Planning a school trip to Ireland? From Joyce’s Dublin to ancient monasteries and the ‘wild’ beauty of the West Coast, our travel team shares some of the places you shouldn’t miss during your school trip to the land of the thousand welcomes, ‘Céad míle fáilte’:
Exploring Literary Dublin
Leopold Bloom, the main character of James Joyce’s Ulysses, roamed Ireland’s capital Dublin on 16th June 1904. Bloom’s rambles are still remembered every year with events around the city on that very day, known as Bloomsday.
While definitely the most high profile, Bloom hasn’t been the only literary character to explore Dublin. In fact, Dublin is a UNESCO City of Literature and has been home to extraordinary writers, from classics like Oscar Wilde, Jonathan Swift and James Joyce to celebrated contemporary authors such as Anne Enright and Sally Rooney.
Ireland has also produced four Nobel Literature Prize winners: WB Yeats, George Bernard Shaw, Samuel Becket and Seamus Heaney.
From the cobbles of Trinity College and St Stephen’s Green park to the General Post Office which bears the scars of the 1916 Rebellion… Dublin is a city best explored on foot and the perfect starting point for your school trip to Ireland. You can also explore Dublin’s literary genius further at the Writers Museum.
Glendalough Monastic City
Just an hour away from Dublin, we find a very different kind of ‘city’: the old monastic site of Glendalough.
In the heart of the Wicklow Mountains, Glendalough is one of Ireland’s oldest and most important monastic settlements. Founded by Saint Kevin in the 6th century, this Early Christian ecclesiastical site would become a thriving ‘monastic city’ and centre of knowledge by the 10th century.
The Normans destroyed the monastery in the 13th century but many spectacular structures such as the Round Tower, Saint Kevin’s Church and the Cathedral remain so visitors can imagine the life of monks in the peaceful and stunning surroundings of Glendalough and its lakes back all those hundreds of years ago.
An easy walk around the monastic city and to the upper lake is highly recommended to appreciate the beauty of this special place.
Another important and spectacular monastery from this period is Clonmacnoise, on the banks of the River Shannon. It was founded by Saint Ciaran in the 6th century and was one of the leading centres of learning not only in Ireland but in the whole of Europe.
It was such an important place it became the burial place of the Kings of Tara. Today visitors can explore the monastic site admiring its magnificent high crosses, round towers and Early Christian graves as well as the ruins of the cathedral and several churches. Another must-see for your school trip to Ireland.
Kilkenny is Ireland’s best preserved medieval city, as well as one of the country’s artistic hubs.
Walking the city’s Medieval Mile from Saint Canice’s Cathedral and its 9th century round tower all the way up to the magnificent Kilkenny Castle, you will encounter some of the city’s most important buildings and travel back in time through 800 years of history.
The imposing Kilkenny Castle, originally built in the 13th century, is the best place to learn about the history of the city and the building, as it changed and evolved, adapting to the times.
The Burren and the Cliffs of Moher
Following the Wild Atlantic Way on the coast of County Clare, we find The Burren and Cliffs of Moher, which is one of Ireland’s four UNESCO Global Geoparks and a region of unique geology, history and landscapes.
The Burren, from the Irish name ‘boíreann’ means ‘rocky place’, and this rocky patch of land was created by glacial activity hundreds of millions of years ago.
However there is much more to what meets the eye, the Burren is a place of phenomenally rich biodiversity, where you can find over 1100 plant species (three quarters of the total of the plants found in the whole of Ireland) and 20 different types of butterflies for instance.
The Burren is also home to incredible archaeology and historic monuments such as megalithic tombs known as dolmens and stone forts; as well as one of Ireland’s most dramatic and iconic landscapes: the Cliffs of Moher. The Cliffs of Moher are one of the most visited attractions in Ireland and definitely one not to miss on your school trip to Ireland.
Connemara and Kylemore Abbey
The whole Atlantic Coast of Ireland, from North to South, is a constant display of stunning landscapes, each of them more spectacular than the next.
North of Galway city, Connemara is a place of extraordinary beauty and wonderful scenery: from the shorelines of the Atlantic coast dotted with little villages to the lakes and boglands of Connemara National Park with its changing colours.
Connemara is also one of the places in Ireland where you still hear Irish spoken, as it is an Irish-speaking region or ‘Gaeltacth’.
In the heart of Connemara lies the fairytale-esque Kylemore Abbey and its Victorian walled gardens. The Abbey was founded in 1920 by a community of Benedictine nuns that escaped from Ypres in Belgium, during World War I and settled in this remote part of the West of Ireland.
Newgrange and Brú na Bóinne
Built in the year 3000 BC, Newgrange passage tomb is the most spectacular Neolithic monument in the Brú na Bóinne, the Valley of the Boyne.
This UNESCO-listed valley is home to over 90 Neolithic monuments, including Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth; and it is Europe’s largest concentration of prehistoric Neolithic art.
It is a valley of incredible and fascinating history as well as many mysteries. What inspired those who built Newgrange still remains unknown for instance and how 5000 years ago they managed to design this passage tomb in a way that sunlight would perevery winter solstice, 21st December, sunlight would perfectly align to enter the chamber.
Each year on the winter solstice December 21st a single shaft of light pierces the monument through a perfectly placed window box at the passage entrance, glowing in a golden path all the way to the burial chamber at its heart. How such astronomical accuracy was achieved so many millennia ago is just one of this intriguing valley’s many mysteries.
The Giant’s Causeway
Another unmissable place for your school trip to Ireland is the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland, also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. According to legend these 40,000 basalt columns in perfectly hexagonal shapes emerging from the sea were built by the giant Fionn Mc Cull to solve a feud with a Scottish giant.
Science has an equally fantastic explanation for this phenomenal landscape, as the columns were formed by volcanic activity over 60 million years ago.
These are some of our fantastic school trips to Ireland:
We hope you find this blog useful for your school trip to Ireland, talk to the JWT Schools travel experts for advice and to start organising your tour.Contact Us