Beltane Festival - Experience the Real Ireland
Are you ready for a unique, off the tourist map, real Ireland experience? Join us this May in the Irish Heartlands
Why Book This Tour?
Journey to the sacred center of the real Ireland as we celebrate the ancient fire festival of Beltane on The Hill of Uisneach, County Westmeath. Enjoy food, music, meet lots of friendly locals, and immerse yourself as a participant in the ceremony. Journey back in time for an intimate and authentic experience to the real Ireland of an ancient past we've long forgotten, but a past that remembers us well!
The Hill of Uisneach , one of the most sacred and historic sanctuaries in Ireland is the location of the first great Beltane bonfire to be lit in Ireland. In ancient times, all of Ireland would be dark on the eve of Beltane and when the great bonfire was lit on Uisneach Hill, it was visible to over a quarter of Ireland. Then as the fires were seen from far away more fires would be lit on the the surrounding hills, and then an outer ring would be lit on the coasts. Remember to look outward after the bonfire is lit and you will still see the other fires lit along the surrounding hills.
This special week features unique experiences and is of course, focused on Ireland's ancient and mythological past along with many contemporary sites and activities as well. Our primary event of course, is the festival which is celebrated on the Hill of Uisneach, where the Beltane ceremonies will take place, although there is so much more to explore, all revolving around alignments with Uisneach. The royal seats of Ireland's four provinces all have precise alignments with then mythical fifth province of Midhe at the Hill of Uisneach's Stone of Divisions. The tour visits these sites and explores the alignments so important to the ancient people of Ireland.
Also included this week are visits to Athlone Castle, The Rock of Cashel, and many other local treasures found in Meath and Westmeath including The Seven Wonders of Fore and the Loughcrew Cairns. Enjoy whiskey tasting and a traditional Irish music session, along with many more local treasures off the usual tourist maps.
Join us on this authentic and intimate journey for a truly unique Ireland experience into Ireland's ancient past!
View 8-Day Itinerary
Day 1 - Arrival
Once gathered after meeting your guide at Dublin airport, we begin our tour heading north towards Drogheda where we stop and see the Fournocks passage tomb. Dated to around 3000 BCE, the tomb is a smaller and less crowded ancient site well worth the stop. Heading west to Mullingar, we stop in the village of Fore and tour Fore Abbey where we learn of the "Seven Wonders of Fore." After our overnight flight and busy morning, we check-in to our accommodations in Mullingar and once refreshed and settled in, head over to nearby Multyfarnham where we enjoy a welcome dinner followed by whiskey tasting.
Day 2 - Athlone
After a good night's sleep and proper breakfast, we load up and head to nearby Athlone where we tour Athlone Castle, originally built to defend the crossing point on the River Shannon. Take in the views of the Shannon and enjoy the cinematic experience of the Siege of Athlone. Before leaving Athlone, we stop at Sean's Bar, the oldest in Europe! Next stop is the village of Kilbeggan where we enjoy the Kilbeggan Whiskey Experience. The distillery here still makes limited batches and is home to the oldest, still functioning single pot still in Ireland. We enjoy a tasting experience before heading back to Mullingar where there is free time to explore the town.
Day 3 - Rock of Cashel
This morning, we visit The Rock of Cashel, a spectacular group of Medieval buildings set on an outcrop of limestone in the Golden Vale including the 12th century round tower, High Cross and Romanesque Chapel, 13th century Gothic cathedral, 15th century Castle and the restored Hall of the Vicars Choral. As time permits, we stop and visit a few hidden treasures in County Westmeath before returning to our base in Mullingar for free time in the evening.
Day 4 - High Kings
First up today after breakfast is a trip north where we visit Eamain Macha, ancient royal site and seat of the Ulster high kings which figures prominently in the "Táin Bó Cúailnge" chronicling the cattle raids and battles between Queen Medb and the King of Ulster. Next up is a visit to Newgrange, famous for the sunrise on the winter solstice where crowds still gather today and a lucky few, chosen by lottery, can still wait inside the chamber on the longest night fo the sun to rise and illuminate the rear of the chamber. On our way back, we stop at the Hill of Tara, home of the Stone of Destiny and crowning place of the ancient high kings of Ireland. The eveining is again free to explore the town and pubs in Mullingar.
Day 5 - Trim and Brigit
Can anyone shout "FREEDOM!"? While the movie "Bravheart" is set in Scotland, much of the film was filmed in Ireland at Trim Castle, which is our first stop of the day. From Trim, we stop at Croghan Hill, the remains of an ancient volcano and from legend, the origin of the island of Ireland. The mound at the top is thought to be a bronze age burial mound. Croghan Hill aligns with Brigid's fire temple in Kildare and the Hill of Uisneach and the alignment is known as the "Three Brigids." It is also thought to be the birth place of the 6th century St Brigid and ceremonial place honoring Imboc. From Croghan Hill, we move on to Kildare and visit the cathedral and site of the ancient Fire Temple. In Irish Mythology, Brigid the pagan goddess is the daughter of Dagda and a member of the Tuatha dé Danann. It is said she kept an eternal flame burning in her temple at Kildare. The site of the Fire Temple, aligns perfectly with Croghan Hill and Uisneach, symbolizing the three Brigids, purity, creativity and smithcraft, and fertility. The first rays of sunlight on the midwinter sunrise align these three ancient sites.
Day 6 - Mythical Lake and Queen Medb
Today, we experience two more royal sites, and our first stop is Lough Gur, royal seat of Munster, where we tour the visitor center, learn about the mythical castle beneath the lake and observe the hollow hill thought to be the home of the Fairy King. Our visit here includes an ancient wedge tomb, two stone circles overlooking the lake with lovely views, and the largest stone circle in Ireland where over a hundred dancers could enter during ancient festivals. The circle is unique to others in Ireland as the stones all form a contiguous and completely enclosed ceremonial space. On our next visit, we again encounter Queen Medb as we visit the site of her royal seat of Connacht in Rathcroghan. The exhibition will let you tread across this ancient landscape in the footsteps of the great Iron Age Warrior Queen Medb, who ruled all of Connacht from her home here in Rathcroghan, the origin point for our National Epic ‘an Táin Bó Cuailnge’ - the Cattle Raid of Cooley, which features a whole host of legendary heroes including Medb herself, the mighty Battle Goddess Morrigan, the Connacht Champion Fraech and the boy hero Cúchulainn, whose names and deeds are inextricably linked to the landscape that surrounds Rathcroghan. We return after this busy day to Mullingar for relaxation and free time.
Day 7 - Bealtaine Festival Day at The Hill of Uisneach - Annual Event
Festival Day! The Bealtaine fire festival on the Hill of Uisneach begins in the afternoon and continues after sunset as the great bonfire is lit and we celebrate with the thousands of others gathered to commemorate this ancient Irish cultural event. After breakfast, we take s short drive over to County Meath where we visit the Loughcrew Cairns, which date back to 3500 BCE. Less visited than the more famous Newgrange, Loughcrew is another significant passage tomb where twice yearly, on the equinoxes, the sunrise will illuminate the passageway to the rear chamber. After a break for lunch, our afternoon activity is the festival at the Hill of Uisneach. Here, we join other festival goers as we enjoy food, music, spiritual celebrations, and plenty of the famous Irish craic as we wait for sunset. Your guide will take you to the Catstone, or Stone of Divisions and explain the history of this sacred place from the Milesian invasions to modern times during the Irish War of Independence. As the sun begins to set, we have the opportunity, (optional) to join the Druids and Priestesses in the procession to the hilltop where the great fire is lit and we join in the celebration. Be sure to look out as well and you will spot other small fires lit on the surrounding hilltops as they have been for thousands of years.
Day 8 - Departure
We've learned so much and seen so many inspiring places that we hate to have it all end! For those not extending their stay in Ireland, transport leaves Mullingar for Dublin Airport after breakfast where we bid you a warm farewell, hoping you leave with many memories and a longing to return soon.