Alumni Tour Sample in Galway, Ireland

Hotel Venue: Glenlo Abbey Hotel, Galway 

Set on 140 acres of lakeside estate, Glenlo Abbey Hotel is like no other in Galway City.
Glenlo is where old world charm meets contemporary elegance and this is best seen in the cozy surrounds of their Victorian inspired drawing rooms and luxurious bedrooms and suites, each one decorated to the highest levels.  The hotel also features a 9 hole double green golf course and a driving range.

The elegant River Room Restaurant is the ideal setting to enjoy your breakfast each morning as it commands stunning views over the estate grounds and Ireland’s 2nd largest lake, Lough Corrib.

Our collective thanks to you and Go West for a job very well done: handling all aspects of our recent Princeton Class of ‘57 Irish Mini-Reunion. I’m painfully well aware, having done this before, of the specialised and unique challenge presented by our requirements: pertinent and interesting academic content, related and supporting tours and talks along with a mix of high-quality entertainment and just the right amount free time to relax and enjoy one another’s company… not an easy combination nor balance to attain for this relatively large and diverse group.

Feedback I’ve received enthusiastically supports my own impression that everything went off seamlessly. The choice of lodging and meals were regarded as excellent, the talks and tours were not only interesting and appropriate — they were all delivered with captivating enthusiasm.

Below are excerpts from just a few of the e-mailed messages I’ve received:

“…a wonderful, memorable time”

“…what a lovely time we had…some powerful memories”

“…gave us a set of experiences we’ll never forget”

“…this was the best!”

I hope to have a chance to take advantage of your services again sometime, Kerry, and I’m pleased to offer my enthusiastic recommendation of Go West to prospective event or conference planners.
– Gene Courtney, Princeton, Class of 1957

Day 1 – Day of Arrival – Welcome

Members of the group arrive at their leisure to Glenlo Abbey Hotel.  A welcome reception and dinner is scheduled to take place in the early evening. During the pre-dinner drinks the music will be provided by a talented Harpist providing gentle background music.

Day 2 – Galway – City of the tribes

This morning we will enjoy an introduction to the history of Galway from local historian and writer Peadar O’Dowd.  Peadar is a native of Galway City and writes the heritage column for the Connacht Sentinel newspaper. He is also the author of a wide range of books on his native place including ‘Old and New Galway’, ‘Vanishing Galway’, ‘Galway – Heart of the West’, Down by the Claddagh’, ‘Galway City’, ‘Galway in Old Photographs and ‘The History of County Galway. He has contributed to numerous articles of a historical and archaeological nature in newspapers, magazines and journals. He has lectured in Ireland and America and appeared on radio and television.  Peadar will give an entertaining overview of the history of Galway in the Irish context – 6,000BC to modern day.

In the afternoon we will enjoy an excursion to Galway City for a guided walking tour of this historical and vibrant medieval city. We will visit the City Museum, Spanish Arch and Kirwan’s Lane, one of Galway’s last remaining Medieval Lanes. The tour will also include a visit to the historic St Nicholas Church, Lynches Castle and Galway Cathedral.   Before we return to Glenlo Abbey we will have the option to stop and visit the Connemara Marble Center to learn about Connemara Marble.

This evening you are at your own leisure to enjoy to further explore this lovely city and enjoy dinner in a local restaurant or to spend the evening and dine at Glenlo Abbey.

Day 3 – Irish Language and Traditions

This morning you will enjoy a presentation by a member of staff from Acadamh na hOllscolaíochta Gaeilge, National University of Ireland, Galway on “The Irish language and Europe – a short history of language change”.  Irish is a Celtic language with a rich Indo-European heritage. Although the Gaelic languages (Irish Gaelic, Scottish Gaelic & Manx) are confined to the outermost periphery of Europe their fortunes and fates are of profound interest to linguists and anthropologists. The emergence of Irish as one of the oldest European vernacular languages has seen the creation of a fascinating native intellectual tradition and manuscript culture which has attracted international scholars since the publication of Johann Casper Zeuss’s Grammatica Celtica in 1879. The diversity of the contemporary Irish language speech community is also noteworthy as international learners of Irish, neo-native speakers and Gaeltacht communities share a complex and fragile ecosystem which is changing rapidly. This seminar will give an overview of the external history of the Irish language, how the language itself has changed and developed as a modern, vibrant means of communication and will also outline the challenges which face Irish as a minority language in a multi-lingual environment.

In the afternoon our journey will take us along the coastline where we will visit Cnoc Suain (restful hill) in Spiddal, a renovated small village of thatched and slated stone cottages located on 200 acres of stunningly beautiful ancient landscape, bog, lake and sea. Some of the cottages date back to 1691. As Gaelic speakers, musicians, natural scientists and owners of this historic hill village, Dearbhaill Standun and Charlie Troy are the perfect hosts for the group. They will accompany us on a short walk through the Connemara Bogland that surrounds Cnoc Suain. Charlie will introduce us to the fascinating archaeology & natural history of the bog including turf harvesting.  In one of the old thatch cottages, Dearbhaill, a native Gaelic speaker will relay the history of the local area.  We will hear the Irish language spoken and enjoy stories about the life and customs of the inhabitants of the cottage. She will demonstrate the art of Irish bread making.  Dearbhaill, a talented musician is a founder member of the acclaimed traditional music group Dordan. She will play the fiddle and will be accompanied by a local musician on the accordion and tin whistle. Together they will perform a selection of jigs and reels as we enjoy a drink in the main cottage. This is a unique opportunity to experience Irish culture in an exclusive setting.  To learn more about Cnoc Suain.

This evening we will board the Corrib Princess, a modern river cruiser for a scenic cruise of the River and Lough Corrib from the quay at our hotel, Glenlo Abbey.

The trip takes us along the river and then out onto the expansive Lough (Lake) Corrib. You can sit up on the sun deck and take in the views of the surrounding countryside.  After dinner Roisin an Irish coffee making World champion will give us an Irish coffee demonstration and tell us the history of Irish whiskey.

The evening will continue with entertainment by Carmel Dempsey, Brenda Curtin and an Irish dancer.  Carmel Dempsey is a well-known musician and singer from Galway, she has toured all over the world and has played support to Leo Sayer and Meatloaf. Her repertoire aims to please all age groups from the Rock n Roll of the 60’s to the pop standards of the 90’s. Carmel is famous for her lively personality and success at encouraging audience participation. She will be joined on board by a talented fiddle player Brenda Curtin. Brenda was one of the soloists from Michael Flatley’s world-renowned Riverdance. Carmel and Brenda will be joined by an Irish Dancer and guests will be amazed by her talent.

Day 4 – Gaelic Literary Tradition

Morning meeting on site exploring the Gaelic literary tradition.

This afternoon we will visit the Kiltartan Gregory Museum and Coole Park.  These sites are closely associated with the Poet and Playwright William Butler Yeats.  The Museum is largely devoted to the works of Augusta Lady Gregory (1852 – 1932).  Lady Gregory was one of the cofounders of the Abbey Theatre for which she wrote several plays. She collaborated with W.B. Yeats in collecting folklore and she formed a branch of the Gaelic League. With the help of Douglas Hyde, who was later to become the first president of Ireland, she revived interest in the works of the blind poet, Rafferty.   Coole Park, now a nature reserve, was the home of Lady Gregory. Yeats spent over 30 summers amongst the woods, lake and garden here. The house no longer stands but the magic remains. Attractions include an audio-visual exhibition, tea-rooms, nature trails and the famous “Autograph Tree”. The “autograph tree,” is a giant copper beech tree on which famous writers and artists carved their names at the request of Lady Gregory. Yeats himself was the first to carve his initials into the tree with the likes of J.M. Synge, John Masefield, and Sean O’Faolain to follow.

This evening we will dine in a very special venue, the Aula Maxima, on the campus of the National University of Ireland, Galway.

DAY 5 – THE BURREN – IRELAND’S GREATEST NATIONAL PARK

This morning we will enjoy a scenic journey through The Burren, Ireland’s greatest National Park, in North County Clare.   The Burren is a unique place like no other place in Ireland. There are no bogs and very few pastures, instead there are huge pavements of limestone. It is a botanist’s Nirvana! Plants that would normally only grow in tundra or arctic regions flourish in this area certain times of the year. En route we will pass through the village of Clarinbridge, home of the oyster! We will continue the quaint village of Kinvara, a seaside village with a nice sized harbour that hosts many of the renowned  Galway Hooker boats that you should see moored in the harbour. We will see Dunguaire Castle, a beautiful castle nestled on its own tiny headland and surrounded by water.

In the small village of Kilfenora you will meet with local expert Tony Kirby.  Tony is the author of The Burren and the Aran Islands a Walking Guide and he is currently writing his second publication on The Holy Wells of the Burren.  Tony will give an Illustrated talk on “The Story of the Burren” including talk highlights –

*why the Burren is the most extensive limestone pavement landscape in Europe – glaciation and over-exuberant prehistoric farming

*why the Burren is one of the top 50 botanical sites in the world as nominated by renowned author/botanist Bob Gibbons.

* why the Burren is one of the richest archaeological landscapes in the north west of Europe – “a vast memorial to bygone cultures” per author Tim Robinson.

*why the Burren is one of the few regions on earth where livestock are transferred to altitude in the bleak mid-winter (reverse transhumance).

*why the Burren is one of the richest surviving pilgrimage landscapes in Ireland.

*…and some wildlife and folklore……

Lunch is arranged in a family owned pub called Vaughans.  It is actually the oldest pub in County Clare.

Kilfenora, is also known as “the city of the Seven Crosses” as it boasts one of the greatest concentrations of high crosses in Ireland, including the famed “Doorty Cross“. We will visit Kilfenora Cathedral, the Cathedral was constructed in 1189 on the site of a monastery founded in the 6th century by St Fachtna.  The cathedral, which was built in the transitional style, features many fine carvings and the remains of three high crosses, including the Doorty Cross.

This evening you are at your own leisure to enjoy to further explore this lovely city and enjoy dinner in a local restaurant or to spend the evening and dine at Glenlo Abbey.

Day 6 – Ashford Castle, the quiet man, CONG VILLAGE & CONNEMARA.

Morning meeting. The Role of the West of Ireland in the Development of an Irish Drama Movement.

This afternoon we will depart for lovely village of Cong, situated on the Galway Mayo border where much of the Quiet Man starring John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara, was filmed in 1952. We will drive through the grounds of Ashford Castle, one of the most exclusive luxury hotels in the World. Standing over the shores of Lough Corrib, and hidden deep in over 350 acres of wooded parkland, this 13th Century Castle is a monument to a fascinating history of a bygone age. Once the estate of the Guinness Family, the Castle opened its doors as an exclusive hotel in 1939. We will enjoy lunch in Cullanes cottage on the grounds of the castle.   The cast of the Quiet Man stayed here during the filming of the movie. We will visit the Quiet Man Cottage museum and a local guide will bring us to visit The Quiet Man Film Locations in Cong village, such as The Dying Mans House, Pat Cohans Bar, The Reverend Playfair’s House and The Courting Scene.

Our journey back to Glenlo Abbey will take us through some of the most spectacular scenery in Connemara.

This evening we will enjoy an exclusive farewell dinner sserved in the elegant surrounds of the Corrib Suite. After dinner you will be entertained by Frank Naughton, a classical tenor from Galway, who will perform a selection of popular Italian classic arias and some beautiful Irish airs including Danny Boy and Galway Bay.

Day 7 – Day of Departure – Slán agus Beannacht.

(Goodbye & Blessings.)