Day 1: Departure from the USA
How many loved your moments of glad grace/And… one man loved the pilgrim soul in you, And loved the sorrows of your changling face (William Butler Yeats).
Our journey begins with an overnight flight—with full meal/beverage service and in-flight entertainment—to Dublin, Ireland.
Day 2: Welcome to Ireland
May you live all the days of your life (Jonathan Swift).
Welcome to vibrant, soulful Dublin! Upon arrival in “Dublin’s Fair City”, we’ll meet our Faith Journeys tour manager and transfer by motor coach for a panoramic Dublin City Tour, an ideal introduction to Ireland’s capital, known for its architecture, rich literary history (having produced many prominent Nobel Laureates), and irrepressible spirit. The tour will introduce us to the principal sites, including the elegant Georgian squares, famous for its architecture and interesting doors. We’ll pass by Trinity College, home to the 8th century Book of Kells, a splendidly illuminated version of the Christian Gospels which displays incredible workmanship and extraordinary colors derived from shellfish, beetles’ wings, and crushed pearls—some historians feel it contains all the designs to be found in Celtic art—and the long room of 200,000 books. On our way to the Phoenix Park, we’ll take in Christchurch Cathedral, site of Dublin’s first wooden church built by King Sitric Silkenbeard (first Christian Viking king of Dublin) in 1038. We’ll then continue on to St Patrick’s Cathedral. Built in 1192 in honor of Ireland’s patron saint, it stands adjacent to the famous well where tradition has it that St. Patrick baptized converts on his visit to Dublin. The parish church of St. Patrick was granted collegiate status in 1191, and raised to cathedral status in 1224. This grand, Gothic cathedral is one of Ireland’s largest and is made famous by its former dean Jonathan Swift, author of “Gulliver’s Travels.” Its splendid interior is adorned with funeral monuments, such as The Boyle Family Memorial and the grave of Dean Jonathan Swift. The Cathedral is today the National Cathedral of the Church of Ireland (a church of the Anglican Communion). Before arriving back onto O’Connell Street and the city center, we’ll pass by the Quays, the Guinness brewery, and Collins Barrack, now part of the National Museum. This evening, we’ll check-in to our hotel for dinner and overnight accommodations.
Day 3: Wicklow & Glendalough
Described as one of the most important and magnificent of the surviving medieval Irish manuscripts, the Book of Glendalough (in Irish: Lebar Glinne Dá Locha), is a rich source of information re the community at Glendalough on or about the year 1131, and a magnificent witness to the high standard of scholarship attained by the monastic center there.
Today we will enjoy a half-day tour of Wicklow and Glendalough, located south of Dublin, in County Wicklow. Known as “the Garden of Ireland”, it is home to Powerscourt, Mount Usher and Russborough, to name a few of its many lovely houses and gardens. The coastline is bordered by charming sea resorts such as Bray and Greystones, while the picturesque villages of Enniskerry and Avoca are nestled in the heart of its gentle and rounded hills. From coastline and deserted mounts where nothing but heather grows, to small forests and lush prairies illuminated by yellow gorse in spring, this romantic, mysterious region features all the various types of scenery that makes Ireland so beautiful. Visiting Glendalough (a 6th century monastic site founded by St. Kevin), and Powerscourt house and gardens are a must in Wicklow. Set in a glaciated valley with two lakes, the monastic remains include a superb round tower, stone churches and decorated crosses. The Visitor Center has an interesting exhibition on Glendalough detailing the history, archaeology and wildlife of this part of Wicklow and includes an audio-visual presentation. While the visitor center is fully accessible for visitors with disabilities, access to the actual monastic site is very difficult for wheelchair users. Later, we’ll return to Dublin to enjoy the balance of the day at leisure, before returning to our hotel for dinner and overnight accommodations.
Day 4: Dublin to Belfast
Pro tanto quid retribuamus (the motto of the city of Belfast taken from Psalm 116:12 (“What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits toward me?”); the Latin translates literally: “For (Pro) so much (tanto) given (quid) we shall repay (retribuamus).
This morning we depart Dublin and travel through the Boyne Valley—the most historical region of the whole island—to find the most important Irish monuments: Newgrange, Knowth and Loughcrew Cairns which are megalithic tombs, dating from 2500 B.C, and located along the valley of the river Boyne. The river is also known for the famous Battle of the Boyne in 1690 between the Catholic King James of England and the Protestant King William. The victory of William over James had immediate repercussions on Ireland, some of which are still felt today. The Brú Na Bóinne Visitor Center, the starting point for all visits to the monuments, is designed to present the archaeological heritage of the Boyne Valley, and features an extensive exhibition with a full-scale replica of the chamber at Newgrange as well as a full model of one of the smaller tombs at Knowth. The center also includes a café/restaurant. Please note that visits to Bru na Boinne, Newgrange and Knowth are subject to availability. We’ll continue to Belfast to enjoy a panoramic tour of the city. The tour will take in the leaning Albert Memorial Clock tower (Ireland’s answer to the Tower of Pisa!) and one of Belfast’s great landmarks, the Opera House. We will pass by the City Hall, the Crown Bar (dates from 1885), Queens University and the Botanic Gardens. Our tour might also 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 too, as it will give us an indication of how life was in Belfast during the troubles. This evening we’ll enjoy dinner before checking into our hotel for overnight accommodations.
Day 5: Irish Sea & Welcome to Scotland
Autumn departs – but still his mantle’s fold/ Rests on the groves…/ Beneath a shroud of russet dropp’d with Gold…/ And yet some tints of summer splendor tell/ When the broad sun sinks down on Ettrick’s western fell (From Canto First of “The Lord of the Isles” by Sir Walter Scott).
This morning we’ll take the ferry from Belfast to Cairnryan. Upon arrival in Cairnryan, we’ll transfer to Oban, Scotland, which occupies a beautiful setting in the Firth of Lorn. Sir Walter Scott visited the area in 1814, the year in which he published his poem The Lord of the Isles. Interest in the poem brought many visitors to the town. Dinner and overnight will be Oban tonight.
Day 6: Isles of Mull & Iona
Wildlife film-maker Simon King went on location to Mull where he observed a resident family of white-tailed eagles – a male and female named Skye and Frisa respectively, and their two chicks, Itchy and Scratchy.
Today’s excursion to the Isles of Mull and Iona begins with a ferry ride to Craignure on the Isle of Mull, island home to over 250 different bird species. Minke whales, porpoises and dolphins are among the sea life visible from boat tours off the coast of Mull. Another ferry (from Fiannphort) will take us to the Isle of Iona, centre of Irish monasticism for centuries and presently known for its tranquility and natural beauty. We will visit Iona Abbey, of particular historical and religious interest to pilgrims and visitors alike because it is the best-preserved ecclesiastical building surviving from the Middle Ages in the Western Isles of Scotland. Though modest in comparison to medieval abbeys elsewhere, it has a wealth of fine architectural detail and monuments of many periods. For example, in front of the Abbey stands the 9th century St Martin’s Cross, one of the best-preserved Celtic crosses in the British Isles. According to tradition, the monastery was founded in 563 by the monk Columba (also known as Colm Cille) and his twelve companions who went into exile on Iona and founded a monastery. Known as a great center of learning with a hugely successful scriptorium, the religious settlement of Iona played a crucial role in Scotland’s conversion to Christianity. The Iona Cathedral and the religious settlement are now under the administration of the National Trust for Scotland. But long before St Columba landed here in 563, the island was a Druid shrine known originally as “Hy.” The abbey graveyard contains the graves of many early Scottish Kings (including Macbeth), as well as kings from Ireland, Norway and France. We’ll return via the same ferries to Oban for dinner and another overnight stay.
Day 7: Edinburgh
Famous authors of Edinburgh include Sir Walter Scott, author of Rob Roy, and Ivanhoe, Robert Louis Stevenson, creator of Treasure Island, Kidnapped and The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, of Sherlock Holmes fame, Muriel Spark, author of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, and J. K. Rowling, who began her first book about Harry Potter in an Edinburgh coffee shop.
After our transfer to Edinburgh, we will relish a half-day guided tour of the city which begins fittingly with what may be the most recognizable symbol of Scotland: Edinburgh Castle which sits atop the volcanic Castle Rock and not only dominates the skyline but also provides a great view of the city. The castle, dating back as far as the 9th century B.C., was a royal residence from the 12th century until the Union of the Crowns in 1603. The castle became a military base with a large garrison in the 17th century; many of the buildings we’ll explore today are from its use as a military garrison. We’ll also see the Honours of Scotland, known as the Scottish regalia and the Scottish Crown Jewels which date from the 15th and 16th centuries and are the oldest set of crown jewels in the British Isles. Other Edinburgh landmarks include the Royal Scots Regimental Museum, Arthur’s Seat, Charlotte Square, the Royal Mile (approximately one Scots mile long and runs from Edinburgh Castle at the top down to Holyrood Abbey), Sir Walter Scott Monument, St. Andrew Square and St. Giles. John Knox preached his first sermon in Edinburgh’s St. Giles’ Cathedral, and a statue of him stands in the courtyard of the University of Edinburgh’s Faculty of Divinity. When Scotland formally ratified the reformed Protestant religion in 1560, Knox was appointed minister of the Church of St. Giles, and often preached from the pulpit in the cathedral’s Thistle Chapel, a small, but exquisite, chapel with carved and painted fittings of extraordinary detail. A high testimony was pronounced at Knox’s grave in the churchyard of St. Giles by the Earl of Mortoun: “Here lyeth a man who in his life never feared the face of man, who hath been often threatened with dagger, but yet hath ended his days in peace and honor.”
Day 8: Lindisfarne
A causeway connects the Holy Island of Lindisfarne to the mainland of Northumberland and is flooded twice a day by tides as described by Sir Walter Scott: “For with the flow and ebb, its style/ Varies from continent to isle;/ Dry shod o’er sands, twice every day,/ [But] the pilgrims to the shrine find way”.
This morning we’ll travel to the Holy Island of Lindisfarne, known as the very fountain head of England’s Christian heritage. It was on Holy Island that the early Christian message was honed and distributed to a largely pagan Northumberland. Lindisfarne Priory was the home of St. Cuthbert and the birthplace of a true national treasure – the Lindisfarne Gospels, a unique illuminated Latin manuscript of the gospels of Mark, Luke and John. The Lindisfarne Heritage Center contains an electronic copy of the book—the real version is kept in London’s British Library—and also presents a complete history of the island that brings the story of St. Cuthbert to life. Standing on a rocky outcrop overlooking the island is Lindisfarne Castle – a small fortress first built in 1550 and today looked after by the National Trust. Holy Island is small, but its close-knit community has adapted well to the thousands of visitors that descend on the island every year. As we explore the fascinating history of this site in the visitor center, we’ll discover the enthralling story of the monks who lived on Holy Island, once one of the most important centers of early Christianity. We’ll also learn about the grisly Viking invasions including the part Henry VIII played in the history of the Priory. And, as we find a sunny bench outside a local pub to sample a fresh crab sandwich (a Northumberland specialty), we’ll relish truly getting away from it all and realize there’s nothing quite like island life. After enjoying the unforgettable richness of the day, we’ll return to Edinburgh for dinner and overnight stay at our hotel.
Day 9: Depart for Home
We must laugh and we must sing, We are blest by everything, Everything we look upon is blest (William Butler Yeats).
After breakfast at the hotel, we transfer Edinburgh’s International Airport for our return flight home.
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