Dates of visit:
October 2, 2003 -
October 31, 2003

We rate this trip a:

Trip Highlights:
 Castles & Abbeys
 Northern Ireland
 Whiskey Distilleries
 Pub Foods
 Manor Houses
 History & Culture
 Many Loughs
 Somewhat Expensive

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*** Quick Index ***
Belfast City | Giant's Causeway | Dunluce Castle | Grianan of Ailigh |
| Donegal Castle | St. Patrick's Purgatory | Parkes Castle | Sligo Abbey |
| Barrishoole Friary | Kylemore Abbey | Cliffs of Moher |
| Desert O' Day Castle | Bunratty Castle |
Ireland - A brief visual introduction (click on image for larger view)
Belfast City HallBelfast City ... was the only city in Ireland to experience the full force of the Industrial Revolution. The wealth it enjoyed is still evident in its imposing banks, churches and other public buildings. It is a handsome city and known locally as the "Big Smoke".
Giant's CausewayGiant's Causeway ... it has been estimated that 37,000 basalt columns extend from the cliffs down into the sea. Close to the shore, they have been eroded to form the Grand, Middle and Little Causeways. Most columns are hexagonal, but may have anywhere from 4 to 10 sides. This is the result of millions of years of geological activity.
Dunluce CastleDunluce Castle ... the dramatic ruin of this castle forms the remains of the largest, most sophisticated castle of the Northern Irish coastline. Perched on a hundred foot high sheer cliff, Dunluce could only be conquered by cannon. The quality of this 17th-century castle is that of a fine palace, spacious, well-lit, warm and with many chambers.
Grianan of AilighGrianan of Ailigh ... overlooking Lough Swilly and Lough Foyle, the circular stone structure, measuring 77 feet in diameter, is believed to have been built as a pagan temple around the 5th century BC. St. Patrick is said to have baptized Owen here. The fort was restored in the 1870s. Views from this hilltop are magnificent.
Donegal CastleDonegal Castle ... the ruins of this castle in town center incorporate the gabled tower of a fortified house built by the family in the 15th century. The adjacent house and most other features are Jacobean - added by Sir Basil Brooke, who moved in after the O'Donnells were ousted by the English in 1607. The castle has recently been restored.
St. Patricks PurgatorySt. Patricks Purgatory ... the Pilgrimage of St. Patrick's Purgatory began in 1150 to Station Island, an island completely covered by a religious complex, which includes a basilica, built in 1921. Only pilgrims are allowed on this island, who fast on dry bread and black tea as their only daily meal.
Parkes CastleParkes Castle ... this fortified manor house dominates the eastern end of Lough Gill. It was built in 1609 on the site of a 16th-century tower house belonging to the O'Rourkes, a powerful local clan. The most distinctive architectural features of Parke's are the diamond-shaped chimneys, mullioned windows and the parapets.
Sligo AbbeySligo Abbey ... the town's sole surviving medieval building is this abbey, founded in 1253. Some original features remain, such as the delicate lancet windows in the choir, but this ruined Dominican friary dates mainly from the 15th century. The best features are a beautifully carved altar and the cloisters.
Barrishoole FriaryBarrishoole Friary ... this Dominican Friary, dedicated to St. Mary's, was built in 1470 by Richard de Burgo. Permission for the foundation was not sought, an obvious oversight, from the Pope and the community was threatened with excommunication. Eventually the Pope relented in 1486.
Kylemore AbbeyKylemore Abbey ... this lakeside castle, sheltered by the Twelve Bens, is a romantic, battlemented Gothic Revival fantasy. Built as a present for his wife by Mitchell Henry, he sold the castle after the death of his wife to the Benedictine nuns, fleeing from Ypes in Belgium during World war I. It is now a select girls' boarding school.
Cliffs of MoherCliffs of Moher ... even when shrouded in mist or buffeted by Atlantic gales, the Cliffs of Moher are breathtaking, rising to a height of 650 feet out of the sea and extending for 5 miles. The sheer rock face, with its layers of black shale and sandstone, provides shelter to sea birds.
Desert O' Day CastleDesert O' Day Castle ... stands on a rocky outcrop north of Ennis. This tower house, erected in the 15th century, is home to the Archealogy Center and a small museum.
Bunratty CastleBunratty Castle ... built in the 15th century, is one of Ireland's major tourist attractions. Its most important residents were the O'Briens, Earl of Thomond, who lived here around 1500. When it was bought in the 1950s it was in ruins but has been beautifully restored to its former glory. Medieval-type banquets are held here.
Text extracted from site guide books or The Dorling Kindersley Travel Guides.
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