archaeological tours
homeabout usscholarstour calendartravel tipscontact us
Our Tours
middle east
North & Sub Sahara Africa
Central & South America


Europe Banner


An Archaeological Study Tour
Ancient Ireland
At The Edge Of The Ancient World

September 16 – October 2, 2015
17 Days
Led by Professor Charles Doherty, University College Dublin

Scattered on the islands of Ireland and Scotland between blue-hazed mountains, brilliant green valleys and rugged rocky shores, we find some of the oldest and most mysterious examples of Neolithic and Bronze Age monuments. The fame of these monuments even reached the Greeks. Hecataeus of Abdera described the Hyperboreans as living on large islands on the northern edge of the world, where they worshipped Apollo in round temples. These monuments were the centers of the world for these ancient peoples, whose way of life and beliefs still elude scholars.

In spite of Ireland’s isolated geographical position, which cut it off from many of Europe’s upheavals until the invasion of the Vikings in the 9th century, Ireland has surprisingly far-flung links. Innovations such as passage-graves may have traveled from Brittany, Spain and Portugal, while knowledge of Christianity, writing and military fortification was most likely introduced through England. No less intriguing are the remains from the Iron Age Celts; whose ancient language and culture are still preserved by their descendants. As we travel from Dublin, home to the Book of Kells; to the Aran Islands, where vast Celtic defensive systems and stone forts perch on 200-foot cliffs; to the monastic settlements at Clonmacnoise Monastery, the burial place of the Kings of Connaught and Tara; to the great megalithic cemetery at Carrowmore in the north, we will study the distinctly Irish remains of these civilizations. The history of Ireland has been turbulent, giving each hill, lough and pile of stones a story. We will hear these stories and also experience a bit of their ancient traditions as we relax with the locals at typical singing pubs along the way.

Wednesday, Thursday, September 16 & 17: DUBLIN: Independent departures from our home cities. We will be met and transferred to our centrally located hotel. This evening we will meet with Professor Doherty for our opening lecture and dinner.

Brooks Hotel.

Meals: Dinner

Friday, September 18: DUBLIN: Our first morning will be dedicated to the spectacular finds exhibited in the National Museum. The museum houses artifacts from 7000 BCE to the 20th century, including the largest collection of bronze age gold in the world. The centerpiece of the collection is the Ardagh Chalice, which dates back to 800 CE. After lunch, touring continues to some of the major monuments of the city, including Merrion Square; St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the national cathedral of Ireland; and Trinity College to see the Book of Kells and Durrow. Brooks Hotel.

Meals: Breakfast & lunch

Saturday, September 19: DUBLIN: Today’s touring begins with some of the most magnificent prehistoric sites in Ireland, Newgrange and Knowth. Newgrange, an exceptional example of a passage-grave, was built in 3200 BCE and consists of a huge cairn (over one acre) enclosed within a circle of 97 kerbstones, some of which are richly decorated. It is estimated that the construction of the Passage Tomb at Newgrange would have taken a work force of 300 at least 20 years. Next we visit the passage-graves at Knowth, probably built after Newgrange but about the same size. It is surounded by 18 smaller mounds. Archaeological exploration continues at this fascinating site. Our last stop will be the Hill of Tara, one of the most important royal sites of early Ireland. We are privileged that once again Professor George Eogan, Director of the Knowth Research Project, and Professor Emeritus of Archaeology at University College, Dublin, will accompany our group today. Brooks Hotel.

Meals: Breakfast & lunch

Sunday, September 20: KILKENNY: Driving south, our touring begins at Glendalough, a 6th-century monastic settlement set in a lovely glaciated valley. The monastic remains include beehive huts, grave slabs, crosses and early churches. Continuing south we stop at Old Kilkullen to view the remains of an Iron Age hill fort, a round tower, and 9th-century crosses. At Castledermot we will see a finely sculptured 9th-century high cross and a Franciscan abbey. Lastly, at Browne’s Hill, we find a dolmen with a capstone that is said to weigh 100 tons. We will arrive into the charming town of Kilkenny with time to explore the town and Castle. Pembroke Hotel.

Meals: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

Monday, September 21: KINSALE: Touring begins at the imposing Jerpoint Abbey. Built in 1160 by the King of Ossory, the ruins are renowned for the 15th- century cloister and the unique carvings in the sculptured cloister arcade. Our next stop is the famous Cathedral known as the Rock of Cashel, stunningly situated on a 200-foot high outcrop of limestone. Once the seat of the Kings of Munster, St. Patrick visited the rock in 450 and Brian Boru was crowned the 1st high King of Ireland here in the 10th century. We continue to Cork and the University College, where there are two stone corridors displaying a large collection of Ogham Stones, as well as medieval and cup-marked stones. Our day ends in the harbour town of Kinsale. Atons Hotel Kinsale.

Meals: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

Tuesday, September 22: KILLARNEY: After a morning at leisure to enjoy this medieval town, we depart for Charles Fort, a massive star-shaped structure built by Sir William Robinson in 1677 and in continuous use until 1921. Our next stop is the fascinating stone circle and huts at Drombeg, dated to between 153 BCE and 127 CE. Close to the stones is a fulacht fiadh, or burnt mound, which was a cooking site during the Bronze Age. Dromhall Hotel.

Meals: Breakfast & lunch

Wednesday, September 23: KILLARNEY: This full day will be spent visiting the archaeological sites along the beautiful Ring of Kerry. Leaving Killarney, the cliff road affords panoramic views of the Dingle Peninsula and Dingle Bay. Continuing to Cahirciveen, we pass the birthplace of Ireland’s National hero, Daniel O’Connell. Next, we drive through peat bogs to Sneem Village, famous for its brightly coloured houses. The road then continues through the mountains to Molls Gap and Ladies View, with superb views of the famous Lakes of Killarney. Among the many interesting prehistoric sites to be seen are Beebane Fort; Beehive Huts with walls seven-feet thick; and Beginish, the remains of a small circular house that bore one of the few runic, or Viking, inscriptions in Ireland. This lovely day ends with a visit to Staigue Hillfort, one of the largest and finest stone fort in Ireland. Its circular wall stands 18-feet high, is 13-feet thick and surrounds an area 90 feet in diameter. Dromhall Hotel.

Meals: Breakfast & lunch

Thursday, September 24: KILMALLOCK: Some of the finest coastal scenery in Ireland can be found in West Kerry, on the Dingle Peninsula. It is also an Irish speaking area, where the traditional ways of life are preserved. Our first stop will be the Iron Age Dunbeg Fort, an impressive and elaborate example of a promontory fort. We then examine some of the beehive hut settlements, characteristic of this part of the country, as well as the 9th-century corbel-built Oratory of Gallarus. Built in the shape of an inverted boat, it formed part of a larger monastic site and was used as a place of prayer. Lastly, we will visit the Blasket Heritage Center, which tells the fascinating story of this remote island. Deebert House Hotel.
Meals: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

Friday, September 25: GALWAY: Our day begins at Clonmacnoise Monastery,

the burial place of the Kings of Connaught and Tara, and continues with the

Castlestrange and Turoe Stones, the two remaining Irish examples of La Tene

stone carving. The next two nights will be spent in Galway. Clayton Hotel.

Meals: Breakfast, lunch & dinner

Saturday, September 26: GALWAY: This morning we sail to the Aran Island of Inishmor, where we will visit some of the island’s spectacular sites beginning at Dun Aenghus, a dramatic dry-stone fort set on the very edge of a cliff 200 feet above the sea. Our next visit is na Seacht dTeampaill, Seven Churches complex. We will have some free time in Kilronan, capital of Inishmor, before boarding the return ferry back to the mainland. Clayton Hotel.

Meals: Breakfast & lunch

Sunday, September 27: SLIGO: Our day begins at Ceide Fields, Europe’s largest Neolithic land enclosure. Bog growth has covered most of the settlement over the last 5000 years, which has helped to preserve it. Recent excavations have revealed Stone Age pottery and a well-used primitive plough. Our touring of this important site will be led by Professor Seamas Caulfield, the archaeologist responsible for the site. We then stop at the Carrowmore Megalithic Cemetery, the largest megalithic cemetery in Ireland, with over 60 passage-graves, dolmen, a large cairn and stone circles. The oldest grave dates from 3200 BCE. Clarion Hotel.

Meals: Breakfast & lunch

Monday, September 28: SLIGO: A short boat ride brings us to Inishmurray Island, an early Christian site, which was a secluded retreat for St. Molaise, who founded a monastery there in the 6th century. The last of the islanders moved to the mainland in 1957. Today Inishmurray is a wildlife sanctuary of national importance for both breeding and wintering birds, such as Arctic and Common Tern, Shag, Herring Gull, Great Blackbacked Gull and Eider duck. This site is of particular interest for its good state of preservation. Clarion Hotel.

Meals: Breakfast & lunch

Tuesday, September29: BELFAST: Touring begins today at Drumcliff where, in addition to viewing a high cross (ca. 1000) showing fine sculptures of biblical scenes, we will take a literary break to visit W.B. Yeats’s grave. Then at Creevykeel, where artifacts dated to 2500 BC have been excavated, we will see one of the finest Court Cairns in Ireland. Our day’s program is completed at the reconstructed (1000 CE) circular stone fort Grianan of Aileach. Built on the site of an older hill fort (ca. 3000 BCE), in pre-history it was thought to be a place of sun worship or the place of hibernation of Gráine, a Celtic sun-goddess. We will spend two nights in Belfast. Europa Hotel.

Meals: Breakfast & lunch

Wednesday, September 30: BELFAST: Our bus tour of Belfast will include the leaning Albert Memorial Clock Tower and the Opera House, which is one of Belfast’s great landmarks; St. Anne’s Cathedral; the political murals of West Belfast; and the narrow alleys known as The Entries. We will visit the Ulster Museum and Wolfe Shipyard, where the Titanic was built and launched in 1912, as well as the new Titanic Belfast, which recreates the story of the ship in a new iconic building. Europa Hotel.

Meals: Breakfast & lunch

Thursday, October 1: DUBLIN: Our last day of touring brings us back to Dublin with time for an afternoon at liesure. This evening we will gather for our farewell dinner at one of Dublin's fine restaurants. Brooks Hotel.

Meals: Breakfast & dinner

Friday, October 2: DUBLIN: Wewill have one group transfer to the airport for our flights home.

Meals: Breakfast

map of Italy





Ireland Monastery



Ireland Castle



Ireland Kinsdale



Irish Cross



Ireland Dingle




Ireland clonmacnoises


(excludes international airfare)
Single supplement: $1145

Please request brochure for full details