In This Issue (With A Nod To Ireland) March 2022
- The HMS Titanic
- Blarney Castle
- Pub Hopping in Dublin
- Dublin Gardens
A Legend That Lives On and On…
In the annals of travel there have been a number of great tragedies including the Hindenburg disaster, the air disaster at Tenerife, the Vegas hotel fire, The Tsunami at Ao Nang, Thailand, along with a number of ocean liner disasters that include the Lusitania, the Andrea Doria and the Costa Concordia.
But one tragedy seems to be a true legend and stands out from all the rest. It’s the sinking of the White Star Line’s RMS Titanic. After more than one hundred years the story still holds our attention. It has been the subject of a half dozen movies and numerous books and even much speculation over just what music the band was playing when the liner slipped below the sea.
There are at least four museums dedicated to the ship; Belfast and Cobh, in Ireland along with two in Orlando, Florida. In addition to the museums there’s a popular tour to the cemetery in Halifax, Nova Scotia where many of the passengers and crew were buried.
The Titanic tragedy remains of interest for a number of reasons. Firstly, it was the maiden voyage of what was promoted as an unsinkable ship. Next it was a disaster that could have been easily avoided along with the loss of life aggravated because she didn’t have enough lifeboats. Additionally, a large number of wealthy and famous people involved in the disaster including John Jacob Astor IV, Benjamin Guggenheim, Isidor and Ida Straus the owners of Macy’s and the unsinkable Molly Brown.
Because a larger number of lower class passengers were prevented from using the limited number of lifeboats, the Titanic caused a number of countries as well as companies to change policies regarding safety at sea. This tragedy contributed to a number of modern maritime regulations being inacted.
Belfast is famous as the shipyard that built the Titanic. At the time the Harland and Wolfe Shipyard was one of the world’s largest and employed thousands. Today much of the area of the old shipyard has been turned into a memorial to this one ship. You can now tour the dry-docks, the slip way, the tender and a museum built to match the giant ocean liner’s height.
The Cobh, Ireland connection is that it was the great ships last port of call before she set sail across the Atlantic and into history. Cohb was called Queenstown at that time and was where the last passengers boarded the ship for its intended journey to New York. Of those one hundred and twenty three that boarded the Titanic in Queenstown, only forty four survived. Today, the original buildings, streets and piers of a century ago are still standing along the waterfront including the offices of the White Star Line which today is the Titanic museum.
When you have a limited number of days to visit a country you just keep going, even when the weather turns foul. Such was the case when we traveled to Blarney Castle. Not so much cold but a good on and off drizzle. I’m still not sure what brought us to pick Blarney over a dozen other famous Irish castles but I think it was the name recognition more than anything. The bonus in picking Blarney was also going to kiss the legendary Blarney Stone but I was warned that the last thing I needed was to increase my “gift of gab”.
Blarney Castle is a medieval stronghold in the town of Blarney, near Cork, Ireland. The keep was built by the MacCarthy of Muskerry dynasty in 1446. The castle is now a partial ruin with some accessible rooms and battlements. At the top of the castle lies the Stone of Eloquence, better known as the Blarney Stone.
The entrance to the property is well laid out and there is a nice stream flowing through the estate. The gardens surrounding the property are worth a visit provided the weather is accommodating and there are also a number of interesting out buildings and exhibits.
The castle itself stands about ninety feet tall with the interior mostly gutted. Upon entering the castle you find yourself standing in the cellar and looking up through the grand hall with its floor completely missing. You can see the stone supports that used to hold the floor just below the halls fireplace with remains of the two story vaulted ceiling above that
Getting to the top of the castle where the Stone of Eloquence is located is a climb up a narrow stone spiral staircase with only enough room for one person at a time to ascend. Before you start your climb they stress that it is a one-way climb (descent is by another narrow staircase) and once you start you cannot back down, so make sure you are up to the climb.
As you ascended there were a number of small chambers off the stairs as well as defensive slits for fighting off attackers. Once we reached the top there was a pretty steady rain falling but people were still laying on their backs to stick their heads out to kiss the stone. There are two guides there helping those who want to kiss the stone. By that time I wasn’t keen on going through with kissing the stone in a pouring rain and had additional concerns that I didn’t have enough sanitizer with me considering the number of people that preceded us.
Once back down and wet we headed off to find a pub and an Irish Coffee. In the center of the town we found the Muskerry Arms – cozy, friendly and makers of great Irish Coffees.
Besides the castle the village of Blarney is home to the Blarney Woollen Mills built in 1823. In its day it was known throughout the region for spinning and weaving high quality wool. The mill closed in 1973 after which it was re-opened as an Irish heritage shop appealing to castle visitors.
Pubs In Dublin
A Photo Essay
We’re not sure of anywhere else on Earth where pubs are celebrated more than in Dublin. Irish pubs are an expression of the very soul of Ireland.
Home and family may be the foundation of civilization, but to become a true society requires a gathering place with none better than a pub.
It’s mandatory on any visit to Dublin to spend some of your time in a pub. Pubs in Ireland are the cornerstone of Irish society.
Visiting Dublin’s Gardens
Not long ago we visited a number of gardens while in Dublin, Ireland. The weather was mostly good with one morning of rain when we headed out for the National Botanic Gardens. By the time we reached the gardens the rain had lifted.
The National Botanic Gardens – This is a really beautiful garden with a number of greenhouses matching several environments. There were greenhouses dedicated to orchids, another to tropical plants and another to desert flora. The outside gardens cover a number of acres and feature several different styles. Admission is free, there is a restaurant and gift shop as well as a number of special programs including lectures and concerts. If you have time while in Dublin do yourself a favor and go see this garden.
Backed up to the Botanic Gardens is Glasnevin Cemetery and Glasnevin Cemetery Museum. The museum’s web site describes it as “the guardian and storyteller for over 1.5 million people. From the ordinary to the truly extraordinary, these people helped shape the Ireland of today. We want to share their stories and times with you through tours of the cemetery, a visit to the museum or through a genealogy search for your family history”. While in the neighborhood stop in at the well known Gravediggers Pub for a pint.
St. Stephen’s Green is located in the heart of Dublin and is a focus in the area, and provides an oasis of green in the middle of this busy city. The Dublin Public Works web site describes this garden as “four centuries of history that are eventful and complex, involving such important figures as Arthur Guinness, 1st Baron Ardilaun, and Countess Constance Markievicz. The park itself hosts a large number of important sculptural monuments to Irish history. Many species of birds and plants also call the park their home. Public facilities at St Stephen’s Green Park include a playground and a garden for the visually impaired”.
Half way from the River Liffey to the National Botanic Gardens we stopped at the Blessington Street Park or “The Basin” and what a find. Located near the intersection of Royal Canal Bank and Primrose Avenue this is a beautiful and well kept pocket park surrounding a lake. After walking thru this park we thought how lucky the neighbors are to live next to this gem.