Posts Tagged With: megaliths in Ireland

Paint, sketch & photograph in the Irish landscape

DSCF5625This is the latest update to the Wild Atlantic Tour (see details under “Tours”), which will be held in October 2015. We have added some interesting artistic and creative options, so that people who are interested can enjoy this component as we travel the Irish coast. Your leader Joan Slack, who is also an artist and avid photographer, will make sure we stop often and have time to capture the wild Irish seashore, mountains and rugged cliffs.

One of the participants in the tour, Dennis Robertson, is a painter, and will be taking many opportunities to do on-site watercolors. while he won’t be teaching, he welcomes others to join him in capturing the land through painting and sketching.

Denny graduated from Michigan State University, with a degree in Landscape Architecture in 1967, where hetook a required course in watercolor painting. Since then his interest in art has lead him, along with his wife Sue and family, to form Dillman’s Creative Arts Foundation, Lac du Flambeau, Wi. in 1978.The Foundation has brought internationally known instructors to northern Wisconsin to teach workshops in watercolor,oil, pastel, and many other topics.  Over 11,000 students have traveled to this  family lakeside  resort setting in the last 38 years. Denny enjoys painting along with some of the workshops when he has time. More often he is able to find time to paint when the classes are held off premise while the northern Wisconsin resort is taking a winter hiatus. They have hosted workshops in Bora Bora, cruises to many Caribbean Islands, Bermuda, Greece, Cuba, Costa Rica, several trips and travels from Paris and out of Rome.Traveling to Ireland has been a long time goal.


Categories: Ireland | Tags: , , , , , , ,

Irish archaeology in the Burren

Poulnabrone Dolmen

Standing proud in the stark landscape of the Burren Co. Clare, the iconic megalithic tomb at Poulnabrone is one of Ireland’s most photographed archaeological sites. Dating from the Neolithic period, this distinctive monument has revealed a wealth of information about the lives and burial customs of Ireland’s very first farming communities.

Poulnabrone is classified as a portal tomb by archaeologists, and there are approximately 174 of these monuments in the country. The majority are located in the northern half of the island, although outliers exists further south, especially in counties Clare and Waterford. The tombs generally consist of two large portal-stones defining the entrance and a back-stone, all of which support the roof-stone. The roof-stone can be of considerable size, with the largest example at Brownshill, Co. Carlow weighing circa 100 tonnes.

It is not known how these very large stones were moved and raised but it probably involved a combination of wooden rollers, ropes and man/animal power. It is possible that ramps of earth and stone were used to haul the large roof stones into place and some portal tombs have evidence for denuded cairns, which may have been used for this purpose.

Paulnabrone dolmen

Poulnabrone represents one of the very few Irish portal tombs that have been archaeologically investigated. This excavation, which was carried out by Ann Lynch,  uncovered the remains of twenty two people, sixteen adults and six children within the interior of the tomb. Of these bodies only eight could be sexed and these were equally split between males and females.

The bones were disarticulated and appear to have been placed within the tomb in a de-fleshed condition. This suggested a complex burial ritual, where the bodies were firstly stored or buried elsewhere until they decomposed. The bare bones were then transferred to the portal tomb for final interment. A number of the bones contained scorch marks suggesting that they had been held over a flame prior to burial, possibly during a purification ritual.

Poulnabrone tomb

Specialist analysis of the skeletal remains have given us a remarkable insight into the lives of these Neolithic people. They appear  to have experienced relatively short lives with only one person being older than 40. They also worked hard and were used to carrying heavy loads as evidenced by the arthritic condition of many of the neck and shoulder bones. Analysis of the teeth revealed that they suffered from periods of either malnutrition or infections, especially between the ages of three and six.

Evidence for violence was also encountered amongst the burial remains.  A depressed fracture, possibly caused by a stone projectile was identified in one of the skulls, while a broken rib bone may have been caused by an aggressive blow. Even more startling, a fragment of a flint projectile point, probably and arrow head was found embedded in a hip bone. There was no trace of infection or healing so the wound must have occurred around the time of death.

The radiocarbon dates from Poulnabrone indicate that the burials were deposited at regular intervals over a period of 600 years between 3800 and 3200 BC.  This suggests that the monument was probably a significant place of burial where only certain members of the community were allowed to be interred.

Artifacts Poulnabrone

A variety of artefacts, presumably representing grave goods, were also recovered from the burial chamber. These included a polished stone axe, two stone beads, a decorated bone pendant, a fragment of a mushroom-headed bone pin, two quartz crystals, several sherds of coarse pottery, three chert arrowheads and three chert/flint scrapers.

Thus the burial evidence from Poulnabrone has given us rare glimpse into the lives of our early ancestors. It appears that they endured a relatively tough existence, that involved hard physical labour, childhood illnesses, occasional violent attacks and early deaths.  Although only a small section of the community were deemed worthy of burial in the tomb, there is  little evidence for gender or age discrimination, with both male and female remains present as well as young and old. Prior to interment their  bones appear to have been stored elsewhere and this may indicate that they were venerated as ancestor relics. Why certain individuals were chosen to be buried in the seemingly exalted location of a megalithic tomb, however, remains a mystery.


Jones, C. 2004. The Burren and the Aran Islands:exploring the archaeology. Collins Press.

Waddell, J. 1998. The Prehistoric Archaeology of Ireland, Galway University Press

(originally posted by Irish Archaeology on Facebook) 

The Burren is a fascinating area, with many archaeological sites, and is included in our Wild Atlantic Way tours!

Categories: Ireland, Prehistoric art | Tags: , , , , ,

Wild Atlantic Way tour to Ireland!

Ireland and the Wild Atlantic Way      Culloo Rocks and St Brendans well (12)

October 8-15, 2015  (See a full color pdf at

Join us for a trip along the Wild Atlantic Way, which stretches for 1,500 miles along Ireland’s western seaboard. This trip will be focused on the southwestern part of the “way” where we will explore the history, culture, archaeology and secret places of this coastline. Kerry tourism states “Here, the ocean’s force has carved a coast of wild, raw beauty. Huge Atlantic rollers crash and churn, shaping jagged ocean crags, archipelagos and inlets, sea loughs, surfing strands, and the sheer granite walls of cliffs that are amongst some of the highest in Europe. Rare sea eagles circle over glacial mountains, dolphins leap the waves, seals bask on the shore, puffins nest on cliff faces and geese gather in great estuaries. And lighthouses safeguard sailors all the way up the coast “. It is with this splendor as our constant companion that we will explore, delve into the ancient past, and experience Ireland in a way you will always remember.

Ballycarbery (14)    DSCF5682

The trip will begin in Dublin, where we will learn about the culture and history with a walking tour and visits to several places of interest, such as the National Museum and Dublin Castle. The train will then take us to Killarney, and after a hike in Killarney National Park, we will travel to the Beara Peninsula. We will stay for several nights as we explore the coast, standing stones and circles, and legends in the landscape, such as the “Hag of Beara”. We will visit contemporary artists in their studios, see top notch art galleries, and attend a special performance by a local storyteller, or “seanachie”, Teddy Black. Tiny roads hug the shoreline, and the ocean turns hues of azure, grey, and cobalt blue as the weather changes throughout the day. The people we will meet will remain your best memories, and in many places called the “Gaeltacht,”, Irish is still the spoken language. You may often hear “Fáilte romhat isteach” meaning “You’re most welcome here”.

Ballinskelligs at Dusk (2)       DSCF5726-001


We then head to the Burren, further north on the Wild Atlantic way, watching for dolphins, eagles, and great beaches to walk and explore. Here we will enjoy the unique Burren landscape of limestone, visit ancient dolmens, and walk with a local guide to “off the beaten track”, magical places, such as holy wells and prehistoric cairns.  A highlight of our time here will be a day with award winning guide and author Tony Kirby. The Burren National Park is an area of outstanding natural beauty. Some of the highlights of the Park include the dramatically-buckled Mullaghmore hill, turloughs (seasonal lakes), great expanses of limestone pavement and stunning “wallscapes” (dry stone walls). Herds of feral goats are frequently spotted. The Park hosts the Burren’s renowned mix of wildflowers from the Alps, the Mediterranean and the Arctic. Our walk features nineteenth century potato cultivation ridges, a Great Famine relief road from the 1840s, a Stone Age megalithic tomb and impressive views of parts of Counties Clare and Galway. The outing includes incisive commentaries on the geology, archaeology, history, flora, wildlife and farming of the Burren.



Culloo Rocks and St Brendans well (8)     Ballachasheen (6)


All throughout our trip we will sample fresh seafood, hear local musicians, drive through brightly painted villages, and walk among monastic ruins and round towers. We’ll return to enjoy one last day in Dublin. We are offering a tour that begins and ends in Dublin October 20-31, which you are welcome to join if you would like to extend your travels in Ireland! ( details at or


 10/8   Arrive Dublin. Walking tour and visit to National Museum. Optional musical pub tour in evening

10/9   Travel via train to Killarney. Hike in Killarney National Park, then proceed to Beara. Stop at Gleninchquin Waterfall. Lodging in Eyeries

10/10   Day trip around the coast of Beara, with stops at stone circles, artist’s studios and galleries, Allihies copper museum. Dinner in Castletownbere and evening performance by storyteller Teddy Black

10/11 Day trip including Healy Pass, the Hag of Beara, standing stone, local artisans

10/12    Travel to the Burren along the coast. Ring of Kerry sites, such as Eightercua stone alignment, Staigue Iron Age Fort, and monastic sites Dysert O”dea and Kilmacduagh

10/13   Walking tour with local guide Tony Kirby in Burren, visits to many area attractions

10/14   Return to Dublin, visit points of interest. Farewell dinner

10/15   Depart

Please note: This tour will involve some hiking and walking on uneven terrain.

Your tour leader and guide:    Your tour will be led by scholar, artist and teacher Joan Molloy Slack, who will guide the tour and interpret the range of fascinating things we will see and experience, from rock art to Irish culture and contemporary art. She has been organizing and leading tours for 15 years to Ireland, Scotland, France, and Mexico as well as within the United States. She is a teacher and college instructor, a ceramic and fiber artist, (, and holds a Master’s Degree in Prehistoric Ceramics and Visual Art. Joan will bring her knowledge of art history, experience as a museum curator, and her passion for art and history to our daily excursions. As a firm believer in sustainable tourism, she also seeks out the best local guides, from historians to storytellers, so that we may hear and see through their eyes as well.  She is a dual citizen, Irish/American, and her family comes from a small town called Rathcabbin in Tipperary.  You can read about her travels and research in Ireland at

 “I began tour guiding 15 years ago through teaching college classes combined with tours in Art History to Mexico and Ireland. I also led independent travel experiences that included Ireland as well as Scotland and France, after researching prehistoric art and ceramics and attaining my Master’s Degree. My fascination with the people who were the first recorded artists, as seen in the cave paintings in France, or on ancient pottery designs or rock art carvings, continues to drive my desire to learn, explore and share my passion for what I have learned with fellow travelers. As I researched and traveled, I found that the best way to delve deeply was to seek out local guides, artists and historians who helped bring the stories of places alive. This never fails to create a rich, meaningful and life changing experience. Layers of story, place names, deeper meanings and human connection create a rich, multi-layered tour with memories that remain long after the travel is over.  I bring this element to all of my tours, and it makes all the difference in what feels authentic versus an overview, or a superficial tour. As an artist, teacher, art historian, scholar and adventurer, I am so looking forward to sharing amazing people, places and experiences with you!”

Comments from past tour participants:

“My travel experience with Joan leading the group was above and beyond my expectation. Joan’s research into so many areas of interest about the sites and folklore made the trip stimulating and insightful without being overloaded. She is a seasoned guide with great “in country” connections and a sincere love of the land she travels. I highly recommend Joan Slack as a tour guide. You will have a wonderful, memorable time. I did.”      J.H.

“Joan organizes her trips like she creates her art: beautiful, practical, and full of meaning. I’d never been on a group trip before.  Joan’s voyage to Orkney in Scotland was a joy, every day. It’s one of the very best adventures of my life.”   C. P.

“If you want dependability combined with unique experiences, attention to details and wonderful connections, this is a great tour to take. Each day has been planned for a balance of activities, a good pace and plenty of enjoyment. Joan’s background and knowledge really makes for a deeper understanding of everything we see.” K.M.W.

“If you have never been on a small group tour, go with Joan. If you have been with someone else, go again with Joan. Her planning, arrangements, and site selections are perfect! You will meet warm, friendly and local people from all walks of life with talents to share. I still have a Bridget’s Cross, made by Joe from our trip, hanging by my door. Happy travels!” A.H.

Our Vision: Each of our tours is unique and custom-designed, with a balanced mix of traveling, sightseeing, cultural encounters, and free time. We limit our tours to fewer than 20 people both for the freedom, flexibility, and camaraderie that small groups engender, and also so that guests may enjoy a more personal and authentic travel experience. We’ll show you the highlights and the unexpected. We usually spend more time in one place so that you won’t be constantly moving, and have time to get to know it. As small group your Tour Leader will have more time to spend with you and more time to share the personal insights that can add so much to your experience. This helps make your trip genuinely special and different from conventional tours, large buses, and too little time in one place.

Cost: The cost for this tour is $1675 per person.

What is included in the price:

-Lodging for tour dates at centrally located hotel and guesthouses. Price is based upon 2 sharing a room with your own bed if preferred. 3 people can share a room with 3 beds if available. There is an additional charge for single room- please contact us about the extra cost. Single rooms may have limited availability and are on a first-come, first served basis.

-All ground transportation, including buses, taxis, train and coaches in Ireland after arrival at hotel and until last day of trip

-Full Irish breakfast every day with tea and coffee

-All tour guides and admission fees, walking tours, and special events in itinerary

-guided presentations at site visits, and gratuities

-customized special events, tours, presentations and/or performances

Price does not include:

-lunches and evening meals (we have opted not to make meals all-inclusive due to personal preferences and dietary issues. This also gives people the freedom to explore and sample a variety of restaurants and cafes)

-travel to and from Ireland and any travel outside of tour dates. The tour begins and ends at the Dublin hotel: transportation by bus or taxi to/ from airport is not included

-insurance for health, luggage, transportation, cancellation/interruption. We strongly advise that you purchase travel insurance

-any extra or “optional” sightseeing, tours, taxis, or tickets, such as the evening pub tours

Please contact us at 715-277-4224 or 715-550-0858 with any questions or e-mail

If you are interested in joining us on the tour, fill out the attached forms and mail with your deposit of $500 (payable by check) as soon as possible to Joan Slack, P.O. Box 95, McNaughton, WI  54543. Space is limited, and registrations on a first come-first served basis. There will be a waiting list once the trip is full.  Balance ($1175) is due August 1, 2015. A day to day itinerary will be mailed to you, along with travel notes, reading suggestions, and information about sites that we will visit, closer to the tour dates.

Refund Policy

All cancellations must be in writing, and received before the deadlines listed below.  The following penalties may apply: Up to $100 charge plus any unrecoverable deposits, any unrecoverable payments to hotels, tour operators or transportation providers, up to August 1, 2015.  After August 1, 2015 – no refund will be allowed. The tour cost is per person based on currency valuations as of January, 2015. We will do everything possible to maintain costs and itinerary, but they are subject to change due to circumstances beyond our control or large fluctuations in currency values. The itinerary may be adjusted due to weather or provider conditions at our discretion.


From ancient stone cairns and stone alignments, monastic ruins and echoes of the past in the landscape, to spectacular beauty along the Wild Atlantic Way, let us help you experience authentic Ireland on a trip you will always remember!





To register please fill out the following information: Tour dates: ____________________





Address:____________________________          E-mail address:_____________________



Home Telephone #:_____________________Cell phone#:__________________________

Room preference:  Single Double Triple   Roommate(s) preference:____________________

Emergency contact: Name, relationship, phone, e-mail address:



Please list any food allergies or other health concerns.  Also, please list prescription medications you are using in case of an emergency. (Please use a separate sheet of paper)



The Tour Leader (hereafter referred to as “TL”), Joan Slack, gives notice that all

arrangements made by her as agent upon the express conditions that she shall not be responsible for any damage, injury, loss, accident, delay or irregularity which may be occasioned either by reason of any defect of vehicle, or through the acts of default of any company or person engaged in conveying the passenger, or in carrying out the arrangements of the tour, or otherwise in connection therewith, nor does she accept responsibility for losses or additional expenses due to delays or other changes in means of transportation or other services, due to sickness, weather, strikes, or other causes. The right is reserved to make such alterations, deletions, additions, or modifications in the itinerary, program, or accommodations as may be found necessary by the TL. While every effort is made to assure safety, the TL, and agents of the TL will not be acting in a supervisory capacity during the tour and accordingly do not accept responsibility for the activities or safety of participants.  In addition, TL shall bear no responsibility for medical or other expenses resulting from illness, injury, or accident which occurs on the tour. Participants are encouraged to be adequately insured, both for health and travel. No illegal drugs or firearms are permitted. Participants are expected not to deviate from the established itinerary without prior approval from TL. If for any reason a participant must leave the tour before completion, no refunds will be allowed. TL reserves the right to ask a participant to leave the tour due to behavior that may endanger the safety of the group.

My signature certifies that I have read the “Waiver of Responsibility” and that I agree to the

conditions thereof.


______________________________                     ___________________

Name                                                                           Date



For more information and taste of the tour:

Beara peninsula

The Burren

National Museum of Ireland

National Gallery of Ireland

Kilmainham Jail

Trinity College and The Book of Kells exhibit

Newgrange, prehistoric World Heritage Site

Dublin Literary Pub Crawl

Traditional Irish Music Pub Crawl

Over the Top Tours   See the Celtic Experience tour

Liddy Historical Walking Tours, Dublin


We hope you will join us!!

See a full color pdf at

Some photos courtesy of Dan O’Meara



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