The Mythic Heart of Ireland with Phil Cousineau

A Pilgrimage into the Heart of Sacred Ireland September 21 - October 2, 2013

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 in a rich culture & landscape.

Captivating Ireland is still a land where mysteries are etched as runes within ruins. Treading the Irish mythic past today, we encounter a culture that embodies the preservation of its magnificent oral tradition, ancient rituals, romantic poetry and literature, and vibrant folklore and music. Our journey will take us to the cities of Galway and Dublin, the sites of Newgrange, St. Brigid’s Well and Clonmacnoise, the rugged Aran Islands, and more. We will enjoy discussions with Phil and talks from guest speakers to learn more about this incredible land. 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.”


A mythical journey hosted by an extraordinary person with deep knowledge, big mind, and a kind and commpassionate heart. Aho! Incredible energy and durability. Great!!Michael & Carol Hollander, Skillman, NJ


Amazing tour. Phil's knowledge of Irish Culture, History, Mythology, Music and Poetry were incredible. I can't imagine a deeper, more meaningful, more impactful tour. A. & J. Zimmerman, Redondo Beach, CA


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.

stunning 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 mythic heart of sacred Ireland.

phil cousineau in ireland
Our group in Ireland

Our spiritual journey will include visits to the towering Ireland Cliffs of Moher, the limestone moonscape of the Burren, Yeats’ 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. We will make a pilgrimage to St. Brigid’s Well and partake of scones at Lady Gregory’s Coole Park. We will tread Galway’s inspiring streets and travel back in time on a traditional horse trap across the Aran Island of Inishmore. Stroll through charming seaside villages and quaint country towns where the traditions of old are still very alive today.

See the Pottery Studio at Kylemore Abbey and visit the famous woollen factories at Clifden to see the Connemara sweater being made. 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.

trinity college library in dublin
Phil in Trinity Library, Dublin

Our Ireland adventure 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 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 spiritual Ireland can be revealed. We will also enjoy special guest appearances along the way including: One of Ireland’s leading authorities on Irish music, P. J. Curtis, leading expert on Celtic Mysticism, Dara Molloy, one of Inis Mor’s old “riders on the sea,” the fisherman, storyteller, and flute player, Paddy Mullen, founder of the beloved Clifden’s Art Festival, Brendan Flynn, Ireland’s most famous drum maker Malachy “Bodhrán” Kearns, as well as a special private tour at the Irish Film Center with manager Bertie Donlon.

connemara in ireland

On our travels, we will also have the opportunity to meet other wonderfully entertaining and knowledgeable locals to fully enrich our journey.

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 sacred travel program 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. 

Arriving early morning in Shannon you will be greeted by Phil Cousineau, your valiant tour guide, and taken by coach to Adare for a traditional Irish breakfast (on own). One of Ireland’s prettiest villages it owes its reputation to its setting in the woods among rich quiet farmlands by the River Maigue that runs through Ireland’s Golden Vale. (Driving time approx. 30 mins.)

After breakfast and a short walk around the village, we will continue on to the bustling country town of Ennis where we will lunch at The Poet’s Bar at the venerable eighteenth-century inn, The Old Ground Hotel, where W. B. Yeats and Lady Gregory used to dine. (Travel time approx. 45 mins.)

After lunch we will take a short drive to the majestic Cliffs of Moher which rise 700 feet above the Atlantic. From the Cliffs you can see the Aran Islands, Galway Bay, as well as the Twelve Pins, the Maum Turk Mountains in Connemara and Loop Head to the South. While on the windswept cliffs Phil will engage you in our first meditative writing exercise, and we will share our stories later in the day. (Travel time approx. 45 mins.)

After some traditional tea and scones at the visitor’s centre we will take you to the wonderful family-run Hylands Burren Hotel in Ballyvaughn, a traditional fishing and farming village on the west coast of Ireland. Here you will have the chance to refresh yourself from your long flight and prepare for our Welcome Banquet Dinner. After dinner we will amble down to the hundred-year-old Monk’s Pub, a short country walk out of town to listen to local County Clare musicians.
(Overnight in Ballyvaughn at the Hylands Burren Hotel or similar)

Adare 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. He will also discuss the megalithic culture of ancient Ireland, followed by a visit into the lunar landscape limestone world of the Burren. The Burren is a karstic plateau – a stony chaos to the casual observer – with a full assemblage of the curious landforms that characterize such limestone landscapes. Here we will visit the 6,000-year-old Poulnabrone megalithic tomb, engage in a contemplative writing exercise, and visit the highly regarded Burren visitor’s centre.

After a brief break we will drive to Kilfenora, City of High Crosses, and its cathedral dating back to 1152. Enjoy a traditional country lunch – featuring some of the finest fish and chips in Ireland – at Vaughn’s Pub.

After lunch we will drive to the ancient pilgrim site of St. Brigid’s Well, a small but powerful healing well, adorned with photos, letters and prayers from past pilgrims who believed themselves blessed by the waters. Here we will discuss the folklore surrounding holy wells, fairy mounds, and other local customs followed by a journaling exercise. (Travel time in total today approx. 1 hour.)

Tonight we will have the honour of a guest presentation by music historian, novelist, and raconteur P. J. Curtis, followed by live music by his own hand-picked musicians at one of the nearby pubs. We will also have the pleasure of watching a scene from the movie adaptation of P. J.'s novel The Road of Souls, which won him the Best Script award at the 2011 Limerick Film Festival. Enjoy dinner at your leisure this evening.
(Overnight in Ballyvaughn at the Hylands Burren Hotel or similar)

St. Brigid’s Well in Ireland

Enjoy full Irish breakfast this morning followed by a discussion with Phil on the Celtic Revival, inspired in the west of Ireland by the work of poet W. B. Yeats and Lady Gregory. Afterwards we will travel by coach to Thoor Ballylee (Yeats’ Tower), the former summer home of the great Irish poet, playwright and statesman, which inspired his long poem “The Tower”. While there we will read some of the bard’s poetry aloud on the old stone bridge that overlooks his famous tower. (Unfortunately due to flood damage Thoor Ballylee is no longer open to the public for admission.)

After a brief break for tea and scones (on own) we will visit Lady Gregory's Coole Park, an impressive monument to her incalculably important collecting of ancient Irish myths and legends. Coole Park was once home to Lady Augusta Gregory, dramatist, folklorist and co-founder of the Abbey Theatre Dublin with W.B. Yeats. Coole Park, in the early 20th century, was the centre of the Irish Literary Revival. Yeats, George Bernard Shaw, John Millington Synge and Sean O’Casey all came to experience its magic. Although the house no longer stands, one can still appreciate the surroundings that drew so many here.

Enjoy this afternoon at leisure to wander the magnificent grounds of Coole Park, which is one of the most contemplative sites in all of Ireland. We then continue to Galway, a medieval city that is rich in culture. A fine university city, Galway is also renowned for its vibrancy and enthusiasm for the arts, with much to offer visitors of all ages. Situated just minutes from Galway city centre, Salthill is a traditional seaside resort offering facilities to please young and old. Salthill's famous promenade is the perfect place to watch the sun go down on Galway Bay. (Travel time today is approx. 1 hr, 15 min.)

Enjoy dinner tonight (on own) in one of Galway’s many splendid restaurants or pubs. Optional evening visit to the Druid Theatre to see an Irish play.
(Overnight in Galway at the Hotel Meyrick or similar)

Yeats Statue in Ireland

After your full Irish breakfast this morning enjoy a talk with Phil on the history of Galway, followed by a walking tour in honour of James Joyce and his wife Nora Barnacle, of Galway city, followed by a visit to the Spanish Arch. After a traditional fish-n-chip lunch on Shop Street (at own expense), we will gather in the town square for an open discussion about how the “Irish saved civilization”. You will have the late morning to yourself to walk around town and listen to the street musicians and local poets. This afternoon’s excursion takes us to the enchanted ruins of Clonmacnoise, an early Christian site founded by St Ciaran in the mid 6th century. In honour of the fifteen hundred years of pilgrims who walked here before us, we will enter along the pilgrim’s trail to visit the three magnificent Round Towers and its Scriptorium.

After a brief tour by the local guides we will have a short discussion with Phil on the site’s role in how the monks “saved civilization” by copying many of the great manuscripts of antiquity. The original high crosses and a selection of early Christian graveslabs are on display in the visitor centre for you to peruse, and the long and varied history of Clonmacnoise is recounted in an audiovisual presentation shown in the visitor centre. There are also exhibitions that deal with the flora, fauna and landscape of the region to enjoy. Optional screening of Robert Flaherty's documentary, The Man of Aran, at the visitor's centre.

On the way home to Galway we will make a stop in Athlone to visit the dramatic, ivy covered ruins of Moydrum Castle, where U2 shot the album cover for “The Unforgettable Fire”. (Travel time today is approx. 2 hours.) Athlone, an ideal regional centre, commonly referred to as “the gateway to the west”, is the largest town on the River Shannon standing on the boundaries of the two counties of Westmeath and Roscommon.

Savour dinner tonight (on own) in one of Galway’s many fine restaurants or pubs followed by an optional walk along the city’s promenade, Shop Street, fabled for its wonderful buskers and bookshops.
(Overnight in Galway at the Hotel Meyrick or similar)

Clonmacnoise cross in Ireland

Your full Irish breakfast is followed this morning by a visit to the legendary Kenny’s Bookstore and Art Gallery, which will be highlighted by a personal introduction and discussion about the past and present state of art and literature in Ireland from its current owner, Des Kenny. This will be your chance to pick up the finest old and new Irish works, and to have some personal time with one of the most knowledgeable people in the land. After, we will transfer from our hotel to Ros a Mhil, near Spiddel in Galway. We will take the 1:00pm ferry to Inishmore, a stunning journey across Galway Bay, which until recently was made only by curraghs, wood and tar boats. (Transfer and ferry will take approx. 1 hour, 30 mins.)

We arrive at Inishmore, the larger of the three Aran Islands. Here, on the very edge of Europe, is an Island rich in the language, culture and heritage of Ireland, unique in its geology and archaeology and in its long tradition of gentle hospitality. Inishmore is a place to sense the spirit of Gaelic Ireland, but with all the comforts and facilities of the present. Aran will take you back to an Ireland of Celts and Early Christians. This is an island of great peace and tranquillity, but it is also an island of great fun and activity. Irish is spoken by most of the locals on the island.

Upon arrival we will take traditional horse traps across the island to the Kilmurvey House. Along the way we will stop at the stone cottage where Robert Flaherty made his 1932 film The Man of Aran. We will share our initial thoughts on the Aran Islands over dinner in town this evening at the wonderful Ostan Aaran, with optional live traditional music to follow.
(Overnight in Inishmore at Kilmurvey House or similar) 

Aran Islands view in Ireland

Enjoy full Irish breakfast at your hotel followed by a discussion with Phil about the history of the islands, including a discussion about the many Irish writers who ventured out to the islands to find their literary voice, including J. W. Synge and Oscar Wilde. Afterwards we will make the ancient hike up to Dun Aengus (Dún Aonghasa), a wildly impressive Iron Age fort perched on the very edge of Ireland – and Europe – with a 300-foot drop to the sea. While here we will enjoy some contemplative time and write in our journals.

After taking tea at the local café we will be met by the Celtic philosopher, author and guide Dara Molloy, who has lived on the island with his family for many years. Dara will lead us on a series of pilgrimages to a fifth-century clochan, a “beehive hut”, the Seven Churches, for centuries one of the biggest monastic foundations and centres of pilgrimage along the west coast of Ireland, and the site of St. Kieran’s fifth-century monastery. He will share some ancient Celtic prayers, songs and rituals to help us celebrate our visit. Dara will also arrange a special meeting with one of Inis Mor’s old “riders on the sea,” the fisherman, storyteller, and flute player, Paddy Mullen.

Experience dinner at Fisherman’s Restaurant (on own) this evening with a shuttle into town for live music.
(Overnight in Inishmore at Kilmurvey House or similar) 

Dun Aengus cliff top in Ireland

Following full Irish breakfast this morning depart for the ferry to the southern coast of Connemara. Witness the wild and rugged Connemara area. From the Twelve Bens mountain range in the north through lake-rich Roundstone Bog to the golden beaches reaching out into the Atlantic Ocean, you'll know you're in Connemara by the light that constantly changes the mood and tone of the landscape. Connemara has long been regarded as the real emerald of Ireland. Our trusty coach will lead you up “the brandy and soda road” to Roundstone Village.

Enjoy lunch at a local pub, and a personal tour of the I.D.A. Craft Centre, led by Ireland’s greatest drum maker, Malachy Kearns. Better known as Malachy Bodhrán amongst folk musicians, Malachy works at his craft of making Ireland's oldest product: the Bodhrán (Bow-Rawn). It is an 18" one-sided drum made from Goatskin treated by a traditional process. Malachy supplies the drums for Van Morrison, U2 and Christy Moore.

After tea we travel into the spectacular countryside of Connemara, which Irish poet John O’Donohue said “helps awaken and grace the beauty of the heart’s landscape”. (Travel time today is approx. 2 hours including ferry crossing.) Indulge in fresh seafood and traditional music this evening (on own) or join us for an optional discussion and storytelling at a nearby pub.
(Overnight in Clifden at the family-run traditional Foyle’s Hotel or similar)

Malachy Kearns drum maker in Ireland

Following full Irish breakfast at your hotel partake in a morning discussion with Phil on what the Irish call The Great Hunger, or the Famine, which took up to a million lives and led to the emigration of at least another million.

Afterwards we will drive along the Sky Road with a local guide who will lead us on a bracing hike along the lovely harbours around Streamstown Bay. From there we continue on to Kylemore Abbey, set in the heart of the Connemara mountains, the Abbey is 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. Visit the majestic Abbey reception rooms, video and exhibition and enjoy a stroll to the beautiful Neo-Gothic Church (under restoration) and Mausoleum where original owners are buried; browse in the Craft Shop; view Kylemore Abbey pottery as it is produced in the Pottery Studio.

In the afternoon we visit one of Clifden’s famous woollen factories where the Connemara sweaters are made, followed by a languorous walk along the Coral Beach, near Ballyconneely, where Phil lived for a year. There will be ample time for journal writing, sketching and discussion. (Travel time today is approx. 45 mins.)

After dinner we enjoy an early evening discussion with Brendan Flynn, founder of the beloved Clifden Art Festival, on the current state of the arts in Ireland. Afterwards, we will enjoy Phil's own talk at the festival on "The Influence of the Irish Language on American English". If time permits, an optional pub crawl in search of good Irish music.
(Overnight in Clifden at Foyle’s Hotel or similar)

Kylemore Abbey view in Ireland

This morning we fill up on a hearty Irish breakfast in preparation for a full active day in Westport, County Mayo, and a discussion with Phil on the 6,000-year-old tradition of Irish pilgrimage. The talk and breakfast will help us prepare for our ½ hour climb up to the first prayer station of Croagh Patrick, St. Patrick’s mystic mountain, where Phil will share a fascinating history of Ireland's patron saint. 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 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 over 5000 years from the Stone Age to the present day without interruption. After an exhilarating climb, we will pause for lunch at Westport’s Ardmore Country Hotel.

After lunch we travel by coach for about an hour to visit the Portumna Workhouse Museum, which vividly tells the story of the Great Hunger that ravaged Ireland in the mid-nineteenth century and the Poor Law Unions that sent thousands to seek employment in workhouses like this one.

Afterwards we travel cross-country to Dublin City. Dublin has all the attractions of a modern city, combined with the beauty and heritage of the past; elegant shops, hotels, galleries, art-house cinemas, coffee houses and a stunning variety of restaurants have sprung up on almost every street in the capital. Roughly half of the Irish Republic’s population of 3.6 million people live in Dublin and its suburbs. (Travel time today is approx. 4 hours, 30 mins.)
(Overnight in Dublin at The Hilton Dublin Hotel or similar) 

Croagh Patrick hill in Ireland

After a full Irish breakfast at the hotel, we take a coach transfer this morning to 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. 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.

Enroute back to Dublin, we pass the Hill of Tara for brief stop. The Hill of Tara (Irish Teamhair na Rí, "Hill of the Kings"), located near the River Boyne, is an archaeological complex that runs between Navan and Dunshaughlin in County Meath. It contains a number of ancient monuments and, according to tradition, was the seat of Árd Rí na hÉireann, or the High King of Ireland. Recent research claims that despite the rich narratives derived from mythologies, Tara was not so much a true seat of Kingship, but a sacral site associated with Kingship rituals. (Travel time today is 2 hours.)

Your afternoon is free to enjoy Dublin City Centre. We do suggest visiting Dublin Castle, Guinness Storehouse, Jameson Whiskey Distillery, St. Michan’s Church, St. Patrick’s Cathedral and much more! (on own). There will also be an optional visit to The Abbey Theatre, founded by Lady Gregory and W. B. Yeats, and later a stop by The Brazen Head, Dublin’s oldest pub, founded in 1198.
(Overnight in Dublin at The Hilton Dublin Hotel or similar) 

Hill of Tara ceremony in Ireland

Following your full Irish breakfast at the hotel, you will visit Trinity College this morning. Trinity College, the sole constituent of The University of Dublin, was founded in 1592 and is the oldest university in Ireland and one of the 7 ancient universities of England and Ireland. Trinity is also one of Ireland’s leading historical sites attracting in excess of 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. 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.

In the afternoon we have a special private tour at the Irish Film Center with manager Bertie Donlon. Late afternoon optional visit to the free National Museum of Ireland.

In the evening we gather for our final Farewell Dinner at Fire, near Trinity college, to recount our fondest memories of Ireland with our new Anam Cara.
(Overnight in Dublin at The Hilton Dublin Hotel or similar)

Dublin Trinity Library in Ireland

We enjoy our final full Irish breakfast at the hotel this morning as 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.”

Ireland, Slainte

The Mythic Heart of Ireland with Phil Cousineau

September 21 - October 2, 2013

Tour Includes:

  • 11 nights accommodation at some of Ireland’s finest 3 and 4 star hotels
  • Arrival and Departure Transfers
  • Daily Breakfasts, 3 Lunches and 3 Dinners
  • Private Luxury Coach Transportation
  • Professional Driver/Guide Throughout
  • Ferry to Aran Islands
  • Hotel Taxes & Service Charges
  • All guide services as per itinerary
  • Airport transfer on luxury coach with driver/guide on Day 12



Added Features:

  • Travel with Author, Teacher, Filmmaker, and host of the ten-part PSB series, Global Spirit, Phil Cousineau
  • Daily Lectures, Discussions and Poetry Readings with Phil
  • Traditional Irish Entertainment
  • Evening Pub Crawls (optional)
  • Special Guest Speakers: P.J. Curtis, Dara Molloy, Paddy Mullen, Brendan Flynn, and Bertie Donlon
  • 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 Shannon, Ireland and return from Dublin, Ireland
  • Cancellation & Medical Insurance (ask us for a quote)
  • 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 $3,699 per person
    • Single Supplement: USD $715
Book this Journey
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