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.


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


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

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


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.

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.

Budapest, Hungary

Stop #25

This was my second visit to Budapest, with my first visit about 15 or so years ago.  The city is as beautiful as I remember it, but this time it felt like there were a lot more tourists.  I was probably too ambitious about seeing as much as possible in the day and a half that we spent there, clocking just about 22 miles on my iWatch in one day!  But I’ll have great photos to remember this city for the rest of my life, so it was a small price to pay!

There are three additional portfolios for Budapest and the links are below.  I wanted to capture more details of each because I remembered them being some of the most incredibly beautiful places from the last time I visited this city.


  • Hungarian Parliament – this was one of our first stops.  I got pictures just after sunset and during twilight and then returned the next morning for dawn pictures.
  • Buda Castle – now a museum, it is the building you see on the hill with the green dome in all the pictures of the Buda side of Budapest.
  • Fisherman’s Bastion – I visited early morning to beat tourists and then returned with Randy later in the afternoon.
  • Liberty Statue on Gellért Hill – we climbed this hill after I had already been walking around for miles that day, so I was a little pooped at the top.
  • Heroes’ Square in City Park – we caught this during the golden hour!
  • National Theatre
  • St. Stephen’s Basilica – we visited before leaving so I just realized that the photos are still on the memory card in my camera…oops.
  • Széchenyi Chain Bridge – the pretty bridge with the lions on each end.

Bran Castle, Romania

Stop #18

Bran Castle is the one everyone talks about when they mention Transylvania.  My vote would be to skip it and go instead to Pele’s Castle in Sinaia.  It was the true highlight or Transylvania.

I managed to get some pictures of Bran Castle that look as though nobody is anywhere near the place, but in all honesty, the place was mobbed more than any other stop on our itinerary.  It was both frustrating and disappointing.  The owners have marketed the place as Dracula’s castle, but as far as I could tell there is nobody that relevant that ever lived here.


  • Bran’s Castle – Muzeul Bran was built by Saxons from from Brasov in 1382 to defend the Bran pass against the Turks.
  • Bran the town is a “carnivalesque gauntlet of stalls hawking vampiric Tshirts and a myriad of day trippers. Somewhat Tacky!”  I couldn’t agree more.  Thank goodness we packed in other stops on this day!

Corvin Castle, Romania

Stop #14

Corvin Castle is one of the largest castles in Europe, and definitely Randy’s favorite visit of the trip. The castle was was laid out in 1446.

The castle is Renaissance-Gothic style. The castle also has a double wall for fortification and has both rectangular and circular towers, typical for Transylvanian architecture. Some of the towers were used as prisons.

We visited the Knight’s Hall, the Diet Hall and the circular stairway.

While we were in Budapest, we came across a painting of the Castle, which I’ve posted below with the information about the painting.


Spis Castle, Slovakia

Stop #11

Built in the 12th century, Spiš Castle was part of the Kingdom of Hungary and then owned by several families and later by the state of Czechoslovakia then Slovakia.

Originally a Romanesque stone castle with fortifications, a two-story Romanesque palace and a three-nave Romanesque-Gothic basilica were constructed by the second half of the 13th century. It underwent multiple additions and renovations over the centuries and even burned down in the 1700s.

In 1993, it became a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Wawel Castle, Krakow, Poland

Stop #8

Today it is a museum housing the Crown Treasury & Armory, State Rooms, Royal and Private Apartments, Lost Wawel, and Exhibition of Oriental Art. We needed separate tickets for each of them, so we splurged and it was worth it!

The State Rooms and the Private Apartments were the best part. The Cathedral was consecrated in 1364! And the original was founded in the 11th century!

Orava Castle, Slovakia

Stop #3

Orava Castle (Oravský hrad) sits on a high rock above the Orava river . Dating to the 13th century, Original design was in Romanesque and Gothic style, but it was later reconstructed as a Renaissance and Neo-Gothic building. It is now a National Monument.

We were lucky to see it in autumn, with yellow and orange leaves surrounding the rock on which the castle sits.

Bojnice Castle, Slovakia

Stop #2

Bojnice is a historical town in central Slovakia. The centerpiece is the Castle, built in the 12th century in Gothic and Renaissance style.

The castle wasn’t open to visitors on Mondays, so we didn’t get to tour the inside, which was fine given the day we had planned!

Bojnice Castle was originally built as a wooden fort, and written records refer to the castle in 1013.   In the mid-1900s the castle was confiscated by the Czechoslovak government and became the seat of several state institutions. It was destroyed by fire and later reconstructed in 1950.

Castle Gardens

This was a neat little surprise!

We followed the signs to Castle Gardens and, little did we know we would encounter a whole bunch of sheep! I love how much the black sheep stood out among all the rest of them.

After we drove for a bit longer, we ended up in another spot where there were very interesting rock formations lit by the warm sun.

Watch for snakes!

Olavinlinna Castle

Olavinlinna Castle, or St. Olaf’s castle, is a Medieval castle located on a picturesque island, linked to the mainland in the area of Savonlinna which is located in the southeast of Finland.  The city was founded in 1639 around the castle St. Olaf, but the castle itself was built in 1475 by Erik Axelsson Tott, to protect the area Savonlinna and monitor the border between Finland and Russia. Yes, the Finnish people grew up fearing the Russians just like the people of my generation!  The castle is supposed to repel the Russian attacks from the east to secure the Savonlinna region and the Swedish crown.

I got to spend my 39th birthday at this castle and I thought it was a really neat memory.


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