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The Northern Half of the Island of Ireland

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Erin go bragh

Posted by rpickett 21:29 Archived in Ireland Comments (0)

The Northern Half of the Island of Ireland

Donegal to Dublin

overcast 62 °F

Today we head back to Dublin to spend the night at the airport in preparation for our flight home tomorrow.

Along the way we stopped at the megalithic sites of Knowth and Newgrange.

Knowth is a prehistoric monument overlooking the River Boyne in County Meath, Ireland. It comprises a large passage tomb surrounded by 17 smaller tombs, built during the Neolithic era around 3200 BC. It contains the largest assemblage of megalithic art in Europe. Knowth is part of the Brú na Bóinne complex, a World Heritage Site that also includes the similar passage tombs of Newgrange and Dowth. After its initial period of use, Knowth gradually became a ruin, although the area continued to be a site of ritual activity in the Bronze Age. During the early Middle Ages, a royal residence was built on top of the great mound, which became the seat of the Kings of Knowth or Northern Brega. Archaeologist George Eogan led an extensive investigation of the site from the 1960s to 1980s, and parts of the monument were reconstructed.


Newgrange is an exceptionally grand passage tomb built during the Neolithic Period, around 3200 BC, making it older than Stonehenge and the Egyptian pyramids. It is aligned on the winter solstice sunrise. Newgrange consists of a large circular mound with an inner stone passageway and cruciform chamber. Burnt and unburnt human bones, and possible grave goods or votive offerings, were found in this chamber. The mound has a retaining wall at the front, made mostly of white quartz cobblestones, and it is ringed by engraved kerbstones. Many of the larger stones of Newgrange are covered in megalithic art. The mound is also ringed by a stone circle. Some of the material that makes up the monument came from as far as the Mournes and Wicklow Mountains. There is no agreement about its purpose, but it is believed it had religious significance. It is aligned so that the rising sun on the winter solstice shines through a 'roofbox' above the entrance and floods the inner chamber.


Posted by rpickett 21:05 Archived in Ireland Tagged dublin to donegal Comments (0)

The Northern Half of the Island of Ireland


semi-overcast 65 °F

Today dawned foggy and misty, but finished off with wonderful full sunshine. We explored Donegal today.

The first stop was the Abbey Graveyard. Located where the Eske River flows into Donegal Bay, the Old Abbey stood for more than two centuries despite being ransacked, burned and ravaged. It finally faced abandonment during the early years of the 17th century. Built by Hugh O’Donnell in 1474, the abbey now only exists as ruins, but the south transept, various areas of the cloisters, and the choir areas are still visible. The nearby graveyard bears evidence of burials occurring for more than a century after the abbey was abandoned. Annals of the Four Masters
This abbey is distinguished as the place where the Irish Annals were to be written by the Four Masters during a time when it seemed the Celtic culture and traditions of Ireland were in danger of being eradicated by the English. The Annals were written as a way to preserve records and history, as well as the traditional mythologies of Ireland from its earliest times all the way up to 1618. The Four Masters, who were monks, carried out work on the project for four years, from 1632 through 1636. The Annals are still extremely important today, as Irish genealogists and historians use them. The original documents are kept safely preserved, but copies are displayed in the National Library in Dublin. The Annals of the Four Masters remains one of the most important documents for Irish historians and genealogists alike. Although the original works of the monks are kept locked away safely, people can examine the copies on display at the National Library in Dublin.


A short walk from the Abbey is the wonderful Donegal Castle. The castle was the stronghold of the O'Donnell clan, Lords of Tír Conaill and one of the most powerful Gaelic families in Ireland from the 5th to the 16th centuries. For most of the last two centuries, the majority of the buildings lay in ruins but the castle was almost fully restored in the early 1990s. The castle consists of a 15th-century rectangular keep with a later Jacobean style wing. There is a small gatehouse at its entrance mirroring the design of the keep. The complex is sited on a bend in the River Eske, near the mouth of Donegal Bay, and is surrounded by a 17th-century boundary wall. Most of the stonework was constructed from locally sourced limestone with some sandstone.


After a little shopping and a sandwich, we returned to the Lough Eske Castle Hotel - a wonderful five star property near Lough Eske.


Posted by rpickett 15:55 Archived in Ireland Tagged donegal Comments (1)

The Northern Half of the Island of Ireland

Derry to Donegal

semi-overcast 65 °F

As it was Sunday, we headed off to Church for the 10:00am Mass at St. Columba Long Tower. The present church is built on the site of Roman Catholic worship which goes back as far as the 12th century. The current Long Tower Church began life in 1783 in a much smaller scale than seen today. Father John Lynch, a parish priest in Derry started action to raise funds for building the Long Tower Church and he received finance not just from Roman Catholics but also Protestant people in Derry at the time. The church was opened in 1788.


From there we checked out of the hotel and headed west. Our first stop was the ancient fort Grianan of Aleach. The Grianan of Aileach, sometimes anglicised as Greenan Ely or Greenan Fort, is a hillfort atop the 244 metres (801 ft) high Greenan Mountain at Inishowen in County Donegal, Ireland. The main structure is a stone ringfort, thought to have been built by the Northern Uí Néill, in the sixth or seventh century CE; although there is evidence that the site had been in use before the fort was built. It has been identified as the seat of the Kingdom of Ailech and one of the royal sites of Gaelic Ireland. The wall is about 4.5 metres (15 ft) thick and 5 metres (16 ft) high. Inside it has three terraces, which are linked by steps, and two long passages within it. Originally, there would have been buildings inside the ringfort. Just outside it are the remains of a well and a tumulus.


From there we headed to the north coast to the Fanad Head Lighthouse where we were able to climb to the top as part of our tour. This light is classified as a sea light as distinct from a harbour light although it does mark the entrance into Lough Swilly which forms a natural harbour of refuge. In 1812 the frigate Saldana was wrecked on Fannet Point, as it was called then, and became a total loss except for the ship's parrot which bore a silver collar inscribed Saldana. Soon after the loss of this vessel Captain Hill of the Royal Navy in Derry, whose experience of the north-west coast from Blacksod to Lough Foyle was second to none, wrote to one of the members of the Corporation for Preserving and Improving the Port of Dublin (the Ballast Board) suggesting that a lighthouse should be placed on Fannet Point. He also backed up his request by stating that the Saldana would not have been lost if there had been a light on Fannet. Without question the Board approved Captain Hill's request and they approached Trinity House, who gave their sanction in July 1814.


Ater those beautiful views we went to Doe Castle. Doe Castle, or Caisleán na dTuath, near Creeslough, County Donegal, was the historical stronghold of Clan tSuibhne (Clan McSweeney), with architectural parallels to the Scottish tower house. Built in the early 15th century, it is one of the better fortalices in the north-west of Ireland. The castle sits on a small peninsula, surrounded on three sides by water, with a moat cut into the rock of the landward side. The structure consists mainly of high outer walls around an interior bawn with a four-storey tower-house or keep.


Posted by rpickett 09:21 Archived in Ireland Tagged to donegal derry Comments (0)

The Northern Half of the Island of Ireland


overcast 65 °F

Today is the day to explore Derry one of the most volatile areas of the United Kingdom because of the dissention between the Protestants and Catholics. Derry is the only remaining completely intact walled city in Ireland, and one of the finest examples of a walled city in Europe. The walls constitute the largest monument in State care in Northern Ireland and, as part of the last walled city to be built in Europe, stand as the most complete and spectacular.The Walls were built in 1613–1619 by The Honourable The Irish Society as defences for early 17th-century settlers from England and Scotland. The Walls, which are approximately one mile (1.5 kilometres) in circumference and which vary in height and width between 3.7 and 10.7 metres (12 and 35 feet), are completely intact and form a walkway around the inner city. They provide a unique promenade to view the layout of the original town which still preserves its Renaissance-style street plan. The four original gates to the Walled City are Bishop's Gate, Ferryquay Gate, Butcher Gate and Shipquay Gate. Three further gates were added later, Magazine Gate, Castle Gate and New Gate, making seven gates in total. The architect was Peter Benson, a London-born builder, who was rewarded with several grants of land. It is one of the few cities in Europe that never saw its fortifications breached, withstanding several sieges, including the famous Siege of Derry in 1689 which lasted 105 days; hence the city's nickname, The Maiden City.


Our first stop was the Tower Museum which gave us a wonderful history of Derry. The museum is located in Union Hall Place, within a historic tower just inside the city walls, near the Guildhall. The museum has two permanent exhibits; The Story of Derry which presents the history of Derry from its prehistoric origins to the present, and An Armada Shipwreck – La Trinidad Valencera which details the local shipwreck from the Spanish Armada.

We then walked to the Museum of Free Derry followed by the memorial to Bloody Sunday..very impressive for those of us of a certain age. The Museum of Free Derry is a museum located in Derry, Northern Ireland that focuses on the 1960s civil rights era known as The Troubles and the Free Derry Irish nationalist movement in the early 1970s. Located in the Bogside district, the museum's exhibits include photographs, posters, film footage, letters and personal artifacts.


Our last walk by was the first church of Derry - St. Augustine's, followed by St. Columba Cathedral. St. Augustine’s, fondly known as ‘the Wee Church on the Walls’, sits on the Grand Parade of Derry’s Walls on the site of St. Columba’s first monastery in Ireland. Columba (Colmcille, meaning Dove of the Church) was born of Royal parentage at Gartan, Co. Donegal in 522AD. After study at Glasnevin, in 546 his cousin Aed, King of Cenel Conaill gave him the oak clad Hill of Derry on which to build his first church. Reluctant to cut down any of his beloved oaks, Columba chose a clearing in the middle of the oakgrove, resulting in the church running north south rather than the usual east west. This unique footprint remains to this day. In 563 Columba travelled down the River Foyle into exile on Iona from where he spread Christianity to pagan Britain and Europe. His Derry monastery continued to flourish and became the leading monastery in Ireland.

The present church was built by William Parratt, from London, and was consecrated in 1633. It is a good example of "Gothic Survival" in the English Gothic architecture of the 17th century, contemporary with the college chapel of Peterhouse, Cambridge. The style has been called "Planter's Gothic". Foundations for a chancel extending the east end were laid in 1633, but the building work advanced no further. In the porch is an inscription:

If stones could speake
then London's prayse
should sound who
built this church and
cittie from the grounde.

After its consecration in 1633, the church was nearly unaltered until the bishop in 1776, Frederick Hervey, 4th Earl of Bristol, extended the total height of the building to 221 feet (67 m) by building up the tower by 21 feet (6.4 m) and adding a very tall spire. This spire lasted only two decades before it threatened to collapse and was dismantled for rebuilding. The tower was finished in 1802, but the replacement spire was built another two decades later. The original south porch, attached to the hitherto unaltered nave, was removed in 1825, and in 1827 the turrets on either side of the east end were remodelled, with their previously crenellated tops rebuilt with domes.


Posted by rpickett 17:11 Archived in Northern Ireland Tagged derry Comments (1)

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