Click on the buttons to below to book or find more information, read on for the tour itinerary and check out the video from Aug 2015.
Imagine a tour that tells the story of Ireland? How it all began with visits to hidden archaeological sites connected with St Colmcille or Columba Ireland's mythological and historical giant. This story has a universal message of history, heritage, identity, social justice, literature, spirituality and landscape. We will take you on a journey of a hidden Ireland and back through the centuries as you learn about Ireland and Celtic history, with cultural immersion in the living ancient traditions and of the Gaeltacht (Irish speaking region) and enchanted evenings of music song and dance. All in the company of renowned archaeologist and historian Dr. Brian Lacey.
Based in Gortahork, Co. Donegal guests can expect a treasured experience of insight with visits to hidden gems including the tallest and oldest ringed cross in Ireland as well as Gartan, Glencolumcille for the annual feast of Colmcille, day trips to Derry, Tory Island and Limavady.
A welcome gathering at Óstan Loch Altan with a presentation of the tour and our time together from Dr. Brian Lacey and Moira ní Ghallachóir of mng. Brian will explain the context of the places in Donegal and Derry associated with Colmcille that will be visited as part of this tour in the overall story of the saint's life and legacy which will be followed by a special lecture/workshop from Brian focusing on "The various artistic literary and musical works associated with the saint". Plenty of opportunities for intimate group discussion and debate as our journey through the centuries gets underway.
Day 2 :
Our first visit is to Gartan, guided by Dr. Brian Lacey. We will travel in our private coach to the birthplace of Colmcille and the locality in which he grew up. This area is rife with sacred sites that are well known, as well as many rarely discovered gems that Brian has uncovered over the years. We will visit "Leac na Cumha", the miraculous stone that cures the pain of exile, also where Colmcille’s mother Eithne is said to have given birth to him. We'll also stop at the famous Glebe House and Gallery. We will then visit Churchtown - Rath Cnó. That evening, we will travel back to the hotel and have a rest before dinner. We will enjoy an enchanted evening of entertainment by the delightful and talented “An Crann Óg” – a traditional music and song group that showcases the beauty and rich cultural musical heritage of the Gaeltacht region.
Day 3 :
Following in the footsteps of Colmcille, we will travel the beautiful and storied landscape of west Donegal along the the Wild Atlantic Way to Glencolumcille (valley of Colmcille). We will walk the stations with Brian who has studied the archaeological sites in Glencolumcille for many years and will expertly guide us throughout this day. Turas translated is 'the journey' and is part of a strong christian pilgrimage tradition in Ireland. The full Turas is a three-mile walk around the floor of Glencolumcille valley, visiting 15 'stations', which consist of various ancient monuments and carved stones - the stones mainly dating back to the 8th century.
*Participation in the "Turas" / walk is optional. All levels of ability and interest will be accommodated.
After Glencolmcille we journey along the edge of Western Europe on one of the most stunning routes of the Wild Atlantic Way, stopping off at selected viewpoints at Silver Strand and Malin Beg and onto the highest Cliffs in Europe “Slieve League” or "Slaibh Liag" os Gaeilge – a site for christian pilgrimage for more than 1000 years and a signature discovery point on the Wild Atlantic Way, where we will enjoy a picnic.
Tonight we will enjoy a dining experience at the award winning “Danny Minnies Restaurant” in the Gaeltacht village of Anagry. After dinner we’ll gather at Teach Billie, Gort a Choirce, (located next to the hotel) one of the oldest pubs in the area for an authentic traditional Irish music and song session, (seisúin ceol agus craic).
Day 4 :
*Free morning. We will group together at 11am.
Brian will guide us on our first site visit to the awe-inspiring High Cross at Ray Church that demonstrates close links with Colmcille's most famous monastery on the Scottish island of Iona. After 40 years of studying this cross, Brian maintains this is the oldest and tallest ringed cross in Ireland. We will also visit the ancient graveyard at Tullaghabegley which reflects pre-christian celtic religious beliefs.
There will be an option for time out to browse and wander around the town. Leaving Falcarragh we travel further along the Wild Atlantic Way to Cnoc Fola/Bloody Foreland to visit Teach Mhuiris, a traditional thatched Irish home and museum, where we will enjoy a social history and cultural presentation by a local resident and guide we enjoy afternoon tea with home made bread and rhubarb jam by a peat fire. Guests spend the evening as they choose.
Day 5 :
We step back in time and travel by ferry to Ireland's most remote inhabited island, Tory or Oilean Thoraí, 9 miles off the coast and home to only 100 people. The island has a long history of human inhabitation and has archaeological sites dating back to the Iron Age. There are also christian remains dating back to early medieval times. Tory Island was said to be the home of the mythical Balor of the Evil Eye - a one-eyed formorian king who was eventually savagely killed by his grandson Lugh. Greeted by the king of Tory himself we will visit the early monastic sites, the Tau Cross, and immerse ourselves in the history and lore connecting this famous island with Colmcille. Guests can choose, at their own expense, to stay overnight, and experience more of the island's tradition and culture, famous for vibrant ceilí’s and gaelic song sessions - alternatively, we return to the mainland at 5pm where we can rest before dinner which will be at our hotel, followed by an Irish night of music, song and dance.
Day 6 :
Today we will travel east of Derry City past the rolling green hills, long sandy beaches and the Sperrin Mountains to Limavady to visit the site of the Convention of Drum Ceat. Afterwards we travel back toward the walled city of Derry where we will replay history and follow the medieval pilgrim's' trail then visit the newly opened Áras Cholmcille for a guided tour and also visit the churches in Derry associated with the story of the saint.
That evening a farewell gathering – a night to celebrate with storytelling, Gaelic song, music and dance.