Experience the fascinating Prehistory of Ireland. Travel through the rugged landscape with one of the leading experts in Irish Archaeology, Dr Kelli Ann Malone. The monumental passage tomb of Newgrange – with its widely known stone carvings – is but one of the highlights on a tour that takes in Dublin, the Boyne Valley, Carrowmore, mystical Galway, and the island of Inis Mor. Particularly famous for its Celtic remains, Ireland has so much to offer archaeological enthusiasts. This is more than just a tour for the Prehistoric purists. Join us to discover impressive burial monuments and captivating archaeological sites of earliest Ireland... scattered across this most verdant of isles.
- Admire the major sacred artefacts of Celtic Ireland and the collection of prehistoric gold objects in the National Museum in Dublin
- Take a ferry to Inis Mor and explore the Island’s archaeological sites - home to over 50 different monuments of mythological heritage.
- View the Book of kells from the 9th century – a must-see artefact for all interested in the Irish culture
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We arrive in lively Dublin, a city founded by Vikings, where the River Liffey meets the Irish Sea. This afternoon we spend time in the capital’s exceptional National Museum, delving into its fine exhibition on prehistoric Ireland. In this gallery charting the country’s history from the earliest hunter-gatherers to the Bronze Age, we discover a broad range of artefacts including a remarkable 4,500-year old logboat, as well as a reconstruction of a Passage Tomb – an early taster of what is still to come.
After a hearty Irish breakfast we set out to explore more of Dublin’s canals and cobbled streets. Our first main stop is the Old Library of Trinity College, the largest library in Ireland; a permanent home to the magnificent Book of Kells. This illuminated gospel manuscript dates from the 9th century, and is a masterpiece of Latin calligraphy. An accompanying exhibition helps put this national treasure into context.
Later we pay a visit to the elaborate 12th century structure of St Patrick´s Cathedral. Built on the site at which Saint Patrick conducted baptisms in the 5th century AD, the cathedral became Ireland’s national cathedral in the late 1800s. The author and essayist Jonathan Swift was its dean for some 32 years.
This morning we head north in order to begin our discovery of some of the country’s foremost archaeological sites. Our journey first takes us to Newgrange, a monumental burial mound from the Neolithic period, which pre-dates both Stonehenge and the Pyramids of Giza. Slipping past its ornate Entrance Stone, we enjoy access to underground chambers and passageways, viewing beautifully-preserved examples of Megalithic art.
Our next stop is Knowth in the Boyne Valley, a complex of grave structures contemporary to Newgrange. Designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1993, Knowth is home to over two-thirds of all the Megalithic art of Western Europe. A guided tour takes us deep into the site’s Great Mound, where we find stones depicting various astronomical phenomena.
Our day ends at the Hill of Tara, another prehistoric complex which, according to legend, was once the seat of the High Kings of Ireland. While there is currently insufficient evidence to back up that particular claim, there are hints that this site was involved with ancient kingship rituals. We discover the stories surrounding its Fort of the Kings, as well as the Stone of Destiny.
This morning our adventures kick off at Fourknocks, a burial chamber discovered in 1949. Here we have a chance to step inside the main tomb, where we find a very rare example of a carving of a Neolithic face.
After exploring some of the other sites of the Boyne Valley we head for Loughcrew, a rugged group of Megalithic cairns, some of which still bear elegant engravings.
Our journey continues north-west to the coastal town of Sligo, gateway to an abundance of significant archaeological sites. Sligo’s name is thought to derive from an Irish word meaning “shelly place”. Its natural harbour once saw trade from Phoenicians, Greeks and Romans.
It’s time to see the treasures of Sligo. The highlight of our morning is our visit to Carrowmore, one of the most comprehensive burial complexes in Ireland. Beside the waters of a tranquil bay we find 30 Megalithic monuments of varying sizes, thought to be some of the oldest in existence. An engaging visitor centre sheds light on the site’s history, and explores the discovery that up to 100 tombs once stood on this gorgeous location.
Following lunch we encounter one of the best and largest examples of an Irish Court Tomb at Creevykeel: a majestic ruin of cairns and standing stones.
This morning we make the scenic drive south to the delightful city of Galway, on the shores of the North Atlantic; a settlement originally established in the 12th century, around a fort later captured by the Normans.
Upon arrival, we pay a visit to the excellent City Museum to discover all about Galway’s rich historical heritage. The museum is situated beside the famous Spanish Arch, part of a 16th century defensive wall around the city, and houses all manner of archaeological finds from the area, as well as telling the story of modern Galway.
The rest of our day sees us getting to know the rest of this charming city, considered by many to be the “most Irish” in all of Ireland.
On our last full day of the trip we catch a ferry across to Inis Mór, a magnificent island bearing a wealth of both pre-Christian and Christian sites and monuments.
Our first visit is to Dún Aengus, the most famous prehistoric hill fort of the Aran Islands. Within this stunning clifftop setting we find ancient walls and chambers, a Neolithic tomb, and an incredible “Cheval de Frise” – a dense network of defensive stones laid around the fort in approximately 700 BC.
Later we travel to the lesser known site of the Black Fort, or Dún Dúchathair, a solitary complex overlooking the Atlantic, which contains the intriguing remains of ancient dwellings.
As the day draws to a close we return to the mainland and enjoy a jubilant farewell dinner with the group.
After filling up on breakfast and checking out of our hotel, we make our way to the Burren, a national park of bizarre karst formations that covers approximately 250 square kilometres. It is believed that this stark stone landscape was once covered in deciduous trees – and that these were eventually burned and overgrazed by Neolithic settlers. Prehistoric stone walls and tombs can still be found here, as well as hundreds of “fulacht fiad” – charred mounds thought to have been used as cooking pits.
Leaving the Burren we travel to the airport and make our return journeys home.
- Expert Guide Lecturer
- Tour Manager
- Local Travel - Private a/c coach
- Meals - All meals included with wine at dinner
- Entries & Tips - Entry to all sites in programme; tips included
- Field Notes
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