Increasing Irish nationalism in the late 19th century led to an enhanced interest in traditional culture and arts and the romantic notion of Ireland as a land of epic warriors and malevolent fairies. A revival in the Irish language and traditional sports went hand in hand with the artistic and political movements of the time which were held in the shadow of increasing debate on Home Rule.
This tour offers a fascinating insight into the literary and aesthetic revival of Irish traditions which occurred during the late 19th and early 20th centuries and was championed by poet WB Yeats and his literary friends.
The private half-day tour begins in Galway where you'll be picked up at your hotel. You'll head out of Galway toward Thoor Ballylee, once the home of WB Yeats. The 15th-century fortified tower house enchanted Yeats so much he bought it for £35 in the early 20th century.
Your guide will explain what an important part Yeats played in the literary revival, publishing a series of books and poems relating to Irish folklore and fairy tales, and co-founding the Irish Literary Society as well as the Irish Literary Theatre, which was the forerunner of the Abbey Theatre in Dublin. The tower is a fascinating building to explore and also served as a filming location for the 1952 film The Quiet Man.
From here you'll continue on to Coole Forest Park, which was at the centre of the Irish Literary Revival movement as it was the home of Lady Gregory, another co-founder of the Irish Literary Society.
Although the house eventually fell into disrepair and was demolished, Coole is a delightful area of woodland at the heart of a globally important area of wetland, containing underground streams, springs and seasonal lakes. It’s a beautiful nature reserve which features in Yeats’ poetry, and supports a large diversity of mammals and birds, particularly waterfowl and whooper swans.
The woodland became a kind of sanctuary for writers during the Celtic Revival movement, and an ancient copper beech bears the names of those who visited. This is known as the ‘autograph tree’ and stands within a beautiful walled flower garden.
From Coole you'll continue on to nearby Loughrea where St Brendan’s Cathedral is described as a ‘treasure house’ of Celtic revival art, as it was decorated in its entirety by the Irish Arts and Crafts Movement of the late 19th century. It contains numerous remarkably beautiful elements which were designed by prominent Irish artists of the time but is particularly noted for its stained glass windows, bronze statues and the use of Celtic patterns throughout.
Once you have finished exploring the cathedral, you’ll return to Galway with your driver and guide.