It was a heavenly vision that led to a seven-year voyage. Around the year 500, a Celtic monk named Brendan set sail on a journey in search of Tir na nÓg – the Garden of Eden, the Land of Eternal Youth, and the Promised Land of the Saints. Some think he himself saw the apparition of Tir na nÓg, while others believe he was inspired by the account of a fellow monk who claimed to have had visions of it. His story became legend during the Middle Ages, translated into various languages and narrated in the tome Navigatio Brendani, where fact and folklore interweave. Scattered throughout the expedition are encounters with demons, damned souls, rebel angels, giant whales, a half-woman, half-fish sea monster, and more. Here we follow where St Brendan was said to have gone.
- Isle of Iona, Scotland. From the time of the druids in the 2nd century BCE to St Columba in the 6th century, this has been a sacred site. Its “archaic rock strata” from millions of years ago is believed to be a source of primordial energy. Today, its highlights are Saint Martin’s Cross, which stands about 5 metres tall; Saint Oran's Chapel, which was built in the 11th century; and Reilig Odhrain, a cemetery where Scottish kings are buried.
- Wales, United Kingdom. It’s time to discover this country from a new perspective… Explore the Wales Underground Trail! Take a tour deep within Eliden Mountain to see how electricity is generated, or head to Great Orme’s Head to peek at a Bronze Age copper mine. You can also drift along a river while reliving knights’ tales in King Arthur's Labyrinth.
- Brittany, France. Crisp crêpe pancakes, buttery gâteau Breton cakes, and lobster à l'armoricaine with tomato and garlic…The peninsula is known for its scrumptious dishes, a lot of it reeled in fresh from the sea. Thalassotherapy is also big here, where a combination of seaweed, sand, mud, air, and water can soothe muscles, trim the figure, and even break the smoking habit.
- Iceland. The youngest country in the world has an island which popped out of the sea as recently as 1963. Here, volcanoes lie beneath the largest ice cap in Europe, and geothermal springs remain warm even as snow swirls overhead. After walking around the National Parks tucked among waterfalls, mountains, and lava formations, visitors can go whale-watching.
- Greenland. Bring your camera. This is a place of rare sights, such as the sun shining through midnight and the Aurora Borealis flickering like emeralds in the sky. The awe-inspiring Ilulissat Icefjord is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, where the glimmering glaciers have been studied for years, shedding light on global warming and climate change.
- Virginia, United States. This is the birthplace of eight American presidents, a state steeped in history. There are numerous landmarks to discover, from the colonial era, the Civil War, and the time of the Native Americans. St Brendan’s trip ended at the Ohio River after he was stopped by a man who told him someone else would come to Christianise the nation.