Pilgrimage 2021

With the blessing of our wonderful Vladyka, His Grace Bishop Irenei of London and Western Europe, we are now planning a pilgrimage around Ireland from Sunday 1st August 2021 to Sunday 8th August 2021 to connect with the early saints and holy sites of this island. It is a wonderful blessing to be able to say that Vladyka Irenei himself is intending to come on this pilgrimage. Glory to God.

His Grace Vladyka Irenei has expressed his expectation that there may be great interest shown, especially also from our overseas friends. You are most welcome! For further details of our locations/ saints, many are clickable, with topical links opening in a new window. Please scroll down for our day-to-day itinerary, one or two details of which we will continue to tweak during the weeks ahead, but in the main the itinerary is complete now.

Cost

We know by now, that this pilgrimage will be too expensive for the great majority of the members of our parish. So, if you are feeling generous, and would like to support a person or persons who would like to go with a donation toward the cost of the pilgrimage, please have a look at our Donations page. If you mark your donation “support” it will be ring-fenced for the purpose of supporting those applicants who want to go but cannot pay for the trip themselves. If you mark it ‘pilgrimage’ it will be used to bring the price down for everybody.

We have not yet made calculations as to the exact price of the pilgrimage. It is hoped that by January we will have been able to set the correct price. It is also a little difficult as we are most likely dealing with various currencies, the exchange rates of which may be subject to change. On the island of Ireland we use Euro in the Republic of Ireland, and British Pounds Sterling in Northern Ireland.

Arrangements

Vladyka Irenei has directed us to limit the participation to 20 pilgrims, so including him, we have made reservations for 21 per night per hotel. Mostly this was possible by way of 10 twin rooms (two single beds in one shared room) and one separate room for Vladyka. Except for the last Sunday breakfast is included in the booking. Arrangements will be mentioned with each individual day below.

We will be happy to welcome you to this pilgrimage no matter where you are coming from. We will not arrange flights for you and would ask you to book them in good time to avoid disappointment. You are also in charge of booking your accommodation for the night or nights before the beginning of the pilgrimage and also any after the end of it. If it is possible for you, it might be nice to have a day or two before the beginning of the pilgrimage to acclimatize and maybe have some time to look around Dublin – including a visit to the Book of Kells maybe – and/or also after the pilgrimage.

Dublin is becoming a popular entry and exit point for people coming from the US as Dublin airport offers the complete border control check on Irish soil, so you can walk off the plane once back in the USA as if you had come on a domestic flight. Our pilgrimage begins and ends in Dublin.

Prayer and other services

Morning prayer will be offered either in the hotel or on the bus en-route to our destination. Evening prayers will also be chanted, but there is no expectation on anybody to feel obliged to attend. The Divine Liturgy will be celebrated on the two Sundays, (with an expectation on the part of Vladyka, that all pilgrims will avail of Confession in Stradbally before partaking in the Eucharist of the first Divine Liturgy), and hopefully on Thursday, if it is possible to come to an arrangement locally.

Practicalities

For those of you coming from a distance to join our pilgrimage it may be important to familiarise yourselves with Irish weather conditions so that you know what to bring with you. The typical temperatures and the customary showers have been the reason for many avoidable purchases of more suitable clothes for many visitors!

Day-by-Day Plans:

Day 1: (Sunday)

08:00 Pickup from Dublin, and journey by minibus to our ROCOR sister parish of St Colman of Oughaval , located at Stradbally in county Laois. This parish is also on facebook.

Confession and a Divine Liturgy at Stradbally. (NB.: As referred to above, Vladyka Irenei has asked that all Orthodox pilgrims – from whatever jurisdiction they may be – avail of the sacrament of Confession at least on the first day of the pilgrimage prior to partaking of the Eucharist in the Divine Liturgy.)

After lunch we head East, to the Wicklow Mountains in pursuit of St Kevin of Glendalough and the remains of his church and to soak up the wonderful atmosphere there. St Kevin lived the life of a hermit in his cave for seven years there. Accounts of him handed down to us highlight his love of nature and his deep respect for all creatures and all of creation…

Saint Kevin of Glendalough was the abbot of Glendalough Monastery. He was  born in 498, and fell asleep in the Lord in 618 at the age of… | Catholic  saints, Prayer book, Orthodox icons

Having had a good look round Glendalough we then head in South Westerly direction to Tullow to our fabulous Mount Wolseley Hotel Spa & Golf Resort. In this hotel we have booked twin rooms. It offers a possibility for dining there in the evening for those who would like this. Breakfast is included, and, as it is such a beautiful location offering an inviting indoor swimming pool, we have allowed extra time for an early morning swim before breakfast.

The map for this first day will give you an idea of our movements and locations…

Day 2: (Monday)

9:00 am. Leaving Tullow, we are heading West South-West for about 1.5 hours to The Rock of Cashel,

Once the seat of the High Kings of Munster who had a prominent role in the ancient Orthodox faith here.

St Declan of Ardmore, who laboured for the Christian faith even before St Patrick, had established what is now called “St Declan’s Way” linking the two locations of Ardmore and Cashel in earliest Christian times. In keeping with this, we will head South to the Monastery of St Declan at Ardmore.

Heritage Ireland: Who is this man with the frightfully ...

Crossing the Youghal bridge over the Blackwater River not far from Ardmore, we will hear about Molana Abbey which is on the rivershore on private ground now, so we will not be able to visit, before heading West to our accommodation for the optional evening meal.

Oriel House Hotel is booked with breakfast. For our group we booked 10 rooms (plus 1 for Vladyka) which are described as double or twin (“This comfortable room comes with 1 king-size or 2 single beds and an en suite bathroom with bathtub and shower.”)

The map of Day 2

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Day 3: (Tuesday)

St Finbar of Cork - Aidan Hart Sacred Icons

8:00 am. We set off towards the West.

Our first stop is at a tranquil ancient site of prayer where the 6th/7th century St Finbarr had built a monastery, although the ancient remains found here are from the 17 hundreds. Beside them is a 19th century church called Gougane Barra Church. The place is noted for its prayerful presence.

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From here we continue to an important early monastic site, established in 640 AD by St Finian the Leper: Inisfallen Abbey, on Inisfallen Island, in Lough Neane (“Lake of learning”), one of the three picturesque lakes of Killarney.

We take a boat from the 15th century Ross Castle (above) to Innisfallen Island and Abbey (below) which once was a centre of learning and excellence, remembering its founder, St Finian the leper as we visit.

Having returned from the island we follow the Eastern section of the beautiful Ring of Kerry, stopping after only about half an hour to have lunch at Ladies View Cafe, which also boasts a souvenir shop. We continue along the Ring of Kerry for the better part of two hours, also taking in part of the Skellig Ring, an extension to the Ring of Kerry, until we come to a little bay named after St Finian, where we could stop and enjoy the sandy beach and maybe go paddle in the sea for a little bit if the weather is good and there is an appetite for it.

Just a little further along the Skellig Ring we will make another stop, at the viewpoint for the Kerry Cliffs, to take in the sights…

before continuing on to Portmagee and the Skellig Experience Visitors’ Centre, in preparation for the planned boat trips on the following day, hopefully a less windy day than when the below photo of Valentia island lighthouse was taken!

From there we continue on to our exceptionally located hotel, The Royal Valentia Hotel, to have our dinner and a relaxing evening in preparation for an exciting day tomorrow.

In this hotel the allocation of rooms is not quite as straightforward as it was previously… Apart from Vladyka’s single, we have booked 4 superior twin rooms, 5 standard twin rooms, and one standard double, all with breakfast. We will try to accommodate preferences, but cannot promise that you get your preferred choice of room. Please let us know in good time. The hotel has a restaurant for bar food and main meals.

Maps for the third day:

or, when looking from further away…

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Day 04: (Wednesday)

This day is very weather and sea dependent. If conditions are favourable for boat trips to the Skellig Islands, these will be very memorable highlights of our day.

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However, the weather and the sea can be unpredictable – especially in Ireland – and we cannot be sure that this option will be available. On average the boat trips are cancelled two out of seven days due to unfavourable conditions. Skippers and boat trips have to be pre- booked and paid-for well in advance, and it is sometimes not clear if a trip will go ahead until the morning of the day, when cancelled trips will be refunded.

Landing trips are more than twice the price of non-landing trips, which is why the latter are also called ‘eco’ (from economy) trips. Eco trips skirt around the two islands without anyone disembarking, and are shorter than landing trips. The landing trips take about four and a half hours. This includes a one hour boat trip each way and two and a half hours to climb up the over 600 steep steps to the top of the island, to explore and to take in the unrivaled sights …

and of course, to climb down again also!

… and yes, sadly, it is reported that in the past, two visitors have fallen off to their deaths. May the Lord have mercy on their souls and may their memory be eternal! It is important to be realistic about the challenge and the required fitness levels as well as about suitable footwear. You would be making this climb and visit at your own risk.

“An incredible, impossible, mad place” – George Bernard Shaw

The view and whole experience is unrivaled, but there are indicators which would suggest the eco-trip or a land-based alternative experience may be preferable.

We will want to gain an understanding of your ideal preference at the time of your booking onto the pilgrimage and will be happy to book a landing trip and/or an eco trip, and, if required, provide also a third option for anybody who does not want to take an Atlantic boat trip at all even if the conditions are favourable.

In case of interest in the boat trips, our aim would be to book a morning visit to and/or trip around the Skelligs, which would leave us back at Portmagee at about 2 pm, – in time to pick up some lunch on-the-go for heading North toward Lahinch, where our hotel for the night is located. (see plan B Below)

The bus journey without stops would be just over 4 hours, so we will still be able to fit in a visit to St Ita (see below), and we will be in contact with the ferry masters to St Sennan’s Skattery Island to hopefully negotiate a shorter trip to his monastic settlement there, in order to still get us to our hotel in time for a late dinner (but not for a trip to the Cliffs of Moher or the Burren on the same day).

If, however, nobody wants to take up the oportunity of visiting the Skellig islands, OR if there are no Skellig boats operating on the day, we will follow

Plan B:

7:30 am: Leaving the Royal Valentia hotel and Valentia Island we head North along the Wild Atlantic Way and the Western side of the Ring of Kerry (up to Kilorglin) and further North to Wether’s Well, or St Ita’s Well, an easily missed ancient holy site between some fields of cows…

This is the burial place of an important Irish saint, St Ita, who has been named as the second most important saint of Ireland after St Brigid and “the foster mother of the saints of Erin (=Ireland)”. Reportedly it is also the location where St Brendan was baptised in 484, interestingly by the Druid Convert and Bishop St Eric of Slane.

Having remembered them and asked their intercession we continue our journey North for the better part of two hours until we arrive at Kilrush at around 11 am, waiting to take a boat to the island which is called Inis Cathaigh Island as well as Skattery Island. The ferry masters provide packed lunches for those who would like them, to take on the island for a picnic. We take the ferry to Skattery Island, to venerate St Senan and visit his early fifth century monastic settlement and holy well, and to have our picnic.

Just under an hour will take us from Kilrush to our hotel for a late afternoon check -in, in the coastal town of Lahinch. Apart from Vladyka’s room, we have to organise ourselves into the available options of 4 Doubles and 6 Twin rooms, booked with breakfast.

There is then the option of staying put in the Lahinch Coast Hotel, having a swim in the pool there, dining in their restaurant or in one of the establishments in the town, taking a stroll through the town and maybe along the seafront, and maybe looking in on one or two pubs with traditional music on the way back before retiring – or simply chilling.

OR there is also an option of getting back into the minibus for an evening drive, agreed for not too late after dinner, maybe to the Cliffs of Moher (this involves a bit of a walk once the visitor’s centre is closed) for a striking sunset on the cliffs, and on towards a little taste of the Irish stone desert, the barren “Burren”, finally finishing the day with a lively traditional music session in one of the towns nearby such as Lisdoonvarna, or Doolin before returning – maybe a little later than usual – to the hotel.

Map for this Plan B Day 4: (below with optional evening trip)

or if simply staying in Lahinch…

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Day 5: (Thursday)

8:30 Leaving Lahinch toward the heartland of Ireland, to the ancient monastic settlement of Clonmacnoise, we first make a short de-tour to St. Brigid’s well, less than 10 minute’s drive in the opposite direction, where we remember St Brigid, this prominent patron saint of Ireland, and can fill our holy water bottles…

From here we make our way to an extensive monastic settlement of once tremendous importance, which features ancient and not quite as ancient church and monastic buildings on the banks of the river Shannon (which is reputed to take its name from St Sennan): Clonmacnoise. The original monastery was founded in 544 by St. Ciarán. St Columba of Iona said of Ciarán, “He was a lamp, blazing with the light of wisdom.”

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It would be nice to think that we may be able to celebrate a service here, possibly in the roofed but otherwise open-air building which was put up for the visit of Pope John Paul II in the 1970s. We will seek permission for this in due course.

The site also features a visitor’s centre and a shop. We could buy some snacks for lunch at Shannonbridge and maybe also pay a short visit to the two Romanian Orthodox sisters, in their nearby newly established Monastery of the Life-Giving Spring before heading coast-wards again.

Just over two hours will take us to the to the foot of the majestic mountain Croagh Patrick, considered a holy mountain by many, and a favourite pilgrimage location for visitors and for locals, many of whom ascend barefoot to the peak in prayer and penance and in honour of St Patrick who reportedly spent 40 days of Lent in fasting on the summit.

We will not have time to make this climb, but instead, in St Patrick’s honour, we may pay a little visit to a church which was built on a site where St Patrick had built the first one. It is within easy walking distance from the Teevenacroaghy car-park, pictured above and is called Murrisk Abbey.

It is very close to the shoreline and will allow us to stretch our legs a little before the final leg of our journey today, to our hotel in Sligo, located about 1 hour and 40 minutes drive away.

The Riverside Hotel is booked including breakfast for 10 twin bedrooms, five of which boast “river view” and of course one bedroom for Vladyka. The hotel has its own restaurant, but the centre of Sligo is also only a 2-minute walk away offering shops, restaurants and bars – also some with traditional Irish music.

The map for today:

Day 6: Friday

8:00 am: We set off East first and then North. Our first stop will continue the pursuit of our first patron saint of Ireland, glorious St Patrick the Enlightener of Ireland. St Patrick’s Well at Belcoo, is located just over the border into Northern Ireland.

From here we will head North and skirt the lakes of Fermannagh, which are blessed with a number of islands with an early Christian presence, as we make our way to Donegal in pursuit of the third patron saint of Ireland, Saint Columba, also called Columcille.

We aim to visit three locations around Gartan Louch, in the vicinity of the birthplace of St Columba.

The first one is St Colmcille Heritage Centre where we also aim to have our lunch in the restaurant/cafe there,

Following this we visit St Colmcille’s birthplace and the more recent high cross in the vicinity.

followed by a visit to his Abbey

Even though it is not an early Christian site, it may also be a worthwhile experience, especially as it is not requiring a noteworthy detour, to stop at Grianan of Aileach, a ringfort which is thought to have been built in the sixth or seventh century before Christ…

before finally making our way to Magherabuoy House Hotel 1.1 miles away from the beautiful Portrush North Coast West Strand Beach, (from where the 2017 surf kayaking world championships were held.) We have booked 10 ‘Double or Twin’ rooms here (they are furnished with a double bed and a single bed) and a room for Vladyka, all with breakfast included. Dining options in the hotel include a bistro, tea room and bakery.

(These are the maps for today.)

Day 7: Saturday

A choice of an active early or a leisurely later start to the day is ours!

8:00am Those who would like to have a look at the Giant’s Causeway, can get a lift there with our minibus. You may be able to spot Dunluce Castle to your left if you cast a backward glance once having passed it en-route.

It is only about a 15 minute drive from the hotel to the Giants Causeway Visitors Centre. There is access to the causeway beside this, for using before the centre opens at 9am. There is a path of about a mile in length which leads along the bottom of the cliffs. It may take roughly 25 minutes to walk to the impressive geological rock formations and the same back again, and to allow for some extra time, the minibus will come to collect you at 9:30.

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9:10am Pick up at hotel of those who preferred to give the day a more leisurely start. Travelling the same route as the others before. Once re-united with each other, we all head inland to the famous location called “The Dark Hedges” and have a little stop here for some photos…

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before heading Eastward to drive along a beautiful stretch of the Antrim Coast, between Cushendall and Carnlough.

From here we turn inland again, to at least see from a little distance the Northern answer to Croagh Patrick, called Slemish. It is another favoured pilgrim’s choice of a mountain, famous for St Patrick having been here tending sheep when enslaved and having found God when praying on it.

We continue on our way to visit a tiny place called Cranfield (near Randalstown) on the Northern shore of the largest freshwater lake not only in Ireland but in all of the British Isles, called Lough Neagh.

It is here, that we visit the Holy Well

and Church of St Olcán, a disciple of St Patrick. As it is not too far from Belfast it is one of our much loved and often visited ancient sites with a prayerful presence…

Ready for some lunch we will stop to buy some food to have on the go in Randalstown and make our way to a beautifully located ancient monastic site by the name of Nendrum.

From here we make our way to Belfast, to arrive likely some time between 4 and 5pm. You have the choice whether to take a rest, or explore Belfast and/ or to have something to eat either in the city or in the hotel which is within walking distance of Queen’s University, the Botanic Gardens and the Ulster Museum.

You are also free to chose to come (or not) to Vespers later in the evening in our little parish for which the bus will pick you up to take you there and back to the hotel afterwards.

We are booked into Wellington Park Hotel in Belfast in 10 ‘Double or Twin’ rooms (plus one for Vladyka) without breakfast in the expectation of partaking in the Divine Liturgy in the morning. However, breakfast can be individually booked for £8 if needs be. The hotel has a restaurant on site.

The maps for today are:

Day 8: Sunday

The minibus will take us from the hotel to the location of the Divine Liturgy. This location will be confirmed closer to the time. It could be simply at our little parish church in North Belfast, or it could be at a different location. We will update you here when we know more.

After the Liturgy we will have some lunch and then visit the grave of the three patron saints of Ireland St Patrick, St Brigid and St Columba in Downpatrick.

From there we go and visit an early Christian Baptismal site near Downpatrick, called Struell Wells.

The last pilgrimage stop before the final destination of Dublin O’Connell Street is a ‘National Monument of Ireland’ called Monasterboice which was founded in the late 5th century by Saint Buithe (or Buite). Let us ask him and all the saints of Ireland to pray for the powerful revival of the original Orthodox Christian faith of the early saints of this island in our days for the glory of God and for the salvation of His people.

About an hour’s drive from here will take us back to Dublin where we will bid you farewell in the city centre and wish you a safe onward journey and an enjoyable end of your stay.

The maps – as yet without denoting the location of the Divine Liturgy – of today are here

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Farewell and be blessed! Or in Irish:

Slán agus beannacht!

N.B. YOU WILL BE ABLE TO SIGN UP FOR THIS PILGRIMAGE FROM 1. JANUARY 2021. DETAILS WILL BE POSTED HERE.