Join Travel Brigade to visit Ireland in search of ancestors on this episode of their radio podcast by clicking on the play button below. Many Americans and Canadians have Irish roots and we’ll talk about how you can trace your Celtic roots and travel to Ireland to “go back home.” We’ll have interviews with American genealogist David Rencher of FamilySearch.org, and noted Irish genealogist Helen Kelly, who’s many titles include “Genealogy Butler.” We’ll also talk about what we learned from our own experiences traveling into history in the “Townlands” of the beautiful Emerald Isle. Pack your bags and get ready to find your history! Follow us on Twitter @TravelBrigade. Click play and enjoy the trip!
Tag - ireland
by Ethel Matshiva
Ireland’s Treasured Castle
Blarney castle, located in southwest Ireland five miles from Cork City, was originally built out of wood and replaced by a stone structure in 1210 A.D. The present structure was built over half a century ago by Munster King Cormac McCarthy.
The Blarney Castle interior is characterized by thick stone walls and plenty of corridors and doorways and a dungeon. The dungeon lies beneath the tower with stairs that connect it to a small cave believed to have been used by King McCarthy for safety during Oliver Cromwell’s 1649 attack of Ireland. Cromwell’s army fired at the tower breaking its walls.
Kissing the Blarney Stone
Blarney means ‘the ability to influence and coax with fair words and soft speech without giving offense’.
Kissing the Blarney Stone is believed to “give the kisser the power of eloquence or the gift of gab.” Visitors must be prepared to climb a narrow, steep flight of stairs to reach the top of the castle in order to kiss the Blarney Stone. However, it is important that the stone is kissed in the right way for it to be effective.
To kiss the stone, the person is “laid back toward the stone and leans far back downward into the abyss while holding the iron rails and then asked to lower his or her head until it is even with the stone.” Then they kiss the blarney stone.
Attractions Near Blarney Castle
- The Druids Rock Close has as a cave, wishing steps and a sacrificial alter believed to be remains from Druidic settlement. Weeping willows and bamboo trees surround the Rock Close which sits with huge stone monuments on the pre-historic site.
- The Arboretum: Visitors can take walks into the castle’s woodland which winds along River Martin. There’s an arboretum on the grounds showcasing evergreen oaks, copper beach and an ornamental pear just to name a few.
- Blarney House and Gardens: Sits south of the Blarney Castle and is open to the public during the summer months. The original house was built in 1874 and displays family portraits, art and antique furniture. Most tourists enjoy the castle’s grounds by choosing to either hike around the lake or picnic on the grounds while watching the swans and cattle grazing.
- The Blarney Woolen Mills flagship store, situated near the castle and six miles outside Cork City, retails authentic Irish wool and other Irish gifts including jewelry, crystal and linen.
My brother-in-law and I took the Isle of Man ferry boat from Belfast, Northern Ireland out into the Irish Sea for three hours until the boat pulled into dock at Douglas, the capital of the Isle of Man. We had a nice chat with a fellow passenger from the island who explained to us that the Isle of Man is an independent country with its own currency and postage but is a member of the British Commonwealth. Something I had not known was that the Isle of Man (between England and Ireland) has its own language–Manx! Manx is an interesting mix of old Norse and Gaelic. He also explained that the flag of the Isle of Man has an interesting image–three legs coming together to form a circle. We asked what does it represent? He said, “With three legs we will not fall!”
After we got our accommodations in the beautiful city of Douglas and stayed over night, we had a great breakfast of bacon, eggs and fried potatoes and immediately drove our Irish car to a nearby town to take the tram up to the highest point on the island, Mount Snaefell rising to 2.023 feet above the sea. Though nice and warm at the rail station, the temperature proceeded to drop with every five hundred feet gained. The countryside spread before us reminding me of the Mountains of Mourne back in Ireland. By the time we reached the summit house, itv was a chilly, windy forty degrees with rolling gray clouds. My brother-in-law Gerry decided to go inside for a hot cup of tea, while I, being from Colorado, went on up to the actual summit some two hundred vertical feet above.
Up here the temperature dropped another five degrees with strong winds as though I were back in Rocky Mountain National Park. Sea gulls fluttering above my head and sometimes chose to ride a current downhill to circle around and fly back up. When the clouds suddenly broke apart, I caught a glimpse of the gray Irish Sea and distant Ireland to the west, Scotland to the north, England to the east and Wales to the southeast. Perhaps the seagulls might sometimes choose to fly off to another one of these kingdoms.
After standing atop Mount Snaefell (we have a Mount Snefells in Colorado) and braving the wind, I decided to walk down to the tea house and join my brother-in-law who was shivering over in a corner. I suggested we take the next tram back to the warmth of the valleys below. Gerry said let’s go to a nice warm, sunny beach and perhaps two hours later, we found ourselves strolling the northern most beach at Ayre’s Point.
The surf pounded the stones of the beach and rolled them out in an undertow making a grinding sound like the gnashing of dragon’s teeth. While Gerry walked over to a lighthouse to take pictures, I crunched along the stony beach to catch a closer look at the roaring surf. As I got closer to the sea, a group of buzzing arctic terns began to dive-bomb me. I soon realized that I was invading their nesting territory. But I blithely continued, thinking their attack was but a momentary thing. However, they continued to swoop, almost touching my windblown hair. I began to retreat. The birds forced me back to a higher bluff overlooking the sea where I had to content myself with more distant views. Gerry seemed quite amused by the incident. I remained silent and reflected that humans must, at times, be more submissive they they would like to be.
Since the Isle of Man is only forty miles long by eighteen wide, we drove on down to the southern most point to walk atop the rocky cliffs and view the nearby, much smaller island, appropriately named the Calf of Man. We soon returned to our B&B and had a great evening meal of Manx kippered herrings on toast with fried potatoes and steaming cups of tea, a perfect end to a full day on the Isle of Man. We wished that we did not have to leave on the ferry boat early the next day.
Copyright © STI
Newgrange prehistoric site (also known as Bru Na Boinne) is located just 20 miles north of Dublin near the city of Drogheda in County Meath. You can get there by bus (Irish Tourist Bureau) or by personal car from Dublin north on M1 Motorway to Donore Exit and turn right to the village of Dunore 6 miles distant and follow the signs from the village to Newgrange Visitor Center four and a half miles away.
All tour groups (led by archeologists) leave from the Visitor Center. Only groups of 15 or more need to book in advance. Once you stand before this gigantic passage tomb built 5,200 years ago, it is probable that the twenty-first century will dissolve way. This Megalithic Passage Tomb occupies one full acre with a 250 foot diameter and stands over 40 feet high, surrounded by 97 kerbstones, some with megalithic designs. But what draws your attention immediately is the ancient entrance stone with tri-spiral designs (see accompanying images).
Once your tour group enters this passage tomb for the repose of ashes of ancient tribal chieftans, you will be amazed by the intricate stone structure of the 70 foot long passage way that leads to an inner cruciform chamber with a corbelled (dove-tailed) stone ceiling. The tour guide will explain the features of this room and that it is fully illuminated by the rising sun for 17 minutes during the winter solstice only. She will then turn off the lights for your group to experience total darkness for a moment or two and then turn on a simulated sun-rising light that creeps from the entrance way into the inner chamber.
It is estimated that at least 300 megalithic tribesmen built this structure taking 20 years to do so. The inner rock walls were covered by earth to form a mound one acre in size. Newgrange has been designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO that is 500 years older than the Egyptian pyramids! It is the best preserved prehistoric site in western Europe. In current times around 200,000 people visit it each year. I had the great pleasure, back in 1967, of being a solitary visitor who stood in the inner chamber all by my lonesome self feeling the presence of something very forceful.
I finally, years later, wrote a novel Spirit Mound: a novel of ancient Ireland about the tribal construction of this site and of their going as far away as the Wicklow Mountains to the south and the Mountains of Mourne to the north for special stones weighing thousands of pounds. I speculated that they used glacial ice and a spirit-force to transport these special stones some sixty miles in a periglacial Ireland..This is the only novel there is about Newgrange. Of course, there are many archeological studies available under the topic of Newgrange*
*To the best of my knowledge, my novel Spirit Mound: a novel of ancient Irelandvisit is the only novel about Newgrange. For further commentary, Visit www.knowth.com/newgrange.htm
The Dome in the heart of Edinburgh is a hugely popular place to eat, drink and be merry. It is also a beautiful Victorian building with a banking history.
If you’re looking for somewhere special and uplifting to have morning coffee, lunch, early evening drinks or dinner, then The Dome on George Street, in the heart of the Scottish capital, won’t disappoint. The standard of catering is high, the cocktails are first-rate, and the service is formal, yet friendly and discreet. But it’s the building itself that always draws gasps of appreciation from first-time visitors, because of the splendid architecture and interior decoration.
Christmas Decorations Are Renowned
If you’re in Edinburgh in December, be sure to visit the Dome to admire its Christmas decorations – they are an extravaganza that has made it as much a spectacle worth seeing as New Year’s Eve fireworks in Princes Gardens. Huge trees, thousands of meters of tinsel and fairy lights, shiny glass baubles… the designers show that less is not always more when it comes to making an impact.
This magnificent building, with its huge decorative domed ceiling, is on the site of the old Physicians’ Hall, designed and built by James Craig, the renowned planner of Edinburgh’s New Town in 1775. However the site was bought by the Commercial Bank of Scotland for £20,000 in 1843. The bank’s managers decided to demolish the existing hall and commissioned their own architect, David Rhind (1808-1883) to create a grand new headquarters.
Rhind designed a building in the Graeco-Roman style, with a colonnade at the front. Walk inside and it’s rather like walking into a cathedral – you look up into the heavens to see an ornately decorated domed ceiling. The first big space on the ground floor is a courtyard-like square hall, with superimposed Ionic columns, which are fluted at the top, with smooth scagliola below. (For anyone not familiar with the scagliola, it is a composite plaster-like substance that imitates marble.) The ground floor has been divided into different bars and restaurants, and the interiors feature dark brown wood, upholstered benches and moody lighting. Huge floral displays stand on the bar ends and are always impressive.
The building served as the headquarters of the Commercial Bank of Scotland from the mid-1850s until 1969, when the Royal Bank of Scotland, which had merged with the Commercial Bank in 1959, decided to concentrate its head office functions in the St Andrew’s Square site in the city. RBS finally put the building up for sale in 1993 and it opened as the Dome bar and restaurant in 1996.
Visitors rate the Dome highly, invariably commenting on the opulent surroundings and lively atmosphere. It’s widely deemed the place for cocktails and drinks, and while its restaurants are not Michelin-starred, the quality of food is felt to be pretty high.
Another added benefit is that it has jazz musicians in to play on Sundays. Well, a benefit if you like jazz, of course.
Remember that The Dome is ideally placed for shoppers. It’s close to Princes Street, while Harvey Nichols’ superb department store is just across the square.