Thursday, January 30, 2014

Five Places to See in Ireland and who Shouldn’t Miss Them

Five Places to See in Ireland and who Shouldn’t Miss Them
                                                           * All photos copyright Juilene Osborne-McKnight

What to See  -  Muckross House
Where  -  Killarney National Park
Who Shouldn’t Miss It  -  Downton Abbey Fans
Why?  This huge Anglo-Irish mansion has everything a Downton fan will love – stone facades decorated with climbing vines, an “upstairs” of curving staircases and elaborate fireplaces, accompanied by a “belowstairs” with a giant kitchen whose walls are full of  servant’s bells. Outside are gorgeous formal gardens, all on the shores of a shining lake ringed by mountains.

What to See  -  Newgrange Passage Tomb
Where -  Boyne Valley
Who Shouldn’t Miss It  -   Ancient History/Mystery Buffs
Why?  This tomb and temple capture the light, both literally and figuratively.  Built in approximately 3200 B.C., Newgrange predates the Great Pyramid of Giza. Visitors duck down a long passage and stand in a central room beneath a tightly corbelled ceiling. The walk takes five minutes, but it returns you to a time thousands of years before Christ.  At the winter solstice, the returning light enters the lintel above the door of the tomb, threads down the long passageway and illuminates the central room of the tomb.  But who built these passage tombs? How and why?

What to See  -  Bunratty Folk Park
Where -  County Clare
Who Shouldn’t Miss It  -  Photographers
Why?  The folk park is a virtual photographer’s stage set.  On every corner are cottages with thatched roofs, cottages with climbing roses, bicycles leaning against windows and tinker caravans from long ago.

What to See  -  Thor Ballylee
Where -  County Galway
Who Shouldn’t Miss It  -  William Butler Yeats fans
Why  -  Yeats was weird and wonderful crazy, wandering about the countryside, pressing his ear to the ground to hear the fairy folk playing on their fiddles.  At Thor Ballylee, in the ferny, greening woods, it is easy to imagine Yeats meandering the forest, climbing into his tower, writing brilliant lines like “peace comes dropping slow.”

What to See  -  Strokestown Famine Museum
Where -  County Roscommon
Who Shouldn’t Miss It  -  Fifth Generation Irish Americans, i.e. Famine Irish Descendants
Why -  In the stables beyond the house is a fine Famine museum with many records from the period.  When you see how horrible the treatment of our ancestors was, you will understand why they had to leave and why they were lucky if they were actually able to leave.  Both of your halves – Irish and American – will become self-explanatory.

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