***13th July 2021: Dear Pilgrims! There has been a problem with Johanna’s email account and some emails from different people have not arrived on her account. If you have sent an email in the last two or three weeks and have not had an answer to it, please re-send it to her new account: firstname.lastname@example.org thank you!!***
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.
“Tweaking News” update on 7/7/21:
With the easing of covid restrictions here, two of our parish have finally been able to travel along much of the proposed route and verified actual timings, called with the hotels in person, and, taking into account road conditions and covid related changes incl visitors instructions, opening times etc, have made a number of suggestions. We are now in the process of adjusting the itinerary below according to their findings and recommendations.
These recommendations include the addition of St Patrick’s Well into the itinerary and the cancellation of the stop at St Ita’s Well, as well as moving the hope of a traditional Irish music experience from Wednesday to Thursday, although this may still be affected by social distancing regulations at the time of travel, but worry not, the boats for the Skelligs are booked, as are the boats for St Senan’s island, glory to God.
Many thanks for bearing with us in our attempt at making this pilgrimage as rich and varied and as smoothly running as we know how. Even so, some things may still have to be adjusted further, depending on factors out of our control, and we will aim to keep you updated here. Do check in here from time to time, and please, very importantly, keep it all in your daily prayers! Thank you!
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 get in touch with Johanna (email@example.com) who will send you the bank details of the parish. If you then 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. Further info re cost and booking on at the end of this page.
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.
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!
Electrical equipment, sockets and plugs
The sockets, plugs and voltage are the same in Ireland as in Northern Ireland as in the rest of the UK. If you are coming from elsewhere it is good to check out what you might need to bring, in the line of adaptors, so you can charge your phone and plug in and use any other devices successfully! Click here to find out more: https://world-power-plugs.com/united-states-to-ireland
Depending on your nationality and current visa status you may well require a visa for the Republic of Ireland and / or Northern Ireland. Please be sure to apply for these in good time! Thank you.
IMPORTANT COVID NEWS! REGULATIONS HAVE CHANGED AGAIN!
Quoted from the Irish Government website which was amended on 19th July 2021
Travelling to Ireland
If you are travelling to Ireland from abroad you must fill out a Passenger Locator Form before departure.
You also have to have appropriate valid proof of vaccination or recovery, or to present evidence of a negative RT-PCR result from a test taken within 72 hours prior to arrival into the country.
Please fill in the Passenger Locator Form, which is available here:
(N.B. this is not required for pilgrims whose journey is initiated in Northern Ireland unless they arrived into Northern Ireland from overseas less than 14 days previously.)
Passengers arriving into Ireland from outside EU + Iceland, Lichtenstein, Norway, Switzerland
Please note: This includes those arriving from Great Britain – and the USA.
No quarantine and no pre-travel RT-PCR test if…
- “If you have valid proof of vaccination, no travel-related testing or quarantine will be necessary.
- If you have valid proof of recovery from COVID in the past 180 days, no travel-related testing or quarantine will be necessary.”
Quarantine AND test if…
- “If you do not have valid proof of vaccination or recovery, you will need to present evidence of a negative result from a RT-PCR test taken within 72 hours prior to arrival into the country AND self-quarantine for 14 days, but if you receive a negative result from a RT-PCR test taken from day 5 onwards after arrival into Ireland, you will be able to leave quarantine” at that time.
As far as our prospective pilgrims are concerned, it means that travel from the US and England depends on the Covid status of the individual, and that unvaccinated people who have not a valid proof of having recovered from the disease still need a minimum of five days quarantine.
Passengers arriving into Ireland from inside EU + Iceland, Lichtenstein, Norway, Switzerland
Please note: This includes anyone arriving from Germany.
No quarantine and no testing if:
- If you have valid proof of vaccination, no travel-related testing or quarantine will be necessary.
- If you have valid proof that you have recovered from COVID in the past 180 days, no travel-related testing or quarantine will be necessary.
(for any pilgrims from Germany this link may be helpful: https://www.digitaler-impfnachweis-app.de/ )
Testing but no quarantine if:
- If you do not have valid proof of vaccination or recovery, you will need to present evidence of a negative RT-PCR result from a test taken within 72 hours prior to arrival into the country.
I will also write an email to the participants to alert everyone to the latest regulations. Here is the weblink to the page:
Day 1: (Sunday)
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…
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.
From Cashel we head to St Patrick’s Well, a tranquil place where St Patrick and St Declan are said to have met some 1600 years ago and which is located en route to St Declan’s monastery. We also find one of the oldest crosses in Ireland here. Weather permitting it could be a beautiful experience to add to the many others of the pilgrimage, to do as advised there, and to sit on the edge of the well and little lake and dangle one’s feet into the naturally sparkling water there for 20 minutes… taking it all in…
St Declan of Ardmore, who laboured for the Christian faith in Ireland 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 further South to the Monastery of St Declan at Ardmore, taking in the sights of his well, oratory and round tower and the beautiful sea views.
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
Day 3: (Tuesday)
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.
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… and maybe take some snaps…
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. With the blessing of Vladyka Irenei this is then be followed by an enlightening talk given by Dublin man Luke McInerney who is coming to join us together with his wife for this and the following night. This is followed by evening prayer in preparation for an exciting day tomorrow. Apart from Vladyka’s single, we have booked 5 superior twin rooms, 5 standard twin rooms, all with breakfast here. The hotel has a restaurant for bar food and main meals.
Maps for the third day:
or, when looking from further away…
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 and – dare I say – of our entire pilgrimage!
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. A third option for anybody who does not want to take an Atlantic boat trip at all even if the conditions are favourable, would be to visit the Skellig Experience Visitors’ Centre and the Tower at Bray Head instead.
We have now booked a morning visit to and another morning trip around the Skelligs, which should 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)
We have been in contact with the ferry masters to St Sennan’s Skattery Island to negotiate a later trip to his monastic settlement there, with Luke McIlneney in the starting blocks to tell us about the history of the island and its monastic role under St Senan before heading to our hotel in time for a late dinner.
If, however, there are no Skellig boats operating on the day, we will follow
7:45 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 then continue our journey North for the better part of two hours until we arrive at Kilrush at around 11:30 am, in time for the 11:45 sailing to the island which is called Inis Cathaigh Island as well as Skattery Island.
The ferry masters can 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. Luke McInerney is also happy to fill us in some more about the history of this location while we are there.
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 booked 10 Twin rooms, with breakfast.
There is then the option of staying put in the Lahinch Coast Hotel, maybe 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 afternoon drive, maybe to the Cliffs of Moher (this involves a bit of a walk once the visitor’s centre is closed) and on towards a little taste of the Irish stone desert, the barren “Burren”,
or… simply staying in Lahinch… and maybe finding a traditionalmusic seisiún to enjoy.
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.”
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 are scheduled then, to pay a visit to the two Romanian Orthodox sisters, in their nearby newly established Monastery of the Life-Giving Spring and enjoying their hospitality.
From there we will make out way North-Westward towards Sligo.
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!
7:45 am: 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 10:00.
9:40 am 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 East, along the coast for a short distance until we come to the ruined Castle of Dunsiverick, “Saint Patrick is recorded as having visited Dunseverick castle in the 5th century AD, where”, according to wikipedia “he baptized Saint Olcán, …who later became a Bishop of Ireland”. Dunsiverick was also an important fort in the early Gaelic Kingdom of Dál Riata.
From here we head South and inland to the famous location called “The Dark Hedges” and have a little stop here for some photos…
From here we head further 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 (via nearby Randalstown where we will pick up some lunch on the go or for a picnic at St Olcan’s if the weather permits) 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…
afterwards we 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 around 6pm. 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.
Whether or not we will aim to have Vespers and/or confessions in the evening in St John’s little church on Saturday evening can be decided nearer the time, but it is here, we are scheduled to have an early Divine Liturgy the following morning.
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
7:30 am: The minibus will take us from the hotel to the little church of St John of Shanghai, Belfast.
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 O’Connell Street, Dublin (estimated at around five-ish pm) where we will bid you farewell in the city centre and wish you a safe onward journey and an enjoyable end of your stay.
NB – As Dublin Airport is on the way, those who would want to be dropped off at the airport en route into Dublin can request this. To be on the safe side where flights are concerned, estimate to be at the airport around five, although it could be a little earlier.
The maps (not including the little journey to our church within Belfast) of today are here:
Farewell and be blessed! Or in Irish:
“Slán agus beannacht!“
Further details re cost and booking on for those already subscribed are found below. The places are all taken now, but we have a waiting list in case of spaces becoming available again.
We have not been able to make 100% exact calculations as to the exact price of the pilgrimage for a variety of reasons but especially because both the venues and the attractions have recently been in lock down in Ireland. It is also a little difficult as we are 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. As our church and bank account are in Northern Ireland the prices will be in £ British Pound Sterling. It is not difficult to transfer money from a different currency to us to arrive in British pound sterling, but the exchange rates can vary, and there may be a small charge for the transfer from your bank. Whatever the charge from your bank, our bank charges £6 per international money transfer, so it would be really helpful if you could add this to cover the bank charges, many thanks!
The price includes:
- Accommodation in hotels (mostly twin rooms i.e. rooms with two single beds) and breakfast only.
- Bus journey and bus driver expenses
- Cost of entry to attractions (except the boat trip to the Skellig Islands which has to be added to the price according to the individual preference as explained below.)
- Pilgrimage costs for Vladyka Irenei, (but not his flights and accommodation before and after the trip, and not his spending money, which will be covered by donations and by our parish. Please feel free to assist us in these expenses or to invite him for dinner.)
The cost does not include:
- Flights to and from Dublin
- Accommodation before and after the pilgrimage
- The price of dinner. All hotels offer dinner. It has not (yet?) been possible to pre-book dinner with all the hotels at this stage. Please indicate on your application form if this would be your preference). Please allow about £200+in total for the eight pilgrimage days.
- The price of lunch. We will stop en route to pick up some snacks/sandwiches along the way
- Travel insurance. It is your responsibility to take out an appropriate travel insurance which would be valid for travel to and from and within both the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom (i.e. Northern Ireland).
- Spending money for souvenirs etc.
Total price (with breakfast only – please note carefully the above exclusions, thank you!)
£810 (today approximately equivalent to $1101.80 or €897.20)
Added to this price would be the optional Skellig Island Boat trip, bookable at the time of booking the pilgrimage (this is weather dependent and refundable on the day if cancelled by Skipper) ~£40 (~$49 / ~€ 40) boat trip around the island or ~£90 (~$120/ ~€ 100) boat trip landing at Skellig Michael for those who want to climb up. This would bring the total up to £810, £850 or £900 respectively.
To make enquiries please contact Johanna. Her email address is: firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you!