Tours of Ireland - Monastic Sites Tour

The Monastic Tradition of Connacht

This Tour is available by group request only.  It focuses on the Monastic Tradition of Connacht and is designed and led by Dave Hogan, ecologist, historian, musician and brilliant guide. 

Anthony Previte’s books A Guide to Lough Corrib’s Early Monastic Sites, and A Guide to Connemara’s Early Christian Sites, are a rich resource for the tour having recently won the All-Ireland Heritage Award. Anthony will present on this tour if he is available.

Both men are known world-wide for their teaching and their books.  They invite you to come along as they step through significant sites of the independent ascetic monastic period, 400-1100, prior to the introduction of a diocesan system. Previte describes early monasticism in Ireland as having “a special uniqueness in the history of the Celtic church in that any organisation to do with finance, lands etc., was not governed by bishops but by the abbots of the monasteries.  … Against other parts of the Roman Empire world, there were no cities in Ireland so the life and economy was wholly pastoral and based around local tribes or little kingdoms.”

Such a tour requires a masterful guide who is knowledgeable about the life of monks who organized churches, centers of learning and produced artistic and scholarly works.. Dave Hogan is that guide, who also brings together all the fascinating and interconnected layers of Irish life and landscape surrounding this period.

A partial list of the monastic sites follows here. Some include round towers, beehive huts, bullauns, holy wells, graveyards, cross slabs and high crosses with ancient inscriptions:

-Clonmacnoise, founded by St. Ciarán in the mid-6th century and became a major Catheral City

-Clonfert Cathedral founded by Saint Brendan in 577 and at its height had three thousand monks

- Killursa (ca.620) and the magnificent ecclesiastical structure Ross Errilly (1270 origin) on the shores of Lough Corrib

- Cong Abbey – an architectural treasure with 13th century fragmentary cloister and 15th Century Monk’s Fishing House

-Kylemore Castle/Abbey – A breathtaking castle converted into an Abbey in 1920 has become the #1 tourist attraction in the west of Ireland.
Several island locations are included:

- Inchagoill Island: A church building attributed to St Patrick and his nephew Lugna.
The Stone of Lugna holds one of the oldest Christian inscriptions (5th-6th Century) in Europe

-Inishbofin Island:  St Colman’s Abbey built 668 (Colman was a monk of Iona and died on Bofin) and St Scaithin’s Hermitage

- Caher Island:  An ancient center for pilgrimage, with 6th century monastic settlement attributed to St Patrick

-Omey Island: A Christian settlement founded by St Feichin – 7th Century

Previte writes, “According to historian Paul Gallagher, between 575 -725 in Continental Europe, the Irish monastic movement had founded 113 monasteries and schools in France and Switzerland, 26 in Germany, 10 in Austria and 3 in the north of Italy”.

Every Irish Byways tour provides professional coach transportation.  Unique features of Irish Byways tours are the exclusive use of the best B&Bs with Irish charm in each area, a relaxed early morning schedule, the free time in Galway City, extended stays in the city of Clifden on the Atlantic Coast and two festive music nights!


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