Posts Tagged ‘Ireland’

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.

Terrific Pics and Tips for an Irish Excursion

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Dreaming about a visit to Ireland? No surprise there. Ireland has some of the best places to visit with the most stunning scenic views in the world. You won’t regret seeing for yourself the breathtaking Cliffs of Mohor nor the enchanting sight of the Waterfall of the Gods. With so many astonishing places to go to and with limited time to explore it all it’s time to call in the experts. Here are four beautiful places that you may want to go see while you’re in Ireland along with four helpful traveling tips to prepare you for one of the most extraordinary excursions of your life.

Ring of Kerry

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The Ring of Kerry epitomizes Ireland with its distinctive scenery and coastline. When people around the world envision beautiful Ireland they picture Ring of Kerry. It encompasses remarkable grounds, extraordinary castles, luscious greenery, ancient monuments, charming villages and early archaeological discoveries. Every corner you turn reveals a new and captivating wonder. Arriving to the Ring of Kerry is like stepping into magical fantasy, you feel like you’ve entered an unrealistic world of glorious splendor.

Traveling Tip 1: When deciding where to tour Ireland base your must-sees on what interests you. Before you even arrive in Ireland pick one region to visit and then calculate the distances of all those places you want to see. Be realistic in scheduling out your vacation so that you’re not spending your entire time inside a car or bus. You don’t have to see every commercialized spot in Ireland because truthfully there are so many places that aren’t advertised in travel brochures that are simply spectacular.

Boyne Valley

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Boyne Valley is overflowing with incredible historical sites and monuments dating as far back as 3,000 BC. Featured in this valley are the ancient tombs of Dowth, Newgrange and Knowth and precious monuments including the Fort of the Kinds, the Mound of Hostages and the Stone of Destiny. These are some of the most important archaeological findings in Ireland. Beginning at the visitor center you can be led on a guided tour through these fascinating finds.

Traveling Tip 2: Another great way to prepare for your Ireland trip is to consult other people who have traveled there. If no one you know personally has ever been there then online bloggers is the next best way to go. Bloggers are brutally honest about their experiences and have the best insider tips. Plus they have no intention to sell their ideas to you. Just Google search blogs about Ireland travelling.

Waterfall of the Gods

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Also rich in history is the Waterfall of the Gods. The name for these beautiful falls originates from the actions of one Iceland law-maker who lived around 1000 AD. To keep the peace in his community Thorgeir Thorkelsson Ljósvetningagoði ruled that Christianity replace the practice of paganism and to set an example, this law-maker took his own Norse god idols and threw them over these waterfalls. But these waterfalls are more than just historically fascinating. Like most Ireland sceneries, the Waterfall of the Gods will leave your mouth gaping, your eyes gawking and your mind blown away.

Travel Tip 3: Always reserve your first night’s stay in Ireland. If you’re traveling a very long way, you’re going to want to get to get a room fast to rest and recover from your extended flight. Once you’ve settled in you can either look for a new place to sleep during your vacation or just remain where you are. If you do intend to tour around a lot, however, you might not want to change rooms too much. Bed and Breakfasts places are some of the best places to stay because they are very affordable and extremely hospitable. Plus you get to enjoy a more cultural experience when you stay at a Bed and Breakfasts.

The Cliffs of Moher

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The Cliffs of Moher is the crowning jewel of Ireland. Rising up to 702 feet over the Atlantic waters below and stretching as far as 5 miles, the view from these jagged cliffs will take your breath away. Nearly one million people visit this unbelievable location. Standing along the edge of these cliffs you may forget your surroundings and lose yourself in the glory of this majestic site.

Travel Tip 4: Transportation is a big part of any traveling adventure. Before you travel to Ireland decide how you want to get around. If you want to drive a rental car it is best to book through a travel agent because they understand the crazy up and down process of obtaining a rental in Ireland. Another option is to do a bus tour which is great for making friends, having a private tour-guide and getting first priority at hotels, attractions and other venues. You can also hire a local driver from any large city to take you from place to place.

The enchanting land of Ireland has beauty, rapture and excitement that you can see, feel and hear no matter which way you turn your head. Follow the simple tips here and do your homework on all the places you’re just dying to see. Even if you can’t make it to every little spot you crave, sit back and relish the views, the drives, the towns, the people and the charming culture of inspirational Ireland.