My European Vacation – Ireland!

August 29, 2016 at 7:39 pm Leave a comment

On our way to Ireland!!!

On our way to Ireland!!!

After having a wonderful time in Holland visiting family and seeing the sights, my cousin Margriet along with her husband Han and I boarded a plane to explore Ireland.  I have always wanted to go to Ireland, mainly to see the castles, and I was definitely not disappointed!

Castles & towers everywhere, old and new

Castles & Towers everywhere, old and new

Our first night in Ireland we stayed at Clontarf Castle Hotel.  The site of this castle, and its history, began in the 12th century and played a key role in the Battle of Clontarf.  The current castle was constructed in 1837 and refurbished into a hotel in 1997.  What a thrill it was, and a dream come true, to actually be able to spend the night in a real castle!

The beautiful Clontarf Castle Hotel

The beautiful Clontarf Castle Hotel

 

Central rooms in Clontarf Castle Hotel

Central rooms in Clontarf Castle Hotel

 

Interior walls in Clontarf Castle Hotel

Interior walls in Clontarf Castle Hotel

 

Lobby and restaurant in Clontarf Castle Hotel

Lobby and restaurant in Clontarf Castle Hotel

 

St. John the Baptist Cemetery just steps from the Clontarf Castle

St. John the Baptist Cemetery just steps from the Clontarf Castle

As soon as we got checked in and settled, we hopped on a bus and headed back into Dublin.  First stop, Madigans Pub for a pint!

What a fun way to start out our stay in Dublin. A pint at Madigans Pub

What a fun way to start out our stay in Dublin. A pint at Madigans Pub

Dublin is a bustling city with lots to see.  I was so intrigued by its many beautiful bridges that cross the River Liffey that flows through the city.

Just a few of the many beautiful bridges crossing the River Liffey

Just a few of the many beautiful bridges crossing the River Liffey

 

The 394 ft. tall Spire on O'Connell Street, and a street artist in Dublin.

The 394 ft. tall Spire on O’Connell Street, and a street artist in Dublin.

After an afternoon in Dublin, having a fabulous dinner at the Fahrenheit Grill, and spending night at the Clontarf Castle, the next morning we took a taxi to the train station to go on our tour of Bunratty Castle, Galway and the Cliffs of Moher.

During the pleasant train ride meandered along small towns and fields, we passed vast tracts of peatland (another one of my fascinations about Ireland) and the town of Athenry (remember the song The Fields of Athenry?) before arriving at Galway City.

Galway City is one of the fastest growing cities in Europe but still has that small fishing village feel.  We enjoyed listening to street music, walking along the winding streets and the seeing the waterfront.

Enjoying street music in Galway City

Enjoying street music in Galway City

From Galway City we boarded a bus and headed to Bunratty Village.  We checked into our hotel and headed to the castle to dine at The Earl’s Banquet!  What a fun evening!  The Ladies of the Castle, aided by the Earl’s Butler and a kilted piper welcomed us at the door and entertained us while enjoying a goblet of mead during the reception and the four course feast!

Magnificent Bunratty Castle!!!

Magnificent Bunratty Castle!!!

The Earl's Butler and a kilted piper greeting us to the castle. Above is entertainment during the mead reception.

The Earl’s Butler and a kilted piper greeting us to the castle. Above is entertainment during the mead reception.

 

The fun and delicious Medieval Banquet at Bunratty Castle

The fun and delicious Medieval Banquet at Bunratty Castle

 

Looking back at Bunratty Castle after the banquet. And looking at the castle from our hotel

Looking back at Bunratty Castle after the banquet. And looking at the castle from our hotel

The next morning we took a tour of the castle and village.  Bunratty Castle, built in 1425, is the most complete and authentic medieval fortress in Ireland and contains furnishings, tapestries, and works of art from the period.  I was in my element!  My dream come true!  I used to have actual dreams of me sitting in front of a massive fireplace in a castle and spinning wool.  And now I was really there!  I explored every nook and cranny of the castle and could actually feel the life of the bygone residents and really felt like I got a glimpse through a window of the past.

Han and I in front of a couple of fireplaces in Bunratty Castle

Han and I in front of a couple of fireplaces in Bunratty Castle

 

The Great Hall, South Solar, Chapel & North Solar

The Great Hall, South Solar, Chapel & North Solar

The Great Hall was the original banquet hall and audience chamber of the Earls of Thomond.  The Earl gave judgements while sitting in his Chair of the estate.  The walls are hung with French, Belgian and Flemish tapestries.  The oak dower-cupboard is dated 1570.  The South Solar held the guest’s apartments.  It has a rare spinet dated 1661.  The North Solar was the private apartment of the Earl and his family.  The oak paneling dates to c.1500.

Just a few of the steep and narrow stairways in the castle

Just a few of the steep and narrow stairways in the castle

 

A cozy sitting area, the Earl's bedroom and kitchen, and an entrance to the dungeon

A cozy sitting area, the Earl’s bedroom and kitchen, and an entrance to the dungeon

The Main Guard was the main living room of the common soldiers and of the Earl’s retainers.  A small gate leads to a dungeon from this room so the guards could keep an eye on the prisoners.  The medieval banquet was held in this room.

One of the many stained glass windows in the castle, and a huge oak table in the Main Guard

One of the many stained glass windows in the castle, and a huge oak table in the Main Guard

I could have stayed in the castle for hours more, but alas, the bus was waiting and I had to pull myself away.

Saying good-bye to Bunratty Castle

Saying good-bye to Bunratty Castle

 

Replicas of buildings of days gone by outside the castle

Replicas of buildings of days gone by outside the castle

The pictures above are some replicas of rural farmhouses, village shops and streets recreated and furnished as they would have appeared at the time according to their social standing.  Top left is the Blacksmiths Forge, the blue house is a simple two-bedroomed home of a fisherman.  The timber would have been salvaged from the sea and the floor is of rammed clay.  The yellow building is a poor farmer’s mountain farmhouse.  This type of home was found on the borders of Limerick and Kerry.  It has a loft for extra sleeping space.

On the bus again and off to the Cliffs of Moher.  We drove through the market town of Ennistymon with its many pubs and traditional shopfronts.

Traditional storefront of Ennistymon

Traditional storefront of Ennistymon

Then on to the majestic Cliffs of Moher.  These are among the highest sea cliffs in Western Europe and an awesome sight.

Margriet and I at The Cliffs of Moher

Margriet and I at The Cliffs of Moher

On the way back to Galway City to board the train to take us back to Dublin, we passed through beautiful pastures with rock fences and the barren Burren.  The unique lunar landscape of limestone makes up the national park.  It was described in 1649 by one of the Oliver Cromwell’s men as: “No tree to hang a man, no water deep enough to drown him and no soil deep enough to bury him”.  That pretty much sums up the Burren.

Countryside lush and barren

Countryside lush and barren

 

On the train back to Dublin. What did our tour guide serve us on our way back? Irish whiskey of course! You don't see that in the states!

On the train back to Dublin. What did our tour guide serve us on our way back? Irish whiskey of course! You don’t see that in the states!

We arrived back into Dublin and checked into the Trinity Hotel.  A fabulous, but a bit ‘over the top’ hotel!

Next we will continue our travels through Ireland and Northern Ireland!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My European Vacation – The Netherlands! My European Vacation – Ireland and Northern Ireland!

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