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Perched on the edge of the Atlantic, Ireland’s rugged west coast is a journey through hundreds of islands, enchanting peninsulas and fjords, soaring cliffs, crumbling castles and discover unique flora and fauna. Blessed with fine weather, on this 14-day itinerary to explore Ireland, you will land at UNESCO World Heritage Site, The Skelligs, which host a 6th-century beehive hut monastery and an expansive colony of puffins and gannets. Hike through spectacular scenery and explore rarely-visited, forgotten islands and an ancient culture of storytelling, mythology and life intertwined with the Atlantic.
Days 1 & 2: Dublin - embarkation
Day 3: Donegal: Inishowen Peninsula & Tory Island
Day 4: Donegal, Slieve League Cliffs
Day 5: Sligo
Day 6: Ceide Fields/ Clare Island
Days 7 - 10: Connemara
Days 11: Dingle Peninsula
Day 12: The Skelligs
Day 13: At sea
Day 14: Dublin - disembarkation
Arrive in Dublin and transfer to your hotel. The next morning, your luggage will be transferred to the Greg Mortimer, you'll then enjoy a tour of Dublin, UNESCO City of Literature, before embarking the ship in the late afternoon. You’ll have time to settle into your cabin before your important briefings. Sail past Giant’s Causeway, an area of about 40,000 interlocking and stacked basalt columns that resulted from an ancient volcanic fissure eruption. The stunning geometric sculptural forms, a national nature reserve, and declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1986, resemble a man-made art installation. From the ship, you may also see the ruins of medieval Dunluce Castle, located on the edge of a basalt outcrop overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.
Ireland is blessed with impressive natural scenery: vast valleys, glittering lakes, and cliffs hoisted up from the Atlantic. The jewel in the crown of Donegal is the Inishowen Peninsula. At the peninsula’s tip is Malin Head, Ireland’s most northerly point and a wonderful spot for bird watching as you meander along abandoned beaches along this deserted coastline. Continue to Tory Island located off the northwest coast of Donegal. Known simply as ‘Tory’, it’s a place that seems to have frozen in time, ruled by its own elected king, and where people still talk of 'travelling to Ireland'. Tory's spectacular cliff scenery is complemented by a rich and varied history which is related in the islanders distinctive Gaelic.
Slieve League Cliffs, situated on the south-west coast of County Donegal, are said to be one of the highest and finest marine cliffs in Europe. Hike to the top of the cliffs to enjoy some of the highest and finest marine cliffs in Europe. There are terrific views of the Atlantic Ocean, the Sligo Mountains and Donegal Bay as you walk towards the terrifyingly high top of Slieve League, where the cliff face of Bunglas rises over 600 m / 1,968 ft above the raging ocean.
Jutting out of Sligo’s northern edge, the small peninsula of Mullaghmore sits dramatically out into the North Atlantic. Land and sea meet in dramatic confluence along the coast of County Sligo, a dazzling landscape of jagged mountain peaks that inspired the work of Nobel-winning poet William Butler Yeats. Mullaghmore resides in the shadows of iconic Benbulben mountain, undoubtedly Ireland’s most distinctive mountain, sometimes referred to as Ireland’s own Table Mountain. The most distinctive peak among the Dartry range, it was formed during the ice age by massive glaciers segmenting the landscape.
On the Benbulben Forest Walk (1.5 hours, suitable for all ages and abilities), the trail begins in a secluded forest area before opening out to stunning views of Benbulben head. Further along, the walk offers superb panoramic views of Donegal Bay, Slieve League Cliffs, Mullaghmore and Classiebawn Castle. And, of course, Yeats himself is buried "Under bare Ben Bulben's head,", as he predicted in one of his poems – his grave can be found in Drumcliff cemetery, not far from the foot of the mountain. The mountain’s most noted reference in Yeats’s poetry is in the work Under Ben Bulben, in which he describes horsemen who “ride the wintry dawn/Where Ben Bulben sets the scene".
Ireland’s Stone Age ancestors constructed houses, walls and fields that created an early farming community complete with megalithic tombs. One of these communities was Céide Fields, which contains the oldest known stone-walled fields in the world – dating back nearly 6,000 years. Céide Fields overlooks the mighty Atlantic Ocean pounding against the cliffs below. The landscape itself has been forged from the dramatic upheaval and movement of the earth’s crust over millions of years.
Clare Island is a mountainous island guarding the entrance to Clew Bay in County Mayo. It is famous as the home of the pirate queen Grace O'Malley (Granuaile), who was known as a tyrant of the ocean, clan chieftain, mother, wife, survivor and brilliant politician. Although her deeds relatively unknown outside of Ireland, the legacy of her mastery survives in the ruined monuments and the folk-consciousness on Clare Island and Ireland.
Dubbed a place of "savage beauty" by Oscar Wilde the Connemara lets you experience authentic Ireland. On coastal hills, walks take in views of soaring mountains, clear turquoise waters and rare flora and fauna.
Killary Harbour, carved by glaciers, it’s been described as Ireland´s only true fjord. It forms the border between Galway and Mayo counties and features some of the most spectacular scenery on the west coast. This deep-water inlet from the Atlantic was once a hiding place for U-boats in World War Two. The sheltered fjord is also a real treat for birdwatching, with nationally important populations of many species, including ringed plover, mute swan, whooper swan, mallard duck, tufted duck, and barnacle goose. Dolphins are often seen in the fjord, along with otters, a protected species that are known to breed at Killary Harbour.
Breathtaking mountain vistas provide a dramatic backdrop for Leenane, a town nestled beside the water at the head of the fjord. In 1903, Leenane played host to King Edward VIII and Queen Alexandra when they made a tour of Connemara including a visit to nearby Kylemore. Visit the Sheep and Wool Centre in the town centre that includes an excellent museum featuring the history of sheep farming and the woollen industry in Connemara, along with a gift shop and café.
There are over 2,500 archaeological sites on the Dingle Peninsula, spanning a period from 6,000 BC through to 1700 AD. The area is regarded as having one of the richest concentrations of archaeological monuments in Western Europe. National Geographic once described it as “the most beautiful place on earth”, and more recently, one of the locations where Star Wars was filmed, at Sybil Head.
You'll enjoy a ship cruise at Great Blasket Island, and launch Zodiacs allowing you to get closer to the cliffs to perhaps get a glimpse of the huge number of breeding seabirds such as puffins, fulmars, guillemots, storm petrels and shearwaters. In the water, you may be lucky and encounter dolphins, whales, orcas and porpoise.
After lunch, your ship will anchor at Dingle and you'll embark on a guided tour of some of Dingle Peninsula’s ancient sites. The tour travels west of Dingle Town on the Slea Head route, considered one of the most scenic landscapes in Europe. Among the sites visited are Ogham stones, monastic sites, beehive huts, ringforts, medieval churches, holy wells, Gallarus oratory.
Afterwards, visit the renowned Dingle Distillery for a tour of their facility where you can learn about the production process of their gin and vodka as well as enjoy a tasting.
Off the coast of County Kerry, two rocky pinnacles rise from the Atlantic Ocean. These spectacularly Skellig Islands are world-renowned for their ornithological and archaeological significance. Skellig Michael is known throughout the world of archaeology as the site of a well-preserved monastic outpost of the Early Christian period – now designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site; Little Skellig (Irish: Sceilg Mhichil) is equally renowned in matters of ornithology as the home of roughly 27,000 pairs of gannets – the second largest colony of such seabirds in the world. Enjoy a ship cruise around Little Skellig (Irish: Sceilg Mhichil) to get a glimpse of the incredible gannet colony on the island. Afterwards, your ship will dock at Portmagee, and with the blessing of fine weather, visit and land on Skellig Michael.
Day 13: At sea
As you come to the end of your voyage, you may choose to enjoy final talks and presentations from our team of experts, edit and organise your photographs or reminisce over a few drinks with fellow travellers and the expedition team on a remarkable voyage.
Day 14: Dublin - disembarkation
During the early morning, your ship will cruise into Dublin port, where you disembark at approximately 8.00 am. Bid your expedition team farewell and your fellow passengers as you continue your onward journey
The Greg Mortimer is named after the Australian polar explorer, mountaineer and Aurora founder, Greg Mortimer. Its the first ship in a series of landmark, purpose-built Polar Expedition ships for Aurora and features a state-of-the-art 'x-bow design', which has a piercing effect on smaller waves, making for a much smoother voyage.
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