Stonehenge

CELTIC AND ROMAN HERITAGE

A three-week tour returning to the dawn of history in all four countries of the British Isles, to a time shrouded in fable and mystery and embodied in the ruins of King Arthur’s Tintagel Castle and Glastonbury Tor and Ireland’s Hill of Tara and Newgrange. The Romans left their indelible mark on the landscape, nowhere more evidently than in Hadrian’s Wall, northernmost boundary of the Roman Empire, and in the baths in the city of the same name.

DAY
1

On arrival at the airport you will be met by your driver guide who will take you to your hotel. If your arrival time permits you will then enjoy a short orientation sightseeing tour with your driver guide, taking in some of London’s most famous sights including The Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey and  Buckingham Palace. These buildings are said to stand on the ancient Isle of Thorns, traditionally regarded as a Solar site, where in Celtic times the Druids made their laws and taught the sacred magic of the trees.  In the evening take a ride on the London Eye for a fantastic bird's eye view of the city and beyond.   
Overnight in central London.

DAY
2

The Tower of LondonToday we will start our mysterious journey through Celtic and Roman Britain and Ireland by visiting sacred Celtic sites in London – the name itself is aid to originate from that of the legendary Celtic King Lud who rebuilt the city of Caer Lud before the Romans invaded and adapted it to Londinium.  This morning visit St. Paul’s Cathedral on Ludgate Hill, the original settlement of King Lud. The place is also said to be the site of the Roman Temple of the goddess Diana. Continue to the Tower of London, the medieval castle which houses the Crown Jewels. The White Tower in the Tower of London is said to have been the burial site of Bran's Head, an icon of  Celtic Mythology.  Today you’ll also visit the British Museum where you can see exhibitions connected with the Bronze and Iron Age in Europe, Roman Britain and Medieval Europe.
Overnight in central London.

DAY
3

Travel to Exeter, the most south-westerly Roman fortified settlement in Britain, stopping en route at Winchester, settled by the Celts in 150 BC then transformed by Romans in to the fortress of "Venta Belgarum”. During the Dark Ages it may have been the base of the legendary warrior King Arthur and in the remains of Winchester Castle is the world famous Mediaeval Round Table.  Continue west to see mysterious Stonehengean ancient monument with 5000 years of history - was it a religious temple, an astronomical clock, or a Bronze Age burial ground – or all three?
Overnight in the Exeter area.

DAY
4

Enjoy a short visit to the capital of the ‘English Riviera’ Torquay – then on to Plymouth – Francis Drake’s base during his fight against the Spanish Armada - before heading into Cornwall, a county that abounds in ancient Celtic legend to this day!  On Bodmin Moor visit Dozmary Pool, thought to be the bottomless lake where, in Arthurian legend, King Arthur threw Excalibur and a lady's hand rose to catch the magical sword, before returning to the depths. Continue to the ruins of Tintagel Castle, legendary birthplace of King Arthur, spectacularly located on the craggy North Cornwall coast, a place also connected with the Welsh legend of Tristan and Isolde. Overnight in the Exeter area.

DAY
5

GlastonburyTravel north to Glastonbury, the mystical Isle of Avalon where legend says the Holy Grail was hidden centuries ago. Drink from the sacred well and walk up Glastonbury Tor, the mysterious hill said to be an entrance to the Celtic Otherworld, before visiting Glastonbury Abbey, the lovely medieval ruin where King Arthur and Queen Guinevere are said to lie buried. In the afternoon travel to The City of Bath, with its thermal springs, once a sacred spring dedicated to a Celtic goddess, then developed by the Romans. Visit the Roman Baths and Pump Room and see the city’s wonderful Georgian architecture before travelling on to Wales – one of the few places where a Celtic language is widely spoken. The Welsh symbol of the Red Dragon owes its origins to Arthurian legend.  Overnight in the Cardiff area.

DAY
6

In the morning sightseeing in the Welsh capital followed by a visit to the open air St Fagans National  History Museum of Wales . The museum, which explores all aspects of how people in Wales have lived, worked and spent their leisure time, features many historic Welsh buildings and exhibits which have been relocated to the site, including a reconstruction of a Celtic village. Overnight in the Cardiff area.

DAY
7

After breakfast enjoy a visit to the remains of Caerleon Castle, possibly the site of Arthur's palace and from whose battlements it was possible to see the Bristol Channel. Continue to nearby  Caerphilly Castle - one of the great medieval castles of western Europe and the largest in Britain after Windsor. At the time of its building in the late 13th century, it was a revolutionary masterpiece of military planning.
Travel west to Pembroke this afternoon for a ferry to Rosslare in Ireland. 
Overnight in the Wexford area.

DAY
8

Start our tour around Ireland  where Celtic culture developed for more than 1000 years. Here, the only country in Western Europe not conquered by the Roman Empire, Christianity encompassed pagan Celtic religion creating a unique Celtic-Christian heritage.  Our trip begins in the beautiful medieval city of Kilkenny with a visit to its Castle. Then travel to the wild Mountains of Wicklow and visit Glendalough, home to one of the most important monastic sites in Ireland. Overnight in central Dublin

DAY
9

GlendaloughA full day’s sightseeing in Dublin, including Trinity College, with the most beautiful medieval illuminated manuscript the Book of Kells, St Patrick’s Cathedral, St Stephen's Green and the small Cúchulainn's statue in the window of the General Post Office. Cúchulainn was the most popular hero of Celtic myths. In the afternoon visit a modern legend - the Guinness Storehouse.
Overnight in central Dublin.

DAY
10

Celtic crosses play a special role in Irish culture and today we travel west to visit the Celtic monastery at Clonmacnoise and see the oldest High Cross in Ireland. Clonmacnoise is also a royal town and the last king of Ireland Rory O’Connor was buried here in 1198. Continue to the Hill of Tara, the sacred royal centre of Ireland and seat of the High Kings and on past the Hill of Slane, the place where St. Patrick lit the first Paschal Fire announcing the arrival of Christianity, to the mysterious and awe-inspiring Neolithic ceremonial sites of ancient Ireland: Brú na Bóinne, (Newgrange) and Knowth..
Overnight in central Dublin.

DAY
11

After breakfast head north to the impressive  Cúchulainn's Stone. According to legend Cúchulainn, fatally wounded, tied himself to this standing stone so that he could stay upright and face the opposing army. Even after his death, Cúchulainn's enemies would not approach the stone for fear he was still alive.
Arrive in Armagh, the “spiritual” capital of Ireland for over 1500 years and the seat of both Catholic and Protestant archbishops and significant for its prehistoric monuments. Then we visit the Navan Centre, the ancient Emain Macha of Irish history and legend and the earliest capital of Ulster. 
Overnight in central Belfast.

DAY
12

In the morning travel to the northeast coast of Northern Ireland to see the fantastic Giant’s Causeway -  about 40,000 interlocking  basalt columns, the result of an ancient volcanic eruption. Later visit one of the oldest whiskey distilleries – the famous Bushmills  before an afternoon walking tour of Belfast city centre. 
Overnight in central Belfast.

DAY
13

Travel to Larne for the ferry to Stranraer, Scotland. Head north east to Glasgow for a short sightseeing tour and a little free time.  
Overnight in central Glasgow.

DAY
14

Travel north along the shores of picturesque Loch Lomond and beautiful Loch Fyne to the historic harbour town of Inverary before a scenic mountain drive and then walk takes us to the hill of Dunadd. The ancient royal seat of Dunadd was the capital of the kingdom of Dalriada (Dal Riata) established by the Celtic tribes of Scots, who invaded from Ireland in the 5th century AD. The tribe was eventually to give Scotland its name. Next travel north through Kilmartin Valley, one of the richest archaeological landscapes in Scotland and home to an astonishing array of 5000 year old stone circles, cairns and forts.
Overnight in the Oban area.

DAY
15

IonaToday we travel by ferry, first to the wild and unspoilt mountainous island of Mull, and on to the sacred Isle of Iona to explore on foot accompanied by your guide. Visit  one of Scotland's most historic and venerated sites, lona Abbey, originally built by St Columba who brought Christianity to Scotland. It is a celebrated Celtic Christian centre and the burial place of early Scottish kings.  The Abbey and Nunnery grounds house one of the most comprehensive collections of Christian carved stones in Scotland.
Overnight in the Oban area.

DAY
16

Travel east along Loch Lochy and mysterious Loch Ness with a visit to the ruins of Urquhart Castle – the settlement of the Picts – a pre-Celtic tribe.  Then a cruise on Loch Ness followed by a visit to the fairy-tale 14th century Cawdor Castle with its three beautiful gardens, the oldest dating from around 1600.  
Overnight in the Pitlochry area.

DAY
17

This morning we head for Blair Castle, the ancient seat of the Dukes and Earls of Atholl. The castle enjoys one of Scotland's finest settings in the heart of Highland Perthshire and is famous for Europe's only remaining private army which has its headquarters at the castle. Then enjoy a visit to Blair Atholl whisky distillery to discover how a single malt Scottish whisky is made.
Continue to Scone Palace, the crowning place of the Kings of Scotland. In the 9th century Kenneth MacAlpin, King of Celtic Dalriada, after defeating the Pictish King Drostan established himself as the first true King of the Scots. Overnight in central Edinburgh.

DAY
18

A full day’s sightseeing in Edinburgh starting at the Castle, which sits in a prominent defensive position and dominates the city, providing amazing views in all directions. The Castle is home to the Scottish Crown Jewels and the famous Stone of Destiny, the ancient coronation seat of the Scottish monarchs.  Afterwards enjoy a walk along the medieval Royal Mile to St Giles' Cathedral with its famed crown spire and on to the Palace of Holyroodhouse, closely associated with Scotland's turbulent past, including the life of Mary Queen of Scots who lived there.  
Overnight in central Edinburgh.

DAY
19

Roman SoldierTravel south with a stop at Rosslyn Chapel whose enigmatic carvings, from the Green Man to the famous Apprentice Pillar, are steeped in stories of the Knights Templar and the Holy Grail.  Afterwards visit Melrose Abbey, a Gothic abbey known for its many carved decorative details including likenesses of saints, dragons, gargoyles and plants. Our journey then takes us back into England to see some of the most outstanding remains of the Roman Empire - Hadrian’s Wall, a remarkable stone and turf fortification built by the Romans across the width of what is now Northern England. Along the wall were many mystical sites beloved by Roman soldiers. Overnight in the York area.

DAY
20

Half day sightseeing in York a city noted for its magnificent city walls. As Roman Eboracum  this was the capital of the British interior. Afterwards the Angles moved in, and the city was renamed Eoferwic and served as the capital of the Kingdom of Northumbria. The Vikings captured the city in 866, renaming it Jorvic, the capital of a Viking  kingdom in Northern England. Finally in around the year 1000, the city became known as York.  Head south to London visiting Cambridge – home to one of the oldest universities in the world - en route.
Overnight in central London.

DAY
21

Free time in London, transfer to Heathrow airport.

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