The Cliffs of Moher is one of western Ireland's most spectacular sights. From the cliff edge, even with a brisk wind in my ears, I could hear the booming of the surf far below as the waves eat into the shale and sandstone. I understand sections of the cliff often give way -- they're so unstable that few birds or plants make them their home.
The Burren's bare limestone hills were once lightly wooded and covered with soil. After the first farmers cleared the area of trees several thousands of years ago, the soil has eroded and the huge mass of limestone we see today has emerged. Visiting this desolate place is like being on the moon -- or as Cromwell's generals reported, "There is neither water enough to drown a man, nor a tree to hang him, nor soil enough to bury him." Over 5000 years ago however, there was burials in many megalithic tombs in the area. Up ahead is the Poulnabrone Dolmen.
The Poulnabrone Dolmen was a large three-legged tomb.
The whole structure was covered in a mound of earth which has since worn away. The capstone with its supporting leg has broken and the structure is really now standing on two legs.
The dolmen was excavated in 1989. The remains of more than 25 people were found among pieces of pottery and jewellery. Carbon dating suggest that they were buried here between 3800 B.C. and 3200 B.C.
The capstone weighs five tons.
Rothe House (the gray stone building) in Kilkenny Town was built in 1597. The large Tudor house was built around a series of courtyards and now houses a fine museum and the Kilkenny Archaelogical Society.
St. Canice's Cathedral in Kilkenny was built between 1202 and 1285. On the grounds before that was a monastery built by St. Canice in the 6th century and a wooden church which burned down in 1087.
The oldest structure on the grounds is the 90 foot high round tower, built between 700 and 1000.
The chancel area with continental carvings on the choir stalls and fine pipe organ is huge.
The Benedictine Black Abbey was founded in 1225 and takes its name from the monks' black habits.
Arriving at Kilkenny Castle. In 1192, William Marshall, son of 'Strongbow', erected this castle having four towers, three of which still survive.
The north grounds have a fountain and rose garden. The castle was bought by the powerful Butler family in 1391 and their descendants continued to live there until 1935.
The north Celtic-cross shaped fountain and rose garden.
My words cannot express the "grandeur" of this castle!
The south courtyard. The Butlers sold the castle to the city of Kilkenny in 1967 for 50 pounds.
Fifty acres of grassy parkland extend to the south which is a fraction of the Butler's once-owned land.
The 40 minute tour of the interior of the castle is a highlight of my trip. All cameras, pagers, and cell-phones were not allowed on the tour and needed to be checked-in. Again, my words cannot describe the "splendour" of the furnishings, paintings, and architecture! The tour guide was the best I've ever encountered.
Standing in the awesome "Long Gallery" with its vividly painted ceiling mixed with the portraits of the Butler family members over the centuries and its large windows overlooking the grassy parklands, the tour guide said "goodbye" to us in Irish. Her lengthy "goodbye" was like sad music to the ears which brought tears to the eyes of many of us, whose visit to Ireland was soon coming to an end.
Jerpoint Abbey, south of Kilkenny Town, was founded c.1160 and colonized by Cistercian monks.
The roof and south wall of the nave no longer remains. The grassy area in the foreground is the cloister, the back of the nave where the people are in the photo is where the lay people would sit, the monks occupied the part to the front (right). The north (side) aisle of the nave is behind the arches.
Standing in the cloister, looking toward the front of the nave, the chancel, and the crossing tower.
Standing in the nave, looking toward the chancel and crossing tower.
In the middle of a grassy plain a large lump of limestone rises up upon which mighty stone walls, a complete round tower, an abbey and a 12th-century Romanesque chapel has been built.
For over a thousand years, the Rock of Cashel was a symbol of power, the base of kings and churchmen who ruled over the region.