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On arrival in Dublin Airport, meet with your driver and guide and depart for Northern Ireland.
En route you will pass through the town of Omagh, which is the scene of the horrific Omagh bombing. The Omagh bombing was a car bombing that took place on 15 August 1998 in Omagh, County Tyrone. It was carried out by the ‘Real IRA’, an IRA splinter group who opposed the IRA’s ceasefire and the Good Friday Agreement. The bombing killed 29 people and injured about 220 others. This was the highest death toll from a single incident during the Troubles. Telephoned warnings had been sent about 40 minutes beforehand, but they were inaccurate and police had inadvertently moved people toward the bomb. The bombing caused outrage both locally and internationally, spurred on the Northern Ireland Peace Process and dealt a severe blow to the ‘dissident’ republican campaign. The Real IRA apologized and called a ceasefire shortly after.
Continue on to the Ulster American Folk Park
The Ulster American Folk Park is located on the outskirts of Omagh town. The Folk Park grew up around the restored boyhood home of Judge Thomas Mellon (founder of the Pittsburgh banking dynasty). It has a permanent exhibition, called “Emigrants”, which explains why two million people left Ulster for America during the 18th and 19th centuries, The exhibition also tells the vivid story of the grim lives of 15,000 Irish vagrants and convicts who were transported to North America during the mid-18th century. The Ship and Dockside Gallery features a full-size reconstruction of an early 19th century sailing ship ~ similar to those which carried the convicts across the Atlantic. The park has more than 30 historic buildings ~ some of which are original, some are replicas. There are settler homesteads, including that of John Joseph Hughes (the first Catholic Archbishop of New York), churches, a schoolhouse and a forge. Costumed guides and craftspeople are on hand to chat and explain the art of spinning, weaving, and candle making.
Continue to Derry and check into your hotel.
Overnight & dinner, bed and breakfast at your Derry hotel or area.
This morning you will enjoy a Walking Tour of the Bogside with local guide
The Bogside area has been the setting for key events in Irish history and the struggle for Civil Rights including The Battle of the Bogside, Bloody Sunday and events surrounding The Hunger Strike. The Bog as it’s called by resident’s of the city has been transformed into a vibrant and modern area. The famous political murals of the Bogside Artists chronicling the history of the conflict, have made the are the most popular visitor attraction in the City. Your expert tour guide can explain the history of the area in detail and offer a unique insight into the ongoing Peace Process by providing the opportunity for groups to engage with political leaders from both communities who are directly involved in the process. You may also have the opportunity to speak to one of the artists of the Murals in the Bogside.
Visit the Museum of Free Derry
It was established in 2007 by the Bloody Sunday Trust to tell the story of the civil rights movement and creation of Free Derry in the 1960’s and 1970’s. It tells the story of the people of working class community from their point of view, who were most affected by these events. The museum currently has an archive of over 25,000+ individual items, which have been donated by local residents. When you arrive you will receive an introduction and a vivid account of the events of Bloody Sunday. The museum staff are on hand to answer any questions visitors may have about the exhibits and the events they portray, however the events and information speak for themselves, therefore leaving the visitors to come to their own conclusions. As you walk through the building you will see a collection of artefacts and documents, you can listen to audio taken on the day of Bloody Sunday and see some shocking photos of the events that unfolded. The museum is informative, interesting and memorable.
Enjoy lunch at a local pub or restaurant.
Finally today visit the Gasyard Heritage Centre
The Gasyard Heritage Centre incorporates a number of exhibitions including the Story of the Prisons exhibition which chronicles the story of the 1980 and 1981 Hunger Strikes and the wider story of the hundreds of political prisoners from Derry who were imprisoned during the political conflict. The exhibition contains rare artefacts and storyboards explaining the prisons situation from the beginning of the ‘Troubles’ right through the peace process. In addition the ‘Columba to Conflict’ exhibition charts the history of the Bogside from the early Christian period right through to the beginning of the Troubles.
Overnight & dinner at your Derry hotel or area.
This morning you will depart your hotel in Derry for Belfast.
En route you will travel along the Antrim Coast and visit the Giants Causeway
Encounter Northern Ireland’s favourite giant Finn McCool at the new Giants Causeway Visitor centre on the North Antrim coast which opened in the summer of 2012. According to legend Finn McCool created the Giants Causeway by building stepping stones to Scotland to challenge the Scottish giant Benandonner! The new Visitor centre explores the major themes of mythology, geology, landscape, ecology, culture and social history based on the UNESCO World Heritage site that consists of 40,000 basalt polygonal columns formed 60 million years ago after a volcanic eruption. There are various interactive exhibits and short video presentations within five designated interpretive exhibition areas and the self guided visit will culminate with a spectacular two minutes audio-visual projection of a volcanic eruption flowing over the walls and onto the floor.
Next enjoy lunch in the town of Bushmills.
Visit Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge
Carrick-a-Rede, on the Antrim Coast, is a spectacular rope bridge, which spans a chasm, 30 metres deep and 20 metres wide. Originally a seasonal working bridge for fishermen, it connects a small island to the mainland.Its construction once consisted of a single rope handrail and widely spaced slats, which the fishermen would cross to bring ashore salmon caught off the island. The single handrail was subsequently replaced by today’s two-handed railed bridge. Visitors bold enough to cross to the rocky island are rewarded with fantastic views. Underneath the bridge are large caves, which often served as a safe haven for fishing trawlers escaping from winter storms.
Continue on to Belfast and check into your hotel.
Overnight & dinner at your Belfast hotel or area.
This morning begin your time in Belfast with a Panoramic City Tour with local guide
A guided city tour is an excellent way to discover Belfast City. The tour will take in the leaning Albert Memorial Clock tower (Ireland’s answer to the Tower of Pisa) and the Opera House, which is one of Belfast’s great landmarks. Your tour will pass by the City Hall, the Opera house, The Crown Bar (dates from 1885), Queens University and the Botanic Gardens. You will also see the Harland and Wolfe Shipyard, where the Titanic was built and launched in 1912. Today you will not cover the Falls or Shankill areas as tomorrow you will get a more in depth look into both.
Visit Belfast City Hall
Belfast received it charter as a city in 1888. Its City Hall, designed by Brumwell Thomas, was built in 1896. Built in a classical Renaissance Style with Portland Stone, its centerpiece is a central copper dome 53-m high. Inside the visitor can see a winding stairs and reception rooms decorated with Italian marble. On the lawn outside there are numerous monuments to those who have contributed to civic life in Belfast. The central statue is of Queen Victoria, but also to be seen is the monument to those, from Belfast, who lost their lives on-board the ill-fated Titanic, which was built in the Belfast shipyards in 1912. You will also get to see the City Council chamber and it will be explain how the room is divided between the different parties.
Next visit Linen Hall Library
The Linen Hall Library is a truly unique institution. Founded in 1788, it is the oldest library in Belfast and the last subscribing library in Ireland. It is renowned for its unparalleled Irish and Local Studies Collection, ranging from comprehensive holdings of Early Belfast and Ulster printed books to the 250,000 items in the Northern Ireland Political Collection, the definitive archive of the recent troubles. During a tour you will get a glimpse into the rich history of this library. Starting in the main reception at the bottom of the curved Victorian oak staircase on the Library’s 2nd floor, discover the early history of the Linen Hall from its first tentative meetings in a pub, to its current residence in a listed Victorian linen warehouse. Learn about the early members of the Library, the swirling political climate in which it was established and the colourful cast of characters and trailblazers who set it up. The tour then moves through the vast archives held in the Library encompassing the Irish collection which is the most comprehensive in the world, the genealogical material and the internationally renowned Northern Ireland Political Collection.
This evening enjoy dinner in a local restaurant possibly joined by the ex Lord Mayor of Belfast, Máirtín Ó Muilleoir (subject to availability). Máirtín Ó Muilleoir is an Irish Sinn Féin politician, author and businessman, who served as the 58th Lord Mayor of Belfast for the 2013/2014 year. A graduate of Queen’s University Belfast, Ó Muilleoir entered politics in 1985, when he stood as a Sinn Féin candidate for the Upper Falls area, finishing as runner-up. Two years later in 1987, Ó Muilleoir won the by-election. During his time on the council, he started a number of legal actions against what he saw as discrimination by the Unionist dominated council, detailing these experiences in a subsequent book, The Dome of Delight. He was re-elected at the 1989 and 1993 local elections, retiring in 1997 to concentrate on his business career. In 1997, he became part-owner of the Andersonstown News, which subsequently developed the New York based Irish Echo. A fluent Irish speaker, he also has interests in other Irish and American businesses. He re-entered politics in 2011, when he was elected for the Balmoral area of South Belfast and was elected Mayor in June 2013.
Overnight, dinner, bed and breakfast at your Belfast hotel or area.
This morning you will enjoy a joint Falls and Shankill Roads walking tour. The tour will be facilitated by Republican and Loyalist ex-combatants offering a unique insight in the recent conflict. The tour will last 3 hours and you will spend 90 minutes in each community.
Enjoy lunch at a local pub or restaurant.
Next you will visit Clonard Monastery
The Redemptorist Monastery at Clonard stands on the interface between the Nationalist Catholic Community and the Protestant Shankill Road. The church is administered by the Redemptorist Fathers, with the current superior being Fr Michael Murtagh. However previously Fr Alec Reid lived and worshipped at the Clonard Monastery for almost 40 years. Reid played a pivotal role in the early stages of the peace process in Northern Ireland when he acted as an intermediary between the IRA and the Irish government. In the late 1980s, Reid facilitated a series of meetings between Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams and Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) leader John Hume, in an effort to establish a ‘Pan-Nationalist front’ to enable a move toward renouncing violence in favour of negotiation. Reid allowed secret talks to take place on the grounds of Clonard Monastery. Reid then acted as their contact person with the Irish Government in Dublin from a 1987 meeting with Charles Haughey up to the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998. Reid passed away in November 2013.
Next visit the Crumlin Road Gaol
Grasp the wonderful opportunity to experience the history inside the former prison, Crumlin Road Gaol which dates back to 1845. Closed in 1996, it also played a significant role during the troubles in Belfast. Designed by Charles Lanyon at a cost of £60,000, it was one of the most advanced prisons of its day and was built within a five sided wall on ten acres. It was the first prison in Ireland to be built according to the “separate system”, intended to separate prisoners from each other with no communication between them. The prison was designed to hold between 500- 550 prisoners but during the civil unrest in Northern Ireland especially during 1970′s as many as 900 prisoners were held here. The Gaol has now been turned into a major visitor attraction and conference centre. You will be able to take a tour of the prison and hear the varied history of the Gaol that dates back to 1845. You will be taken to the execution cell where 17 men were executed between 1854-1961. You will also be shown the Governors office and the restored cells of C wing. There will be an opportunity to walk along the underground tunnel that links the Gaol to the courthouse where the prisoners were led to the Gaol after being sentenced.
Overnight & dinner at your Belfast hotel or area.
This morning spend some time at the Corrymeela Retreat Centre
Founded in 1965, Corrymeela’s objective has always been and continues to be promoting reconciliation and peace-building through the healing of social, religious and political divisions in Northern Ireland. Corrymeela’s history is built upon committed work with individuals and communities which have suffered through the violence and polarisation of the Northern Irish conflict. Their vision of Christian community and reconciliation has been expressed through a commitment of promoting interaction between and building positive relationships among all kinds and conditions of people. You will enjoy a talk and hear details of the centre’s work over the last 40 years.
Enjoy some free time for lunch in Belfast City under own arrangements.
This afternoon transfer to Stormont Parliament Buildings for a behind the scenes tour with elected member Basil McCrea MLA (subject to availability) to see where the Northern Ireland Peace Process was brokered and meet some of the parties and key individuals involved. Your visit is capped off with a special private dinner in the member’s Long Gallery.
This morning transfer to Dublin Airport for your return flight home. Please be aware the travel time from Belfast to Dublin Airport is approximately 2.5 to 3 hours.