Ireland

Cliffs of Moher

Stop #20:

Located in County Clare, the Cliffs of Moher run for about 14 km and are 400 feet high. From the cliffs, you can faintly see the Aran islands in the background. On the day that we were there, winds were so strong that it was hard to even get out of or into the car. We had to keep shifting our weight from one foot to the other to make sure we didn’t get blown over! You can see in one of the photos how the winds coming over the top of the cliffs carried raindrops in the opposite direction from which they had just fallen!

Galway

Stop #18:
Galway lies on the River Corrib near the Galway Bay. It is Ireland’s fourth biggest city. This city seemed to me an arts center with great nightlife in pubs and clubs with live music almost anywhere we went. There are medieval town walls, shops hocking Claddagh rings, and busy streets and sidewalks with lots of energy. We went to one bar called Tribeton, which may be the nicest bars I’ve ever seen. The pictures of the Spanish Arch are not that great because there are sand bags in front of the Arch because of all of the heavy rains in Ireland this winter.

Donegal Castle

Stop #17:
Donegal Castle sits right in the city center of Donegal Town. Fully restored in the early 1990s, the castle consists of a 15th-century rectangular keep with a later Jacobean style wing. You can see in some of the pictures the River Eske. The castle was the stronghold of the O’Donnell clan, Lords of Tír Conaill and one of the most powerful Gaelic families in Ireland from the 5th to the 16th centuries. It was constructed in 1474.

The keep has odd square shaped windows at the top which make this castle quite unique.  It also has one of the most spectacular stone fireplaces called the Brooke Fireplace located in the Great Hall.

Carrowmore Megalithic Cemetery

Stop #16:

Link to Wikipedia

Carrowmore is one of the four major passage tomb complexes in Ireland (see also Bru na Boinne). It is located at the geographical centre of the Cúil Irra peninsula 3 km west of Sligo town.  It is also one of the largest (in terms of number of monuments) complexes of megalithic tombs in Ireland dating to approximately 3700 BC.  The weather broke from the time we arrived until we departed, so we had the benefit of deep color from the rain and bright sunlight when the clouds shifted.

Old Mellifont Abbey

Stop #13:
Mellifont Abbey was a Cistercian abbey in County Louth, Ireland. Founded in 1142 had one hundred monks and three hundred lay brothers by 1170. The abbey became the model for other Cistercian abbeys built in Ireland, with its formal style of architecture imported from the abbeys of the same order in France; it was the main abbey in Ireland until its dissolution.

I found a 3-D sketch of the abbey online that I thought was pretty neat:

Bru na Boinne

Stop #12:

Link to Wikipedia

Brú na Bóinne means Palace of the Boyne or Mansion of the Boyne. It contains one of the world’s most important prehistoric landscapes dating from the Neolithic period, including the large Megalithic passage graves of Knowth, Newgrange and Dowth as well as some 90 additional monuments (the photos are of Newgrange). The archaeological culture associated with these sites is called the “Boyne culture”. UNESCO designated the site in 1993.

Humans settled the area at least 6,000 years ago, but the major structures date to around 5,000 years ago.

We saw Neolithic mounds, chamber tombs, standing stones, henges and other prehistoric enclosures, some said to date from as early as the 32nd century BC. The site predates the Egyptian pyramids and was built with sophistication and a knowledge of science and astronomy. Each year, during winter solstice for about 20 minutes, a beam of light shines directly through an opening in the front entry of Newgrange and travels all the way through a narrow opening that leads to the far side of the chamber.

See also Carrowmore Megalithic Cemetery.

National Library of Ireland on The Commons – Newgrange (photo from the early 1900s before the site was cleared)

 

Kilkenny

Stop #8:

So I thought Kilkenny looked familiar, but I thought it was because I was getting good at recognizing Georgian Architecture! Imagine my surprise when Randy spotted a picture of a red and yellow door that he was sure I also had in an older portfolio. So I now realize that I returned to Kilkenny with Randy after visiting there about 5 years ago while on a work trip!

Cahir Castle

Stop#6:

Cahir Castle is one of the largest castles in Ireland. It sits on an island in the river Suir, which explains why much of the park near the castle was flooded by recent rains. It was built from 1142 by Conor O’Brien, Prince of Thomond. Located right in the town centre, the castle is very well preserved.

The site for the castle is a former native fortification known as a cathair (which means “stone fort”). The core structure of the castle dates to construction in the 13th century by the O’Brien family.

The Great Hall, which has been beautifully restored, was partly rebuilt in 1840. You can see the panoramic photos I created of this hall in this portfolio.

Blarney Castle

Stop#5:
Blarney Castle is a medieval stronghold near Cork and, incidentally, the River Martin. Though earlier fortifications were built on the same spot, the current keep was built by the MacCarthy of Muskerry dynasty beginning in 1446. I did not kiss the Blarney Stone after hearing all the stories of how people have done disgusting things to it. The Stone of Eloquence (better known as the Blarney Stone) is located at the top of the castle, where tourists literally hang upside-down over a sheer drop to kiss the stone, which is said to give the gift of eloquence.

The highlight of the visit is strolling through beautiful gardens, which are spectacular even in the dead of winter. Blarney House was not open when we visited, but it is the more recently built (1874) mansion on the property.

Cork, Ireland

Stop#4:

Cork actually means “marsh”. With all the rains in Ireland this year, I can see why! The city is a University town split into a few islands by the River Lee.

Viking invaders expanded the area around 915, and Prince John, Lord of Ireland, granted the city’s charter in 1185. Like many European cities, Cork city was once fully walled, as you can see in some of the photos.

We saw Cork in the evening after a day packed with visits to the Ring of Kerry and various castles and we stayed at a very nice hotel central to the city. We also had beers at the Oliver Plunkett, where lively Irish music was performed in the background.

Ring of Kerry

Stop#3:
The Ring of Kerry is a 179-kilometer-long tourist route in County Kerry, Ireland. We drove the route counter-clockwise to avoid being on the outside lane on all the cliffs that plummeted to the sea (Ireland drives on the left side of the road)! If you ever drive this road, be prepared for a harrowing experience. Somehow, the speed limit is 100 km/hr, but you feel like you are about to risk your life at 60 km/hr, so there must be much better drivers in Ireland!

On the trip, we encountered high winds, hail, snow, sleet, rain, and just about every other form of precipitation you can think of. Gratefully, we drove this road during the least likely day for packs of tourists to be traveling all over the place. This meant we had most sites to ourselves. Maybe it was cold, but it was a small price to pay!

King John’s Castle

Stop #2:

King John’s Castle is a 13th-century castle located on King’s Island in Limerick, Ireland. The River Shannon runs in front of the castle, and with the heavy rains, much of the park surrounding the castle was flooded. The site dates back to 922, when the Vikings lived on the Island. The castle gets its name from King John, who ordered the construction of the castle in 1200. Well preserved, this Norman castle still maintains original walls, towers, and fortifications.

Bunratty Castle

Stop #1

Bunratty Castle is the most complete and authentic medieval castle in Ireland, located not far from Shannon. Built in 1425 it was restored in 1954. With an ambitious itinerary and a burning desire to get to the Ring of Kerry, we didn’t visit this castle for long. And the rain certainly made it hard to drag out camera equipment.

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