Category Archives: Irish History

A Couple of days in the Boyne Valley

By Orla Spencer

The Boyne Valley in the counties of Meath and Louth contains some of Ireland’s most historic visitor attractions. It is very easy to get around the Boyne Valley by car and there are plenty of activities and sites to see to keep all of the family amused! Here is a short summary of some of our favourites;

Brú na Bóinne; Newgrange & Knowth

The Brú na Bóinne visitor centre is where you can gain access to the passage tombs of Newgrange and Knowth. The centre itself contains informative interpretive displays and viewing areas.

Newgrange

Newgrange dates back to 3,200 B.C making it older than Stonehenge and even the ancient pyramids of Egypt! At dawn on December 21st each year a ray of sunlight enters the tomb and lights up the inside chamber. To gain access on this special day there is an annual draw. It’s free to enter with your ticket so make sure to put your entry in the box! Knowth can also be accessed from Brú na Bóinne. What is special about Knowth is that you can climb up on top of the tomb and see fantastic views of the Boyne Valley. The inside of Knowth is artificially lit and makes for an interesting snap shot!

Our advice is to make Brú na Bóinne the first stop on your Boyne Valley tour and allow plenty of time for your visit. The site gets extremely busy and you may have to wait some time before you can visit the tombs. Also if you have 15 people or more in your group, you need to pre-book well in advance. If you’ve booked your package with the Irish Tourism Group, we can make that booking for you.

The Battle of the Boyne Site –

Battle of the Boyne Visitor Centre

If you are interested in Irish military history then a trip to the Battle of the Boyne Site is not to be missed! The Battle of the Boyne on the 1st of July 1690 was one of the most significant military events in Ireland’s history. King William the 3rd’s victory at the Battle of the Boyne was the turning point in James the 2nd’s unsuccessful attempt to regain the Crown and ultimately ensured the continuation of Protestant supremacy in Ireland. The visitor centre and museum give a good overview of the events of the battle and its lead up and if you happen to visit on a Sunday (11am to 4.45pm in June, July & August) you can witness some very interesting re-enactments!

Trim Castle & Living History Museum

Trim Living History Museum

Trim castle is the largest and best preserved Anglo Norman castle in Ireland. Over hundreds of years Trim was adapted to suit the occupant’s needs and changing political climate however the main fabric of the building hasn’t changed much since Anglo-Norman times. Access to the castle is by guided tour only, the tour is wonderful but we recommend taking the tour only if you are not afraid of heights! There are quite a few steps to climb to get to the top but when you do, the views are spectacular!

Just down the road from the castle you can easily find Trim living history museum. Here a group of dedicated volunteers take you through the history of the town from life in Anglo Norman times to the making of the film Braveheart! Here you may be able to try on a suit of armour, feel the weight of a sword or practice your mace swing!

Saint Peter’s Church & Oliver Plunkett’s Head

St. Peter's Church Drogheda
St. Peter’s Church Drogheda

St. Peter’s Church one of the finest Gothic Revival Churches in Ireland and is most famous for housing the shrine of St. Oliver Plunkett. Plunkett was born in County Meath and was appointed Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All-Ireland in 1669. He was arrested in 1679 on false charges of plotting to bring a French Army into the country, and of organising Irishmen to have rebellion. His remains were recovered and given to the Sienna Nuns of the Dominican Convent at Drogheda and here they remained. Thousands of people come to visit the church each year, if you visit yourself, please be quite and respectful as this church is still in use.

Old Mellifont Abbey

Old Mellifont Abbey
Old Mellifont Abbey

You can do a self-guided visit of Old Mellifont Abbey yourself but we recommend that you join a guided tour which can be arranged at no additional charge (May-September) at the museum reception. Your guide will take you through the various histories of the site from its origins as Ireland’s first Cistercian monastery, through to the period that it was owned and lived in by the Moore Family. During this time, the building played a pivotal role being the location where the Treaty of Mellifont was signed. This treaty changed the course of Ireland’s history by laying the foundations for the division of Ireland’s Northern counties from the South.

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The best way to learn about Ireland is to visit yourself. Contact us today for a quotation today –

 

USA & Canada1877 298 7205

UK FreeFone0800 096 9438

International+353 69 77686

http://www.irishtourism.com/

 

 

 

 

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Bealtaine

By Orla Spencer

In Irish mythology there were four festival days to mark the start of a new season: spring was marked on the 1st of February with the pagan festival of ‘Imbolc’ (now St. Brigid’s Day), autumn was marked on the 1st of August with the festival of ‘Lúnasa’ and winter on the 1st of November with ‘Samhain’. Today, the 1st of May, the start of summer would have been celebrated with the festival of ‘Bealtaine’.

During Bealtaine our ancestors welcomed the summer, saying goodbye to the winter and harder times. Flowers, feasts, celebratory dancing and bonfires were a prominent feature of the celebrations. People also sought protection for themselves and their livestock against supernatural forces such as the Fairies.

There are many Irish traditions that stem from Bealtaine, in many parts of Ireland, flowers were picked the day before and placed on the windowsills of people’s houses or above the front door. It was believed that this bunch of flowers would protect the house and those inside it because fairies could not enter the home as they could not pass the sweet smell of the flowers. In a similar tradition the ‘May Bush’ outside people’s homes was decorated with ribbon and candles. The custom of erecting a May bush still survives in some places, particularly in the Midlands.

For more information on May festivals, visit the Museum of Country Life’s Website: http://www.museum.ie/en/list/topic-may-day.aspx

Get in Touch-

The best way to learn about Ireland is to visit yourself. Contact us today for a quotation today –

USA & Canada1877 298 7205

UK FreeFone0800 096 9438

International+353 69 77686

http://www.irishtourism.com/

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Happy Halloween!

By Orla Spencer

Halloween - Samhain
Halloween – Samhain

A lot of people in Ireland believe that Halloween came from the pagan festival of Samhain which was celebrated in Ireland and other Celtic countries. Samhain was the time when the veil between the land of the living and the dead was at its thinnest, allowing the spirits and the dead to come into our world. To celebrate Samhain, Celtic Druids built huge bonfires, people gathered harvest foods and sacrificed animals.

We are glad things have changed a bit!

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Tracing the Potato Famine in Ireland

 

Potato famine in Ireland Map, Places to Visit
Potato famine in Ireland Map, Places to Visit

About the Potato Famine in Ireland

Between 1845 and 1852 our population was reduced by about 20% due to the impacts of the Potato Famine in Ireland, also known as The Great Famine or in our native language ‘An Gorta Mór’. It is estimated that about one million people died from starvation during this period and another million emigrated to America and other countries. It is no surprise therefore that the potato famine has left its mark on the country and remnants of this poignant period in Irish history remain evident to this day.

famine-memorial-by-william-nolan

In this post we will provide you with the names and information of some of the best places that can be visited today to learn more about the potato famine in Ireland

Strokestown Park Famine Museum
Strokestown Park is an 18th century Palladian mansion, and home of the Packenham Mahon family from 1653 until 1979. The Famine Museum is located in the stable yard and was established when an archive of papers relating to the management of the estate during the 1840s was discovered. This collection is now regarded as the best archive on the Potato Famine in Ireland and all documents are on display in the museum. The mansion house may also be visited and this gives a sense of what life was like for the richer, more fortunate people of this time.

The Workhouse Dunfanaghy & the Irish Workhouse Centre Portumna
Workhouses had an important part to play during the famine times in Ireland. These were the places that the completely destitute went as a last resort, when the only alternative was to die of starvation. Families typically ended up here if they were evicted from their homes due to non-payment of rent. Once families entered a workhouse they were split up, oftentimes never seeing their loved ones again. There are two great museums in Ireland that tell the story of the workhouse in authentic buildings that once served as workhouses for their communities; The Dunfanaghy Workhouse in County Donegal and the Irish Workhouse Centre County Galway.

Dunfanaghy Workhouse by Willie Angus
Dunfanaghy Workhouse by Willie Angus

The first inmates of the Dunfanaghy workhouse were admitted in 1845 and parts of the building were restored and converted to exhibition space in the 1990’s to tell the story of the famine in the area. This story is told through the Wee Hannah Exhibition, which details the life of local girl Hannah Herrity as she struggled through the famine years and lived for a while in Dunfanaghy Workhouse.

Portumna Children in Workhouse
Portumna Children in Workhouse

The Irish Workhouse Centre in Portumna is one of the most complete workhouses left in Ireland. The best way to see this exhibition is by guided tour where guides take you through every aspect of workhouse life from entry to the waiting hall to the girls and boys dormitories and laundry rooms. Discover what life was like for the inmates in what many refer to as the most feared and hated institutions ever established in Ireland.

Coffin Ships; Jeanie Johnston & Dunbrody
The ships that carried the emigrants escaping to North America and other countries were often referred to as Coffin ships due to the high mortality rate amongst lower class travellers. These ships were often overcrowded and disease ridden with shortages of food and water a common occurrence. Two of this type of ship can be seen in Ireland today, the Dunbrody in New Ross & the Jeannie Johnston in Dublin.

Jeanie Johnston at sunset Daniel Dudek Corrigan
Jeanie Johnston at sunset Daniel Dudek Corrigan

Situated close to the Famine Memorial (pictured with the introduction) in Dublin’s Custom House Quay, the Jeanie Johnston made 16 emigrant journeys to America between 1847 and 1855, it carried more than 2,500 people with no loss of life which is unusual for a ship of this kind. Your tour guide will show you the ships main features and tell you stories about some stories of the passengers that travelled upon it giving a sense of what the arduous journey to America from Ireland would have been like at that time.

The Dunbrody
The Dunbrody

The Dunbrody is a similar type of ship moored at New Ross in county Wexford. Here you discover what life was like on board through guided tour with costumed performers and detailed exhibition models. Listen to accounts from a steerage and 1st class passenger as they explain the harsh realities of life aboard the ship. As well as the ship tour, at Dunbrody you can visit the Irish America Hall of Fame which details the contributions of Irish men and women to the history of the United States.

Skibbereen Heritage Centre

Skibbereen was very badly affected by the great famine, losing about a third of its population to starvation, disease and emigration to America. The heritage centre in Skibbereen has a great exhibition commemorating the Great Famine in Skibbereen. The Exhibition depicts the potato Famine through primary source accounts given at the time showing government policies and how they impacted the community. Reports from the relief committee and their efforts to lessen the suffering of local people are presented alongside reports of how the global community responded to the crisis.

Cobh Heritage Centre
Cobh Heritage Centre

Cobh Heritage Centre
The port of Cobh was the most important port of Emigration from Ireland during the mass exodus between 1848 and 1950. Cobh Heritage centre details this exodus through informative exhibitions and several short films. The main attraction is a replica of cross sections of an emigrant’s ship showing what life was like for the various classes on board; the passengers cramped in steerage quarters, the comfortable first class cabins and even prisoner’s quarters where those who were being transported to Australia for their crimes were held. This exhibition tells you about the Irish famine and its causes and helps you to understand why so many people felt they had to leave their friends and family in Ireland for ever.

Bunratty Folk Park

On the grounds of Bunratty Castle you will find Bunratty Folk Park, a reconstructed village which includes shops, streets and houses that reflect the social status of their occupants, from the poorest one roomed dwelling not unlike those lived in by tenants during the famine period to a fine example of a Georgian Residence built for the Studdart Family in 1804. What’s great about Bunratty Folk Park is that reconstructed cottages from different areas of Ireland can be explored and their subtle differences encountered.

Bunratty Cottage Interior
Bunratty Cottage Interior

The National Museum of Country Life
The National Museum of Country Life is located near Castlebar, Co. Mayo. The Museum houses the National Folk-life Collection and portrays the lives of ordinary people in the hundred years between the Great Famine and the end of the 1950s. Here you will see the clothes that people typically wore during these times, their culture and traditions. See how people worked the land and sea and discover the trades essential for the survival of the community including the blacksmith, carpenter, thatcher, and cobbler.

National Museum of Country Life, Mayo
National Museum of Country Life, Mayo

 

Get in Touch-
The best way to learn about the potato famine in Ireland is to visit yourself. Contact us today for a quotation including some or all of these locations today –

USA & Canada1877 298 7205
UK FreeFone0800 096 9438
International+353 69 77686
www.irishtourism.com

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