Ireland – Paid Entry Vs Free Tourist Attractions

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Where to go if you are visiting Ireland on a budget.

We have been living in and touring Ireland for almost four months, and during that time we have visited lots of the ‘must see’ tour book recommended tourist attractions around the country. Some of them have had some pretty hefty entrance fees, but on the other hand, we have also had plenty of awesome free experiences. So, if you are visiting Ireland and you would like to stretch your cash further, here’s our advice on the places worth paying for, and also what the free (or cheaper) options are. Continue reading

Why You Should Travel In The Off-Season

Rugged up against the cold, but loving exploring Ireland in Winter.

Rugged up against the cold, but loving exploring Ireland in Winter.

At the moment we are travelling in our second winter in 7 months. We have done back-to-back winters from Australia to Ireland. Yes, we could do with a sunny beach and a tan about now, but there’s lots of reasons why we wouldn’t have it any other way. Traveling in the off-season suits us as family travelers, and here are some of the advantages to putting away the bathing suit, and hitting the road in winter instead. Continue reading

Blarney Castle – Kissing Royal Butt in Ireland

Blarney Castle

Blarney Castle, was built in 1446, it is actually the third castle to have been erected on this site. The first fort built in the tenth century was a wooden structure. Then in 1210 this was replaced the first stone structure. Later the building was demolished for use as the foundations of the imposing, dramatic castle guests see today.

You will find Blarney Castle in Co. Cork, about 15km out of Cork city. Considering it is one of the two most visited castles in Ireland (the other is Bunratty Castle) in summer you could probably just follow the steady stream of tour buses. But, if like us, you are visiting in winter, then a good map, or GPS is advised.

Touring Ireland in the off-season definitely has it’s perks, especially when visiting a tourist attraction as popular as this one. We had read numerous reviews of long waits and large crowds, but on the cold January day that we visited, we almost had the entire park and castle to ourselves. Yes, the air was bitter and damp, but completely worth it. Blarney Castle absolutely blew our mind in every way possible. To start with it is high and impressive. It rises up from the top of the rock in a way that says it means business, do not mess with the inhabitants! Even better, is the fact that guests are able to wander about in side the castle, (and underneath in the dungeons) freely exploring, imagining and touching the history within it’s 600 year old walls. Oh if those walls could speak – What stories they would have to tell! Restoration has been done to make the castle safe, but it has mostly been left in it’s original state, which allows for visitor imaginations to run wild. Given that there were so few other visitors, within minutes our seven year old son had begun imaginative role play, shooting arrows from the walls and hiding in the dark corners waiting to pounce on an enemy invader.

Get Up Close and Personal with Royalty

Of course everyone knows of the legend of the ‘Blarney Stone’, that those who kiss the stone will be blessed with the ‘gift of the gab’ to talk their way out of any situation. Did you also know that the Blarney Stone itself is also said to be half of the Scottish ‘Stone of Scone’, otherwise known as the ‘Stone of Destiny’? For centuries the Stone of Scone was associated with the crowning of Scottish kings and then, in 1296, it was taken to England and later placed under the Coronation Chair. So to smack your lips against the cold hard Blarney Stone at the top of the tower, you might as well be kissing the butt of royalty! Did we kiss it? Hmmm, well one of us was brave enough to do so… we’ll let the pictures tell the story. Continue reading

The Giant’s Causeway and a Snow Storm Adventure

On Monday we met an Australian friend at the airport who was coming to stay just three days with us here in Ireland. It’s a short time to explore an entire country so we came up with a few ideas for some day trips that we might take from Wexford to show off the best of the region. As we head south on the motorway that night toward Wexford, we asked our friend (who had briefly visited Ireland before) if there was anything that she’d really like to see during her short stay… “The Giant’s Causeway” was her response. Um, OK, we live in the far south, and that is about as far north as you can travel in Ireland, AND there is a snow storm forecast, but sure, why not? Let’s have an adventure!

Giant's Causeway

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Our Irish Home – Wexford

 

Commercial Quay Wexford by night 3

Commercial Quay, Wexford by night.

Wexford Town (Loch Garman in Irish) is a pretty coastal town in the South East of Ireland, about a 2 hour drive from Dublin. It is also the town that we’re currently calling ‘home’ as we slow travel on Our Global Adventure. Wexford is said to be a bustling holiday destination in the summer, but on these short, grey January days, we are thoroughly enjoying exploring the town without the tourist crowds.

We only arrived a month ago, but the Vikings found harbour in the Slaney River as early as 850. They went about creating a settlement until the Normans captured Wexford in 1169 and erected impressive structures like a fort, and city walls. Sadly, Cromwell’s forces also took an interest in this port town on the Slaney, and in 1649 they sacked many prominent buildings and murdered two thirds of the towns inhabitants for good measure. It’s a story we hear often at historical sights around Ireland, and 400 years later, it’s a wonder there’s any historical buildings left in Ireland given Cromwell’s partiality for a bit of destruction! So sit back and relax, as we take you on a tour of our Irish home – Wexford… Continue reading

Glendalough, Ireland – Photo Essay

Glendalough or Gleann Dá Loch in Irish means “glen of two lakes”, and we had it on pretty good advice that this was a must see for our time in Ireland. Nestled in a picturesque valley in County Wicklow, Gleann Dá Loch does not disappoint!

The Early Medieval monastic settlement was founded in the 6th century by St Kevin (Caoimhín), a hermit priest, who went to the valley for solitude. Those seeking his teaching soon followed and the settlement grew. In 1398 English forces left it a ruin but it continued as a church of local importance and a place of pilgrimage.

The buildings that remain today date from between the 10th and 12th centuries.

The national park area surrounding the settlement offers hours of exploring with well-marked walking trails for all fitness levels.

Being winter, we were able to enjoy this amazing place with just a handful of others, and truly soak up the ageless atmosphere, but this destination is one that requires four season, so I think we’ll be back.

Enjoy, Glendalough

 

Glendalough Ireland

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The Oldest Operational Lighthouse in the World – Keeping the Seas Safe since the 5th Century

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Hook Lighthouse

 

Ever have one of those moments when you just think, ‘Yup, this is why I’m doing this’? We had one of those recently. In fact, the day that we went to visit Hook Lighthouse in County Wexford, Ireland Simon and I had lots of those moments. Ireland is steeped in the most incredible history. History you can still touch, feel, experience, it’s all around us here. A day-trip with the kids climbing to the top of the lighthouse, and meandering about old abbey ruins reminded us exactly why we’ve chosen the whole world as their classroom… Continue reading