Land of Myth and Mystery with Phil Cousineau

A Pilgrimage into the Heart of Sacred Ireland September 13 - 24, 2010

Join author & TV host Phil Cousineau as he leads you on a sacred pilgrimage through the enchantingly beautiful “Isle of Eire” where the age of myth, mystery, and magic live on.

Captivating Ireland is still a land where mysteries are etched as runes within ruins. Treading the Irish mythic past today, we encounter a rich culture that embodies the preservation of its magnificent oral tradition, ancient rituals, romantic poetry and literature, and vibrant folklore and music. Our journey will include visits to the towering Cliffs of Moher, the limestone moonscape of the Burren, Yeat’s Tower, Kilfenora, the City of High Crosses, the ancient grave passage of Newgrange, Croagh Patrick, the literary shrines of Dublin, and more! READ MORE

Tour Leader Phil Cousineau

Phil Cousineau is a writer, teacher, independent scholar, documentary filmmaker, travel leader, storyteller and author of over 40 books including the national best-seller The Art of Pilgrimage, The Book of Roads, and Stoking the Creative Fires, winner of the Book of the Year Award from “Spirituality & Health Magazine.”


I rarely travel with a group, but I appreciate the philosophy of Sacred Earth Journeys and enjoyed my trip to Ireland more than I dreamed was possible. Joan Ishibashi, Lakewood, OH


The pilgrimage was truly special and enriched my life more than I had hoped. This was due, I think, to the mix of the land, Phil and the remarkable group ethos. Stephanie Hutcheson, Etobicoke, ON


Tour Description

Join author Phil Cousineau as he leads you on a pilgrimage through the enchanted “Isle of Eire” where the age of myth, mystery and magic live on. Captivating Ireland is still a land where mysteries are etched as runes within ruins. 

Cliffs of Moher in Ireland
Cliffs of Moher

Treading the Irish mythic past today, we encounter a rich culture that embodies the preservation of its magnificent oral tradition, ancient rituals, romantic poetry and literature, and vibrant folklore and music. Meander along scenic roads that hug the rugged Irish western shore, roam about the undulating countryside and rocky plains, ferry to the alluring Aran Islands, and journey deep into the very heart of Ireland.

Sacred Earth Journeys group in Ireland
Our group in Ireland

Our journey will include visits to the towering Cliffs of Moher, the limestone moonscape of the Burren, Yeat’s Tower, Kilfenora, the City of High Crosses, the ancient grave passage of Newgrange, the literary shrines of Dublin, and more! Together, we will walk in the footsteps of 15 centuries of pilgrims as we climb Croagh Patrick, the holiest place in Ireland, and explore the ruins of Clonmacnoise, the abbey where the Irish monks “helped save civilization”, in the words of Thomas Cahill. Stroll through charming seaside villages and quaint country towns where the traditions of old are still very alive today. Gaze at stunning panoramas from soaring cliffs, discover ancient ruins and stone structures, journey to sacred sites of pilgrimage, and return to a time of romance and enchantment with visits to majestic castles. Discover the vibrant culture of the Irish with traditional entertainment, music and fun-filled evening pub crawls. Indulge your creativity with daily journaling, sketching, poetry readings and traditional folktales, and enjoy the peace and serenity of beautiful settings for personal reflection.

Our journey to what was once called the “Island of Saints and Scholars, Poets and Priests”, will combine many of the myriad elements such as storytelling, music, landscape and fierce independence that have made this Emerald Isle one of the most beloved countries in the world. This will also be a journey of questions: Where does the myth of leprechauns come from? Who was Molly McGuire? What role does the pub play in Irish Life? What was the Irish Famine and how did it influence the Great Irish Immigration to the North America? Why do the Irish have such a reputation for being entertaining storytellers, poets and musicians? Tour leader, Phil Cousineau will discuss all these themes and more during enlightening daily lectures, group discussions, and informative talks so that the many myths and secrets of Ireland can be revealed. We will also enjoy special guest appearances along the way with one of Ireland’s leading authorities on Irish music, P.J. Curtis as well as leading expert on Celtic Mysticism, Dara Molloy, and have the opportunity to meet other wonderfully entertaining and knowledgeable locals to fully enrich our journey.

Phil Cousineau at Trinity College Dublin
Phil Cousineau, Trinity Library, Dublin

Ireland is truly a land that reaches deep into your heart, lifts your spirits and stirs you to your very core. So come join your new “Anam Cara” (Celtic for Soul Friends) and discover this fascinating island which entices all the senses and leaves you craving more on a journey that combines an exploration of Irish mythology, poetry, literature, history and mysticism as well as taking a look at the rapid changes in the new aspects of the Celtic Tiger. This pilgrimage is designed to be a meaningful, spirit renewing experience to nurture your creativity and help you understand the myriad aspects of one of the most inexhaustibly interesting cultures in the world.

Arrive at Shannon Airport in the beautiful “Emerald Isle”, a country rich in heritage and culture with a history dating back as far as 6000 BC.  Depending on your arrival time, you will either be met and transferred to Bunratty (arrivals to approx. 10AM), a small rural village settled by the Vikings in 970 AD, for an optional breakfast at Dirty Nellie’s Pub and to enjoy some free time in the village for a little introductory shopping, OR be transferred to bustling Ennis (arrivals to 12:55PM), where we will meet for lunch. Enjoy free time to roam about Ireland’s 6th largest town. After a stop for lunch at the Poet’s Corner at the Old Ground Hotel, where poet and dramatist, William Butler Yeats and dramatist and folklorist, Lady Augusta Gregory used to dine, we depart Ennis for the spectacular Cliffs of Moher (at approx. 2:30PM). The cliffs, which rise to a height of 214 metres above the Atlantic Ocean, boast one of Ireland’s most impressive views, and on a clear day, one can see as far as the Aran Islands. Later, we transfer to the charming small harbour village of Ballyvaughan, which means the “Town of the Beacháin (Behan) Family” or “Townland of the Mushrooms” to settle into our hotel and freshen up for the evening. Enjoy a hearty Irish Welcome Dinner with your fellow pilgrims and travellers and if you’re feeling up to it, join us on an evening out for traditional music at the 100 year old Monk’s Pub, just a short country walk outside of town.
(Overnight in Ballyvaughan at the Hylands Burren Hotel)

Cliffs of Moher in Ireland

After a full Irish breakfast at our hotel we gather for a morning lecture where Phil will discuss “The Seven Stages of Sacred Travel”, based on his worldwide bestseller The Art of Pilgrimage. Later in the morning we head out to the lunar landscapes of The Burren, meaning “Great Rock”, an area abounding with historical and archaeological sites. Here we visit the Poulnabrone Dolmen, meaning “hole of sorrows”, a megalithic portal tomb dating back to the Neolithic period. We then continue on to Kilfenora, meaning “The Church of the Fertile Hillside” or “The Church of the White Brow”, for a quick lunch break in town. Being the site of an important early monastic settlement, the town was also given the name, “The City of High Crosses”, referring to the high crosses surrounding the Cathedral. After lunch we make our way to the ancient pilgrimage site of St. Brigid’s Well, in picturesque Liscannor. Here we will take time for our daily writing and journaling exercise on “Crossing the Threshold”. Later, we continue on our scenic drive to the seaside village of Doolin where we will enjoy a delicious meal and entertainment at Gus O’Connor’s Pub, home of the legendary Russell Brothers. During the 1960s Doolin was one of the most beloved and influential centres for music in the Western world and O’Connor’s became the watchword for the revival of Irish music.
(Overnight in Ballyvaughan at the Hylands Burren Hotel)

Poulnabrone Dolmen in Ireland

This morning, we head to Gort and visit Thoor Ballylee Tower, the home of W.B. Yeats, for a poetry reading at the top of the tower. The tower house, a former 16th Century Norman castle built by the De Burca family, was purchased in 1916 and lovingly restored by Yeats to be enjoyed as a family summer home as it was not far from his lifelong friend, Lady Augusta Gregory. The home was a great source of inspiration for Yeats. He once wrote to a friend professing his joy and love of this beautiful place, “And out of doors, with the hawthorn all in blossom all along the river banks, everything is so beautiful that to go elsewhere is to leave beauty behind”. We then make our way for a quick stop in the lovely sea port village of Kinvara. Stroll through the quaint village, admire Dunguaire Castle and enjoy lunch while taking in the breathtaking views over the harbour.

Later, we continue on to Coole Park, the home of Lady Gregory, an impressive monument to her incalculable and important collection of Irish myths and legends, to immerse ourselves in the magic and serenity of the area. Yeats, George Bernard Shaw, John Millington Synge, and Sean O' Casey all came to experience its magic. They and many others carved their initials on the Autograph Tree, an old beech still standing today. Although the house no longer stands, one can still appreciate the surroundings that originally drew so many here. The park, which contains extensive woodlands, a series of turloughs, rivers, bare limestone and Coole Lake, is now a 1000 acre Nature Reserve protected by the National Parks and Wildlife Service. In the early evening we return to Ballyvaughan to rest up from the day and freshen up before our lecture and live demonstration on “Traditional Irish Music and Concert” with special guest, author and musicologist, P.J. Curtis, as well as other accompanying musicians.
(Overnight in Ballyvaughan at the Hylands Burren Hotel)

Yeats Tower visit in Ireland

We arise for an early breakfast, bid farewell to County Clare and the Burren, and depart on the ferry for a stunning journey across Galway Bay to the melancholic splendour of the Aran Islands to arrive at Inishmore, the largest of the 3 islands. The islands, unique in their geology and archaeology, are rich in language, culture and heritage and the spirit of Gaelic Ireland can be sensed from shore to peak. Upon arrival we will have some time to visit the Kilronan Visitor Centre and enjoy a late morning walk along the docks to check out the traditional craft and weaving shops where you will find great treasures and souvenirs such as the original woollen Aran sweaters and sculptures made of Irish peat.

At noon we delight in an overland tour of the Islands taking in the impressive Iron Age fort of Dun Aengus, perched on the edge of 100 metre cliffs and known as “the most magnificent barbaric monument in Europe”, and then to the site of the 11th Century Seven Chapels, which for centuries, was one of the biggest monastic foundations and centres of pilgrimage along the west coast of Ireland. At the end of our tour we check into the Kilmurvey House and then enjoy the rest of the day at your leisure to explore the island independently. In the evening we gather once again for a traditional dinner at Ostan Aran, a traditional Aran Fisherman Restaurant.
(Overnight in Inishmore at Kilmurvey House)

Cycling in Aran Islands in Ireland

After an early breakfast, we enjoy a discussion with Phil on “Celtic Wisdom and the Custom of “Anam Cara” (Soul Friends), and The Spiritual Landscape of Ireland”. After some contemplative time, we begin a fun-filled morning with a traditional pony and trap ride to visit the 5th century dry stone Beehive Huts which served as pilgrim’s inns for centuries of pilgrims on turas, the circuit of ancient Ireland. We then meet with special guest, Irish author and Celtic Christian Spiritual Leader, Dara Molloy who will discuss the recent ancient Celtic revival. Later in the morning we arrive back in Kilronan Village to board our ferry from Inishmore Pier to Rossaveal in County Galway. Upon arrival, we transfer to Clifden, nestled amidst breathtaking mountain scenery and beautiful rugged coastlines, for some free time to explore this charming coastal town independently. In the evening, we gather together once again for a traditional dinner at Foyles Hotel, one of the last of the classic country inns.
(Overnight in Clifden at Foyles Hotel)

horse and cart ride Aran Islands in Ireland

Today we take a loop journey along the Sky Road through the rugged and beautiful coastline of the Connemara region. On our coach ride, Phil will discuss the Irish Potato Famine, which the Irish actually refer to as “the Great Hunger”, a heart-wrenching famine which took the lives of up to a million and led to the emigration of at least another million. Our fist stop is a visit of the majestic Kylemore Abbey, the monastic home of the Benedictine Order of Nuns of Ireland. Originally called Kylemore Castle, it was built between 1863 and 1868 as the private family home of Mitchell Henry, a prominent and wealthy politician from Manchester, England. The abbey was later founded in 1920 on the castle grounds for nuns who fled Belgium in WWI. Our visit would not be complete without experiencing the beauty and tranquillity of the gardens.

We then continue on to the luxury castle hotel, Ballynahinch Castle, for lunch and some free time to wander in this awe-inspiring setting. We will also take time to journal on “The Holly Longing”, one of the favourite themes of Irish poet John O’Donohue and to do some sketching of the area.

Our next stop is the charming village of Roundstone where we visit with Master Bodhran Maker, Malachy Kearns at his Roundstone Music and Crafts shop to witness the art of Bodrhan making. Malachy will share with us the story and history of the Bodhran, where its name came from, and why its playing style is “the cleverest idea in the world of manual percussion”. We continue our journey along the coast to reach Ballyconneely, an area with some of the most unspoilt and tranquil countryside in all of Ireland. Here we will make a quick stop on Coral Strand at Derrygimla for an invigorating breath of fresh sea air and more time for journaling or sketching. We return to Clifden later in the afternoon to enjoy some independent time at your leisure and an optional Pub Crawl later in the evening.
(Overnight in Clifden at Foyles Hotel)

view of Kylemore Abbey in Ireland

This morning we fill up on a hearty Irish breakfast in preparation for a full active day in Westport, County Mayo, followed by a lecture with Phil on “The Labyrinth of Every Pilgrimage and Significant Journey”. The talk and breakfast will help us prepare for our ½ hour climb up Croagh Patrick, St. Patrick’s mystic mountain. Lying in an area steeped in ancient history, the climb up the mountain offers magnificent views of Clew Bay and the surrounding Mayo countryside from all stages of ascent. This holy site is renowned for its Patrician Pilgrimage in honour of St. Patrick, Ireland’s patron saint who, as legend states, spent 40 days on the mountain fasting and praying for the salvation of the Irish. The mountain, which dates back to 3000 BC, is also revered as one of the earliest pagan sites of worship. The tradition of pilgrimage here spans back over 5000 years from the Stone Age to the present day without interruption. After an exhilarating climb and discussion with Phil about St. Patrick and the tradition of pilgrimage, we stop in town where you can enjoy lunch at one of the many medieval pubs and restaurants or take some time for strolling and shopping. We then make our way to Achill Island off the coast of Mayo to visit Kildamhnait Castle, the 15th century tower belonging to the O’Malley Clan and the famous Sea Captain and Pirate, Gracie O’Malley. Later in the afternoon, we return to Clifden for a well-deserved break and an evening meal at Mitchell’s Restaurant.
(Overnight in Clifden at Foyles Hotel)

Croagh Patrick mountain in Ireland

This morning we check out of our hotel after another lovely breakfast and discussion on “The Traditional Role of Blessings in Irish Culture and Pilgrimage”, which as O’Donohue writes, “help awaken and grace the beauty of the heart’s landscape”. We then transfer to Galway City and check into the Harbour Hotel which is in walking distance from the city centre and shopping area. Enjoy the afternoon at your leisure to explore this medieval city rich in history and culture. Considered Ireland’s “Cultural Heart”, the city is known for its vibrant festivals, celebrations, and art scene and has much to offer from colourful shops and pub fronts, to museums and art centres, as well as beautiful parks and walking trails.
(Overnight Galway City at the Harbour Hotel)

Ireland, Galway

We check out after breakfast and leave Galway to make our way to Dublin, briefly stopping en route in Shannonbridge, which gets its name from the bridge connecting County Offaly and County Roscommon, over the River Shannon. Nearby, we visit the monastery of Clomacnoise and briefly discuss “How the Irish Saved Civilization” at monasteries where monks copied old Greek and Roman manuscripts. Founded in 545 by Saint Ciaran, Clomacnoise as built in a very strategic location which helped it become a major centre of religion, education, craftsmanship and trade. It became the most famous monastery in Ireland, being visited by scholars from all over Europe, and was the virtual centre of Ireland’s own civilization for 15 centuries. We then continue our journey to Dublin, the largest city and capital of Ireland. We check into our hotel to rest and freshen up and then enjoy the evening at your leisure or join us for an optional Pub Crawl.
(Overnight in Dublin at Hotel Charlemont)

Dublin city in Ireland

After a full Irish breakfast, enjoy a discussion on “The Arrival Stage of Pilgrimage”. During our discussion, Phil will also explain the importance of ancient burial sites and the role of belief in metempsychosis. We then visit the UNESCO World Heritage site of Newgrange, one of the most prehistoric sites of the world and the most famous prehistoric site in Ireland. Newgrange was built between 3300 BC and 2900 BC, making it over 500 years older than the Great Pyramid at Giza. The site was built to coincide with seasonal changes so that at dawn on the day of the winter solstice, a narrow beam of light penetrates the roof-box and reaches the floor of a chamber, gradually extending to the rear of a long passageway. As the sun continues to rise higher and higher, the beam of light expands to illuminate the entire room for a brief period of time. While archaeologists have classified Newgrange as a passage tomb, it is more fitting, however, to classify it as an ancient temple for it was a place of astrological, spiritual, religious and ceremonial, importance.

As we make our way back to Dublin later in the day, we make a brief stop at the Hill of Tara, an archaeological complex which acted as a sacral site for Kingship rituals and contains many ancient monuments. Once back in Dublin, you are free to enjoy the day at your leisure to visit Dublin Castle, Guinness Storehouse, the Jameson Whiskey Distillery, St. Michans Church, St. Patrick’s Cathedral and more!
(Overnight in Dublin at Hotel Charlemont)

site of Newgrange in Ireland

This morning we enjoy our final discussion with Phil, “Bringing Back the Boon”, where we will all share our experiences, describe the treasures we will be bringing back, and discuss how to keep our journey alive well after our return. Afterwards, we visit Trinity College at the University of Dublin which was founded in 1592 and is the oldest University in Ireland. Trinity is one of Ireland’s leading historical sites attracting over half a million visitors each year. The main heritage attraction is The Book of Kells, a richly decorated text book written in 800 AD. Also wonderful to see is the beautiful Old Library at Trinity College. Enjoy the remainder of the day to take in more of the sights and sounds of Dublin. Shop at the many fine shops for gifts and treasures, visit the National Museums or Gallery, or simply stroll throughout the city admiring the architecture and historical sites. In the evening we gather for our final Farewell Dinner to recount our fondest memories of Ireland with our new Anam Cara.
(Overnight in Dublin at Hotel Charlemont)

Interior of Trinity Library in Ireland

Today we bid our farewells to our new found friends and the beautiful “Land of Eire”. As the old Irish blessing goes, “May the road rise up to meet you. May the wind always be at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face, and rains fall soft upon your fields. And until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of His hand.”

enjoying Guinness in Ireland

Land of Myth and Mystery with Phil Cousineau

September 13 - 24, 2010

Tour Includes:

  • 11 nights accommodation at some of Ireland’s finest 3 and 4 star hotels
  • Arrival and Departure Transfers
  • Daily Breakfasts, 1 Lunch and 5 Dinners
  • Private Luxury Coach Transportation
  • Professional Driver/Guide Throughout
  • Ferry to Aran Islands
  • Hotel Taxes & Service Charges
  • Admission to all sites as per itinerary
  • All guide services as per itinerary


Added Features:

  • Travel with Author, Teacher and Filmmaker, Phil Cousineau
  • Daily Lectures, Discussions and Poetry Readings
  • Traditional Irish Entertainment
  • Evening Pub Crawls
  • Special Guest Speakers, P.J. Curtis and Dara Molloy
  • Pony & Trap Tour of Aran Islands
  • Bodhran Drum-Making Demonstration at Roundstone Music and Crafts with Master Bodhran Maker, Malachy Kearns

Tour Does Not Include:

  • Airfare to Ireland
  • Cancellation & Medical Insurance (ask us for a quote if your are Canadian)
  • Meals and drinks not specified
  • Cost to obtain valid passport
  • Any items of a personal nature such as laundry, drinks and telephone calls. Any item that is not specifically detailed on our website or in the final retreat itinerary.

Tour Price:

    • Double Room: USD $3,399 per person
    • Single Supplement: USD $600
Book this Journey
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