Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Wicklow - Viking Access - The Long Ships, Raids, Settlement

The shallow draft of the Viking longship enabled it to skim fast inland, whether into otherwise unnavigable estuaries; or to safety in its own Scandinavian fjords, see them at
The Sea Stallion, Viking Longship, Denmark Road Ways. Although the Irish monastic communities raided each other, and the Irish people also raided the Irish monasteries and had for about 100 years before the Vikings: 

"Irish monasteries provided important economic and political focal points to the Vikings for provisions, precious goods, livestock, and captives. This was also the reason that monasteries were a favorite raiding spot for Irish leaders both before and after the arrival of the Vikings." 

See; see also

Long boats like the Sea Stallion was documented, we understand, as particularly favoring raids on monasteries like Glendalough, and Clonmacnois.  It is some 30 meters in length, or about 98 feet - see

This replica sailed into Wicklow in 2008, Wicklow a name of a town that itself is Viking in origin, as "Viking's Meadow" or "Viking's Beacon" , see  See the video at

Viking raiders soon morphed into settlers, see

For us, at our earlier visit, Wicklow was the site of an old gaol, jail, from 1702, with only modest reforms easing the conditions, see it at  Many prisoners were transported from there to Australia, or the Americas, and even at a profit to the operators.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Offaly. CLONMACNOIS. Invadability - Clonmacnois, County Offaly, Geography and history - Geographical Determinism

Clonmacnois Monastery
Flat Terrain, Meandering River
How Easily is a Country Invaded
Geographical Determinism 
Clonmacnois was founded by St. Ciaran in the 6th Century. Christianity was in Ireland before St. Patrick. Ciaran studied at Tours and Rome, but chose to live as a hermit in the Irish Midlands.
Clonmacnois Monastery, County Offaly, Ireland, High Celtic Cross

 This was the contemplative period and branch of Christianity. This period of calm service was not to last, however, once the vast Roman institutions took over, and when the effects of Christianizing northern Europe by force resulted in, or were amazingly simultaneous with, the Viking raids that decimated Irish monasteries for centuries.  This was a particularly ripe one for the taking: a Cathedral, nine churches (10th-13th C), and two round towers, three high crosses, and early Christian grave slabs.  See Heritage Sites of Ireland, Duchas, the Heritags Service, Midlands East 2000.
Much of Ireland is flat land. Imagine the ease of enemy incursion. Where to hide. See Clonmacnois, the monastery founded by Saint Kiernan, see ://

There are long, meandering rivers, like the River Shannon here. Cruise up in your Viking longboat, and make a swift attack. The monks can see you, but where do they hide except in their towers. Not for long. This is Clonmacnois, the old monastery, at the lower part where the river gently sloshes. Vikings regularly glided this way, and became very rich indeed.

Clonmacnois Monastery, Cemetery, County Offaly, River Shannon, Ireland

Here is a virtual tour site - ://


Beaches are stony, and cliff areas are there, but avoidable. So few defenses.  Just move on up the coast a bit.

Hit the rocks at the cliff areas in a storm and that is trouble, as the Spanish Armada found when they were blown off their course from attacking England. But a country easy to invade with its many long waterways doing deep.

Geographical Determinism:  This is an approach to history that focuses on how the land itself facilitates or discourages various invasions, product development, cultura.

It takes a visual overview, and a mindset that adds observation of natural setting to the more usual archeological artifacts.

It takes a mindset to look at many angles at once:

  • What a place looks like, 
  • where is it situated, 
  • then go to the history events - issues, timelines, maps, geneologies. 

Get a start on the topic at Is this like Montessori method, in a sense.  Look at this example of a multi-disciplinary curriculum in order to really learn, at

That site, looking at multidisciplinary approaches to learning, says, in a fair use quote,

"History, geography, and biography—the history of a people cannot be separated from the possibilities of the environment in which it develops, and the leadership of its great men and women."
So: look at Ireland, and other invadable places like Poland, see Poland Road Ways. More geographic determinism.  Flat lands, centuries of being overcome. Watch:

Ireland, seascape1) the invasions of the Vikings and where they chose to go, in light of the shallow, wide rivers meandering right into the heartland of a flat country,;
2) the poverty of the west along with its moonscape rock plateaus, and for that, do an Images search for Ireland West Burren;
3) the saving graces of the Celtic monks, able to preserve a literary heritage because of a leader with vision, and because they were so far in distance from the bookburnings and excesses of Roman Christianity and as the culture of the old Roman Empire fell.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

BELTONY, Standing stones, Raphoe, County Donegal, Northern Ireland - Stone Circles and rows

The stones at Beltony, near Raphoe, Donegal, are 2000 years older than Stonehenge . See the Beltony stones at

Wander around the vestiges of civilizations long before the Christian era. You can see little signs on the road with arrows pointing - when you get there, and it may be miles, the circle or lone stones may be right in the middle of a pasture.
See Stones of Ireland at Some places have a little tin box at the gate where the standing stones or stone circle area is on a farm, for a contribution for upkeep.

Align with stars? show seasons? show movements of moon and sun? Other knowledge?

Friday, April 17, 2009

Antrim. RATHLIN, Island seen from Ballycastle, looking toward Scotland

The Glens of Antrim, on the coast, have a close connection to the Hebrides and Scotland. See The Island of Rathlin, some 18 miles off the Irish coast, at Ballycastle, is a ferry ride away, some 50 minutes.  We chose to look from the Antrim side.

Rathlin Island, from Ballycastle, Ireland

Haunting singer Mary Black was born on Rathlin. Hear and see at
In 1307, Robert the Bruce was on Rathlin, planning his return to Scotland, see commemorative festival in 2007 at  Robert the Bruce watched a spider in a cave struggling to reach the top, and, says the yarn, learned to try, try again, see The name traces back to Robert de Bruis, a baron in the Domesday book (an early census).  Bruis' son was a friend of King David I of Scotland who granted him the title of Lord of Annandale. But then the tracking skips:  It was the son of David I who founded the Scottish House of Bruce, not the son of Annandale. See
People arrived about 6000-5000 BC and became blue-stone axe exporters, until copper took the trade. See the ballycastle site. In 1500 BC, the Firbolgs arrived, a dark race from Spain, it is said, known as "bag men" for their baggy trousers.  But their reign was short:  in 400 BC, the Celts moved in, with their iron swords, red-blond hair, tall stature.  King Donn ruled in the 1st Century. Niall, in the 400's conducted raids and stole one Patrick (son of a minor Roman official) who became Saint Patrick.  Then in 795 or so, after Charlemagne slaughtered thousands of Saxon prisoners who would not convert, Norse began their raids, starting with the monasteries.  See  That site is a clear presentation of the sequence of invasions and settlers.
Continue there to the "grant" of Ireland by Henry II to deCourcy and etc. Rathlin is in the thick of it.
Scotland is a short hop beyond Rathlin. See
You can see Scotland and the Island of Rathlin on a reasonably clear day. The compass markers show all you can see when it is not hazy. Read about Rathlin's long (bloody) history, much fought over.

Antrim. CARRICKFERGUS, County Antrim, Northern Ireland: Strongbow and the Anglo Norman invasions


Norman Invasion - Ireland
The background to the Norman invasion of Ireland is a long story, well laid out at  The history of this area, however, with Drogheda barely a mile away we think, extends back millenia.  Read this venerable tourist-writing book, "In Search of Ireland" by H. V. Morton, see review at, from 1930, and later reprintings.  Drogheda and Carrickfergus see pages 270ff.

The Normans, after their invasion of England in 1066 with William the Conqueror, invaded Ulster (the north of Ireland) with a permission, then did not leave.  The Welsh Norman Lord, Richard de Clare, known as Strongbow, acted to help restore the Leinster King to his throne, and in exchange for a marriage to the King's daughter, and other benefits of inheritance as to the throne itself. No wonder he came, with army.  He also had permission of the English King Henry II, who had been asked for help by the deposed Leinster king and then turned to Strongbow to do it.  A more complex account of Strongbow - worth reading - is at For a quick review, see everyman's starting point for perspectives, at,_2nd_Earl_of_Pembroke.
The town was walled by the 1300's.  The fine castle on the water is also called Carrickfergus.  The first fortification on the site was apparently 150 years BC, see Here is a fair use thumbnail of the site now, from
See full size image

Find its history at
That castle was begun long before, in 1180, as a protection to Belfast Lough.
Ireland and Europe show vast educational advantages compared to our isolation from so much history.  Schoolchildren here learn history from their backyards. At this castle, for example, there are staging sets, exhibits, classrooms, mannequins, scenes, all showing Carrickfergus in 1180 and to now. See
 Turn the corner around from one of the staircases, and find the king, crown askew, on the loo, drawers crumpled at his feet, chin on hand, and school kids seeing it for the first time, giggling and pointing. Great fun.

Carrickfergus is huge, like the photo of what now know is Caernarfon in Wales,* see note.
Update January 2009 - We had originally posted this picture, but later found it is not Carrickfergus,but Caernarfon, that we also visited. See comment.  My son and I are sure we a "Carrickfergus" but this was before memory cards.

Caernarfon Castle, Wales - First believed to be Carrickfergus - bad record-keeping

There are similarities between Carrickfergus and Caernarfon, but this one turns out to be Castle Caernarfon in Wales, where the Prince of Wales is customarily crowned.  See Ireland Road Ways, Caernarfon Castle and the Prince of Wales.

All information is a matter of pooling and checking. Vet it all. Thanks.  The comment that first alerted us includes a picture of Carrickfergus so check it there.

DUNLUCE CASTLE, County Antrim, Northern Ireland

This castle, named Dunluce, is on the Antrim coast Northern Ireland. Its kitchens fell into the sea in 1639. See Seven cooks perished, but a cobbler survived. See

Antrim. GIANT'S CAUSEWAY; Northern Ireland

The Giant's Causeway consists of some 40,000 basaltic lava columns.  It started tens of millions of years ago, with hot lava seeping up through limestone cracks, to form a plateau. See

As the lava cooled, it contracted into polygonal columns, some 4, 5, 6 sides. Some are 12' thick, some are 40' tall. Beginning at the top, fractures spread down in layers, with the cooling and contractions stressing the material. The hexagonal shape relieves the most stress with least energy. Meet Dr. Alberto G. Rojo and author Eduardo A. Jagla, Argentina.  Their interest is in the patterns nature shows, Match an experiment with cornstarch.

No, that is too technical and dull.  Try this one. 

Dan Widing at the Giant's Causeway, County Antrim, Northern Ireland. Waiting for Finn.
There was once a quarrel between two giants, named Finn Mac Cool and Benandonner.

Benandonner built the causeway as a walkway from Scotland so he could do battle properly against Finn Mac Cool. The story has Finn posing as a baby in a pram, and the mother saying the baby is just Finn's brother - do read it all at Science may be right, but myth never misses.

So we have another.  Finn was besotted with a lovely lady from the Hebrides, another lady giant, and build the causeway in order to bring her to Ireland.  Back to

Giant's Causeway, County Antrim, Northern Ireland

These formations are from vast long-ago lava flows, see all the geology and history at  The white tin on the rock means stop: walk no further. Or that someone tippled.
Giant's Causeway, lava rock formations, County Antrim, Northern Ireland

Dan Widing as Finn, Giant's Causeway, County Antrim, Northern Ireland

This is a UNESCO World Heritage site. See

Meet Finn. See for the myth.

See also for the Giant's Causeway. This is a fine site with all the World Heritage sites listed. Scroll down to the causeway, and follow the links for history and geology. See also for tourism information.

This would be an excellent geo-tourism site because of the geological sites and attractions. See book "Geotourism" by Ross Dowling at this site:

Thursday, April 16, 2009

BELFAST, County Antrim, Northern Ireland. Titanic.

Transportation Museum.  

There is a splendid transportation museum at Belfast, with full-size carriages and trains, and a model of the Titanic. Big exhibit. When we drove through the city, there were political symbols, and fists, and bombed out places. Banks transferring big canvas locked bags to armored cars had soldiers with machine guns guarding. We moved along smartly.

The Titanic: the exhibit and models of this ship, constructed here in Belfast, offered to its First Class passengers this last meal, according to the Financial Times, this by way of update June 11-12, 2011: see
See also (for the Consomme Olga)

There are sites that just give the actual Titanic recipes, but we include later versions also

Course 1: hors d'oeuvres and oysters

Course 2:  Consomme Olga; cream of barley

Course 3:  Salmon, poached, with sauce mousseline, see; cucumbers

Course 4:  Filet Mignon, Lili style, see Think artichoke hearts, madeira, gooseliver paste, truffle

Course 5:  Lamb with mint sauce; roast duckling with applesauce, sirloin of beef chateau, see, green peas and creamed carrots, rice (boiled) potatoes Parmentier and is that really just boiled with butter and parsley scattered?  and boiled new

Course 6:  Punch Romaine, (champagne, wine, orange juice, rum)

Course 7:  Roast squab, see and cress (look like sprouts, or is it just watercress? see

Course 8: Cold asparagus with vinaigrette

Course 9:  Goose liver paste and celery

Course 10:  Waldorf pudding, exact recipe unknown, see, but many claimants; peaches in Chartreuse jelly (this is probably like a jell-o shot, see - Chartreuse is a liqueur, see St. Bruno at; chocolate and vanilla eclairs, and French ice cream.  French means a custardy base, we think, see


After Belfast, we went down the peninsula rather than the mainland side toward Dublin, because we saw a ferry marking on the map. Rule:  If you see a ferry sign, you have to take it. Ended up at Downpatrick.

Red Hand of Ulster 
What is the source of the image, the red hand of Ulster.

Find the Red Hand of Ulster, at

In Belfast neighborhoods, we saw the Red Hand of Ulster on walls, posters.  In 1015 BC, some say 1500 BC, Ui Niall, or Hugh O'Neill was coming to claim Ulster when it appeared that a rival chieftain would get their on his ship first.  So Ua Niall hacked off his hand and hurled it to short, being the first to claim the land.   See

Millennia later, protestants claimed the symbol for their claim to a birthright there, the Red Hand of Ulster, as a British land.  Here is one: fair use thumbnail from www://

Read legends of Hebrew roots for the Red Hand, at  Thumbnails are supposed to be fair use, but we haven't the energy or funds to dispute a site's removal of even that.

Look up the picture of the Zerah Red Hand, Old Testament roots, is from that site.  Do an Images search.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

DUBLIN. Bram Stoker, Dublin's Claim to Dracula

Dublin County
Leinster Province

Daniel the Traveler here, is our famed co-Director of the ad hoc Car-Dan Tour Company, of (click) Europe Road Ways fame.  He went to the bookstore, as his custom often.  He found out that Bram Stoker, who wrote Dracula,  is a Dubliner, born in 1847. We never knew that when we were there, or when we went to Romania,  but here is corroboration: at the venerable BBC itself, at ://  See our Romania site at Romania Road Ways, Vlad Tepes Sites.

Apparently, Bram Stoker was shaped by horror stories of the cholera epidemic in Ireland in 1832, among other influences.

He went to Trinity College in Dublin, and was athletic and a debater.  He was a civil servant at Dublin Castle, and received an M.A. in Mathematics.

After he moved to London, he qualified as a Barrister, but did not practice. "Dracula" - his most famous novel, published in 1897 - earned him zilch.  He died in 1912.

The point? That taking a young person to Europe, or other area where they have an affinity from vague roots, can leads to lifetime interests in the interrelationships among countries they have actually seen. Skip the summer camp. One parent, one child, go somewhere. Climb castles or whatever. Eat and sleep on the cheap. Life. Bram Stoker born in Dublin. Who'd 'a' guessed.

DUBLIN. Dublin. - The Thirty-Six Hour Series, New York Times


Resources for clipping and taking, or printing out:

July 13, 2008, page 11, New York Times. Do check the "36 Hours" series, this one on Dublin, for any major city - with luck, there will be a feature.

You will find a handy map of the city, with the usual numbered bullets showing where the places are, and a fine series of paragraphs according to time and location. Start at 9, for example, after breakfast, at this place, and follow through the entire 36 hours - restaurants, culture, sights, night spots.

Down. PORTAFERRY, Downpatrick, County Down

From Belfast, take a break from driving and take an alternate route south:  Drive the peninsula south to Portaferry, on Strangford Lough. Enjoy the waves across toward Downpatrick.  Our rule is this:  If you see a ferry, take it. That is the rule. Here, we knew there would be a ferry across toward Downpatrick, so there was no surprise change in route.
Its history goes back to mesolithic man, some 7000 BC, see; with each stage or invasion represented, through religious changes, Norse, Cromwell.  Strangford Lough itself is a Norse name -- Strang-fjord, says the site.  If you have time to delve, there is a castle, and old church ruins.
Portaferry ferry, Strangford Lough toward Downpatrick, Ireland.

Portaferry does not go to Portadown, another place entirely.  Portadown is a market town also with a long history, more prosperous since the 17th century, see  The "down" comes from old Gaelic for dun, or fortress, or fort.  Place of the fort.


The Cathedral at Downpatrick displays the gravestone allegedly of Saint Patrick, see, where Saint Patrick is said to be buried.

Down Cathedral, Downpatrick, Ireland


There is a large flat slabstone in front, with a depression where he is supposed to have laid his hands.

Saint Bridget, see; and Columba or Columcille are also here. See
 Other sites have St. Bridget buried at Kildare. See As to St Brigit, or St Brigid, or Brigid, she apparently is the Christianization of the old Celtic goddess of the same name in whose honor so many sacred wells, healing wells, are named.  See discussion at!/2006/06/magic-or-healing-wells.html

DUBLIN - And Guinness. County Dublin

Dublin: We ambled for a day, around St. Patrick's Cathedral and the River Liffey, especially interested in Bloomsday, James Joyce - whom we later met in Pula in Croatia. See Croatia Road Ways. Joyce lived in Croatia, among other places. 

Medieval Dublin is hard to extract from wandering the commercial city today. See medieval Dublin information at Its history is at

See full size image
Fair use thumbnail from ://

Aim for the Guinness. This famous stout was first brewed as a "porter" by Arthur Guinness in 1770 at St. James' Gate here, see ://  Now centered in England,  you can still enjoy the Guinness Book of World Records, instituted to while away the time while patrons imbibed.  See ://

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

GLENDALOUGH, County Wicklow, monastery

Gleann da Loc

Glendalough, County Wicklow, Ireland

What if early Christianity as brought to Ireland by the earliest religious, had been able to prevail against the might of the Roman branch -- and its Gregorian Reforms, see  The militant, organizational, creed-driven group out to change the world according to its view overwhelmed the local faithful, the meditative, the merely "doing good".  History only tells us what did happen, not what might have changed in our own lives with other outcomes. Saint Kevin. Naom Caoimgin. Sound out the Gaelic.
Come to Glendalough, 550-600 AD, Noonan at 12; and many other sites remaining in Ireland, for a glimpse of another Christianity, one seeking conversion of others but never pushing it. If you can find an old guide, like Glendalough, or the Seven Churches of Saint Kevin, by P. J. Noonan (P.O'Nuinain), 1st edition 1936, and the last, the 8th, in 1962, you are rich indeed.  See reference to it at The Seven Churches of St. Kevin
Saint Kevin,  died 617-18, established himself and began a monastery, and signs point that it was here, at these ruins. But written accounts were set down centuries later, these date to before 800 but not as early as 550-600, so where the first structures were, more confined, between the two lochs, or lakes, upper or lower part of the valley, is not clear. Other, older sites with huts, are steeped in other traditions of holiness and burial place of kings, nearby. The round tower here is probably 10th century, the time of the Viking raids.

See the Sea Stallion of Glendalough, Roskilde, DK reconstructed.
Danes and Norse: plundered Dublin, Kildare, Glendalough in 837.  Then the indigenous, native Irish plundered Glendalough in 983. And in 984-85, the Danes were back at Glendalough; and again in 1012, 1016.  Between 1017-1163, Glendalough was "ravaged seven times", Noonan at 23.
There are also prehistoric tombs in the area around Kevin's hermit cave, or Kevin's Bed. His arrival there could be geared to dispensing with old superstition, including regarding causing the death of a powerful witch named Caineah or Caoineog, who tried to harm a son of a king sent to Kevin for fostering.

Ireland's connections with Spain and Portugal are also known, Noonan at 17, and some legends may stem from those contacts.
There are many old monastery ruins in Ireland This complex at Glendalough, in County Wicklow, is one of the most famous, see a virtual tour at

Back to theology.

This place represents a golden age for creativity and self-direction in religion - Celtic Christianity, before the rigid institutions, exclusions, and authority of the Roman church took over. Linear thinking cuts like a machete through the gentle tolerances it finds, and abhors. Is that so?

Later History:

By 1157, the Roman church reforms were well begun.  Laurence O'Toole introduced those reforms, but continued to make his own pilgrimates to Glendalough, Noonan at 24. Suddenly there was the Pope asserting jurisdiction, there were formal offices to be held, hierarchies, and, most important, priests began attending deaths with last rites -- and perhaps influencing who got what at the end?  Read the overview at another religious-political site, Cashel, and its Rock of Cashel at

1170 -- These reforms in turn led to the Norman Invasion, through one Diarmuid MacMurrough and tawdry events of reprisal and revenge, and treachery in his bringing the Normans into the country, see Noonan at 25. Again Glendalough was sacked. This time, by the Normans.  Henry II followed up with assertions of "grants" and control, Normans again in 1174 sacked Glendalough, and Henry II himself invaded Ireland in 1175. More plunder, and a flood. Politics, Pope finally affirmed the "grant" that had been opposed by the local Thomas O'Toole (back to the original revenge reprisal issue), and competing "grants" by Pope Innocent vs. Prince John.  More attacks, English this time.

Glendalough and town walls:  Ireland has many walled towns, most of which are layered over previous cultural settlers. Celtic hill round forts, to Vikings and their wooden fences, to Normans with stone walls of massive size, sentry towers, defense crenellations,  and beneath many of those, early monastic peaceful towns, "building communities of shared labor and protection within walls."  Glendalough was one of these. A secular community also grew there, "that clung to the monastery for protection and profit.  See
A confusion of history, who is entitled to what. The Noonan guide is comprehensive. PP 27 ff. The Normans represented state interference in church appointments, the old times celebrated independence of the clergy, then came the Pope with new interferences in old ways, but through the church branch he represented.  Many large Orders were introduced, with Rules. English archbishops were anathema to the Clan O'Toole, and so on.

1398-1497 - Celtic bishops held the See of Glendalough by "usurpation" it was called, and with permission of the Popes, and the local clans, but then the English archbishop system prevailed, the last bishop of the "usurpation," a Friar named Denis White, surrendered in 1497 to Archbishop Fitzsimons.

1591 - Ulster princes fled from Dublin as the English prevailed

1741 - enter the "penal days" -- Catholics gathered at Glendalough, at the Seven Churches of St. Kevin, were dispersed.  Rebellion against hte English seemed to failed, but Michael Dwyer escaped as did others into the Wicklow mountains.  See

So:  What if the Gregorian Reforms, see, with the militance of the Roman branch had confined itself to Italy?  No way.   So down came Ireland, into systemic violence.  Is that so?

WEXFORD, Vinegar Hill, Father Murphy, County Wexford; Wexford

Vinegar Hill, Wexford, Ireland

Vinegar Hill, a sign on the road south east from Glendalough, on way to Wexford. So we went. See Battle of Vinegar Hill at; and the BBC on Vinegar Hill at I believe this was the view from the top, as the hill is not very high, but it looked like this. No place to try to defend, but the only one around.

Vinegar Hill turned out to be a significant one-sided battleground - between the Irish lads with picks and farm tools, against the English firearms. You can climb the tall hill. A statue of a lad with a pike stands in Wexford.

At this site, you can print out the words, then click on the music and sing about the heroic Father Murphy, who sided at first with the English, then saw the devastation and became a hero for the Irish and gave his life with the lads. See Father Murphy at The issue of loyalty to the British or siding with the Irish shattered families. Sons hung for fighting were ignored by some parents, just as in any deep civil divides.

This is an unnamed elder in our family stuff, not Irish, but he looks like the kind of older generation steeped in commitment to the values in which he was raised. And perhaps he did not participate with Father Murphy. Maybe he did.

There is a fine statue of a young man with his hopeless pike to fight against the English, at Wexford.

On a happier note, that tourist website there gives some basics on Irish cooking: Try

Monday, April 13, 2009

KILKENNY, Vikings, and Norse Roots. Burnt Njal, Otkell, Son of Skarf. And An Scairbh

Kilkenny and Carlow

Kilkenny - old capital, seat of a parliament. See long history at

One side of our people came from Kilkenny in 1820, but they don't appear on the landowners' map of 1640, see landowners at Kilkenny at so fine indigenous folks with long roots in Kilkenny they were not.

On the other hand, we later learned that Skarf and spellings derived, were in Carlow - starting with "Red" in the 16th Century, first recording.

Next trip: to Carlow. Not far. See ://

Perhaps we were Viking invader/settlers. See the fine site on Vikings in Ireland at And the map of how far they had come into Ireland even by 800 AD. And then more on Viking settlements at Dad's family -with the unlikely Irish name of Scharf - came from Kilkenny. They went to the Ottawa Valley area, Canada, in 1848, and the surname Scharf seems to be from the Old Norse for "cormorant." We claim the Vikings.

This is the Butler Castle, no relation but a prominent, philanthropic family, Kilkenny.

There are many old Irish names with the same Old Norse root - Scariff, On Scairbh. County Clare. See roots of names post at Old Norse roots, Ireland. Places:

There is a Skarfskerry in northern Scotland, near Orkney. See Scotland Road Ways and Orkney Road Ways. There is also Otkell, Son of Skarf in the old Icelandic sagas. Burnt Njal at Otkell Son of Skarf.

See for more on Vikings. From that: Vikings have been in Ireland for over a thousand years. They/we settled in at mills and farms, as well as vacationed from the old country plundering it up. We are indeed full Irish. And the odd name, Scharfe - now with an e so the Canadian postmaster in 1900 could differentiate between families - fits. At last. A quasi-identity ersatz heritage.

Look up any odd Irish name - it also may be Old Norse. See post at Old Norse roots, Ireland.
Give out the helmets with horns.

At Orkney Road Ways, and here at Ireland Road Ways, do look in the labels section to see the cross-references. For Viking buffs, see the google book, The Story of Burnt Njal, from 1861, at,M1/

Scroll up, yes, up, from the title page to see a depiction of an Icelandic long house, the skall or hall, and then up even further to see the shield with the motto,



Fain: from old Norse, feginn, meaning happy. Then there are old English derivations from foegin, to rejoice, etc. See definition at ://

Foegin. Feginn. The motto on the shield.

Does this mean that Fagan the Pickpocket Gang Leader in Oliver Twist was Old Norse, perhaps in the Norman invasion of England, (the Normans being Norse) or with the English further into Ireland with Strongbow? What's in a name. For recreation, see ://

Baby names. Skip the baby sites, at :// They are pablum. Get back to the grit. Vikings, Normans, yes! See Orkney connections at Orkney Road Ways, Finding New Roots.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Cork. KINSALE, County Cork

Kinsale, Cork
The Flight of the Earls

Kinsale, County Cork, Ireland

Kinsale - A port, southern coast; military stronghold. It also is a center for the arts, history.  Kinsale as a culinary center supreme attracts professional and amateur foodies. See .

In 1601, the Spanish and English defeated the Irish at the Battle of Kinsale. Hugh O'Neill had made the error of moving his Irish troops into Kinsale to fight, and there was a rout - followed by the Flight of the Earls in 1607 - marking an end of the Irish hopes of independence at the time.

For the sad tale of the Flight of the Earls, see Find contemporary documents about it at, a "Corpus of Electronic Texts (CELT)".

A section concerning the Earls is found at

For a view of the realities of the time, what recourse there may or may not have been, whether the Earls believed Spain would return with them to rout the English, did they realize that Spain's fleet had been decimated earlier, what laws were invoked, made, stretched, detailed sites become overwhelming.  To start on this kind of complex fact base, go to (yes) Wikipedia as a beginning framework, at

What would have been different if they had not fled, on their ship with all those families, out of the Lough in Donegal? Would there have been ever a Plantation, where the Crown planted English, Scottish and Welsh families on escheated lands of the Earls, forfeit?  The Earls would have been compelled to live in vastly reduced circumstances after the victory of the English in the rest of Ireland, with their Ulster only remaining, and dominated.   But would that have been better for the Irish?

Our probably Plantation Irish, or were they there before but Protestant already, we would like to ask.  See

Cork: history at We enjoyed a day there, but prefer country to cities overall.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Kerry - Iveragh, Ring of Kerry, PREHISTORY - stone forts

Prehistoric Ireland 

This stone fort is built with no mortar at all, and still stands.  The area also has standing stones, and burial mounds. 

Soon the forms become familiar.  See prehistoric structures at There are fine photos and history here.

This fort is round,with a large circle of high walls and walkways, and rooms within the walls, space for villages and livestock to find refuge from invaders, coming up from the sea in the distance. See Ireland's archeology at

A chronology is useful, but perhaps better absorbed after the fact.  Drive and find stone forts, burial places, take a picture, and look it up later.  A good outline for the oldest ages is at

history of Ireland, with maps:

Cork. MIZEN HEAD, peninsula, County Cork

Mizen Head, Southern Tip, Ireland

This is the most southwesterly point of Ireland, on a peninsula. Find a light signal station and displays here, sea caves, waterspouts,

This would have been the last sighting of land for Irish immigrants heading to America.  The walk to the observation area passes sites for varied flowers, whale-sightings, dolphins, see

Get to the farthest-out points in a country, as far as you can get - we aim for the extremes: see John O'Groats in Scotland, and Land's End in England. And Gdynia, Poland. Sapanta, Romania.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

BLARNEY CASTLE, County Cork: murder hole

Blarney Castle, Blarney, Ireland

Blarney for most is a delightful experience. Famous castle. See  Such a fine place to come back to the parking lot, and find the luggage gone. Infamous to us.

A little theft to spice the day.

So, let it go, contact the police, do the forms, it all works out. Buy another chapstick. For stolen or lost passports, here are the contacts: There are ways to expedite. See

Parking lot protocol.  Never, ever, leave a window cracked open even a little. And put away the maps and junk.

You will be identifiable as a tourist from the license plate, but you will be a less stupid one. At least one of you keep cash, a plane ticket and passport in a waistpack. If you do see a red van in the lot, with people eying you out of darkened windows, park instead right at the ticket booth. The lady is in my tan 9 1/2 hiking boots.

And now:  The Stone.  Blarney is famous for its Blarney stone, and there really is one.

 Dan Widing at the Blarney Stone, Blarney Castle, Ireland

Here is a site for the history of the stone, and the gift of gab it bestows:

Don't even think how many lips have kissed that thing. Just be romantic. We cheered our immune systems on. We worried not a whit about germs in the great outdoors.

But far better for our historical research purposes is the Murder Hole: See

Dan Widing at the Murder Hole, Blarney Castle, Ireland

This bit of architectural military defense brilliance is just inside the portcullis, the grated big gate that lowers just over the drawbridge.

There is a matching grated gate about 20 feet beyond, before you get into the main courtyard. You are trapped. Then, look up.

There is a hole up there. And people about to pour boiling water and oil and rocks, and sling arrows upon your head.

In some castles, the tale tells of the women in the solarium, the large room on the sun-side of the castle, looking down to the great hall beneath, and with big fireplaces for themselves and children.  The women heated the water and hurled the stones as needed.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Kerry. RING OF KERRY, Converted churches, Ireland


There are several western-reaching peninsulas in south-western Ireland:  The Dingle Peninsula, The Inveragh Peninsula with its Ring of Kerry route; and the Beara Peninsula, West Cork.  We focus here on Kerry. These areas are touched by the Gulf Stream, with all the varieties of plants, animals, that allows.

1.  The Dingle, the northern peninsula, is less traveled, and we think, the loveliest. Start at Tralee, and go all the way out past the town of Dingle, and see views of Great Blasket Island and the Atlantic.

2.   Beara Peninsula, the southern one, boasts Mizen Head, the farthest Irish point tip south, out in the Atlantic . We went through Bantry, visited Mizen Head, then back to Skibbereen at its southern access route on the mainland.

3. The Ring of Kerry is a 125 mile route around the Inveragh Peninsula, on a road most use that is now also a well-traveled N70.  Start at Killarney, through Killorglin, Glenbeigh, Kells. Caherviceen, with Valentia and Portmagee out a peninsula there at the end; around to another nice diversion to Ballinskelligs castle and views of the Skellig islands; Waterville, Caherdaniel (Daniel? See speculations about Tribe of Dan, Tuatha de Danaan, etc), Castlecove, Sneem, and Kenmare.  See videos at

Start early - before 10, if you plan to stop and enjoy.  We misjudged the time we would want and got back through a mountainous area at dusk.  Not a good idea. If you are late starting, then do the mountain area first, with the flatland at dusk.


On the way there, see signs of changing times. Repurposed churches without congregations but with new uses. These were near the Ring of Kerry, Dingle Peninsula, but still on the mainland.

One repurposed church is now a fitness, exercise center.
Templenoe, Kenmare, Ring of Kerry, Ireland. Repurposed church: pub and fitness center.

Another, at Templenoe, Kenmare, is a restaurant and bar - a pub called "The Vestry,"  "Open Daily Till Late." The restaurant advertises at


Monday, April 06, 2009

STONE HOUSES; stone roof,

Stone house, stone roof, Ireland

People who live in stone houses should never throw glass.

This is an active residence, with stone walls and a fully stone roof. Stone roofs like these are not mere stone tiles. The closest close-up picture I could find for these free-form stone is from Croatia at

I see that even modular homes in US are being made of stone, with interesting construction t echniqes like slipform. See US stone construction at; and at No connection to these people, just interesting to read what they do.

Kerry, RING OF KERRY, Mountains, Caherdaniel, Stone Fort, County Kerry

Ring of Kerry, mountain view,  Ireland
The Ring of Kerry is a scenic route around one of the peninsulas south of Limerick. See Ring of Kerry, with music, at  Here, folks having a good time:


Sunday, April 05, 2009


Carrigafoyle Castle, County Kerry, Ireland
Ruins of castles are all over, gaping as you go by. This one is Carrigafoyle, also 15th century, on the Shannon River west of Ballylongford, and finally defeated by the cannons of Cromwell. See There also had been other battles. More of its stormy history at

We started with, "See a castle, go in." But that is impossible. Too many. Take care. They are wide open, no guard rails, no nothing.

What caused the destruction:  largely Cromwell from England and his cannon. He landed in Ireland in 1649 to quell the Irish revolt that began in 1641.  Bloody, ruthless.  See ://

DRIVING: Sharing roads with animals; passing; driving on the left, and courtesies

Cows in the road, near Galway, Ireland

Roads are excellent between main towns - many motorways, but most are 2 to 2 1/2 lanes.

Animals are leisurely in the road. Sheep and cattle, some goats. Markings of red or blue are for ownership. They do not move. We saw none hit. Drivers take the necessary care.

Mantra for driving on the left: Center line to the right elbow. Center line to the right elbow.
Roads: see driving in Ireland at
Watch your left hubcaps. Easy to hit curbs. See also rules of the road at
  • Passing on one lane roads: Watch for the tall flag that means a lay-by. When you see a car coming, the car nearest the lay-by backs up, or pulls over and waits.
  • Passing on three lane or two lane roads:
Car behind will tailgate. This is not necessarily rude. Tailgating usually signals a desire to pass. The slower car pulls to the side, over halfway on the berm and keeps driving while the faster car whips out and partway over the middle line and passes, then whips back. Passing is done fast with little leeway.

The passing car should not have to go entirely into the oncoming traffic lane at all, as we always do.
  • Traffic circles. The one in the circle has the right-of-way, so never barge in.
Learn the international traffic signs. Your guidebook should have a page on that. They are not necessarily intuitive.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

ROCK OF CASHEL, County Tipperary: Kings of Munster

Rock of Cashel, County Tipperary, Ireland
This Tipperary site was the seat of Kings of Munster as early as the 5th century, when Saint Patrick baptized King Aengus. See Cashel overview at
Then the Rock site was given to the Church in 1101, and it became an Abbey. Cromwell's soldiers and cannons from England came in 1647 and there was a massacre. See

It is restored, much of the medieval section is standing, and the guides help sort out the Romanesque from other architectures. Films, education centers. See photos at

Full history narrative: The Archdiocese of Cashel and Emly, written from the institutional perspective, at

Illuminated manuscripts: 7th - 11th century AD
Irish monks of the 7th and 8th century create illuminated manuscripts which are among the greatest treasures of Celtic and early Christian art. See

DEPOPULATION. Churches in fields: ruins, depopulation

Old church ruin, pasture, Ireland

Ruins of past lives. See many ruined homesteads, churches, abandoned settlements. 

A church in a field with the flock outside, not inside.

Look at the depopulation figures from 1849-1901, at ://  From eight million souls to three million in that time, roughly.