Friday, August 21, 2009

Ok, this is not a full blown group Heritage tour but my personal visit to Ireland but I did check out places for my next group tour!!


We arrived in Dublin early Sat morning after a fairly quick flight from Chicago of 6.5 hours. I know that still sounds long but compared to other flights I’ve been on recently, it wasn’t bad. Made it through customs and baggage fairly quick too and headed of to our hotel. We dumped bags and before we collapsed took the tram down to the City Center. Dublin is a busy town, lots of traffic, tour buses and people. Interesting and fun, and the weather was nice. We decided to do a bus tour of the city, one of those hop-on, hop off double decker buses to get an overview of what we wanted to check out. Since we only had a couple days in Dublin, we were cramming things in. It was an okay tour; I prefer the ones that have a live person giving commentary, so if you go get the buses that have that. We had the headphones and they worked ok. I just don’t like when the bus gets stuck in traffic and the commentary is telling you about something you haven’t seen yet. We stopped and visited Trinity College (although we didn’t go in and see the Book of Kells,

that was another 10 Euro!), walked the park at St. Stephen’s Green and the statue of Molly Malone.

Window shopped and ended up in the Temple Bar area. This is a happening place of lots of pubs, street musicians and restaurants. We did visit the actual TEMPLE BAR, which had a great band playing traditional Irish music. We will visit a lot of pubs playing traditional Irish music before the trip is over!! Anyway, jet lag started to set in and after we had dinner, we stopped at one more pub on the way home, Ryan’s, in honor of one of my Irish family names.

Sunday, we decided to do a day tour out to Glendaloughand the Wicklow area. This is a stop all the regular tours make but since my friends had never been to Ireland, it was something they should see. We had a great bus driver who filled us in on all kinds of history and fun facts on the way down there; it

is about an hour drive south of Dublin.

Glendalough (Gleann Dá Loch, “Valley of the Two Lakes”) is a fascinating monastic settlement in a spectacular natural setting just an hour south of Dublin. The monastery was founded by St. Kevin, a hermit monk who died about 618 AD. The extensive ruins of Glendalough include several early churches, a graceful round tower, and various sites associated with the life of St. Kevin.

The most visible monument at Glendalough is thefine round tower, rising about 30 meters high.

In medieval Ireland, round towers served as landmarks, bell towers, storehouses and places of refuge in times of attack. The door is about 3.5 meters from the ground, which was common practice as a means of prot

ection for the people and treasures inside.

The tower originally had six wooden floors, connected by ladders. The four stories above the entrance are lit by a small window, while the top story has four windows facing the fourpoints of the compass. The conical roof was rebuilt in 1876 using the original stones.

We had an absolutely gorgeous day to visit here, surprisingly no rain, sun was shining and it was in the mid 60’s. We also hiked to see

the two lakes, which were gorgeous, and it was a beautiful walk, shaded paths, waterfalls and beautiful green wherever you looked. We spent several hours here and then continued on to the small town of Avoca.

Avoca (Irish: Abhóca) is a small town near Arklow, in County Wicklow, Ireland. It is situated on the River Avoca. The Avoca area has been associated with its famous copper mines for many years and the valley has been immortalized by Thomas Moore in the famous song The Meeting of the Waters. The name of the song derives from the meeting of the Avonmore and

Avonberg rivers, about two miles fromthe village of Avoca. The song is said to have been written under a tree, the stump of which remains by the Meetings. Avoca is also famous for its hand weaving. Avoca Hand weavers are based in Avoca.

We met a very interesting lady on the bus with us, who was originally from Tehran and she told us she recently read that thousands of years ago, Ireland was populated by people from Persia (now Iran). We were very skeptical about this story but later on we were on a Castle tour and that guide also substantiated that story!! Who knew??


Monday morningup early to head out of Dublin on our way to Kilkenny. My first stop though was the National Library. I have been looking for my Irish ancestors for years to no avail. Not even a county. These people definitely know how to hide. Right before I left I did try looking again and found a neat website:

The second link here is for images of the Griffiths Valuation

Probably you Irish researchers know about this already but

I found some names in there to give me something to look for. I am down to looking for where the two surnames show up in a County together and trying to go from there. We’ll see.Anyway, my traveling companions didn’t give me much time but I did get an overview of things they had at the Library, most Catholic Parish records. Also learned it is best to talk with the people in the Genealogy Services room and have them go over your research and suggest what would be good for you to look for. You then order your films or books and they bring them to you. So, you could be twiddling your thumbs for a short while. They maybe have 20 or so microfilm readers and

a few microfiche readers. Well, needless to say I didn’t find much on my film, not enough time but I did speak with the Genealogy Service assistant about a future group tour and will work on that.

We were picking up our car today and heading out of Dublin. All I can say in regards to this is, “Driving in Ireland is done at your own Risk”. I’m sure lots of people do it and enjoy it but for us 4 gals, it was quite an experience. Our rallying cry was “May the Line Be With You” so our driver would remember that the line should be on her side. We only turned into the wrong lane

2 times!!!

We had a GPS but found that was only accurate about half the time. I’m a map person and after getting out of out of Dublin, with their numerous roundabouts (best advice on these, keep going around in a circle until you are really sure where you want to exit), we were on our way to Kilkenny. Now I know we were on the way to Kilkenny but for most of the trip I sang to the girls "It's a Long Way to Tipperary", now I only know the first 4 lines and I can't sing, so there was much moaning and groaning every time I started but I am sure they will remember those first 4 lines!! My quick comments about the roads: very narraw, no shoulders, and hedges growing on either side of the road. Needless to say, we

weed-whacked quite a few hedges, plus they are not to big on signs. You kind of guess where you are going. As a lady at the Kilkenny tourist office told us when we asked her how anyone knew where they were going, she replied, “Oh we know where we are going, we just like to keep it a secret!” Indeed they do.

Kilkenny's rich medieval heritage is evident in the city's treasure trove of historical buildings and landmarks, exemplified by the magnificent Kilkenny Castle. After a magnificent Irish breakfast at our B&B, we headed into the old town for a tour of the Castle. It was a day of sunshine and then rain which is typical of Ireland but the Castle was awesome. Okay a little history:

The original Anglo-Norman stone castle was built for William Marshal, 4th Earl of

Pembroke (c

.1146-1219) during the first decade of the thirteenth century. Kilkenny Castle later became the principal Irish residence of the powerful Butler family for almost 600 years. The Butler ownership began when James (c.1360-1405), 3rd Earl of Ormond, purchased the castle in c.1391, and lasted until 1967 when Arthur, 6th Marquess of Ormonde (1893-1971), presented it to the people of Kilkenny in return for a token payment of £50.

The buildings have been in the care of the Office of Public Works since 1969, and many important programmes of archaeological excavation, conservation, and restoration have been carried out there.

It was especially impressive at night.

One thing about Ireland in the summer is the days (or light) last until about 10:30 or so at night. Love that. So we would be in a pub thinking it can’t be that late, it is still light outside, but it was 10 pm.


Since this is a Blitz tour of Ireland, we were on the road again the next day. Due to the driving taking much longer than we thought, I didn’t get to stop at the Dunbrody Emigrant Ship. This is a replica of an 1845 sailing vessel that I will include a stop at on an Irish Heritage tour. I think it would be neat to understand what our ancestors endured on the long voyage to a new world. The ship has costumed history interpreters, who describe life onboard ship and what conditions were like. This also has an Em

igrant database, check it out.

So off we were to Kinsale. On the way we wanted to stop and see the Rock of Cashel.

Legend associates the Rock of Cashel with St. Patrick, but the name comes from Caiseal, meaning "stone fort," and the hill was originally the residence of the kings of Munster. Excavations have revealed some evidence of burials and church buildings from the 9th or 10th century, but it was in the early 12th century that the Rock began to be developed into a major Christian center. We had a marvelous guided tour and the views from this vantage point were breathtaking.

We arrived in Kinsale late afternoon, what a great town, on a beautiful harbour filled with masts of sail boats. We enjoyed a quick meal, walked around the harbour and of course visited another pub.

Another Irish custom I liked is the continuation of the traditional Irish music in the pubs nightly. These pubs are not only filled with tourists trying to “absorb the culture” but the locals who bring their children and make an evening of it. One word of advice on pubs though, sip your drink, they can be VERY expensive.

Our B&B, the Sea Breeze (doesn’t that just sound like a fantastic place?) was great and the owner Fiona was the best. Very helpful and sweet and went out of her way to help us with anything. Next morning, after another ample Irish breakfast, we headed back down the harbour for a walking tour. I highly recommend Dan O’Herilhy’s Walking tours, but our guide was Barry Maloney.

This company is also recommended by Rick Steves, and Barry starts off by saying you don’t have to pay until the end and only if you liked it. The tour was worth way more than the 6 Euro we did pay. He gives a great historyof the town of Kinsale and major world events that happened there. Like, I didn’t know that the Spanish Armada fought the English in Kinsale Harbour? More history….

Under tempestuous clouds of a wind-driven autumn sky, the first of a fleet of 26 Spanish ships bearing 3,500 soldiers entered the deep sheltered port of Kinsale on September 22, 1601 (old style)--or October 2 if the new calendar introduced by Pope Gregory is used). These were the survivors of the original 35 vessels that had left Lisbon--a Spanish port at that time--three weeks earlier and then encountered a northwesterly gale a hundred miles from the Irish coast. The recently crowned King Philip III of Spain had ordered the Kinsale armada. The event was one of a series of expeditions and attempted landings on the English and Irish coasts over a period of 13 years.

Our guide gave us an in depth history lesson of the battle and how if the outcome would have bee

n different our world may be a different place. I guess you will have to take the tour to find out. He also told us of the connection between Kinsale and the book “Robinson Crusoe”. The history continues…

The story of Robinson Crusoe was written by Daniel Defoe, who came to Kinsale in autumn 1690 as a junior figure in John Churchill’s expeditionary force to capture the harbours of Cork and Kinsale. He dropped out and remained here for about a year following the campaign. He met Alexander Selkirk later in Bristol.

The story is based on the experiences of Selkirk, a seaman from Fife in Scotland who sailed from Kinsale in September 1703 aboard a ship, CINQUEPORTS, which was paired with another, The GEORGE, in a Pioneering venture financed in part by a local merchant Edward Southwell.

Seamen like Selkirk aboard theses ships were never paid salary or benefit but rather failures were encountered worked “on percentage” of the prospective spoils, a system which worked well when the spoils were taken but the reverse when failures were encountered.

The story of Robinson Crusoe can be explained by the fact the following about two years of hard life at sea Selkirk’s ship had come up with almost nothing. He quarreled with the captain and abandoned the enterprise at a small island off the coast of Chile (Juan Hernandez) where they had pulled in to get water. Except for animal life, the island was deserted. As it turned out Selkirk’s abandonment was fortuitous since it was shipwrecked soon after with great loss of life and Spanish jail terms for the few that washed up ashore soon after.

The character Man Friday is based on the real experiences of another individual who was also abandoned on Juan Hernandez, but 10 years before Selkirk and in completely different circumstances. He was a South American Indian who was named `Willie ` by his ship mates. He was, apparently, a skilful hunter and so when his ship came to the island to replenish its water supplies, the shipmates told Willie not to bother with the water but to go up in to the hills and hunt for some game instead. All was going fine until a look out spotted Spanish sails on the horizon. They had to flee the island and there was no time for Willie to get back to the ship. He probably saw the ship leaving the island without him on it. Willie was rescued off the island a few years later by another ship calling there for water.So, the two principal characters in Defoe’s novel Robinson Crusoe were both real people and were both indeed abandoned on the island but not at the same time. Willie was off the island about 6 years before Selkirk arrived. Defoe met up with Selkirk at Bristol and learned the story there. He knew about the gap betwee

n the two men’s time on the island but shuffled the dates to make a better story. Willie was named Man Friday in the novel as it was the day on which Crusoe found him.

Okay, enough history, but as you can see the tour was very inter

esting if you like that sort of thing. I really do and enjoyed it a lot. It was at least 2 hours or more.

Also, Kinsale is guarded by two English Star Forts.

Charles Fort is one of the finest surviving examples of a 17th Century star-shaped fort, and much of the construction begun in 1678 remains. The fort has two enormous bastions overlooking the estuary, and three facing inland. Within its walls were all the barracks and ancillary facilities to support the fort's garrison. The fort continued in military use until 1922.

James Fort holds a commanding position directly across the harbour mouth from Charles Fort. Together, these forts guarded the narrow harbour entrance. Work began on the construction of James Fort in 1602. It was completed in 1607 and was captured in 1690 by Williamite forces. It has undergone much alteration in the intervening centuries. Lots to see in Kinsale, worth spending several days here, but alas we are on our way the next day.


Next stop after Kinsale is Dingle. I had big plans to stop in Cork and see the Cobh Emigration Center after we left Kinsale but that didn’t happen either. Like I said, the driving distances on Mapquest and on a regular map don’t look that far but it sure takes you much longer that you thought. But Cobh too will most likely be a stop on a Heritage Tour of Ireland. This is the port that most Irish emigrants left from and the last stop for the Titanic before heading out to open sea on the Atlantic.

The drive was long but scenery is beautiful and before long we were seeing peeks of the ocean. We arrived in Dingle and found our B&B, WOW, big, new house overlooking the Bay.

We couldn’t get enough of the view, absolutely gorgeous. Our rooms were nice but the sitting room with a huge

picture window and telescope reminded me of something of a 1930’s movie.

There was a chaise lounge sofa in front of the window and I could have stayed there with a good book forever. We needed to stretch our legs so we walked into Dingle town following along the beach front. Spectacular! Good dinner and a good pub, more music and when we walked home at 11:00 pm, felt like it could have been 7 pm.

After another bountiful Irish breakfast we wanted to do the drive around the Dingle Peninsula, but knew we didn’t want to drive, so we had heard of a tour service the night before and we had the driver of a 8 person mini-van come pick us up in the morning. It was nice to leave the driving to someone else and luckily for us the day was magnificent. Sunny, blue skies, white fluffy clouds and the ocean with all its myriad of colors spread out before us.

The road is tricky (as you will see by the picture) but there are stopping points along the way for picture taking and admiring the view. We stopped and some of us went down to the beach and put their feet in the cold, cold ocean. Along the way one of the stops was at a few cottages along the side that were Famine Era Cottages (or perhaps replicas?) of stone cabins showing what people ended up in before they were really out in the cold. Very sad, but gave you a sense of the hardships they endured.

Dingle Penisula was a wonderful ride, much less crowded than the Ring of Kerry ride, which most of the tour buses travel. This was better, I think.


After our fantastic ride, the blitz continued and we had to head off for our last stop for a couple days, Doolin. This is up in County Clare and to get there we took a car ferry across an inlet. That was fun. Then we drove, drove and drove some more. After many chorus’s of “It’s a Long Way to Tipperary” (they were about to kill me), we arrived in this very small town and the directions kept us going down smaller and smaller gravel roads. We were all wondering where the heck this place was, but we finally found our B& B, Twin Peaks, and although out in the Burren, it was a nice, new place. Really big rooms and as usual, the owners were fantastic. Doolin is known for its pubs and traditional music, so that is what we did!! Fun. And as by the time you come home, it is still a little light we were comfortable walking. This was a really small town and the houses are spread out and people’s livestock, horses and cows were in pastures along the way. As we walked home out of the darkness we heard some noise and noticed a horse running down to the fence. I guess he was used to Pub people walking by late at night and he wanted some attention. We stopped for a moment to pet him and went on our way. The next morning at breakfast we overheard some teenage girls telling their parents about what they did the night before, apparently the parents had left them at the pub (like I said even though there is alcohol served, the pubs are family friendly) and the girls had a blast. I don’t think they were drinking but they insisted that they had been followed home by a horse!! Likely story after a night out at a Pub, don’t you think?

We decided today to use public transportation instead of driving anymore. There was a bus that stopped in Doolin and a couple of us went to the Bunratty Castle and Folk Park. Me for one. Finally one of the things on my list to see. We toured the Castle, which was very interesting and the guide there was a true Irish Leprechaun. Very entertaining. The folk park is like the open air museums in Germany where there are examples of different homes and businesses from mainly the mid to late 1800’s. I found it interesting and took lots of pictures. I find that this puts into perspective how my ancestor would have lived in the Old country. Here is the website for this:

Next day was our last day of sight-seeing and we had to get from the west coast of Ireland back to Dublin and we didn’t want to drive! We turned the car in at Shannon and decided to take the bus across country. First we did visit the CLIFFS OF MOHER, which were awesome. The day was a little rainy and foggy but we did see the Cliffs and standing there looking westward made me think of how many of our ancestors looked westward for a new life but left their hearts on this beautiful, mystical island!!