The Rock of Cashel is the seat of the ancient Irish Kings. This is where, in 990 CE, Brian Boru was crowned High King. That fact and other history and make Mount Cashel an important tourist destination.
The round-towered St. Patrick's Cathedral dominates the hill, giving a wide view over County Tipperary. The roofless church is now under repair, as the picture shows. The details below show a roosting pigeon and an elaborate tomb with a view.
A detail of Cormac's Chapel, with its wooden ceiling beams and artistic decor, is seen below.
This wide view from the walled hill reveals an angry sky.
Emo Court has wonderful walking trails on both sides of the lake. The side closest to the house, of course, contains the formal gardens, with statues, lawns, rhododendrons, camellias and many huge and beautiful trees: oaks, elms and beeches among others.
Right, Jackie, my Irish healer friend, communes with an ancient tree.
The lake is filled with ducks and swans and adorned with reeds and waterlilies.
A small wooden bridge crosses to a natural woodland where a lot of work is currently being done to clear the trails and forest floor of dead and fallen trees. Below one cut tree waits to be carried off, one resembles a question mark and another displays its gorgeous sunlit canopy.
In our time, Clonmacnoise has a functioning church that was built in the 12th century. Since the 18th century, Temple Connor (left) has been home to a Church of Ireland congregation. A padlock keeps it closed to tourists when not in use.
Right: Tiny flowers grow on the ancient stones.
A well-preserved round tower stands against the
backdrop of the Shannon River. An
Irish defense innovation, (below right) it has no door. Those with permission to enter had to climb rope ladders that were let down from the
narrow windows above.
An ancient design of swirls graces this ancient monument of stone at Clonmacnoise in central Ireland.
Founded as a monastic settlement by St. Ciaran (Kieran) in 548 CE, this site was important during the fifth and sixth centuries CE, the golden age of the Irish saints. In 1198, Rory O'Connor, Ireland's last High King, was interred here.
Like many Irish monastic settlements, Clonmacnoise was attacked and plundered on several occasions by Anglo-Normans and Vikings. Yet in spite of its violent past, the place is imbued with a mysterious sense of power and peace.
A good way to view this vast site is to begin by watching the short film that introduces its history.
Today is the summer solstice and the garden is in full fig, so to speak. No actual figs, of course, but there are a few late peonies, and plenty of alstroemeria. Beside the dark red lilies, the pure white callas have begun to open. The crocosmia are about to burst into flower as well.
The fragrance of the roses and mock orange that I've brought in waft their delicious scents through the house with its open windows.
In the front boxes, bright coloured dahlias, mini-carnations and gerbera daisies are giving their best. Sitting on the back deck this afternoon, I enjoyed bursts of fragrance from pot plants chosen especially for their scents: Stargazer lilies, Hidcote lavender and Eternal Fragrance daphne. In the back garden, the purple yarrow is beginning to flower, and the hydrangeas are well along too.
It was 9:45 pm when I finally decided the evening light was getting too dim to read, and came in.
During the Napoleonic wars, this fort was part of a defense system built by the British to protect against an anticipated French invasion.
The British reasoned that by landing in the west, the French could cross the Shannon and march on Dublin. The idea was not outrageous; similar invasions had already been attempted.
These unique defensive tete-a-pont fortifications at Shannonbridge were begun in 1802 and completed in 1817. Initially manned by a hundred British troops, the fort stood until 1865. The expected French invasion never came.
After Aiofe and Dermot's daughter Isabel married the Earl of Pembroke William Marshal, the castle became a military and administrative centre. It passed to the Mortimers in the 14th Century. When Earl of March Roger Mortimer was executed for treason, it changed hands again, then fell into disuse.
The 18th century saw a partial and temporary restoration when the hall became the residence of Sir John Parnell, Irish Parliamentarian and grandfather of Charles Stewart Parnell, the 19th century champion of Irish Home Rule.
As the OPW marker explains, this castle, on its small hill with a wide view in all directions, was well-fortified. Surrounded by a double barbican, it featured plunging arrow loops in the walls.
This style of stone house with it's roof of thatch is now a fairly rare sight in Irish country villages. In 2005 in the New York Times, Brian Lavery wrote that the once-common Irish thatched cottage is becoming endangered.
In County Carlow is a stone bridge that crosses the river to what appears to be an old castle. Upstream is the weir pictured below. In 1891, Carlow had the first hydroelectric station to light an Irish town, or one in Great Britain either, as indicated on the sign below, posted on the castle wall.
Just as bogs preserve ancient wood, they can hold the bodies of those long dead in a state of partial preservation. According to Matt McGrath, the mummified remains of Cashel Man, discovered in County Laois in 2011, predate the mummy of Tutankhamen by 500 years.
Traditionally, Irish people have harvested peat from the bogs for fuel to burn in the classic turf fire. In fact, one souvenir I saw at Carroll's was a bit of turf -- something for an emigrant to burn and be comforted by the smell of home.
As well as peat, wood that
has been submerged is valuable. Ancient bog oak is used for furniture and other artistic objects. In the picture below, piles of bog wood have been set to dry before being taken away.
Driving through the Slieve Bloom Mountains with a friend brought memorable moments. One of these was meeting a lorry on the high narrow two-lane road and being obliged to back onto the narrow shoulder to let it pass. Another was pausing at a high vantage point to look out over seven Irish counties.
Then there was this giant fireplace beside the road. There was absolutely nothing to indicate why it was there; likewise the wooden stairs that seemed to lead nowhere.
The Brian Boru is a Dublin pub and restaurant, also called Hedigans. Brian himself was a historic character, born more than a millennium ago to the chief of one of the royal free tribes who inhabited the Irish province of Munster.
After his mother was killed in a Viking raid, Brian left his home and became a guerrilla fighter. He attacked Viking settlements and then returned to the hills.
Eventually Brian Boru assembled an army to face the Norsemen, and triumphed. In 978, he took over the Kingship of Munster after defeating the King of Cashel.
In 998, Brian met Malachy, High King of Meath, and they agreed to divide Ireland between them. Five years later, Brian quietly took over Malachy's northern lands as well as his own in the south. Thus Brian Boru united the Irish, crushing the destructive military might of the Vikings. He was the first and only king to govern all of Ireland, until his death a millennium ago during the Battle of Clontarf.