Revel in the heritage charms of Ireland on a tour through the eastern side of the country.
Taking in 17 counties, 5,000 years of history and an unfathomable collection of priceless treasures, centuries-old monuments and medieval castles, Ireland’s Ancient East is an absolute honeypot of heritage gems.
A journey through the area’s lush countryside reveals legends, myths and folklore alongside a limitless supply of thrilling stories, entertaining tales and more than enough drama, romance and heartbreak to last a lifetime.
From Dublin, you can choose to head south through the Wicklow Mountains National Park, where the mystical Glendalough will come into view. The famous monastic settlement was founded by St Kevin in the sixth century and is known as ‘the valley of two lakes’. There is a cathedral, six churches and a round tower to explore here, all set within the tranquillity of the area’s twin lakes.
Further south, stories of emigration and invasion can be discovered at the Dunbrody Famine Ship, moored on the quayside at New Ross, This ‘coffin ship’ is a replica of the vessels that took more than a million people from Ireland to North America to escape the starvation caused by potato blight.
Nearby, Hook Head, Europe’s oldest lighthouse, provides some of the most breath-taking scenery in Ireland, while Waterford, Ireland’s oldest city, offers a unique immersion in 1,100 years of Irish culture and history. The city’s Viking Triangle is home to three museums, a host of medieval buildings and an array of historical influences left behind by the invaders who founded the city.
Lough Tay and the Wicklow Mountains
One of Ireland’s greatest heritage gems is easily reached if you head north from Dublin to the Boyne Valley. The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Brú na Bóinne includes the world-famous Newgrange, a passage tomb that pre-dates the Pyramids.
In this area, the Hill of Tara, best known as the seat of the High Kings of Ireland, can be discovered, as well as the stunning Trim Castle. The stuff of storybooks and movies, the stronghold had a starring role the film Braveheart.
East of Dublin, one of the key heritage gems is the Rock of Cashel. Boasting a round tower, gothic cathedral and castle, ‘the Rock’ is home to a series of impressive ancient structures and a world of medieval and Celtic history.
Located on the banks of the River Shannon, Clonmacnoise is another place of deep Irish heritage. A walk amongst the peaceful stone ruins of this famous place will conjure images of the saints and scholars of Ireland’s renowned Golden Age of learning.
In any tour of Ireland’s Ancient East, Kilkenny Castle must also be on the itinerary. Over 800 years of history are wrapped up in this breath-taking stronghold, one of the most beautiful castles in the country.
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