Ireland Peace Tour

Understanding Belfast’s troubled past, experience living history, and explore the city through the eyes of those who lived worked, and fought through these turbulent times.

Day 1 – Flanders Battlefields & the Aisne region of Northern France

Fly from Dublin to Brussels. Meet up with your tour guide, Ronan McGreevy, on arrival and depart for the Flanders battlefields. Your first stop is the First Shot Memorial at Casteau commemorating the story of Corporal Ernest Thomas of the 4th Royal (Irish) Dragoon Guards. Continue to Nimy Bridge to see the plaque dedicated to Maurice Dease from Coole, Co Westmeath, the first man to win a Victoria Cross (VC) in the war. Visit the memorial plaque to the 5th Royal Irish Lancers in Mons town centre which commemorates the liberation of the town on Armistice Day. Following lunch, we will visit the beautiful cemetery of St Symphorien where the first and last British fatalities of the war are buried. Time permitting, we will then depart for the Aisne region of northern France. The first stop will be Etreux where the 2nd Royal Munster Fusiliers were tasked with holding their ground at all costs in August 1914. We will then depart for the village of Iron. From here 11 British soldiers, six of them Irish, and a French civilian were executed during the war. Depart for Ypres. Check-in to your hotel for overnight.

Day 3 – Flanders Battlefield and the Somme

Breakfast at your hotel. Your first stop today will be at the 16th Irish Division Memorial at Wytschaete, commemorating the division’s capture of the Flanders village on 07 June 1917, the opening day of the Battle of Messines. Continue to the Island of Ireland Peace Park and visit the beautiful Irish round tower at its centre. This memorial is of particular significance as it was the first time Irish Catholic and Protestant soldiers united together to fight side by side against a common enemy. Continue to the Somme region to visit the memorial to the Tyneside Irish followed by Loughnagar crater which was blown up on the first day of the Battle of the Somme. The crater measured 300ft across and 90ft deep while debris from the explosion rose some 4,000ft into the air. Next visit The Ulster Tower, a memorial to the men of the 36th (Ulster) Division. Inside the tower is a small chapel with a number of paintings and plaques from the various towns and boroughs of Northern Ireland while at the entrance to the tower is a plaque commemorating the names of the nine men of the division who won the Victoria Cross during the Somme. Also see the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing where the names of 72,000 men who were killed in the Somme and whose bodies were never recovered from the battlefield are remembered including Tom Kettle, the Irish poet and politician. After free time for lunch, continue to the 16th (Irish) Division Memorial at Guillemont marking some of the bloodiest fighting of the whole Somme campaign. Visit the church where the Irish who liberated the village are remembered. Also visit Ginchy and Guillemont Road Cemetery before returning to Ypres for overnight.

Day 2 – The Lille sector & Menin Gate Memorial

Breakfast at your hotel. En route to the Lille sector you will visit Willie Redmond’s solitary grave and hear the story of his extraordinary life as an Irish patriot and MP. Willie Redmond was the brother of John Redmond, leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party. Drive to Rue du Bois in France. Here visit the site where Father Francis Gleeson performed the last general absolution of the Royal Munster Fusiliers, the subject of the famous painting by Fortunino Matania. Also visit the Le Touret Memorial to the Missing commemorating over 13,400 soldiers who were killed in this sector. Continue to Haisnes to visit St Mary’s Advanced Dressing Station, the grave of John Kipling and the new message board to the 16th (Irish) Division in the cemetery which commemorates the 532 men who died there during Easter Week 1916. Continue to the Lille sector where you will first visit Herlies where there is a new peace park to the Irish who died at Le Pilly in October 1914 and meet the friendly locals. After lunch, we will return to Ypres. This evening hear the Last Post performed at the New Menin Gate Memorial. This is one of the most visited memorials on the Western Front and stands in commemoration to the 54,896 missing soldiers in the area. Every evening at 8pm the noise of traffic ceases and a stillness descends over the memorial as the emotive “Last Post” is sounded in honour of these lost soldiers. Return to your hotel for overnight.

Day 4 – In Flanders Museum & Departure

Breakfast at your hotel and check-out. Visit John Condon’s Grave in Poelcappelle cemetery. Private Condon of the Royal Irish Regiment was from Waterford city. He is recognised by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) as the youngest British battle fatality of the war having died, according to them, at the age of 14. Then visit the Francis Ledwidge memorial, the only memorial to an individual Irish soldier on the Western Front, and walk the short distance to Artillery Wood Cemetery where the renowned poet from Slane, Co Meath is buried. Carry on to visit the new memorial at Boezinge to the Irish who died at Passchendaele which also remembers Fr Willie Doyle SJ from Dalkey, Co Dublin. After lunch, continue to Tyne Cot cemetery, the largest Commonwealth war cemetery in the world. Hear the stories of thousands of Irishmen who perished during the Battle of Passchendaele and whose bodies were never recovered from the battlefield including Fr Doyle and the man whose widow went on to become one of the IRA’s most effective spies during the War of Independence. Depart by executive coach to Brussels for your return flight to Dublin.