Bunratty Castle, County Clare, Ireland
As we flew into the Shannon airport on our 2003 trip to Ireland, the Bunratty Castle in County Clare was a convenient first-stop as we were staying in a near-by hotel. The present castle was built in 1425 is the last of a series of castles built on this site. Bunratty Castle is “one of the most authentic medieval castles in the country.” (Ireland for Dummies).
The castle and the surrounding site with its re-creation of a nineteenth-century Irish village are a major tourist attraction. As we had arrived early that morning Ireland time after an overnight trip our time, we were all feeling a little punky while visiting Bunratty. I don’t remember if we even walked through the little village. I do remember two of our sons fell asleep with their heads on their arms while sitting at a picnic table in the middle of the afternoon. We weren’t deliberately trying to torture our exhausted children. Mark, the only experienced international traveler among us at the time, assured us that we needed to stay up and awake all day. Then we would be able to sleep all night and get ourselves adjusted to the time-zone difference.
Bunratty Castle is known for its medieval castle banquets. We thought this would be a good way to spend the evening and stay awake. We got the tickets in advance while still at home. Some may think it is a tourist trap, but I enjoyed it. We were offered a cup of mead when we arrived. The time-period entertainment was lovely and the food was interesting. And it did the trick of keeping us awake long enough to satisfy Mark.
Rock of Cashel, County Tipperary, Ireland
The Rock of Cashel makes a powerful first impression. This photo was taken from the drive approaching the fortress where it commands the top of a hill. From the 5th century on it was the seat of the Kings of Munster. Brian Boru, Ireland’s most important High King, was crowned Kind of Ireland here in the eleventh century, (Ireland for Dummies). It was turned over to the Church in 1101 and became a religious center until a Cromwellian army held a siege and then massacred the 3000 occupants in 1647.
This ceiling detail and painted angel are from the Hall of the Vicars’ Choral, built for Cashel’s most privileged choristers.
If memory serves me, this is inside Cormac’s Chapel, one of the most outstanding examples of Romaesque architecture in the country. Make sure you notice the little faces carved into the arch.
The roofless cathedral is the largest building on the Rock and was never restored after being set fire by Cromwell’s men.
The Round Tower is perhaps the oldest and most remarkably well preserved building of its kind. It enabled Cashel’s inhabitants to search the surrounding plain for attackers.
“Legend places St. Patrick in Cashel for his famous explanation of the Holy Trinity. He is said to have shown pagans a shamrock, pointing out that the three leaves represent the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,” (Ireland for Dummies).
A small cemetery right outside the buildings contain many tombstones and Irish crosses.
The ruins of the Hore Abbey can be seen by looking over the wall surrounding the cemetery.
Kilkenny Castle is situated in a downtown area of Kilkenny and overlooks the River Nore. Built in the 1190s, Kilkenny Castle was occupied by the Butler family from the late 14th century until the upkeep became too expensive and it was donated to the nation in 1967.
This is a view of the back of the castle with a small garden.
The castle has maintained its medieval form through many alterations including Victorian changes made in the Gothic Revival style.
Kilkenny Castle is a popular tourist stop and may at times have long lines.
The castle grounds contain beautiful sculptured gardens and a formal rose garden.
Ross Castle, County Killarney, Ireland
This 15th century castle sits on the edge of Lower Lake just outside of Killarney Town. It was built by the O’Donoghue chieftains and was the last stronghold in Munster to surrender to Cromwell’s forces, which it did in 1652. It is largely in ruins today with only a tower house surrounded by a walled garden with turrets.
I thought one of the most fascinating aspects of this castle is how it literally rises from the rocky hill surrounding the lake.
Blarney Castle, County Cork, Ireland
Blarney Castle is one of the greatest tourist attractions in Ireland, (Ireland for Dummies). The castle you see today is the third one to be built on this site. The first was built in the tenth century and was made of wood. It was replaced by one built of stone which was subsequently demolished leaving only the foundations. The third was built in 1446 by Dermot McCarthy, King of Munster. The keep still remains standing.
A system of passages leads to the dungeons and prison cells.
This cave connects with underground passages and at one time had an outlet near Blarney Lake about 1 mile south.
Visitors climb to the top of the keep where they have a scenic view.
And where those who choose to can kiss the blarney stone to receive the gift of eloquence. I had no plans to kiss the stone because first of all I have enough eloquence and second of all—germs. But once I saw the height and the rather large gap between the walkway and the stone with a tremendous drop between, any doubt in my mind was settled.
But as you can see, my youngest son Joe opted for the eloquence. The man pictured with him is stationed beside the stone to help the tourists. (And there is a railing there visible in this photograph under my son’s body as added precaution.)
I think it must have worked, for Joe sure knows how to give us a bunch of blarney.
Photos by Christine M. Grote
Copyright © 2011 by Christine M. Grote
Ireland for Dummies, Sinead O’Brien and David G. Allan, IDG Books Worldwide, Inc., 2001
Various pamphlets and brochures from the sites in Ireland