It was April of last year that I published Part I of my virtual tour of Ireland. Breaking it up into two parts, the focus of Part I was all Along the Wild Atlantic Way. In Part II I wish to take you along as we visit the southern and eastern coastlines of Ireland along the Celtic and Irish Seas, often referred to as Ireland's Ancient East.
Cobh, County Cork
As we begin the second part of our virtual tour, we start in Cobh, County Cork, known from 1849 to 1920 as Queenstown.
This quaint little seaside town is best known as the final port of call for the Titanic in 1912. As our time was limited, we chose to wander through the Titanic Experience Museum. Housed in the original White Star Line Building where tickets were sold for this fateful journey, this museum holds artifacts and emerges you in the experience of what it was like to be aboard and sail along on the ship.
Our visit to Cobh was way too short, and a destination I plan to return to so that I can fully enjoy St. Colman's Cathedral and the famous view known as the "deck of cards". How I missed this the first go around is beyond me!!!
Waterford, County Waterford
One of my favorite cities in Ireland is Waterford. The oldest city in Ireland, it was founded in 853 by the Vikings. The history of this city is what piques my interest the most. Any fan of the Vikings series would absolutely appreciate this city and its history. Welcoming you into the city stands Reginald's Tower. The tower is the oldest civic building in Ireland, and is believed to be used mainly as medieval defense.
Used today as a museum, our visit fell conveniently on the first Wednesday of the month and our admission was free. I highly recommend taking the time to tour this amazing structure as well as the replica of the Viking Longship that sits right outside the entrance. Tickets for this, and the next museum can be purchased together to save a bit.
For all history buffs, I must insist you visit the Waterford Medieval Museum . It is one of the most comprehensive museums I've ever visited. From the moment you step inside the building through the 13th century Choristers’ Hall and a 15th century wine vault, you are transported back in time and the entry sets the scene for what is to come throughout the tour.
Priceless exhibits within, truly give you a sense of what it was like to be a resident in medieval Waterford, and what was held to be important at the time.
From the detailed miniature sculptures of the city, to the priceless artifacts within, I've never had such a museum make such a last impression.
The Marriage of Strongbow and Aoife by Daniel Maclise
In addition to many of the pieces/photos I share here today of my tour of the museum, there are four items within that truly are worth mentioning if you haven't been enticed yet; The Great Roll of Waterford, The Waterford Cloth of Gold Vestments, Henry the VIII's hat and sword, and The Great Parchment Book of Waterford. These pieces alone are worth the entire trip to Waterford.
The Great Charter Roll of Waterford
The Great Charter Roll of Waterford is one of Waterford's most prized possessions and a critical piece of history. It dates back to 1372-1373 and through illustrations and information scribed upon, it tells the story of Waterford and its relationship over the years with the Kings of England from King Henry II to Edward III. In an effort to demonstrate and maintain their importance and designation as a Royal Port over New Ross, this charter was created to present to Edward III as a visual aid of sorts to convince him that their worth was far greater as a royal port, and it worked! An illustration map of Waterford in the charter roll is believed to be the first picture into what Medieval Waterford resembled, as well as one of the only illustrations of King Edward III completed while he was alive.
The Waterford Cloth of Gold Vestments
This particular exhibit really made a lasting impression on me. These gorgeous vestments were handmade of Italian silk from Florence and embroidered in Bruges (Belgium) in the 1460's. They tell a story of both the Old and New Testaments and are the only link to the Renaissance to survive Northern Europe. They survived because prior to the city losing control to Oliver Cromwell during the British Civil Wars, they were buried in 1650 and not found until 123 years later during the demolition of the medieval cathedral they were buried within. The fact that the fine vestments were buried and found in pristine condition is mind blowing to me. The intricate work on each of these vestments left me in awe. I know that I could have spent an exurbanite amount of time just gawking at them, still not truly seeing all the handiwork within. A definite must see in Waterford.
King Henry VIII's Cap of Maintenance/Sword
As you meander through the museum, there are also many other memorable exhibits deserving of a shout out, such as King Henry VIII's hat, known as The Cap of Maintenance, and known to be the only piece of the King's wardrobe still in existence, as well as several charters, and a sword also from the King. These items were given to friend of King Henry VII's and Mayor of Waterford, William Wyse.
As seen below, the gold ring brooch shown is one of the oldest pieces in the museum. Made around 1210, a brooch such as this would often be used as a gift of romance and chivalry, and given to one as a promise of love and engagement. Commonly worn around this time, it is illustrated within the great roll where the governor of Ireland, John Darcy (1324-1327) is wearing one, and mentioned in a poem of 1184 in which is described as the role of the jewel and it's meaning behind it.
Finally, the last most prominent exhibit I would like to point out is the Great Parchment Book of Waterford: Liber Antiquissimus Civtatis Waterfordiae . This manuscript is a record of the city from 1356-1649. Within the manuscript you can find the ruler of time as well as the elected Mayor of Waterford depicted by entries and illustrations. Within the book, you also will find mentions of the Virgin Mary, one of only two written pieces in existence today denoting the importance of Catholicism in Ireland, the other being the Book of Kells.
As you find your way throughout the building, a timeline of artifacts demonstrate how the city of Waterford has evolved . You see everything from the earliest of pieces discovered and have been meticulously preserved, to period pieces of furniture, decor, china, and crystal, to pieces of modernization such as the cameras and toys from the last century; Waterford literally unfolds before your eyes.
House of Waterford Crystal
Waterford may be best known to Americans for the gorgeous Waterford Crystal that has been produced over the years. Waterford Crystal began producing in 1783 and continued on and off until 2009 when it was sold and the original factory in Kilbarry was closed. At the urgency of both the Waterford City Council and Waterford Chamber of Commerce, and under new ownership, they resumed production in 2010 in heart of Waterford at what is now known as the House of Waterford Crystal. Here they both produce pieces and offer tours of the factory.
As you enter the shop you are met with the most sparkling of welcomes with exhibits of magnificent pieces, and inventory of items for sale. To say this clutz was quite nervous in and around the shop was an understatement! Hugging my camera bag so as to not knock into any displays, I looked around admiring each and every piece until the tour began.
Making our way into the entrance of the tour, you are met with a brief history and spectacular pieces to admire as you wait for the tour to begin.
Once entering the factory, you see examples of hand molds used throughout the years, and see first hand molten glass being shaped and blown into objects of art. After each piece is created, it goes through a thorough inspection process and any slight imperfection sends it back to the start to be melted down and begun again. Should the piece pass inspection, it is then marked and expert craftsmen/women (who train for no less than 8 years) begin to cut, sculpt, and engrave the magnificent pieces you see as the final piece. Although a little pricey, these handmade pieces are meticulously crafted and well worth every penny spent.
The City of Waterford offers so much to anyone who visits, and is a very walkable city. It is very charming with it's seaside walkways, shopping regions, and eateries and pubs throughout.
One of my favorite things about this city besides the obvious...is the street art. This city embraces its history, utilizes its resources, and celebrates its uniqueness.
I highly recommend Waterford as a must see stop on your next tour to Ireland. In fact I must insist.
New Ross, County Wexford
In the late 19th century and early part of the 20th century, America saw a large population of Irish immigrants migrate in hopes of a better life. Famine, religious beliefs, and economic times forced more than 1.5 million people to leave Ireland. One of the most common points of departure was New Ross, in County Wexford. With diminished trade and an opportunity to make more money, ship owners began outfitting and utilizing their vessels to transport immigrants across the Atlantic. Prior to their departure, families left behind would celebrate their loved ones with what they called "An American Wake". Knowing they would never see their kin again, these celebrations acted as a final farewell to loved ones before boarding.
The vessels were commonly referred to as "Famine Ships" or "Coffin Ships". The ships carried as many passengers as they could fit down below. All crammed in together with little space, sparse food, and deplorable unsanitary conditions, the death rate was high (20-50%). Those who did not make it would be buried at sea, hence the name "Coffin Ships".
On my trip to Ireland in 2018, we had the opportunity to experience what it was like to voyage as an immigrant to America when we visited the replicate famine ship, the Dunbrody which is permanently moored in New Ross. On board you become a passenger, see where you would berth, see the deplorable conditions you would endure, and hear from period actors that tell you about their lives on board. The questions and answer interaction is both informative and entertaining, immersing you even more into the experience of our ancestors.
Captain's and Cabin Passenger Quarters
Making your way up top on deck, you see the size of the vessel and learn of what it was like to journey across the Atlantic on a ship this size. Ringing the original bell (recovered from the original Dunbrody), you end your tour and exit through the Irish American Hall of Fame where you see those Americans that came from the ancestry of these voyages. One of the most famous descendants from New Ross is John F. Kennedy, Jr. In 1988 the JFK Trust was established and to date has established several projects, one being the Irish Emigration Database. Working together with Ellis Island Restoration Commission in New York and the Battery Conservancy in New York, a database of emigrants were compiled from 1846-1890 for New York, and 1946-1851 for Boston, Philadelphia & New Orleans for your use as you trace your ancestry. For more information on this database and to search for your ancestors, please visit the Dunbrody Famine Ship webpage.
Arklow, County Wicklow
Arklow, a small town in County Wicklow along the Irish Sea, holds a special place in my heart. It is here where I feel most at home while in Ireland. Perhaps it's because my "Irish Family" resides here. It is here I was welcomed with open arms by the nicest, and most talented, group of people I've ever met. You are instant family to them (hence the title Irish Family).
Arklow is not a usual stop for most when traveling Ireland, and boy are they missing out. I came to be in Arklow through fate. Both trips I made to Ireland were initiated as a band tour with my friends, The Elders. We would travel from town to town seeing the sites during the day, and have a show in the evenings. The lead singer of The Elders, Ian Byrne, hailed from Arklow; so Arklow would be a stop each year for us. What occurred as we arrived was beyond amazing though. Our Arklow friends would organize a trad session the first night in town for us, and then the second night we would have a show at the local hotel where everyone would gather. I cannot express how hospitable these folks are. As far as the talent, I'll get into that in a moment. All I know is that, Arklow is home when I come to Ireland, and these moments are like family reunions.
Arklow Trad Session/Arklow Hotel Show
As I mentioned above, the fine folks in Arklow would go above and beyond to make sure we had an authentic trad session each year. The amount of talent in the residents of Arklow is mind blowing. They sing, they play, they dance, in fact I don’t think there’s anything they can’t do!!! And do amazingly well!!
Upon arrival, we would settle in, then we would take a quick walk across the 19 Arches Bridge, stop in at the Arklow Bridge Hotel for some of their famous fish and chips (with mushy peas of course), a pint of Guinness, and then down the street to Kenny's Harbor Bar where they would be waiting for us.
Held at the Kenny's Harbor Bar (a business that closed unfortunately due to Covid) our hosts organized local talent to share a night of traditional music alongside the band. These same folks, through a dedication to showcasing their local talent would a few years later create a musical venue called The Asgard Theater. This space was just a space above a pub to begin, but with the love and dedication of those involved, they created this performance venue that in its first year was fully booked and would sell out in record time!!! It’s heartbreaking today to think that all the hard work they put into raising funds and transforming the space, would be closed a short time later due to Covid. But I don’t fret that in the ashes of this pandemic, they once again will rise to sing and perform, maybe not in this venue, but they will once again find a home. They will once again invite the world to come and perform and celebrate their traditions and their talented residents!! After all, this is where it began.
Our time there was magical. The sessions were my first taste of what a Trad Session was, and the memories I will cherish always. They were standing room only too. All crammed together with pints in hand, we enjoyed traditional performances of some of the most talented folks I've ever seen of all ages. One of my favorite Elders songs, "Going to Arklow", debuted at the session in 2016. Not yet even recorded, the band shared the song written about their beloved Arklow and Avoca, allowing you to visually picture the lyrics first hand!!
Going to Arklow
Lyrics by Ian & Norm
Four immigrants are talking home boasting to their friends
Comparing stories each the best legends never end
Our next migration to the Isle across that stormy sea
Our land is near our friends are dear home will always be
The stories flying high tales of conquest and the strong
A table full of memories, the wise are never wrong
It’s great to be back in the land you couldn’t wait to leave
With pride and grace a wiser man we’re learning how to weave
I'm going to Arklow, maybe Avoca
Where the road winds through the valley
And our rivers finally free I'm going to Arklow
Founded by the Vikings the water pleased them well
With centuries of battles past they’ve had their share of hell
Nineteen arches separating fairies from the flock
The handmade bridge with shiny plaque more accolades than Knock
I'm going to Arklow, maybe Avoca
Where the road winds through the valley
And our rivers finally free I'm going to Arklow
The Tyrell boys they built them well the Ascard and the Moth
The Arklow girls are dancing as the sailors tie the knot
For potters all around the world that logo so endeared
This is our little East coast town we boast for all is dear
I'm going to Arklow, maybe to Avoca
Where the road winds through the valley
And the rivers finally free I'm going to Arklow
On both trips, the second night in Arklow we would have a formal sit down dinner and show at the Arklow Bay Hotel, where we all were staying. Always a great time, the monies raised went to helping promote music and the arts in Arklow.
I cannot say enough about the Arklow Bay Hotel (and actually all of the hotels Hammonds Tours booked for us). They treated us like royalty!! Like a well oiled machine, they would make sure we all would settle in properly (see the amount of suitcases they would have to carry to our rooms), and offered not only amazing accommodations, they had a great dining room and pub for us, banquet room for the show, and they were located right on the Harbor Walk. Each morning (and every chance I got) I would take advantage and take a walk down to the sea.
Meandering down a pathway towards the Irish Sea, I would pass little fairy houses tucked in a forest along the way, and feed geese and ducks at the pond, until I came upon the walkway. Hearing the waves crashing along the rocky coastline was an indicator how angry the sea could be. I can only imagine how difficult a life those that made the sea a career had. But it was mesmerizing, and I could see how they would be drawn to it. It was a life I could definitely partake in.
For those not familiar with this small community, it is a busy seaport still today. Known for both shipbuilding and shipping, Ireland's largest shipping company, Arklow Shipping, makes its home in Arklow Harbour today, and famous ships such as Asgard II and Gipsy Moth III were built in Arklow. Factories at one time dot the landscape throughout the town, however have today been reinvented as alternative sites with new more modern uses.
In 2018, our friends kidnapped us and gave us a day of great fun as we visited the Wicklow Gaol and Wicklow Brewery. Ironically, thinking back now, one could have very well lead to the other with this group.
The Gaol was built in 1702, it would be utilized over the years for many reasons, closed and reopened as needed, and it finally closed its door in 1924. In 1985 it was recognized as an important piece of history, was renovated, and reopened to the public once again in 1998.
Over the years this structure grew in size and was used in housing inmates of the rebellions, civil wars, and as a holding area for those convicts being transported overseas. The history of this Gaol is well documented on the self-guided tour throughout the building. Giving a comprehensive history or the Gaol, visitors can see a story unfold of the conditions, residents, times in history, as well as reforms it saw throughout its many years of existence. In addition, it is well documented to be one of the most haunted places in Wicklow.
Mickey Finn's Restaurant/Wicklow Brewery
Working up an appetite in the Gaol, we headed to Mickey Finn’s restaurant for lunch and special tour of the Wicklow Brewery. A rainy colder day, we were warmed up with the most delicious food and libations in a Irish pub like no other. Our special tour included a history of the Brewery from head brew-master, Bryan Kelley, as well as a tasting of those craft beers brewed on site and on tap at the moment. Brewed using the Braukon system, from the Bavarian region in Germany, the Wicklow Brewery is a total in house brewery from start to finish. Continuously perfecting their craft, I highly recommend this stop when in Arklow.
Nestled in the Wicklow Mountains, this area is one I highly recommend visiting if not on your agenda yet. It is my home away from home. I cannot wait to return and explore further.
Avoca Woolen Mills/Meeting of the Waters
One of my most favorite stops along the 2018 trip was at the Avoca Woolen Mills. Opened in 1723, this woolen mill has been a central part of the region. In the early years, it was used by the farmers for both a mill to grind corn and weave the wool from their sheep.
In 1733 the Fly Shuttle Loom was created by John Kay, and would change the way wool was woven from that day forward. Still in use today, Avoca offers both hand crafted pieces from the Fly Shuttled Loom and Power Loom creations for your purchase. The addition of the power looms were added to keep up with demand. A demand that is known today worldwide!
Avoca has evolved over the years as the times changed. Staying true to their mission and staying current with the market, they have grown and expanded over the years to include not only their woven creations, but eateries and other merchandise in locations all over Ireland. I have a few special pieces from the Avoca shop. My most prized possession is my handmade scarf by our friend, John Nolan, who not only made it, but also signed it for me.
“There is not in this wide world a valley so sweet
As that vale in whose bosom the bright waters meet!
Oh the last rays of feeling and life must depart
Ere the bloom of that valley shall fade from my heart...”
In 1807 Thomas Moore wrote the lyrics to "The Meeting of the Waters". This was inspired by a location in County Wicklow where the Avonmore and Avonbeg Rivers merge to become the Avoca River. This magical place has inspired many to write about it, as our friends once again, The Elders, also wrote a song about The Meeting of the Waters. Having spent a quick time there, I must agree, it is beautiful and magical.
Speaking of beautiful and magical, this brings us to my next favorite stop. Are you sensing that the County Wicklow seems to have a special place in my heart? Well if you haven't sensed that yet, spoil alert, it does!!! And if there was any question about it, Glendalough solidified it for me.
A lover of mountains, waterfalls, and nature as a whole, this was my mecca!! I love the castles, the ocean side with the waves crashing in, but there is something about being engulfed in the mountains that feeds my soul. This was my happy place.
Given only a little over an hour to see it all, I quickly made my way through the Monastic Settlement founded in the 6th century by St. Kevin. Taking a few photos of the ruins, I had to make a decision. Was I off to quickly hike up to see the waterfall, or make my way to the Upper Lake? I chose....
BOTH!!! Oh yes I did! Carrying about 30 lbs. of camera gear on my back, I quickly made my way up to the top of Poulanass Waterfall. Along the way you experience the most peaceful wooded walk, charming keepers cottage, and some of the most breathtaking views of the Wicklow Mountains. This is what heaven must be like.
It was also here along my hike that I met up with my friend, and partner in crime, Jane on the trail admiring this really amazing tree. Not sure if she talked me into it or I talked her into, but off we went to make our way to see the Upper Lake.
Quickly making our way to Upper Lake, we were passing our bus mates heading back to the bus, but we just had to see the lake. And boy am I glad we didn't miss it!!
Just look at this view!!!!!
Snapping a few photos, camera put away, we quickly made our way back to the bus. As the story goes though...we ran all the way back to not keep the bus waiting!!! What really happened was....we walked the majority of the way (quickly..but that camera equipment was so heavy and I just couldn't run), until we were in sight of the bus...then we ran the rest of the way so that our friends would think we ran the whole way!!! We boarded the bus, all out of breath and apologetic. This exploring was becoming a bad habit of mine. If you recall, back in 2016 (on the same trip) I kept the bus waiting another time at Drumcliffe. Those rounds were getting rather expensive!! ;) So well worth it though, had they held me to it, which gratefully they didn't. Would do it all over again!
Where we see Powerscourt today, in the 12th century stood a castle owned by the Le Poer family. Battles ensued over the years for its ownership, the LePoer's, O'Toole's, and Fitzgeralds families all fought to claim its ownership. However, in 1603, it was given to Richard Wingfield (Count Viscourt) by Queen Elizabeth I as a gift for his dedicated service to her. The property would remain in the Wingfield family for the next 350 years.
In 1741, the castle would be renovated into the palatial estate we see today. The garden design began as well at that time, but what we see today was designed in the 1840's and evolved over the next 40 years.
Breathtaking views of the Wicklow Mountains were framed amongst a series of gardens, statuary, and water. A tower was designed based on a piece of pottery (hence its name of Pepperpot Tower), and a favorite of the Wingfield children to play in and around.
In 1961 the property was purchased by the Slazenger Family, with the intent to open it up to the public. In 1974, a fire broke out destroying the top floor of the the house, and has since been restored, but sadly lost a portion of the history of the home. Since that time, the estate has become a sustainable piece of history offering not only tours of the grounds, but also shopping, restaurants, a hotel, golf course, distillery, oh and a waterfall. What's not to love about this place!
Our trip to Powerscourt began on the property down the road at the Powerscourt Waterfall. The highest waterfall in Ireland, at 397 feet, you have the opportunity to get right up close and personal with it. It's amazing!!
Making our way to the main estate, the timing seemed to always fall at lunch time. We would quickly grab a bite to eat at the Avoca Cafeteria, which was one of the highest end cafeterias I've ever been too. The salads and soups and quiches were amazing.
After lunch we then took off to explore the gardens. The estate is massive, so on my first trip to Powerscourt I explored the Walled Garden, Italian Garden, and Japanese Gardens. The second trip afforded me the extra time needed to really take my time and explore the Tower Valley and Pepperpot Tower. No matter where you found yourself on the property, you were surrounded by gorgeous views in front of you and behind them with the Wicklow Mountains.
Although Powerscourt is a rather touristy spot, I recommend you stop here at least once to explore, and early morning would probably be best to avoid the crowds.
A trip to Dublin is not complete without a trip to Johnnie Foxes. Located up in the mountains outside of Dublin in Glencullen, Johnnie Foxes was opened in 1798 and has been a place to gather ever since.
This pub is a favorite of mine for many reasons. They have the most delicious food, they can pour a great pint of Guinness, they offer live music (which is why we were there), and most importantly they are a living museum of Irish history. I could spend days in there reading everything on the walls, and discovering new tchotchkes everywhere I turn.
It really is the coolest place. I don't even mind the hundreds of chamber pots hanging above me as I'm eating. They must be single handedly the reason the rest of us don't have a pot to piss in!!
A great dinner, a great show with my pals, The Elders, and a few pints later, back we came to Dublin for more fun and adventures.
Dublin - County Dublin
Dublin Ireland is hands down the coolest city to wander. The first time I went in 2016, we set out early in the morning and wandered the streets seeing everything all day long. I loved the pace, I loved the exercise, and I loved the ability to stop and take photos when I came across something I wanted to capture. I even met some new friends (will explain more in a little bit).
It was truly an amazing exploration too. I'm all about walking when in a city, however if you are more public transportation type, I recommend getting a Dublin Pass. It will not only get you into some of the city's best attractions, it also gets you a 24 hour pass to hop on and off the bus. A great value and even greater method to get around.
Up early in every city still, this one was no different. Finding my way to St. Stephens Green, I took a quick run in and around in the morning and then had a chance to return later to explore further. Truly a gem of a park, and to know the history of the part it played in the 1916 Easter Uprising was very moving to me. Highly recommend this as a place to visit while in Dublin. All the cool Dubliners do!
Another great park within Dublin is Phoenix Park. This park was once hunting grounds (and still home to a herd of Fallow Deer), it opened to the public in 1747 and offers so much to do and see. Home to the Dublin Zoo, the Magazine Fort, the Phoenix Monument, Prehistoric Burial Chamber, the Wellington Testimonial, the Papal Cross, the People's Gardens, Ashtown Castle and the Victorian Walled Kitchen Garden, and so many other things to experience while there, including Segway Tours, I highly recommend it as a stop while in Dublin. Can I tell you, next time I'm in Dublin I'm doing the Segway Tour of Phoenix Park. It's the only way to see it IMO!
The first time I was in Dublin, I had the opportunity to visit the Guinness Storehouse. If I only had time to do one thing in Dublin, hands down it would be this tour. As you enter the warehouse, you find yourself standing in the largest pint glass ever. Looking up, you see the seven floors that is the world of Guinness.
Each floor concentrates on educating you on everything Guinness. It is here that you learn how Guinness is made, its affects on you, the history the man himself, Arthur Guinness, how the brand grew and is/was marketed, and how it is/was transported throughout the world.
The displays are not only informative, but also very creative.
The whole learning experience is very hands on and interactive. Really giving you a sense of the whole procedure. The displays grand and very detailed. It's a treat for all the senses.
As you make your way to the fifth floor, you can learn how to pour the perfect pint, and afterwards grab a bite to eat at Arthurs. The food was delicious and paired with the different types of Guinness was a treat in itself. May I recommend the Guinness Stew if you are on the fence about what to order?
Finally as you end your tour, you make your way to the top of Dublin to the Gravity Bar, where with the price of admission you enjoy a free pint while take in a 360 degree view of Dublin City.
One of Europe's most prestigious universities, Trinity College was founded in 1592 by Queen Elizabeth I, and was modeled after sister colleges Oxford and Cambridge. This grand campus sits in the Dublin's Center City and although surrounded by modernization, it's as though you step back in time when entering the gates to the campus.
The grand architecture is telling of its importance to Ireland, and perhaps is best known as the depository for many priceless written artifacts such as The Book of Kells and a rare copy of the 1916 Proclamation of the Irish Republic. Although I have yet to make it inside the Library of Trinity College, it is on my list of things to do still when in Dublin.
One cannot come to Dublin and not experience Grafton Street. This pedestrian friendly street offers shopping, restaurants, and buskers making this one of my favorite areas in Dublin to frequent. Walking in and down all the little side streets also affords you unique surprises, such as the now famous Anne's Lane.
Buskers are plentiful on Grafton Street, and one of my favorite parts about it. Now needing a permit, performers are only allowed one hour at a certain spot before having to move on and allow another the spot. This musical culture is tough but absolutely a culture in itself. Amazing musical talent comes from and/or has performed on Grafton Street over the years, such as Glens Hansard, Bono, Damien Rice, etc. Could one of these performers be the next big thing?
You never know who you'll meet along Grafton Street. The first year I was in Ireland, I met up with two gentlemen who I asked if they were the Irish version of the police...only to be answered with "we are the police". Haha...having a good chuckle together, they graciously posed with me to commemorate our meeting, and each time I've returned to Ireland...the Garda and I have a fun selfie reunion of sorts! What good sports they are!! (left 2016 - My pals, the Dublin Garda, right 2018 - The Galway Garda) Which city will I celebrate next year?
St Stephens Shopping Centre
Completed in 1998, this shopping centre is home to more than 100 shops and cafes. Named after its location, situated across the street from St. Stephens Green, locals commonly refer to it as "the wedding cake". To me, it's just a beautiful photo op.
Ha' Penny Bridge/ Bachelor's Walk/ O'Connell Bridge
At one time, the only means to cross the River Liffey was to take a ferry. In disrepair, the Ha'Penny Bridge was constructed in 1816 allowing about 450 pedestrians to make the trek daily. Originally called the Liffey Bridge and/or the Wellington Bridge, the name soon changed to the Ha' Penny Bridge for the toll (half penny) of which was collected to cross. Until 1999, it was the only pedestrian bridge to cross the Liffey until the Millennium Bridge was built.
Crossing over the Ha' Penny Bridge to explore, we made our way along Bachelor's Walk, a walkway following the quay up to O'Connell Bridge. A mix of small shops, apartments, and restaurants, I absolutely loved the ambiance of the area.
View from O'Connell Bridge Looking towards Ha' Penny The River Liffey from the Ha' Penny Bridge
Crossing back over the Liffey, our exploration continued in and around O'Connell Street finding some really interesting sites.
St. Patrick's Cathedral
St. Patrick's Cathedral is known today as Ireland's Church. Named for the patron Saint of Ireland, St. Patrick, it was believed that he baptized those he converted from a well on site in 450 AD. Only a legend for years, the well was discovered in 1901 by archeologists when they uncovered six grave slabs, one of which covered an old well. It wouldn't be until 1191 that an actual church would be built on the site, but not what we see today. The church we see today was designed and built in 1220-1259. By the mid 19th century, the church was in completed disrepair and through a gift from Benjamin Lee Guinness, a huge renovation began in 1860-1865. Since that time, repairs and renovations that are completed are funded through donations, grants, and the tourists that come to visit. Photos I share here were in 2016. The following year a major renovation of the building would began to repair and replace it's roof, as well as remove and clean (and if need be repair) the stained glass windows. Still underway, they hope to be able to complete the project and reopen in time of the 800 year anniversary of the church in 2021.
St. Patrick's Cathedral Grammar School, is the oldest school in Dublin, and well known for the attention they give to their music programs. Originally just a boys choir, it has evolved over the years to include girls in the choir, and include instrumental and traditional music programs too. I love their dedication to music.
Marsh's Library is Dublin's first public library, opened in 1707. Still in the original 18th century building, serving the same purpose, with books on the original dark oak shelving, it is the perfect example of a late Renaissance and early Enlightenment library.
Christ's Church Cathedral
Christ's Church Cathedral is the Dublin's oldest church. Founded in 1030, it vied for title of Church of Ireland for years until an agreement was reached in 1870 distributing duties between Christ's Church and St. Patrick's Cathedral. Like St. Patrick's Cathedral, Christ's Church also has also undergone extensive renovations over the years. Most notably is the combination of buildings and the footbridge spanning the street below. Christ's Church is known as the burial place of Strongbow (Richard DeClare), 2nd Earl of Pembroke. Strongbow was depicted in the famous painting of his marriage to Aiofe, daughter of Dermott MacMurrough, King of Leinster, at Reginalds Tower in Waterford.
What makes Christ's Church stand out above all others though, it is one of only two churches in the world to have 20 bells (19 swinging bells and 1 chiming bell).
Dublin Wall and Gate
At one time, Dublin was completely surrounded by a great wall and gates. This formidable barrier kept out those who they did not want to enter, and a means to collect tolls on those they did wish to enter. Sadly, only a portion still remains today.
Brazen Head/Temple Bar
Although we passed by the famous Temple Bar, offering up fun times, great music, food and pints, we choose to go have a seat in the oldest pub in Ireland, The Brazen Head.
The Brazen Head was built in 1754, however records indicate that they were open as far back as 1198 as an inn. Offering a place to eat and drink still today, the cozy environment is welcoming with great food and drinks. Enjoying a cup of soup and an Irish coffee, we warmed up and headed back out to explore some more.
Irish Rock & Roll Museum Experience
Ever wonder what it would be like to be a rock star? Well here's your chance to take a walk in the shoes of a rock star on a tour at the Irish Rock & Roll Museum. Offering the rock experience as well as special exhibits featuring famous Irish rock royalty, it's something I hope to do one day. Just walking outside and naming those on the Wall of Fame was cool. Can you name them all?
On my trip in 2018, I made it a point to find my way to Anne's Lane. I didn't know the name of the street at all, so I just luckily stumbled across it as we were wandering around Grafton Street. This little gem was one I had seen in photos on numerous occasions. What made it so special? Perhaps the shops and restaurants down the alley way? Or was it the night clubs? No, it was the umbrellas. Time and again I saw photos of a collection of umbrellas suspended over the street bringing sunshine even on the most of rainy days. So when we found it by a chance of turns, I was delighted!
That is what I love most about Dublin. No matter where you turn, you find something cool. Be it umbrellas, a huge spire, a historic landmark, a building of beautiful windows, or art imitating life, Dublin offers something on every street.
With a free day to spend in Dublin in 2018, I knew exactly where I was going. I was heading to the coast to visit the little seaside village of Howth. Joining me on my adventure this time would be my friend, Jane (my partner in crime from Glendalough). Heading out early we made our way to Pearse Station to catch the DART to Howth. Less than 10 Euros roundtrip, it was an enjoyable ride. Once to our destination, we couldn't have asked for a more glorious day. Blue skies, a slight breeze, and the sun beating down on us made the perfect backdrop for to discover this quaint little fishing village. Fishing boats coming in and out of the Harbour, sailboats, and kayaks dotted the water as we made our way to the wall.
Making our way to the end of the pier to the large wall, we happened across a busker playing. Gabor Zajzon was so impressive, one of his CD's came home with me.
Gazing out over the stone wall at the end of the west pier sits Howth Lighthouse to the east and a small island directly north of Howth Harbour called Ireland's Eye. No longer inhabited, it's not off limits to visitors and can reach it by personal vessel and tourists cruises. I would love to one day take a venture out and explore.
All along the western pier, lies shops, fish markets, and restaurants on one side, with the water and vessels moored on the opposite. It's postcard perfection.
Heading to the east pier, we passed by more shops, Howth Yacht Club, and began our walk out to the Howth Lighthouse. The original stone pier still the path out, you had to watch your step but it just added to the flavor of the experience and I happily reveled in every moment soaking in the salty sea air, mist coming in off the water, and squawking of the seagulls. It was bliss.
After spending some time out capturing photos of my lighthouse, we made our way back to get a bite to eat. Asking a local which place was the best to choose, we settled on The Brass Monkey. With such a nice day, we took a seat outside and enjoyed the fresh catch of the day.
As we made our way home, our trip out to Howth was the perfect ending to our perfect trip to Ireland.
I would like to leave you with these wise words (and a tune) from my friend John Costello, our tour guide from Hammond Tours. Both John and Mike Costello kept us in line and made our trips so much fun. The friendships we developed with them I'll cherish always.
As I said in Part I, Hammond Tours was the perfect way for me to see the country the first few times. However, now I feel as though I can venture out alone, or with perhaps a new guide that may be able to show us areas only the locals know about. I long to go down the little roads the tour buses couldn't go down. I long to spend more time in the places I love without having to jump on a bus for the next town. I long for the option to just go without an itinerary. I long for my Ireland at a Kathy pace.
This last year has been tough not being able to go on our trip to Ireland in May of 2020, and then again this year isn't looking too promising. My wanderlust soul is breaking. To help make it through though, I've discovered several amazing hikers and adventurists in Ireland that truly helped me get through each day with daily posts of the areas they live in. I live vicariously through them. There is one in particular I want to introduce you to. Tom, from Toms Tours is a tour guide from Cork. Prior to the pandemic he gave tours together with his dog, Archer all over Ireland. This pandemic hit the country hard and especially the tourism business. Just now coming out of a 102 day level 5 lockdown, it's been so much tougher for them. In America we've slowly opened up again, been afforded a chance to get the vaccine, and we see hope on the horizon. But smaller countries like Ireland, are not on the same pace as us and so when this is over, they need our support even more so. I highly encourage you to reach out to them and use their services when we once again can go over.
As I come to the end of this virtual tour of Ireland's Ancient East, I hope I was able to share just how special this area is. Yes, it was so amazingly beautiful with the coastline and mountains, but I loved so much the history that I learned along this virtual tour of Ireland. I love the story of how the people came to the country, fought for the country, developed the country, and sadly had to leave the country. They say that anything worth having is worth fighting for. This I saw first hand. Through trials and tribulations, they held on to what was dear to them; their land, their culture, and their people. They celebrate it, cultivate it, and share it with all.
One of my favorite quotes about Ireland is, "if you're lucky enough to live in Ireland, you're lucky enough."
Till next time my friends,