The banner photo is of Dunguaire Castle, modernized in 1642 by the mayor of Galway. Its original construction is apparently lost in the mists of time.
Ireland may seem like England's poor cousins to us, but it has its own rich history going back to Roman times - although Rome did not actually get to Ireland, which was a mixed blessing. Since the native clans in Ireland were never conquered by the Roman legions, after the withdrawal of Rome from Britain, England had the benefit of Roman roads and infrastructure, whereas Ireland was still pretty much a wilderness. But eventually the Anglo-Normans invaded England's little neighbor to the west and medieval commerce and wealth - as well as rule - came to Ireland. England colonized the Emerald Isle nearly 500 years before Chris Columbus discovered the Americas.
Vast land grants were made by the English monarch to both native Irish and to expat Anglos. English laws forbade the intermixing or intermarrying of English with the Irish, but those laws came too late and fell on deaf ears. An aristocracy grew up in medieval Ireland and mighty castles. churches and manner houses were built over the ensuing centuries.
Two centuries after the improvements to Dunguaire Castle, a much larger and more elegant home was built near the town of Killarney in the Tudor style with sixty-five rooms.
We rented a car (2016 Prius, it turned out) for our entire stay in Ireland and used it to travel from town to town. Except for the few motorways, or "carriageways" as the Irish call them, the "highways" from town to town are narrow, shoulder-less strips of asphalt. Like all English and former-English colonies, they drive on the left. The colors of the center and shoulder stripes are the reverse of our paint colors. In the towns, there is no traffic or parking enforcement, so people just stop their vehicles where they find it most convenient and other traffic must go around. Driving the Irish countryside is largely a white-knuckle exercise for a Yank. When in Dublin we used the "hop-on, hop-off" bus which gives a guided tour of the major city sights and allows you unlimited access for a 24 hour period. The Prius stayed parked for two whole days.
.Since the south coast was the earliest settled area of the island, it has lots of historic structures. Even the outer parts of the old city have ruins of the old fortifications. The above photos show large remnants of the 13th century city walls that still stand, surrounded by modern structures with the citizens walking by in pursuit of daily activities.
Waterford is in the southeast of Ireland. Outside the immediate downtown areas the countryside is lush with vegetation, forests and lakes. This is much the case with the entire south part of the country. From here we went on to Killarney in the southwest corner.
The boat ride took us across three separate lakes connected by streams that run through the Gap of Dunloe. That put us on the other side of the mountains from civilization, so to get back we rode in a horse-drawn "jaunting cart." The ride winds up a one-lane road that goes between two mountains and follows a stream down the other side to a pub where meals and refreshments are available and you are picked up by a bus for the return to town.
The next installment will show photos of one of the several "tower houses" that we visited. The banner photo depicts it. Many fell into ruin after it became impractical to maintain such a family home, but now have become tourist attractions. They are great places to visit, but few of us would want to live in one.
In July Suzanne & I spent two weeks in Ireland...actually two weeks minus one day because we could not get off the ground at DFW on the appointed day due to a storm going through Chicago where we were to change plans for the trans-Atlantic flight. So we got out the next morning on a different airline, changed planes in New Jersey (after another weather delay) and got to Dublin a day late and one suitcase short. Suzanne's suitcase caught up with us the next day after we spent the day on foot in downtown Waterford. Suzanne had planned our itinerary and made reservations for all but two nights, which we left open on purpose so that we would have a little flexibility on where we went on our circuit of the Republic of Ireland.
Ireland, like the USA, had to fight a revolution with England to gain their independence. That happened in the early twentieth century, but more on that later. The first real towns in Ireland were built by the Vikings. One of the early Viking settlements was Waterford. The oldest part of town is still referred to as The Viking Triangle - it was the original walled village. First walled with wood logs, then with stone walls. The ninth century Vikings built on a point where two rivers come to the sea on the south coast of Ireland. A wooden tower was built on the point at the edge of town. It was replaced in later centuries by a stone tower that still stands today and which we visited.
The top-left photo shows the early Viking town with its wooden stockade and wooden tower.. In this view, the ocean is to the left and Reginald's Tower is on the point with the main stockade. Both the tower enclosure and the town were triangular shapes. Since it was the most substantial structure, it was where the chieftain lived and the records were kept - probably the first Tower Records. Waterford is believed to be the oldest area of continuous urban settlement in Ireland. Reginald's Tower marks the site of the first defensive structure built by the Viking settlers. The Tower is mentioned in the Irish Annals as early as 1088 thus making it the oldest civic building structure on the island.
So you are by now wondering whether the world famous Waterford Crystal comes from Waterford, Ireland. Yes it does. In fact that was our very first visit after we arrived. I was surprised that the business, which was begun in 1783 in Waterford by two Czech immigrants, was entirely shut down for a century - from 1851 until 1947. So, there is no Waterford Crystal made during that period. Today the factory is American owned, although it is still very much a European business.
I will try to enter some new pix and descriptions every few days. They will not be the same ones that Suzanne loaded to Facebook during our travels, although the subject matter will obviously overlap. So check back here every so often and I will try to make the narrative interesting.
I am still trying new show venues to find those that provide the most effective exposure for my works.