Michael Cusack Centre- a must for GAA fans

I visited the Michael Cusack centre by complete accident. I was actually on my way to the Burren Centre in Kilfenora when I saw the sign and figured it was closer than Kilfenora.  My uncle had been going on about how great the centre was a few weeks ago so I figured I’d go down and see it.

The centre is tucked away down a little road between Ballyvaughan and Kilfenora.  Thankfully it’s well signposted.  The only distinguishing feature from the road are the flags flying outside.  For a place that’s in the middle of nowhere, it has a beautiful centre. The building is looks very new and blends into the surroundings.  A short walk down the path is a thatched cottage, home of Michael Cusack.

Entry for a student was about 4 euro so a trip here won’t break the bank.  The man at reception was chatty and friendly and explained the whole thing to me.  I was happy to walk around the education room and read the displays which are in English and Irish, bonus points for that.  I usually get really bored walking from one display to another but these were super interesting.  They take you through his early life, education, early career, motivation behind founding the GAA, trouble when he did found it and his later life.  I was slightly traumatized when I realised how terribly his life ended.

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Displays of the life and times of Michael Cusack.

Just a few minutes after I had started reading, another worker, Seamus, came in and we started to chat about the impact that Michael Cusack had on modern Ireland.  The fact that GAA clubs are not exclusively located in Ireland are a testimony to the legacy that he left behind.  Seamus  was so enthusiastic about the topic and knew loads of little facts and points on the life of Michael Cusack.

The walk from the indoor display to the cottage is short but pretty.  A row of trees line the path down and it was explained that they were planted for the anniversary a few years ago.

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The Tipperary Tree .

And then the most beautiful little cottage appeared.  This cottage houses a three part audio visual on the early life, education and finally the meeting in Hayes Hotel in Thurles.  The house is decorated with appropriate pieces of furniture and the videos run in sequence while you move from one room to another.

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The cottage that Michael Cusack grew up in.

 

I didn’t expect to enjoy this attraction because I’m not all that interested in GAA but when I got there, I found myself becoming enthralled in the life of the man who founded the GAA.  Everything is so well presented that it’s hard for me to fault anything about my experience there.  Big shout out to the staff that were there on the day.  They seemed to have all the time in the world to speak with me and we had a great conversation about anything and everything.  Would I go back? Absolutely. And I think that every GAA team should consider going to this to see and appreciate the man from Carron.  You cam find out more by logging on to their website http://michaelcusack.ie/

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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.

An evening in Monaincha

There is a lake in North Munster with a large island which has a church and an ancient religious order. No woman or animal of the female sex could enter this island without dying immediately. This has been put to the proof many times by means of cats, dogs and other animals of that sex, which have often been brought to it as a test, and have died at one.

So wrote Giraldus Cambrensis (Gerald the Welshman) in 1187 when he also declared the site the “31st wonder of the world”.

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Monincha, known in Irish as Mainistir Inse na mBeo, means Monastery of the island of the living. The monastary, formerly on an island was founded in the 8th century but later in the 18th century the land was drained. It is an example of a nave and chancel building and you can see examples of Romanesque style on the decorations in the west doorway.

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The reconstructed High Cross has a 9th Century base with the cross head being 12th century.

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A part of Roscrea Heritage Trail, you can download maps and commentary from http://www.heritagetrails.ie/explore/roscrea-heritage-trail/

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How do I get there?

When researching Monaincha, I read that it was “the best kept secret in Tipperary”. That’s because unless you know where it is, you won’t find it and the non existent signs don’t do much to help you.

First, if you have time, drop into the Tourist office in Roscrea and get a map of the area. If you’re in Roscrea town and you’re driving (the highly recommended transport option), head for the old Dublin road.On the final roundabout, you’ll see a sign for St. Anne’s and if you take this exit, you’ll see the sign for Monaincha. That is the last sign you see until you get to the lane. From the roundabout exit, it is about 3km on a small road to the site. You will recognise the lane because there is a little memorial and sign there. Monaincha-Heritage-Trail-MAP-800x486

The good points.

This place is amazingly stunning and an absolute must see. I recommend you leave the car at the top of the lane and walk in. The walk is so peaceful and serene and you get a great view of the site from the entrance. There is no entrance fee but remember that you are on private property and should respect it accordingly.

There is a commentary available on the website I listed above.

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The not so good points.

The signage to the site isn’t great. For us it was ok because we knew where to go but for visitors not familiar with the area, it would be almost impossible to find it.

          Bonus Information.

The wind turbines, just further down the road from Monaincha are well worth a visit. .

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  • All photos are my own and were taken on my visit except the map which is from heritagetrails.ie. Be sure to follow me on Instagram (iamshaunabrowne) and Twitter(@backhomeinirl or @iamshaunabrowne)  for more photos and adventures around Tipperary.

Roscrea Castle & Damer House- an afternoon discovering heritage sites of my area.

There are so many great things on my doorstep to discover and this being Heritage Week, I wanted to get out and discover some of the great sites. First on my list was Roscrea Castle and Damer House.

A little about Roscrea;

  • Located in North Tipperary.
  • Comes from the Irish words Ros Cre meaning “Wood of Cre”.
  • Roscrea is the 3rd oldest market town in Ireland.
  • In ancient times, the Slighe Dhala (the 5 main roads of Ireland) converged in Roscrea.
  • There are many historical sites in the town and you can see them as part of the heritage walk.

How to get there & cost. 

The castle & Damer house are located on Castle Street in the town.

The facility is open from April to September 10am to 6pm. You can find all the details on heritageireland.ie.

Adult: 4 euros

Seniors/Group: 3 euros

Student/Child: 2 euros

Family: 10 euros

What can you see/do?

The main attractions are the castle and Damer house but there are other things to do.

The gardens are absolutely beautiful and a great place to spend a few minutes enjoying nature. Entrance to the gardens is free.

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You can also visit King John’s Castle, Damer House Art Gallery and an exhibition free of charge.

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The Castle

Roscrea castle dates back to 1213 and was used for defensive purposes. You can read a history of the castle on the Roscrea website www.roscreaonline.com. I was lucky to be able to join a tour and the guide, Stephanie was extremely informative and knowledgeable. The castle is in great condition and throughout the tour you can read the boards which keep the younger visitors interested.

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The Great Hall

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The Portcullis

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An interesting model of the castle.

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The staircase- built to deter attackers.

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The drawbridge.

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The Dungeon where prisoners were kept before heading to court in Clonmel

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Damer House

I believe that it is unknown exactly when Damer House was built and by whom but it has been used throughout the years for many purposes. A number of years ago, the house was almost demolished but thankfully it was saved. I was also taken on a tour of the house. The guide, Patrick gave an interesting and enthusiastic tour. Highlight of the house was perhaps the staircase which is unique and one of only 2 that still exist in Ireland. There is no photography allowed in the house which is a shame because it is full of photographic opportunities.

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A panoramic shot of the grounds including Damer house and Roscrea castle.

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The castle, seen from the top floor exhibition in Damer House.

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Visitors book in Damer House.

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Additional Information:

The castle and Damer House is just one attraction on a longer heritage walk of the town. You can used your smartphone to gain access to an audio guide of the other attractions. Worth spending an afternoon exploring.

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Good points:

When I arrived first, I wasn’t sure I would enjoy the visit but after meeting the staff and joining the tours, I had an enjoyable afternoon. Patrick and Stephanie were very friendly and chatted to everyone on the tours. Kudos to them for doing a great job!

The gardens are in great shape and whoever tends to them is doing an excellent job.

The grounds are big so even if there are a lot of people, it’s quite peaceful.

The Not so good points:

There is no car park for castle visitors so you must park on the street which is pay parking. It is only 50 cent for one hour but for low budget tourists, this could well be the difference between a visit or lack thereof.

The information is only in English or Irish so speakers of other languages bight find it difficult.

Worth a visit?

Definately. This is a great way to spend an afternoon and find out more about Roscrea. You can find out more information on either roscreaonline.com or heritageireland.com. Or simply visit the tourist information office located beside the castle.

*If I made any mistakes in my information, please leave me a comment correcting it.

*You can find out more about Heritage week on www.heritageweek.ie

*My photos can also be found on my Instagram site “backhomeinireland”