Cahir Castle

Situated on a rocky island in county Tipperary, Cahir Castle is among Ireland’s largest and best preserved castles.


Image Credit:  Irish Castles

First built in 1142 by Conor O’Brien, the castle replaced an earlier earthen fort that stood on the same site. Ownership of Cahir passed to the Butler family in the 13th century, who proceeded to expand and strengthen its defenses through the 15th century. The castle was captured three times over the course of its history, sometimes without a single shot fired.


Image Credit:  Irish Castles

Upon the last lord’s death in 1961, Cahir Castle became property of the Irish State. Multiple restorations have taken place since then, with an effort to remain faithful to the castle’s original design.

To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising, Cahir Castle also currently houses an exhibit over the Rising and War of Independence. The exhibit will remain in the castle’s great hall until September 30th.


Image Credit:  Wikipedia

The castle has varying operating hours during the year. From March to mid-June, the site is open from 9:30 am to 5:30 pm. Hours are extended from mid-June to August, with visitors welcome from 9:00 am to 6:30 pm. Without a Heritage Card, admission is 4 euro per adult, 3 euro for seniors and 2 euro for children.  Guided tours are available, but must be booked in advance.

It’s also worth noting, the site only takes cash – no credit or debit cards will be accepted – so plan accordingly.

Additional Links & Resources:

Irish Castles: Cahir Castle

Heritage Ireland: Cahir Castle

Tourism Ireland: Cahir Castle

Irish Tourism: Cahir Castle

Carrowmore – Megalithic Cemetary of the West

Carrowmore, located just outside of Sligo, is Ireland’s largest megalithic cemetery. Some controversy surrounds how old the tombs at the site truly are, with dates ranging between 5,400 BC and 3,500 BC, but it’s widely believed Carrowmore predates Newgrange by at least 700 years.


Arial view of the complex.  Image Credit:  Bing Maps, via Carrowkeel.

Each of the many dolmens, passage tombs, and stone circles are identified by number rather than by name, just as they have been since 1837.  However, some of the tombs are “missing” – of the 60 originally described, only 30 have survived years of stone quarrying and general disruption.  These remaining tombs are almost all partial examples, but generally would have displayed short passages with small inner chambers.

Even though these megaliths are referred to as tombs, almost none contain interred bodies. Instead, archeologists have found signs of cremated remains along with small material possessions commonly found in other Irish tombs.


Tomb 7.  Image Credit:  Wikipedia.

Tomb 51 is the largest and most complete, sitting at the complex’s highest point. Known as Listoghil, it’s the only tomb still covered by a cairn and measures slightly over 111 feet (33 m) in diameter. Some restoration has been performed, including the addition of a public viewing platform of the cairn’s inner chamber. From Listoghil, it’s also possible to see Queen Maeve’s cairn on nearby Knocknarea.


Listoghil.  Image Credit:  Carrowkeel.

The site is open to the public March 24th thru October 20th from 10:00 am to 6:oo pm.  Without a Heritage Card, admission to Carrowmore is 4 euro per adult, 3 euro for seniors and 2 euro for children.  Guided tours are available upon request.

Additional Links & Resources:

Carrowmore Facebook Page

The Golden Book: Ireland, page 96

Heritage Ireland: Carrowmore

Ireland Legends & Folklore, pages 198-201

Megalithic Ireland

Sligo – Following Yeats’ Poems, 127 Years Later

For my upcoming trip to Ireland, Sligo is higher on my “must visit” list than Dublin, and for one semi-nerdy reason:  I love Yeats’ poem The Stolen Child.

I first heard the poem in high school after stumbling upon Loreena McKennitt’s work.  Several months passed before I realized the words were actually penned by Yeats in 1886, and that each stanza references real sights in an around Sligo.


Sligo Coastline.  Image Credit:  Wikipedia.

From that moment on, I was entranced.  I chose The Stolen Child for a classroom poetry analysis exercise, and I’d later find inspiration from its refrain for a short story that evolved into my first novel.

When I went to Ireland with my family in 2011, our tour group didn’t stop in Sligo.  It came as a disappointment, but I’d already decided at that point I’d find a way back to Ireland and explore Sligo at my own pace, letting my favorite poem lead me.

Where dips the rocky highland / Of Sleuth Wood in the lake…


Slish Wood Trail.  Image Credit:  Wikipedia.

Though Yeats called it Sleuth Wood in his poem, the hilly forest along Lough Gill is actually named Slish Wood.  Once entirely an oak forest, the area was cleared during World War II.  Some pockets of 250 year old oaks remain, and the region is regarded as a biodiversity site and is included in Lough Gill Natural Heritage Area.  A strenuous walking trail allows visitors to follow the lake shore and take in the local wildlife, with two paths available.  The shortest loops back to the car park at the trail head and spans 1.86 miles (3 km).

Far off by furthest Rosses / We foot it all the night…

EPSON DSC picture

View at Rosses Point.  Image Credit:  Wikipedia.

Rosses Point is one of Sligo’s two beaches, lining Sligo harbor.  Yeats and his brother spent their summers here, and with views of mountains Benbulben and Knocknarea, it’s no wonder the Point made it into The Stolen Child.  As with Slish Wood, there’s a walking trail that winds around the Point.  This one’s slightly shorter – only 1.8 miles (2.9 km).

 “Where the wandering water gushes / From the hills above Glen-Car…”


Glencar Waterfall.  Image Credit:  Wikipedia.

Glencar Lough straddles counties Sligo and Leitrim, and is actually home to several waterfalls, most of which are visible from the road.  But the largest, and the one featured in the poem, requires a bit more walking – around half a mile (less than 1 km) on a paved trail.  This main waterfall descends 50 feet to a pool below, sending white spray into the air as it strikes against rocky earth on the way down.

There’s certainly more I want to see while in Sligo than these three nature trails.  Carrowmore, a megalithic cemetery that rivals Newgrange in size, is one such place – expect more information in Thursday’s blog post!

Additional Links & Resources:

Leitrim Tourism: Glencar Waterfall

Sligo, Ireland homepage

Sligo Walks homepage

Yeats Country Photographs

Kells – Turning Darkness into Light

Kells – Turning Darkness into Light

The Book of Kells is perhaps one of the most well-known illuminated texts in the world.  Completed in the 9th century, the Book contains all four gospels of the New Testament and is considered one of Ireland’s greatest treasures.  Today, its 340 remaining folios are bound in four volumes displayed at Trinity College in Dublin.

Chi Ro

The Chi Rho Page.  Image Credit:  Trinity College Library Dublin, Digital Collections

My family and I saw the Book while in Dublin on our 2011 vacation, but looking down at those illuminated pages only left me more curious and intrigued than before.  Combine that with a film discovery after returning to the States – Tomm Moore’s The Secret of Kells – and I knew I had to see where they came from, before they were donated to Trinity in the mid 1600s.


Image Credit:  Tomm Moore

Saint Colmcille first settled at Kells in 550, but the group of monks credited with illuminating the Book didn’t arrive until 250 years later after fleeing their home on Iona due to Norse raiders.  It’s believed the Book was created on Iona and the monks brought it with them, but scholars aren’t certain when its relocation occurred.


Image Credit:  Wikipedia

With the original Book still safely kept at Trinity, perhaps one of the most noteworthy sights in Kells today is the 10th century round tower.  Originally 90 feet tall, the tower served as a lookout and shelter for the monastery’s residence during attacks from raiders.  But unlike other round towers of the time, which traditionally feature four lookout windows on the uppermost floor, Kell’s tower has five – one for each of the medieval city’s 5 gated entrances.

St. Columcille’s house and 3 high crosses can also be found within the town.

The Visitor Center houses additional exhibits, including replica pages from the Book of Kells, and is open from 10:00am to 5:30pm Monday thru Saturday during the summer months, and from 2:00pm to 6:00pm on Sundays.  Admission is 4 euro per adult, and though the site is a heritage town, a Heritage Card doesn’t gain free admission.

Guided tours of the monastic site can be arranged in advance for a fee, though visitors are also welcome to walk at their own pace and instead use a free audio tour available online.


Kells Visitor Center.  Image Credit: Heritage Towns of Ireland

Admission to see the Book of Kells at Trinity College in Dublin, as well as walk through the college’s Old Library, is 11 euro per adult.  The library is open from 9:00am to 6:00pm Monday thru Saturday, and from 9:30am to 6:00pm on Sundays during the summer months.

Additional links & Resources:

Heritage Towns of Ireland: Kells

Kells Heritage Center brochure (with map)

Kells Tourist Office brochure

Meath Tourism

Trinity College: The Book of Kells


“I’ll walk the miles from Ballintoy /No shining moon to light my way/Across the fields of Larrybane/And the rope bridge where my love waits…”

Near the end of my first trip to Ireland, our tour group crossed over from the Republic to the North, following the eastern coast from Belfast to the Giant’s Causeway.  Along the way, our guide stopped to point out the Scottish coastline on the horizon and Carrick-a-Rede below us.

Carrick-a-Rede means “Rock in the Road,” a fitting name for an island in the middle of a salmon spawning route.  A fishery was opened on the island’s far side in 1620 to take advantage of the migrating salmon, but the iconic rope bridge spanning the 79 foot gap wasn’t erected until 1755.  In its first rendition, the bridge only included a single handrail and widely spaced planks – surely a frightening trip, with the rough Atlantic 80 feet below!


Image Credit:  National Trust

The fishery was shut down in 2002 to preserve the dwindling salmon population, but the island continues to draw visitors.  The rope bridge has been changed to increase safety and is supposedly impossible to fall off of, but is still described as a breathtaking endeavor.  The views on the island are said to be some of the best along Antrim’s coast, both for the birds and sea life and for the geography.  It’s no wonder then that so many visitors – about 250,00 are reported each year.

Admission to the island is £5.90 per adult.  In good weather, the bridge is open from 9:30am to 7:00pm during the summer months, and for those able to cross the gap a tea room and souvenir shop awaits.

As someone deathly afraid of heights and prone to passing out, I’m not sure if I’d make it across the rope bridge, but I’m tempted to try.  My upcoming trip takes me within 15 minutes of the bridge, and it feels a wasted opportunity to be there twice and not go when given the chance.  Any words of encouragement would be greatly appreciated!

Additional links & Resources:

Causeway Coastal Route

Discover Northern Ireland

The Golden Book: Ireland, page 109

National Trust: Carrick-a-Rede

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.


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!


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.


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