Tag Archives: Kinbane

Bunratty Castle, Ireland

After we left Ennis we made our way to Bunratty Castle, a huge tourist attraction in the town of Bunratty. It is owned by Shannon Heritage (the county I believe) and is in County Clare. Bunratty means at the bottom (or end) of the Ratty or Raite river.

To this point we had seen many castles, husks and shells of their former glory. Bunrattycastle was set up as a theme park with 19th century cottages outside the castle walls. Some  were little merchant areas and had food and other items that you could buy. We  could wander in and out of all the cottages. Bunratty also makes a mead but I didn’t get a chance to buy any. The park was quite large and we actually didn’t get through all of it as we were trying to make our way to Limerick afterwards.

Ireland 2007–Bunratty Castle

The castle itself was impressive for the work that’s been done in restoring it. It was the most interesting of all the castles in Ireland for various rooms and being able to finally visualize what a medieval castle would have looked like occupied. I’m used to I guess Hollywood movies where the castles look gigantic with long halls and wide spaces. In reality, none of these were gigantic. Donegal castle and Kinbane were probably the smallest.

With Bunratty there were four towers. Each tower held several rooms but you couldn’t necessarily get to all of them from the same floor. I believe this was part of the plan, should there be an attack. The marauders would have to run up and down a lot of narrow stairs (necessitating fighting one on one) to find the rooms. After we left the castle, I looked at a map again and realized I’d missed a few rooms, although I was sure I’d gone through all four towers and the staircases, but it was a maze.

The cottages were also interesting to venture into, each being set as if people still lived in them. They showed a sample of various trades with different styles in size and rooms. Usually they were one and two room cottages. One, I believe had a loft with beds for children. The castles as well as the cottages were whitewashed through time. The white washing, made from slaked lime and chalk, served several purposes. It gave a more appealing look to places, helped preserve the stone against the elements and add light where only torches and candles were used and expensive for many.  

One cottage was being re-thatched and the thatcher talked with us about what he was doing. A thatched roof can last 15-20 years depending on the weather. The dried straw is held down in place with reeds bent to make staples. The thatching is begun at the apex of the roof on boards and worked towards the bottom.

Next time I’d take a lot more time to see Bunratty castle and the rest of the village.

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Bushmills, Dunluce and Donegal, Ireland

Our day started with Kinbane, then Carrick-a-Rede, Giants Causeway and somehow we went on to Bushmills (the town & factory) for a tour. Why? I don’t care for whiskey (Scotch is different), my sister’s a celiac and can’t touch any wheat product. A momentary leave of senses perhaps?

Although Bushmills has been making whiskey since 1675 and it was interesting on how they use bourbon, port and errr, one other type of barrel to age the stuff, and although we got a shot at the end of the tour (I also got my sister’s) it was still kind of a waste of time. There really was nothing to take a picture of unless I wanted to do an article on whiskey making (and maybe I should have taken more). But I took no pictures and had my sister shoot this only picture (and bad one) of me in Ireland with the mega bottle of booze.

Ireland 2007–Bushmills, Dunluce Castle and Donegal

So we did the tour, and then it was getting late in the day, about 4:00 and we found our way to Dunluce Castle… to see them locking it up. It was perhaps our biggest regret. If we’d missed the Bushmills tour that we weren’t that enthused about we would have had time to explore the castle. And this castle had a cave. How cool is that? Alas we could only peer from the locked gates.

Dunluce castle was held by the MacDonnells of Ballymargy fame and was destroyed by a fire in 1641. There was a cave beneath the castle besides the passage under the bridge. I would have loved to explore that are.

Our last stop was driving on to Donegal town. The pictures of Donegal and the castle are actually from the next day as we arrived with enough time to do our usual. We popped into the Reel Inn, had a drink and asked the bartender to suggest some B&Bs. It also turned out they had live music that night. So we crossed the bridge right outside the door and not believing everything was so close, continued driving up the road, to realize we’d gone too far. We turned around and then found several B&Bs just down the road. We stayed at the Bridges.

These B&Bs are nothing fancy on the outside but quite large houses inside with usually 3-5 bedrooms and a large dining room. Bernie, our host, had two cute little kids (never met the husband) and there was only a common bathroom though many B&Bs have ensuites. My sister and I each had our own room, which gave me a reprieve from her snoring. (It’s funny that whenever I had to wake her in the middle of the night to try and get her to stop snoring, the first thing out of her mouth, even half asleep, was “I am not.” Like I had nothing better to do in the dark of night.)Bernie also washed our clothes for a few Euros each. A very nice place to stay.

So that night we went off to find dinner (quiet on a Monday). Many pubs have dining rooms upstairs. We began to notice that service in Ireland is different than Canada. They’ll serve you but never come back and you have to hunt down the waiter to get your bill or they’ll literally let you sit forever. I don’t remember the name of the place but I had a mediocre chicken curry with not a speck of vegetables. but true to form it was a huge portion on rice. I ate it all and then they brought me a megasize bowl of French fries! I didn’t eat any, being quite full. But there was that Irish thing for potatoes again.

We then wandered back to the Reel Inn for the music though we never got farther than a few feet inside the door. I won’t relate the tale here again as you’ll find it if you go back to the Oct. 2 entry. We staggered into bed, a short walk of a couple minutes from pub to B&B, at 3 am.

The next day we went off to Donegal castle. We couldn’t find it at first and our biggest problem was getting in the car. Being used to larges cities and maps of BC, we tended to misinterpret distances in Ireland. We drove back and forth trying to find the castle, expecting something like Dunluce. Donegal castle was comparatively small, tucked behind a store that sold garden ornaments  and a parking lot. In fact the parking lot was on one side of the Eske River, which is not very wide but I presume was a lot wider during medieval times. From our B&B it was no more than a five-minute walk to the castle.

Originally built in the 1500s by the O’Donnells (probably related to the MacDonnells) they partially destroyed it when they left (were routed?) so that it couldn’t be used against the Gaelic clans. Then the flight of the earls happened and a British captain was given the castle. Basil Brooke added the Jacobean wing which are the kitchen and hall. Some of these castles were so small it was hard to imagine them being seats of power. We’re used to these Hollywood movies that show massive grounds yet we drove by the castle three times without realizing that’s what it was.

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Carrick-a-Rede, Ireland

Today I’ve been felled by the dreaded cold so here is another piece from my trip to Ireland in 2007. All photos on this site are copyrighted.

Still on Oct. 1, travelling west along the north coast of Ireland, we went next to Carrick-a-Rede, which means something like big rock. Carrick is the name of the island and it’s tiny. It has a rope bridge suspended over a churning passage of water. Really, the bridge is twisted tensile metal strands and very sturdy. I think it was updated in 2000.

Ireland 2007–Carrick a Rede

Used by fisherman since the 16th century, it was once just a rope with some wood slats. Down one side, just before the rope bridge is the husk of a building used for the salmon fishery. I believe this closed down in the 80s or 90s as fisheries all over the world have met similar demises. Fishing by boat was somewhat treacherous so the fishermen used Carrick island to fish from. The northern coast is tumultuous, with crashing waves and no matter how alluring the waters look I bet they’re freezing cold.

I’m not sure if they trawled as there does seem to be some evidence of pulleys and such but in any case, Carrick like Kinbane, no longer has a fishing industry.

The walk to Carrick was beautiful. We had great weather and although there in the morning it warmed up quite a bit, especially with the stairs on the return visit. The ocean here was absolutely amazing. The colors in the pictures are quite accurate and it reminded me of the water around the Bahamas, but wilder and colder. The white cliffs are limestone and the rest is basalt I believe. On Carrick island the beginnings of the fractured basalt that makes up Giants Causeway could be seen.

They ask for a donation or fee to cross the bridge, which you pay earlier. I actually had left my pay stub with my sister but had paid it so they did let me cross. My sister, afraid of heights and swaying bridges, stayed behind and waited up the hill. There is a sway to the bridge, which is about thirty feet across. There were two teens with their father crossing in front of me and they decided to bounce the bridge. I waited, not because of fear but because I wanted to take pictures.

This was hike two, after Kinbane but really took only about 45 minutes in all to get to the island and back. The island itself was very hummocky and spongy. They have signs requesting that you protect the environment, which I presumed meant, walk lightly (as there were many people and would be more in the afternoon) and don’t pick anything. There was no set trail and you could walk from one side to the other in probably a minute; it’s that small. All along the way to and from the island is a trail that would make a great hike off the coast.

From Carrick-a-rede you can see the larger rock that they named Sheep Island, I imagine because of its color and shape, and across the water is Rathlin, a much larger island. It’s a rugged coast and I can see any landing, on a storm tossed night probably claimed its share of ships.

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