Many of you may already be familiar with UNESCO World Heritage sites found on every continent of the world. But for others, while you may have seen “UNESCO” mentioned in a guide book or on National Geographic, you may not know exactly what UNESCO is or what it means to be a coveted UNESCO World Heritage site. And, more importantly for our Irish guests, you may not realize that Ireland has two of its very own UNESCO World Heritage sites to consider visiting on your Irish holiday with Killarney Guided Tours.

So what exactly is UNESCO and where are Ireland’s two World Heritage sites? UNESCO is the “United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization” formed in 1942 with its headquarters in Paris, France.  UNESCO's declared purpose is "to contribute to peace and security by promoting international collaboration through educational, scientific, and cultural reforms in order to increase universal respect for justice, the rule of law, and human rights along with fundamental freedom proclaimed in the United Nations Charter." (Fn. 1)  Ireland joined UNESCO as a full member in October of 1961.  To be considered a cultural site by UNESCO, the particular site must meet six criteria, including representing a masterpiece of human creative genius, exhibiting an important interchange of human values, bearing a unique testimony to a cultural tradition of a civilization, be an outstanding example of a architectural or technological ensemble throughout history or of traditional human settlement or interaction with the environment.  In Ireland, you'll find two of these cultural sites: Brú na Bóinne - Archaeological Ensemble of the Bend of the Boyne added in 1993 and Sceilg Mhichíl added in 1996.

Long before Luke Skywalker and Star Wars came to stake claim to County Kerry's monastic home of the puffins on what you'll often see called "Skellig Michael", UNESCO designated this remarkable island as as one of only two Irish World Heritage sites.  As described by UNESCO itself, "Sceilg Mhichíl illustrates, as no other property can, the extremes of a Christian monasticism characterizing much of North Africa, the Near East and Europe" and "is an outstanding and in many respects a unique example of an early religious settlement deliberately sited on a pyramidal rock in the ocean, preserved because of a remarkable environment." (Fn.1).  The only other cultural World Heritage site, Brú na Bóinne, is located 50 km north of Dublin City, with its three main prehistoric sites: Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth. Situated on the north bank of the River Boyne, this is Europe's largest and most important concentration of prehistoric megalithic art." (Fn.2) It's most well known site, Newgrange, is a 5000 year old Passage Tomb famous for the illumination of the passage and chamber of the tomb only on the Winter Solstice. (Fn.3).

In addition to the existing World Heritage sites, UNESCO has recognized seven tentative sites, any one of which would make memorable additions or destinations to consider visiting on your privately guided and chauffeured tours with Killarney Guided Tours.
  The seven tentative cultural sites are:

The Burren - The Burren, located in Counties Clare and Galway along the west coast of Ireland means "place of stone."  This is a glacially formed landscape with a very rich ecological presence, containing over 70% of Ireland's native flora." (Fn.1)  With thousands of recorded monuments in this vast area and a fossil-rich Carboniferious limestone bed, The Burren has long been of interest to geologists and historians alike. Said to be a "living landscape" which has been settled by humans for over six thousand years, The Burren is a landscape like no other place on earth.

Western Stone Forts  - Located in Counties Kerry, Clare and Galway, western stone forts are a subset of "cashels," single drystone walled settlement forms enclosing homesteads or farmsteads.  History based on archeologic excavations and early (AD 700-900) Irish documentary sources, deem these as royal sites principally residences of kings of Early Medieval dynasties. (Fn. 1). The majority of these architecturally impressive stone forts are located in the west of Ireland and many fine examples can be incorporated into your tour.

The Historic City of Dublin - UNESCO has chosen The Historic City of Dublin as one of the tentative World Heritage sites because "the development of Georgian Dublin was a significant moment in the history of the Age of Enlightenment with the establishment of the Wide Streets Commissioners and the founding of many charitable and public institutions, in buildings of high architectural quality." (Fn. 1)  UNESCO explained that "following the Restoration (1660) Dublin became the second city, after London, of the British Empire, with major development and expansion in the Georgian period (1714-1830) - providing the institutional buildings and infrastructure, and setting out the city plan substantially as it survives today." (Fn.1). As a visitor you can dive into not only the great history of the City itself, but the history of the people who hailed from Dublin who made truly extraordinary contributions to world literature such as three of Ireland's four Nobel laureates Yeats, Shaw and Beckett.

The Ceide Fields and North West Mayo Boglands - As described by UNESCO, the Céide Fields in County Mayo on the western coast of Ireland, comprise "a Neolithic landscape consisting of megalithic burial monuments, dwelling houses and enclosures within an integrated system of stone walls defining fields, which are spread over 12 km² of north Mayo." (Fn.1)  Constructed almost 6000 years ago by Neolithic farmers, the Fields demonstrate a "countryside that was systematically divided into regular coaxial field systems bounded by dry stone walls" and contain not only tombs but also dwelling sites. (Fn.1) The Ceide Fields stand with only three other Neolithic sites in all of Western Europe, including the famous Stonehenge and Ireland's Brú na Bóinne.

The Monastic City of Clonmacnoise and its Cultural Landscape is an early medieval monastic city in the centre of Ireland, located in County Offaly on the banks of the River Shannon. It is a significant location in the development of Atlantic Europe's urbanism and was an important trading location in early medieval Ireland. This peaceful site, a short drive from Athlone, is well worth a visit should your tour itinerary with us allow for it.

(6) Early Medieval Monastic Sites - UNESCO has chosen six early medieval monastic sites for addition to the tentative World Heritage list including one we discussed above, Clonmacnoise. The remainder are Glendalough, Durrow, Inis Cealtra, Kells and Monasterboice. These examples of early monastic cities have been researched by eminent scholars back to their foundations in the 6th century. (Fn.1).  As these locations are found in County Offaly (Clonmacnoise and Durrow), County Wicklow (Glendalough), County Clare (Inis Cealtra), County Meath (Kells) and County Louth (Monasterboice), chances are if you are on a multi-day tour with us you may be able to incorporate a visit to one or more.

The Royal Sites of Ireland - These five sites stretch out over five Counties in Ireland in Tipperary, Kildare, Westmeath, Roscommon and Meath. The Royal Sites were sacred sites and places of royal inauguration, bearing "exceptional testimony to Iron Age civilization." (Fn. 1).  Each site is situated on elevated locations in "largely pastoral landscapes and include hilltop locations with dramatic panoramic views, which contribute to a unique sense of character, spirit and feeling." (Fn.1) One of the more well known royal sites, Cashel with its Rock of Cashel, was the seat of the High Kings of Munster dating back to the 12th and 13th Centuries. (Fn. 3) Also known as St. Patrick's Rock, this Royal Site is conveniently located enroute from Dublin to Cork.

UNESCO recognizes the immense cultural significance each one of these locations has made to world history.  Incorporating one of the existing cultural UNESCO World Heritage sites into your tour with Killarney Guided Tours, as well as considering planning your Irish adventures to include a few of the seven tentative sites, will lead to an enriching Irish tour.  Let us help you plan your luxurious multi-day 2019 Irish adventure to combine UNESCO World Heritage sites and touring with Killarney Guided Tours for a historical and cultural experience like no other.


Fn. 1 www.unesco.org

Fn. 2 www.newgrange.com

Fn.3 http://www.cashel.ie