Here are some highlights from my recent Ireland Adventure trip by train and bus. Even though I'm only 9% Irish, I've longed to visit Ireland for many years! My Irish ancestral names are Malone, Bell, Love, and Tedford. A group of friends and I toured special places all around the Emerald Isle. The famous Medieval Blarney Castle and Gardens in County Cork, South East Ireland, built in 1446 by Dermot McCarthy, King of Munster, was one of the first stops. The legendary Blarney Stone, one of Ireland's greatest treasures, resides in an outcropping of the castle wall. There's a saying, "If you kiss the Blarney Stone, you'll never again be lost for words." Since I'm never at a loss for words, I didn't kiss it! But I did climb to the top of the castle up a tight and narrow circular stone staircase to see it! And it was worth every step! That's no Blarney!
The next day I'm at an ABC. Our bus driver let us know that ABC meant "Another Bloody Castle!" And there were lots of them! But every castle was unique and fun to visit! Behind me, 800-year-old Ashford Castle sits on 350 acres of woodlands and was formerly owned by the Guinness family of beer fame. It's now a 5-star hotel, fully restored to its former historic splendor and has Ireland's first School of falconry. Our group walked the gorgeous grounds with Mia the falcon and her trainer while Mia took off then landed on a specially padded glove. I passed on having Mia fly at me with her great talons whizzing by within inches of my face! But I loved watching her in action. Though I didn't stay overnight at Ashford Castle, my visit there provided a welcome glimpse into her glorious past.
After visiting a sheep ranch in Connemara, County Galway, West Ireland, the bus stopped and I took a photo of this beautiful area. You can see why Ireland is called the Emerald Isle. Connemara is a traditional Irish cultural region where the people speak Gaeltacht, the original Irish language; "The language of home." The countryside looked "brilliant" in every way! That's a favorite word used by the lovely Irish people!
The train rolled north to Belfast for a taxi tour of the city then a visit to Falls Road and Shankill Road with an extensive and very interesting history lesson on the way. We also visited the 40 foot high Peace Wall then drove to the Belfast Titanic Exhibit located at the exact site where thousands of Belfast citizens built the massive ship. The exhibit included the history of the building of the Titanic through its fateful voyage on April 15, 1912, and present day movie footage of the Titanic at the bottom of the ocean. A distant cousin of mine, Frederick Hartnell, worked as a First Class Salon Steward and lived through her tragic sinking! If you can't get to Belfast, Ireland, to visit the Titanic Exhibit, you can see an amazing Titanic Exhibit at the Luxor Hotel in my hometown of Las Vegas, Nevada.
At the end of the trip, the train rolled south to Waterford City and the Home of the Waterford Crystal Factory. Our group approached the entrance then made our way inside their retail store to view, appreciate, and buy some of the sparkling Waterford Crystal creations surrounding us. The factory celebrates more than 200 years of crystal making and their store sells the largest amount of beautiful, sparkling, unique, hand-made Crystal in the world.
I pray you got a glimpse of the "sparkle" that's Ireland in its ancient stone castles, rolling green hills, lovely people, fascinating history, and a bit of industry. I hope you can visit someday soon as that would be brilliant!
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