Ireland

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– Flying into Dublin from London.

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– Words of wisdom from Rupert Guinness at the Guinness Factory.

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– Beautiful view from our hostel in Dublin. We stayed at the Four Courts Hostel- it was fantastic, very clean and I would definitely stay there again!

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– The Millenium Spire. It was meant to go up in 2000 to mark, you know, the Millenium. In typical Irish fashion, it wasn’t finished until 2003…

*Fun Fact* It’s also known affectionately as ‘Stiffy by the Liffey’ and ‘Erection at the Intersection.’

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– Dublin Castle is a really interesting mish-mash of architectural styles. The original tower is medieval, completed in 1230. It was quite a bit bigger back then, built of stone and timber. It took the Irish a couple hundred years to realize that they could burn it down, which they did in 1673.  The Gothic spires and Georgian columns were additions made by subsequent English rulers. The multi-coloured addition was recently painted to mark the castle’s role in modern Dublin. Apparently it was painted by a five-year old.

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– The Rock of Cashel. When we were there it was under construction so we weren’t allowed up to the actual site. The round tower is one of the last in Ireland to have the original peak roof. Usually, they get struck by lightning and are destroyed but somehow this one has survived.

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– Kissing the Blarney Stone at Blarney Castle. It’s only the last forty years or so that the grate has been there- before that, it was quite a risky endeavour and people actually died trying to kiss the stone, which is about five or six stories high!

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– Hunting for a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow…

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– These little beehive huts are studded along the southwest coast on cliffs. Monks used to live in them, who must have been rather masochistic because the huts have no doors and face the windy, rugged Atlantic ocean.

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– Leamaneh Castle is located in the rugged Burren area of County Clare, Ireland. In 1651 the owner, Conor O’Brien, was killed in battle against Oliver Cromwell. His widow, Mary, offered to marry any Cromwellian officer in exchange for getting to keep her castle. Legend has it that she lured them up to the top floor to admire the view before pushing them off, causing the deaths of not just one but several of the subsequent officers eager enough for her hand.

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– The Poulnabrone portal tomb. An ancient structure thought to be a tomb or portal to the Otherworld. It sits right in the middle of The Burren, a strangely lunar landscape that stretches for miles down the west coast of Ireland. It’s in the area known as Connacht. Oliver Cromwell once told the Irish “To Hell or to Connacht” during his westwards invasion. Since it’s so rocky, nothing can grow in this region and people could either stay on their farms and die as Cromwell’s men killed them or go west to Connacht, which was just as bad.

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– Cliffs of Moher.

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An old monastic site we got to explore near Inniskillen.

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– Heading north now, through Country Antrim and up to the Giant’s Causeway.

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– The Carrick-a-rede rope bridge. Terrifying!

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– Graffiti in Belfast. Interesting words, especially in light of the #IdleNoMore movement going on.

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– Celtic crosses at Monasterboice.

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– The Hill of Tara, seat of the ancient High Kings of Ireland. There’s nothing left now as the structures were mainly built of wood but several stone structures remain. Sadly, the stone-based Mound of Hostages was closed when we went.

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– On to Newgrange, a massive monolithic site that predates the Pyramids! The stones were lugged over hundreds of kilometres and are intricately carved. You walk through this tiny corridor into the heart of the mound, where on the solstice a beam of sunlight comes through a hole and into the room. You aren’t allowed photographs inside but it’s incredible- the guides do a simulation and it is absolutely pitch-black until the light comes in.

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– Food for thought sighted in Dublin before my flight to Paris.

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