This tour begins and ends in Dublin.
Dublin is a great city, small enough to be easily walked. Discover this city of writers, of talkers, of churches, pubs, music and of Georgian architecture. See Dublin Castle, The Book of Kells, Writers Museum, Guinness Factory, stroll the alleyways of Tollbar, the banks of The Liffey and enjoy magnificent shopping on Grafton Street. Dublin’s Hop-on/Hop-off bus is a fun way to see the city’s iconic sites if you choose. Please discuss options with us, SGT is happy to assist with Dublin accommodation, tours and tickets as you wish.
As a special treat, this literary tour is scheduled to coincide with the annual James Joyce Bloomsday festivities in Dublin! Also, 2015 marks 150 years since Yeats’ birth so surely an amazing time to visit!
Day 1 Tuesday
We depart our central Dublin meeting point at approximately 9am. Today we are exploring Celtic folklore, the world of the mystical Ireland before the written word. The New Stone Age Passage Graves at Newgrange are regarded as among the most impressive prehistoric monuments in Europe, dating from around 3200 BC, predating Stonehenge, Mycenae and the pyramids of Egypt. Step back through the mists of time, to almost the very start of history!
Later, a rare bit of motorway driving as we make our way into County Sligo, our base for these two evenings. Subject to availability, our accommodation is Markree Castle, the Cooper family home for 370 years. Today the property has been lovely restored into a fine country house hotel, set in a secluded 500 acre estate featuring fine Victorian style gardens, good food, fine wine, practically oozing with old-world charm.
ON: County Sligo PROPERTY: Markree Castle or similar http://www.markreecastle.ie/
Dinner, bed and breakfast
DAY 2 Wednesday
Our focus today is on “W B Yeats Country,” County Sligo. We’ll meander the stunning scenery where Yeats spent his early life, places that inspired the man considered one of the country’s greatest poets. Our day will include Glencar, a spectacular waterfall featured in his poem “The Stolen Child,” Loch Gill and of course Drumcliffe Church where we can pay respects at Yeats grave. We’ll also visit Carrowmore Megalithic Cemetery, the largest and oldest megalithic tombs in Ireland, plus the town of Sligo itself with its quaint shops, book stores and galleries. Sligo County Museum & Art Gallery, home to a large collection of Yeats’ work, might be of a particular interest for fans.
ON: Sligo, as above; Dinner, bed and breakfast
Day 3 Thursday
This wild, western side of Ireland is spectacular, a region seemingly designed for touring off the beaten track! Our route today will take us through breathtaking County Mayo and Connemara scenery. If we’re lucky, we may just get to see some of the famed Connemara ponies too! During our day, we can uncover a few Joyce connections through the family heritage of his wife Nora. For a taste of the area pre-tour, we recommend reading George Moore, considered by some to be the first of the modern Irish novelists.
This evening is a chance to enjoy the Galway nightlife, where traditional live music sessions are not only possible but likely. This compact, university-city is a wonderful place of narrow streets crammed with interesting sites, pubs and shopping opportunities. There is the option of an evening at a local theatre for those that prefer. http://www.galwaytourism.ie/galway-entertainment/galway-theatres/
Dinner is not included tonight for flexibility’s sake.
ON: Galway City PROPERTY: Park House, Imperial or similar http://www.parkhousehotel.ie/ http://www.imperialhotelgalway.ie/
Bed and breakfast
Day 4 Friday 13 June is YEATS DAY
Today marks 150 years since the birth of William Butler Years on June 13th 1865 and we will celebrate with a full day of literary heritage and icons!
Coole Park was the home of Lady Gregory – dramatist, folklorist and co-founder of the Abbey Theatre Dublin – whom George Bernard Shaw once described as the ‘greatest living Irishwoman.’ Her home was a haven for a variety of great literary figures throughout the late 19th/early 20th Century during the “Gaelic Literary Revival.” Many friends carved their names into a tree in the walled garden, Yeats, Shaw, Synge, and O’Casey among them. Alas, the house has been lost to time but the walled garden, complete with ‘Autograph Tree,’ and the extensive woods made famous as Yeats’ “Seven Woods” remain. There is a well appointed Visitor Centre now onsite too.
“The Wild Swans at Coole Park” by YB Yeats
The trees are in their autumn beauty,
The woodland paths are dry,
Under the October twilight the water
Mirrors a still sky;
Upon the brimming water among the stones
Are nine-and-fifty swans.
Nearby, in a pretty setting alongside a trout stream, is Thoor Ballylee, a medieval tower house that Yeats made his summer home for 12 years. Here he was inspired to write “The Winding Stair,” “The Tower Poems” and others. We can see the impressive exterior of the building but, unfortunately at time of publishing, the Yeats Museum here is closed due to flood damage. Should it re-open in time for our tour date, of course we’ll visit!
Two iconic ‘Emerald’ Ireland sites are also on our agenda today: the Cliffs of Moher is one of the most impressive stretches of the western coastline. Inland is the curious ‘lunar-landscape’ scenery of The Burren National Park. Dependent upon time and our chosen route, we might also see either Aillwee Cave and some prehistoric burial sites or perhaps one or two Galway Bay harbour towns. Spoilt for choice!
Tonight, another night out on the town in Galway awaits those that wish it. Dinner is not included for flexibility’s sake.
ON: Galway City, as above; Bed and breakfast
Day 5 Saturday
Today we head back to Dublin, en-route enjoying a visit in Clonmacnoise, the impressive remains of a 6th Century monastery. Many kings of Tara and Connaught are buried here and many colourful legends are attached to this site; learn about ‘the water that flows uphill,’ ‘the tree that won’t burn’ and ‘the monastery built in a bog.’
If we’ve time, we may choose to route via the lovely seaside resort town of Dalkey, the beloved home of George Bernard Shaw, Maeve Binchy, playwright Hugh Leonard and many well known Irish musicians.
Our final must see destination of our literary adventure is the James Joyce Museum Sandycove, once one of a series of Martello Towers built to withstand an invasion by Napoleon. Joyce made the tower the setting for the first chapter of his masterpiece, Ulysses. Beautifully located on the coast south of Dublin, this tower is a perfect setting to inspire! The gun platform with its panoramic view and the living room inside the tower are much as he described them in his book. The collection here includes letters, photographs, first and rare editions and personal possessions.
We’ll arrive into Central Dublin in time for an optional evening Literary Dublin Pub Walk for those that wish it. Accommodation is separate tonight, available for a supplemental fee.
16 June is the annual James Joyce Bloomsday celebrations!
Please note: All attraction opening times are correct at time of printing this website. While we will do our utmost to include all of the properties mentioned as central visits, we reserve the right to change an attraction should it become impossible to deliver a planned visit due to unforeseen changes in opening days or times.
Oft imitated, never duplicated! This is an original SGT itinerary, property of Special Group Tours and to be used only with express permission/in conjunction with SGT.