Newgrange Passage Tomb
Photo by Andrew Parnell licensed under CC BY 2.0
Donaghmore Round Tower
Photo by Aubrey Martin licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0
Monasterboice South Cross, West Face
Photo by Andreas F Borchert licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0
Photo by Ollie Bailie licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0
Venture into Irish mythology and history as we explore the country’s ancient past and the landscape that bore witness
Explore the remarkable passage tombs of Newgrange and Knowth
Visit evocative monastic sites, including Monasterboice with its exquisite high crosses
Stepping into the shadowy world of Newgrange Passage Tomb – believed to be over 5000 years old – it is easy to conjure up possible images of the past, yet much harder to reach any firm conclusions. Ringed by megalithic carvings, the mastery of the tomb’s architecture inspires both wonder and curiosity about its role in Irish history, folklore and legend. Part of the Brú na Bóinne UNESCO World Heritage site, Newgrange is regarded as one of the most important megalithic structures in the world and a fitting start to our journey into Ireland’s history.
Our explorations will be based in County Meath, named after the former kingdom, and home to a wealth of historical sites from prehistory to the modern era. As well as illuminating Ireland’s past, many of these places aid our understanding of Europe’s religious, artistic and cultural heritage more generally.
The mystery of Newgrange is mirrored at nearby Knowth, also part of the UNESCO Boyne Valley complex. The atmospheric Hill of Tara, meanwhile, retains its status as fabled seat of the High Kings of Ireland and possesses at least twenty diverse monuments erected over hundreds if not thousands of years.
Images of the past become a little clearer as we explore Ireland’s early Christian history. The unassuming grounds of Monasterboice include three 10th century high crosses, among them Muiredach’s High Cross, richly decorated with biblical carvings and widely regarded as the finest monument of its kind in Ireland.
The extensive site of Clonmacnoise on the banks of the River Shannon boasts the ruins of a cathedral, several churches, round tower and high crosses; while Old Mellifont Abbey was the first Cisterician abbey and example of Gothic ecclesiastical architecture built in Ireland. Later, during our visit to Kells, we will linger at the evocative 10th century oratory named after St Columba.
As we step into the later medieval period, we will explore the remains of Trim Castle, the largest Anglo-Norman castle in Ireland and once used as a centre for administration for the Lordship of Meath; its position on the site of an earlier monastery points to the importance of the area in the surrounding landscape. We will also learn more about this region’s role in early modern Irish and British history at a museum dedicated to the Battle of the Boyne – the 17th century conflict that turned the tide against King James II, and helped to ensure Protestant ascendency in Ireland for hundreds of years.
We will stay at the three-star Newgrange Hotel in the charming and historical town of Navan, close to most of the sites on our tour.
This tour will be led by Mike King, BA, MA, a museum professional for over 30 years who has worked in both Northern Ireland and Scotland. Mike is currently Heritage Manager for Newry, Mourne and Down District Council. He is interested in engaging travellers in archaeology and history, especially Irish archaeology, the early medieval culture of Britain and Ireland, European pilgrimage and Rome’s legacy in early medieval Europe. He is particularly fascinated by carved stones, and created an exhibition on the megaliths of Northern Ireland. He also coordinated the protection and movement of a 10th century high cross in Downpatrick. Mike lectures, guides and publishes widely, and is looking forward to leading his first tour with ACE in 2022.
“I always find exploration of County Meath's treasures a fascinating experience, as it involves the uncovering of so many layers of prehistory and history in one dramatic landscape. There is also the opportunity to enter standing structures dating from over 5000 years ago to the present day, whether it is the passage of the tomb at Newgrange, the 'house' of St Columba in Kells or the magnificent castle of Trim. If you enjoy visiting ancient tombs, high crosses, abbeys, battle sites and castles at the heart of Ireland's story, this tour will be a delight.”
Included: Return airfare, accommodation based on sharing a twin or double bedded room, breakfast, one lunch, dinner with water & coffee, excursions & admissions, gratuities.
Not Included: Travel insurance, double room for single use supplement £325.