Nenagh- open for tourists between 2pm and 3pm.

My friend and I decided to explore the touristy things in Nenagh today. It all started pretty well with the Google search filling us with hopes of a castle visit, Gaol visit and potentially a few more interesting buildings along the way.

Think about the last time you heard a tourist tell you that Nenagh was on their must see list. You probably never heard that and today I discovered why. Don’t take me wrong, there are plenty of things to see in Nenagh but only is you get there on a specific time and day.

There’s no way anyone can explore a town without a cup of coffee so first stop was Cafe Q. The place was packed and the lady who gave us her table assured us that this was the best coffee in town. It was pretty delicious as was the Danish. The place had a good atmosphere and everyone was happy out drinking their coffees and nibbling on the tasty treats.

Refueled, we headed out the door and off down the street confidant that we could find a castle ourselves. Unfortunately for us, we don’t have that many geographical skills so we asked a nice young lady for directions. She warned us that it was “a long walk” but gave us stellar directions and a whole five minutes later we arrived at the castle. It was only 3.45pm but the gate was closed and a sign told us that it was “Closed for lunch” but also only open between 2pm and 3pm. Really? 2pm and 3pm? What kind of a castle is this??? What kind of tourists know to show up between 2 and 3 if they want to see it? We took this sad looking photo from the gate.

20160109_154440.jpg

The Courthouse looks like something straight out of Hunger Games. A spectacular building which was also closed but I’m not sure if it would even be accessible anyway.

20160109_154259.jpg

The church was potentially the most spectacular. As a bonus, it was open. We took a quick look inside and the only thing missing was a short history.

img_20160109_175512.jpg

 

We didn’t bother going to Nenagh Gaol because the website states opening hours as 10pm to 4pm Monday to Friday. I believe it is actually referred to as “Nenagh Heritage Centre”

So what did we learn?

If you’re a tourist at the weekend, you’re all out of luck and any other day is potentially hit and miss. If you do venture into the town, be sure to go between the hours of 10am and 4pm and especially between 2pm and 3pm. The only thing I can actually guarantee is a decent cup of coffee in Cafe Q.

 

Advertisements

Cloughjordan Ecovillage

With the nation turning more green and a range of alternative living options available, I decided to visit Cloughjordan Ecovillage to see sustainable living in action.

image

How do you get there?

By Car;

Moneygall is in North Tipperary and approximately from Moneygall. From the motorway, take exit 23 to Moneygall and then follow the signs to Cloughjordan.

When you arrive in Cloughjordan, the Ecovillage is approximately half way down the Main Street. It is at a small 4 way intersection, opposite a church.

By Train;

Cloughjordan has a train station that services routes from Dublin, Heuston and Limerick via Nenagh. For timetables, please go to irishrail.ie

Do you have to take a tour?

While you are free to drive into the village and look around, you must remember that there are people living here and to respect their privacy and security, it is recommended that you take a tour. You also won’t get the full benefit of knowledge if you just ramble around alone.

There are free tours every Saturday and Sunday at 3pm. I met the guide at the Main Street entrance or you can meet at Sheelagh na Tigh which is a little cafe on the Main Street.

If you have a group or you wish to participate in a workshop or so on, you can email edvisits@thevillage.ie They have these kind of visits all the time and are very accommodating to groups.

What is an Ecovillage?

From their website, http://www.thevillage.ie;

Ecovillages are urban or rural communities of people who strive to integrate a supportive social environment with a low impact way of life. To achieve this, they integrate various aspects of ecological design, permaculture, ecological building, green production, alternative energy, community building practices, and much more.

The Ecovillage in Cloughjordan is the first of its kind in Ireland and leads the way for the future of sustainable living in Ireland. It is located on 67 acres and has a community farm, woodland, allotments, houses, hostel and Enterprise centre.

The best way to understand is to take a tour and learn from the guide and that’s what I did earlier today.

My Tour.

The tour starts with a little introduction of everyone in the group. My group had 2 foreigners and 2 Irish so a nice mix of people. Looking at the map, it was pointed out that the village is divided into thirds. One third to houses and apartments, one third to the farm and allotments and one third to woodland.

wpid-20151004_145119.jpg

Immediately upon walking down the little hill, it is explained that the height of the buildings keeps with the height of buildings in Cloughjordan itself. I was most surprised to find an Ecohostel called Django’s on the left just past the entrance. This unique hostel is open to the public, year round and you can find out more on their website http://www.djangoshostel.com

Djangos Hostel seen on the left.

wpid-wp-1443975876532.jpeg

We continued walking and saw examples of the various types of houses built in the village. Among others there are Cob, Timber Frame, Hemp crete and all cedar houses. All houses are low energy and share hi spec broadband as well as a community heating system. The village has a 2gha rating which I believe is the lowest in Ireland and they are working on lowering that number.

The community heating system is very interesting . Two 500 Kilo watt wood fired burners supply every home with heat. The cost is divided among the residents.
image

Energy is also provided by solar panels which can be seen on the tour.
We continued on to the allotments. It is here that you can see research in action. One resident has his own allotment where he is researching growing techniques and so on.

image

On the apple walk, you’ll find every type of apple you can imagine. Luckily, we were allowed to eat some of the ripe ones and they were juicy and delicious. There’s something to be said about eating fruit straight off the tree. Our guide even brough along a spreadsheet with all the information on all the apples.
image

image

When we managed to pull ourselves away from eating the apples, we started into the yellow raspberries.
image

Eventually, we continued on our way and off to the farm. This is a community farm where members can collect their vegetables every week. Anyone can become a member so check out their website if you are interested.

We finished our tour by sampling some more delicious fruit that we found on the way.

A few things struck me about the village. The people seem extremely innovative, motivated and dedicated. Along the way, we were introduced to projects and plans that were either ongoing or in the process of approval.

The aim of the village is learning. Everyone is open to learning about sustainable living or teaching it to people like me on tours. For example, the drainage system is quite unique. In several areas, depressions can be seen. These are called Swales. When severe rain comes, the water is collected in these swales and they fill like lakes. Then, the water can slowly permeate through the ground. This prevents flooding to the village.

This is the way of the future and the possibilities are endless. I was so inspired to hear of the work already done in the village but can’t help but think of the possibilities for the future. With new methods coming on board all the time, this village is only just growing.

Worth a visit?
Absolutely. I learned so much from my visit and found it quite innovative. It would be a great visit for families also. You can find out more details on their website http://www.thevillage.com, on Facebook or on Twitter.
image

image

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.

wpid-20150829_182525.jpg

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.

wpid-20150829_180943.jpg

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.

wpid-20150829_174714.jpg

wpid-img_20150830_100423.jpg

When the sun shines, the view is breathtaking!

wpid-img_20150830_100135.jpg

wpid-img_20150829_200609.jpg

The view on the way down!

wpid-img_20150829_212015.jpg

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”.

wpid-20150827_192619.jpg

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.

wpid-img_20150828_115412.jpg

wpid-img_20150828_115813.jpg

wpid-img_20150828_115539.jpg

wpid-img_20150828_120237.jpg

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

wpid-img_20150827_215556.jpg

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

wpid-20150827_192333.jpg

wpid-20150827_192144.jpg

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.

wpid-20150827_185942.jpg

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. .

wpid-img_20150827_213943.jpg

wpid-img_20150828_114734.jpg

  • 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.

wpid-20150824_144942.jpg

wpid-20150824_144809.jpg

wpid-20150824_144842.jpg

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

wpid-20150824_144522.jpg

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.

wpid-20150824_144718.jpg

The Great Hall

wpid-20150824_145828.jpg

The Portcullis

wpid-20150824_145842.jpg

An interesting model of the castle.

wpid-20150824_150534.jpg

The staircase- built to deter attackers.

wpid-20150824_150117.jpg

The drawbridge.

wpid-20150824_151001.jpg

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

wpid-20150824_151017.jpg

wpid-20150824_151034.jpg

wpid-20150824_151127.jpg

wpid-20150824_145111.jpg

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.

wpid-20150824_150718.jpg

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

wpid-20150824_144643.jpg

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

wpid-20150824_153500.jpg

Visitors book in Damer House.

wpid-20150824_153906.jpg

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.

wpid-20150824_144536.jpg

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”

Visiting Mount St. Joesph’s Abbey

Mount St. Joesph’s Abbey is a Cistercian Abbey and boarding school located approximately 2 miles from the town of Roscrea.  The abbey was founded in 1878 with the boarding school coming later in 1905. As well as the abbey and boarding school, there is a dairy farm, guesthouse and golf course. In total, the estate is about 500 acres.

I’ve been going to the monastery since I was small but this week was my first visit in a number of years. I couldn’t believe how well the place looked! It’s exceptionally well kept and so peaceful. I walked through the wooded area, down by the golf course and waterfalls and back to the abbey.

When I was young, my favourite thing was to get some of the bread that was made by the monks, Brs. John and Oliver. In 1891, A.M. Perkins & Son Ltd installed a turf fired Patent Steam oven to the monastery. Up to a few years ago, the monks still baked bread in the oven daily. Unfortunately, they have ceased but as a child I loved to get their bread.
wpid-20150820_114049.jpg                                                                                    The waterfalls

wpid-20150820_115617.jpg

wpid-20150820_115602.jpg

Look at how green the grass is on the golf course!

wpid-20150820_115750.jpg

You can pray in the church and mass is said there daily.

wpid-20150820_114448.jpg wpid-20150820_114723.jpg wpid-20150820_115036.jpg

The building is made of local grey limestone and follows a traditional monastic plan.

The school.

wpid-20150820_113923.jpg

wpid-20150820_114022.jpg

This is a great place to go if you just want some quiet time to reflect. It’s extremely peaceful and scenic.

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!

wpid-20150817_115810.jpg

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…………

wpid-20150817_115651.jpg

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.

wpid-20150817_115629.jpg

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.