Saturday, August 02, 2008

Ireland: Day 5

And we're on the road again. From Galway to Limerick with a stop midday in Bunratty. On our way out of town, we had beautiful views of Galway Bay, not to mention more beautiful countryside. Passing by Gort, we saw huge wind turbine fields. Ireland's main source of energy for centuries has been peat, which is a finite resource. The peat bogs are shrinking more & more quickly, so the Irish government has sought new sources of energy. And so they've begun harnessing the power of the winds, which, as you can imagine, Ireland - as an island - has a lot of. We made a stop at Coole Park - former estate of Lady Gregory and William Yeats. We most enjoyed The Autograph Tree in the center of the park. By midday, we had arrived at Bunratty Castle for a tour and lunch.

Bunratty Castle was built by the Macnamara family and later acquired (after battle) by the O'Brien family. After the fall of the Irish to the English, the castle was abandoned and ultimately fell in disrepair. Lord Gort acquired the property in the 1950s and restored it to its current splendor - with the help of the Public Works Dept. - including the medieval furnishings. It is said to be the most authentic castle and furnishings in all of Ireland. Some pieces include 16th century tapestries, a hand-carved solid oak hope chest, and giant Irish elk antlers (a now-extinct 12,000-yr-old species of very large elk native to Ireland) perfectly preserved by the peat bogs. What struck us most about the castle were the tiny, dizzying, winding staircases. Though now equipped with hand rails for safety, I cannot imagine traipsing up & down these staircases in full medieval garb as the lords and ladies of the castle once did!

After our castle tour, we checked in to our hotel which was in Limerick - about a 20 min drive from Bunratty. Our hotel was right on the River Shannon. And about a 15 min walk took you in to the center of town, where you could see King's Castle, St. Mary's Cathedral, the Hunt Museum, just to name a few.

In the evening we returned to Bunratty Castle for a medieval banquet that was great fun as one of our own - Rick Harding - was thrown into the dungeon for making eyes at the ladies of the King's Court.

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