Bunratty and Limerick

I apologise for the lateness of this post; I have been fighting a cold for the past week and the last 2 days it has been fighting back aggressively!

After leaving Galway we headed to The Burren (literally ‘rocky land’ in Gaelic) – and the countryside is just that! Very different to other areas of Ireland. I was keen to see some more of ancient Ireland and we called in on Poulnabrone Dolmen, dating from 2500-2000 BC.

Burren-Dolmen

Afterwards we headed to the Cliffs of Moher. Very spectacular!

CliffsOfMoher_a

Kilfenora_HighCrossWe didn’t really have as much time as I would have liked to explore this region, however I did manage to squeeze in some more High Celtic Crosses at Kilfenora:

– we needed to move on to the town of Bunratty, where I had booked us a 4 course medieval banquet at Bunratty Castle. This was fabulous.

Upon arrival at the castle you climb the narrow spiral staircase to the great hall where we were greeted with a goblet of mead (this was delicious, by the way) and a violinist. We then enjoyed a welcome from our hosts (all the staff are in period costume) with a history of the castle and some more music and song.

Bunratty_GreatHall

Bunratty_performersEveryone is then ushered down stairs to the banqueting hall. The only implement provided for eating is a knife, so the soup – you had to sip from the bowl. The food was very good, and during dinner entertainment was provided by a fiddle player and a harpist; there were also interludes of singing and story telling. Overall though, my favourite was the solo by the harpist. Just wonderful! It was a great night and I’m glad we did this.

The following day we headed into Limerick for a look around. Again, not enough time, but we went to King John’s Castle (sitting on the banks of the Shannon River), which provided a great interactive display of history of Ireland, Limerick and the castle.

KingJohnCastle_RiverShannon

Limerick_StMarysWhile in Limerick we also visited St Mary’s Cathedral, originally built in 1172 – this is probably one of the best ancient churches I have ever seen. This stone building has wonderful stained glass panels, an oak barrel vaulted roof and is probably best known for it’s 15th century oak misericords (a form of seating used by the clergy) with each one having a different figure carved into the underside of the seat (they fold up when not in use).

Limerick_Misericords

On then to Kilarney!

Dublin to Belfast

We had a lovely fine day in Ireland for our drive from Dublin to Belfast (I even managed to get sunburnt). I had a wonderful day indulging in some fine celtic history!

First stop was The Hill of Tara – an Iron Age hilltop enclosure that was reputedly the ancient seat of the High Kings of Ireland.

This standing stone is believed to be The Stone of Destiny (where the High Kings were crowned).

Stone of Destiny

The elevation at Tara affords some spectacular views over the Boyne Valley.

views of the Boyne Valley from Tara

From Tara we headed to Newgrange and Knowth. These are neolithic passage tombs (both over 5000 years old) that are highly significant and are listed as world heritage sites. Tours for both places leave from the visitors center and tickets are limited, with tours running every half hour. This is a very popular site – so if you ever visit here – arrive early and give yourself plenty of time. After buying your ticket you are bused to each site at your allocated time – with each guided tour taking 48 people (2 bus loads) and lasting an hour at each cairn. We arrived around 11am and left about 2:45pm.

At Knowth there is a larger main burial mound which is surrounded by 18 satellite mounds. Knowth also has a third of the total number of examples of megalithic art in Western Europe.

Art on a kerbstone of the main burial mound

Art on a kerbstone of the main burial mound

satellite mounds at Knowth

satellite mounds at Knowth

Newgrange is probably the best known Irish passage tomb. It looks a bit more impressive than Knowth and is better preserved. You are also able to enter the passage at Newgrange, but are unable to do so at Knowth.

Ireland_Newgrange

There are some wonderful examples of neolithic Celtic stone art here as well.

Entrance to Newgrange

Entrance to Newgrange

Our final stop today before heading to Belfast was at Monasterboice. Monasterboice was founded in the 5th century as a monastic settlement and the ruins of the medieval monastery are within the graveyard. This site also includes a roofless 35m high round tower and two churches, but best of all it contains some spectacular examples of 10th century High Crosses.

Ireland_Monast_Crosses

Another happy day for me! 🙂