Archives for : April2017

Trip Diary – April/May 2017 – Belfast, Northern Ireland – Day 13

Day 13 – Belfast, Northern Ireland

Belfast, the capital of Northern Ireland, suffered the worst of “The Troubles,” the well-known conflict between the Protestants and Catholics in Ireland. Over several decades, more than 3000 people from both sides died. To the outsider, the animosity between the two groups is not seen, but to older Belfast residents, the causes remain just under the surface. At the time of the so-called ceasefire, a wall was constructed between the Protestant and Catholic neighborhoods. One section, over 1,000 feet long, is called the Peace Wall and is covered with dozens of hand-painted murals, one of the main attractions for tourists. Another landmark of The Troubles is the Hotel Europa, arguably the most-bombed building in the world, the victim of nearly 40 explosions over the years.

 

Prosperity seems to be everywhere, with cranes visible all over the city and all phases of construction evident. The Victorian tower with the copper spire is the hallmark of a new indoor shopping mall. The newest and best sit side-by-side with 18th Century beauties like Queen Victoria’s Opera House below. The tallest Celtic Cross in the world is on a church, with a modern stainless steel spire just as tall as the cross. And, yet, other salvageable and historic buildings in the city wait for someone to care about them and re-build.

     

While we waited downtown for a tour bus, a Catholic parade scheduled for mid-morning generated an enormous amount of police presence to counter any Protestant violence that might erupt. In all, around 40 marchers and 10 protesters showed up, outnumbered several times by police and anti-terrorism forces.

In an earlier post from Galway, I mentioned the “Euro and a half” store, similar to our dollar stores. Not to be outdone, the Belfasters have their own version, poundworld.

If you haven’t noticed yet, we love castles! Belfast was no exception, and had a beautiful castle and an attached garden that rivals some of the best in the world.

  

Tomorrow is a travel day between Belfast and Dublin, and nothing looks too exciting on the maps, so probably no big assortment of pictures. After a day wandering around Dublin, though, I’m sure we’ll have something to show you. The day after that, we’re off to London! Stay tuned!

Trip Diary – April/May 2017 – Northern Ireland – Day 12

Day 12 – Northern Ireland

Instead of traveling straight to Belfast on an interior road, we decided to meander along the water and explore the rest of the Antrim Coast. Along the way, at a small town named Cushendall, we ran across a small cemetery across the street from the docks. Dates easily went back to the mid-1800’s, and also included a few newer ones. I love old cemeteries, maybe because my paternal grandparents, great-grandparents, and a few great aunts and uncles are buried in Riverside Cemetery in Commerce City.

If you can connect a person with a particular event, era or period in history, their life becomes fascinating, no matter how mundane it really may have been. I have transcribed tombstones and taken photographs, but I have never taken rubbings of them. This particular cemetery shows a lot of damage from the wind and blowing rain and salt water spray on some of the sandstone tombstones. Vital information is now, in many cases, lost forever. Cemetery records are, of course, only a part of the information a Genealogist attempts to collect on a person, but oftentimes that is all that is available to provide clue where else to look.

Now we are in Belfast at a beautiful B&B with a huge room to spread out our bags and begin to re-pack a bit for our trip to London next week. We have purchased gifts and other items that must be carried, and we were already close to our weight limits.

 

Trip Diary – April/May 2017 – Sligo into Northern Ireland – Day 11

Day 11 – Sligo, Ireland to Northern Ireland

Donegal, Ireland is on the other side of the peninsula from Sligo, and has more “history” than Sligo. Our first stop was the Donegal Famine Cemetery, a small plot of land near the river to enshrine those who perished in the Potato Famine of 1846-47. This single event caused more Irish emigration to the United States than any other in history. Families today speak of those who left and were never seen or heard from again after going to America. The interesting thing in this cemetery is the lack of headstones – this was a mass grave!

   

Donegal also has a significant role in the history of the royal family and the church. Built in 1474, the castle was occupied until the 1700’s, and then lay dormant until taken over by the country in the 1990’s and rebuilt. St. Patrick’s Church is a Catholic church named after the patron saint of Ireland.

Horses, cows and sheep are found on the farms in southern Ireland. Sheep become the animal of choice, and farms begin to spring up as you travel north. This time of year, the greening of the various plants brings subtle changes to the landscape each day.

The number one tourist attraction for many years in Northern Ireland has been the Giant’s Causeway. The Antrim Coast provided the perfect location for Finn MacCool to built a stone causeway from Northern Ireland to Scotland. Ancient volcanic eruptions have resulted in geometrically-shaped basalt columns in a fairly small portion of the coastline. The scientific explanation makes sense, but that doesn’t take away any of the magic when you see it. The photos provided below are presented with no comments – enjoy them for what you feel them to be.

As to the MacCool legend, to quote Wikipedia:

“According to legend, the columns are the remains of a causeway built by a giant. The story goes that the Irish giant Fionn mac Cumhaill (Finn MacCool), from the Fenian Cycle of Gaelic mythology, was challenged to a fight by the Scottish giant Benandonner. Fionn accepted the challenge and built the causeway across the North Channel so the two giants could meet. In one version of the story, Fionn defeats Benandonner. In another, Fionn hides from Benandonner when he realizes his foe is much bigger than he. Fionn’s wife, Oonagh, disguises Fionn as a baby and tucks him in a cradle. When Benandonner sees the size of the ‘baby’, he reckons that its father, Fionn, must be a giant among giants. He flees back to Scotland in fright, destroying the causeway behind him so Fionn could not follow. Across the sea, there are identical basalt columns (a part of the same ancient lava flow) at Fingal’s Cave on the Scottish isle of Staffa, and it is possible that the story was influenced by this.”

To end the day before our dinner and last pint of the day, we visited Dunluce Castle, west of Bushmill. Dunluce, we are told, is a featured location in Game of Thrones. For me, it was another awakening, of sorts. Owners over the years included the Earls of Antrim, including the 5th Earl in the late-1700’s. A signboard at the castle gave me the name of the 5th Earl of Antrim in my personal database, previously called “UNK 5th of Antrim” and allowed me to identify his wife, as well, through Wikitree. I have added research into the Earls of Antrim to my To Do List, now that I also have links to them.

 

 

Trip Diary – April/May 2017 – Galway to Sligo – Day 10

Day 10 – Galway to Sligo, Ireland

We arrived in Sligo, Ireland after getting a slow start from Galway, and continued on to our B&B on the north shore. We chose this particular B&B because of its proximity to Inishmurray, a small island off the coast. We had intended to take a boat out to the island and see the artifacts left by island dwellers over several centuries. Inishmurray (catch the name, Murray!) is part of our heritage, hence the visit, but ultimately couldn’t do it this time of year due to weather.

Inishmurray is the place where, in the 4th Century, St. Molaise established a church outpost and tried to convert the Picts in Ireland to Catholicism. St. Patrick is said to have visited the island and preached there. Over time, there was an orphanage/school, a small village, a religious compound, and other dwellings. The connection to our Murray lineage is the fact that St. Molaise was instrumental in working with the Irish Murrays, thought to be forebears of the Scottish clan.

We had cloudy weather and couldn’t see much detail on the island, but we go enough to know basically where things were. We had a nice, long chat with a gentleman who was born in the house next door to the one he lived in over 60 years ago, and gave us a lot of background on the island, the area, and other goings-on.

The upper NorthWest coast is a somewhat forbidding place anyway, as seen in the two photos below. In better weather, however, the rocky beaches are filled with surfers from all over the world because of the quality of the waves.

While we were on the beach, we saw the outline of a castle way off in the distance. We had been told it was in the town where the “man with a boat who visited Inishmurray” lived.

 

Trip Diary – April/May 2017 – Galway – Day 9

Day 9 – Galway, Ireland

One of the main attractions to Galway, the largest western city in Ireland, is the shopping. City fathers have gone to great pains making it easy, and have blocked off several blocks in the City Centre as a pedestrian zone. A three-story inside shopping mall anchors the Eyre Square, and several streets with large and small shops snake out from there.

Back to bathrooms (restrooms, toilets, john, whatever…..) for a moment. At several locations in the shopping zone, we found turnstiles on the way to the facilities, each charging 20 cents Euro to pass. This particular one was in the bus station, but another one in the shopping mall had several people ready to rise up and protest. Lousy public relations for a shopping mall owner!

Every city on a bay has certain things, and Galway Bay (Sandhill) is no different. A giant hotel sits next to a small amusement park, and is only a few blocks from modern seaside apartments. Despite the overcast weather and temperatures in the low- to mid-50’s, the beach walkway and the sand were filled with people. Part of it may be due to the fact children are still on their “spring break” this week, but beaches tend to have loads of walkers, cyclists, dogs, people watchers, and a few homeless all over the world. Galway was no different.

 

 

Trip Diary – April/May 2017 – Cliffs of Moher – Day 8

Day 8 – Cliffs of Moher, County Clare, Ireland

Not to be missed as you travel north in County Clare toward Galway, one of the larger cities in Ireland, the Cliffs of Moher is the number one site for nature-based tourism in the country. There is a walking path and numerous observation points along the tops of each peninsula. One ends with a square fire tower built by Napoleon, while the other has a castle-like tower called O’Brien’s Tower (there’s that ancestral name again!). When the weather is bad in the Atlantic on its way to Ireland, the Cliffs are the first to experience any major problems, acting as a sort of early warning system.

Just as an aside, the toilets (restrooms to us) are UNISEX. It’s a bit unnerving to enter a bathroom and wait for a woman to come out. There are no wall urinals, and the stall doors go down to a few inches off the floor, but those are the only differences you notice. Looking for “Ladies” or “Gents” and finding “Unisex” is quite a surprise, no matter where you’re from.

 

Trip Diary – April/May 2017 – Booleens, Castlemaine to Galway – Day 7

Day 7 – Booleens, Castlemaine to Galway, Irelandn

The B&B we stayed in when we traveled the Ring of Kerry yesterday would have been ideal for a trip around the Dingle Peninsula just to the north. Alas, our time didn’t allow a trip on both. We did get a special thrill, however, when we met and talked with Florence O’Sullivan, a 4th Generation blacksmith. Most of my bachelor’s degree was in metalworking, including forging, welding, heat treating, tool making, and similar skills, and then I taught all of those, and more, for over 20 years.

Florence has been at it since age 16, and is still going strong (although slower) in his early ninetie’s! Sad to say, there is no 5th Generation in the O’Sullivan family.

My great-grandfather was a blacksmith in Germany when he emigrated to America during the mid-1860’s. He was a jack-of-all-trades and made a comparatively good living for an immigrant with eight children.

   

The owner of The Anvil B&B became a friend in our two days there. Liz has owned the B&B nearly 20 years, and now she and her son run the bar and restaurant together. Even in the Spring, a supposedly slow time for tourism, she is full or nearly so every night.

Leaving Booleans, we headed for Limerick, Ireland, the second time we drove on an Irish Motorway. Not quite an Interstate highway, but better than the average road, the most interesting feature is that you drive for dozens of miles and pay 1.90 Euros (about $2.00) at the end. The normal section of E-470 we drive fairly often costs $2.90, but only covers about 8 miles. There’s something wrong here!

North of Limerick is Bunratty, Ireland, where we stayed at another privately-owned B&B. Dierdre and her husband bought the house shortly after having their first child. Three children and 18 years later, they have expanded both their living quarters and the B&B. Also full most of the year, it’s fairly close to the town of Bunratty, home of the Bunratty Castle and Folk Park.

The Bunratty Castle today is actually the fourth incantation of castle on or near the site. Originally a Viking encampment destroyed by Brian Boru, an early Irish king and an O’Brien ancestor, it was owned at various times by the MacDonald’s, MacCarthy’s, O’Briens (twice – note the three lions on the shields below), and for centuries was the seat of the Earl of Thomond. Given to the de Clare family (also ancestors) by King Richard III of England (another ancestor), it fell into disrepair when the last family moved into a new manor house. Eventually, the castle and property were taken over by an Irish national trust.

It’s uniqueness lies in the fact that all furnishings in the castle date from the 15th Century and are authentic to the period, if not to the castle itself. There is also a typical village of the time with several buildings set up to show how life was conducted back then.

 

 

Trip Diary – April/May 2017 – Killarney and the Ring of Kerry – Day 6

Day 6 – Killarney, Ireland and the Ring of Kerry

To do the Ring of Kerry “right,” according to the locals, you have to begin at Killorglin and go clockwise around the peninsula. Much of the way, you will parallel the Dingle Peninsula just to the north. At the bottom of the peninsula, life becomes much harder for the local inhabitants. Small, rocky islands appear off the coast, rocks begin to jut out of the mountains themselves, and the whole area takes on a much wilder appearance, which is why the area is known as the Wild Atlantic Way.

 

 

Until we priced them, we had considered “caravaning” across Ireland. We have seen several caravan parks (rv parks) around Ireland as we’ve traveled, but there is not a big rv population like there is in the states, at least in Ireland. The roads (width, condition, etc.) all play a part in how people caravan. The park below was owned by a large bar/restaurant at the bottom of the country, but most of the caravans (what we would call trailers) were brought in for the season, set up and leveled, and destined to be rented out. Other options are small modular buildings of all kinds that can be moved to a location and set up as a home. Most of the time, the caravaners fare better than the family who built their own castle in the wilderness, only to lose it to a major fire.

There was one particular section between Kenmare and Killarney that could fit into almost any road in the Colorado mountains once you left the pavement. We felt right at home, even with the tours buses forcing the caravans to hug the walls of the hills as they drove through. I think Cyndie has some pictures of a couple of those.

 

Ross Castle in Killarney is another castle being slowly brought back to life by the government. Originally owned by the O’Donoghue Mor (Ross) family in the 15th Century, it is now a major feature of Killarney National Park and is owned by Ireland. It sits on the bank of a huge lake fed by a large river.

 

We have our Dollar Tree stores, and Cyndie and I love them! No need for price checks – everything’s a buck! Well, Killarney has Ireland’s alternative, at least from what we’ve seen so far. I call it the Euro-Fifty store – everything in the store is one and a half Euro’s. A Euro is about $1.06 in US Dollars right now, so you can figure that one out on your own. Being near the national park, we can only compare Killarney to a place like Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park, only several times larger.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trip Diary – April/May 2017 – Cork to Killarney – Day 5

Day 5 – Cork to Killarney, Ireland – Blarney Castle

The Blarney Castle is in a beautiful setting just a few minutes north of Cork. One kisses the Blarney Stone to eloquence in speech, but after all those years in education, I just kissed for the fun of it. After a long climb to the top of the castle up a very narrow and slippery staircase, you lay on your back and lean backwards with the help of a person who wants to sell you a photo of you doing it. (photo later of me kissing it!)

To kiss the REAL Blarney Stone, however, you would have to be hung by your heels on the outside of the parapet, instead. I like the modern version better!

 

Graffiti aging back over several centuries can be found on the inside of the castle walls. Outside, the parapets now protect visitors to the Poison Garden from the high cliffs overlooking the moat, long dried up.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trip Diary – April/May 2017 – Cork to Skibbereen – Day 4

Day 4 – Cork to Skibbereen, Ireland

The Drombeg Stone Circle is an early site on a smaller scale than Stonehenge, but with much the same purposes. It is one of many such sites throughout the country that have dated back to the 4th Century and later, probably Druid or Pict. Several families used this site for several years. Visitors today have established their own small altar in the center of the circle.

 

 

Charles Fort is one of a few unique military installations built in a star shape. The other thing that makes the fort unique is that was built on a peninsula at the entrance to the harbor of Kinsale, Ireland, at the south end of the country on the Atlantic Ocean. Used several hundred years through several wars, it was decommissioned after Work War I and became a hippie commune in the 1970’s, before being taken over by the country as a monument.