Two Stacks (an overdue update)

Two Stacks (an overdue update)

Well, the blog went on another long hiatus without warning.

I’m hoping to change that, though, and prevent another from happening anytime soon.  A lot has changed since my last post, from graduating college to medical school applications and beyond, so to explain what this means for the blog, let me tell you about the two stacks currently sitting on my desk.

stacks

The large stack on the right shouldn’t be too surprising.  It’s my Ireland schemes folder, buried under the different books I use to write my blog posts.  Some I’ve referenced before, but others are new to the stack – books on the fae and other figures from Celtic lore.

And the smaller stack?  That’s the current draft of Echoes from the Past, my second novel.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a writer.  I self published my first novel, Whispers on the Wind, back in August 2013.   The storyline stems from my love of all things Irish and fae lore, so it makes perfect sense in mind to bring the two things I love to write – my novels and posts about Ireland – together in one place.

This doesn’t mean I’m going to stop writing about places to see in Ireland, or that I’m giving up on traveling overseas this summer.  Actually, that dream’s coming true!  After scheming and saving for almost three years, a 9 day, 8 night self guided tour of Ireland fell into my lap unexpectedly a month ago.  The tickets are booked, meaning my mother and I will be leaving for Dublin the last week of May!

leavebehind

Now the hunt for all the camera gear I’ll need begins.

So what does this mean for the blog?  Just a slight change, really.  I want to keep writing about castles and monasteries, but I also want to bring in legends and folklore, too.  Those topics will make up the bulk of this blog, but I’ll also occasionally share how I’m fairing with my noveling endeavors.

I’ve added a page dedicated to my book and short stories and encourage you to check it out.  Also new are links to my facebook page and twitter account.  Feel free to like and follow me there to see what I’m up to between blog updates.

Look for new posts on Tuesdays and Thursdays throughout April and May!  I have quite a few already queued, with the first set to post April 5th.  Then, May 31st thru June 8th, tune in for updates as my mother and I make our way around the Emerald Isle.  There will be lots of pictures, I can guarantee it. ^^

Thanks for sticking with me through these changes,

Rachel C. Lightfoot

Powerscourt Waterfall

Powerscourt Waterfall

Ireland’s highest waterfall, Powerscourt, is found to the south of Dublin at the foothills of the Wicklow Mountains.  Its cascade is an impressive 398 feet tall and flows down into the Dargle river below.

Image Credit: Powerscourt Estate

The waterfall is just a short distance from the Powerscourt Estate and Gardens and has attracted tourists for well over 200 years.  Many of the trees in the area were planted at this time, including some California redwoods.

powerscourt-waterfall-main1

Image Credit: Wicklow Tourism

Powerscourt is not a heritage site, and some visitors say the cost is not worth it – Tickets run 5.50 euro per adult, 5 euro per senior.  However, I personally feel that it will be worth the time and price, and could serve as a nice place to stop on the way to St. Kevin’s in Glendalough.  I am less interested in visiting the estate and gardens, however – they require tickets separate from the price to see the waterfall itself.

Image Credit: Powerscourt Estate

During the summer months, the waterfall is open to visitors between 9:30am and 7:00pm.  There is room for picnicking, and a kiosk at the site sells food from June 1st through the end of August.

Additional links & Resources:

Powerscourt Estate

Wicklow Tourism

Old Mellifont Abbey

In 1142, Mellifont Abbey was founded by St Malachy, the Archbishop of Armagh, and became Ireland’s first Cistercian abbey.  In its hay day, it ruled over 38 other monasteries in Ireland as Mother house of the Order, but was eventually disbanded by King Henry VIII in 1539.

Image Credit:  Megalithic Ireland

Mellifont gets its name from the Latin Font Mellis, meaning “fountain of honey,” and its monks were known for keeping bees, as well as other tasks.  Also of note, the abbey was the first in Ireland to follow European cloistral plan, with buildings built around a central open space.

Image Credit:  Megalithic Ireland

Today the site sits in ruins, with its lavabo (where the abbey’s monks would wash) being the most impressive feature.  The chapter house is also still standing, along with part of the medieval gate house.

The lavabo.  Image Credit:  Wikipedia

Many visitors have said the site is small and can be underwhelming, but with its close proximity to Monasterboice, I feel it would still be worth a look.

Admission to the site is 3 euro per adult, 2 euro for seniors and 1 euro for children.  It is a heritage site, meaning heritage card owners are given free entrance.  Guided tours are available, and there are picnic areas for those who bring something to eat.

Additional links & Resources:

Discover Ireland

The Gold Book:  Ireland, pages 60-61

Heritage Ireland: Old Mellifont Abbey

Monasterboice Monastic Site

Monasterboice is about 13 minutes from Old Mellifont Abbey in County Louth.  The site was built in the early 6th century by St. Buite and features two churches, the second tallest of Ireland’s round towers, and three high crosses, including the tallest high cross in all of Ireland.

Monasterboice ruins.  Image Credit:  Wikipedia

All three of Monasterboice’s crosses date from the 10th century.  At 21 feet, the West Cross holds the title of Ireland’s tallest high cross.  Over time, however, its ornate carvings have weathered and faded, though some can still be seen.

The West Cross.  Image Credit:  Megalithic Ireland

The illustrations on Muiredach’s Cross are much more easily visible, and its height of 18 feet is still quite impressive.  The site’s third cross, the North Cross, appears to have suffered the most damage over time – its original shaft was replaced at some point in time, and only one depiction appears on its face.

East face of Muiredach’s Cross.  Image Credit:  Megalithic Ireland

Monasterboice’s round tower stands at 93.5 meters tall, and served as both a beacon for pilgrims and a shelter for the monastery’s monks during viking raids.  Its door is only six feet off the ground – much lower than the norm for round towers – leading experts to believe the tower has sunk over the years.  With its cap (now missing) and height lost taken into consideration, it would have been much taller than it is today.

Monasterboice’s Round Tower.  Image Credit:  Megalithic Ireland

In 1097, a fire in the tower destroyed the monastery’s library and many treasures.  The site was still in use until around 1142 though, at which point nearby Mellifont Abbey rose to prominence in the area.

Monasterboice.  Image Credit:  Megalithic Ireland

Guided tours are available upon request, and the site itself is free, open all year round during daylight hours.

Something to keep in mind when visiting the site, however, is that the car park is located a distance away from the site, and cars being broken into is common enough to warrant warning signs.  Some recommend visiting in pairs, with one person staying with the car while the other looks around, and all say to take any valuables with you if you do decide to leave your car unattended.

 

Additional links & Resources:

Boyne Valley Tours

Discover Ireland

The Gold Book:  Ireland, page 61

Heritage Card

In my research and planning for this trip, I have come across multiple references to the Heritage Card, something well worth a look for people trying to save some money on their trip.

The card serves as a pass to all sites in the Republic maintained by the state Office of Public Works, and is valid for one year after its first use.  Many of these sites cost around 3 euro per person without the card, but if several are on your list, buying the card could make a difference in the long run.  Keep in mind, however, that the card doesn’t always cover parking at these sites; only admission is guaranteed.

At this time, the card costs 21 euro for adults, 16 for seniors, and 8 euro for students and children 6 to 18 years old.  Family packages are also available, and cards can be bought either in person at any OPW site or bought via a faxed form.

Heritage Ireland’s website contains a full list of all OPW sites, and with sites ranging from castles and friaries to national parks and monolithic sites, it is well worth a look.

In future blog posts, I’ll make a point of saying if a site is a Heritage site, and old posts have been revised to reflect this change.