Trip Number: 13620A
Staff: Kathie Fowler
- Explore Dublin on Bloomsday during the annual James Joyce festival
- Sail to the remote Aran Islands, a favored locale in John Millington
- Travel through the heartland of Irish mythology and home of W.B. Yeats
- Private van for all land transportation
- All transfers, admissions, and private guide
- Comfortable lodging and delicious cuisine -- both traditional and modern
- All breakfasts, dinners, and gratuities
Photo: Kathie Fowler
For almost 9,000 years, hunters & gatherers, early farmers, Celtic tribes,
Vikings, Normans, and English and Scottish planters have consecutively occupied
Ireland. From the earliest mythological storytellers to today’s modern
writers, from early Gaelic to Latin and modern English, the range of forms and
variety of themes has been enormous.
What is it that makes the Irish such prolific and successful writers? Certainly
a sense of place is high on the list. The wild, ancient, often bloody landscape
is so woven into the fabric of Irish literature that it is commonly one of the
main characters. Our "pilgrimage" will be across these landscapes
as we hike its woods, sail to its remote islands, and climb its ancient mountains.
The literary period we cover is the end of the 19th and first half of the 20th
century. It was during this era, after 800 years of British rule, that a generation
of writers was determined to revive Ireland’s native language and folklore,
highlight the country’s ancient rural culture, and rekindle national pride.
It became known as the Irish Literary Renaissance.
There are many writers who could be featured on this trip, but we are limiting
ourselves to four so we can explore the actual locations of their works while
adhering to a 12-day itinerary. As a result, we will not only familiarize ourselves
with James Joyce’s great novel Ulysses, the controversial plays of John
Millington Synge, and the lyrical poems of both William Butler Yeats and Patrick
Kavanagh, but we will walk the landscapes -- both rural and urban -- where these
men lived and wrote.
Our reading list is not demanding. This is a holiday, not a university seminar.
Even if you have not read widely or deeply in Irish literature, this journey
will have meaning as we explore Ireland through the eyes of four of its master
storytellers while exchanging ideas, getting to know one another, and perhaps
enjoying an evening of traditional Irish music. Facilitating our dialogue and
accompanying us throughout the trip will be Joe McDermott, who is retired from
a 31-year career as a high school English and History teacher in Dublin and
Westport, County Mayo. Our first two days will be spent exploring the Dublin
environs, and the rest of our travels will be to charming villages and remote
rural areas that are off the beaten path. Both urban and rural environments
will allow us to immerse ourselves in Irish culture, past and present.
Photo: Kathie Fowler
Day 1: Our adventure begins just outside Dublin in a beautiful
19th-century hotel located on the shores of Dublin Bay. We will gather for dinner
and an orientation meeting, and you will meet Joe McDermott, our guide for the
next 10 days. Overnight: Sutton. D.
Day 2: Today we take the train to Sandycove, home of the James
Joyce museum and the “Gentlemen’s 40-Foot Bathing Pool,” memorialized
in the opening chapter of Ulysses. Here you have the option of jumping into
the Atlantic for your morning “constitutional,” as Bloom describes
in Ulysses and as Dubliners have been doing for generations. Afterwards we will
tour the museum, located in the Martello Tower, site of the opening scene of
Ulysses. A trip into Dublin for the afternoon and dinner back at our hotel will
complete our busy first day. Overnight: Sutton. B, D.
Day 3: Today is Bloomsday, where the city devotes itself to
all things Joycean. Fans from around the world congregate in Dublin on this
date to participate in readings, walks, performances in period costume, and
-- inevitably -- visits to the pub. We will begin the day with breakfast at
the James Joyce Center, where we will be entertained by live performances of
Joyce’s works. We will then take a walking tour through parts of the city
which trace some of Leopold Bloom’s adventures over the 24-hour period
during which Ulysses is set. Overnight: Sutton. B, D.
Days 4-5: We drive west across Ireland to Galway, where we
catch the ferry for the Aran Islands. Situated in Galway Bay facing the North
Atlantic at the very edge of Europe, this will be our most remote locale. The
Aran consist of three islands: Inis Mor (Big Island), Inis Meain (Middle Island),
and Inis Oirr (East Island). Gaelic is its first language. The crossing to Inis
Mor on the ferry takes about 40 minutes. (If you are prone to seasickness, you
might want to bring appropriate medication.) Once on Inis Mor, we check into
our B&B, have lunch, and walk to early Christian ruins and a local labyrinth.
We will also explore the World Heritage site of Dun Aengus, a 2,000-year old
Iron Age fort -- considered the most impressive of its kind in Europe -- whose
foundations drop 300 feet straight down to the sea. B, D.
The next day, weather permitting, we will take a ferry to Inis Meain and explore
the island where Synge lived and wrote. Much of the local dialect from Inis
Meain was incorporated into his great opus, “Playboy of the Western World.”
We will walk the rugged shores described in "Riders to the Sea," where
Maurya held vigil, waiting for her sons’ ship to emerge out of the storm.
Perhaps we will try a small reading from the play -- anyone care to audition
for a part? B, D.
Photo: Kathie Fowler
Days 6-8: We take the ferry from Inis Mor to the mainland,
where our private van awaits. Our destination is Sligo, in the heart of Yeats
Country, and we arrive at our B&B in the late afternoon. Overnight: Sligo.
There is much to do and see in the Sligo area, including a climb of Knocknarea
(“Hill of Royalty”), the 1,000-foot mountain that dominates the
local landscape. Knocknarea is believed to house a Neolithic passage tomb dating
back 10,000 years. Queen Maeve, a warrior queen of ancient Celtic mythology,
is reputably entombed here in an erect position, in full battle regalia, facing
northward toward her Ulster enemies. At the top of the mountain Joe, our guide,
will read from Yeats' Red Hanrahan’s Song about Ireland, where “The
wind has bundled up the clouds high over Knock-narea/And thrown the thunder
of the stones for all that Maeve can say.” We also pay our respects to
Yeat’s grave in the churchyard of St. Columba’s Parish Church in
Drumcliffe, and a stop at the adjacent gift shop and lunchroom will round out
our visit here.
Our final activity in the Sligo area will take us to Loch Gill, where we will
walk in Hazel Wood, and gaze upon the “Lake Isle of Innisfree,”
memorialized in Yeats’ lyrical poem about inner peace and contentment
with simple things. After our walk we will tour a 17th-century castle on the
shores of Loch Gill, and, weather permitting, take a boat ride on the lake for
a close-up view of Innisfree.
Days 9-10: On to Iniskeen in County Monaghan, home of Patrick
Kavanagh, one of Ireland’s most inspirational and beloved 20th-century
poets. A loyal and long-serving staff runs the Patrick Kavanagh Centre, and
here we will be given a tour of key landmarks in the village that highlight
Kavanagh’s life and works. Overnight: Carickmacross (famous for its lacemaking).
Day 11: On our way back to Dublin we will stop in the Boyne
Valley at Newgrange and tour the megalithic passage tombs, which are considered
older than the Egyptian pyramids or Stonehenge. Newgrange is a World Heritage
site, and for many visitors a highlight of their trip to Ireland. In the evening
we will gather for a farewell dinner, during which we celebrate the completion
of our Irish pilgrimage and say goodbye to new-found friends. Overnight: Dublin.
Day 12: A final breakfast together before we depart for home.
Our trip begins and ends in Dublin. Pre-trip bulletins will give detailed
instructions on how to get to our lodging upon arrival. Please do not make airline
reservations until you have been officially accepted on the trip.
Accommodations and Food
Photo: Kathie Fowler
Our lodging will be in small comfortable hotels, B&Bs, and family-run country
inns. Rooms are shared. Please contact the leader about single supplements,
which are not available everywhere. All breakfasts and dinners are included
in the trip price. Depending on the restaurant, Irish cuisine can be very sophisticated
or delightfully traditional, and we will sample both. Good restaurants and pubs
abound and most all can accommodate vegetarians. The price of lunches is not
included in the trip.
This is an active sightseeing trip designed for anyone who is in good health
and enjoys walking and easy hiking. Our most strenuous day will be the hike
to Knocknarea, a 1,000-foot climb on a well-marked, but rocky, path. Rain, however,
is inevitable in Ireland and serves to not only make our environment green,
but also to make any walk more challenging. For everyone’s enjoyment of
the trip, it is important to be in good physical condition and to remain flexible
if weather should cause our itinerary to be altered.
Equipment and Clothing
The leader will send a detailed packing list to each participant.
There are many
guidebooks available on Ireland. Three outstanding series are by Lonely Planet,
Michelin, and Eyewitness Travel Guides. A visit to the travel section of your
local bookstore should provide interesting browsing -- and probably more information
than you want. Our core reading list (available on Amazon, unless otherwise
indicated) is as follows:
John Millington Synge:
- Ulysses (Novel).
Note: Although many consider Ulysses the greatest novel ever written, it is
not easy. (Even Joyce’s wife Nora reputedly asked, “Why don’t
you write books people can read?”) You might want to buy “Ulysses
Cliff Notes” or “Ulysses Annotated,” by Don Gifford and just
do the best you can. Joe, our guide, will be invaluable in helping us understand
this challenging work.
- The Dubliners (Short stories). Any edition.
- It is highly recommended that you rent the "The Dead," one of
Joyce’s short stories from "The Dubliners," which John Huston
made into a movie. This was Huston’s last film and is considered a masterpiece.
It was recently released in DVD format.
- The Playboy of the Western World (Drama).
- Riders to the Sea (Drama).
Both plays are combined in Dover Thrift Editions, paperback, 1993. Or just
buy The Complete Plays of John M. Synge (Mass market paperback)
William Butler Yeats:
- Yeats Poetry, Drama and Prose. Norton Critical Editions, paperback.
Includes the one-act play “The Hawk’s Well.”
- Collected Poems. Any edition.
- Tarry Flynn (Novel). Penguin Modern Classics, paperback.
- The Green Fool (Novel). Penguin Modern Classics, paperback.
Photo: Kathie Fowler
After Ireland joined the European Union, its economy thrived. Beginning in
the 1990s, Ireland was transformed from one of Europe’s poorest countries
into one of its wealthiest. This economic boom, known as the “Celtic Tiger,”
raised educational standards, reduced unemployment, improved physical infractructures,
and attracted investment by multi-national corporations such as Google, Abbott
Laboratories, and Bell Labs. However, the worldwide economic downturn hit Ireland
especially hard. A visit to Dublin reveals half-finished, abandoned construction
projects, and a skyline full of cranes sitting idle.
Another serious concern is increased reliance on foreign oil. A current plan
by Shell Oil to build a gas refinery and high pressure pipeline on the west
coast of Ireland in an area of outstanding beauty is being met with militant
However, our objective is not to point an accusing finger but, as we travel
through this beautiful country, to discuss conservation issues as we observe
them. There should be plenty of opportunity: traffic congestion in Dublin; tourism
on the Aran Islands; the fragility of Knocknarea; the restoration of Lissadell,
just to name a few.
This trip requires a $200 per-person deposit. An additional payment of $300 per person is due six months prior to trip departure. International trip prices are subject to change and are based on double-occupancy or group accommodations as described above. Single rooms may not be available or may cost more than the listed price. If you have any questions regarding double occupancy, please contact the trip leader.
See the How to Apply for an Outing
section for more details on registering for this trip and details
about our Reservation and Cancellation
The payment of a deposit does not confirm you as a member on the
trip. Participants must be approved by the trip leader. After signing
up for this trip, you will be sent a confirmation packet containing
approval materials (Participant Approval Questionnaire, Medical
Form, Liability Release Form). Each applicant (including those on
the waitlist) must fill out these forms and promptly mail them to
the trip leader. The leader will review the approval materials and
notify you of your acceptance in a timely manner.
The Sierra Club accurately and fairly budgets and prices our trips. However, unforeseen costs such as devaluation of the dollar compared to other currencies and fuel surcharges assessed by our international providers may necessitate adjustment in trip price. We will make every effort to mitigate and absorb these fees. If a price increase is necessary, however, you will have 14 days after announcement to cancel without penalty.
An outdoor enthusiast all of her adult life, Kathie Fowler has traveled extensively in the Himalayas, both privately and with the Sierra Club, and has also led trips in California's Sierra Nevada and Costa Rica. In 2007 she assisted on her first trip to Ireland and fell in
love with the county. As an English major in college and ardent fan of Irish literature, it was soon apparent after meeting Joe McDermott (the Sierra Club's resident Irish guide and English teacher of 31 years) that they were destined to create and lead a literary tour of
Ireland together. The first such trip, led in 2009, was a great success.
As Director of Communications for a winery in California's Napa Valley, Kathie is actively involved in consensus building between environmentalists and winegrowers, and leading groups through the vineyards to demonstrate good environmental practices through
biodynamic and other innovative farming methods. When not working or traveling, Kathie breeds and shows Cavalier King Charles Spaniels.
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