Burren National Park.

Today was perhaps the PERFECT day to get out and enjoy the sunshine in the Burren. Shamefully, I haven’t been to the National Park in a few years so I headed out today. 

To get to the National Park, you take the turn off in Kilnaboy and drive for 4km approximately until you see the entrance. In quiet times like today it was fine to take my car but in the summer it’s probably a better idea to get the shuttle bus from Corofin. 

There are a few choices of trail depending on the time you have and fitness ability. 

The scenery is amazing as are the flowers and plants. 

The trails are well signposted and today it was relatively quiet. I met just two other people out walking. 

The park is worth a visit if you’re looking to get outdoors and really explore all the Burren has to offer. 

(Feel free to drop me a line if you’re thinking of heading here and I’ll give you better direction!)

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Murroughtouhy

Murroughtouhy is one of my FAVOURITE places to go. It is located on the coast road between Ballyvaughan and Fanore in Co. Clare. It is a stop along the Wild Atlantic Way and from there you can see Galway bay, Connemara, Black head and the Aran Islands. 

Lough Boora Discovery Park

I don’t know why I haven’t gone to Lough Boora Park before. There is no excuse other than pure laziness.  This week my good friends Marcy and Bob came all the way from Hawaii to see me so I obviously wanted to show them something Irish, the bog. The signage for the Park is excellent and there is no way you can go wrong. That is a pure compliment from the woman who regularly gets lost on the way to new places.  The facilities are brand new and really well kept. There is a €2 charge for the car park and after that, it’s free!!!!! This makes it a perfect day out for everybody.

We chose to walk but you can also rent a bike or bring your own.mas  We initially intended to do the 3.3 km walk around the sculpture park but ended up walking for about 2 hours. The park is a photographer’s haven so don’t forget the camera.  There are several options for your visit depending on your time availability and fitness level.  The shortest route is the sculpture route at just over 3km.  This is followed by the farmland route which is 6km.  The mesolithic route is 9.3km.  The last two are quite long, Finnamore Lake at 11.7km and finally Turraun Route at 15.8km.  These give you plenty of choice depending on your interest.

Here are some photos I took along the way;

 

Overall, I had a great day and I’ll definitely be back with my bike, perhaps in the autumn when the leaves have changed.  The only bad thing about the visit was the amount of litter that we encountered on our walk.  For such a beautiful area, it was disappointing to see the litter.   You can find out everything about Lough Boora on their website, http://www.loughboora.com/wp-content/themes/boora/tablet/index.php

 

 

 

 

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/

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.

My trip to Burren Perfumery

It has been about 7 years since I went to Burren Perfumery so I headed out that direction on Friday.  I must say that I don’t remember it being as remote as it is. I was driving along the road and never have I been so grateful to see another car behind me.  It is literally tucked away in the middle of nowhere outside the village of Carron.  The perfumery is very well signposted so just stay going and you’ll find it.

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The first thing that struck me when I arrived was how peaceful it is.  It is so calm and quiet and no one seems to be in any rush. They immediately got 5 stars for the cleanliness of the area.  There is not one piece of litter anywhere and the bathrooms are beautiful.  I headed into the main building and there is a great video on the plants in the Burren and the materials they use in their products.  The staff were all really friendly and the shop is so well presented that you do want to buy something. Every product comes with a tester and an explanation that is quite thorough and the staff seem to want to help you out.

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When I was finished there, I headed out to the herb garden and again it was so well presented.

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People were walking around, discussing the plants and taking their time. There is also a workshop of some sort and a tea room.  The tea rooms seemed to be quite popular with everyone choosing to enjoy their refreshments outside in the sunshine.

I cannot recommend the perfumery enough.  It makes a great trip for an hour or two if you’re in the area. It does all the small things right and I’ll definitely be back there when I run out of moisturizer. You can find out more about them by checking out their website here.

 

 

 

 

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!

My visit to Birr Castle Demesne.

It was only as I was walking out the gate that I became aware of time again. I was so engrossed in my walk around Birr Castle that time had simply escaped my attention. In the centre of Birr town in Co. Offaly, this attraction has lots to offer whether you’re on your own, with friends or with your entire family.

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How to get there? 

Birr Castle can be found in the town of Birr, Co. Offaly.  The exact location is here, https://www.google.ie/maps/@53.0967043,-7.9143201,17z

It is well signposted so once you arrive, you shouldn’t have any problem finding it.

Parking and cost of entry.

The scourge of every Irish tourist attraction is paid parking. There is no castle parking available so you must use the paid car park across the street. One hour is 50 cent.

Entry prices* are as follows:

Adult:9 euro

Student: 7.50

Family ( 2 adults and 2 children) 25 euro

*Prices were correct at time of publish, September 2015.

What can I see/do?

There are many things to do and you should give yourself a lot of time to fully visit the area.

There are 3 walks available, the longest taking at least 40 minutes to complete. During the walks you can take in beautiful gardens, waterfalls, lakes wells and bridges.

The science centre contains lots of astronomical equipment and information.

The great telescope, which was once the largest in the world is a must see.

For children, the tree house adventure area will provide plenty of entertainment. This has Ireland’s largest tree house and has a bouncy pillow available in August and September.

I myself spent at least 2 hours here exploring the area, taking in the wildlife and taking photographs. It is a photographers dream and you could easily pass an entire day getting photos.

My visit.

Although I only live a few kilometres away, I had never been to the castle before so I wasn’t sure what to expect. The courtyard is really well kept as is the shop and visitor centre. The lady at the desk was happy and informative and explained the map before sending me on my way.

From there, I made my own way around the science centre which was quite interesting. I feel sorry for anyone who doesn’t read English because all the information is just in one language. However, it’s very visual so it would be of interest to everyone. You can learn all about the astronomical instruments and events.

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The day was picking up so my main interest was to explore the grounds. Since I had a lot of time, I took off on the river walk, which according to the map takes approximately 40 minutes to complete.

The estate is quite large and that becomes apparent immediately. There are tonnes of major walkways and minor walkways to explore, each offering something different. To walk around is quite refreshing and peaceful and I found myself regretful that I didn’t bring a picnic and a flask of tea!

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The suspension bridge dates back to around 1810 and it was the first of its kind in Ireland. According to the visitor guide, this is the oldest iron suspension bridge in Ireland and was built in original Birr workshops.

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If I have one pet peeve however, it’s litter and unfortunately there was too much litter around to go unnoticed. While most of the major walkways were litter free, the minor walks had quite a bit of litter as did the river. To me, litter is the height of laziness and when visitors are paying to walk around the estate, litter is not something that they should see. While I’m on this topic, I found some of the green keeping to be a little under loved in places. I can imagine that to keep an estate of this size in order takes a lot of work but attention to detail is essential.

As I waited to cross the little bridge at the fern waterfall, it was the squirrel and other wildlife that had me looking up into the trees. Again, as I approached the great telescope, a flock of ducks distracted me and they are obviously big characters who are used to having their photo taken.

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I love how the ducks were all walking in a line back to the river. You can imagine the leader just saying “Alright lads! Follow me! ”

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Eventually, I made it to the Great Telescope. For over 70 years, this was the largest telescope in the world. Constructed by the 3rd Earl of Rosse in 1840, it is now being reconstructed by the O.P.W.

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The box hedges in Birr castle are over 300 years old and seemingly the tallest in the world. The formal gardens are wonderful and make for some great photos.

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The variety of visitors there was apparent as I continued on my walk. There were some locals just out walking dogs, tourists there just for the nature and botany and then others who had their family and were making good use of the treehouse and bouncy pillow.

As mentioned earlier, the treehouse is Ireland’s largest treehouse and it really is quite impressive. The kids were enjoying it and the bouncy pillow immensely.

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Is it value for money?

After visiting the area, I asked myself this same question. Although, I don’t consider 7.50 a lot of money, I began to wonder why I had to pay it in the first place. I didn’t actually use a service of any kind as I didn’t get a guided tour or anything similar.Apart from the lady and gentleman working at the ticket desk, I didn’t meet any other workers. I can see the need to charge for use of the treehouse and bouncy pillow but walking outdoors, through nature should be free. Just a thought I had along the way.

You can find out more about this attraction by visiting their website http://www.birrcastle.com/

*All photos are my own.

*If any information is incorrect, please inform me and I’ll correct it.

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

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.