Sunday, August 28, 2011



Set in the woodlands in rural Ireland northwest of Cork is on of Ireland's most popular attractions,  Blarney Castle.  You you come more nothing else than the shear beauty of the grounds and fields it would  be well worth the visit.

While Blarney Castle is extremely touristy, it is still one of the most impressive castles in Ireland.  The once hugh and the massive 82 foot (25 metre) high tower is all that remains of it. 

Each year thousands of tourist from all over the world flock to this most exquisite site.
It is well worth the visit as Deanne will attest.

Not only was the castle impregnable but the Duke of Blarney caused that a series of secret tunnels be dug leading out into the surrounding area by which he could send out soldiers to attack attackers of the castle from behind.

The beauty of the castle and demesne was exquisitely beautiful.

Today the interior is empty.  The wood floors have long roted and deteriorated. but we have a clear vison of what it would have been like.  Trim Castle, next below, also suffers from this deterioration.

The /blarney Stone itself is wedged far enough underneath the battlements to make it uncomfortable to reach.  This does not stop thousands of tourists including Ron, to bend over backwards, hang upside down in a parapet and kiss the stone in hopes of increased loquaciousness.  With this you will gain the gift of gab.  The Blarney association with the gift of gab goes back to Queen Elizabeth 1 who created it in the 16th century.  In a fit of exasperation at the ability of the then Lord Blarney to prattle on at great length without actually ever agreeing to what she wanted.  She called his talk a bunch of blarney and the name stuck.  The custom of kissing the /blarney Stone  is less than a century old.  Nobody knows why it started.  In fact most of the tales around why it started are purely a bunch of blarney.

The Duke of Blarney no longer lives in the castle.  He now lives in a fairytale castle on the grounds of the old castle but he is a very hospital man.  When we met him he gave us an good overview of the castle and the life of what he called the Trustee of the family castle.  At the time we met him we did not know that he was the Duke.  He just seemed like just another local gentry.

The castle grounds are very exquisite and must have been a thing of beauty in their time.

Ron and Deanne at the castle entrance as it is today.

This hugh tree was very intriguing to us visitors.  It is many hundreds of years old.

This is the front drive up entrance of the present Duke of Blarney's fairy tale castle where he now lives. Because it is a private residence you can only see it when open for guided tours.  The tour lasted about 45 minutes and it was very interesting to see how the rich nobility live.

Throughout the grounds are pathways leading to the various gardens and sites of interest.

This plaque marks fairyland glen in the gardens where it is said that fairies visit to play on a regular basis.

Trim Castle

Trim Castle is the largest Anglo-Noman tower castle in Ireland which from 1172 to the mid 17th century was all but impregnable.  it was subsequently abandoned in the latter half of the 17th century and portions of it have since collapsed.  It has since been restored by the Irish Heritage Services as a preserved ruin.  After it was first built it was never under went any significant alterations.  Few paid any attention to it until Mel Gibson chose to use it as a setting for the movie "BRAVEHEART".  It has since become a popular tourist attraction.

Deanne standing at the main entrance to the upper portions of the tower.  This entrance was filmed a number of times in the movie BRAVEHEART, but Hollywood alterations changed somewhat its charm.

This was the courtyard setting where Mel Gibson was executed in the movie.

Another view of the courtyard.

This is a replica of how the original castle looked.  Its builders were so sure of its strength and impregnability that it was whitewashed to make it clearly visible on the horizon.  It must have been a hugh impressive sight to any wanna-be attackers and surfs.

This is the torture rack from the movie set Mel Gibson was tortured on in the movie.  Didn't look anything this in the movie.  Really Mel you over reacted.  Not impressed!!!!!

An exterior view of the castle's outside shell.  There is very little left inside.


The construction date of the earliest castle at Listowel dates to the 13th century, but the present castle was probably built in the 15th century by the FitzMaurices.  The castle stands on an elevation on a steep bank, overlooking the river Feale, above the location of a strategic ford.  A substantial part of the front of the castle survives consisting of two large, square towers of four storeys, standing almost to the original height of 15.3 metres, connected by a wall of the same height and linked together by an arch on one side.  A major program of conservation works has been undertaken at the castle including the provision of an external staircase to allow public access to the upper levels.

Birr is located in the west central part of Ireland above Roscrea.  There has been a castle on this site since 1170.  The castle was built by the O'Carroll family.  In 1620 when Sir Charles O'Carroll died with no living descendants the castle came under the Parsons Family.  The Parsons revamped and added on to the castle over the years to create the 100 room castle it is today.  Deanne feels sorry for the cleaning maid.  There is no way the lady of the house could look after a home of this size by herself.  The Parsons family leader was knighted and became the Earl of Rosse,   The castle is currently occupied by the family of the 7th Earl of Rosse.  Because it was a private residence we were unable to enter the castle.

I was really interested in this castle because of the ancient telescope that is located here.  William Parsons the 3rd Earl of Rosse had a love of scientific research and was instrumental in the construction of the world's largest telescope in 1845 on the castle grounds.  For the next 78 years it remained the largest and most powerful telescope in the world.  Scientists from all over the world came to Birr to study the heavens.  The telescope is still usable today.  That is amazing considering the low number of cloud free days in Ireland.  Had it been built in different area of the world it could have retained its mark in history much longer.

Other exhibits in the visitors centre celebrate the scientific achievements of various members of the Parsons family.  Among them are the Lunar Heat Machine invented by the 4th Earl of Rosse and the first steam turbine invented by William Parsons.  Their mother the Countess of Rosse displayed considerable talent as one of the earliest women photographers and one of the most prominent photographers of her time.

While the castle is unique, the vast 100 acre grounds show signs of neglect and need of work on the gardens and etc.  On the grounds is found a huge 800 year old oak tree.  There a delightful walks around a large ornamental lake and alongside the rivers that transverse the property.

The rear of the castle as it appears from the road.  This is where the original tower castle is located.


This castle located near the town of Tullamore in the County of Offally and located in Ireland's most ancient primordial oak woods, one the sacred haunting grounds of the druids.  The forest is full of 800 - 1000 year old oaks, birches and copper beech trees whose shadows dance before you mysteriously and with awe and wonder..
Charleville Castle is perhaps Ireland's most enigmatic and impressive Gothic Revival style castles in a protective embrace.  Built between 1798 and 1812 by Charles William Bury, the first Earl of Charleville who made his fortune from the miseries of others as a slave trader. The castle is a proud testimony to the builder and his sheer extravagance, unhindered by their purse strings with which successive generations of the Charleville family enthusiastically embraced life.  Ever so often the pressure of living would necessitate the temporary closure of the castle, although subsequent reopening would often be marked by, in a suitably flamboyant gesture.  But the families inability to curb their excesses sounded the castle's death knell, and periods of occupancy became more intermittent until, by the early 1960's it had been all but abandoned.  It is now owned by Bridget Vance, a charismatic American, who is slowly rousing the castle from its slumber, restoring its echoing rooms to their past grandeur.  But the spirits of bygone residents have begun to stir and an abundance of ghosts now wander the what has been recently dubbed "Irelands spookiest castle".   

The castle had its own chapel attach to the side and beyond which is the stables said to be one of the hauntest places on earth.  The Gothic chapel also contained the kitchen and storage area.

The grand entrance is one of the most spectacular we have yet seen in a castle.  The ceiling was unique and a fantastic work of art.  It shows the builders great pride in his creation.

The chandeliers in the dinning room are stunning and most unusual as was the ceiling.  It shows the builders great pride in their work.  It reminds me of cupids suspended in the air ready to shoot their romantic arrows at unsuspecting guests below.

Much of the exquisite ball room ceiling work, amazingly, still survives.  Twice a week this room is filled with people being entertained by a band and tails of ghosts and leprechauns.  A perfect setting.  The castle has been host to multiple events, including "fright nights", an auction and a play by the English Chamber Theater called Dearest Nancy and Darling Evelyn.  More recently it has played host to the Mor Festival and Castlepalooza.  While we were there a large stage was under construction in the field in front of the castle for this years edition of Castlepalooza.  Most of Ireland's biggest names in rock are on this years entertainment list.

The castle has been used as the backdrop for numerous films and TV specials.   In 2007 it was used as a filming location for the movie about the life of Jane Austin "Becoming Jane" and "Northanger Abbey".  It has been on ABC Family's "Scariest Places on Earth" and also appeared on Ghost Hunters International, Living TV's "Most Haunted and Fox's "Scariest Places On Earth"

The castle owes its Tin Soldier Fortress look to the celebration of victory over the third French revolutionary expedition to Ireland - the first decisive victory by Britain over the revolutionary republican movement which was sweeping across the monarchies and their colonies at that time.  It was designed to reflect the union jack flag of Britain.  The castle grounds are now the object of a massive restoration project that when finished will clear the area of overgrowth, discern the original plantings from the old English flower garden, design and build a new garden and relaxation area for visitors.

This is the ceiling of the main parlor and men's smoking room.  Each panel represents one of the families family crests.

The original owner Charles Bury, Earl of Charleville was a member of the Masonic Order.  The building contained a number of features which reflected the influence of this society.  The right (library) and left (den) turrets on the front were built over magnetic fields.  If you hung a magnet from the centre of the ceiling in the den it would quickly begin to swing around in a clockwise direction.  The same magnet hung in the library would swing around in a counter clock direction.  Behind the bookcase, behind Deanne, is a hidden passageway which leads to the chapel.  This one of a number of hidden passageways in the castle.

This hugh staircase is reportedly visited often by the ghost of a young girl named Harriet who was killed accidentally while sliding down the balustrade.  Visitors have felt the chill of her presence while climbing the stairs and have seen her ghostly figure skipping past.  Sometimes she is seen in the company of a small boy.  When Bridget's son of three years age became lost the family looked for him frantically, fearful of the steep stairs and precarious drops around the property.  They eventually found him at the bottom of the stairs where he told how the little boy and girl had looked after him as he came down the stairs. Bonnie Vance tells of one occasion she awoke in the night to find Charles Bury and others along with a group of monks or druids who were encircling her bed and appeared to bestow a blessing on her.  Many of the visitors that arrive are paranormal experts, investigating the reports of various haunting.  Numerous groups of druids or monks are often seen on the castle grounds.  The silence of the early morning is sometimes shattered by the playful whoops of children, enjoying a phantom game in what was once the nursery.  The tales of ghosts and phantoms seen at the castle are too numerous to record.

Charleville Forest Castle is a special place and despite the abundance of ghosts that roam its corridors, we left with a sense of sheer wonder.  It is a welcoming place whose spectral residents are on the whole friendly. 


Cahir Castle is located in the town of Cahir, north of Cork.  It is a fine example of a late medieval castle that has been enlarged and greatly remodeled in the 15th and 17th centuries.  When the main line of the Butler family died out in the late 1700's the castle fell into ruin.  It was partly restored in the 1840's by the Cahir Butlers and more heavily restored after it became a National Monument in 1964.  Among the restorations was the faithfully reproduced portcullis, one of a number of defenses the castle possessed.  The site includes an inner ward which contains the majority of the buildings and towers, great hall, gatehouse and etc. and is where the earliest building was carried out on the site of the original dun and cathair.  It is also where the majority of the restoration was carried out.  The middle ward and the outer ward were later additions.We were allowed to wander throughout the castle on our own.   The word cathair means rocky island, from which Cahir gets it's name.

In the 12th century Conor O'Brien, King of Thomond is said to have build a stone fort on the Island in the middle of the River Cahir where the castle now sits. In 1375 the castle was granted to James Butler, 3rd Earl of Ormond and head of the Anglo-Normoa family of the Butlers.  In 1543, King Henry 8th made Thomas Butler, Lord Baron of Cahir.  The castle provided little space for attackers on the island itself so it was difficult to storm the castle with large forces in the early days.  The castle was built to be impregnable with layers of defences and this was very effective until the arrival of heavy cannons on the battlefields. In 1599 the castle was attacked by the Earl of Essex which did considerable damage to the castle, but did not gain entry.  In 1647 the Butlers surrendered to Cromwell's army but were allowed to retain ownership of the castle.

The castle is one of the few that had its great hall on the ground floor, testifying how confident the Butlers were in its defences.  The great hall also served as a chapel.

Ceiling of the great hall.

One of the cannon balls from the artillery of Earl of Essex can still be seen lodged in the outer wall of the tower about 3//4 of the way up.  It was one of the few castles that has never been conquered.

Here is the inner gate or last line of defence.  It consisted of two gates with a suicide corridor between.  If you made it through the first gate, most attackers were slaughtered in this corridor, with little chance of defence.

Here is the second gate that had to be broken down.  No attacker has ever made it this far.

The middle ward as it appears today.  Here was the home to the soldiers and early defenders.  Between 1840 and 1846 the Butler family built the Cahir Cottage in the outer Ward, which was a more comfortable residence than the castle.

This is the outer gate with the family crest overhead and topped by an eagle.

The Rock of Cashel is known as Cashel of Kings in the County Tipperary and is now the home to the ruins of a great Celtic cathedral.  While it is not famous as a castle it is considered Ireland's most sacred historic site.  Legend associates the Rock with St. Patrick, but the name comes from Caiseal, meaning "stone fort" and the hill was originally the residence of the kings of Munster.  It was here that the King of Munster was converted to Christianity by St. Patrick.  In 1101 Muircher O'Brian, King of Munster gave the Rock of Cashel to the church and Cashel became the seat of an Archbishop.  The picturesque complex has a character of its own and is one of the most remarkable collections of Celtic art and medieval architecture to be found anywhere in Europe. 

According to local mythology, the Rock originated in the Devil's Bit, a mountain 30 kilometers North of Cashel when St Patrick banished Satan from a cave, resulting in the Rock's landing in Cashel.

Add Image

We had a extra surprise when Deanne and I visited the Rock, cousins Colleen and LaRon Torrie from the Taber area were also visiting the Rock the same day and we had our own Hancock Family Reunion on the same day other members of the family were getting together for a family reunion in Utah.  It was exciting to see Colleen and LaRon in this far away location.   One we will not forget soon.

The cathedral, built between 1235 and 1270 is an aisleless building of cruciform with a central tower.  The cathedral was destroyed by fire in 1495.  The building was latter restored, however when C
The chapel of King Cormac or Cormac's Chapel is the most important building, historically and architecturally. Begun in 1127 it is a sophisticated structure. It is currently under reconstruction and we were not able to take in the full beauty of this structure. The oldest and tallest of the buildings is the well preserved 90 foot round tower which dates from 1100.

Cromwell's army brutally overwhelmed Cashel one of the greatest atrocities in Irish history occurred.  Hundreds of townspeople had sought refuge from the British soldiers within the cathedral walls and were burned to death when Cromwell's men set fire to the building.  It is estimated as many as 3,000 inhabitants of Cashel, priests and monks were slaughtered on that day.  For people of Ireland, Cashel Rock serves a reminder of foreign brutality, spiritual strength and Irish courage.  When Queen Elisabeth visited Ireland in May 2011 she visited the Rock of Cashel, commenting it is a thing that should have never happened.

The grounds around the buildings are home to an extensive graveyard, which includes a number of beautiful high crosses. 

Elder and Sister Hancock at the cathedral entrance. 

Fellow missionaries Elder and Sister Geilman at the entrance to the cathedral.

In the 15th century a five story castle was added to the end of the nave as a residence for the archbishop.

Scroll down to view older posts of this blog spot:
             How We Got Here
         Ron's Family wishes Bon Voyage
         The MTC
         Birmingham - Solihull Experience
         Welcome to Ireland
         Limerick Ireland
             Waterford Crystal
         Christmas 2010
         Albania Mission