Date: March 2023

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Glenveagh Music room
glenveagh harp

Drumshanbo & Keadue

carolans grave Carolan's Grave in Kilronan Cemetery

keadue harp
Amy posing with the Bogwood Harp in Keadue

Nobber & O'Carolan

harp gate

carolan statue

Trinity College Harp

trinity harp

Bunting Collection at Queens University Belfast

Collins Barracks, National MuseuM in Dublin
Carolan's Harp

carolan's harp



Music Music Music

westport session
William Jackson in concert

Kathy joined in a session in Donegal

john carty

Debbie & Cate play in one of our late-night harp sessions

lough allen session
Session at the Lough Allen

conor ward
Conor Ward gave us a lecture on the music of Leitrim and a few tunes in Lough Allen

penthouse session
Late-night tunes in the Penthouse at the Europa Hotel in Belfast

Grainne did an afternoon workshop on our "free" day in Drumshanbo

eleanor shanley
Grainne & Billy played a wonderful concert in Drumshanbo

dearbhfail finnegan
Dearbhail Finnegan (above) led the Meath Harp Ensemble in the concert in Nobber.

grainne & patrick
Patrick Davey and Grainne Hambly in concert at the Linen Hall. April (below) plays fiddle.
april playing fiddle

cormac & grainne
Surprise visit from Cormac DeBarra for our harp session in Dublin.

Harp Sightings All Over
wall hanging
The Harp Tavern in Sligo

wall hanging
Kathy poses with a 17K-euro Waterford cutglass harp in Dublin

harp clock
A harp clock in a shop window

harp in keadue
Bogwood sculpture in Keadue


The Harpers' Escape is produced by You Gotta Have Harp Productions, 11 Country Lane, Voorhees, NJ 08043. Phone: 856-795-7637.


Our 2019 tour Group Gathered at Carolan's Statue in Nobber, his birthplace, and then walked to a Special Harp Concert

kathy & dennis Harp Tour of Ireland 2019 Travelog

By Kathy DeAngelo, tour director

malahide castleIt's almost getting to be a tradition that our travelers get into Dublin earlier than the start of tour to visit friends, get over jet lag, or come from other vacation destinations. The Grand Hotel is in the seaside town of Malahide, where there's plenty to do, like walk up to Malahide Castle and its park. That's where Dennis and I were headed when we stopped in the Tourist Center and ran into Brenda and Pam, they had arrived that morning and were walking the town. Later that afternoon we ran into Debbie on the main street and back at the hotel Anna and Don. Before the evening was out we'd meet up in a lounge and have a few tunes! But early to bed because we'd head out the next morning for Donegal.

For some photo collages of our tour, click here.




From Dublin to Donegal

Long RoomDAY 1: Our first castle of the tour was Donegal Castle, after our long drive from Dublin. We'd be staying at the Mill Park Inn just outside of town and the castle restoration was amazing to see. Dennis and I had seen it when we were last in Donegal in 1979 and it was just a ruin then. Incredible work done.

highcrossThe castle was the home of the O'Donnell clan. It was built by the young chieftain Red Hugh O'Donnell about 1474. Red Hugh was at the center of the so-called Gaelic Confederacy, fighting the forces of Queen Elizabeth (the first one!). Thousands died, there was famine, the Spanish were drawn into it, but eventually the Gaelic order was defeated at Kinsale in 1601 and after the Flight of the Earls to friendlier lands Hugh O'Donnell burnt the castle to the ground rather than give it up. However it was given to Capt. Basil Brooke in 1611, who "modernized" it. Centuries later the Brooke family donated the crumbling castle it to the state, which was then British. Restoration began in the 1990s by the Office of Public Works.
Close by the castle was the ruins of Donegal Abbey, also built by the O'Donnell's and with a perfect view of the River Eske was a statue of Red Hugh O'Donnell. Our dinner was at the hotel and we had a lovely concert after dinner with William Jackson, whose family actually lived near Gweedore, where Billy still keeps the family cottage.It was a great start to the tour. No session after the concert this night as folks were still getting over jet lag.

DAY 2: We headed north in Donegal to the Glenveagh National Park with its faux castle created in the late 19th century and last owned by wealthy Philadelphian Henry McIlhenny before he gave the house and lands to the Irish state in the 1970s. Stupdendous views lakeside and then from the gardens. First stop during the house tour was the music room where we found a harp that sparked a lot of discussion. Was it, as the guide said, an 1820 Egan harp or an old Clarke harp from Syracuse NY as our New Yorkers claimed? Neither. Some digging with harp expert Nancy Hurrell later revealed that it was a Mallory harp. We must get Glenveagh to correct their inventory tags! After a lovely lunch at Glenveagh, we winded our way through Donegal. Not enough time to hit Doe Castle, as was on our itinerary, but we stopped in Dunfanaghy, on Billy Jackson's recommendation. A lovely little town with the best ice cream shop and great craft stores.

glenveagh gardensalice's restaurant
Above: in the gardens at Glenveagh and then at the great ice cream shop in Donfanaghy

slieve liag group
The group poses for a quick pic with the cliffs of Sliabh Liag behind them. The cliffs at Sliabh Liag make the Cliffs of Moher look puny by comparison. Can you spot the harp on the face of the cliffs? Our guide said he'd be working there for 30 years and never saw that harp, until we pointed it out!

slieve liagDAY 3: Sliabh Liag It looked like it was going to rain but we hung in there and had a fabulous visit to these scenic cliffs. It was misty but there were amazing views. We even spotted a harp on the face of the cliff while looking for the man's face that our tour guide told us was there.(see if you can find it in the adjacent photo.) After our scenic shuttle ride back down the mountain we boarded the coach and headed to the nearby Rusty Mackeral for a lovely lunch.


croagh patrickEveryone got to experience first-hand the freshest seafood, coming straight from the docks at nearby Killibegs. The seafood chowder was to die for!

The day was still young so we headed further west to Glencolumcille for our 2pm dance class at the Donegal Fiddle Summer School. What a treat! We had live fiddle music from Jimmy and Peter Campbell and dance instruction from Connie McElvey that got everbody moving. It was a lot of fun. But there was still more to do in Glencolmcille. After the dance class we went over and to the Folk Village and got a tour, lots of great photos and a chance to get stuff in their wonderful store.

Jimmy & Peter Campbellmarianne dancing
Above: Jimmy & Peter Campbell gave us great tunes to dance to. Marianne & Connie get a 2-hand dance going.

harvest time jig
Everybody gets in on dancing the Harvest Time Jig.

Glencolmcille Folk Village

folk village room

folk village cottage






Going to Drumshanbo

DAY 4: It wasn't on the itinerary, but since we had to go that way anyway, Seamus brought us to Drumcliff in Sligo to see the grave of Ireland's noted poet William Butler Yeats. Lovely view from there of Benbulben and then we were off for ABC, as Seamus called it, Another Bloody Castle! This time it was a windy way along Lough Gill to Parke's Castle.

parkes castle

parkes castle towerWe had a terrific tourguide at Parke's who brought the restored 17th century plantation castle to life with her stories about the history and local life and about how the castle was actually restored. The imposing castle had a commanding view of the lovely Lough Gill and one of its unusual features down by the lake was an ancient sweathouse, an "amenity" only popular in the northwest of Ireland. When the tourguide said it wasn't very big inside, Jody took that as a personal challenge and went in! We headed back to Sligo for lunch and some of us headed to the Harp Tavern for a pint and some soup and bread and more than enough harps decorating the walls to fill our harpsighting quota for the day!

jody in the sweathouseharp tavern


O'Carolan & Keadue

After lunch we headed to Leitrim and Drumshanbo, with our tour's annual stop at Kilronan Cemetery in Ballyfarnon, outside Keadue to pay our respects at the grave of Turlough O'Carolan. Keadue was hosting the Carolan Festival for the week and some of us were intending to go to the harp competitions the next morning. The bogwood harp sculpture greeted us on getting to Keadue. They take O'Carolan very seriously in Keadue, and we arrived at the tail-end of their O'Carolan festival. Some of us attended the harp competitions the next day.

It's only 10 minutes from Keadue to the Lough Allen Spa & Resort, which would be our home for 2 nights. We've been there on every tour. It's nestled at the southern point of Lough Allen with stunning views of Sliabh an Iarainn and the Arigna mountains. On checking-in, some wasted no time in scheduling spa appointments for the following "day off" from driving or going to the pool! We had another fabulous dinner that night and unbeknownst to her, Amy's family had called the hotel to order a birthday cake, which came out with dessert! Our after-dinner activity was a lecture from local music historian Conor Ward on the fiddle music and collections from Leitrim. It was fascinating! He gave us great handouts too.

DAY 5: A dozen of us went out to O'Carolan Harp Festival harp competition on Saturday morning and were just amazed at the quality of the playing from all the youngersters. Others did the spa or explored further afield along the roads and byways around Drumshanbo. Most of the harpers took the harp workshops in afternoon with Billy Jackson and Grainne Hambly, thanks to the harps they brought for us to play!  It was a full day for everybody but it wasn't over! There was a concert with Grainne and Billy after dinner and a lively session followed. There weren't any shy players in this group!alex&don

more sessions


nanas kitchenOn the Carolan Trail: Nobber

DAY 6: We set out Sunday morning for Carolan's birthplace, Nobber, in County Meath through the land of lakes that is Leitrim. Conor Ward had joked in his lecture that Leitrim had so much water that they sold land by the bucket! Dearbhail Finnegan greeted us as our coach pulled up to the Carolan park in Nobber. We took a group photo (shown at the top of this page) with the Bard. The park is surround by a musical fence and harp gate. What's tune on the fence? We walked down to Nana's Kitchen and sat down to a hearty lunch of soup, sandwiches, and bottomless cups of tea. We had "free" hour after lunch to explore the tiny village, rich in history going back to pre-Christian times. St. John's Old Cemetery next to the church-turned-arts center contained many Carolan-family graves.

meath ensembleWhat a sight when we walked into the George Eogan Heritage & Community Centre, formerly St. John's Church! A whole wall full of harps. Dearbhfail and her Meath Harp Ensemble treated us to a wonderful concert, including, naturally, many tunes by Turlough O'Carolan.

Following the concert we boarded the coach and set off for Belfast and we arrived at the Europa Hotel in the bustling city center before dinner. We had a sumptuous dinner at the hotel, followed by a small session.


Belfast & the Bunting Collection

DAY 7: Edward Bunting was just 19 when he was hired to write down the music of the old harpers at the 1792 Belfast Harp Assembly. He saved the ancient harp music of Ireland and the importance of his work cannot be underestimated. He spent the rest of his life collecting the music and published 3 volumes, which were widely pirated by others, including Thomas Moore. So we headed to Queen's University to the Special Collections reading room for an exclusive exhibition of Bunting's original manuscripts, notebooks and other related works mounted just for our group! Curator Louisa Costelloe and our own Grainne Hambly brought it all to life for us. Most of us admitted to being complete harp nerds and we were in seventh heaven. We had a very lively discussion.
The Royal Botanical Gardens were just next door and a few folks took a walk through them.

Queens has been digitizing the Collection. There is so much that has not been published yet. If you're interested in going through the manuscripts of Bunting and Patrick Lynch, the song collector Bunting hired, click here to access the online collection.



You can't do a tour in Belfast and not talk about the elephant in room: The Troubles and stormy social and political turmoil and erupted from the civil rights movement in Northern Ireland in late 60s. Our tourguide Seamus gave us the historical background on The Troubles while driving the coach through the Shankill and Falls Roads with their "Peace" walls. It was eye-opening for many on the tour who were unfamiliar with the real impact on real people, outside of headlines. On getting back to the hotel, everyone had the afternoon off to explore Belfast on their own until we met up again at 4pm at the historic Linen Hall Library. Belfast City Hall was 3 blocks from the hotel and proved to be a popular destination. The shopping district was also popular.

bunting concert finalerobert burnsThe Linen Hall Library, the oldest library in Belfast, not only had its own small collection of Bunting memorabilia, but it has the biggest collection of Robert Burns material outside of Scotland. And there was a McFall harp sitting right in the main lobby! Deborah Douglas gave us an excellent tour and had great anecdotes and stories: we couldn't help but notice the wonderful stained glass windows so she noted how they were removed during The Troubles and put in storage, lest they be damaged by bomb blasts. That tied right into Seamus' coach narrative earlier in the day. We ended the tour to take a quick dinner break so that we could come back to the Library for our exclusive daily dose of music: a special concert called Burns, Bunting & Belfast with Patrick Davey and Grainne Hambly and some special guests. Debbie Brewin-Wilson and Kathy D from the tour opened the concert with selections from Robert Burns. The young brother-sister duet of Myles and April then wowed the audience with their amazing playing on accordion and fiddle. Grainne Hambly & Patrick Davey did a number of selections, including O'Carolan tunes, and then had April and Myles back to join them on Patrick's well-known slipjig "Flying to the Fleadh." After the intermission, Patrick performed with singer/songwriter Gerry O'Neill, who ended by singing his song with the chorus "she was all right when she left here", about the Belfast-made Titanic.

april & myles performinggerry o'neill


Giants Causeway

giants causeway groupDAY 8: Our Tuesday was a "comfy shoes" kind of day as we drove up the Antrim Coast to the World Heritage site, Giants Causeway, created 60 million years ago by volcanic activity. The rock formation is the stuff of Irish legend, specifically Fionn mac Cumhaill (Finn MacCool). The weather mostly cooperated and when the clouds did part you could see Donegal off to the west and the coast of Scotland to the east, just 12 miles away. Stunning. While many hardy folks walked from the Visitor Centre down to the stones, Dennis and I opted to take the little shuttle and save our legs. We lunched in the Visitor Centre before departing on the coach. It was threatening rain so we opted out of safety concerns not to go to the Carrick-a-Rede bridge.After 10 minutes on the coach, the heavens opened up with a substantial downpour and confirmed our decision! We didn't have very much rain on the whole tour, but that afternoon was a doozy. Seamus took the coach to the Titanic Museum and left off anyone who wanted to brave the lines. Those who stayed said they were not disappointed. The rest of us went back into Belfast and everyone got the afternoon off to explore and have dinner on their own.

grainne at the europapenthouse viewA few of us, including Grainne, eventually ended up putting together a last-minute session, having gotten the concierge to find a space for us. He lead us up to the penthouse top floor of the Europa, with astounding views of the city.

Back in Dublin!harps in the barracks

Kathy with the Historic Harps (from left): Carolan's harp (c. 1700), Kildare harp (c. 1672), Sirr harp (c. 1700), Mullaghmore harp (c.1700)

Historic Harps Exclusive!

Day 9: We bade farewell to Belfast and headed to Dublin for our first historic harp stop at Trinity College. Three iconic things to see here: the famed Book of Kells and one of the most famous historic harps in Ireland, the Trinity College Harp (aka the Brian Boru Harp), housed in one of the world's most beautiful libraries, The Long Room. Located nearly adjacent was a display case with one of 12 remaining copies of the 1916 Rising's Proclamation.

harpsichordsAfter lunch on our own, we met up with the coach and Seamus took us for a tour of center city Dublin, where we saw a number of its famous squares, like Merrion Square with its colorful doors, and past St. Patrick's Cathedral. He pointed out all the sites we might want to explore "on our own". As usual, just listening to Seamus' stories and witticisms was a treat. We were en route to the Collins Barracks at the National Museum, just on the other side of the Liffey. For us harp nerds, this was the really big event. We walked with curator Jennifer Goff to the building where the harps are stored. The bonus of the day was that they had their harpsichord collection, the largest in Europe, out on view for a group earlier in the day! So while we waited for a crew to come and move one of them so the "harp area" could be opened, we got to see all these amazing instruments.

kildare harpcarolans harpPhotos: on left, Carolan's Harp; on right, the Kildare Harp.

This was an exclusive visit to see Ireland's oldest and most historic harps, which have been out of public view for decades. This was treasured access to these treasures and thanks to Jennifer for letting us in. We could see them up close and personal! Lots of oohs and aahhs as the vault was opened.. There was Turlough O'Carolan's harp, lying next to the c. 1672 Kildare Harp. The other priceless relics were: the Sirr or O'Neill harp (c. 1700), the Mullaghmore harp (c. 1700), the Cloyne harp fragments (c. 1621) and the Cloyne harp reconstruction, the Hollybrook harp (c 1720). You can read detailed specs and history on these harp at They also had Carolan's chair from the MacDermott Roe estate, where he died, up on the second level shelf

taking pix of historic harpsWe had to get to the hotel to check-in, otherwise we could have stayed in the museum all day; there was so much to see. We stayed at the Trinity City Hotel, which was just 2 blocks from the Trinity College and a handy walk to so much history. The group dinner was set at the hotel and we gathered for a fine meal and a session that followed. Pam Freheit regaled us with a poem she had written about the tour, which we absolutely loved! Harps were brought out after dinner and we were surprised with the arrival of noted harper Cormac de Barra, who hung out with us. He and Grainne wowed us with some lively Carolan tunes. Lots of songs were sung. This was not a shy group on this tour!

pam reading her poem

The Last Day

jeanie johnstonfamine sculptures

annie moore at epicDAY 10: The last day of the tour. Our final tour stops were all within walking distrance of our hotel, albeit across the Liffey. Our theme for the day was the Irish Emigrant. As we walked along the quay headed to the EPIC Museum, dedicated to the Irish diaspora, we were stopped in our tracks by the gaunt, ragged Famine sculptures reminding us about that sad history and giving us a preview of what made the Jeanie Johnston an important part of that story.

EPIC is a fantastic museum--voted one of the top 10 museums in Europe. It's a converted factory and you amble through great interactive displays exploring Irish history and how Irish emigrants have made contributions all over the world. When we left EPIC we walked just down the street to the Jeanie Johnston, the famine museum/ship. We had a terrific guide and spent time on deck and below decks, listening to her history and how, unlike other "coffin" ships of the era, the Jeanie never lost a single passenger. We were in sight of the Samuel Beckett bridge, aka the "harp bridge" and it was a lovely morning.

riverdanceAs we headed down the gangway to shore, everyone made their way to lunch and to have an afternoon on their own to explore the city. A group of us got tickets to see Riverdance, celebrating its 25 year, at the Gaiety Theater, just a 10-minute walk from our hotel. Dennis and I knew the young fiddler in the troupe, Haley Richardson. Others took in the museums, shopping and of course, the Guinness Storehouse (the Downhill harp is there!).

don jenkinsFinal Session: we all met up in the Trinity City Hotel lobby for our final session. Tunes were played. Songs were sung. Stories about the tour abounded. We apparently had another poet among us. This time, to everyone's delight, Don Jenkins recited his newly composed limerick about the tour. We sang the Parting Glass to close the evening and made our goob-byes. In the morning some of us would be headed off to the airport and some would be staying on in Ireland (Deette was going to the Fleadh!). We've made a lot of new friends and have a lot of great memories of a wonderful tour. I hope some of you can join us for the next one!

Kathy DeAngelo, You Gotta Have Harp



updated 10/21/19