Our 2017 Knitting Vacations are now on sale and some dates are looking particularly busy. It is best to book early to avoid disappointment.
Feedback from our Knitting & Craft Tours has generally been excellent. From our first tour in 2016 for example an amazing 100% of respondents said that they were satisfied with the tour overall and the same 100% said that they would recommend us to a friend!
Here is a quick update on our 2016 and 2017 availability
14th May 2017- Spaces Available (Filling Up Quickly)
09th Jul 2017 – Spaces Available (Filling Up Quickly )
24th Sep 2017- Spaces Available
Non – Knitter Discount
Do you have a partner or friend that doesn’t knit? They are welcome to come along, ask our sales representatives about the non-knitter discount!
You Can Trust the Irish Tourism Group
The Irish Tourism Group is considered one of Ireland’s premier inbound tour operators and, in the last decade in particular, our regular attendance at the major travel expos throughout the world has only served to raise this profile. Testament to this is the reputation that we have developed over the years with the top accommodation, transport and other service providers within the country, a reputation we are extremely proud of.
We are also proud to be members of the European Tour Operators Association (ETOA), the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) and the Association of Canadian Travel Agencies (ACTA).
Book your Knitting Vacation Today
We do urge you to book early to avoid disappointment. For more information on both tours please visit our website or give us a call
Clare is a county on the west coast of Ireland with a varied terrain ranging from rolling countryside to a wild Atlantic coastline. There is no shortage of places to visit in County Clare from the ancient monuments and castles that are scattered across the county to the majestic Cliffs of Moher.
The Cliffs of Moher
The Cliffs of Moher is one of Ireland’s most visited attractions and when you will visit you will see why! The cliffs rise to a height of 120 metres above the Atlantic Ocean and even reach 214 metres at the highest point near O Brien’s Tower, an observation tower built by local landlord Cornellius O’ Brien. The views are stunning and on a clear day you can see the Aran Islands, Galway Bay and even as far as Connemara!
On the opposite side of County Clare in the East you will find Lough Derg. There are two Lough Derg’s in Ireland, the other one is in Donegal. Lough Derg in Clare is the second-biggest lake in the Republic of Ireland and the third-biggest on the island of Ireland. It shares is shores with northwest Galway and eastern Tipperary. On the Clare side some nice places to visit along the lake-shore include Killaloe, a picturesque town with nice bars and restaurants and a 13th century cathedral, Scariff and Mountshannon where you can take boat trip across to Holy Island in the centre of the lough.
Bunratty Castle & Folk Park
Bunratty Castle is the most complete Castle in Ireland, it is completely furnished on the inside giving the visitor a real sense of what the castle would have looked like for residents in the 15th century. Bunratty Folk Park which surrounds the castle is a reconstructed village where buildings like the rural farmhouse, the village shop and post office and several different types of traditional cottages have been recreated. The folk park gives a fantastic insight into what life was like for different segments of Irish society in the early 19th century. If you are staying in Clare region, think about visiting Bunratty at night to take part in one of their famous medieval banquets. Advance booking is required for this and we can book this for you as part of any tour visiting Clare.
This attraction is especially good if you have children with you with plenty of parkland to run around in and a collection of unusual animals such as wild boar! On site the primary feature is a reconstructed Crannog; an artificial island on which people built houses, kept animals, and lived in relative security from rival clans, a ring fort. The attraction also has a souterrain which is an underground tunnel used for storage or to hide from would be attackers, a fulacht fia which was used for cooking in the Bronze Age and Craggaunowen Castle, a typical example of a fortified tower house built in 1954.
The Burren refers to the regions of Clare and south Galway which share a unique karst landscape known for its rare species of flora and fauna. The main towns in the Burren region are Ballyvaughan, Kinvara, Tubber, Corfin, Kilfenora and Lisdoonvarna. The Burren National park is located in Corofin, here you will find five marked walking trails that take you through many different fascinating and beautiful habitats, such as limestone grasslands, hazel/ash woodlands and limestone pavements. If you plan to visit the national park, a good place to start is the Clare Heritage Centre in Corofin. In the village of Balllyvaughan consider visiting Ailwee Caves, a cave system consisting of over a kilometre of passages leading into the heart of a mountain.
This is perhaps the most photographed attraction in Clare after the Cliffs of Moher. It is situated 8 km south of Ballyvaughan, about 10 km north-west of Kilnaboy. The structure dates from the Neolithic period, and excavations which uncovered the remains of sixteen adults and six children have shed light on burial customs of Clare’s early farming communities
The Loop Head Peninsula
The Loop Head Peninsula at the very tip of southwest Clare is a scenic coastal drive which takes in the coastal villages of Kilrush, Carrigaholt, Kilbaha, Loop Head, Kilkee and Kilrush – the entire journey is a distance of around 81 km. Top sights to take in include Loop Head’s main town Kilkee which was frequented by the likes of Charlotte Bronte and Alfred Tennyson and Carrigaholt which has outstanding sea views. One of the most beautiful natural features on the peninsula are the Bridges of Ross on the western side of Ross Bay harbour, looking north to the Atlantic Ocean. At the very tip of the peninsula you will find Loop Head and its famous lighthouse.
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The best way to learn about the places to visit in Clare is to visit yourself! Contact us today for a quotation including some or all of these locations today –
When planning your Ireland vacation you should consider in advance which airport in Ireland is best for you to fly into and depart from. You could always choose to fly into one airport and out of another so as to make the best of your vacation time. If you are booking a tour with us, discuss this option with your sales team and they will gladly give you the best advice.
International Airports in Ireland:
Located about 15km north from Dublin City, Dublin Airport is Ireland’s busiest airport. If Dublin city is a must see on your itinerary then it makes perfect sense to begin your Ireland vacation here. There are connections via London from most US & Canadian cities and you can currently fly direct from Boston, San Francisco, Atlanta, Charlotte, Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, St. John’s, Montreal and Toronto. The airport has great links to the UK with flights to more than 15 UK cities including Newcastle, Edinburgh and London. There are many options to travel further afield in Europe from this airport also. Check out theDublin Airport Website for up to date destination information.
Shannon Airport is located on the west coast of Ireland 24 KM north of Limerick, 22 KM south of Ennis and 90 KM south of Galway. Shannon is a great option if you wish to explore the west and southwest of Ireland. This region is much more peaceful than Dublin should you wish to get away from city life. There are connections via London from many US and Canadian cities and you can currently fly direct from Chicago, New York, Philadelphia and Boston. The airport has great links to the UK with flights to Edinburgh, London, Birmingham and Manchester and there are many options to travel further afield in Europe from this airport also. Check out the Shannon Airport Website for up to date destination information.
There are two airports in Belfast, Belfast International and Belfast City Airport, the latter has mainly UK connections. Belfast International airport is the busiest airport in Northern Ireland and the second busiest airport on the island of Ireland after Dublin. Flying here is a great option if you wish to explore Northern Ireland and Donegal in the North West. There are connections via London from many US cities and you can currently fly direct from New York, Orlando and Las Vegas. Check out the Belfast Airport Website for up to date destination information.
Cork airport is located 6.5 km south of Cork city in an area known as Farmers Cross. The airport services mostly UK and European Airports but you may be able to route a flight from the US to Cork via London or another European Connection. Check out the Cork Airport Website for up to date destination information.
Regional Airports in Ireland:
There are four main regional airports in Ireland; Belfast City in the North, Knock in the West of Ireland, Kerry in the Southwest and Waterford in the southeast. These airports are quite small and mostly do not support on bound connections to the US or Canada. Destinations include Europe and the United Kingdom.
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The best way to learn about Ireland is to visit yourself. Contact us today for a quotation starting at any of these airports today –
The best way to get to Northern Ireland’s famous Giant’s Causeway is by taking the magnificent Causeway Coast driving route. Starting in Belfast, the road wraps around the nine Glens of Antrim, winding between charming coastal villages and stunning scenic locations.
Places to visit on the Causeway Coast –
Built in 1177, this castle is one of the best preserved medieval buildings in Northern Ireland. The castle has an impressive 17th century cannon display and lots of historical information about the buildings eventful history including tales of besieging by Scots, English and French.
The Gobbins is a cliff-face path at Islandmagee. It runs across bridges, past caves and through a tunnel along The Gobbins cliffs which are recognised for their rich geology and birdlife. Those not wishing to walk the cliff path could enjoy the Visitor Centre and learn about The Gobbins through the on-site exhibition.
Note, the Gobbins is closed right now (March 2016) due to storm damage and is due to re-open in a few weeks. The visitor centre will remain open.
Nesteled at the foot Glenarm, the first of the Nine Glens of Antrim you will find the picturesque village of Glenarm with its sandy bay and beautiful Georgian Streets. Not far away is Glenarm Forest Park, an 800-acre nature preserve and Glenarm Castle where you can visit the Castle’s Walled Garden.
Carnlough is a pretty town with a lovely harbour and prominent historic hotel. Take the steps going uphill next to the Harbour Lights building to the stunning Cranny Falls.
Ballycastle has some beautiful view, a pretty harbour and a sandy beach simply called Ballycastle Beach! Fair Head, Ballycastle’s headland rises to 196 metres out over the bay and is the subject of many scenic Northern Ireland photographs. A short drive will take you to the pretty inlet at Murlough Bay.
A short ferry from Ballycastle will take you across to Rathlin Island, the Causeway Coast’s only inhabited offshore Islands. There are some nice walks to be taken around the Ireland and a visitor centre where you can learn more about the island’s history.
Carrick- A – Rede
You may have seen pictures of the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge which links the small island of Carrickarede to the mainland. Some fantastic views are awarded to those brave enough to take on the rope bridge but if this particular stroll doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, there are some nice cliff walks that can be done in the area instead!
The Giant’s Causeway
Last but certainly not least, the Causeway Coast’s most famous attraction, the Giant’s Causeway! According to legend, the columns are the remains of a causeway built by the Irish giant Fionn mac Cumhaill.
Book your Causeway Coast Tour Today-
The best way to learn about Ireland is to visit yourself. Contact us today for a quotation including some or all of these locations today –
All Knitting Tours of Ireland are Now Guaranteed Departures –
Feedback from all of our previous Knitting Tours of Ireland has been so good that we have decided that from now on, all of our departures will be guaranteed. That means if we have 5 people or 25 people, our scheduled knitting tours will always run as planned!
We’ve got two tours that explore Knitting and Craft in Ireland, our south of Ireland tour which takes in the South and West of the country and our North of Ireland knitting tour which is concentrated in the North and West of Ireland. Both tours include workshops, craft based sightseeing and general sightseeing. Please review the individual tour links below for more information!
We’ve been running these tours for several years and have had many happy customers. Read a review of our North tour here and a review of our Southern tour here.
If you are thinking of popping the question in Ireland, then I wouldn’t blame you. Ireland is often described as a beautiful, romantic country and everything that has been said, is 100% true! We’ve got rolling countryside, dramatic sea cliffs, stunning lakes and thousands of historic sites to visit, with our heritage going back thousands of years! So yes…Ireland is a great place to propose… do it!!
Before writing this post, I asked the Irish Tourism staff for their Ireland proposal ideas and between us, I think we’ve come up with some pretty good ideas:
Fanore Sea Cliffs, Followed by a pint at Gus O’Connors Pub & a Doolin Sunset
Fanore is located on the main road from Doolin to Ballyvaughan, in the Burren region of County Clare. Coming from Ballyvaughan, before you reach Fanore there is a rocky viewing point overlooking the Wild Atlantic Way. You will know the spot when you see it because there are laybys to park along the side of the road. On a good day the views over the cliff are breath-taking and all you can see is deep blue Atlantic Ocean, an ideal place to propose! Afterward head in to Doolin to celebrate with a pint or two and some great traditional music at Gus O’Connor’s pub! In the evening, head down to Doolin Pier where the sun setting over the rocks is very romantic!
Check-in to an Irish Castle
Ireland has a massive number of castles dispersed around the countryside, from romantic ruins, to grand castles that may have been once home to Irish Chieftains and Lords. There are many castles that have been converted into hotels where you can enjoy a romantic stay. Many of these Castle hotels have wooded walks or pretty gardens where you are sure to find a romantic spot to propose. Ashford Castle is situated beside a lake and boat trips can be booked from the reception. Wouldn’t that be a picturesque proposal….on a boat, just the two of you, overlooking one of Ireland’s most magnificent castles on stunning Lake Corrib!
Is your Partner a Film Fan? Choose one of Ireland’s famous film locations for your proposal!
Many movie-makers chose locations in Ireland to feature in their films. Most recently the Skellig Islands which you can reach by boat from the Ring of Kerry was featured in Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens. There are several locations in Northern Ireland that were included in Game of Thrones filming including a haunting path of meandering beech trees near Armoy in County Antrim which became the ‘Dark Hedges’ and Shane’s Castle near Randalstown which featured in the tournament scene. The Dingle Peninsula was the setting for both Ryan’s Daughter in the 1970’s and Far & Away in 1992 and the stunning Cong region in County Mayo was the scene of John Ford’s Epic film, The Quiet Man.
Locations Associated with the Romantic Legend of Diarmuid & Grainne
One of Ireland’s most famous romantic legends is that of The Pursuit of Diarmuid and Gráinne. Gráinne had been betrothed to the leader of the Fianna, Fionn Mac Cumhail but on her wedding day; fell desperately in love with one of Fionn’s warriors, Diarmuid O’Duibhne. Putting a spell on Diarmuid to make him love her, the pair fled across Ireland, all the time being pursued by Fionn Mac Cumhail and the rest of his warriors. One day with Fionn closing in, Diarmuid and Grainne came across the heath of Benbulben in Co. Sligo, where a giant boar charged and fatally wounded Diarmuid. Many Neolithic stone monuments with flat roofs (such as court cairns, dolmens and wedge-shaped gallery graves) bear the local name Leaba Dhiarmada agus Ghráinne (Diarmuid and Grainne’s Bed), being viewed as one of the fugitive couple’s campsites for the night. An example would be Poulnabrone Dolmen in County Clare.
Look up your Partner’s Irish Heritage & Included the County of their Ancestors in your Itinerary.
Over 10% of the American population report that they have Irish ancestry. If there may be an Irish connection in your partner’s family tree, it may not be as difficult as you would think to find out where in Ireland their family came from. Talk to the elderly members to try and find out rough details; family name, approx. time leaving Ireland and possible county. You can cross reference any information you get on the Irish National Archive which has records back as far as 1821. If you do find a person connected to your partner, the site will tell you where they lived and you could perhaps stay nearby and take a trip there.
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The best way to learn about Ireland is to visit yourself. Contact us for a quotation today –
The 1916 Easter Rising was an armed rebellion in Ireland during Easter Week by members of the Irish Volunteers led by Irish activists Padraig Pearse & James Connolly. With far superior soldier numbers and weaponry, the British army quickly defeated the rising, and Pearse agreed to surrender on Saturday 29 April 1916. Many of the leaders were executed following the events and so the rebellion in one sense was a failure. It did however succeed in bringing republicanism back to the forefront of Irish politics and support for an independent Ireland continued to rise which eventually led to Ireland’s freedom after the war of Independence.
This year the people of Ireland are getting ready for the 100 year anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising. The Centenary celebrations will include a formal State celebration to remember the events and the people who made it possible. Some of the best places to visit in Dublin to find out more about the Easter Rising 1916 include;
The National Museum of Ireland at Collins Barracks: The National Museum of Ireland is a fantastic museum featuring decorative arts and Irish history. Given that the museum is placed in a building that was a former Army Barracks, there is an emphasis on Irish Military History. The 1916 Rising is currently covered in the Soldiers and Chiefs Exhibition but in 2016 a brand new exhibition will open called Proclaiming a Republic: The 1916 Rising, this exhibition will mark the 100 year anniversary of the Rising and is due to open around the 3rd of March 2016.
Kilmainham Gaol: Kilmainham Gaol is one of the biggest unoccupied gaols in Europe and played a central part in the events after the 1916 Rebellion. The Gaol had been closed at the time of the rising but was reopened especially to house the hundreds of men and women arrested for their part in the battle. In early May, fourteen of these prisoners including Padraig Pearse were executed in the stone breakers yard section of the grounds. Nowadays, attractions at the museum include a major presentation detailing the political and penal history of the prison and its restoration. The museum have not yet released any information on their 1916 Centenary celebration events but it is expected that there will be events to commemorate the rising over the Easter period in 2016 and beyond.
The General Post Office (GPO): The General Post Office (GPO) in the centre of Dublin’s O’Connell Street is now the headquarters of the Irish Postal Service, An Post. During the Easter Rising, the building was headquarters of the men and women that took part in the battle. At the moment there is a small virtual exhibition in the GPO about the rising but in March 2016 a new visitor centre dedicated to the 1916 Rising is due to be opened called GPO Witness History. The museum will feature special effects, soundscapes and stories of real Irish people.
The Royal College of Surgeons, Stephen’s Green & the Shelbourne Hotel: During the Easter Rising, Michael Malin and Countess Markievicz were assigned to Stephen’s Green, a 22 acre public park in the centre of the city. It turned out that St. Stephen’s Green was a vulnerable position as it was overlooked by the Shelbourne Hotel which was occupied by British forces. Seeing this, the Green was abandoned and the volunteers fled to the Royal College of Surgeons. St. Stephen’s Green is still open to the public, there are 3.5km of pathways to walk through and you will find a bust of Countess Markievicz to the South of the central garden.
The Four Courts: The Four Courts is Ireland’s main court of Justice and houses the Supreme Court, the High Court and the Dublin Circuit Court; it is located on Inns Quay in the city centre.The first battalion of the Dublin Brigade, led by Edward Daly, occupied this building and the surrounding streets during the rebellion. The building survived the Rising, but was subsequently destroyed during the Civil War in 1922. It was rebuilt and reopened in 1932.
Glasnevin Cemetery: Many of the people that died in the 1916 rebellion and subsequent battles for freedom were interred at Glasnevin Cemetery. The Glasnevin Trust operates tours of the graveyard daily and in 2016 there is a yearlong program of events planned to commemorate the 1916 Rising including re-enactments and special tours.
Dublin Castle & City Hall: The uprising began at Dublin Castle which was the centre of British Rule in Ireland. The rebellions failed to capture City Hall however they succeeded in occupying City Hall which is situated beside Dublin Castle.
City Hall is open to the public all year round and there is a permanent multi-media exhibition which traces the history of Dublin from 1170 to the present. There is also a new exhibition which tells the story of Dublin’s firefighters during the 1916 Rising. In addition the original copy of the 1916 Proclamation which has been recently preserved will be on display at City Hall from Easter 2016.
The grounds of Dublin Castle are free to explore, as are the Chester Beatty Library and the Revenue Museum which are located within the grounds. Access to the State Apartments and the Chapel Royal are by guided tour only and tickets can be purchased on site.
The Royal Hospital, Kilmainham (The National Museum of Modern Art): The building which now houses the National Museum of Modern Art was at the time of the 1916 Rising, the headquarters of the British Army. Most exhibitions at the museum are free of charge, unless otherwise specified. Other facilities include a café, bookshop and free guided tours of the exhibitions.
Would you like to explore the locations associated with the 1916 uprising yourself? Then get in touch with us today and we can handle all the arrangements!
The Wild Atlantic Way has come out number 1 in a new list of the Top 5 “offbeat coastal road trips” by Lonely Planet, the world’s most successful travel publisher. And who would argue with them?
The Wild Atlantic Way is Ireland’s longest coastal driving route, stretching from the very top of Ireland’s West coast at Malin Head in Donegal to the very bottom at Kinsale in County Cork! In between, the coastal path along Sligo, Mayo, Galway, Clare and Kerry are striking.
Here the sheer power of the ocean has carved a coastline that is jagged, wild, raw and truly beautiful! Along the Wild Atlantic Way you will discover ocean cliffs that are amongst the highest in Europe, beautiful strands and an array of wildlife that thrives from the cool waters of our coastal shores.
Wild Atlantic Way Picture Gallery –
It would be difficult for anyone to do the entire Wild Atlantic Way driving route in one go, so the Irish Tourism Group have designed a series of tours that break the journey up into manageable segments. View our tours here
Would you like to explore the Wild Atlantic Way yourself? Then get in touch with us today and we can handle all the arrangements!
Situated on the Wild Atlantic Way, in the northwest of Ireland, Sligo is perhaps most well-known for its connection with the famous Irish poet and playwright, William Butler Yeats. The town is perfectly situated to explore the surrounding countryside and the region that gave inspiration to many of Yeats’ most famous works. Here are some suggestions for places to visit and things to do while you are in the area –
See Benbulben/Benbulben Forrest Walk
Benbulben, one of Sligo’s and indeed one of Ireland’s most famous mountains can be seen from many different angles and locations around Sligo. Fantastic views of the mountain can be enjoyed in particular from the Benbulben (Gortarowey) Looped Walk. The entire loop is about 4KM and there is a nice track which you can follow through the trees.
Take a Seaweed Bath!
People have been enjoying seaweed baths in Ireland for centuries and Strandhill in Sligo is famous for them! Voya Seaweed Baths is situated on the sea front of Strandhill, right beside its beautiful sandy beach. Although the smell won’t be to everyone’s tastes and it feels a bit slimy, these features are not permanent and the bath will leave your skin feeling wonderful! In addition to the skin benefits, studies have shown that the vitamins and iodine in seaweed helps to improve circulatory complaints and eliminates toxins from the body.
Visit Parke’s Castle
Parke’s Casle is about 20 minutes’ drive from Sligo Town, it’s actually just over the border in County Leitrim. Charmingly located on the shores of Lough Gill, the castle was once the home of Robert Parke and his family. The region was previously ruled by Brian O’Rourke who assumed leadership of his family by assassinating his older brothers. O’Rourke himself was hung, drawn and quartered after he sheltered survivors of the Spanish Armada, upsetting the monarchy in England. The Castle has now been faithfully restored using authentic materials and traditional craftsmanship and tours of property will give you an insight into what life was like in Ireland at the time.
Take a Boat Cruise on Lough Gill (& see the Lake Isle of Innisfree)
The Rose of Innisfree is moored right beside Parke’s Castle and they do a wonderful waterbus tour of Lough Gill. Lough Gill inspired a number of poems by William Butler Yeats, most famously, the Lake Isle of Innisfree which you will see up close on this one hour tour. Catch a glimpse Church island which has the ruins of a 13th century monastic settlement. You will also see Beezie’s Island which is named after its sole resident, Beezie Gallagher who lived on the island alone until she died in 1951.
Take a Snap Beside Glencar Waterfall
Glencar Waterfall is located in Glencar County Leitrim, about 15 minutes from Sligo and about 15 minutes from Parke’s Castle, so you could visit both attractions easily in one day. The waterfall is particularly impressive after rain and can be viewed from a short wooded walk. There are plenty of lakeside tables and benches in the area, making it a lovely place to enjoy a picnic.
Visit Rosses Point
At the entrance to Sligo Bay, you will find the stunning coastal village of Rosses Point with its spectacular long sandy beach. Yeats and his family would have spent their summers in Rosses point, staying in Elsinore House which is now in ruins. In this little village you can enjoy good food especially seafood, some fantastic little pubs and sometimes great traditional Irish music. The village enjoys fantastic views over Sligo Bay and there are some lovely seafront walks to enjoy.
Visit Drumcliffe & Yeats’ Grave
Drumcliffe is 8 km north of Sligo town and it is best known as the final resting place of W.B Yeats. In the church yard, you will find Yeats’ grave marked with the simple inscription ‘cast a cold eye on life, on death, horseman pass by’. Yeats instructed that these words be placed on his grave stone and that there be no marble or conventional phrases on it. The graveyard also contains a high cross and a 6th century monastery.
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The best way to learn about Ireland is to visit yourself. Contact us today for a quotation including some or all of these locations today –
Last November a dream came true for me when I read about a knitting and craft tour that Irish Tourism had organized. Knitting, crafts AND Ireland, what more could anyone who loves fiber ask for? It had a long been a dream of mine to visit Ireland. Traveling alone can be a bit daunting so I kept putting off planning the trip I had long wanted to take. As I read more about the tour it seemed to be planned just for me. I knew though that I would be sure to find like minded new friends on the trip as we already had fiber in common and a love of Ireland. I signed up, this was going to be fun!
The itinerary was amazing. It was really well planned and included three knitting classes, two spinning demonstrations, basket and lace making too. Oh, AND entry into the Knitting and Stitching show in Dublin! Each knitting class was taught by an experienced instructor. The classes included the yarns that we needed and patterns with step by step instructions. We learned traditional Irish stitches all the while having tea and biscuits (cookies) scones and jam. We were all in heaven. The locations of each workshop were different and added to the charm. From a lovely hotel in Galway to Mairead Sherry’s living room in a traditional Aran Island house complete with peat fire. We felt we were seeing more of Ireland than you might see on a regular tour. Our tour driver Kenny was very good, didn’t hit anything and never left anyone behind. Fiona Lane was our tour guide and we felt very lucky. Her knowledge of Ireland and fun attitude made the days fun and relaxing. We didn’t have to worry about anything as she took care of every detail along the way.
Carol Feller of Cork was one of our instructors. Her workshop included a signed copy of her book we got to keep and she brought the actual samples that were made for the book. She included lots of tips for pattern modifications. If you were a new knitter you could just focus on the stitches (and cookies) and knit along without worrying about the more advanced techniques. There was something for everyone whether you were a new knitter or a more experienced one.
Anne O’Maille of Galway also taught a workshop. She showed us yarns that are available locally and we used the yarns to knit some of the many patterns she provided. We had a great time shopping in her store in Galway where she has an enormous collection of hand knit Irish sweaters. These are still knit by women in Ireland with intricate cable patterns. She also sells the yarns we used in class. Galway was great fun. Such a walkable friendly city with sidewalk musicians playing on every block. Bakeries and cheese shops, book stores and all kinds of Irish goods to browse and buy. There are many pubs and restaurants with Irish music and great beers. You can walk along the main street and stop in for a beer and music without worrying about you safety. Everyone was very friendly and welcoming.
The high point of the trip was a visit to the smallest of the Aran Islands, Inis Oirr. We flew over in a small plane in just nine minutes from the mainland to the island. Coming in for a landing you could see the individual fields with the short stone walls surrounding each field. From the air it seemed like a very green jigsaw puzzle. Some of the puzzle pieces had a horse or sheep on them. O’Brians Castle perched up on the hill seemed to still be keeping watch over the island. Una McDonagh met us at the airport. We knew we were to have a knitting workshop with her but we didn’t know what treats she ready for us. It was a nice but chilly day and we were grateful for the hot tea and scones that she served us when we reached the craft center.
They have a small gift shop at the craft center and a very informative display of traditional clothing once worn by the islanders. After our tea restored our energy we got down to knitting. The craft center is a wonderful resource for the island. The classroom space is roomy and well lit. Una was joined by Mairead Sharry and together they taught us how to knit a few of the traditional Aran Island knitting stitches. At the end of the class we were invited back to Mairead’s traditional thatched cottage. Her spinning wheel was set up next to the hearth so she could sit and spin with the peat fire warming her as she spun. It was easy to imagine how it would have been to sit and spin though a long winter with access cut off to the mainland and only your neighbors to rely on for weeks at a time. We were very lucky to be able to sit with her and imagine the past, as there are very few spinners still on the islands.
Besides knitting and spinning this tour showed us many of the more standard spots that all tourists to Ireland want to visit. We saw the Book Of Kells, and the Cliffs of Moher. The Ring Of Kerry and Blarney Castle with its amazing Druid’s Circle. The Museum of Country Life has a wonderful display of crochet clothing and old weaving shuttles and bobbins. Kylemore Abbey, besides having a stunning house has the perfect property to walk off the effects of sitting on the bus and eating too much good food. It would have been perfect except for the rain and the very small hail stones that caught us between house and gardens. In no way did that spoil our walk in- between the trees with, it seemed, the fairies just hiding out of view.
The accommodations were very well chosen. Clean and safe, with welcoming staff, we were all very happy with each place we stayed. My favorite was the B & B on Inis Oirr. She opened her house and made us feel very welcome. The breakfast was perfect and set us up for our return to the mainland. Some meals were provided on the tour and they were all good but more fun was going out some evenings and looking for a local place to eat. We had the best fish and chips in Galway and a personal goal was trying the dark beers in a pub or two or three. Of course the Guinness was a must but I have to say the Murphy’s beer was a favorite.
This tour was a great introduction to Ireland and the fiber and craft community on the island. The fiber community has a long history in Ireland and is making a revival with the renewed interest in traditional crafts. There are many places now on my list that are calling me to return and hopefully spend more time exploring. The itinerary for a new Knitting and Craft tour is now being offered this April with all new places to visit. Oh I can’t wait!
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