"Around Bhride's Garden" - A Spirit Of Ireland tour
2007 tours have plotted the inspiration for 2008 Celtic Ways tours.
Here’s what I have discovered.
Travellers love quiet sites that restore
Though inquiries include requests to known places such as Newgrange, Arran Isles, Cliffs of Moher etc., travellers do prefer the quieter soul restoring sites that we visit. Initially, there is some concern because where we visit is not featured in many guide books. Access is often along hidden narrow roads that tour buses do not dare travel and self drive tourists would soon be frustratingly lost within.
Visiting one or two sites a day is better than site-hopping
We slipped into a wonderful formula of arriving at a site, giving it an introduction, letting our travellers discover their own spaces within it, and then coming together to share something such as an activity, meditation or sharing of feelings.
A circle tour of Ireland is preferred to part of Ireland
As much as I tried to focus on our Breifne region, visitors want to travel to much more. We now share a collection of wonderful sites and activities that travels a very interesting clockwise circle around Ireland.
Experience is more important that visiting
On our journey we now include wonderful shared activities that connect our travellers to the most ancient of traditions. These include making Brigid crosses, ancient circle dances, ceili dances, participating in folk drama, weaving and thatching straw, fire jumping and fire walking, labyrinth meditations, cooking the ancient fulacht fiadh way, gathering wild food and making a meal, learning and using wood lore, cutting and stacking turf, creating a journey log, and the list goes on.
Shopping is important
Generally, the women to men ratio on our tours varies from 3:1 to 15:1, meaning usually many more women than men and sometimes all women ….. so shopping stops are instinctively popular. It took me awhile to sort out this demand, but on our travels there are some delightful places we can stop at awhile for quality local craft shopping that is genuine and does not indulge in import tackiness.
So, 2008 is going to be the year of the “Around Bhride’s Garden”
I offer my work as a combination of taking you to places that connect you to the spirit of Ireland that can restore your soul and provide a true vacation along with activities that connect you to the country’s most ancient of traditions.
I’ll take you to where the tour buses do not go or cannot get to. If you wish to visit the popular easy access sites such as Newgrange, Cliffs Of Moher, Paulnabrone, Arran Isles, Bunratty Castle, etc. I can connect you to tours that do this or set up your own self drive tour.
Also, I really cover the spirit of Ireland from the earliest hunter gatherers through the stone age people, Firbolgs, Tuatha De Dannan, Formorians, Milesians, Celts, Goddess myths, Druidism and Celtic Christianity along with Irish writers and composers inspired by these times, such as W.B. Yeats and Turlough O’Carolan. We also explore the bard traditions. All of this is collectively bonded and guided with the spirit and traditions of Bhride, otherwise known as Bride, Brigid, Bhrighid, Brigit.
If you are wishing to explore the Anglo Norman reforms, British reformation, penal times, civil wars, the famine and so forth, from about 1200 AD until the present time then I can put you in touch with other people who may guide you. Our visit to Hennigan’s Heritage in Co. Mayo also provides a wonderful coverage of these times by wonderful storyteller, Tom Hennigan.
Most of you may not have the time and budget to accomplish this entire itinerary, so all you need to do is talk to me about what parts of this you would like to use to fit into your own tour. It does not matter is you want to tour 1, 3, 5, 7, 10 or the entire 21 days. You’ll find I am constantly open to changes and improvisation ….. but here is the full recommended tour.
Day 01: A Bhride Welcome & The Spirit Of Imbolc
Most visitors have arrived from the USA and Australia so this is a time to catch up on jet lag and enter into Ireland time. What we do on this day is minimal and largely improvised, but the one site I love to gather us all together for a welcome is a beautiful Bride Well near Kilcock, Co. Meath. Its usually on the way from the airport to our hotel.
Day 02: Bhride’s Kildare
Where possible, we arrange morning time with the Brigidine Sisters of Solas Bhride, Kildare who provide a wonderful welcoming blessed ceili, as I call it, through the morning to light up the spirit of Brighid in the hearts of all who travel with us. After lunch we spend time at Kildare Cathedral and the two Holy Wells of Kildare. We then travel over the Wicklow Mountains to our hotel in Wexford.
Day 03: Irish National Heritage Park, Wexford
A wonderful 65 acre park that wonderfully re-enacts life and faiths in Ireland from the hunter gatherers of about 8000 BC until the arrival of the Normans around 1200 AD. This provides a wonderful insight that helps our travellers imagine and understand the site we visit during the rest of the tour. After lunch we travel west to Kenmare, Co. Kerry
Day 04: Around The Paps Of Anu & The Spirit Of Beltaine
In the morning we visit the “Beltaine City of Shrone”, a beautiful hidden quiet sacred shrine site protected by the shadows of the Paps Of Anu. The afternoon is high up amongst the sacred circle and stone sites above Kilkeal overlooking Bantry Bay, with an lunch time stop at Goughan Barra beautiful valley source of the River Lee. We stay overnight again at Kenmare.
Day 05: Beara Peninsula
Starting at the Uragh stone circle, the most beautifully sited stone circle in Ireland amongst lakes, mountains and waterfalls, we travel according to how your spirit moves you. The day usually includes a drive along the Healy Pass, a visit to Ardgroom Stone Circle and maybe even the “Hag Of Beara” stone. After leaving the peninsula we move on to a hotel in Cahirciveen, Ring Of Kerry for the next day’s adventure
Day 06: Skellig Michael
This is always subject to sea conditions, but if you can make the pilgrimage to this sacred island of wonder the experience is priceless. If the sea weather is rough, and for those without sea legs, we provide an alternative sacred sites tour around nearby Valencia Island. In the afternoon we head for our hotel on the Dingle peninsula
Day 07: Visit The Prehistoric in Dingle
The morning commences with a tour of the imagination stirring Prehistoric and Celtic Museum of Ventry with the entertaining presentation by its owner, Harris Moore. Much more to experience here than within any museum in Ireland. We leave Dingle through the breathtaking Conor Pass and travel awhile north, including a symbolic ferry crossing near the Shannon estuary, and reach our hotel at Oughterard, Co. Galway.
Day 08: Brigit’s Garden, Co. Galway
One of the “must do” sites in any itinerary of Ireland. Jenny Beale has created a garden with an exceptional interpretation FL the four fire festivals of Ireland, Samhain, Imbolc, Beltaine and Lughnasa. This is a place that can absorb your day without realizing how time goes. Here our members make their Brigid crosses from the gardens reeds, grow to “feel” the spirit of the Celtic Year, understand more about ancient tree wisdoms and enjoy the exceptional food menu in it’s restaurant. We travel around Lough Corrib to our hotel in Cong, Co. Mayo.
Day 09: Inchagoill Island, Co. Galway
Beautiful paradise like island in the middle of Lough Corrib, or of the largest lakes in Ireland. Full of legends over many ages such as the arrival of the Tuatha De Dannan and where St. Patrick’s mission began along with the burial site of Lugna, a Christian version of Lugh? An island with a wonderful feel, a place visitors can be at peace, plus a perfect remote wood sheltered sandy beach for swimming and sunbathing. On returning to the mainland we travel to our hotel near Westport.
Day 10: Climb Croagh Patrick? The Spirit of Lughnasa
Not an easy climb, but a wonderful achievement and recharge of spirit for those who do. Relax the rest of the day around the base and return to our hotel near Westport.
Day 11: Once Upon A time In Mayo
Spend the morning hanging out in Westport, pretty town, a good gift shopping stop. During the afternoon we travel to near Swinford to Hennigan’s Heritage. Tom Hennigan wonderfully presents almost the entire heritage of Ireland from ancient times until present in a wonderful storytelling way from his preserved traditional cottage. We then travel to Lough Gara Lodge, our accommodation for a few days. If any of our nights at Lough Gara include a Monday night we enjoy a lively traditional music session night at Teach Murray, Gurteen, a true but little known capital of Irish Traditional Music. The fiddle style that became bluegrass started here.
Day 12: Connection With Ancestors & The Spirit Of Samhain
We spend the morning taking the road climb high into the Bricklieve Mountains, Co. Sligo, and its Tibet-like landscape, to visit and spend time within its 5000 – 6000 years old passage cairns. These are wonderful places for quiet time and connecting to the spirit of the ancestors and of other worlds. Everyone who visits and spends time her remarks on some kind of personal transformation. After lunch at Cromleach Lodge and its wonderful views we complete this intimate and healing day with a visit to Lazier’s Well, dedicated to healing and awakening of the “third eye”. Evening meal will be at Markree Castle, a true Irish Castle of stories and legends, if possible. We return to our Lough Gara Lodge accommodation.
Day 13: Caves Of The Goddesses & Rekindling Our Inner Flames
During the morning we enter the narrow hidden entrance of Oweynagat Cave, part of the Royal Court landscape in Co. Roscommon and linked with Maeve. We step down into the wonder of this natural underground cathedral. It a wonderful connecting place, and a wonderful place to sing. Lunch is at Carrowcrory cottage with its landscape image of Morrigan combining the Ceis Coarann mountain and its nearby paps and hill. After lunch, and hopefully with afternoon sun we enter the caves of Keash within this mountain, the caves of Morrigan, birth womb of Brighid and great Irish High King of legends, Cormac mac Airt. After dinner we may venture back to Carrowcrory to share the more spiritual of ceili traditions including walking or jumping fires along with fireside story, ceremony and meditation traditions. We return to another night at Lough Gara Lodge
Day 14: Into Yeats Country, Co. Sligo
A truly leisurely day. Our morning commences with a walk to Deerpark Court Cairn a beautiful peaceful ancient site places on a wooded hill east of Sligo town. The rest of the day travels around the beautiful Lough Gill including visits to the Lake Isle of Innisfree and one of the beautiful holy wells in Ireland. Our accommodation for this night is at the fishing village of Mullaghmore on the Sligo coast
Day 15: Pilgrimage To Inishmurray Island
Settled between the Sligo and Donegal shores and said to be positioned on major ley lines this is a magical sacred island to be able to spend the day on. A pilgrimage here is very much at the decision of the winds, sea swell and tides. There is not a jetty for landing here. We jump from the boats onto a rock ledge like the islanders did for 1000s of years. Once landed we are here for the day, alone. There’s much to see and do on a fine day and wonderful preserved ancient claughan cell retreats for if the weather turns hostile. A place to connect your spirit with nature and ancestors. When we return we travel to our accommodation near Killybegs in Co. Donegal.
Day 16: Glencolumcille & Slieve League, Co. Donegal
South west of Co. Donegal is one of the most beautiful areas in Ireland. We commence the morning by hiking and contemplating as much of the 15 station Glencolumcille Turas as you feel comfortable with. There are cairns, beautifully carved crosses, alters, a beautiful hidden ancient hillside well, and a Bealtaine meeting stone. During the afternoon we will visit the cliffs of Slieve League that I feel are more colourful and more dramatic than Cliffs of Moher, and far less visited. On the way we may stop at some of the largest ancient megalithic sites in Ireland. We then travel back to our accommodation near Killybegs
Day 17: Through The Land of Skulls & Crossbones, Co. Fermanagh
We think of the skull and crossbones as a symbol within the pirate’s Jolly Roger flag but its origin goes well back to at least 1500 BC. Its myth and legends provides a wonderful excuse to tour around the mystical, beautiful and seemingly endless Lough Erne lake of Co. Fermanagh. Perhaps the most popular site we visit in the remote Boa Island site that is home to the Janus Figure, perhaps best known on the cover of Cary Meehan’s Sacred Island book ….. yet its not an easy place to find. No sign posts at all. Our accommodation is just into Northern Ireland at Belcoo, Co. Fermanagh
Day 18: “In Comes I”, A Day of Folk Drama
A day where I share a passion of mine with our travellers. Still beside Lough Erne and below one of the seven fairy mountains of Ireland, Knockninny, we visit the h.q. of the Augha Killy Maude Men Of Straw, a folk drama troupe who explore mainly Mummer’s Plays and fertility plays from around the Celtic lands and from around the world. These are plays ascended from the ceremonies of ancient sacred sites. We can share a lot of fun through this day by learning and performing our own folk drama ceremonies, ancient and traditional circle dances, and even learn the skills of weaving straw into love knots, folk drama costumes and prayer alters. On a warm sunny day much of this can be shared outdoors, and even upon Knockninny mountain. Accommodation continues at Belcoo.
Day 19: The Mystery Of Beaghmore Circles, Co. Tyrone
I had often visited the amazing multi circles of Beaghmore, within the beautiful Sperrin Mountains of Tyrone, and listened to many theories of their purpose, but none really made sense. It was after visiting Jenny Beale’s Brigit’s Garden in Co. Galway, and Jenny claims she has never been to Beaghmore, that it all seemed to make natural sense. If you travel with me to Beaghmore, we’ll use a combination of inspirations from our tour along with our new folk drama skills and see if you can reveal to yourself what I discovered there. Again, we stay overnight at Belcoo.
Day 20: Megalithic Co.Cavan & Farewell At Shannon Pot
The wooded “Cavan Burren” is one of my favourite places. This wooded landscape is full of hidden megalithic wonders within the nearest that I could guide you to that is “amongst the fairies”. After lunch we visit Shannon Pot, source of the river Shannon and share a closing ceremony to seal our intent that has blossomed during the days of our shared tour. We thank Brhide for guidance, restored souls, rekindling of our spirits and new enthusiasm from new trust and courage. After leaving this wonderland we travel to our final accommodation together in the ancient royal area of Co. Meath
Day 21: Tara Hill & Dublin
A visit to Tara Hill is usually very essential to wrap up a visit to Ireland. Its a place to commit personal treaties and close unfinished business. Those that achieve such restoration are crowned high queens and kings here before returning to their homelands and homes. Its a great place for last minute gift shopping too. We then transport you to your accommodation in Dublin where some may leave through the airport the following day, or stay a few more days for shows and sites in Dublin or to take other tours.
Our “Spirit & Experience” tours would not be complete without a performance by my singer harper bard, Claire Roche who’s performance is an experience rather than concert as it centres the entire spirit of our tour together.
And We Visit You!
Claire, myself, or both of us together intend to tour the USA, Canada, UK, Australia and New Zealand at least every year or two to perform and introduce you to our Ireland Spirit and Experience. Our joint show is a “Veil Between Two Worlds”. We welcome invitations from any small venues, art centres, book shops, healing centres, theatres, creative workshops, home events etc.
At present we are open to invitations for