I went to Skellig Michael and it was better than Star Wars.

By Rebecca Dixon, Director of Sales & Marketing for Crafted Ireland.

I'm never anti for the sake of being anti, and in this case most definitely NOT anti-Star Wars. I mean, Luke Skywalker had me at "I care." I'm beyond thrilled at the attention that Ireland and Skellig Michael are receiving from their roles in the new Star Wars movies. My personal voyage to Skellig Michael, however, was perhaps my most life-enriching journey to date, and it was not about Star Wars or Luke Skywalker. It was one of awe and respect for the human spirit, dedication, perseverance and faith. I feel inspired to share a different view on the significance of this very special destination.

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The Skellig Islands lie about 8 miles off the southwest coast of Ireland in County Kerry. It is a journey itself just to get there. Only accessible to a limited number of visitors May through October, Skellig Michael, the largest of the Skelligs, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is carefully cared for and maintained to protect the integrity of its very deep and rich spiritual heritage.

The earliest reference in history to the Skellig Islands dates back to 600AD when the monks of St. Fionan's monastery chose Skellig Michael as their destination to achieve a greater union with God. This very remote location, one can imagine, was as far from civilization as they could find, and as high to God as they could reach. The result of their efforts was one of the most dramatic examples of the extremes of Christian monasticism. They lived a life of solitude and braved severe weather conditions and exhausting miles between the mainland and the island as they ventured to and from in tiny boats to bring food, supplies and materials for their settlement.

The devoted brothers would descend the 670 steps every morning to fish for breakfast and would spend the rest of the day praying, tending to their gardens and studying. Their huts, which are round on the outside and rectangular on the inside, were carefully built so that not even a drop of rain would enter between the stones. The well-preserved monastic remains have retained a strong spiritual after-life which appeals strongly to the human psyche. Today, visitors get a sense of the magnitude of the monks' sacrifice and dedication when they explore the island and get up close to what remains of the strategically constructed beehive shaped huts.

The monastic community may have moved to the mainland by the thirteenth century but the island continued to be regarded highly as a place of pilgrimage in the following centuries, and in the nineteenth century, two lighthouses were built on Skellig Michael, thus establishing its significance in Ireland's maritime history.

It's not only man, however, who contribute to the significance of the islands. Both Skellig Michael and the neighbouring Little Skellig, are internationally renowned as some of the most important sites for breeding seabirds in Ireland. The natural makeup of the islands provides a safe haven for immensely important populations of seabirds, where they can nest and rear their young. The surrounding Atlantic Ocean offers both rich feeding grounds and protection, keeping the islands free from predators.

The introspection that I found from my visit will live with me for years to come. I've awakened a force and I plan to return with a new hope. (Ok, So I'm not completely immune to the hype!)

Whether you are a Star Wars fan or interested in ancient architecture, history or early Christianity, contact us today for your own personal journey to Skellig Michael.

Crafted Ireland - the one to trust for the absolute best in luxury, leisure travel to Ireland | www.craftedireland.com

 

Sources sited: http://www.worldheritageireland.ie and http://skelligislands.com

Wishing you a Happy Christmas

May this Christmas end the present year on a cheerful note and make way for a fresh and bright New Year. Here’s wishing you a joyful Christmas and a Happy New Year with this holiday greeting from our team in Dublin, Ireland and the U.S., and former staff and interns from around the world who remain a very special part of the Crafted Ireland/Custom Ireland family:

Messages from your team in Dublin (Sara, Crothur, Sandra, Julie & Niamh); and from around the world: Celia, Francesca, Rebecca, Felicitas, Laura, Julia & Camille (not featured is Ciara who is now flying the friendly skies with Aer Lingus!).

We Give Thanks

Each day presents all of us with opportunities to be thankful and express gratitude, but it is so easy to get wrapped up in our work and the hustle and bustle of our daily lives and stop to reflect on the people and things that bring us joy.

At Custom Ireland/Crafted Ireland, we are thankful each and everyday that we have the wonderful job of being able to share the gifts of Ireland with you. To our clients, suppliers, partners and our own team who all make it possible: We are thankful for you!

As we enter this holiday season, a few words from our team as we express gratitude for the blessings in our lives... click on a photo to scroll through!

I love the idea of Thanksgiving – such a great thing to do – reflect and give thanks to the universe. I suppose we can do that at Christmas, or anytime really, but it’s lovely to have a special day to remind everyone.
— Niamh McCarthy, Accounts Manager
 

Crafted Ireland is the luxury, leisure division of Custom Ireland a leading Destination Management Consultants in Ireland. We've been welcoming groups to Ireland and delivering quality travel programs and memorable signature moments to satisfied customers for 21 years. Join our satisfied customers, contact us today and experience Ireland the way you always dreamed.

Ireland's Food Story Is Spreading Like Butter...

Photo by Kelli Tonnesen

...like creamy, delicious Irish butter made from milk of grass-fed cows that graze from fields of fertile, rich, clean Irish soil...

 Ok, so maybe I'm a little enthusiastic, and perhaps a little dramatic, but not without reason. I can speak from personal experience of the freshness and quality of meals while traveling across Ireland. Fresh-off-the-boat seafood near Dublin; farm-to-fork produce from the back garden of a favourite 5-star hotel on the west coast; or warm, brown bread self-baked at one of Ireland's famous cookery schools and farms - there's no shortage of exquisite dining from coast to coast.  Ireland can put a place on a plate like never before, and foodies from all over the world are coming to taste for themselves. Pure Irish products like Irish beef and butter are favourites among many, but whether you fancy an artisan experience, a fabulous food trail, a nature hike to forage for your own ingredients, a high-end dining experience served to perfection or a simpler pub meal near a warm, glowing hearth, you won't be disappointed by what Ireland can offer as a top food destination.

While I could certainly make a job of eating my way across Ireland and continue to tell you about it, I'd much prefer to allow you to experience for yourself. Crafted Ireland specialises in luxury holidays of Ireland crafted just for you. So tell me, what's your flavour? Groups and individual travelers are welcome. Contact me today at rebecca@customireland.com.

Rebecca Dixon is Director of Sales/Marketing for Crafted Ireland, North America

www.craftedireland.com
Agents contact Rebecca at rebecca@customireland.com

Now We're Cooking!

Ring of Kerry.jpg

Luxury travel and fine dining shouldn't be limited just because of special dietary requirements. Satisfy your passion for flavour and your taste for adventure on this gluten-free tour of Ireland. Savour luxurious, 5-star accommodations, fine gluten-free dining, an elite cooking class on a traditional Irish farm, an exclusive whiskey master class at the Jameson Distillery (where all whiskeys are gluten-free) and more.  Immerse yourself in authentic Irish culture, take in the scenic countryside and explore historic attractions as you journey from Dublin to Killarney on this unforgettable vacation. This tour caters to the gluten-free traveler, but is open to anyone with a taste for adventure.

gluten-free ireland
October 11-17, 2015
7 days/6 nights

Visit http://www.craftedireland.com/gluten-free-tours/ for full details.
Sign up for our newsletter today and receive a 10% off promotional code.
(Limited time offer. Some restrictions apply)

Let's Grab A Pint. It's National Beer Day!

Sláinte to our good friends in the United States celebrating National Beer Day! The Irish are known for producing (and drinking) many fine beers as well, and the team at Crafted Ireland Custom Tours is happy to enjoy them and join the celebration!

Brewing has a long history in Ireland. Fertile soil, abundant rain and cool temps provide the magical conditions for producing superb barley. Approximately half the alcohol consumed in Ireland is beer - and there are plenty quality beers from which to choose. Here are our favourites:

Crothúr Murphy, Managing Director:  "Ahem.... Guinness! Of course. Other than that probably a nice cold bottle of Tiger."

Sara Hosford, Business Development:  "Too many to choose from! Depends on the weather, the time of day, how many I'm going to have, where I am... and what mood I'm in... I do generally prefer trying local craft beers, however.  Here's goes: O Hara's Lager (so fresh!); Guinness (not so small I know but it's an amazing brand); Smithwicks (The visitor experience is brilliant!); and McGargles (my cousin works for them in New York and they are expanding fast... also quirky marketing and branding which I like!)

Niamh McCarthy, Accounts and Operations: "Hands down my favourite beer is Guinness. Delicious and (apparently) good for you!"

Rebecca, Sales/Mktg North America: "I'll have a Guinness, please. Any day. Any time. Anywhere. I'll even drink it out of a pint glass with no harp. It's sacrilege. But, true."

National Beer Day is an unofficial holiday celebrated by beer enthusiasts every year on April 7th in the United States. It marks the ending of prohibition in 1933 when legal beer sales returned for the first time after 13 years. National Beer Day continues to grow in popularity due to the American craft beer renaissance and regional breweries. For beer enthusiasts wishing to take a deeper look into the Irish way of life - a culture behind the beer - Irish pubs, some centuries old, are living tradition. Crafted Ireland Custom Tours offers a 7-night, off-the-beaten-path Irish Pub Tour that promises to immerse you in authentic character and history. On this vacation, you’ll enjoy more than a perfect, creamy pint of your favourite beer and stunning landscapes. You’ll discover a world with warmth, wit, heart and soul. Click here to start your adventure today: The Irish Pub Tour

 

 

 

 

What's At The End Of Your Rainbow?

Some say Ireland is famous for its rainbows. Some say for its pubs. - We say, "Have it both ways!" and give you a rainbow of Irish pubs.

If it's the gold you seek, look no further. You'll find a wealth of authentic Irish hospitality and charm on the other sides of these doors. Visit www.irishpubtours.com to begin your adventure.

Photos by MacMonagle and Fegan.

In an Irish Pub, the greatest works of art don’t hang on walls, but rather in the air itself.

You'll be surprised at the wonders that can unfold within one single square room. Doubling as a merchant since the 19th century, Curran's Bar in Dingle, Co. Kerry at one time "sold everything," - literally supplied every business in town from the local chemist and clergymen to the farmers and tailors (and everything in between). Generations later, pub-owner James Curran still marvels at the archive of billhead receipts safely stored for posterity's sake.  He's proud, and quite fond of the history piled on the shelves in that single square room that remains unchanged from the studs to the Valentia slate floor. And it's no trouble at all when those stacks of shirts, boots and hats need to be temporarily tucked away to make room for a lively impromptu sing-a-long or a bevy of thirsty patrons who want to chat for the night.

“There’s people come into me for a drink. And I get talking to them. And they’ll stay for the night. To just….to be talking.” says Curran in the opening sequence of the official trailer for The Irish Pub film which debuted last year in Ireland and North America. 

It’s stories like these that are brought to life in The Irish Pub film, that inspired Custom Ireland’s Managing Director, Crothúr Murphy, to create authentic and intimate pub tours of Ireland featuring many of the pubs from the film. So intimate, in fact, that many of the pubs visited on the tour will be opening exclusively for Crafted Ireland’s groups, outside of their normal business hours.

If you really want to understand the Irish way of life, these pubs, some centuries old, are living tradition. Listen to pub patrons spin colourful yarns and soon understand why Irish sweat­ers have achieved such fame. Or perhaps some fiddle and pipe players, modern-day wandering minstrels, will stop in and fill the room with traditional Irish folk music, leaving no choice but to dance a jig or sing along. In the swirl of this revelry, you’ll understand that here, in an Irish Pub, the greatest works of art don’t hang on walls, but rather in the air itself. 

Crafted Ireland’s Irish Pub Tours are a celebration of the pub and the publicans who run them. The journey takes guests on an off-the-beaten-path exploration of Irish culture and immerses them in authentic character and history – delivering more than a perfect, creamy pint of Guinness and stunning landscapes, but also a world with warmth, wit, heart and soul.

Click here to start your adventure today!

Memories of an Irish Pub TOUR. Or lack thereof.

Photo: Alex Fegan

Photo: Alex Fegan

Neo-Prohibitionists, please drop your leaflets! We’re not suggesting one should visit Ireland’s pubs for the purpose of inebriation. But if you really want to understand the Irish way of life, these plac­es, some centuries old, are living tradition. That many happen to serve fresh pints of glorious Irish beer is but a mere coincidence, albeit a very pleasant one. Listen to pub patrons spin colourful yarns and you’ll soon know why Irish sweat­ers have achieved such fame. Or perhaps some fiddle and pipe players, modern-day wandering minstrels, will stop in and fill the room with traditional Irish folk music, leaving you no choice but to dance a jig or sing along. In the swirl of this revelry, you’ll understand that here, in an Irish Pub, the greatest works of art don’t hang on walls, but rather in the air itself.  On a coast-to-coast pub tour of Ireland, you'll find more than stunning landscapes and perfect pints of Guinness under our rainbows. You'll discover a treasure filled with warmth, wit, heart and soul. Here are just a few pieces of that gold:

The Palace Bar, Dublin
 

Dublin - The Palace Bar
Established in 1823, it is one of Dublin's oldest and best-loved original Victorian pubs. Preserved in time, The Palace remains unmodernised and the same walls greet today's visitors just as they did almost 200 years ago.  The ornate stained-glass and high ceilings have peered over the shoulders of literary greats such as Kavanagh, Flann O'Brien and Harry Kernoff and countless other faces. Some regulars and some lucky enough to happen upon it by chance and stumble through its doors (more out, than in). The unpretentious walls hold decades of history and celebrations.  Known as a "conversation pub," and always filled with local characters and tourists alike, it would be a sin to miss great craic in one of the snuggest snugs in Dublin. 

M. O'Shea, Borris, Co. Carlow

M. O'Shea, Borris, Co. Carlow

M. O'Shea - Borris, Co. Carlow
Don't let the candy-striped facade fool you into thinking that some serious business doesn't take place at O'Shea's. Michael O'Shea, also known as "The Bossman" was a jack of all trades and knew a thing or two about giving the people what they want. Operational as a grocer-bar since the 19th century, patrons could pull up a chair to savor lengthy conversation over a creamy pint, or pop in for a quick restock of village staples: bread, coal, nails. His ledgers still hang above the bar - a chronicle of goods purchased and how much was paid. Today, it's the artifacts and odds-and-ends like the ledgers, hardware, machinery and old Wellingtons adorning the walls and ceiling that tell the stories of the past and breathe life into this rural treasure.

J. Curran Bar, Dingle, Co, Kerry

J. Curran Bar, Dingle, Co, Kerry

J Curran's - Dingle, Co. Kerry
You'll be surprised at the wonders that can unfold within one single square room. Doubling as a merchant since the 19th century, Curran's Bar at one time "sold everything," - literally supplied every business in town from the local chemist and clergymen to the farmers and tailors (and everything in between). Generations later, pub-owner James Curran still marvels at the archive of billhead receipts safely stored for posterity's sake.  He's proud, and quite fond of the history piled on the shelves in that single square room that remains unchanged from the studs to the Valentia slate floor. And it's no trouble at all when those stacks of shirts, boots and hats need to be temporarily tucked away to make room for a bevy of thirsty patrons or a lively impromptu sing-a-long.

Crafted Ireland offers a variety of guided trips to different regions; each includes a rather cushy package of quality hotels, meals, transportation, visits to iconic sites, the best pubs and, of course, all the craic. These pubs and more (many featured in the critically acclaimed documentary, "The Irish Pub") are included on our Pub Tours of Ireland. 

Drink in the beauty of Ireland! Start now by visiting www.irishpubtours.com.