Exploring Ancient IrelandJul 28, 2022
To say the country of Ireland is charming is an understatement. It truly is as magical, mysterious, and lusciously green as everyone says it is -- and more so! My Ancient Mysteries of Ireland tour from Mysterious Adventures Tours kicked off on July 1, although I got into the country on June 30 and took in some of the Temple Bar area as well as the National Leprechaun Museum -- yes, one truly exists. And it was really a nice warm up for the tour that was about to take place, learning about some of the culture we'd be experiencing and raising a pint of Guinness to kick off the next week and a half.
(Note: You'll find a 42-minute recap video at the bottom of this blog article, and you'll find the full 2 hour, 24 minute video travel blog within the Connected Universe Portal member site.)
The official first day of the tour took us up to the notorious Hell Fire Club (not of Stranger Things fame), the old hunting lodge built on top of an ancient cairn that witnessed all sorts of sordid depravity by those politicians and influencers of the 18th Century who wheeled and dealed within its confines then partook in various taboo sexual rituals. Rumors of black magick, animal sacrifices, and more are said to have occurred there.
A real treat, however, was the "fairy woods" leading down from Montpelier Hill (the name of the hill upon which Hell Fire stands), and exploring the luscious green landscape within it. Some of my favorite photos from the entire trip are from the sojourn into the forest. The five of us on this little excursion got a bit turned around on our way down the hill and almost walked off in the wrong direction until a woman with her dogs got us pointed the right way Fortunately, the bus was still waiting for us!
We capped off Day 1 with a quick visit to Moore High Cross. Tucked away through a crevasse in a stone wall, this granite monument rests in the ruins of a small abbey. Of note, we tried our first experiments with dowsing rods here and, as expected, once nearing the cross (which really serves as a granite obelisk like something out of Egypt), the rods switched directions with the change in energy.
Day 2 was a busy day packed with tours of three castles -- Rock of Cashel, Cahir Castle, and Blarney Castle. Ok, Rock of Cashel isn't technically a castle, it's an ancient monastery permeated with legends of St. Patrick, but it does resemble and sit prominently on a hill like a castle, and it was the traditional seat of the kings of Munster for hundreds of years before the Normans invaded.
Admittedly, thanks to bartenders Malikae, Meghan, and Francis at the Hayes Hotel the previous night, I was a bit "off" that morning and neglected to film any video (I also forgot half my wardrobe at Hayes, and our amazing bus driver, Eddie Doyle ran back to get it while we toured Rock of Cashel). But it had definitely been a fun night as evidenced here by Natalie, Sarah, Lynn, Ann, Jenn, and myself even if I had woken up four minutes past the time we were supposed to report down to the bus! The smiles on these tours and friendships we make are what it's all about!
Following Rock of Cashel, we spent some time at Cahir Castle, which unfortunately kind of got forgotten on this tour. It's really a wonderful castle with plenty of history (and hauntings, of course), cannonballs lodged in its walls, and more, but it really got overshadowed by our final stop of the day, Blarney Castle. Blarney was easily one of my favorite stops (if not the favorite stop) of the whole tour. I was so pleasantly surprised by what we explored there, and we could have easily spent an entire day touring the grounds. As it was, we only had a couple hours to make something of it.
What really surprised me about Blarney were the gardens, which were absolutely amazing. Sure, I had heard that Blarney had gardens and a stone circle, but I wasn't prepared for how vast the gardens really were. Not only did it have a stone circle, but it had a dolmen, waterfalls, lush vegetation and plant life, a wooded tunnel, a boardwalk, manicured gardens, a lake, and on and on. We only got to see a fraction of what was there -- and that we before we even got to the castle!
Yes, several of us did take the time to go up and kiss the Blarney Stone. With our limited time, it was a commitment to make in having to forego exploring some of the garden area, but we were treated with extra exploration of the castle. Kissing the Blarney Stone isn't just climbing up to the top and giving the stone a smooch. Along the way, there are chambers of the castle to explore as you climb up the long, narrow spiral staircase (this would never fly in America with our fire codes). And on the way back down, there is even more of the castle to explore! Again, we could have spent an entire day there, and as it was, we returned to the bus late to a rousing mock cheer.
Day 3 was another jam packed day, starting at Charles Fort and the legend of the woman in white. The placement of the fort on along the water is extremely picturesque, and we had quite a charming storyteller for a guide. What I find fascinating is how the details of legends change over time, and in the video travel blog within the member area of the Connected Universe Portal I provide two renditions of the fort's ghost story -- one told by me on the bus and the other told by the guide. Now, I will be the first to say that the story told by the guide would certainly be the more accurate telling, since it's coming straight from the historic location. The version I told was from a variety of articles written about the old fort, so really coming down second hand. Having just given a presentation on the nature or legends back in June, the small changes in the story were of interest to me. Of even greater interest is that recently they had discovered a couple of skeletons in a cave down the bluff from the fort which may actually play into the true story of the jilted lovers and the commander who mistakenly killed his daughter's new husband.
Following Charles Fort was a quick stop at Ballynacarigga Castle. This was locked, so we couldn't venture inside, but we did get a glimpse of a sheela na gig carving on the side which is iconography that has been used to ward off evil spirits but has also been used for fertility.
The last part of that day, however, was a moment I'd been waiting on for a long, long time -- stepping into Drombeg Stone Circle. In our field, one generally expects to feel some sort of energy at a location like this, which I did, but I was even more taken aback by the resonance I could actually hear with my own ears. It reminded me of the sound dampening alcoves in the structures outside the Step Pyramid at Saqqara in Egypt. I was not surprised, however, at the action of the dowsing rods, as they spun in place for a moment before definitively pointing outward toward the standing stones. Others in the group had some fantastic personal experiences there as well, and the amazing view of the countryside and sea beyond capped off what was certainly a top highlight of the tour.
If exploring creepy old castles and abandoned churches is your thing, then our first stop the following day is certainly for you. Templemichael Castle and the nearby church were a real treat, especially as a late addition (much of our original itinerary changed following the Covid fallout). We had the place just to ourselves and crept through the overgrowth into the 12th Century ruins that are rumored to have once been a Templar stronghold. We were never quite done as the castle led to a tower which led to other out buildings -- so much to explore!
Our explorations at Templemichael were followed by a surprising trip to St. Declan's Monastery in Ardmore. It wasn't so much the monastery that was surprising -- although that was quite fine -- as it was our spontaneous excursion to the Ardmore beach. It was Independence Day back home in the United States, and what's the 4th of July without a trip to the beach?
Day 5 was a rather thematic one -- we were going to jail! We spent the morning touring the Old Cork City Gaol and the afternoon exploring the rather extensive Spike Island. In some way, the old Gaol reminded me of exploring haunted prisons back in the United States, and I was impressed with how much they embraced their history. Throughout the building are mannequins of various prison guards, officials, and prisoners all well-detailed to the actual physical descriptions of the people they were portraying. It really helped to give a voice to these people who would have otherwise been lost to time.
We had to take a boat ride out of Cobh to get to Spike Island, which was a nice change of pace from the bus -- although we all loved Eddie and his bus! The old prison/fort is a massive complex with quite an extensive history, including a lost monastery that had been wiped out by the Vikings. The view across the water from there, like from Charles Fort, was absolutely fantastic.
As an added bonus, back in Cobh are the remnants of the pier that was the final port of call for the Titanic. While it was built in and left from Belfast, there were a couple other ports in Ireland it stopped off at before heading out to open waters and meeting its fate with the iceberg. Cobh was the final stop.
We began the next day in Glanworth with all intentions to visit the castle there, and we somehow missed the entrance. We pretty much walked right by it and up the hill without even realizing we had passed it. From atop the hill we were blocked by an electric fence that was keeping a herd of cows in a field, so onward we went to visit an old abbey just a few paces up the road and a nearby cemetery. Of interest in Glanworth is the old stone bridge that is the narrowest bridge still in operation in Europe. It is just barely wide enough for a car, and as we crossed and a car approached we had to squeeze against the side of the bridge to ensure our feet wouldn't get run over!
From there we ventured on to Desmond Castle -- just in time! We nearly missed the last opportunity of the day to tour, and we sincerely appreciated our guide for going past time to show us around. I was also afforded the opportunity by the guide to unlock and open the massive doors that lead into the castle! The key and key chain were equally as massive!
Even though the day was getting on and it suddenly got cold and blustery, we still made our way out to Grange Stone Circle, the largest stone circle complex in Ireland. This circle of stones was much larger than Drombeg and it also includes a giant circle earthwork all around. Given the construction of the earthwork and the flat basin inside with the stones pressed up against the embankment, this would actually be considered a henge enclosure. I tried the rods here as well and was met with similar results as Drombeg -- an initial spinning until transfixing outwards toward the stones. Given the breadth of the circle, however, I didn't hear any unusual sound resonance at Grange like I had at Drombeg.
Day 7 was split between two amazing castles -- Charleville and Leap. Both are considered to be amongst the most haunted castles on the island, although we really didn't experience any hauntings while we were there. Instead, we had other amazing things happen.
Charleville is a truly beautiful castle that is fervently being restored. The entrance hall is magnificent, the accessible rooms are truly breathtaking, and there are mysteries that linger throughout this building that has Masonic origins. The two towers were of great interest to me. Without a lot of time toward the end of our visit, I managed to squeeze in another dowsing rod test. In the center of the Red Room tower one of the rods pointed north and the other pointed west (toward the other tower). In the center of the Masonic Library tower one of the rods point south while the other pointed east (again, toward the other tower). Samantha, the Charleville caretaker, also showed me with her pendulum how it spins counterclockwise in the center of the Library while it spins clockwise in the "Red Room." (You can see all of this play out in the video recap below.) What this tells me is that the concept of duality, "As Above, So Below," is built right into the architecture of the building. We also see it in the black and white floor tiles of the entrance hall, which are original to the castle.
When it comes to Leap Castle, the idea of the Bloody Chapel and a possible elemental roaming the premises have prompted a large number of people to fear what may be lurking in the shadows there, but most of us on the tour found Leap to be an immensely peaceful location. Nothing jumped out of the oubliette murder hole or morphed out of the stone walls to "get" us. We spent a delightful evening exploring the castle and its rooms, and then were later blessed to get a sample of Sean Ryan's music and his daughter's dancing. (Some of this can also be seen in the recap below or in full within the Connected Universe Portal member site video travel blogs.)
That was really the final day for our primary tour. We had a last day in Tullamore which we used as a free day. Many people went shopping for those final Ireland souvenirs while others of us continued to explore. Jennifer and I found ourselves walking for miles down the Grand Canal Greenway to scope out other castles, ruins, and old stone bridges. That evening, we had a magnificent goodbye dinner in downtown Tullamore and we shared with each other our favorite moments from the tour, some of which were described above.
We found ourselves in Dublin early the next morning as most from the tour had flights to catch back to America. However, some of our compatriots stayed on in the city a little while longer to do a little additional touring. Compelled to see the Long Room at Trinity College, also known as the Jedi Library, I made one final little discovery -- the busts of William Shakespeare and Sir Francis Bacon sitting right next to each other. That might not sound like much ... unless you're interested in the theories that while there may have been a man from Stratford-Upon-Avon named Shakespeare, he almost certainly wasn't a playwright. Of those theories of who may have actually written the Shakespeare works, Sir Francis Bacon is one of them. Hmmm...
That, essentially, wraps up the Ancient Mysteries of Ireland tour! These have just been some really brief highlights of a truly remarkable time we had traversing the countryside on the Emerald Isle. I've pieced together a 42-minute recap which can be found publicly on my YouTube Channel (embedded below here), but the full 2 hour, 24 minute travel blog can be found within the Connected Universe Portal member site, which is only $9.99 per month and comes with a 30-day free trial.
Up next... The Stargates of Ancient Egypt Tour in February 2023!
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