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Archive for ireland

History of the Jack-O’-Lantern

By Linda Tancs

The Irish legend of Stingy Jack gave birth to the jack-o’-lantern. When Jack ran into the devil at a local pub, he tricked the devil into buying him a drink by promising him his soul in exchange for a sixpence. Well, when the devil transformed into a coin, Jack held on to it instead and covered it with crosses so the devil couldn’t change back. Eventually Jack relented but, figuring he’d have to fulfill his promise, he tried to buy more time by asking the devil to pluck him an apple to eat from a nearby tree. Then he covered the tree with crosses and trapped the evil one again. When Jack died, he was denied entrance to heaven because of his deceitful ways. Likewise, the devil turned him away, tossing him an ember to roam about the night. Stingy Jack placed the ember in a hollowed-out turnip to light his way as he scoured the earth for a final resting place. The Irish called the ghost of Stingy Jack, “Jack of the Lantern”—Jack O’ Lantern.

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An Old Goat in Ireland

By Linda Tancs

In Killorglin, County Kerry, Ireland, they’ve been celebrating a goat for over 400 years. Every year a wild goat gets crowned king and reigns o’er the town from August 10 to 12. Known as Puck Fair, it’s one of Ireland’s oldest festivals. A popular legend involving its origin is that a runaway he-goat (a “puck”) broke from a herd that was routed by a group of raiders, arriving in town to alert the inhabitants of Cill Orglain (Killorglin) of impending danger. A festival then arose to honor the goat’s service. In addition to the coronation ceremony, expect fireworks, parading, a horse fair, musical entertainment and family fun.

Ireland’s First Waymarked Trail

By Linda Tancs

The oldest and one of the most scenic long distance walks in Ireland, Wicklow Way lies just south of Dublin and is one of the nation’s most popular trails. The 80-mile waymarked journey runs from Marlay Park in the southern suburbs of Dublin through County Wicklow and ends in the village of Clonegal in County Carlow. The traditional route is north to south, beginning at Marlay Park and ending in Clonegal. Amidst the heathery moorland and the Wicklow Mountain range is the treasured stop at Glendalough (valley of two lakes), an ancient monastic site providing respite for tourists from around the world.

The House That Beer Built

By Linda Tancs

Tucked away in the northwest section of a popular public park in Dublin, Ireland, Farmleigh House is the manor that beer built—Guinness, to be precise. The Georgian home was purchased by Edward Cecil Guinness (great-grandson of Arthur Guinness, founder of the brewery) on the occasion of his marriage to his cousin. Although now an official State residence for visiting dignitaries, many of the sumptuous furnishings and artworks remain in the house courtesy of the Guinness family. The pastoral surroundings of the 78-acre gem (one of the best kept secrets in Dublin) include a sunken garden, a walled garden, a clock tower, a beautiful lake laden with water lilies and grazing cattle. Take city bus 37 to Castlerock Gate at Phoenix Park. Access to the house is by guided tour only.

Ireland’s Oldest City

By Linda Tancs

Waterford is Ireland’s oldest city, tracing its origin to the arrival of the Vikings in the 9th century. Even today, Vadrefjord Vikings, a local re-enactment group, walk about the city in traditional Viking dress. Of course, the city is probably better known as the home of Waterford Crystal, conveniently located on the Mall in the heart of the Viking Triangle. This weekend the city celebrates its annual Waterford Harvest Festival, highlighting the region’s food, heritage and culture. No doubt that includes the local bread roll named blaa, introduced by the Huguenots in the 1600s.

6,000 Years of Life

By Linda Tancs

You’ll find 6,000 years of life in County Limerick, Ireland. Just 13 miles from Limerick city, in fact, is a prehistoric marvel, Lough Gur (Lake Gur). Surrounding this placid lake is a gem of archeological sites, boasting Ireland’s largest stone circle, Neolithic settlements, megalith tombs, crannogs and castles. The Heritage Centre provides a fascinating interpretation of the area’s riches, including an audio visual show and display panels on the geology, botany, zoology and archaeology of the area combined with local folklore.

Ireland’s First School of Falconry

By Linda Tancs

At Ireland’s Ashford Castle in County Mayo you’ll delight in an embarrassment of riches. Dating back to 1228, the glorious castle on the picturesque shores of Lough Corrib set amidst 350 acres of ancient woods was once home to the Guinness family and later found fame as the respite of choice for actors in the classic film “The Quiet Man.” Now part of the Red Carnation hotel chain, the five-star property offers luxurious trappings fit for royalty (a common guest), like unique works of art, carefully sourced antique furniture, custom designed carpets and beds and exquisite towels and linens. No wonder, then, that it’s been voted one of the best hotels in the world by Travel + Leisure. Of all the estate’s activities, one of the most exciting is its falconry school. The oldest established school in the country, instruction in this ancient sport requires no previous training. Just the thing when the usual pursuits of golf, tennis, kayaking, boat cruising, horse riding, tennis or fishing just won’t do.

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