieval city walls and learn about the development of the settlement through the ages and right up through 20th century history. Drive south to visit the Ulster American Folk Park near Omagh where you can see cozy cottages depicting a bygone way of life in rural Ireland with demonstrations of crafts and skills and also see cabins as they would have been in colonial America when settlers traveled to Appalachia. Return to Derry and visit the award-winning Tower Museum, filled with local artifacts, near your hotel.
Travel through rugged countryside with lovely scenery of heathery hills to Donegal town to tour Donegal Castle, built in the 15th century by an O’Donnell chieftain. Visit the Belleek Pottery Factory to see how the craftspeople shape and decorate clay, creating the world-famous fine china. Pause at Drumcliffe Churchyard to view the grave of W. B. Yeats, the Nobel Prize-winning poet, who based many poems on the delightful countryside around Sligo. Drive through County Mayo to your hotel in Westport.
Visit the stately Westport House, designed by Richard Cassels in 1731. The mansion overlooks the ocean and contains a wealth of interesting portraits, furniture, silver and porcelain. Travel around Clew Bay, which is reputed to have 365 islands, to access Achill Island by a bridge. Follow the Atlantic Drive to capture wonderful views of steeply-sloped mountains plunging into the shimmering Atlantic Ocean. Near Slievemore see the Deserted Village, the remains of nearly 100 stone cottages abandoned around the time of the 1840’s Famine. Stop for a casual lunch at a restaurant and return to Westport where the evening is free.
Drive south for a tour around central Galway to see Eyre Square, Galway Cathedral and the Spanish Arch. Take some time to browse around on your own through the narrow streets that are closed to traffic. Travel through the center of Ireland to visit Kilbeggan Distillery, the oldest distillery in the world, to see artisanal whiskey production and enjoy a sample of the finished product. Drive to your hotel in Dublin and head to the Merry Ploughboy Pub for dinner and a lively traditional Irish show.
Group transfers are provided to Dublin Airport to arrive at 6:00 am, 9:00 am or 12:00 noon.
B: Breakfast; L: Lunch; D: Dinner