Posts Tagged ‘top tourist destinations’

Visit and Learn About Kilkenny Castle in Ireland

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One of the most instantly recognized buildings in Ireland, Kilkenny Castle has been an important site since Strongbow constructed the first castle, probably a wooden structure, in the 12th century. One of the top tourist destinations in Ireland.
William the Earl Marshall built the first stone castle on the site, which was completed in 1213. This was a square-shaped castle with towers at each corner; three of these original four towers survive to this day

The Butler family bought the Castle in 1391 and lived there until 1935. They were Earls, Marquesses and Dukes of Ormonde and lived in the castle for over five hundred years. They were a remarkable family, resilient, politically astute and faithful to the crown and to Ireland as dictated by the politics of the times. These loyalties determined their fortunes and career, and so too the fortunes of their seat

The property was given to the Nation in 1967 and the castle and grounds are now managed by the Office of Public Works. The gardens and parkland adjoining the castle are open to the public and the Parade Tower is a conference venue.

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Kilkenny Castle, Ireland: The Story of Two Modern Sieges in a Medieval Castle
Kilkenny Castle is one of the most recognisable – and most visited – buildings in Ireland.

Kilkenny Castle was founded in Medieval times, but its most significant moments have been played out during more recent history. The castle was featured in Oliver Cromwell’s re-conquest of Ireland in 1650; and was besieged during the Irish Civil War in 1922.

It’s easy to spot the influence of Cromwell when you visit Kilkenny – he destroyed one entire side of the castle! Despite this, sections of the castle have been rebuilt and the site hosts tens of thousands of tourists every year.

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Kilkenny Castle: A Fortress and Chateau, on Medieval Foundations
Kilkenny Castle grew from the work of one Norman Knight – Richard de Clare, who was nicknamed Strongbow. Strongbow was one of the devout knights who helped Henry II of England seize control of some regions of Ireland, from 1171 onwards.

Strongbow laid the original wooden Motte and Bailey castle buildings in 1172. He died four years later, and his lands eventually passed to his daughter’s husband – William Marshall.

William Marshall was one of the most successful and fearless of all Norman knights at that time. As a result of his might, he was granted vast portions of land. He chose to settle in Ireland, and, in 1207, he established the Medieval town of Kilkenny.

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In about 1209, he started to rebuild Kilkenny Castle where the wooden castle had once stood (it had since been burned to the ground). The stone curtain walls and the round drum towers (of which three remain – see below!) were all the work of William Marshall.

The Missing Wall of Kilkenny Castle: The Castle and the Cromwellian Conquest of Ireland
It doesn’t take a genius to figure out the fact that, nowadays, Kilkenny Castle is effectively three-sided. One of the four walls – and one of the great round drum towers – has disappeared over time.

Where did it go? Well, the Eastern wall and the North-Eastern tower were blown to bits during the 1650 Cromwellian siege of Ireland.

The Cromwellian siege was an exceptionally bloody re-conquest of Ireland, emerging from the fall-out of the English Civil War.

For about ten years prior to the reconquest, Ireland had briefly been able to claim self-governance, with the Catholic Irish Confederate governing large chunks of the country. Cromwell, then leader of England and devout Protestant, viewed the arrangement with antipathy.

His resultant reconquest of Ireland was exceptionally blood-stained – sparing few devout Catholics, and killing, according to different sources, anywhere from 15-50% of the Irish population.

Cromwell’s assault upon Kilkenny Castle had symbolic, rather than strategic, significance. Although the then-owner of Kilkenny (James Butler) was a Protestant, his castle had been seized and was used as the Parliament (of ‘supreme council’) of the Irish Confederate.

Cromwell’s bombardment of Kilkenny marked his dominance over the Catholic Irish Confederate, and hence his reconquest of Ireland. Indeed, Cromwell’s efforts really completed the British domination of Ireland, which, just a few years later, became part of the British Commonwealth (alongside Wales and Scotland).

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Kilkenny Castle: Reconstruction and Repurposing
A bizarre two-and-fro occurred within Kilkenny Castle during the c17th and c19th. In the early 1650s, James Butler (the Protestant owner) returned to his castle from his self-imposed exile in France.

The history of Kilkenny is intimately entwined with the life of the Butler family, one of Ireland’s most important blood-lines. Indeed, the Butlers were owners of the castle from 1328-1967.

It’s no exaggeration to say that, if you’ve got any Irish blood and your surname is Butler, you’ll be related to the clan (however distantly).

Seeing the damage that’d been inflicted upon his castle, and inspired by the grand palaces and chateaux he’d visited in France, he returned with grand ideas – to remodel Kilkenny in the style of a true French palace.

By all accounts, although his ideas might have been eccentric, they weren’t distasteful. His grand plans included a Jacobean house within the North West wing; and also the foundations of the grand galleries in the base of the castle.

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However, in the c19th, the descendants of the Butler family (now enjoying wealthier times) had a dramatic change of heart. Likely inspired by the Romantic movement – which emphasised the beauty and significance of historical context – they decided to demolish the ‘chateau’ elements of the castle, and rebuild it in a romanticised, ‘Medieval’ fashion.

Some of their additions were frankly bizarre – building an entrance archway through the c13th curtain wall, as one ill-advised example. The consequence of their work was that Kilkenny became a muddle of architectural styles, somewhat detracting from its historical significance.

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The Modern Day Siege of Kilkenny Castle
The second most dramatic moment in Kilkenny Castle’s history happened very recently indeed – back in 1922.

The Butler family – namely Lord and Lady Ossory – were still residents of the castle. The Irish Civil war, however, raged around them. Lord Ossory memorably wrote that he was woken at the “unreasonable hour of 5.30am” by his butler, who brought the news that Republican forces had seized and occupied his castle.

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Admirably, both the Lord and Lady stayed put, despite the arrival of a “heterogeneous body” of “about 22 men”, who were equipped with “bombs and rifles”.

Things quickly took a turn for worse, however, when the opposing force – the Irish Free State – laid siege to the occupied castle. The castle contained the Lord, Lady, servants and Pekinese dogs – along with the 22 members of the opposing Republican force.

Quite incredibly, the Butlers chose to hole themselves up in one of their bedrooms – barricading the door with nowt but a machine gun outside. The siege lasted for two days, and despite significant damage to the castle, no-one was hurt. The siege ended when Free State forces crashed a car into the castle – and, surreally, both their side and the Republicans subsequently claimed credit for ‘saving’ the Butlers from the opposition.

Kilkenny Castle: From Ruin to Tourist Hot-Spot
In 1935, the Butler family, who had fallen on difficult times, decided that the hour had come for Kilkenny Castle. They sold their possessions and moved to London; leaving the castle abandoned and in a perilous state of disrepair.

The family still owned the castle, however; and for the following 30 years, it decayed rapidly – a sad, abandoned and uninhabited Irish ruin.

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Understanding the importance of the castle to Irish heritage, in the 1960s, the Butlers finally got round to selling the place to the Irish Ministry of Public Works for a nominal sum of £50. The family subsequently re-presented the castle to the people of Kilkenny in 1967.

The castle’s been well-taken care of since then, and houses a significant Art Gallery within its basement. It’s surrounded by extensive, and delicately-clipped ornamental grounds, and is one of the most popular tourist spots in Ireland.

Original article here.

7 Travel Tips You Should Know For Traveling Solo

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If you traveling by yourself, you are not alone. Solo traveling is becoming quite the trend in this fast paced world of ours. There are so many rewards for heading off by yourself to one of the top tourist destinations, but these rewards could be thwarted if you don’t take precautions for your own safety.


Here are 7 great tips if you are traveling by yourself..

1. Keep Connected

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Before you head out, be sure and check if you cell phone has roaming abilities at the place you are traveling to. If it doesn’t, you may want to rent a mobile phone once you get there, or purchase an international SIM card if your phone has an unlocked GPS. Make sure that you won’t be without a way to keep connected with friends and family in case something should arise.

2. Let Others Know Your Daily Itinerary

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It’s important to keep specific family members or friends apprised of your daily schedule. Maybe even your hotel concierge or innkeeper. If you don’t arrive back when designated to, they can be on alert to make sure you are okay. When exploring by yourself in a wilderness or parkland, be sure to let someone know when you plan to return and what your specific route is. Then stick to that plan

3. Store Passport, Credit Cards and Cash in Different Spots

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Keep your credit cards and cash in your purse or wallet, and other cash and credit cards in a pocket or pouch. During your tour or sightseeing, have only a copy of your passport’s data page but keep your original passport securely locked in the safe at your hotel. It’s also a good idea to keep a copy of this data page with a friend or family member back at home. When you are traveling, you will want to have your passport carried separately from your credit cards and cash.

4. Research About Your Travel Destination

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Knowing any safety concerns as well as of etiquette of clothing and local customs can be a huge benefit. If you aren’t sure, got for a more conservative choice. Female travelers will want to know beforehand if harassment might be an issue. Also check information regarding the safety of public transportation. Speak with locals about certain areas or neighborhoods to avoid, specifically after the sun goes down. Have all the local phone numbers for any emergencies on you too

5. Be Sure Where You Lodge is Safe

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This may be obvious but be sure to keep your hotel door locked and any security chain fastened as well. It would be preferable to acquire a room close in more public areas like the elevator or concierge desk. Keep away from ground floor rooms where it’s possible to climb in through a window easily. If you are not expecting anyone, don’t answer the door.

6. Stay in Good Health

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Find out if the water is safe to drink, or if snake or spiders are a problem. Health issue with mosquitoes? Does your cab driver have an excellent safety record? Have an extra supply of any medications you take and even an extra prescription in case you need it. Bring hand sanitizer and use it as needed.

7. Stay Alert and Smart

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Being a solo traveler doesn’t mean you need to hide in your hotel room. Part of the thrill is venturing into the unknown and exploring where you haven’t been before. New discoveries and adventure await you. Just try not to get too distracted by every sound and sight, or by taking so many pictures and videos that your guard drops a bit. So most importantly: Do not leave your common sense at home.