County Kerry – The Kingdom

County Kerry is a mystical, rugged, and scenic Irish county that has captivated tourists for hundreds of years, making the Ring of Kerry one of the most famous attractions in all of Ireland.

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Waterville On The Ring Of Kerry At Sunset

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Known as The Kingdom to the people of Kerry, the county is the closest any tourist will get to experiencing an ancient, mythical, Celtic kingdom.  Misty mountains, glacial lakes, rugged peninsulas, magical rainbows, secluded hamlets and windswept beaches await.

Larger towns like Tralee, Killarney and Kenmare provide wonderful accommodations from budget friendly hostels to luxury castle hotels.  Many pubs host live traditional music sessions in the evenings, so tourists can experience the warm welcome of the Kerry people.

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Kerry is one of the six counties of the province of Munster and is the 5th largest county in all of Ireland.

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Ballybunion Beach

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Ballybunion is located in the northern part of the county and is famous for its challenging, blustery golf courses.  The town boasts a statue of President Bill Clinton holding his golf club, to commemorate his trip to the town.

Also famous for its sandy beach, Ballybunion is a surfer’s paradise.

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Listowel And Its Racetrack On The Banks Of The River Feale.

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Located in the very heart of north Kerry on the banks of the river Feale is the town of Listowel.  The ancient stone keep, Listowel Castle, dates back to the 1300′s.  The town is also famous as the home of the writer John B. Keane.  It hosts an annual literary festival and the famous Listowel Races.

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Blennerville Windmill, Ireland’s Largest Windmill, Just Outside Tralee.

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Tralee is the largest town in County Kerry, established in the 13th century.   Tralee town sits beside the River Lee from whence it takes its name, in Irish, Trá Lí meaning ‘strand of the Lee’.  The northern access route onto the Dingle Peninsula starts in the town.

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Candidates For The Rose Of Tralee

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The annual Rose of Tralee Festival crowns one fair maiden as the winner. Her duties, you ask.???  It’s simple – just represent Ireland to the world. No pressure whatsoever!!!

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Gallarus Oratory – Dingle Peninsula

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The Dingle Peninsula has the highest density of ancient archaeological monuments of any other landscape in western Europe.   Almost 70 Ogham stones are dotted around the area. Ogham (pronounced “o-am”) is the earliest form of Irish writing.  It is thought the stones may be old landmarks, or possibly could be signs associated with land ownership.

The Gallarus Oratory pictured above, is a small stone chapel dating back to between the 6th and 9th century AD.

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Clogherhead Beach, Dingle Peninsula

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The Dingle Peninsula is a mountainous finger of land which juts into the Atlantic Ocean.  The Connor Pass connects the peninsula to the Tralee road and offers some of the most amazing ocean views in all of Ireland. Be prepared for some daunting twists and turns, as the road hugs the edge of Atlantic cliffs with sheer drop-offs.  Spectacular beaches await, with breathtaking sunsets over the Atlantic Ocean.

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Inch Beach On The Dingle Peninsula

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Inch Beach on the Dingle Peninsula is a beautiful sandy strand.  The movie Ryan’s Daughter was filmed here.

Dingle, in my estimation, can be counted as one of the most beautiful places in the world.  On a sunny day, there is nowhere on earth quite like it.  And on a wet day, you can’t beat the inviting atmosphere of one of Dingle’s many pubs and cafes.

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Slea Head, Dingle Peninsula

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Slea Head is a promontory on the westernmost point of the Dingle Peninsula offering spectacular views of the Blasket Islands.

The Blasket Islands

The Blasket Islands lie off the coast and were inhabited until 1953.  The islands were home to native Irish speakers, many of whom immigrated from Ireland and settled in Springfield, Massachussets.  Others moved across the water to Dingle, and their descendants continue to live within sight of their island home.

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Killarney

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Killarney is a hub of activity for tourists seeking to undertake a tour of the famous Ring of Kerry.  But my advice is not to rush out of town, but to spend some time savoring the atmosphere and visiting some of the local tourist attractions.

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Ross Castle

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Ross Castle, near Killarney, is open for tours.  It is an example of an Irish chieftan’s stronghold during the Middle Ages.

Muckross House

Within Killarney National Park lies Muckross House, a magnificent Victorian mansion.  Here, tourists can appreciate the lifestyle of Ireland’s once landed gentry.  Downstairs, the basement displays the life of the servants.

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Rhododendrons In Muckross Gardens

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The Gardens at Muckross House are renowned for magnificent azaleas and rhododendrons, a water garden, and rock garden.

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Torc Waterfall, Killarney National Park

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Torc Waterfall is one of Killarney’s famous tourist attractions.  You may not wish for rain on your trip to Ireland, but after a good downpour these falls are even more spectacular.  For the more energetic visitor, there are about 100 steps at the side of the falls.  At the top a magnificent view of the lakes awaits.  Torc Waterfall is a busy stopping point for bus and coach tours.

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Jaunting Car – © Copyright Graham Horn and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons License.

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Killarney is well known for its jaunting car tours of the surrounding lakes and national park.  To some this may seem a little too touristy, but trust me, the drivers of these jaunting cars are experts on local culture, environment and history.  They are true entertainers.

I remember taking a jaunting car trip as a child and laughing my heart out at our hilarious driver.  He even told jokes to entertain kids.  As they say in Ireland – “he was a real character”.

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Lakes of Killarney

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To the southwest of the town, lies Killarney National Park, a 26,000 acre expanse of rugged, mountainous country.  The extraordinary combination of misty mountains, reflective lakes, whispering woods and cascading waterfalls, all under tumultuous changing skies, adds magnificence to the scenic beauty of this natural wonderland.

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Carrauntoohil – Ireland’s Highest Mountain

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Carrauntoohil is Ireland’s highest mountain and is part of the Macgillycuddy’s Reeks range, which boasts nine of Ireland’s ten tallest peaks.

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Ring Of Kerry Bus Tour – © Copyright Joseph Mischyshyn and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons License.

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Many tourists envision the Ring of Kerry as a town, or a place they can visit for an hour or two.  The Ring is in fact a looping road which winds for 179 kilometers around the Iveragh Peninsula.  In the summer months, many tour buses can be spotted, winding around the coast or stopped at scenic viewpoints dotted along the route.

Driving the Ring of Kerry is an experience of a lifetime.  Here the mountains meet the ocean with scenic splendor, making this trip one of the world’s most spectacular drives.

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The Town of Kenmare

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The town of Kenmare is a perfect stopping point on a tour of the Ring of Kerry.  South of the busier hub of Killarney, it is a great central point for touring Cork and Kerry.  Brightly colored houses, shops, bars, restaurants and hotels line the streets of this welcoming town, nestled in the Kerry mountains and set against the splendid backdrop of Kenmare Bay.

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Double Rainbow Over Cahergall Stone Fort, Near Cahirsiveen, Co. Kerry

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The Ring of Kerry boasts ancient ringforts, sublime scenery, rainbows, beaches and outdoor activities to suit every tourists needs.

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Beehive Huts In Sneem On The Ring Of Kerry – © Copyright Joseph Mischyshyn and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons License.

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Everywhere in Kerry, it is easy to feel connected to our ancient, mythical past.  Archaeological treasures seem to dot the roadsides and countryside.

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Valentia Island

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Valentia Island is located on the western loop of the famous Ring, and for such a small island boasts an amazing history.

The oldest footprints in the northern hemisphere were found on the cliffs here.  Slate from the island’s quarry was exported all over the world and was used to roof the Paris Opera House and the London Houses of Parliament.

The first weather forecasting station was set up here in 1860 and the first transatlantic cable landed here in August 1858.  This little island deserves a blog post all of its own.

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Little Skellig from Skellig Michael – Islands In The Atlantic

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The Skellig Islands, off the Kerry coast, are home to a 7th century monastic complex, perched on the steep sides of the rocky island of Skellig Michael.  The extreme remoteness of Skellig Michael has until recently discouraged visitors.  The site is therefore exceptionally well preserved.

And so we come to the end of our tour of County Kerry.  There are many places I had not time nor space to include today, but trust me, if there is a county in Ireland that is not to be missed, County Kerry falls into that category.

Here are some links to help with planning a trip to this Celtic Kingdom of Kerry.

Discover Ireland – Kerry

Ring of Kerry Tourism

Kerry Tourism

Dingle Peninsula Tourism

For links to Irish American Mom’s tour of the other counties of Ireland here is the link:

Ireland: County-By-County

 

Wishing you all happy travels in the land of my birth.

 

Slán agus beannacht leat!

(Goodbye and blessings)

Irish American Mom

 

 

 

County Galway – Home Of The Tribesmen

County Galway lies on Ireland’s west coast.  Under direct influence of the Atlantic gulf stream and ocean currents, this county receives ample rainfall between spells of fleeting sunshine.

It is the very same rain that nourishes the magnificent blossoms of Galway’s countryside. When the sun sets across Galway Bay there is no other place on earth quite like it.

 

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County Galway

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County Galway is part of the ancient province of Connacht and stretches from the River Shannon in the east to the western Atlantic coast.

Galway City:

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The Long Walk, Galway

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The City of the Tribes is a tourist hub, a perfect base for visiting the west of Ireland and a gateway to Connemara. The Long Walk is a section of the Galway Quays that boasts a unique architecture.  It looks over towards the Claddagh.

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The Claddagh village lies on the western edge of Galway City.  It’s name is derived from the Irish word cladach meaning stony shore. An ancient fishing village, it is famous as the home of the Claddagh Ring, an Irish symbol of friendship, love and loyalty.

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Galway Cathedral At Night

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Galway Cathedral is a magnificent stone building situated on the banks of the River Corrib.

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The Quadrangle, Galway University

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The National University of Ireland, Galway first opened its doors in 1849.  With its hallowed halls of learning built around The Quadrangle, the University was then known as Queen’s College.  The university has played an integral part in the history and development of the Galway we know today.

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Salthill At Dusk

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Galway’s seaside suburb of Salthill boasts a beautiful beach, long promenade, restaurants, pubs, and guest houses, all with magnificent views of the famous Galway Bay.

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Swans On Galway Bay

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I hope someday you are lucky enough to watch the sun go down on Galway Bay.

Aran Islands:

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Looking To The Mainland From The Aran Islands

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Situated at the mouth of Galway Bay, the Aran Islands are famous for their geological formation, stone walls bordering patchwork fields, sweaters with intricate cable designs, adherence to the Irish language, ancient stone forts and monuments, and a rich cultural heritage.  Ferries to the islands depart from Rossaveal, about one hour’s drive from Galway City.

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Dun Aengus On The Aran Islands

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Dun Aengus is an ancient stone fort situated on the edge of spectacular cliffs overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.  I highly recommend a trip to the Aran Islands to learn about island life in a bygone era.

Connemara:

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The Pier at Spiddal

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Connemara lies to the west of Galway City and is one of the most scenic regions in Ireland.  Picturesque fishing villages, like Spiddal, dot the coastline.  I fondly remember summer holidays here as a child, with lazy summer days spent exploring this magnificent county.

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The Connemara Coastline Overlooking Galway Bay

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Connemara”s craggy mountain peaks, windswept vistas, magnificent sandy beaches and extensive network of lakes are simply breathtaking.

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Connemara Turf Pile – © Copyright Chris N Illingworth and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons License.

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Here you find a peaceful solitude amidst rugged beauty.  Much of Connemara is an Irish-speaking area, but don’t worry, most people are bilingual and are more than willing to help and have a chat with English speaking tourists.

Here you will find ancient Irish traditions and customs preserved through a rich linguistic, musical and folklore heritage.

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Connemara Pony – © Copyright Miss Steel and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons License.

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Connemara is famous for its distinct pony breed renowned for athleticism, resilience, and good nature.  It is believed this unique breed was developed from either Scandinavian ponies released at the time of the Viking raids on Ireland, or Spanish Andalusians set loose at the time the Spanish Armada went adrift off the west coast of Ireland.  Whatever their origins Connemara ponies are magnificent animals.

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Kylemore Abbey – © Copyright Joseph Mischyshyn and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons License.

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Kylemore Abbey dates back to the 1850′s and is one of Galway’s most popular tourist destinations.  Visitors can tour the Abbey to hear it’s historical tales of tragedy and romance.

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Kylemore Lough

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A Victorian Walled Garden awaits or woodland trails, lakeshore walks, or nature hikes around the Kylemore estate.

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Padraig Pearse’s Cottage – © Copyright Chris Walpole and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons License.

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Patrick Pearse (1879 – 1916), leader of Ireland’s 1916 Rising, spent his summers in Rosmuc.  His thatched cottage is open to the public.  Burned during the War of Independence, it has been meticiulously reconstructed and now houses an exhibition dedicated to Pearse’s life.

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The Twelve Bens

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Connemara National Park is situated amongst the famous Twelve Bens mountain range.

Clifden:

Overlooking Clifden

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The town of Clifden is known as the capital of Connemara. A lively town nestled in the mountains, it is full of shops, pubs, restaurants and cafés.

The Sky Road, Clifden.

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Clifden’s greatest attraction is its magnificent surrounding landscape. The Sky Road in Clifden is a circular scenic route of unequaled rugged beauty.

Killary Harbor:

 

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Killary Harbor – © Copyright Espresso Addict and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons License.

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A glacial fjord forms a natural boundary between counties Galway and Mayo. This spectacular inlet is one of only three fjords on the island of Ireland, and because of its sheltered nature, its waters are always calm.  Once again the surrounding scenery is simply magnificent.

 

Lough Corrib:

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Lough Corrib

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Lough Corrib is Ireland’s second largest lake and divides county Galway into eastern and western portions.  Islands dot the lake.  The ancient Hen’s castle stands on Caislean-na-Circe, between Maam and Doon.  It was home to Ireland’s famous sea-faring priate, Granuaile or Grace O’Malley.

East Galway:

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The Fields of Athenry

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Eastern Galway is dominated by flat, arable farmland, in sharp contrast to the rocky fields of the west.  The most famous of these fields are those of Athenry:

“Low lie, The Fields of Athenry

Where once we watched the small free birds fly

Our love was on the wing

We had dreams and songs to sing,

It’s so lonely round the Fields of Athenry.”

 

The eastern county is home to some lovely market towns including Tuam, Athenry, Ballinasloe, Loughrea, Portumna and Gort.

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The Autograph Tree, Coole Park.

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Coole Park lies near the town of Gort.  Home to Lady Gregory, Ireland’s most famous poet William Butler Yeats spent much time here.  His autograph can be found amongst those of other famous literary figures on the autograph tree in the park.  Unfortunately the original house no longer stands.

And so, we conclude our quick tour of County Galway.  If you are planning a trip here are some helpful links:

 

Aran Islands Guide

County Galway Guide

Galway Tourism

Galway East Tourism

To visit the other counties on our tour of Ireland just click on a link below:

 

1. County Anrtrim

 

 

2. County Armagh

 

 

3. County Carlow

 

 

4. County Cavan

 

 

5. County Clare

 

 

6. County Cork

 

 

7. County Derry

 

 

8. County Donegal

 

 

9. County Down

 

 

10. County Dublin

 

 

11. County Fermanagh

 

 

Slán agus beannacht leat!

(Goodbye and blessings)

 

 

Irish American Mom

County Fermanagh – Ireland’s Lake District

Boasting hundreds of square miles of lakes, with over 150 islands waiting to be explored, County Fermanagh has been christened Ireland’s Lake District.

Offering tourists magnificent waterways, an abundance of fresh air, beautiful countryside, megalithic history, stately homes, world-renowned fishing, plus amazing underground caves, Fermanagh’s many attractions really do have something for everyone.

 

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I’ll make a confession.  In my younger years County Fermanagh was simply a place I passed through to get to County Donegal.  But ever since I married an Ulsterman I have come to appreciate this spectacular county.  Today we’ll take a photographic trip through Fermanagh’s amazing attractions.

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County Fermanagh is one of the nine counties of the ancient province of Ulster and one of the six counties in Northern Ireland.  The name Fermanagh is pronounced with a silent “gh” at the end, and is derived from the old Gaelic expression ‘Fir Manach’ or ‘Men of the Monks’.

 

Lough Erne:

 

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Sunset Near Crom

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County Fermanagh is bisected by the River Erne, which flows northward from County Cavan through two magnificent lakes named after the river.

As a child I grew confused by lakeland geography lessons.  Looking at a map of Ireland I always believed Lower Lough Erne should be the southernmost lake.  However, since the river runs northward, Upper Lough Erne is actually below Lower Lough Erne on a map (makes sense now, but never did as a child).

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Crichton’s Tower – The Crom Estate

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The Crom Estate lies on the shores of Upper Lough Erne, surrounded by an archipelago of wooded islands.   Crom Castle is a 19th Century Victorian Castle set in a 1900-acre demesne.  Privately owned by The Crichton family, Earls of Erne, the West Wing is open to guests.  It’s romantic, tranquil setting make it an ideal location for weddings.

Old castle ruins and towers lie within the grounds.   The estate includes many features of times past including an old farmyard, boathouse, tea house, church, and schoolhouse.

Co. Fermanagh, Ireland

Camping On Trannish Island, Upper Lough Erne

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Share Discovery Village is based in Lisnaskea, Co. Fermanagh.  Established in 1981, it is Ireland’s largest outdoor activity center offering camping, canoeing, boat trips, raft building, and viking longship cruises.

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Devenish Island

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Devenish Island, on Lower Lough Erne, boasts one of the finest round towers in Ireland.  The ruins of the Oratory of Saint Molaise date back to the 6th century.

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The Janus Figure on Boa Island

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Boa Island is the largest of all the islands and is connected to the mainland by road bridges.  Megalithic carved stones found in the Caldragh graveyard are well worth a visit.

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Upper Lough Erne

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Belle Isle, an island in Upper Lough Erne , is home to a 17th century castle nestled in a 470-acre estate.  Guest accommodations on the estate come in a variety of packages to suit many tastes and wallets.  The castle itself offers luxury, five-star guest rooms, while the courtyard building houses eight affordable apartments for rent.

Belle Isle Cookery School offers day courses in bread-making, cooking for toddlers, dinner party menus, newly-wed classes, and healthy meals.

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Tully Castle: © Copyright Kenneth Allen and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons License

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Tully Castle was once the fortified house of the Hume family and these impressive remains date back to 1619.

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Muckross Marina, Lower Lough Erne: © Copyright Gordon Dunn and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons License

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Once you discover the beauty of these amazing lakelands, with world-class angling, golf, luxury accommodation, historic self-catering getaways and miles of open waterways dotted with ancient islands, you will never want to leave.

Enniskillen:

 

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Enniskillen is the county town, lying between Upper and Lower Lough Erne.  The turreted remains of Enniskillen Castle were once home to the ancient Gaelic Maguire clan.

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Buttermarket, Enniskillen: Copyright Dean Molyneaux and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons License.

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The Buttermarket Courtyard located in the heart of the town is one of Ireland’s finest craft centers.  These beautifully restored 19th century buildings offer a unique shopping experience with pottery, original handcrafted jewelry, artwork and handwoven textiles for sale.

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Northwest of Enniskillen on a rocky outcrop, lie the ruins of Monea Castle. Beautifully remote, this stone fortress dates back to the early 17th century.

Stately Homes:

 

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Florence Court

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Florence Court, an 18th Century estate, was the ancestral seat of the Cole family, the Earls of Enniskillen.  Guided tours of the house are available.

Nestled within a backdrop of glorious mountains and woodlands, the grounds boast rhododendron-filled gardens and atmospheric woodland walks.

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Castle Coole

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Castle Coole is a Neo-classical house which welcomes visitors, allowing them a glimpse into life in an 18th-century Irish mansion.

The architectural similarities between Florence Court and Castle Coole make me think these Earls of old were in competition with each other, keeping up with the Joneses so-to-speak, or else they went for a two-for-one deal when hiring an architect.

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Necarne Castle: © Copyright Kenneth Allen and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons License

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Necarne Castle in Irvinestown is set in an idyllic woodland estate. During the second world war, the RAF and American military converted it into a hospital. By 1941, America had declared war on Germany and the castle was requisitioned by the United States Navy.

Today the castle is home to an impressive equestrian facility open to tourists, offering horse riding tours through the surrounding countryside.

Marble Arch Caves & Geopark

 

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Marble Arch Caves

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Buried deep in the rolling hills of the Fermanagh countryside lie Marble Arch Caves.  Guided tours transport you back in time, deep inside a geological wonderland.   Carved by the millennial forces of flowing, dripping water, this underground world is a labyrinth of passageways, a hidden warren once believed to be home to the fairy folk and leprechauns.

Cuilcagh Scenic Drive:

 

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The Cuilcagh mountains lie between counties Fermanagh and Cavan.  The scenic drive through these highlands offers spectacular mountain views.

 

Belleek:

 

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Belleek Pottery: © Copyright Kenneth Allen and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons License

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The village of Belleek is famous for its pottery factory which was founded in 1887.

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Belleek China Cup

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Belleek porcelain is acclaimed for its thin and iridescently pale surface, often embellished with simple, green shamrocks.

Today’s tour provides a small sample of all that Fermanagh has to offer.  If you are in need of some time to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, longing for tranquil, relaxing surroundings, then County Fermanagh is the place for you.

Here are some resources to help plan your get away:

 

Fermanagh Lakelands

Virtual Visit Northern Ireland

Discover Northern Ireland

Discover Ireland

To visit the other counties on our tour of Ireland just click on a link below:

 

1. County Anrtrim

 

 

2. County Armagh

 

 

3. County Carlow

 

 

4. County Cavan

 

 

5. County Clare

 

 

6. County Cork

 

 

7. County Derry

 

 

8. County Donegal

 

 

9. County Down

 

 

10. County Dublin

 

 

11. County Fermanagh

 

 

Slán agus beannacht leat!

(Goodbye and blessings)

 

 

Irish American Mom

County Dublin – Home Of Ireland’s Capital City

Dublin is a charming, architecturally spectacular capital where medieval and modern history blend to create a vibrant, welcoming atmosphere.  Yet Dublin offers much more.  The county is home to often undiscovered villages, beautiful scenery and ancient castles.

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Dublin’s River Liffey At NIght

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Dublin is my home town, so forgive me if today I sing her praises with pride.  Dublin is not only a “fair city,” but a historical county and my childhood home.

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Dublin is located on Ireland’s eastern shore and is part of the ancient province of Leinster.   As I researched this post I learned that in 1994 Dublin was split into three separate administrative regions.  A Local Government Act went so far as to state “the county shall cease to exist.”

I was shocked, but no matter what legal or administrative divisions were created for ease of governance, Dublin is, and always will be, a county in the eyes of Irish men and women.

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Satellite Radar Image Of Dublin Courtesy Of NASA

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This wonderful satellite image from NASA shows Dublin city surrounded by its less densely populated county.  Dublin Bay is the horseshoe shape at the center, with Howth Head to the North and Dalkey Hill to the south.   The Dublin Mountains lie to the south adjoining County Wicklow and its spectacular mountain range.

Dublin City:

 

Dublin City dates back over 1000 years, it’s origins attributed to a Viking settlement in 841 AD.  It’s name literally means Black Pool, from the Irish word ‘dubh’ meaning black, and ‘linn’ meaning pool.

To truly do Dublin justice, this post should include hundreds of photos and stories.   Instead I plan to limit our city center tour, so we can focus on the hidden gems of the county.  But rest assured, we will explore Dublin City in many more posts and photos in the future.

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I could not visit Dublin, however, without mentioning my alma mater, Trinity College.  This peaceful, beautiful campus with cobblestone squares, elegant gardens and classical buildings, lies right in the center of our bustling city.  Official, student-guided tours of the campus are available.

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© Copyright Raymond Okonski and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons License

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The River Liffey bisects the city and county into northern and southern regions.  The banks of the river are lined with magnificent old buildings like The Custom House, which opened in 1791.

A Rainy Day On Dublin’s Grafton Street.

Grafton Street is the main shopping thoroughfare on the South Side, with Henry Street being retail central for the North Side.  A little rain never slows down Dublin shoppers who always carry umbrellas for emergencies.

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Dublin Castle was first established in 1204 AD, and has played a prominent role in Irish history ever since.  Informative guided tours are available.

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Kilmainham Gaol (or jail) housed Irish prisoners between 1780 and the 1920′s.  Unoccupied today, tours of the jail tell the story of Ireland’s tumultuous past.

West County Dublin

 

 

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© Copyright Stephen Sweeney and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons License

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The Phoenix Park lies to the west of the city center.  With 1752 acres it is the largest enclosed park in any European capital city.  The Wellington Monument is a memorial obelisk dedicated to the Duke of Wellington, who was born in Dublin.

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A herd of fallow deer still roam the Phoenix Park.  Dublin Zoo dates back to 1831 and is located within the park.

The National Botanic Gardens are located in Glasnevin to the northwest of the city center.  Founded in 1795, the gardens are home to many beautifully restored glass houses.

http://www.geograph.ie/photo/1258763

© Copyright Harold Strong and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons License

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Farmleigh House and Estate  once belonged to the Guinness family.  It is now owned and operated by the Office of Public Works.  Guided tours are available.  Many cultural events are scheduled here throughout the summer season.

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Ballybrack – © Copyright Anne Burgess and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons License

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The western county boasts a beautiful landscape of green fields lined by blooming summer hedgerows.  The Dublin Mountains lie to the southwest overlooking this verdant valley.

North County Dublin:

 

 

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© Copyright JP and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons Licence

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Marino Casino lies to the north of the city.  Built between 1750 and 1775, this casino is not associated with gambling.  Its name is derived from Italian and means small house.  Despite its name this casino actually contains 16 rooms.

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© Copyright JP and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons Licence

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Home to the Lords of Howth, the St. Lawrence family, Howth Castle dates back to the 14th century.  In 1576 the famous Irish sea queen, Granuaile or Grace O’Malley, attempted to visit the Baron of Howth.  She was informed the family were at dinner and was refused entry.  In retaliation, she abducted the Baron’s son, only releasing him when she was promised, from that day forward, a place would be set for visitors at the castle’s dinner table.  This agreement is honored to this very day.

Howth is a magical fishing village with a magnificent pier, two lighthouses, cliffside walks and breathtaking views.  Home to some of the finest seafood restaurants in Ireland, a great meal can easily be washed down by a cozy drink in one of Howth’s warm, inviting pubs.

The islands of Ireland’s Eye and Lambay can be spotted to the north of Howth.

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Moving futher north along the coast, Pormarnock is home to a magnificent golf course which has hosted the Irish Open on many occasions.  It’s beautiful sandy beach was one of my favorite summertime haunts.

Malahide Castle is located in the quaint, seaside town of the same name.  Home to the Talbot family for over 800 years, it is supposedly home to five ghostly figures, often spotted in the castle windows.

Newbridge House, Donabate, Co. Dublin

Located in Donabate, Newbridge House and Farm is an old Georgian Mansion and Demesne with a wonderful playground, beautiful gardens and a model 18th century farmyard.  It is one of my children’s favorite spots to visit.

 

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Skerries is a picturesque town with a watermill and two windmills, sandy
beaches and a scenic harbor.

Ardgillan Castle, Balbriggan, Co. Dublin

Ardgillan Castle lies a little further north, with magnificent views of the Irish Sea.  On a clear day, the Mountains of Mourne can be seen in the distance.  Look closely at the photo above, and you can see the shadowy mountains on the horizon.

 

South County Dublin:

 

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Rathfarnham Castle dates back to Elizabethan times.  It is open to the public and home to a collection of 18th and 19th century toys, dolls and costumes.

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Dun Laoghaire lies about seven miles south of Dublin city.  It’s harbor and pier offer lovely views of the bay and Howth Head.

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Further south in Sandycove, the Forty Foot was a “gentlemen only” swimming club in days gone by.  Not until the 1970′s did women gain the right to swim here.

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© Copyright JP and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons License

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Dalkey Island can be seen in this photo taken from Killiney Hill.

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Looking south from Killiney Hill the beautiful coast can be seen as far as Greystones in Co. Wicklow.  The DART (Dublin Area Rapid Transit) train line runs all the way from Howth to Greystones along the shores of Dublin Bay.  A trip on the train provides access to some beautiful scenery.

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The Dublin mountains lie to the south and are home to some spectacular peaks, mountain trails, and ancient megalithic sites and stones.

And so we conclude our quick trip around County Dublin.  Forgive me if I have omitted your favorite site or attraction.  I never even mentioned Dublin’s most famous daughter.

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So here is a picture of Molly Malone with her cart to bid you all farewell.

Some great sites for planning a trip to Dublin include:

Dublin.ie

Heritage Ireland – Dublin

As I publish each new county post, I will add a link to this alphabetical list.

 

1. County Anrtrim

 

 

2. County Armagh

 

 

3. County Carlow

 

 

4. County Cavan

 

 

5. County Clare

 

 

6. County Cork

 

 

7. County Derry

 

 

8. County Donegal

 

 

9. County Down

 

 

10. County Dublin

 

 

11. County Fermanagh

 

 

Slán agus beannacht leat!

(Goodbye and blessings)

 

 

Irish American Mom

County Down And The Mountains Of Mourne

County Down is a perfect blend of ancient culture, historical landmarks, heather-clad mountains, woodland parks, rolling hills quilted with patchwork green fields, country gardens, breathtaking coastal drives, and spectacular inlets and loughs.

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Today we resume our tour of Ireland’s thirty-two counties with a visit to the county made famous by Percy French’s song, The Mountains of Mourne, which truly do “sweep down to the sea.”

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County Down is one of the nine counties in the ancient province of Ulster, and is one of the six counties which comprise modern day Northern Ireland.  It is named after it’s county town of Downpatrick, which is Dún Pádraig in Irish, meaning Patrick’s stronghold.

On our tour today we will start in southern County Down, working our way around the coast to Belfast, concluding our journey inland.

 

Newry & Carlingford Lough

 

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Newry’s Townhall and War Memorial – © Copyright Eric Jones and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons Licence

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The city of Newry is divided by the River Clanrye with half of the city lying in County Down and the other half in County Armagh.  It is a thriving market town, attracting many shoppers from southern counties in the Republic of Ireland.

It is home to the Newry & Mourne Museum, whose collections reflect the rich and diverse cultural heritage of the surrounding area.

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Ballymacdermot Chambered Cairn – © Copyright Oliver Dixon and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons Licence

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Lying close to Newry, the Ballymacdermot Chambered Cairn is a Neolithic burial chamber which can be dated to between 4000 BC and 2500 BC.

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Driving eastwards from Newry along the northern shores of Carlingford Lough, breathtaking sights await.   Picturesque villages are nestled between forests and mountain valleys, with sandy beaches meeting the waters of this glacial fjord or sea inlet.

The town of Warrenpoint is home to the Burren Heritage Center, which tells the history of the region.  Although the name is shared with the more famous Burren of County Clare, this museum exhibits are specific to County Down.

Rostrevor is a quaint village renowned for its folk music.   Nearby is Kilbroney Forest Park, where wooded trails by shaded streams, give way to magnificent views of mountainous landscapes, the lough, and the Victorian village of Rostrevor.

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Cranfield Beach – © Copyright Raymond McSherry and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons License

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Near the mouth of Carlingford Lough lies Cranfield Beach, a favorite summertime destination for tourists.  It lies just south of the fishing town of Kilkeal.

The Mountains Of Mourne

 

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Mountains Of Mourne Near Annalong – © Copyright Ross and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons Licence

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The Mountains of Mourne provide a breathtaking backdrop on the coastal drive around the southern shores of County Down.  This granite mountain range consists of 15 spectacular peaks, with names like Slieve Binnion and Slieve Muck.  The word Slieve is derived from and pronounced like the Irish word ‘sliabh’ which means mountain.

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The seaside village of Annalong lies in an idyllic setting at the foot of the Mourne mountains in the southern corner of the county.  The old cornmill was one of the last working watermills in Ireland.

 

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Newcastle is a favorite seaside get-away on the Irish Sea and is the spot where the Mountains of Mourne truly do sweep down to the sea.

The Murlough National Nature Preserve includes a magnificent beach and some of the oldest sand dunes on the island of Ireland.

Newcastle is also home to the Royal County Down Golf Club, a championship links and site of the 2007 Walker Cup.

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Lying at the base of Slieve Donard, the highest peak in Ulster, the town of Newcastle looks spectacular from the side of the mountain, as the magnificent peak rises above the buildings, sea and sands below.

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Slieve Donard – © Copyright Ross and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons Licence

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Slieve Donard is a favorite climb for hill walkers from all over Ireland.  It is included in the four peaks challenge, when climbers attempt to make the summit of the highest mountains in each of Ireland’s four provinces over one three-day weekend.

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Tollymore Forest Park, at the base of the Mourne Mountains, offers nature trekkers panoramic views of the surrounding scenery.

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The Silent Valley Reservoir provides much of the water supply for the city of Belfast.  It is ringed by the peaks of the Mourne mountains.  The grounds are open to the public, providing access to a unique and peaceful landscape.

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Castlewellan Lake

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Castlewellan Forest Park attracts tree enthusiasts from many countries.  It boasts a magnificent arboretum, a lake walk, and a walled garden dating back to the 1850′s.

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Castlewellan Castle was built in 1856, and is a stunning example of Victorian architecture.

The Castlewellan area is also home to Drumena Cashel an ancient stone fort.

Downpatrick & The Legacy Of Saint Patrick:

 

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St. Patrick’s Grave

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Downpatrick is one of Ireland’s most historic towns, named after our patron saint, with deep rooted ties to his ministry on the island.  St. Patrick is said to have been buried here in 461 on the grounds of Down Cathedral.

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The Saint Patrick Centre provides a world class interactive exhibition about our favorite saint’s life and legacy.

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Nearby in Saul Co. Down lies one of the oldest churches in Ireland, where St. Patrick reputedly built the first Christian Church on the island.

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Ballynoe Stone Circle

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Ballynoe Stone Circle dates back to around 2000 BC.

Strangford Lough & The Ards Peninsula

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Strangford Ferry

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Strangford Lough is a large sea inlet separated from the Irish Sea by the land mass of the Ards Pennisnula.  The town of Strangford at the mouth of the lough is connected to the southerly town of Portaferry on the Ards Penninsula by a ferry.  Portaferry is home to Exploris, the Northern Ireland Aquarium.

On the western shore of the lough lies the Castle Espie Wetland Center.  Other sites worth visiting include Delamont Country Park, and Killyleagh Castle.

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Mount Stewart House – © Copyright Kay Atherton and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons Licence

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Mount Stewart, on the Ards Penninsula, is an 18th century house with magnificent gardens to explore.  It is part of the National Trust and was once the home of the Marquesses of Londonderry.

Ballywalter Park remains a private dwelling but tours of this splendid home are available.

 

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Scrabo Tower overlooks the town of Newtownards.  It offers incredible views of the surrounding countryside and lough.

Bangor

 

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Bangor Castle – © Copyright Albert Bridge and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons License

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Bangor lies east of the city of Belfast on the shores of Belfast Lough.  It is surrounded by fantastic tourist attractions including country parks, beaches, coastal walks and old churches and abbeys.  Here are a few links for the many things to see and do in the area:

Crawfordsburn Country Park

Bangor Castle

Bangor Abbey

Bangor Marina

North Down Heritage Center

Ulster Folk & Transportation Museum

Redburn Country Park

Belfast

 

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Looking Towards Belfast From Conn’s Water County Down – © Copyright Ross and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons License

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The City of Belfast lies partially in County Down, with many of its suburbs lying within the county.

Other Points of Interest

 

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Rowallane Gardens

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Rowallane Gardens in the center of the county are yet another example of a spectacular display of shrubs and flowers in a magnificent natural landscape.

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Legananny Dolmen

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Near the town of Banbridge the Legananny Dolmen can be found nestled amongst farmers’ fields.  Beneath these ancient stones probably lie the remains of some unknown Celtic chieftan.

And so, we conclude our short trip around the magnificent County Down.  There are many more forts, castles, mountains and points of interest I failed to note in this short post.  Just rest assured, this little corner of Ireland, is truly a tourist’s paradise.

Here are a few more links to help with planning a trip to County Down.

Discover Northern Ireland

Discover Ireland
As I publish each new county post, I will add a link to this alphabetical list.

 

1. County Anrtrim

 

 

2. County Armagh

 

 

3. County Carlow

 

 

4. County Cavan

 

 

5. County Clare

 

 

6. County Cork

 

 

7. County Derry

 

 

8. County Donegal

 

 

9. County Down

 

 

10. County Dublin

 

 

11. County Fermanagh

Wishing you all happy Irish travels.

 

Slán agus beannacht leat!

(Goodbye and blessings)

Irish American Mom