Northern Highlights Tour – 2016

Spirit of Ireland Executive Travels’ new 6 day ‘Northern Highlights Tour’ takes in all the main attractions and sights of Northern Ireland and the North West corner of Ireland. Your local driver / guide will take you on a tour through ancient and modern Irish history to show you exactly where we come from and what makes us Irish. Staying in city and town centre hotels, every evening you will have time to explore each city / town and to experience for yourself what it means to be Irish.

Day 1. Dublin to Belfast

Bru na Boinne / Newgrange. (Subject to availability) www.worldheritageireland.ie
The series of remarkable passage tombs here, built by Neolithic farmers more than 5000 years ago,

is one of the world’s most important archaeological sites. Drogheda. www.drogheda.ie

Set on the banks of the River Boyne, its skyline punctured by the spires of three cathedrals, Drogheda is one of the most attractive medieval towns in the Midlands.

Titanic Belfast. www.titanicbelfast.com
Titanic Belfast is a visitor attraction and a monument to Belfast’s maritime heritage on the site of the

former Harland and Wolff shipyard in the city’s Titanic Quarter where the RMS Titanic was built. Belfast City. www.visit-belfast.com

Belfast enjoys a lovely setting on the shores of a sea lough, backed by green hills. It is young as Irish cities go, dating largely from the 19th century when it flourished as a port and commercial centre, the linen mills and shipyards forming the backbone of it’s wealth.

Accommodation: City centre hotel, bed and breakfast.

Day 2. Belfast to Derry

Carrick – A – Rede. www.nationaltrust.org.uk

Every spring, Salmon fishermen put up a rope bridge to connect the rocky island of Carrick-a-Rede to the mainland so they could reach their favoured fishing spot. Crossing the bridge across the chasm has become a popular challenge for visitors with a head for heights.

Giant’s Causeway. www.nationaltrust.org.uk

This incredible geological phenomenon is the most visited site in Northern Ireland. The 40,000 basalt columns that make up the Giant’s Causeway were formed by the cooling and cracking of lava from a volcanic explosion some 60 million years ago.

Dunluce Castle. www.discovernortherireland.com

Dating from the 13th century, Dunluce Castle is so precariously perched on the cliffs that in 1639 its kitchens – with the cooks in them – were swept into the sea during a storm.

Derry City. www.visitderry.com

In the 6th century, St. Columba founded a monastery in an oak grove, or ‘daire’ beside the River Foyle. Nearly a thousand years later, in the Plantation era, English merchants built the magnificent town walls that give Derry so much character today; it is the only completely walled city in Ireland.

Accommodation: City centre hotel, bed and breakfast.

Day 3. Derry to Donegal

Walking Tour of Derry City.

The highlights of this historic city are best seen on a walk around the top of the town walls, a circuit of about a mile (1.5km). Completed in 1618, they stand 20 feet (6m) high and were never breached, despite three sieges, one of which – the 105-day Seige of Derry which began in December of 1688 – was the longest in British history.

Grianan of Aileach. www.megalithicireland.com

This formidable Iron Age ring fort commands a hilltop overlooking the coast. Grianan Fort as it is known locally, was occupied by Ulster’s royal dynasty, the O’Neill’s, and it was the political centre of Ulster until it was destroyed in the 12th century. It was restored in the 1870s.

Glenveagh National Park. www.glenveaghnationalpark.ie

Set among the Derryveagh mountains, Glenveagh National Park covers 40,870 acres (16,540 hectares) of woodland, lakes, bogs and mountains. It encompasses Donegal’s highest peaks, Mount Errigal, rising to 2,467 feet (752m) and Slieve Snacht, and is home to one of Ireland’s two large red deer herds.

Donegal Town. www.govisitdonegal.com

‘Dun na nGall’ it’s Irish name means ‘fort of the foreigners’ a name which referred to the Vikings who set up a base here in the 9th century. It is set on a crossroads where the River Eske flows into Donegal Bay, and centred around the attractive central market square, known as the Diamond, which was built during the Plantation period in the early 17th century.

Accommodation: Town centre hotel, bed and breakfast.

Day 4. Donegal to Galway

Belleek Pottery Visitors Centre. www.belleekpottery.ie

Ireland’s oldest pottery, it was established in 1857 after John Caldwell Bloomfield inherited the Castle Caldwell estate and sought to provide employment for his tenants in the aftermath of the potato famine. At the visitors centre you can take a guided tour of the pottery to see how craftspeople design, shape and decorate the delicate basketware, vases and figurines.

Drumcliffe. www.discoverireland.ie

Whether or not you’re a fan of the poet William Butler Yeats, it’s worth a stop at Drumcliffe Churchyard. Poetic to the very end, Yeats chose this peaceful spot for his last resting place. “Cast a cold eye on life, on death, Horseman, pass by!”

Carrowmore Megalithic Tombs. www.heritageireland.ie
Ireland’s largest Stone Age cemetery. The Megalithic graves here predate those at Newgrange by

700 years and are among the oldest and most important in Europe.

Galway City. www.discoverireland.ie

Set along Galway Bay at the mouth of the River Corrib, Galway City, capital of the West, is one of the fastest growing cities in the country. It is also one of the most pleasant, with a compact and colourful centre that still bears the traces of its medieval past.

Accommodation: City centre hotel, bed and breakfast.

Day 5. Galway City

Free day to explore Galway city or take the ‘Wild Atlantic Way Day Tours’ Connemara tour out along the Coast of Galway Bay through the Connemara National Park and onto Kylemore Abbey.

Day 6. Galway to Dublin

Aran Islands (Inisheer). www.aranislands.ie

A short ferry sailing from the County Clare village of Doolin takes you to Inisheer, the smallest of the Aran Islands. Here you have time to yourself to explore the ruined church of St. Gobnait, the only woman allowed amongst the early Christian brethren, and the 15th century O’Brien’s Castle. On the return sailing, the ferry cruises in beneath the stunning Cliffs of Moher.

Cliffs of Moher. www.cliffsofmoher.ie

These sheer striated cliffs, rising over 700 feet (214m) out of the Atlantic, are one of the west coast’s most impressive natural sights. Stretching for nearly 5 miles (8km) along the coast, they form a massive housing estate for nesting gulls, kittiwakes, puffins and other seabirds.

Dublin City. www.visitdublin.com

Dublin City is one of the hottest destinations in Europe. The Vikings founded the city around 837 beside the black pool, or dubh linn for which it is named. It as the centre of the Pale in Norman times, and reached its golden age in the 18th century, when the city’s handsome public buildings and elegant Georgian squares were built.

Accommodation: City centre hotel, bed and breakfast.

Accommodation each night in City / Town centre hotel on a bed and breakfast basis. Entry to all sights and attractions as listed above. (Newgrange is subject to availability). Guided walk of Derry City wall with local guide.
Ferry to Aran Islands and Cliffs of Moher cruise.

Fully qualified driver / guide on luxury coach.