Explore the wonders of Ireland’s Ancient East this summer and you will discover intriguing tales from county to county to enrich your love of Ireland. There are memories to last a lifetime and stories you’ll want to share, just waiting to be experienced.

There is so much to see and do as you wander through 5,000 years of history. From Carlingford, Co Louth to Cork City and from the Cavan Burren to Carnsore, Co Wexford, this guide will help plan your trip. Check out www.irelandsancienteast.com for more great ideas.

A is for Athlone Castle, the Shannon-fronted 12th century fortress built for King John. It came under heavy fire during the Siege of Athlone in 1690-91 and was extensively remodelled during Napoleonic times.

B is for Blaa, the traditional bread of Waterford which was awarded PGI (Protected Geographical Indication) status in 2013 and whose floury distinctiveness remains part of the county’s fine food tradition.

C is for the Cavan Burren, one of the country’s most striking landscapes, and a place where layers of history tell the story of Ireland in microcosm: neolithic tombs, hut sites and ancient rock art coexist alongside 19th Century ruins and 350 million-year-old fossils from a tropical sea.

D is for Dunmore Cave in Co Kilkenny, a remarkable historic site designated a National Monument in 1944. It’s famed for its rich archeological discoveries and its Viking association: it was here, in 948, that the fearsome invaders conducted one of the most notorious massacres in early Irish history.

E is for Explore Belvedere House & Gardens where you can hear tales of cruel Robert Rochford who kept his wife imprisoned for over 30 years and who also built Ireland’s largest folly ‘The Jealous Wall’.

F is for Forth and Bargy, the ancient baronies of south Wexford and where a unique Norman dialect called Yola existed until the early years of the 20th century. Local enthusiasts today are making sure that its distinct words are not forgotten.

G is for Glendalough, which for more than a millennium has been considered a spiritual retreat in the heart of Co Wicklow. The monastic site was established by St Kevin in the 6th Century and today it offers a perfect gateway to discovering the bucolic beauty of the surrounding countryside.

H is for Hook Head, Co Wexford, a peninsula famed for its magnificent lighthouse, which is thought to be among the oldest functioning nautical beacons in the world. Ballyhack Castle and Duncannon Fort - currently being renovated - are among the rich historic attractions of the area.

I is for Ireland's Mystical Waterway, a trail shaped by the mighty River Shannon. Legend has it that Síonnan, granddaughter of Lír, Celtic God of the Sea, visited the beautiful circular pool now known as the Shannon Pot in County Cavan, and angered the great Salmon of Wisdom living there.  The pool overflowed, to become the source of this great river – and Síonnan drowned in the waters that took her name.

J is for Jerpoint Park, the lost Co Kilkenny town founded in the 12th century that has been given a new lease of life as a park. It is here that St Nicholas of Myra - the inspiration for Santa Claus - is buried.

K is for Kilruddery House, the ancestral home of the Earls of Meath, and now a popular location for film and TV drama, including The Tudors and Camelot. My Left Foot, Far and Away and Angela’s Ashes were all partially shot here.

L is for Lough Gur in Co Limerick, the horseshoe-shaped lake which is one of the country’s most important architectural spots. The area was first inhabited at around 3,000 BC and several megalithic remains have been well preserved.

M is for the Medieval Mile in cosmopolitan Kilkenny City, whose architectural wonders including a Dominican Abbey, a Tudor inn and the only example of a  17th century merchant’s house in the country. It’s also the nucleus of the city’s vibrant cultural scene. In Kilkenny you can walk down a little passageway called a Butterslip – one of the most atmospheric of the city’s medieval lanes. It was once lined with butter vendors.

N is for Newgrange which, along with nearby Knowth, is the Brú na Bóinne UNESCO World Heritage site. One of the world’s greatest surviving feats of Megalithic architecture and engineering, it has stood here for 5,000 years making it older than the pyramids and Stonehenge.

O is for Observatory at Birr Castle, whose 19th Century telescope put Irish astronomy on the map and whose family, the Parsons, have resided here since 1677. The pretty Offaly market town was known as Parsonstown, in deference to the family, until 1921.

P is for Powerscourt, the Palladian-mansion that was extensively restored after being badly damaged by fire in 1974. Today, it’s one of Co Wicklow’s most popular visitor attractions and its vast grounds boasts the country’s tallest waterfall.

Q is for Queenstown, the old name for the country’s most southerly point, Cobh, and the port from which the Titanic set sail on her ill-fated maiden voyage in 1912. Today, the Titanic Visitor Experience offers an intriguing glimpse into the world of the doomed liner.

R is for the Rock of Cashel, one of the most evocatively located fortresses in the country. Until the Norman invasion of the 12th century it served as the seat of the High Kings of Munster. Now, its elevated location affords magnificent views over south Tipperary’s lush pastureland.

S is for Spike Island, which has been a place of intrigue off Cobh, Co Cork, since the 7th Century. Over the years it has been a sanctuary, a military fort and a notorious prison and its renowned tour guides will help visitors to get a sense of its fabled past.

T is for Trim Castle, the largest Norman castle ever built in Ireland. Today, the fortress which was the centre of Norman administration for the Lordship of Meath, is open to the public having been partially restored. Its three-storey keep offers an imposing reminder of times past.

U is for Uisneach, in Co Westmeath, regarded by many the mythological and sacred centre of the country. The Hill of Uisneach dates from before recorded history and is the burial site for the Earth Goddess Ériu & the Sun God Lugh.

V is for Vikings, whose legacy lives on especially in Waterford, the country’s oldest city. The Waterford Viking Triangle named after the 1,000-year-old Viking walls that once surrounded it boasts three museums, including the Viking Museum at Reginald’s Tower, which dates from 1003.

W is for Wicklow Gaol, an infamous prison that operated between 1702 and 1922 and which played a role in several significant events in our history. Some participants in the 1798 Rebellion were interred here while, during the Civil War, it housed Erskine Childers prior to his execution.

X is for X-Factor, which Electric Picnic, held at Stradbally Co Laois, for the past 12 years has in spades. One of the Europe’s most acclaimed music festivals; it has attracted everyone from Grace Jones to Kraftwerk. Oh, and 40,000-odd revellers every year too.

Y is for Youghal, whose Medieval Walls, dating from the 13th century, lend the East Cork town its distinct character. Sir Walter Raleigh lived in its vicinity and is said to have planted Ireland’s first potato there in 1588.

Z is for Zip-Lining among the trees at Oldcastle, Co. Meath or above water in Castlecomer Discover Park, Co. Kilkenny.

 

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