My visit to Caherconnell Stone Fort

I’ve worked near Caherconnell for a while but shamefully I’ve never actually visited. I had heard that there were sheepdog demonstrations at Caherconnell so I decided that today was the day that I would go and see what they were all about.  Obviously, they don’t just do them on demand so you have to check the website for the times. You can access that here

I arrived in plenty of time so first was the visit out to the fort.  A joint student ticket costs about 8.20 so good value for what you get.  Prices are all on their website.  The man at the reception desk was really informative, explaining the self guided tour and going through the booklet you receive.  First, there is a 20 minute video that explains about the Burren, the forts in the area and the significance of Caherconnell as well as an animation of how life might have been like in the fort.

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Through the stones of the wall around the fort. 

From there you continue to the fort and each stop is marked with an explanation in the booklet.  Because it’s a self guided tour, it is as entertaining and interesting as you make it yourself. I thought it was fascinating and it seems like there are archaeological digs continuing there so I look forward to hearing about any findings.

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Some of the flowers around the fort.

I headed back inside for a bite to eat before the sheepdog demonstrations.  The menu was so good, I felt really pressurized to make the right choice, so many delicious dishes, so little time. In the end, I went for a toasted wrap.  It was a little on the untoasted side but the cafe is so cute and the staff are all pottering around doing little jobs that I didn’t really care that it was a little cold.

Eventually, the sheepdog demonstration happened. I really only visited for the sheepdogs and they did not disappoint! First, the farmer, John, introduced the dogs and the job they do and it was so lovely to see how well he knew their personalities.  He was so knowledgeable about the subject that it was a pleasure to hear him speak.

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The farmer with a pup that they are training.  

Then the dogs went out and he showed us how they work by voice and by whistle.  Those dogs have mad skills, super handy with the sheep and mad for action.

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The dogs in action. 

He worked the dogs several times before getting them to work together and separate the herd. Finally, we learned a bit about the type of sheep used in the Burren and the reasons for the different colours on them and so on. The demonstration took about 40 minutes or so.

I cannot recommend this place enough. I must have spent well over 2 hours here between exploring the fort, eating and checking out the sheepdog demo.  The staff are my kind of staff, well presented, working away at different jobs, polite and informative.  The attraction is so simple but effective.  If you want to find out more, including where they are located, you can check out their website here.

The Ploughing Championships, a changed event.

I visited the ploughing championships for the first time in 6 years and my conclusion is that we have lost it to greed. The Ploughing Championships has always been a great event for farmers and it remains an annual tradition is some farming households. The routine of getting up really early, packing the flasks of tea and sandwiches and heading off to enjoy a day out, away from the farm is what it’s all about. When you arrive, you go from tent to tent and will recognise one fella or another in most of them as you stop for tea and chat your way through the exhibitors. You learned things and found things and you always left with some benefit, whether it be knowledge or a contact or whatever.  It’s always been about the farmers.

This year, that focus on farmers seemed pushed to the left while the focus on money was evident.  The big marquees belonged to big companies and it’s fairly obvious that the more money you provide, the more space you have for a marquee. Therefore, even among the big companies, the real heavy hitters were clear. At least 4 of these big tents belonged to the supermarkets, each claiming to “work with” and encourage farmers. I’m not sure that a lot of farmers would agree with that statement.

If you were looking for an organisation to help you in some way, AWARE or NALA for example, you had to look. And look, and continue looking until eventually you found them tucked neatly away in a tent that housed about 30 organisations. They each had about 5 foot of space with which to use for the work that they do.The disparity between those with big budgets and those without was stark.

Livestock, at the heart of farming, was tucked away in a little corner at the very end of the rows. Although just a single tent for sheep, it was nice to look and comment and do all the things that farmers do. There were a few tents for pedigree cattle dotted in the little area but no where near as many as I once remembered.

This event has grown enormously over the past number of years and it’s understandable that allowances have to be made to keep everyone happy. Like any event, it will also diversify over time as demands grow. But, with farmers already going through a hard time, is this event just one more to be hit by the appeal of euro signs?

While the commercialism and greed was evident in this year’s event, it was nice to see a neighbouring farmer that you haven’t spoken to in months, or the friend you only ever meet at the ploughing. However, the conversations between farmers centre around the hard times that aren’t yet over.

Visiting King John’s Castle

My fellow students and I are currently doing a marketing analysis on King John’s Castle in Limerick so we headed off to one of Limerick’s most popular attractions on Friday.

Before I even stepped inside the attraction, I knew good things were coming as it had its own car park! Finally, one Irish attraction that understands the importance of car parking facilities. King John’s is part of Shannon Heritage and was re opened after renovations in 2013. The result is an interactive experience that leaves visitors of all ages with positive memories.

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As the only native English speaker in our group, I was interested to see what the two Chinese and Slovenian thought of the guides that you get at entry. Unfortunately, there are no Chinese language or Slovenian guides available so they had to take English. We did inquire as to the nationality of the most frequent visitors and were told that it was the French, Spanish, Germans and Americans.  The other European visitors had audio guides with them so clearly multi lingual guides are available for selected languages.

Entry for students is 7 euro which is in line with most other attractions but you must show a student card. Although 3 of the 4 of us showed. UL. student cards at reception, one of our group hadn’t received his yet. Even though we were clearly together and clearly all students, the woman was having none of it and charged him for an adult ticket. I know rules are rules but we hardly picked this guy up randomly outside. A bit of common sense wouldn’t have gone astray.

When we got inside, that was all forgotten about and we proceeded on our self guided tour. You are initially brought through the early Gaelic society followed by the Normans in Limerick moving on to the Reformation before talking about the Sieges in Limerick in the 1600’s. It all sounds frightfully boring here but in reality, I thoroughly enjoyed it. The place is completely interactive. You can try on clothes, shoot cannons, complete quizzes and tasks on touch screens, watch movies, build walls and so on.

You are never too old to play dress up!

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Cannon Shooting, harder than it looks!

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I’m lead to believe that an actual person hangs out in here usually and is a great source of information but he must have been on break while we were around!

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Then when you eventually finish with the indoor activities, you can go outside and see where the Smiths, Masons and so  used to work. It is also possible to climb to the top of the castle walls and enjoy an unobstructed view of Limerick.

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All in all, what did I think?

Personally, I had a lot of fun and I think that this attraction has a lot of potential. It’s definitely worth a visit and would be a great day out for a family. We spent over two hours there and we noticed that the people who came in at the same time as us were there after the two hour mark also.

I did find it very interesting to go there with my International friends. Over lunch afterward, they mentioned that while they enjoyed it, the language was still a big factor. Although, it’s a hands on experience, unless you can read the English on the walls, it may not be as enjoyable. But as we said ourselves, how can you make an attraction enjoyable for every language Perhaps, you can’t.

You can find out more about King John’s on their website, http://www.shannonheritage.com/kingjohnscastle

A big shout out goes to the students in M.A. International Tourism in U.L. As ever, leave your comments and questions below!

Climbing the Devil’s Bit

Since I had never climbed the Bit, doing it when I came back was high on my list. Legend has it that the devil himself took a bite out of the mountain and the bite is the Rock of Cashel.

From Wikipedia;

 The Book of Dimma was supposedly discovered in a cave on the mountain in 1789. It is an illuminated manuscript copy of the four Gospels and was written in the monastery of St. Cronan in Roscrea some time during the 8th century. According to legend, Cronan ordered his scribe Dimma to produce the manuscript before sunset on that day. He then used miraculous powers to ensure that the sun did not set for forty days, and Dimma spent all of this period completing the manuscript without feeling the need to eat or sleep. The manuscript disappeared following the dissolution of the monasteries in the 16th century. There is some debate about whether or not the manuscript was actually found on the Devil’s Bit amid claims that it could not have survived without damage in an outdoor environment for over two centuries. The Book of Dimma is currently housed in the library of Trinity College Dublin.

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The Devil’s Bit is located just a few kilometres from Templemore in Co. Tipperary. It is surprisingly well signposted. Leave your car in the car park and begin your ascent. The walk is meant to be a loop but we just climbed to the top and back down again. The top is quite breathtaking but confusing so be careful which path you take back.

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If you are of average fitness, this should be easy to medium difficulty. It takes about 2 hours for the round trip. From the beginning, the view is amazing. Unfortunately for us, it rained when we were half way up so we had to shelter under some trees while it passed. This resulted in the rocks getting a bit slippery so we had a few slips on the way down. For that reason, I recommend you wear some decent walking/hiking boots as opposed to trainers like us!

This shrine is half way up.

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When the sun shines, the view is breathtaking!

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The view on the way down!

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If you have any questions about doing this walk, just shoot me an email, backhomeinireland@gmail.com

A day in Dublin

I only had one job to do in Dublin and I almost didn’t make it because I was so distracted by the photo opportunities that were everywhere! Unfortunately, the rain only got worse during the day and I went home early but here are some photos I took on my visit;

First stop Trinity College. The place was packed with tourists and locals and the grounds were as beautiful as ever.

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Off to Stephan’s Green where people were out enjoying the park before the rainy afternoon.

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Without a doubt, it is the great characters you meet that make you remember a trip. While walking through the park, I met this gentleman who was feeding the pigeons. I stopped and asked to take a picture. He obliged and told me how he rescues the pigeons and feeds them three times a week. Once he started talking, he wasn’t to be stopped and before I knew it, there were 4 or 5 people standing around having a great chat about the pigeons.

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Over to the city centre.

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Fleet street

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Obligatory picture of the spire.

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And then it poured rain and off I went.

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Messages in presses and other features of Irish houses

Being home has made me laugh. It’s the small things that we say that make me realise how brilliantly unique Irish houses are. Here are some of the features and phrases that you’ll only find in Ireland;

  1. The Immersion; Irish people are completely OBSESSED with the immersion. The way they go on about it, you’d swear it was pivotal to the house standing. So what is the immersion? It’s what makes the water hot for showers. You switch it on before the shower and off again afterwards. If you don’t turn it off, watch out! You will be plagued, harassed and when you’re 80, you’ll be reminded about that time you didn’t turn off the immersion. Des Bishop does a great sketch on the immersion in one of his shows, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=52bna-tn_dY

My mum and dad have solar panels on their house because they heat the shower without needed to turn on the immersion in the summer. It’s like the perfect solution to everything! (if only we had more sunshine)

The famous immersion!

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2. The press: A few weeks ago in Korea, my friend asked me where I kept the bread and I replied “oh it’s in that press over there” She looked at me like I was speaking another language and I realized that no one else uses the word press! What is a press?

These are presses…………

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Where you store your food and stuff are presses.

3. Messages: I’m not sure if this is unique to my house or every house in Ireland. Messages are what you buy when you go to town to do the shopping. This is a weekly event so it includes food and maybe clothes and so on. When you come home from town you bring the messages in out of the car and then proceed to “put the messages in the press”

4. Hotpress: Now that you know what a press is, you should learn what a hotpress is. The hotpress is the small room where you keep your boiler. That room is naturally hot and so we keep our sheets, clothes or anything else that needs to be “aired” in there.

The hotpress in our house.

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That’s all I can think of for now. Leave comments if you can remember anything else!

Coming home!

I am very excited to be coming home to Ireland! I haven’t spent proper time there in the six years I’ve been in Korea so I’m exciting by the prospect of discovering all it has to offer.
I’ve wanted to do a Masters for the last few years but the time just never seemed right. I was busy making progress with my life in Korea and just kept putting it off.  Earlier this year, I went on a trip to Myanmar. There, we visited a pottery factory where they wheel spinner was a young girl of no more than 14 or 15. She was expected to give up her education after elementary school to spin the wheel. The money she earned would go to support her family. I came away from that trip realising how fortunate I am to come from a country where educational opportunities are just waiting to be taken. I returned to Korea and applied for my Masters. Thankfully, I got accepted SO for the next 12 months, I shall be a student of U.L! Exciting times.
If I’ve realised anything over the last few years, it’s that I’ve taken Ireland for granted in the past. There are so many great places to see and visit and I haven’t bothered to explore what’s right in front of me. So, hopefully I can get out and see with new eyes when I return.
Stay tuned for blogs on all my adventures while I’m back home in Ireland.