Kilbeggan Distillery

During my recent one day tour around Co Westmeath I managed to visit Kilbeggan Distillery. I’d previously visited the Jameson Distillery in Dublin and found it nice but not too exciting. I didn’t know what to expect this time but the weather wasn’t great and it was a bonus to do something inside. Also, Kilbeggan is the only whiskey that I like (or to be precise the only whiskey I can drink without having my mouth twisted out), so I thought I should go there.

The tour turned out to be much better than the one at the Jameson Distillery for two reasons. First, Kilbeggan is still a working distillery (although it distils whiskey for only a few months in every year), whereas the Jameson Distillery in Dublin ceased production many years ago and it’s purely a museum now. Secondly, Kilbeggan distillery is much smaller and therefore the tour was a much more interesting experience.

Interesting facts about Irish whiskey:
– Irish whiskey has to mature in wooden barrels that have been used before, they cannot be brand new barrels – this is done to give whiskey a proper flavour;
– it has to mature for at least 3 years and 1 day – yes, 1 day can be very important;
– it can be maximum 94.8% alcohol by volume – otherwise, it’s a spirit.

 

Belvedere House in Mullingar

Belvedere House is a hunting lodge beautifully located beside Lough Ennell, 5km south of Mullingar, Co Westmeath. It was built for Robert Rochfort, Lord Belfield in 1740 from a design by Richard Cassels. The house was supposed to be a holiday retreat or villa, however, due to unexpected events that preceded its construction, it actually became a country house. In 1736 Robert Rochfort married Mary Molesworth. The couple were thought to be a great match and they had four children – three sons and a daughter. However, in 1743 Robert was informed of an alleged affair between Mary and his younger brother Arthur. At that point he moved from the family home at Gaulstown to the newly completed house of Belvedere, leaving his wife confined under house arrest at Gaulstown. He also pursued his brother Arthur forcing him to flee the country. George, the younger brother of Robert who made the initial allegation of the affair, later built much larger Tudenham mansion close to Belvedere House. This resulted in Robert building the Jealous Wall in 1760, so that he would not have to look at Tudenham mansion.

Richard Cassels, the architect who designed Belvedere House, was one of the greatest architects working in Ireland in the 18th century. The other famous buildings he designed are, among others, Russborough House in Co Wicklow, Powerscourt House in Co Wicklow, Westport House in Co Mayo, the Rotunda Hospital and Leinster House in Dublin.

Inis Mór 2

The north part of Inis Mór…

Inis Mór 1

The last destination of our trip was Inis Mór – the largest of Aran Islands in Galway Bay. The area of 31 km makes it the largest island off the Irish coast with no bridge or causeway to the mainland.

These images were taken in the south part of the island. Although the north part of the island appears to be more popular among the tourists, I prefer the quieter south part.

Connemara

The next destination of the trip was Kylemore Abbey in Connemara. Although I’ve been there probably two or three times before, it was so nice to walk around the park and the Victorian Walled Gardens again.

Croagh Patrick

On the way from Achill Island to Connemara we made a short stop in Murrisk. Although we didn’t climb Croagh Patrick at that time, it was nice to wander around the Murrisk Abbey and take a few pictures.

Croagh Patrick (764 m) is the third highest mountain in County Mayo (after Mweelrea and Nephin). It is 8 kilometres from Westport, above the villages of Murrisk and Lecanvey. It forms the southern part of a U-shaped valley created by a gacier flowing into Clew Bay in the last Ice Age.

Croagh Patrick (its name come from Irish Cruach Phádraig, meaning “(Saint) Patrick’s Stack”is an important site of pilgrimage and it is climbed by pilgrims on Reek Sunday (the last Sunday in July) every year.

Achill Island

Achill Island in County Mayo is the largest island off the coast of Ireland. Its area is 148 km2 and it is attached to the mainland by Michael Davitt bridge between the villages of Achill Sound and Polranny.

Slievemore (672m) is the highest mountain in Achill. Four Megalithic Tombs (built between 4000 and 3000 B.C.) are located on the southern slope of Slievemore. They were used for collective burials.
At the base of Slievemore lies the Deserted Village consisting of approximately 80 ruined houses. The houses were built of unmortared stone. That means that no cement or mortar was used to hold the stones together. Each house consisted of just one room and this room was used as a kitchen, living room, bedroom and even a stable. People lived in the village for many years, however, when in 1845 the Great Famine struck in Achill, as it did in the rest of Ireland, most of the families moved to the nearby village of Dooagh while some others emigrated.

Delvin

One of my friends claims that County Westmeath is the most boring county in Ireland – no hills to hike and no historical places to visit. Well, it’s true that the county is flat as a pancake but there are places in Westmeath that may be worth a short visit.

Delvin Castle (or Nugent Castle) was built around 1181 by Hugh de Lacy, Lord of Meath for his brother-in-law, Gilbert de Nugent. Originally the castle consisted of a rectangular block containing the main residential area, with cylindrical towers to protect its corners. This design may have been copied from some castles in western France, an area under Norman control.

A Norman church, St. Mary’s church, was built beside the castle to facilitate the worship of the castle’s inhabitants around the 13th century.

Gormanston Castle

Gormanston Castle is situated near the mouth of the River Delvin, close to the border of County Meath and County Dublin, about 15km south of Drogheda and about 30 km north of Dublin. And, well… about 4km from my doorstep but it took me over 2 years to finally make my way there.

Gormanston Castle was the seat of the Preston family (the Viscount Gormanston) from the 14th century until it was sold to the Franciscan Order of Friars in the late 1940s. The Franciscans established a boarding school for boys, known as Gormanston College, on the grounds in 1950s.

The castle in the photograph was built on the site of an earlier castle around 1786.

gormanston-castle-1

Bielsko-Biała

Bielsko-Biała is a city in Southern Poland at the foot of the Beskids, upon the Biała river separating Silesia from Lesser Poland. It is said that for many people it is just a city they go through when travelling to Slovakia, Hungary and Czech Republic or Austria, whereas for others (especially for people from Upper Silesia) it’s a place they pass on their way to the Beskids. And it’s how I remember it – as a place we always drove through when we were going to ski in the Beskids. That’s probably why I was in Bielsko-Biała many times, but it was only last summer when I actually had a chance to properly visit it. Well… I believe I’ve actually seen only a little part of what is worth to see in the city and around it. But I’m sure I’ll definitely go there again.

The West Coast of Ireland – The Deserted Villages

The main reason why I went to Galway in August was to photograph the deserted villages in Connemara. It wasn’t the easiest task to do that when the rain was pouring down on me and the camera. Against all the odds I managed to capture a few images.

The West Coast of Ireland – Ross Erilly

Ross Erilly was founded in 1351 and enlarged in 1498 becoming the one of the largest Franciscan monasteries in Ireland. Although the monks were expelled several times from the cloister, for example by Cromwell’s soldiers in 1656, they kept returning. The friary was finally abandoned in 1753 and the buildings fell into ruin. Nevertheless, it remains one of the best preserved Franciscan foundations in Ireland.

The West Coast of Ireland – Cong

Besides the beautiful abbey that I mentioned in my previous post, Cong is also known for its dry canal. The construction of the Cong Canal commenced in 1848. The canal was supposed to join Lough Corrib to Lough Mask (and Lough Carra, which is already linked to Lough Mask) to  to allow steamer traffic to come from Galway. However, due to the porous nature of the limestone the project turned out to be an engineering disaster and was finally dropped in 1854. The bed of the Canal proved to be too porous to retain water.  Nevertheless, the project provided work for local people at the time of the Great Famine in Ireland.
Cong is also where Rory O’Connor the last High King of Ireland died and was reportedly briefly buried in the abbey before being exhumed and re-interred at Clonmacnoise.
Cong was also the filming location for John Ford’s 1952 Oscar-winning film “The Quiet Man” featuring John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara and its connection with the film makes it a tourist attraction.

 

The West Coast of Ireland – The Cong Abbey

The monastery of Cong was founded in the early 7th century. It was, however, destroyed and rebuilt a couple of times. It was rebuilt after a fire in the early 12th century and rebuilt again after 1203 when the Norman knight William de Burgo attacked the town. The remains that we can see today belong to the rebuilding of the early 13th century.

The carvings in the abbey are similar to medieval sculpture in western France and are considered to be among the finest in Ireland.

The name Cong  comes from the Gaelic word Conga which means a narrow neck of land, in this case the narrow passage between two lakes: Lough Corrib and Lough Mask.

The West Coast of Ireland – Claregalway

Claregalway is a village about 10 km north of Galway. It was founded on the banks of the River Clare and hence its Gaelic name Baile Chláir na Gaillimhe meaning town on the Clare, in Galway.

The Franciscan friary was funded in the 13th century and rebuilt in the 15th century, when the bell tower was inserted.

The West Coast of Ireland – Aughnanure Castle

The Aughnanure Castle, or actually the tower house, was built c.1490 by the O’Flahertys and is situated on the bank of the Drimneen river. Such fortified residences were built by the wealthy, land – owning families and were used to keep power and control over the surrounding lands. The Aughnanure Castle is one of over 200 tower houses that were built in Co Galway.
The name Aughnanure comes from the Irish Achadh na nIubhar and means the field of the yew threes.

Wandering through County Meath

I published a post about Loughcrew a few months ago but I managed to go there again last summer. This time I was lucky enough to be able to see the inside of the passage grave.

After visiting Loughcrew and Kells we were going to go to Dunmoe castle just outside Navan. After an hour of driving around Navan trying to find the castle we noticed a round tower near Donaghmore church, which is in completely different part of Navan. It just proved that “In many parts of Ireland, the road-sign system seems to be designed to prevent good quality information on the whereabouts of the nearest town from falling into the wrong hands. Sometimes this will be achieved through the simple absence of signs…More often, road junctions will drop hints – sometimes playful, sometimes cryptic.”* But maybe that time the road-signs did us a favour and  let us the round tower that we wouldn’t see otherwise.

* Frank McNally “Xenophobe’s Guide to the Irish”

Kapela Maliszów – PolskaÉire Festival 2016

I intended to publish a post about Kapela Maliszow a long time ago but for various reasons it took me longer than expected to prepare it. The band performed in Dublin during the PolskaÉire Festival in May 2016 along with the Supertonic Orchestra that I mentioned in one of the previous posts.

Kapela Maliszów is a family band from Męcina Mała, a small village in Beskid Niski (Low Beskids – one of the Beskids mountain ranges in the Outer Eastern Carpathians in southeastern Poland and northeastern Slovakia). The band consists of multi-instrumentalist Jan Malisz and his children Zuzanna and Kacper. Their music is inspired by folk songs and dance music from Gorlice county (a region in Beskid Niski that used to be a melting pot of Polish, Lemko, Hungarian, and Jewish cultures) and is performed in a traditional way on violin, basolia (a folk instrument similar to a cello) and drum. Having said that, the band also plays a lot of mazurkas that are more typical of central Poland rather than southeastern Poland.

Kapela Maliszów Music

Moxie in the Seamus Ennis Arts Centre

Last Friday I went to the Seamus Ennis Arts Centre in Naul for a Moxie concert.  I hadn’t heard much about the band before the concert but I thought it would be nice to have a surprise and to give it a try. Anyway, I knew that they would be playing Irish traditional music, so I couldn’t have gone too far wrong. What I didn’t know was how much I would enjoy the concert…

Moxie’s music is a fusion of Irish traditional music, bluegrass and jazz rhythms with rocking energy. It’s definitely a very modern and innovative version of Irish trad music.

The band members are: Cillian Doheny (tenor banjo/guitar), Jos Kelly (button accordion/keyboard), Darren Roche (button accordion), Ted Kelly (tenor banjo) and Paddy Hazelton (percussion).

Moxie – “Planted”

Sculpture in Context 2016

One of my favourite art exhibitions – Sculpture in Context – takes place in Dublin National Botanic Gardens again.  This year the Ireland’s largest outdoor sculpture exhibition takes place until the 21st of October.

Photography, Travelling, Wildlife

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