Dublin, Ireland

Kirk and Deanna Visit Ireland

(April 15-19, 2008)


April 13 was the beginning of Kirk and Deanna's Ireland adventure. They flew to the city of Dublin, and from there they traveled the lovely country-side where there are many old castles. Here are some pictures they took and a little added history that you might enjoy.

Ireland is an island in the extreme north-west of Europe, situated between 51.5 and 55.5 degrees north latitude and between 5.5 and 10.5 degrees west longitude. Its nearest neighbor is the island of Britain to the east, separated from it by the Irish Sea. At their closest, the two islands are 18 kilometers apart. To the north, west and south a shallow continental shelf falls away rapidly to the deep waters of the Atlantic Ocean. Ireland enjoys an equable climate, moderated by the warm Gulf Stream and the prevailing south-westerly winds. Mean daily air temperatures in winter average 4 degrees C, in summer 16 degrees C, while the extremes may lie at -12 degrees in winter, 30 degrees in summer. Annual rainfall ranges from a low of 750mm in some eastern areas to more than 2000mm in mountainous areas. The island comprises a large central lowland limestone area, fringed by a discontinuous border of coastal mountains which vary greatly in geological structure. Ireland was separated from mainland Europe in the period following the last great Ice Age, and as a consequence has a smaller range of flora and fauna than is to be found elsewhere in Europe. The earliest settlers arrived in the Mesolithic period, around 7,000 BC, and these hunters were joined, in some cases replaced, by farmers and herdsmen around 3,000 BC. Since then Ireland has been primarily an agricultural country. Successive waves of invaders and settlers have been more or less absorbed into the human ecology of the island, creating a rich gene pool in which the predominance of the Celts, who arrived as early as the 6th century BC.

Most scholars believe that Christianity arrived in Ireland in the 5th century AD, from which period also we date the first written documents. However, there is an underlying controversy that ancient Eire, the Isle of the Sun, was the seat of the Great Magian Pontiff, the Sun's chief representative in ancient Europe. The conquest by the Romans changed all that. According to old legends, their people were massacred, and their records destroyed. History was re-written by the Roman church, although the mystery and secrets lived on. For one, the sacred traditions of the Kings crowning were performed at the sacred Hill of Tara (above) where Jacob's  Stone ("Lia-Fail") had allegedly been placed. Irish Christianity in its early period achieved an almost symbiotic affinity with the pagan culture of the island, giving the early church a distinctive, some might now say an heretical, character. Early Ireland was never united politically, though 150 or so minor kingdoms shared a common culture. The first attempts to unite the island politically began with the Norman invasion of 1169, and over the next 700 years, ruled with varying degrees of success by the English, Ireland could be said to have become a discrete political entity.

Castles, stone towers, walls and other fortifications can be seen all over Ireland. Some have been restored to their original greatness, and others lie in ruin. The Castles in Ireland were not elaborate dwellings of royalty. Although most were owned by the heads of clans, kings or titled English gentry, they were fortified dwellings, for protection against raids and invaders. The Vikings extended the concept of fortified enclosures for protection by building walls around entire villages or towns with towers set in the walls at intervals to watch for enemies. The castles are not as big as you expect them to be. They are dark because windows were few and just large enough to see who might be approaching, and to defend the castle. The rooms are small so that the small fire could keep it warm. Some have a great hall and many have their own chapel. Almost anywhere you go in Ireland you'll find a pile of ruble that was once a castle.

A traditional Irish blessing...

Kilkenny Castle

Entire view of castle.

Kilkenny Castle West wing.

Here's where they make Waterford Crystal.

Founded in 914 AD, Waterford is the oldest and largest city in Ireland to retain its Viking-derived name. Waterford Crystal is a trademark brand of crystal products produced in Waterford, and in recent years (largely as sub-brands) in other locations, by the company Waterford Wedgewood plc., previously trading as Waterford Glass Ltd. Waterford produces many patterns of lead crystal stemware, including lines such as Adare, Alana, Colleen, Kincora, Lismore, Maeve, Tramore, and many others. Waterford's chandeliers hang in well-known buildings like Windsor Castle, Westminster Abby, and the Kennedy Center, and they have made the crystals for the famous New Year's Eve Ball that is dropped each year in New York City's Times Square.

Sporting trophies are also crafted by Waterford, such as the Masters Series crystal shield trophies that are awarded to the winner of each of the nine men's professional tennis Masters Series tournaments, and the AFCA National Championship Trophy that is awarded to the US college football team which finishes the season at the top of the Coaches Poll (above).

Wicklow National Forest.



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