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.

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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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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Introducing Ireland by Rail

By Orla Spencer
We’ve been working with Irish Rail and other suppliers for a few months now to develop quality Ireland Rail Tours and they are now on sale!

Our rail tours combine train trips in comfortable, modern trains with bus tours around some of Ireland’s most well-known driving routes that are not normally accessible by train such as the Ring of Kerry, the Aran Islands, the Dingle Peninsula and many more! Our rail tours include all train tickets, sightseeing coach tickets, quality accommodations and a detailed touring guide with possible places you may choose to visit while you are in each location.

Ireland by Rail | Ireland Railtours
Ireland by Rail

These tours are flexible to your schedule, you decide what dates you want to visit Ireland, and we do the rest!

As with all of our vacation packages, we book high quality accommodations that we know very well and design itineraries that make sure you get the most out of your time in Ireland. We back that up with a 24/7 emergency helpline for any help, support or assistance you may need while you are in Ireland.

Ireland by Rail | tours of Ireland by rail

What is more, we provide all of our clients with a tailor made sightseeing guide to help you get the very most out of your precious vacation time.

For more information, please visit our website: www.irishtourism.com/rail

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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7 Things to do around Sligo

By Orla Spencer

Situated on the Wild Atlantic Way, in the northwest of Ireland, Sligo is perhaps most well-known for its connection with the famous Irish poet and playwright, William Butler Yeats. The town is perfectly situated to explore the surrounding countryside and the region that gave inspiration to many of Yeats’ most famous works.  Here are some suggestions for places to visit and things to do while you are in the area –

See Benbulben/Benbulben Forrest Walk

Benbulben Sligo, Ireland
Benbulben Sligo

Benbulben, one of Sligo’s and indeed one of Ireland’s most famous mountains can be seen from many different angles and locations around Sligo.  Fantastic views of the mountain can be enjoyed in particular from the Benbulben (Gortarowey) Looped Walk. The entire loop is about 4KM and there is a nice track which you can follow through the trees.

Take a Seaweed Bath!

Seaweed Bath

People have been enjoying seaweed baths in Ireland for centuries and Strandhill in Sligo is famous for them! Voya Seaweed Baths is situated on the sea front of Strandhill, right beside its beautiful sandy beach. Although the smell won’t be to everyone’s tastes and it feels a bit slimy, these features are not permanent and the bath will leave your skin feeling wonderful! In addition to the skin benefits, studies have shown that the vitamins and iodine in seaweed helps to improve circulatory complaints and eliminates toxins from the body.

Visit Parke’s Castle

Parke's Castle, County Leitrim, Ireland
Parke’s Castle, County Leitrim

Parke’s Casle is about 20 minutes’ drive from Sligo Town, it’s actually just over the border in County Leitrim. Charmingly located on the shores of Lough Gill, the castle was once the home of Robert Parke and his family. The region was previously ruled by Brian O’Rourke who assumed leadership of his family by assassinating his older brothers. O’Rourke himself was hung, drawn and quartered after he sheltered survivors of the Spanish Armada, upsetting the monarchy in England. The Castle has now been faithfully restored using authentic materials and traditional craftsmanship and tours of property will give you an insight into what life was like in Ireland at the time.

Take a Boat Cruise on Lough Gill (& see the Lake Isle of Innisfree)

Lough Gill, County Leitrim, Ireland
Lough Gill, County Leitrim

The Rose of Innisfree is moored right beside Parke’s Castle and they do a wonderful waterbus tour of Lough Gill. Lough Gill inspired a number of poems by William Butler Yeats, most famously, the Lake Isle of Innisfree which you will see up close on this one hour tour. Catch a glimpse Church island which has the ruins of a 13th century monastic settlement. You will also see Beezie’s Island which is named after its sole resident, Beezie Gallagher who lived on the island alone until she died in 1951.

Take a Snap Beside Glencar Waterfall

Glencar Waterfall, County Leitrim, Ireland
Glencar Waterfall, County Leitrim

Glencar Waterfall is located in Glencar County Leitrim, about 15 minutes from Sligo and about 15 minutes from Parke’s Castle, so you could visit both attractions easily in one day. The waterfall is particularly impressive after rain and can be viewed from a short wooded walk. There are plenty of lakeside tables and benches in the area, making it a lovely place to enjoy a picnic.

 

Visit Rosses Point

Rosses Point, Sligo, Ireland
Rosses Point, Sligo

At the entrance to Sligo Bay, you will find the stunning coastal village of Rosses Point with its spectacular long sandy beach. Yeats and his family would have spent their summers in Rosses point, staying in Elsinore House which is now in ruins. In this little village you can enjoy good food especially seafood, some fantastic little pubs and sometimes great traditional Irish music. The village enjoys fantastic views over Sligo Bay and there are some lovely seafront walks to enjoy.

Visit Drumcliffe & Yeats’ Grave

Drumcliffe, Sligo, Ireland, Yeats' Grave
Drumcliffe, Yeats’ Grave

Drumcliffe is 8 km north of Sligo town and it is best known as the final resting place of W.B Yeats. In the church yard, you will find Yeats’ grave marked with the simple inscription ‘cast a cold eye on life, on death, horseman pass by’. Yeats instructed that these words be placed on his grave stone and that there be no marble or conventional phrases on it. The graveyard also contains a high cross and a 6th century monastery.

Get in Touch-

The best way to learn about 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

http://www.irishtourism.com/

 

Happy Saint Patricks Day from Liam Neeson!

‘’Every year on Saint Patrick’s day the world goes green but here in Ireland every day is bathed in green’’.

Watch this short video where Liam Neeson wishes the world a Happy Saint Patrick’s Day. If you didn’t already want to come to Ireland, this video might change your mind! 60 seconds of sweeping views and luscious green scenery combined with short glimpses of our famous culture and history! Enjoy!

St Patricks Cathedral Going G

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AN IN-DEPTH REVIEW : SOUTH OF IRELAND KNITTING & CRAFT TOUR

By Guest Blogger Constance Hall

Last November a dream came true for me when I read about a knitting and craft tour that Irish Tourism had organized. Knitting, crafts AND Ireland, what more could anyone who loves fiber ask for? It had a long been a dream of mine to visit Ireland. Traveling alone can be a bit daunting so I kept putting off planning the trip I had long wanted to take. As I read more about the tour it seemed to be planned just for me. I knew though that I would be sure to find like minded new friends on the trip as we already had fiber in common and a love of Ireland. I signed up, this was going to be fun!

Our guide Fiona trying out some spinning!

The itinerary was amazing. It was really well planned and included three knitting classes, two spinning demonstrations, basket and lace making too. Oh, AND entry into the Knitting and Stitching show in Dublin! Each knitting class was taught by an experienced instructor. The classes included the yarns that we needed and patterns with step by step instructions. We learned traditional Irish stitches all the while having tea and biscuits (cookies) scones and jam. We were all in heaven. The locations of each workshop were different and added to the charm. From a lovely hotel in Galway to Mairead Sherry’s living room in a traditional Aran Island house complete with peat fire. We felt we were seeing more of Ireland than you might see on a regular tour. Our tour driver Kenny was very good, didn’t hit anything and never left anyone behind. Fiona Lane was our tour guide and we felt very lucky. Her knowledge of Ireland and fun attitude made the days fun and relaxing. We didn’t have to worry about anything as she took care of every detail along the way.

Traditional Basket Making Demonstration with Joe Hogan

Carol Feller of Cork was one of our instructors. Her workshop included a signed copy of her book we got to keep and she brought the actual samples that were made for the book. She included lots of tips for pattern modifications. If you were a new knitter you could just focus on the stitches (and cookies) and knit along without worrying about the more advanced techniques. There was something for everyone whether you were a new knitter or a more experienced one.

Knitting Class with Carol Feller in Killarney

Anne O’Maille of Galway also taught a workshop. She showed us yarns that are available locally and we used the yarns to knit some of the many patterns she provided. We had a great time shopping in her store in Galway where she has an enormous collection of hand knit Irish sweaters. These are still knit by women in Ireland with intricate cable patterns. She also sells the yarns we used in class. Galway was great fun. Such a walkable friendly city with sidewalk musicians playing on every block. Bakeries and cheese shops, book stores and all kinds of Irish goods to browse and buy. There are many pubs and restaurants with Irish music and great beers. You can walk along the main street and stop in for a beer and music without worrying about you safety. Everyone was very friendly and welcoming.

Anne O Maille’s Patterns and Samples

The high point of the trip was a visit to the smallest of the Aran Islands, Inis Oirr. We flew over in a small plane in just nine minutes from the mainland to the island. Coming in for a landing you could see the individual fields with the short stone walls surrounding each field. From the air it seemed like a very green jigsaw puzzle. Some of the puzzle pieces had a horse or sheep on them. O’Brians Castle perched up on the hill seemed to still be keeping watch over the island. Una McDonagh met us at the airport. We knew we were to have a knitting workshop with her but we didn’t know what treats she ready for us. It was a nice but chilly day and we were grateful for the hot tea and scones that she served us when we reached the craft center.

Inis Oirr, Aran Islands

They have a small gift shop at the craft center and a very informative display of traditional clothing once worn by the islanders. After our tea restored our energy we got down to knitting. The craft center is a wonderful resource for the island. The classroom space is roomy and well lit. Una was joined by Mairead Sharry and together they taught us how to knit a few of the traditional Aran Island knitting stitches. At the end of the class we were invited back to Mairead’s traditional thatched cottage. Her spinning wheel was set up next to the hearth so she could sit and spin with the peat fire warming her as she spun. It was easy to imagine how it would have been to sit and spin though a long winter with access cut off to the mainland and only your neighbors to rely on for weeks at a time. We were very lucky to be able to sit with her and imagine the past, as there are very few spinners still on the islands.

Mairead Sharry at her Cottage on the Island

Besides knitting and spinning this tour showed us many of the more standard spots that all tourists to Ireland want to visit. We saw the Book Of Kells, and the Cliffs of Moher. The Ring Of Kerry and Blarney Castle with its amazing Druid’s Circle. The Museum of Country Life has a wonderful display of crochet clothing and old weaving shuttles and bobbins. Kylemore Abbey, besides having a stunning house has the perfect property to walk off the effects of sitting on the bus and eating too much good food. It would have been perfect except for the rain and the very small hail stones that caught us between house and gardens. In no way did that spoil our walk in- between the trees with, it seemed, the fairies just hiding out of view.

Kylemore Abbey

The accommodations were very well chosen. Clean and safe, with welcoming staff, we were all very happy with each place we stayed. My favorite was the B & B on Inis Oirr.  She opened her house and made us feel very welcome. The breakfast was perfect and set us up for our return to the mainland. Some meals were provided on the tour and they were all good but more fun was going out some evenings and looking for a local place to eat. We had the best fish and chips in Galway and a personal goal was trying the dark beers in a pub or two or three. Of course the Guinness was a must but I have to say the Murphy’s beer was a favorite.

Kenmare Lace Demonstration with Nora

This tour was a great introduction to Ireland and the fiber and craft community on the island. The fiber community has a long history in Ireland and is making a revival with the renewed interest in traditional crafts. There are many places now on my list that are calling me to return and hopefully spend more time exploring. The itinerary for a new Knitting and Craft tour is now being offered this April with all new places to visit. Oh I can’t wait!

Get in Touch-

For our latest knitting tour price and availability, please visit:

www.irishtourism.com/knitting

Or give us a call for more information:

USA & Canada1877 298 7205

UK FreeFone0800 096 9438

International+353 69 77686

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Ireland Ranks No.1 on The Good Country Index

By Orla Spencer

We always knew that Ireland is a great nation but a recent study headed by Simon Anholt is adding more weight to this statement!

He and his team have come up with the Good Country Index and at present Ireland ranks at number 1. This makes us here at The Irish Tourism Group very proud!

The Good Country Index

The Good Country Index categorises countries according to their contribution to humanity using 35 indicators with data compiled from the United Nations, the World Bank and other institutions. This data is spread across seven categories which are Science and Technology, Culture, International Peace and Security, World Order, Planet and Climate, Prosperity and Equality, Health and Wellbeing. Watch Simon’s Ted Talk below for more detail or visit http://www.goodcountry.org/

 

 

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Introducing our Newest Tour: 9 Night North of Ireland Knitting & Craft

By Orla Spencer

Including craft demonstrations, craft based sightseeing, knitting workshops and some of Ireland’s best visitor attractions!

We’ve been running our Southern Ireland Knitting & Craft tours for a number of years now and we have found that there is great interest in this tour. Feedback from our previous guests has been very positive. So for 2015, we are mixing things up a bit and are running a new Knitting & Craft tour, similar to the previous tour but visiting areas in the North, Northwest & West of Ireland. For bookings made before the 31st of December 2014, we are pleased to offer a discount of €100 per person, read to the end for more details about this!

This is Knit, Dublin
This is Knit, Dublin

This new tour begins in Dublin; the first day is pretty relaxed, giving our guests time to rest after their long journey to Ireland. In the afternoon, if participants are feeling up to it, we will take them on a panoramic tour of Dublin stopping at Dublin Castle and the Museum of Decorative Arts and History.  The latter has been a favourite stop of our past knitting tours due to the museum’s exhibition showing how different classes of people in Ireland’s past lived and what they wore. After visiting a few more attractions and enjoying an overnight stay in Dublin, the tour continues to Northern Ireland, on the way stopping at a Tapestry Weavers for a workshop as well as one of Northern Ireland’s famous Linen factories.

Dublin City
Dublin City

In Belfast tickets are included for the Creative Craft Show and time is allowed for guests to explore Belfast at their leisure. Also while in Northern Ireland we will take a journey around the spectacular Causeway Coast, visiting Dunluce Castle and of course the Giant’s Causeway itself. Then the tour continues to the City of Derry where a guided walk along the cities stone walls has been arranged. Continue to Donegal where you will first enjoy a hands on knitting class with Irish knitwear designer, Edel McBride. Then visit Studio Donegal one of Ireland’s premier hand weaving studios and stockists of a wide variety of local yarns. Other exploits in the Northern part of this tour include a visit the Belleek Pottery studio, a tour of Enniskillen Castle and a visit to the Sheelin Lace Shop and Museum.

Dunluce Castle
Dunluce Castle

In Mayo we will meet local knitting instructor Ciara Ní Reachtnín who will teach our group how to create the Deirdre of Sorrows Shawl pattern which is one of her own Celtic Designs. Our group will visit the museum of Country Life where traditional life in Ireland is presented through enlightening exhibits and Foxford Woollen Mills where the working of the woollen mill can be seen in great detail.

Foxford Woollen Mills
Foxford Woollen Mills

In Galway discover the wild and vast Connemara region, visiting the Sheep & Wool Centre and the famous Kylemore Abbey. On the way back we will spend time with local basket Maker Ciaran Hogan for a demonstration of traditional Irish willow basket weaving. When you return to Dublin take part in one final knitting workshop with Lisa Sisk from This is Knit before meeting in Nancy Hands pub for a wonderful farewell meal in a private area of the bar, reserved for our Knitting Tour alone.

Ciaran Hogan Basket Making

For bookings made on our new Knitting & Craft tour by the 31st of December 2014 we are pleased to offer a €100 discount per person! Places are limited to 25, so if you are interested, do get in touch with us!

For more information visit:

http://www.irishtourism.com/knitting/9-night-north-of-ireland-knitting-craft-tour/4573

USA & Canada Toll-Free 1877 298 7205

UK FreeFone 0800 096 9438

International +353 69 77686

info@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!

http://www.irishtourism.com

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Ireland’s Sunny South East

By Orla Spencer

irelands-sunny-south-east

Ireland’s Sunny South East is made up of the counties of Carlow, Kilkenny, South-Tipperary, Waterford and Wexford. Is the South East sunnier than other parts of Ireland you might ask? Well apparently so! According to Ireland’s National Meteorological Service, Met Eireann – the extreme southeast gets an average of more than 7 hours a day in early summer when the rest of Ireland gets between 5-6.5 hours! This fact aside, Ireland’s South East has a treasure trove of interesting places to visit and here are some of them-

Wexford-

Wexford is well known for its annual Opera Festival, which has gained reputation internationally for introducing audiences to previously neglected works. Other places of interest include the Ring of Hook, a spectacular drive around the Hook Peninsula with the oldest operating lighthouse in the world at its tip! History and heritage seekers will love the Irish National Heritage Park, here trails run through replicas of Stone-Age to Early Christian and Viking dwellings giving an interactive insight into Ireland’s varied history. The ultimate Irish Castle experience can be found in Wexford’s Johnstown Castle– a remarkable Gothic Revival Mansion and in New Ross discover The Dunbrody, a full scale replica of a ‘coffin-ship’ used to take those suffering the Irish Famine to more hopeful lands.

Wexford Opera Festival
Wexford Opera Festival

Waterford –

The City of Waterford has strong links with the Vikings. The name Waterford itself is  believed to derive from the old Norse word ‘Vedrarfjiordr’ and in what is known as the Viking Triangle you will find a number of interesting museums; Reginald’s Tower which has an exhibition that displays a superb collection of historic and archaeological artefacts, The Bishops Palace built in 1743 by renowned architect Richard Castle and the Medieval Museum which includes numerous well preserved medieval structures, including the beautiful Chorister’s Hall. Before you leave Waterford city we recommend a stop at the wonderful Waterford Crystal Museum where you can see one of Ireland’s most famous exports in the making. Further southeast, Dunmore East is a pleasant fishing village and popular seaside retreat. The heritage town of Lismore is also within easy reach and amongst the many interesting period buildings in the town you will find Lismore Castle and St. Carthages Cathedral.

Bishop Palace Museum, Waterford
Bishop Palace Museum, Waterford

Kilkenny-

If you are interested in sport at all try to take in a Hurling match! Kilkenny is most famous for its fantastic hurlers, having won the All-Ireland Hurling Championship 35 times! Kilkenny City itself is one of Ireland’s busiest, a popular destination for hen and stag parties and a popular family holiday destination. Sites of Interest include Kilkenny Castle ancestral home to the Butler family, Saint Canice’s Cathedral where a climb to the top of its adjacent round tower offers fantastic views of the city. Further north check out Castlecomer Discovery Park which as an interesting coal-mining museum and craft yard. In Thomastown you will find the extensive ruins of  Jerpoint Abbey and Jerpoint Park, Ireland’s best example of an abandoned 12th Century Medieval Town.

St. Canices Cathedral, Kilkenny
St. Canices Cathedral, Kilkenny

South Tipperary –

Tipperary is rich in historic sites of interest; The Rock of Cashel which rises dramatically above Cashel town was once an important symbol of kingship and religious power. In the early 5th century it was the seat of the Kings of Munster and was famously presided over by Brian Boru. Later the fortress was given to the church and now there are many religious monuments to visit including the hall of the vicar’s choral and the ruin of an ornate gothic cathedral. Close by in the heritage town of Cahir, Cahir Castle can be visited. The castle retains so much of its original character that it has been the set for many films including Excalibur. The renovated interior of the castle includes a large great hall decorated with authentic furniture.

Cahir Castle, Tipperary
Cahir Castle, Tipperary

Carlow –

Carlow town is picturesquely situated where the River Barrow and the Burrin River meet. At one point in time it was believed that there were four lakes here, hence the Irish word Ceathar Loch, or Four Lakes. A small county, Carlow has few attractions relative to other counties in Ireland; however the few available are well worth a visit. Borris House in South Carlow is the ancestral home of the MacMurrough Kavanaghs, who were once kings of Leinster. Borris House’s past can be traced back to the Royal families of ancient Ireland and a tour of the house covers all aspects of this fascinating history.

Altamont Gardens, Carlow
Altamont Gardens, Carlow

One of Ireland’s newest museums, Carlow County Museum gives a fascinating insight into the social and industrial history of Carlow. Exhibits include a wonderful 19th century hand carved pulpit from Carlow Cathedral.  If gardens is your thing, be sure to stop by the Altamont Gardens, on a 100 acre estate, these gardens are often considered as Ireland’s most romantic!

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