Traveling through Ireland

Dublin, Naas, Carlow, Kilkenny, Rock of Cashel, Cork, Blarney, Clonakilty | Bantry Bay, Glengarriff, Garnish Island, Killarney, Kenmare, Ring of Kerry | Iveragh Peninsula, Glenbeigh, Kells, Caherciveen, Valentia Island, Waterville, Sneem | Torc Waterfall, Ladies View, Abbeyfeale, Adare, Limerick, Bunratty, Shannon, Innistymon | Aran Islands, The Burren, Aillwee Cave, Poulnabrone Dolmen, Kilfenora, Moher, Connemara | Murroogh, Galway, Screeb, Maam Cross, Lough Inagh, Recess, Derryclare, Kylemore lake, Twelve Bens, Duchruach, Kylemore Abbey, Westport, Castlebar, Ballina | Newport, Mulrany, Peninsula Corraun, Achill Island, Dublin, Slievemore, Charlestown, Sligo, Bundoran | Donegal, Ballybofey, Letterkenny, Genveagh, Breenagh, Fintown, Glenties, River Eske | Londonderry, Derry, Giant Causeway, Staffa, Grianan of Aileach | Belleek, Boa Island, Galdragh, Kesh, Omagh, Ulster American Folk Park, Monaghan | Ardee, Dunlee, Monasterboice, Powerscourt Gardens, Enniskerry, Johnnie Fox Pub |

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Ireland was probably first settled by humans about 10,000 years ago, at the end of the last Ice Age. This is relatively late in the European prehistory. But conditions in Ireland would have been hostile until the glaciers receded between 12,000 and 10,000 years ago and prey animal such as deer and boar would have been scared. These increased in numbers as the weather improved. Around 10,000 years ago, the giant Irish Elk flourished, and there where probably no humans around to hunt it. As the ice caps melted, there was an enormous rise of the sea level, and about 9000 years ago Ireland was cut off from Britain. It was about this time that the first humans seem to have reached Ireland, possibly across the ice bridges. They were all Middle Stone Age people hunter-gatherers. About 4000 BC farming reached Ireland and the New Stone Age. Also around this times was born the first export of Ireland. Tievbulliagh Mountain near Cushendall in County Antrim has an outcrop of remarkably hard stone called porcellanite, and it formed the basis of a thriving stone-axe industry.The Bronze age started in Ireland about 2500 BC. The Celts were Iron Age Warriors tribes from Eastern Europe and conquered large sections of south Europe. Some Celtic adventures probably reached Ireland around 300 BC, and they were certainly well ensconced by 100 BC in relatively small number, they moved in, controlled the country for 1000 years, and left a legacy of language and culture that survives today. Christianity arrived sometime between 3th and 5th centuries and St Patrick is given the credit for evangelizing the native Irish, anyhow with the arrival of Christianity, monks and monasteries scholar started to flourish. In August 1170, Strongbow with le Gros took Waterfort after a fierce battle and MacMurrough handed over his daughter Aoife (and Kingdom) to Strongbow, herewith the stage was set for 800 years of English involvement and struggle in Ireland. Review Heritages Ireland greatest tragedy was in 1845-49. An almost complete failure of the potato crop and the extreme sweating system of the British land lords resulted in mass starvation, emigration and death. Two or three million Irish people died or emigrated as result of the famine, and emigration continued to reduce the population during the next 100 years.

From the top of Blarney castle From Dublin we travelled via Naas, Carlow and Killkenny to the the Rock of Cashel. The Rock of Cashel is one of the most spectacular archeological sites in the country, 20 or 30km in every direction there is a grassy plain, but on the outskirt of Cashel is a huge lump of limestone bristling with ancient fortifications. Mighty stone walls encircle a complete round tower, a roofless abbey, a fine 12th-century chapel and numerous smaller buildings and high crosses. For over a thousand years the rock was a symbol of power, and the base of kings and churchmen who ruled the country. Rock of Cashel The high crosses you will found all over Ireland, some are really old, are original Celtic symbols which are adopted by St Patrick. In Cork we visited Blarney Castle, even the most untouristy visitor will probably feel compelled to kiss the Blarney Stone and get the gift of the gab or, as an 18th-century French consul put in, 'gain the privilege of telling lies for seven years'. It was Queen Elizabeth I who invented the word, due to her exasperation with Lord Blarney's ability to talk endlessly without ever actually agreeing to her demands.The scared stone is located in the outer wall on the top of the tower and should be kissed bending over backwards. Via Kinsale we go to Clonakilty. This trip is going very fast because you have to use the highway, but is has no possibilities for interesting stops. Choice hotel

Colored houses Before Irish independence, Bantry Bay was a major anchorage for the British Navy, and after WW II Spanish trawlers where regular visitors to the town. Glengarriff village's fame is due to its proximity to Garnish Island and its location on the main road to Killarney This small Island (15 Hectares) was turned into an Italianate garden in the early years of the 20th-century. It was designed by Harold Peto, who brought in exotic plants never before seen in Ireland, and they continue to flourish, providing a blaze of color in the landscape. Yes, even when it's raining the gardens are pretty to walk. Boats to Garinish island leave from the seafront in the village or from the Blue Pool. During the trip you can observe many seals sleeping or playing on the rocks. Lunch in Gengarriff and through Gougane Barra forest park to Kenmare. This park is the most picturesque part of inland Cork. The source of River Lee is a mountain lake, fed by numerous streams. In Kenmare we overnight in Landsdowne arms (dirty hotel). This pastel painted little town is possibly a good alternative to touristy Killarney as base in the Ring of Kerry. In nearly all the little villages all the houses are painted in different colors, the reason? Irish people are a little contrariness possibly a result of 800 years resistance against the English rulers Opposite Landsdowne hotel is a beautiful garden.

Seals The Ring of Kerry, the 179-km circuit of the Iveragh Peninsula, is one of Ireland's premier tourist attractions. Although it can be 'done' in a day by bus, or three days by bicycle, the more time you take the more you'll enjoy it. Anticlockwise is the 'correct' way to tackle the ring, some people are going clockwise but they are Irish! The first town in the Ring is Killarney famed for its Puck Festival. The name derives from the custom of installing a billy goat (a puck), horns festooned in ribbons, on a pedestal in town center and leaving it there while everyone takes advantage of the special licensing hours. Pubs stay open till 3am, although it often seems that they simple serve for three days nonstop. The next town is Glenbeigh with close to the Red Fox pub the Kerry Bog Village Museum which recreates an early 19th-century Kerry village through a series of replica houses; turf cutter, blacksmith, dairy, hen house, laborer's cottage and thatcher. Close to the next town Kells, a shepherd gives an impressive demonstration of sheepdog training. Between Kells and Caherciveen the old Great Southern & Western Railway can be clearly seen on the hillside, with its tunnels and walls. Valentia Island is known as the place from where the first transatlantic telegraph cable started. In 1858 was the first direct connection with US and worked for 27 days before it fails. Charlie Chaplin was probably one of the most famous visitors of Waterville, his statue can be seen before the Butler Arm Pub. Sneem the last town before Kenmare is completely sold out to tourism. A beautiful trip with so many exciting views that it will be normal. Tonight we are going to Killarney to see the dance musical 'To dance on the moon' perfect performance!

Old houses Through the beautiful Killarney National park partly along the Ring of Kerry to Muckross house & Gardens. Muckross house has museum exhibits as well as period furnished rooms, next to the house you will find a exhibition dealing with the life in Kerry in the 1930s. Continuing east you come to the Meeting of the Waters, Torc Waterfall and finally the road climbs up to Ladies View. It's more attractive and less touristic to stop just before Ladies View. From Killarney we continued via Abbeyfeale to Adare. Adare with his Castle's and Churches is tourist Ireland at its most sanitized and manicured. Charming thatched cottages and 'antique' shops abound. Via Limerick to Bunratty which overlooks the Shannon Estuary. The Castle is in excellent condition and well worth a look, but it's all prime tourist attraction. With an attendant Folk Park and Durty Nelly's pub nearby try to visit it outside the high season. The Castle is build in the early 1400s and the folk park is a big reconstructed traditional Irish village complete with everything from blacksmith to butter maker and post office to school. Most of the houses are transplanted from the site of Shannon Airport. Continuing to Innistymon Falls hotel for overnight (perfect).

Cliffs of Moher Due to the stormy weather our planned boat trip to the Aran islands is cancelled. As an alternative we will visit The Burren. The Burren is the most extensive limestone region in Britain or Ireland. The craggy limestone landscape is known as 'karst' after a similar area in what used to be Yugoslavia. It is formed a 350 million years ago at the bottom of a warm shallow sea, pushed up and fractured during earth rumblings a 270 million years ago. Wind, rain, Ice and finally human interruptions have since removed most of the overlaying shale and soil, leaving mountains of limestone in a desolate landscape. The Information center offers a very good audiovisual presentation about the developments of this area. In the same area you will find the enormous Aillwee cave aiIlwee cave created by meltwater at the end of the Ice Age. The Burren was in ancient times covered with soil and supported quite a large number of people and has over 2500 historic sites. Chief among them is the 5000-year old Poulnabrone Dolmen. There are at least 65 megalithic tombs erected by The Burren first settlers. Leamaneah Castle is a well-preserved castle / fortified house build around 1480 by O'Brien. Kilfenora is well known for its high crosses, three in the churchyard and a large example in the field. One of Ireland's most spectacular sights, the cliffs of Moher rise from Hag's Head to the south and reach their highest point (230 meters) just north of O'Brien's tower before slowly declining farther north again. On clear days, the views are tremendous: the Aran Islands and the hills and valleys of Connemara provide's beautiful views. From the cliff edge you can just hear the booming far below as the waves eat into the soft shale and sandstone. Often sections of the cliffs give way, and they are generally so unstable that only a few birds or plants live on them. The official direction from the information center is to go right together with all the tourists along the fiddler players and souvenir sellers but when you go left the views are also beautiful but the route less touristic.

Kylemore abbey Along the coast-road via Murroogh to The Burren center for coffee. Along the coast via Galway en Screeb to Maam Cross a beautiful route with many views. The journey north up the Lough Inagh Valley is one of the most scenic in the country. There are two fine approaches up valleys from the south, starting on either side of Recess, and the long sweep of Loughs Derryclare and Inagh accompanies you for most of the way. On the west side are the Brooding Bens. While just out of the valley on the north side is the picturesque drive along Kylemore Lake. Just outside the northern end of the beautiful Inagh Valley is the almost equally scenic Kylemore Lake with its accompanying abbey. The road skirts the northern shore of the lake, winding through overhanging trees with magnificent views across the silent lake. South the Twelve Bens and Connemara, while the mountains behind the abbey are the Duchruach. The lake passes under the road and extends to the north, where you will see the castelated towers of the most photogenic building of Ireland 'Kylemore Abbey', which gives home today to the Irish Benedictine nuns. Via Westport and Castlebar we continued to Ballina Downhillinn hotel.

The way back via Castlebar, Newport and Mulrany for our visit to Peninsula Corraun and Achill Island. Achill Island is joint to the mainland by a bridge, remote Achill Island combines views, moorland and mountains in a handy package. For most of the 20th-century it has remained forgotten by tourists and, many of the islanders assert, the Dublin government as well. The deserted village of Slievemore is the most dramatic example of a process of decay that continues to this day. The amount of arable land is very limited and there are only a few employment opportunities to keep young people around. When people move away, the small houses are bought up as holiday homes. What the reason of the desertion may be, the famine years or a Protestant group which came here in 1834 spreading its influence, the Island offers magnificent cliff scenery, long sandy beaches, little villages and masses of historical monuments which make the island a must for anybody who appreciates beauty and culture. Take the Atlantic drive along the south of the island - it is a stunning drive, definitely not for the unsure drivers. Via Castlebar, Charlestown and Sligo we continued our trip to Bundoran hotel Holyrood. Bundoran is the most popular seaside resort in the whole of Ireland. The main street, made up of East End and West End, is one big serie of noisy game arcades, fish & chips restaurants, souvenir shops and for adult only establishments. Take care that you don't get a room on the street side, it's noisy.

From Bundoran we go via Donegal, Ballybofey to Letterkenny for it enormous Glenveagh National Park with in the middle Glenveagh Castle. Much of the land making up the park was once farmed by tenants, who were all evicted by John Adair in 1861. In the 1930s the land was bought by an American who eventually sold it to the State and later donated the castle and gardens. The visitors center hosts a useful audiovisual show on the ecology of the park and the infamous landlord. From this center buses run nocharge regularly to the castle and gardens. The gardens are a refreshing change to the studied elegance of the house. Just outside the gardens is a small steep footpath to walk along the lake up to the hill with really beautiful views on the castle and lake. Back to Bundoran via the route Breenagh, Fintown and Glenties. Donegal Castle is build on a rocky outcrop over the River Eske, what remains is still impressive. Originally home to Huge Roe O'Donnel who burnt it down rather than see it fall into the hands of the English at the end of the 16th-century

Dolmen We continued our trip via Ballybofey and Letterkenny to Londonderry (Derry) Derryvisitor . The old center of Derry is a small walled city on the westbank of the River Foyle. The Catholic Bogside area is below the walls to the west while to the south is a Protestant estate known as the Fountain, Derry may have the best city walls in Europe, but stretches of them are run down and neglected. After lunch we continued for the Giant Causeway. Enormous hexagonal basalt columns are rising up out of the sea and do look as if a giant might have playfully tipped out all 37,000 of them, if you count the ones under the water. According to the legend the giant in question, Finn McCool , fancied some stepping stones to the Scottish Island of Staffa where, indeed, similar rock formations are to be found. The modern explanation is that red-hot lava erupted from an underground fissure crystallized some 60 million years ago into the shapes that we see today. For the Dutch people these stones looks very familiar because a lot of dikes in the Dutch landscape are covered with the same hexagonal stones.On the way back to Ballybofey we visited the Grianan of Aileach. This impressive 2000 years old hilltop stone fort has beautiful views over the surrounding countryside but during our visit the fog was as thick as pea soup so that we hardly could see the opposite walls of the fort. Keeshotel

Cause way
From Ballybofey we go south via Donegal to Belleek Belleekshop to visit the world-famous Beleek pottery works, to my opinion it is more kitsch than art and very expensive. At the north end of the lough is Boa Island where the Janus figure in Caldragh graveyard could be 2000 years old, one of the oldest stone statues in Ireland and quite unparalleled. Via Kesh to Omagh Historypark to see the Ulster American Folk Park Ulster Folkpark.This is one of the best museums in Ireland and well worth a visit. Thousands of Ulster people left their country to forge a new life across the Atlantic: 200.000 in the 18th-century alone. The American Declaration of Independence was signed by five Ulster men, and the exhibition hall is able to offer many more instances of this transatlantic link. The real appeal of the Folk Park, though, is outdoor the museum. The number of life-size exhibits is impressive: a forge, weaver's cottage, a complete 19th-century Ulster street compared to a 19th-century American street and a reconstructed part of a emigration ship and much more.Costumed guides and craftspeople are on hand to chat and explain. There is almost too much to take it in one visit. Back to the hotel Four Seasons in Monaghan.

High cross From Monaghan we continued south to Dublin, by Ardee we turned left direction Dunlee to visit Monasterboice. Monasterboice is an intriguing monastic site containing a cemetery, two ancient church ruins, one of the finest and tallest round towers and two of the best high crosses. Down a leafy country lane and set in sweeping farmland, Monasterboice has a special atmosphere. The high crosses are superb examples of Celtic art with an important didactic use, bringing the gospel alive for the uneducated with a kind of cartoons. After Monasterboice we continuing our trip to Powerscourt Gardens Powerscourt garden by Enniskerry south of Dublin. This 64-sq-km estate is a big tourist attraction; its formal gardens have fine views over the surrounding countryside. The layout of the present estate dates from the 17th and 18th-centuries and the 20-hectare formal gardens were laid out in the 19th-century, with the magnificent natural backdrop of the Great Sugarloaf to the east. After the park we made a visit to Johnnie Fox's pub, who claimed to be the highest pub in Ireland Johnniefox pub . The interior of this pub is really extraordinary, everything what is possible to collect from old-fashion underwear to piss-pot have find a place at the walls or ceiling. Back to Dublin for overnight Sheldonpark hotel

Johnnie fox pub Ireland's capital Dublin is equal to other big cities noisy and dirty and when you just arrive from the lovely countryside it is really hard to feel yourself happy in the city. But there are a few places which are well worth to visit: First the St. Patrick Cathedral Stpatrick cathedral St Patrick himself is said to have baptized converts at a well within the cathedral grounds, so St Patrick's Cathedral stands on one of the earliest Christian sites in the city. However the present building dates from 1190 or 1225. The Guinness family were noted as important contributors to the cathedral's restoration and a monument to Sir Benjamin Guinness's daughter stand in the chapel of St Stephen bearing the words 'I was thirsty and ye gave me drink' ! Second the library of Trinity College with The Book of Kells, a more than thousand years old beautiful decorated book written by the monks of the Island Iona and the Long Room which contains more than 200,000 old books. Third The National Gallery of Ireland with a perfect exhibition Irish art but also a high-quality collection of every major school of European painting Nationalgallery .

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