My European Vacation – Ireland and Northern Ireland!

September 13, 2016 at 4:57 pm Leave a comment

After arriving in Dublin we checked into the Trinity Hotel.  A fabulous, but a bit ‘over the top’ for my taste hotel!

Excessive décor of the Trinity Hotel

Excessive décor of the Trinity Hotel

Then off to explore more of Dublin.  I loved the colorful doorways and homes, and oh my goodness all the pubs!

Dublin is famous for its colorful doors

Dublin is famous for its colorful doors

 

 

Pubs, pubs and more pubs in Dublin

Pubs, pubs and more pubs in Dublin

 

And of course we had to visit the famous Temple Bar, tucked away on a side street in Dublin

And of course we had to visit the famous Temple Bar, tucked away on a side street in Dublin

 

I was hesitant to try it, but I discovered that I REALLY liked Guinness!

I was hesitant to try it, but I discovered that I REALLY liked Guinness!

During our stay in Dublin as we were out sightseeing, we just happened to hit the centennial of the Easter Rising revolution.  We watched its largest ever military parade as it marked the 100th anniversary of the botched but historically significant rebellion against British rule.

The Easter Rising Centennial parade and Peace Garden

The Easter Rising Centennial parade and Peace Garden

The next day we were off on another tour to visit the Hill of Tara, Loughcrew cairns, Bective Abbey, Trim Castle, Monasterboice and the town of Deogheda.

On the ancient Hill of Tara, from whose heights the High Kings once ruled all Ireland, from where the sacred fires in pagan days announced the annual resurrection of the sun, the Easter Tide, where the magic of Patrick prevailed over the magic of the Druids, and where the hosts of the Tuatha De Danann were wont to appear at the great Feast of Samain, to-day the fairy-folk of modern times hold undisputed sovereignty. And from no point better than Tara, which thus was once the magical and political centre of the Sacred Island, could we begin our study of the Irish Fairy-Faith. Though the Hill has lain unploughed and deserted since the curses of Christian priests fell upon it, on the calm air of summer evenings, at the twilight hour, wondrous music still sounds over its slopes, and at night long, weird processions of silent spirits march round its grass-grown raths and forts. 1 It is only men who fear the curse of the Christians; the fairy-folk regard it not.

Evans-Wentz, Fairy Faith in Celtic Countries, 1911

This is just one of the many legends we heard from many of our tour guides.  Legends are still very much a part of the Irish.

The oldest building at Tara is a small chambered cairn on the summit of the hill which is known as the Mound of the Hostages. This mound, dating to about 3000 BC (can you imagine!  3000 BC!), lies just within the northern edge of a massive enclosure known as Rath na Rig, The Fort of the Kings. Within this great enclosure are a pair of cojoined ringforts, the Forrad and Teach Cormaic, and within the Forrad is the famous Lia Fail or Stone of Destiny.

Hill of Tara fertility stone and Mound of the Hostages

Hill of Tara fertility stone and Mound of the Hostages

Next we stopped at Bective Abbey.  The Abbey was founded in 1147 and was used as a location for the movie Braveheart.

Bective Abbey

Bective Abbey

 

I loved exploring through Bective Abbey. These ancient buildings just fascinate me!

I loved exploring through Bective Abbey. These ancient buildings just fascinate me!

Trim Castle was our next stop.  It is the largest surviving Norman Castle in Europe.  Built in 1176, the castle took over 30 years to complete.  It was the center of administration for the Kingdon of Meath during the middle ages.

Our first glimpse of Trim Castle

Our first glimpse of Trim Castle

 

Walking across the moat into Trim Castle

Walking across the bridge into Trim Castle

 

The Keep inside the walls of Trim Castle

The Keep inside the walls of Trim Castle

The Keep in the center of the fortress is unique because it was built in the shape of a cross and has 20 corners.  It is quite an impressive building.

Bathroom solutions in the Keep

Bathroom solutions in the Keep

 

The curtain walls of Trim Castle

The curtain walls of Trim Castle

 

River Gate

River Gate

 

Other gates into Trim Castle

Other gates into Trim Castle

On our way again and on to the Loughcrew Cairns, the ancient burial tombs which housed the remains of great chieftains of the time.  Loughcrew is a passage tomb built about 3200 BC (possibly the oldest cemetery in the world!) which has some of the best preserved stone carving in Ireland.  During the equinox, the sun illuminates the passage chamber and ancient art of the cairn.

Loughcrew Cairns

Loughcrew Cairns

 

Stepping back in time in the Loughcrew Cairns

Stepping back in time in the Loughcrew Cairns

Monasterboice was our next stop.  An early Christian settlement founded in the 5th century.  The site contains important celtic high crosses, two churches, and one of the tallest round towers.

Celtic high cross and 92 ft. tall tower at Monasterboice

Celtic high cross and 92 ft. tall tower at Monasterboice

On the bus again and into the town of Drogheda.  While the others on the bus toured around town, I went straight to the Clarke & Sons Pub.  Clarke & Sons is one of the few traditions Irish pubs with old style snugs.  It had beautiful mahogany counters and drawers for various grocery items.  The bartender was so nice and told me all about the history of the place.  I sat in one of the snugs and had a pint.

Clarke & Sons Pub

Clarke & Sons Pub

The “snug”, sometimes called the smoke room, was typically a small, very private room with access to the bar that had a frosted glass external window, set above head height. A higher price was paid for beer in the snug and nobody could look in and see the drinkers. It was not only the wealthy visitors who would use these rooms. The snug was for patrons who preferred not to be seen in the public bar. Ladies would often enjoy a private drink in the snug in a time when it was frowned upon for women to be in a pub. The local police officer might nip in for a quiet pint, the parish priest for his evening whisky, or lovers for a rendezvous.

The next tour we took was to Northern Ireland to see the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, the Giants causeway and Belfast.

Carrick-a-Rede is a rope bridge that links the mainland to a tiny island.  Local fisherman erected the original bridge over the deep chasm to check their salmon nets.  While Han went to cross the bridge, Margriet and I stayed behind.  The wind was howling and I’m not too fond of heights anyway, we chose to take a quick picture and go inside for a cup of hot coffee.

Carrick-a-rede rope bridge in the distance.

Carrick-a-rede rope bridge in the distance.

I did however brave the wind to explore the Giants Causeway, a place that I have wanted to see for many, many years.  I was not disappointed.  It was an absolutely awesome place to just sit and look at the pillars spilling out into the ocean.  Legend has it that these are the remains of the bridge built by Fionn McCool between Ireland and Scotland.  Some say it was caused by a volcanic eruption 60 million years ago.  You be the judge.  I prefer to believe the legend ;-).

The awesome Giants Causeway

The awesome Giants Causeway

 

Taking in the magnificent view of the Giants Causeway

Taking in the magnificent view of the Giants Causeway

On our way back to Dublin, we made a short stop in Belfast.

Belfast, Northern Ireland

Belfast, Northern Ireland

On our last day in Dublin we had to go to the Brazen Head, officially Irelands oldest pub dating back to 1198.  We had a nice meal and a good-bye toast to Ireland.  What a fantastic trip this was!

Toasting good-bye to Ireland from the Brazen Head

Toasting good-bye to Ireland from the Brazen Head

 

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My European Vacation – Ireland! Christmas is all about the kids

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