Young Harris College 2016 Bespoke Tour
The following is a day by day summary of a 7 day bespoke tour for Young Harris college, GA.
We all met at the Dublin airport about mid-morning and made our way to Kerry, on the Dingle Peninsula after a stop at at the Rock of Cashel, an historic ecclesiastical site, and were allowed to explore and settle our grumbling stomachs so long as we came back with a couple interesting facts to share with the rest of the group.
We visited the Blasket Island visitor center to learn about the Islands and the people that once inhabited them. After a short audio visual presentation we were again allowed to explore at our leisure. I took advantage of our free range by hiking a little and enjoying the Atlantic.
Our class took what appeared to be a fishing boat converted to a ferry out to the Blasket Islands where we were read to from the literature of the people who once lived there. Again after the tour we got to explore the islands before we returned to the boats for a ride around the many Blasket Islands. The weather was amazing! That night, as the nights before, we cooked for ourselves and met at the local Pub a short walk away.
Our class was taken into Dingle town to roam and investigate the town. I, with a few friends found interesting churches, monasteries, book stores, and Foxy John’s, a hardware store pub combinations and Dick Mack’s whiskey bar and custom leather makers.
The coach took us to Strandhill just outside of Sligo, en route stopping at Coole Park, home to Lady Augusta Gregory, and nearby Thoor Tower, W.B. Yeats Tudor era tower home. At both places we were of course allowed to explore and share paths walked by some of the greatest minds to ever be in Ireland.
Since traveling and roaming was taxing on many us, we were allowed a free day to explore Strandhill. There several things to do including horseback riding on the beach alongside the Atlantic, hiking and surfing, which was my choice. Surfing lessons were very open and fun. That evening we met back at the hotel to go to a cookout at Keith McNair’s house where we had a talk and discussion with leading irish writer, Brian Leydon about Irish literature and his own work.
This day was packed with a balance of learning and exploring. We toured the country around Sligo that was once Yeats’ stomping ground. We ate lunch at Yeats enthusiast’s house with a nice view of the lake Innisfree while he read us Yeats poetry. After that we went to see the Lake Isle of Innisfree. All the while Mr. Kieth read to us poetry at each location.
This day we wandered around Sligo town to do some shopping and more exploring. Afterwards we went to Carrowkeel, a megalithic burial site that predates the Egyptian pyramids. The great thing is you can actually crawl down into these 5000 year old tombs!
The Countess Markievicz was the subject of the day. We went to her childhood home, Lissadell, a Georgian Mansion, where she was born as Constance Gore-Booth. We toured the castle and visited a statue of her in a neighboring town. After that, and possibly the most significant part of the trip for me, we visited W.B. Yeats' grave. After that we went to and explored Mullaghmore and caught an amazing sunset at Ross’ Point, for a very beautiful and dramatic scene to end the day.
A bus ride from Sligo brought us to Glendalough. One of the most breathtaking scenes in all of Ireland. Afterwards, Keith drove us through the Wicklow Mountains which looked more like they belonged in a Lord Of The Rings film than in Ireland. We arrived in Dublin shortly after.
An early start led us to Trinity College to see the Book of Kells and, the second most significant moment on the tour for me, The Long Room of the Trinity library. When we departed from Trinity we had free time to bounce around the city so my friends and I went on a bookstore crawl. A few hours after a behind the scenes tour of the Abbey Theatre we returned for a showing of Othello, which was spectacular! We had the great privilege of sitting on stage!
Students led presentation of the figures of O’Connell street including Daniel O’Connell, Jim Larkin, The GPO and the Millennium Spire. My partner and I led a presentation on the GPO. We toured Kilmainham Gaol where the leaders of the 1916 rising were held and executed. After this, we explored Dublin on our won and then met at the Old Mill restaurant at Temple Bar, a district we frequented, for our final tour dinner.
We left! An amazing experience!
Photos and Journal excerpts provided by tour participant Frank Easterlin