Have you ever wanted to play Irish music? Sing Irish traditional songs? Join in Irish set dancing? Join us this week and spend each morning learning to set dance, play the bodhran or tin whistle, or sing Irish traditional songs. Explore the beautiful countryside and sights of the west of Ireland in the afternoons and evenings. Spend six mornings of your holiday at the Joe Mooney Summer School in Drumshanbo where you will have tremendous fun in whatever of these classes you choose. We’ve taken the classes and so believe us, you will enjoy them. You will meet people from all over Ireland. Many of these people travel every year to this quintessentially Irish town, united in their love for Irish music.
We’ll spend the afternoons visiting the beautiful countryside and sites around Drumshanbo, from Ballinagleara to Arigna in Leitrim, across to the wonderous megalithic tombs on the Bricklieve Mountains and also to the castles of County Sligo.
Our specific itinerary will be determined by the weather and by you. We will plan around a 4-day forecast so we can enjoy the outdoors, and explore places like Lissadel House (there’s a little ‘aside’ on this place below) or the Famine Museum when there is precipitation (a nice word for rain!). And the great thing about being with a small group is that we can be flexible. The summer days in Ireland are wonderfully long with beautiful evening light so we’ve got plenty of time to enjoy the area when class is finished.
Day 1, Saturday: Arrive into Dublin Airport We will meet you and make our way down to Sligo by bus or train. It’s simple and a great way to get into the rhythm of the country. From the station we’ll take you to your B&B or hotel to settle in and get over your jet lag so you’ll be refreshed for the full week ahead.
We’ll get you to the best place to eat and, if you’re up for it, get your holiday off to a good start by showing you around some of the best music pubs in town.
(If you’re arriving in earlier & spending a few days in Dublin, just let us know if you have any questions about Dublin and we’d be pleased to help. If you travelling to Sligo independently as a result we’ll give you all the information, including bus or train timetables that you need and meet you at the station.)
Day 2, Sunday: The dancing and music classes start Monday, so just because you can’t visit Ireland without visiting the evidence of our magnificent Neolithic heritage, we’ll start off on Sunday with a gentle walk the foothills of the Bricklieve Mountains. The highpoint of this walk is the Neolithic tombs found in these hills, the jewels of Ireland’s ancient history. There is a tremendous sense of awe in standing in these incredible structures which are over 3,000 years old. Time-permitting, we will join our friend Sue at Sathyai Sai Donkey Sanctuary, to see the great work she does rescuing donkey’s and ponies so they can live their lives out on this beautiful mountain with views stretching up to the great cliffs of Donegal.
A light lunch will follow and a chance to explore the lovely town of Carrick on Shannon, get a flavour of the area with a visit to the lovely Reading Room bookshop or a boat ride down the River Shannon. There may also be an option to see a game of Irish football, a game played in every parish in the country which has been played in Ireland for centuries. It is an indigenous game unique to Ireland but played across the globe in Irish communities. Even if you’re not a big sports fan, it’s a great way to be part of something which is central to Irish society.
We’ll finish the evening in Drumshanbo where there’ll be plenty of traditional Irish music in the pubs to whet your appetite for the week ahead.
The times of local church services will be available for those who wish to attend in the morning.
Day 3, Monday: Music classes start at10:00 a.m. You will be collected from your accommodation in a timely manner to ensure that we get you there in plenty of time to get yourself settled before the music begins. Classes finish at 1:00 pm and we will have lunch before exploring the town of Drumshanbo and the Arigna mountains. We’ll then walk part of the Miners’ Way over the mountains (very accessible) and finish up taking a tour of the old mines in the village of Arigna. It’s a fascinating window into an industrial age in what is otherwise a very rural, natural part of the country.
Day 4, Tuesday: Music or dancing classes again in the morning. You are now looking forward to the class as you realise you know the tune you’ve starting to learn on the tin whistle, or the rhythm you’ve beat out on the bodhran. After class we have lunch in one of the loveliest shop/pub in the west of Ireland and then head off to meet some local farmers and learn about the lives and issues facing small farmers in the west of Ireland.
Day 5, Wednesday: Music classes continue. By now you’re enjoying the experience and feeling that quiet sense of confidence that you’ve made it through the first days. You’ve met some great people, established friendships and had fun. You can feel yourself improving – you know the steps, you’ve learnt a few tunes.
After lunch we head off to Lough Key and the Rockingham Estate, ancestral home of the King-Harman family. The house was burnt down, with only their walls of their small church standing but it is a magnificent park and popular place to visit for local people. We’ll take a boat trip over to Castle Island, home of the McDermot Clan until the 17th Century. Time and energy permitting, we will take a walk along a bog and learn about this ancient source fuel and the conflicts involved in cutting turf, as well as the wildlife that depends on it. We will learn about the Crannogs of Lough Meelagh along the way.
Dinner in Carrick on Shannon that evening
Day 6, Thursday: After your classes today we will travel to Parkes Castle where we’ll be guided through this wonderful 15th Century Castle. You will learn the downside of doing a good turn – remember to ask why it’s not called O’Rourke’s Castle! The Castle sits on the edge of the Lough Gill. We will then take a boat out on the lake and travel to the Lake Isle of Innisfree, made famous by the poet WB Yeats.
Day 7, Friday: By now you’re getting confident in your new set dancing, traditional Irish singing or Irish instrument playing and you’ve had a busy week so after lunch, we will join up with our canoeing guides to take a meander down the lovely River Bonnet. This is a gentle canoe trip, accessible for those who have never been in a canoe before. You’ll see an aspect of the lush, green Irish countryside that will delight and relax you.
We’ll have you back in Drumshanbo for an evening of music around the pubs as the local musicians move into high gear. If you’ve been attending the tin whistle or bodhran classes, maybe you’re feeling confident enough to join a seisun?
Day 8, Saturday: The last day of class. With friendships made and contact details exchanged, having had fun and gained new skills, you’ll be making arrangements in your head for coming next year, and wondering if there are classes in your area to keep up your skills! This is your free day and you decide how you want to spend it, either ambling around Drumshanbo or taking a shopping day in Sligo.
Day 9, Sunday: We’ve explored lots of rural Ireland and now it’s time to see the Wild Atlantic Way. We’ll get our first glimpse of Benbulben, truly an iconic mountain and explore the world of that great poet WB Yeats and visiting the magnificent period residence of Lissadel House, former home of the Gore-Booth family (Constance later became Countess Markievicz, the first woman elected to the British Parliament & Minister in the first Irish Parliament). Expect to learn about the people who lived on the estate too 😉
It’s your last afternoon in the West of Ireland, so you decide if you’d like to finish off with a stroll along the beach at Strandhill followed by a relaxing seaweed bath (a guaranteed pleaser), or a walk up Knocknarea Mountain (a firm favourite for families in Sligo) to catch a fantastic view of the west coast as well as visit to Queen Maedb’s Grave – you decide. Either way, we’ll finish the evening in Sligo for fine food and great music.
Day 10: Monday: It’s the last day in the west so if you’re heading back for a flight we’ll make sure to get you on the best train or bus to get you to the airport on time. If you’ve got some time, we’ll have coffee at Kate’s Kitchen, which has the best scones in Ireland, and there’s a wonderful walking tour of Sligo town, parts of which date back to the 1400s (the town, not the walk!), plus we have an art gallery with a great collection of Jack B Yeats’ paintings as well as modern art for the more contemporary art lover. We can direct you to the Cat & The Moon, which has a lovely range of craft items for any last-minute gifts.
What’s included in the cost of your trip?
Your Bed & (sumptuous) Breakfast accommodation, all travel and excursions (as much of the extensive list above as we can!), all planned activities (so theatre tickets for the Drama Festival trip, or music/dancing classes at the Joe Mooney Summer School, or registration fee for the walking festival) and of course your wonderful guide.
Dates don’t suit?
We’re organising additional tours so, if the dates above don’t suit you, please get in touch with us.