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Exploring Celtic Spirituality – A Pilgrimage to Ireland, 2010

Led by:
William G. Edwards, M. Div., D. Min
Sheryl L. Shenk, M. Div.
Jonathan D. Shenk, MD

May 26 - June 7, 2010


Wed 26th May: Depart Washington National Airport for Dublin.

Thurs 27th May: Arrive in Dublin, transfer by coach to Glendalough Hotel. Glendalough (or Gleann Da Loch, meaning ‘The Glen of the Two Lakes’) is situated in the heart of the Wicklow Mountains National Park. The ancient monastery is a fascinating site, having been founded in the 6th century by St. Kevin. Set in a glaciated valley with two lakes, the monastic remains include a superb round tower, a Celtic high cross, St. Mary’s Church and St. Kevin’s Church. The remains of three stone crosses and a stone fort are also to be found between the upper and lower lakes. Rev. Bill Edwards and Sheryl Shenk will meet with the pilgrimage group this day providing an overview of our travels together and describing the rhythms of group morning and evening prayers.

(Glendalough hotel; Contact info: 00353 404 45135) (Dinner provided)

Fri 28th May: Retreat day at Glendalough. We will be ushered into our Celtic pilgrimage by Irish priest, Father Michael Rodgers. "To be on pilgrimage", Esther de Waal writes as an introduction to Rodgers book on Glendalough: A Celtic Pilgrimage, "is to move into a world where the dividing line between past and present, between this world and the next, between what we call sacred and what we call secular, dissolves." Father Rodgers will guide us on a walking tour as we explore Celtic spirituality, the timeless legends of Glendalough and its founder St. Kevin, a 6th century Irish saint. See for more information about this Glendalough site.

(Glendalough hotel accommodation) (Breakfast + Dinner provided)

Sat 29th May: 8am Departure by coach to Newgrange. Newgrange was constructed around 3200BC. This makes it more than 600 years older than the Giza Pyramids in Egypt, and 1,000 years more ancient than Stonehenge. This area has great eminence throughout Irish history - legend tells us the foundations of Christianity were laid here. After Lunch we travel to the Hill of Tara seat of the high kings, Tara was at the height of its power as a political and religious centre in the early centuries after Christ. On a clear day, half the counties of Ireland can be seen from atop Tara. We then travel on to the Hill of Slane: In Christian history, the hill became established as the place where St. Patrick lit the first paschal fire in direct defiance of the pagan kings at nearby Tara. The hill remained an eminence of Christian significance long after St. Patrick appointed Erc as the first Bishop there. We then proceed to Monasterboice Monastery which was founded by Saint Buite, who died in 521 AD, and contains two of the finest High Crosses in Ireland.

(Glendalough hotel accommodation) (Breakfast + Dinner provided)

Sun 30th May: 8.30am Departure to Kildare where we will meet with Sister Mary Minehan of the Brigidine Sisters who will introduce us to St. Brigid, 5th century founding woman saint of Kildare. Sunday worship will be at 11/11.30am in St. Brigid’s Cathedral Kildare. After the service, we plan to visit the grounds of the cathedral which contain St. Brigid's Firehouse and a Round Tower from which you can see a view of Kildare and the curragh from the top. After lunch we will travel by coach to St Brigid’s well: This well is reputedly a 'healing well', one of many in Ireland where healing liturgies are often held. See for details.

(Glenview hotel, County Wicklow; Contact info: 00353 1 2873399) (Breakfast + Dinner provided)

Mon 31st May: 9am Departure to Dublin City. In the morning, we will visit The National Museum: This museum houses over 2,000,000 artefacts which range in date between 7000BC and the late medieval period. Then we will take a short stroll down to Trinity College to see the Book of Kells, which is one of the masterpieces of Western art. After these visits, you will be free to explore Dublin city until 4.30pm when the coach will transfer you back to the hotel. At 6.45pm, the coach departs to Merry Ploughboy for a traditional Irish music and dance night (Dinner incl.) and returned after the show at 10.30pm.

(Glenview Hotel) (Breakfast + Dinner provided)

Tues 1st June: Today we say goodbye to Co. Wicklow and head west to the Aran Islands. Enroute we will visit Clonmacnoise, Ireland’s most important Christian site, founded by St. Ciarán in the mid-6th century on the eastern bank of the River Shannon. The site includes the ruins of a cathedral, seven churches (10th -13th century), two round towers, three high crosses and the largest collection of Early Christian grave slabs in Western Europe. After lunch, we will head on to Rossaveal port and on by ferry to Inis mor. Overnight accommodation will be at

(Ard Einne guesthouse, Inis mor, Contact info: 00353 0 99 61126) (Breakfast + Dinner provided)

Wed 2nd June: Today we explore Inis mor (Meaning Big Island): where St. Enda founded the first monastery in Ireland. We will meet our guide, Dara Molloy, a Celtic monk, scholar and great storyteller who will share with us about the Aran Islands and its historical sites such as Dun Aengus, churches, forts and monasteries dating as far back as 2,000 B.C. St. Enda who died around 535 A.D. is the patron saint of Inis Mór and is buried on the island. See for more details.

(Ard Einne guesthouse) (Breakfast + Dinner provided)

Thurs 3rd June: Today we explore Inis mor as individuals.... At no later than 3.30pm, we will assemble at the ferry port for the 4pm ferry to Doolin. There, we will meet our coach and be transferred to our accommodation. We will then be heading out for dinner in a local pub / restaurant where there will be live traditional music.

(The Imperial Hotel, Lisdoonvarna; Contact info: 00353 65 7074042) (Breakfast + Dinner provided)

Fri 4th June: Depa

rt Doolin by coach at 8.20am for the Cliffs of Moher, which rise 702ft above the Atlantic Ocean at their highest point. Next, we will drive to Killarney, taking a tour of the Dingle peninsula enroute. The Dingle Peninsula is a 25-mile circular drive with unbelievable scenic views, beautiful pastel cottages and beehive huts. Highlights include:

  • Gallerus Oratory - best-preserved early church in Ireland; stone; looks like upside down boat.
  • Old pagan site, church ruins with stone carvings, pagan stones, a Celtic cross
  • Slea Head - great view of Blasket Islands though you get that in several places
  • Blasket Center - explains way of life on Blasket Islands
  • Riasc - excavated monastic settlement, remains of monastery, crosses and carved stones Overnight we will stay and dine in:

(The Earl of Desmond hotel, Tralee; Contact info: 00353 66 7121299) (Breakfast + Dinner provided)

Sat 5th June: Today we depart by coach at 9.30am to view the Ring of Kerry. This 110-mile circuit takes in views of Corrán Tuathail, Ireland’s loftiest peak, through woodland and blanket bog, to the glorious sandy beaches at Rossbeigh and along the coast with the beauty stretching out into the Atlantic Ocean. We will be traveling from Moll’s Gap to The Killarney lakes and valley. For those in the group desiring to see the play, Clann Lir, we have booked tickets to go to Siamsa Tire theatre in Tralee. 

The play runs from 8:30 to 10:15 p.m. (Theatre not included in fare; group rate—17 euros/person)

(The Earl of Desmond hotel) (Breakfast + Dinner provided)

Sun 6th June: We will depart by coach to a local church for morning service followed by a visit to Ardfert Cathedral and its two neighbouring churches: A monastery was founded here by St. Brendan 'The Navigator' in the 6th century. The cathedral, which dates from the 12th to 17th centuries, has a handsome Romanesque doorway, a magnificent 13th century east window, and a spectacular row of nine lancets in the south wall. The restored south transept contains a visitor’s center, which provides a fine introduction to the site as well as identifies its many fascinating features, including an Occam stone. In the afternoon, we will travel back to the garden county Wicklow where we will have our final farewell dinner and after dinner, we will have a brief closing time celebrating our journey together as we prepare to depart the next morning back to our homes.

(Glenview hotel, County Wicklow, Contact info: 00353 1 2873399) (Breakfast + Dinner provided)

Mon 7th June: Fly from Dublin Airport back to Washington National Airport (Breakfast provided)