Saturday, January 30, 2021

#15 Dark Hedges


Dark Hedges

          We spent three days in County Antrim, Northern Ireland. This held special interest for us because this is where Janet’s father's family is from. It was an amazing place! We drove through Dark Hedges, an avenue of beech trees along Bregagh Road between Arnoy and Stanocum in County Antrim. The trees form a tunnel that has been featured in the television series Game of Thrones-The Kings Road.  Even on a sunny day, the dark tunnel formed by the trees sends chills through us. The pasture surrounding the path was vast, green, and hilly.

We found out that in 1775, one hundred and fifty years ago,  the Beech trees were planted for an entrance to an estate.

          Six years after our trip we referred back to this eerie road as the setting for a car chase in our book.



Saturday, January 23, 2021

#14 Castle Ross


Castle Ross

        In County Kerry, Ireland we stopped to investigate the massive Castle Ross. It was built sometime before 1652 on the shore of Lough Leane in Killarney. It is the ancestral home of the Chiefs of the O'Donoghue Clan, later owned by the Brownes of Killarney. It is considered to be a classic example of an Irish Chieftain’s stronghold during the Middle Ages. The formidable walls fronting the lough must’ve seemed impenetrable.  We could imagine arrows raining down on hapless invaders from the highest ramparts.

        A few days before we arrived, a large storm hit the area, so things were still pretty well "soaked" The castle was open but the lines of visitors were extremely long. So, we decided to stretch our legs and took a walk along the lough (lake)!  It was beautiful. The water was still, surrounded by tall trees and the sky was a light gray with no sun (typical of southwest Ireland.) As we walked we came across some century-old trees that were blown down by the fierce winds from the storms.

Immediately we got the idea to "secret" some information.


Sunday, January 17, 2021

#13 Carrickfergus Castle


Carrickfergus Castle 

County Antrim

While in County Antrim, Northern Ireland, we took in a tour of Carrickfergus Castle. It was founded in 1177 by John de Courcy, an Anglo-Norman knight who led military expeditions into Ulster, in northern Ireland. It is reported to be one of the most complete examples of Norman architecture in Northern Ireland. Besieged in turn by the Scottish, native Irish, English, and French, the castle played an important military role.

            During  WW1 the castle was an army garrison.  Great Britain took over the castle in 1928 and began restoring it. With the outbreak of WW II, it functioned as an air-raid shelter.

          It was amazing to tour the castle as it was completely restored. The inner rooms, the Keep, and Chapel along with towers and battery was amazing. They had life-size mannequins dressed in period clothes depicting the work they performed in each area/room. We were amazed by the Great Hall, where, historically, the Baron and Baroness received guests.


This tour gave us a real sense of what daily life was like for the owners of the castle.

As an added note:

 Over the weekend of January 13 and 14, 2018, the castle was transformed into Hogwarts and was the Mecca for those two days for all those who followed Harry Potter.

Saturday, January 9, 2021

#12 The Sheep of Ireland


 The Sheep

Throughout Ireland, herds of sheep can be found dotting the landscape, in some places making the fields, appears covered in snowballs.

          As we traveled west into the less populated areas of the countryside, the herds became larger and more frequent. It’s not uncommon for flocks of sheep, and their shepherds to hold up traffic as they saunter along and across the narrow roads. The sheep may occasionally look up at the cars or break away from the herd to scan your car or even come up to the car window and greet you. They were friendly animals, always looking at travelers, bleating, and enjoying tourists.

          The Ring of Kerry we came across a very narrow road carved out of the side of a hill. We rounded a curve and suddenly, only a few feet from the road, the side of the cliff was straight down. We weren’t sure if we were going to end up over the side until we saw a sign telling us the road we were on was called "Goat’s Pass.” That explained it all! Though it was difficult to think of sheep or goats, with their shepherds, straddling the hillside on that narrow road not falling off the cliff!

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

#11 Blasket Island


Blasket Island

          In the extreme southwest of Ireland we found the Blasket Centre in DĂșn Chaoin. It’s situated on the bleak tip of the Dingle Peninsula in County Kerry.  The Centre (museum/visitor center) honors the people who lived on Great Blasket Island, three miles off the coast of the Dingle Peninsula. The last residents abandoned the island in 1956. The Centre overlooks the six Blasket islands, with Great Blasket Island being the largest.

          When we visited the center, the dark gray sky, fierce wind, and biting cold sleet made walking to and from the parking lot difficult. This is where we got the scenes of our characters walking into fierce headwinds.

          The Centre features displays and artifacts offering a heartwarming remembrance of those hardy Irish people who called the barren island home for many years. Because of their isolation, and the fact they were completely Irish-speaking, the islanders became the subject of much anthropological and linguistic studies.

          Those same strong people raised families there, but the older people were the last to be reluctantly evacuated, having to abandon their dreams of watching their grandchildren play and grow up on the island