Monday, May 10, 2010

Killarney Trip!

OK, due to said technical difficulties, I am a few trips behind. No problem- we'll just start from Thursday. On Thursday, we went into the town of Killarney and then decided to go back on Saturday on our own volition, as well because there was so much to do.

We started in Killarney at Aghadoe Abbey, which used to be a famous pilgrimage point. The tower in this picture was once tall enough to be seen all over Kerry, and pilgrims looking for the chapel would stop here. It was a point of refuge, but also served as a a good point of reference when the opportunity availed itself.

This particular abbey is somewhat significant because it also has these markings on it, which

are very early markings of Christianity. Believe it or not, these are apostles with Jesus passing the Holy Grail. According to Michael, people could very well look at this site in return for a resting place for the grail. We’ll see I guess!

After Aghadoe Chapel, we went to Muckross House, which reminded me a lot of the mansions we went to in Rhode Island a few years ago. The difference here is that this mansion is the real thing. It was built in the 1843 by Henry and Mary Herbert, members of the Protestant Aristocracy. Queen Victoria later visited it because it was that cool. Ironically enough, because of Victoria’s two day stay and their own six year prep for it, the family went bankrupt and had to move out. They went bankrupt because they built the house before the Famine and then also because the same year that she visited, Victoria’s husband died, and she went into mourning without giving them a title (like endorsements in those days). Another family moved in, and when the beautiful young wife died, her family donated the entire 20,000 acre estate to Ireland, and it is now Ireland’s largest national park. We got to take a trip through the house, but they did not allow pictures. Guess you’ll have to visit it to find out. Or you could look through the park everywhere, which was really exquisite.

This is us in front of the house and Loche Leane (Lake of Learning), which is also in front of the house. It is called this because of Inishfallen, a monastic settlement once in the middle of the lake. At one time, this island contained the greatest learning institution in Ireland until Cromwell burned it down in 1650. Many of the ancient places we have seen are stripped down to the stone because of Cromwell. He made a march through the city burning Catholic and Irish markers. Think Sherman’s March to the Sea, but through the whole country.

Can you imagine having a view like this?!

We walked through the “gardens” on the estate, which had multiple trees this big! There were colors everywhere, and when you go through the trails, you see the most verdant green with sprigs of pink and purple also illuminating the way. Spectacular.

From where the “jaunting car” dropped us off, we walked about a mile to the actual house. We walked along the lake and came upon some swans, as well as some huge trees and green forests. Upon getting to the estate, we then hiked three miles (ok…round trip…) to Torc Waterfall in the park, which was gorgeous. The waterfall was originally on the property of Muckross House, and when Queen Victoria went to visit, the family constructed a private path just for the queen to visit the waterfall at her leisure. I am going to put in pictures of our journey to demonstrate this three mile walk. It was breathtaking every step of the way. By the time of this blog is finished, you will either be sick of nature or just NEED to go to Ireland!

These are swans swimming in the lake in front of the mountain. There are swans everywhere here!

Passing through "The Gardens"

We made it to the waterfall!

Then, Dorothy and I went horseback riding for two hours (also in the park). My horse’s name was Pinto and had blue eyes. We even trotted through streams and pastures! It was great! Through the ride, we got to experience the beauty of the park the way that some of its original patrons enjoyed it :-)

Back to Thursday.

After going to Muckross House, we went to Muckross Abbey, which was built way before

the house. It was also built by the Cistercian Monks who lived simply and prayed fervently. The abbey was huge and filled with rooms and passage. It was three stories high, and each place was more interesting. The average age of a monk there was 22 when he died! Apparently, they worked so hard and prayed so fervently that it was the best they could muster. There was a tree in the middle of the abbey that was much taller. It was planted the year that the abbey was started. The abbey, like many Catholic sites in Ireland, was last used when Cromwell shut it down by outlawing Catholicism. Very sad. This is a picture of a room where the monks would live together in large numbers. It does not look very comfortable!

After the Abbey, we went to Ross Castle, which we also had a private tour of. The castle was built in the mid-1400s, and the tour went through each level of the castle which has been fully restored. It was restored in the 60s, after not having been used for hundreds of years. Another way to ruin a bunch of buildings is to put a roof tax on the country, meaning that you have to pay taxes per square foot on every building that has a roof. If you have a castle that is not in use, generally burning the roof so that you don’t have to pay sounds like a good idea. Unfortunately, its not great for preservation purposes. After the castle was donated to Ireland by a family, they put a lot of money into the restoration, and today, it is a great restoration. We went up 105 steps and four different levels. I have to say that castle life probably would not have been for me!!

I hope to post pictures of both places, but for now, my Internet is not competent to do so. Imagine large, beautiful stone buildings (again)!

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