All posts by Orla Spencer

Skellig Islands: What to Know Before You Go

What you should know about the Skellig Islands before you plan your trip

About the Skellig Islands            

The Skellig Islands are two small extremely steep and rocky islands situated about 13km west of Bolus Head on the Ring of Kerry. The larger of the two islands Skellig Michael is open to the public, the smaller one is not but can be seen and photographed from Skellig Michael. A Christian Monastery was founded on Skellig Michael between the 6th and 8th century and remained occupied until the 12th century. The remains of the monastery, and most of the island, became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996. Recently the island was featured in Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens.

Skellig Islands Hut
Skellig Islands Beehive Huts
How to Get to the Skellig Islands

You can only take a boat trip that docks on the island in the summer season which is between May 12th and October 2nd and the boat trips are always subject to weather conditions on the day. Outside of this time period it may be possible to do a perimeter boat tour which allows you to see the island close up but won’t stop to let people off.

The crossing takes about 40 minutes to an hour but can take longer depending on weather. There are contact details for the local boatmen that have a permit to run Skellig Island trips on the Office of Public Works website. The Skellig Experience Visitor centre also runs cruises around the island without landing on it.

Before you go to the Skellig Consider the Following:
  1. It’s a seriously hard climb! There are more than 600 steps to the summit and they are extremely steep. There are no handrails and the rocks can be dangerous, especially if wet.
  2. If you decide to go, then you really have to make the climb or you will be waiting at the bottom with no shelter for the boat to return.
  3. Along the climb there are intermittent little plateaus where you can take a rest but they are not really suitable to wait for long periods of time.
  4. There is no toilet on the island or on the boats. Go before you go!
  5. What to bring? Good walking shoes or boots, a jacket, some food, water and sunscreen.

Please watch the following safety video produced by the office of public works:

Skellig Experience Visitor Centre

If you can’t make it to the Skellig Islands we recommend that you visit the Skellig Experience located just off the bridge from Portmagee to Valentia Island. Here you will find exhibitions on all aspects of the Skellig Islands as well as a 14 minute film presentation.

Contact the Irish Tourism Group –

The best way to learn about Ireland is to visit!  Contact us today for a quotation including some or all of these locations today –

USA & Canada1877 298 7205

UK FreeFone0800 096 9438

International+353 69 77686

http://www.irishtourism.com/

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10 Stops to Make on Your Ring of Kerry Tour

The Ring of Kerry, a 180km circular route around the Iveragh Peninsula in Ireland’s southwest, is quite possibly Ireland’s most well-known driving route. Superb Mountains and coastal settings combined with vibrant towns and villages will make this tour one of the highlights of your Ireland vacation.

All of our Self Drive tours include a detailed suggested itinerary which will help you decide what to see or what to leave out. For those who wish to take a break from driving we can arrange a bus tour through this route.

The 10 Stops to Make on your self-drive or Escorted Ring of Kerry Tour are;

 

  1. Killorglin

Killorglin is the first town you will meet when you begin your Ring of Kerry Adventure! Home to the famous ‘Puck Fair’, Ireland’s largest and the world’s oldest market fair. The town has some nice restaurants and shops and pretty riverside views.

Rosbeigh Strand, Glenbeigh, Ring of Kerry
Rosbeigh Strand, Glenbeigh, Ring of Kerry
  1. Glenbeigh & Rosbeigh Beach

The mountainous backdrop here is glorious, and the half circle of hills from Seefin to Drung Hill, nicknamed the “Glenbeigh Horseshoe” is one of Kerry’s finest mountain walks.  Near to Glenbeigh Village you will find Rosbeigh Beach with its lovely sand dunes and shale walks.

  1. Cahersiveen

This is the principal town on the Ring of Kerry and birthplace of the famous Catholic Emancipator Daniel O’ Connell. Pay a visit to ‘The Barracks’, Cahersiveen Heritage Centre which gives an insight into the life and times of Cahersiveen.

Geokaun Valentia Island Ring of Kerry
Geokaun, Valentia Island
  1. Valentia Island

You can reach Valentia  by the car ferry from Cahersiveen from April to October. Outside of this time take the bridge across to the island from the pretty harbour village of Portmagee.  There are a few places to visit on the island including the village of Knighstown with its beautiful period buildings, Valentia Island Lighthouse and Geokaun Mountain & Fogher Cliffs; Valentia’s highest point and a superb spot to enjoy 360 degree views of the island and beyond!

  1. Skellig Experience Visitor Centre & The Skellig Islands
Skellig Islands, Ring of Kerry
Skellig Islands, Ring of Kerry

Skellig Michael also known as the Great Skellig is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The island was featured in Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens. At the summit of the 230m high rock there is a 6th century Christian monastery and stone beehive huts which the monks who inhabited the island lived in. Boat trips to the islands can be taken from Portmagee pier. Trips to Skellig are not for the feint hearted  however as there are 670 stone steps to climb before you reach the top! You can learn more about the Skelligs at the Skellig Island Visitor Experience which is located on Valentia Island near the bridge across to Portmagee.

  1. Ballinskelligs

Ballinskelligs or “Baile na Sceilge” is one of the few remaining Irish speaking areas in this region of Kerry. Southwest of the village you will find Bolus Head, which looks over St. Finan’s Bay and the Skelligs. The ruins of Cill Rialiag, an early Christian monastic settlement are located nearby. Ballinskellig Beach known locally as Ladies Beach is a stunning place to relax or take a long beach walk!

Charlie Chaplin Statue, Waterville, Ring of Kerry
Charlie Chaplin Statue, Waterville
  1. Waterville

Waterville is a lovely little village overlooking stunning Ballinskelligs Bay and nestled on the beautiful Lake Currane.  The town was a favourite holiday spot of Charlie Chaplin and his family who used to holiday here. They first visited the town in 1959 and came back every year for over ten years.

Derrynane House Ring of Kerry
Derrynane House
  1. Caherdaniel and Derrynane House

Caherdaniel is small but striking and perhaps set in one of the most scenic locations on the Ring of Kerry, on the shore of Derrynane Bay. Derrynane House is the ancestral home of Daniel O’ Connell, a 19th century politician who achieved Catholic emancipation for the Irish people. The house is now a public museum.

  1. Kenmare

Kenmare town was founded in 1670 by Sir William Petty and has a history of lace making, demonstrations of which can be seen at the town’s Heritage Centre.  One of the most striking features of the town is its colourfully painted houses and shops. There are lots of nice restaurants, pubs and craft shops here also.

View-from-Molls-Gap Ring of Kerry
View from Moll’s Gap, Ring of Kerry
  1. Moll’s Gap

Moll’s Gap is a pass on the road from Kenmare to Killarney. Here you will find unrivalled views of the Macgillycuddy’s Reeks Mountains. Nearby you will find Avoca Handweavers which sells Irish giftware and local food produce.

To discover these locations and more on your own Ring of Kerry tour, contact us today:

USA & Canada1877 298 7205

UK FreeFone0800 096 9438

International+353 69 77686

http://www.irishtourism.com/

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Saint Brigid’s Day in Ireland

Saint Bridgid’s Cross

Saint Brigid is the Patroness of Ireland, also known as ‘Mary of the Gael’. Her feast day, Saint Brigid’s Day, is the 1st of February, the start of the Spring season. Traditionally Saint Brigid crosses like this one are made from rushes on her feast day and hung in the house for the rest of the year to ward off evil and danger from fire.

Saint Brigid’s Day is believed to have come from the pagan festival ‘Imbolc’ which literally beans ‘in the belly’ and celebrates spring and the arrival of longer days. In pagan mythology, Brigid was the goddess of fertility.

In some parts of Ireland St Brigid’s Day is celebrated with the ‘’Brideog’’, a handmade doll traditionally fashioned out of straw and dressed in white. The Brigeog is taken from house to house and usually at each house the visitors play traditional Irish music and dance.

The Brideog Doll (Image credit Doolin 2 Aran Ferries)
The Brideog Doll (Image credit Doolin 2 Aran Ferries)

Saint Brigid is associated with County Kildare and is sometimes referred to as ‘Brigid of Kildare’. According to legend Brigid founded a monastery at Kildare on the site of an older pagan shrine to the Celtic goddess Brigid, served by a group of young women who tended an eternal flame. In the 6th century, a monastery was erected on the same site. The original monastery no longer exists but a new Cathedral was built on the site during the 13th century. This Cathedral still stands and the sisters of St. Brigid (nuns) reside there.

The best way to learn about Ireland is to visit! Contact us today for a quotation  –

USA & Canada 1877 298 7205

UK FreeFone 0800 096 9438

International+353 69 77686

http://www.irishtourism.com/

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All New Knitting Retreats Now Available!

New for 2017, Knitting Retreats in Ireland!

Our Knitting Tours are hugely popular but past customers have often mentioned that they would like to return to Ireland to relax and to knit, so we have come up some new tours to fill this demand – Luxury Knitting Retreats!

Each Knitting Retreat is 6 Nights Long ; the retreats are centered around four nights in a luxury hotel with a day either side in Dublin, also staying in a nice four star hotel.

There are also two options for our 6 Night Luxury Knitting Retreats; Our Southwest Knitting Retreat includes the beautiful Parknasilla Resort hotel in Country Kerry and our Northwest Knitting Retreat is centered around the spectacular Harvey’s Point Hotel in Donegal. Both of these retreats feature some fantastic optional local touring and throughout your retreat stay you will have the company of our much loved knitting instructors, Carol Feller for the Southwest Tour and Edel MacBride for the Northwest Option.

Please review our Website for travel dates, do get in touch with us sooner rather than later as our tours do book up very far in advance and we wouldn’t want you to miss out!

The best way to learn about Ireland is to visit! Contact us today for a quotation  –

USA & Canada 1877 298 7205

UK FreeFone 0800 096 9438

International+353 69 77686

http://www.irishtourism.com/

 

 

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2016 Ireland Knitting Tours Have Been & Gone – Read some of the Feedback

Aran Islands Dress Display (Submitted by Carol Gerling)
All of our 2016 Knitting Tours have been and gone and we were very happy with the feedback. We are busy making changes to our itineraries to further improve them for future groups!A sincere thank you to those that filled out our feedback surveys, some of the comments we received  –

Southern Knitting Tour –

”This tour was absolutely wonderful and we had the best time. I would do this again in a heartbeat! In fact, we are considering the Northern tour for next year”. 

”Although I have been to Ireland before, I really loved seeing the island at this level. The sites chosen were great and I can truly say I’ve seen southern Ireland. The trip to inis oirr was the highlight of the trip – just loved it.”

Northern Knitting Tour Comments –

”A glorious trip! We had very few wobbles for a trip of this size and complexity, and I very much appreciated the insights and professionalism of our guide, our driver, and everyone at Irish Tourism. Worth every penny and then some.”

”Best tour I have ever been on!”

”It was a great trip. I really enjoyed being in Ireland. All in all, it was well organized, interesting, and met my expectations.”

Our 2017 Knitting Tours are Very Busy but We do Have some Spaces Available. For More information please visit our website
www.irishtourism.com/knitting 

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8 Irish Ghosts to Visit This Halloween!

Irish folklore and stories were describing ghosts, monsters and banshees long before they were made into blockbuster films. It is not surprising therefore that we have our fair share of haunted castles in Ireland as well as, some eerie and frightening locations to visit! Here is a list of 8 Irish ghosts that you just might bump into on your travels here in Ireland:

Anne Tottenham at Loftus Hall

Loftus Hall is full of mystery and with lots of mystique surrounding the building. It is very much a favourite place to visit during the Halloween season. Loftus Hall is a mansion house on the Hook Peninsula in County Wexford which is said to be haunted the ghost of young Anne Tottenham. The story goes that Anne had an encounter with the Devil, fell ill and was confined to her room for the rest of her life. Throughout the years there have been several reported sightings of her ghost. It is widely regarded as Ireland’s most haunted house with various theories of ghosts appearing over the past number of years. Loftus Hall opened its door in 2012 after 30 years closed. Aidan Quigley the owner now gives guided tours that will spook the best and are not for the faint hearted but certainly worth the visit during the Halloween season.

7 Ghosts to visit in Ireland -Loftus hall 1
Loftus Hall

Lady Maud Plunkett, Her Husband & Jester Puck at Malahide Castle

Malahide Castle is just outside Dublin City, built in 1185 by King Henry the II for the Talbot family, the castle is said to have five ghosts including that of Maud Plunkett and her husband Lord Chief Justice. The castle jester, Puck who is said to have been murdered by one of the Talbot family, on occasion also makes an appearance!

7 Ghosts to visit in Ireland -Malahide Castle
Malahide Castle

Lady Margaret Butler at Kilkenny Castle 

Kilkenny Castle situated in the heart of the medieval Kilkenny city. The castle has been owned by the Butler family for hundreds of years. It is well known to have a banshee soul with tales of a ghostly woman wandering through the castle, gardens while lost and lonely. Some believe that this is the spirit of Lady Margaret Butler known as the “white lady”. She was born in the castle and the grandmother of Anne Boleyn, second wife of King Henry VII of England.

Kilkenny Castle

The White Lady of Charles Fort, Kinsale

About two miles outside the town of Kinsale lies Charles Fort, an old army barracks and reported home to ‘The White Lady’. The story goes that this unfortunate lady married a soldier of the barracks who was shot on the day of their wedding. Overcome with grief, she jumped to her death, still wearing her white wedding dress. Her lost soul has been spotted wandering the grounds, wedding dress and all.

Red Mary at Leamanach Castle

7 Ghosts to visit in Ireland -Leamaneh_Castle_Ireland_12283094446_o 1
Leamaneh Castle, By Tony Webster (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Leamaneh Castle is a ruined castle located in Kilnaboy in the Burren Region of Country Clare. It is said that the ghost of Máire Rúa (Red Mary) roams the grounds.  According to local legend, Red Mary wed 25 men, killing each one in turn. Eventually, after murdering her final husband she was captured and sealed into a hollow tree. The frightening apparition of her red-haired ghost is said to be still seen at Leamaneh today.

Little Harriet at Charleville Castle

7 Ghosts to visit in Ireland - Charleville_Castle,_Tullamore,_Co_Offaly_-_geograph.org.uk_-_1357659 1
Charleville Castle by Sarah Gallagher [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Charleville Castle is a Gothic-style castle located in County Offaly. The castle is believed to be occupied by a little ghost girl named Harriet who died tragically in the castle in 1861. Her eerie childlike laughing and screams have been reported by many people throughout the years. Others are sure that they have seen the image of a golden aired little girl in a blue and white dress.

The best way to learn about Ireland is to visit! Contact us today for a quotation including some or all of these locations today –

USA & Canada1877 298 7205

UK FreeFone0800 096 9438

International+353 69 77686

http://www.irishtourism.com/

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How to get to the Aran Islands

About How to get to the Aran Islands –

Our final blog post in our Aran Islands series explains how to get to the Aran Islands by ferry, flight or as part of a bus or rail tour.

How to Get to the Aran Islands Option 1: Ferry –

You can get to the Aran Islands by passenger ferry from Rossaveel which is about an hour west of Galway City or from Doolin in County Clare.  You cannot bring a car across on the ferry.

Weather permitting; the ferries from Rossaveel go year round whereas the ferries from Doolin usually go from around March to October. The ferries can be cancelled if the weather is too bad as the crossing would be too dangerous. The ferries from Rossaveel have less cancelled sailings per year than there are from the Doolin port.

How long does the ferry to the Aran Islands Take?
  • Rossaveel to Inishmore – About 45 Minutes
  • Rossaveel to Inishmaan –  About 55 Minutes
  • Rossaveel to Inisheer – About 65 Minutes
  • Doolin to Inisheer – About 30 Minutes
  • Doolin to Inishmaan – About 40 Minutes
  • Doolin to Inishmore – About 90 Minutes

The ferry crossing to the Aran Islands can get very rough, if you suffer from travel sickness, then you should think about your journey before setting off. Think about visiting the island closest to port (Inishmore from Rossaveel and Inisheer from Doolin) and pick up some motion sickness pills before you go.  I find sitting outside, looking out to the horizon helps me!

How to Get to the Aran Islands Option 2: Bus Tour/Ferry –

There are a number of companies offering bus transfers with ferry tickets from Galway city. You take the bus as far as Rossaveel and then take the ferry. If you don’t want to drive, this option is included in our Independent Rail Tours.

How to Get to the Aran Islands Option 3: Fly–

You can fly to the Aran Islands in a small passenger plane from Connemara airport. The flight takes about 10 minutes and there is a maximum of 8 people allowed in the plane, depending on the weight of the passengers, there could be fewer than 8. Connemara Airport is located in Inveran which is about 40 minutes west of Galway City. You do need to book your flight in advance with Aer Arann Islands.

Get in touch with us today and take the hassle out of booking your trip to Ireland and the Aran islands!

USA & Canada          1877 298 7205

UK FreeFone              0800 096 9438

International              +353 69 77686

http://www.irishtourism.com/

 

 

 

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Inishmore (Inis Mór), Aran Islands

About Inishmore (Inis Mór), Aran Islands

Inishmore (Irish Spelling Inis Mór) is the biggest and most populated of the famous Aran Islands off the coast of Galway in Ireland.  The entire island is about 30km squared. As with all of the islands the spoken language is Irish although locals can usually speak both English and Irish. The locals are dedicated to preserving traditional Irish culture and traditional Irish music is very much alive in Kilronan, the islands main village.

When you arrive on the island there are usually mini buses lined up, waiting to take prospective clients on tours around the island which feature all the major sites. There is a small fee for these tours. You can also usually take a tour of the island by horse and trap which is more expensive than the bus tour. There are also several bike hire companies, should you wish to see the island that way!

Some of the main tourist attractions on the island include –

Dún Aonghasa Fort & Visitor Centre: A superb example of an Iron or Bronze Age Promontory Fort, standing dramatically at the edge of a 100 metre high cliff! The on-site visitor centre will tell you more about how and why it was built.

Dun Aengus, Inismore, Aran Islands
Dun Aengus, Inismore, Aran Islands

The Worm Hole: A natural rectangular shaped pool at the bottom of the cliffs south of Dún Aonghasa.

Dun Duchathair (The Black Fort): This fort is situated on the cliffs near Cill Éinne. It is a lot quieter than Dún Aonghasa in terms of visitor numbers. The fort is not easy to access, wear good walking boots and prepare for a bit of a trek if you wish to visit!

Kilmurvey Beach: There is a beautiful sandy beach on the island just off the road between Kilronan and Dun Aengus.

For more general information on the Aran Islands see our Aran Islands blog post here, or for information on getting to the islands click here. 

Want to book a tour that includes Inishmore?

The best way to learn about Inishmore is to spend time there! Contact us today for a quotation including this location in your Ireland tour!

USA & Canada1877 298 7205

UK FreeFone0800 096 9438

International+353 69 77686

http://www.irishtourism.com/

 

 

 

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Inisheer (Inis Oírr), Aran Islands

About Inisheer (Inis Oírr), Aran Islands

Inisheer (Inis Oírr) is the smallest and most easterly of the famous Aran Islands off the coast of Galway in Ireland. The entire island is about 8km squared and has a population of around 300. Like the other Aran Islands the spoken language is Irish although locals can typically speak both English and Irish.

When you arrive on the island there are usually coaches lined up, waiting to take potential customers on tours around the island which feature the major visitor attractions. There is a small fee for these tours, payable directly to the driver.  You can also usually take a tour of the island by horse and trap which is more expensive than the bus tour. You can also hire a bike to get around on the island if you prefer.

The main village is called Baile an Lurgáin and you can walk to it from the pier.  In the village you will find the local shop, pubs, B&Bs and restaurants.

Some of the main tourist attractions on the island include –

The Wreck of The MV Plassey: The MV Plassey ran into Finnish Rock on Inisheer in 1960 and the entire crew were rescued by a group of local men. The wreck was made famous when it featured in the opening credits of Father Ted.

Plassey Wreck, Inisheer (Inis Oirr), Aran Islands
Plassey Wreck, Inisheer (Inis Oirr), Aran Islands

O’Brien’s Castle: This castle ruin is located on one of the highest points of the island overlooking the beach and pier. This castle is thought to have been built in 14th century.

An Trá Beach: As you approach Inisheer by boat you can’t miss seeing the white sandy beach known simply as ‘An Trá’ which in English means ‘The Beach’! On a fine day, the water is a beautiful shade of blue.

Áras Éanna Arts Centre: Inisheer has a dedicated arts and culture centre which displays traditional Irish and modern arts. The centre has a programme of events and exhibitions from artists resident on the islands which changes frequently.

For more general information on the Aran Islands see our Aran Islands blog post here, or for information on getting to the islands click here. 

Want to book a tour that includes Inisheer?

Learn more about Inisheer by spending time there. Contact us today for a quotation including Inisheer today –

USA & Canada1877 298 7205

UK FreeFone0800 096 9438

International+353 69 77686

http://www.irishtourism.com/

 

 

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Inismaan (Inis Meáin), Aran Islands

About Inismaan (Inis Meáin), Aran Islands

Inishmaan (Inis Meáin) is the middle island of the famous Aran Islands off the coast of Galway in Ireland. The population of Inishmaan is around 160 which means it is the smallest of the three Aran islands in terms of permanent residents. It is also the quietest of the three Aran Islands in terms of visitors and the most traditional of the three islands. The island was loved by author JM Synge who regularly visited.

The island is about 9km squared. The spoken language in Inishmaan is Irish like the other islands but the residents can usually speak English also. You can get around the island by horse and cart tour, by guided mini bus tour or by walking.

Lisheen, the main village is located just seconds walk from the pier and the beach. You will find a number of restaurants on the island and there is one pub known for its traditional Irish music sessions, Teach Ósta.

Some of the main tourist attractions on the island include –

Dún Chonchúir:  An imposing oval fortress measuring up to 20ft in height. Built on a great height, it has great views of the Island and the other Aran Islands.

Dún Fearbhaí : Another stone fort on the island that overlooks the main pier, this fort is most known for its uncommon shape, it is square as opposed to the normal round shape.

Cill Cheannanach: A well-preserved 8th Century church with excellent views over the Islands.

Teach Synge – John Millington Synge’s Cottage & Museum: The summer home of writer John Millington Synge. Synge spent the summers from 1989 to 1902 here working on his upcoming plays. The cottage has been converted to a small museum in his honour.

Teach Synge - Inismaan- Aran Islands
Teach Synge – Inismaan- Aran Islands

Cathaoir Synge (Synge’s Chair): This was the writer’s favourite place to sit on the island, it has great views overlooking Inishmore Island and the Atlantic.

For more general information on the Aran Islands see our Aran Islands blog post here, or for information on getting to the islands click here. 

Want to book a tour that includes Inishmaan?

Discover Inishmaan for yourself! Contact us today for a quotation including this beautiful island –

USA & Canada1877 298 7205

UK FreeFone0800 096 9438

International+353 69 77686

http://www.irishtourism.com/

 

 

 

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