Ireland holds a special place in the hearts and minds of many people, even those who have never been there. For some, Ireland is a mystical land, filled with rugged natural beauty, while for others, it is her tumultuous history, forged by migrations, wars and rebellions, with a historical legacy that still resonates – in ancient neolithic sites, castles of the high kings, and countless songs and poems immortalizing the land the locals call the “Emerald Isle”.
The Poulnabrone dolmen is a tomb in County Clare, Ireland, dating back to the Neolithic period, probably built 5-6000 years ago. DNA tests show that the genetic profile of these the first Irish farmers who lived there were originated in the Middle East.
Newgrange megalithic tomb, County Meath. Consisting of a mound entered by a passage with internal chambers, the tomb at Newgrange dates to 3200 BC, during the Neolithic era. An opening in the roof allows sunlight to illuminate the interior at sunrise during the winter solstice.
Ancient spiral motifs, Newgrange megalithic tomb, County Meath. The triple spirals , called Triskele, or Triskelion, are strongly associated with Celtic culture. The pattern consists of three spirals, or sometimes three bent human legs. Historians believe that this spiral pattern most probably originated from the Mediterranean.
Mourne Mountains, Country Down. The tallest peak in Northern Ireland is Slieve Donard in the Mourne Mountains.
Benbulben Mountain, County Sligo. The height of this table-top mountain creates a unique environment where plants carried to the region by glaciers in the last ice age have survived.
Mount Errigal, County Donegal. The tallest of County Donegal’s peaks, Errigal is one of the “Seven Sisters”, known locally as the Derryveagh Mountains. Its distinctive coloration is due to quartzite, a metamorphic rock formed from sandstone.
Black Castle, County Wicklow. Taking advantage of the natural strong position on a high promontory, the Black Castle at Wicklow was built in the 1100s to protect the nearby coast from invasion.
Another view of Black Castle
Dunguaire Castle, Country Galway. Lying on Galway Bay near Kinvara, Dunguaire Castle is constructed as a tower house with a surrounding curtain wall, both of which have been restored. It was the seat of the kings of Connaught during the 16th century.
Ross Castle, Killarney. Like many fortifications of the late 1400s, Ross Castle takes the form of a central tower house surrounded by a “bawn”, which means a fortified area enclosed by a curtain wall with reinforcing towers.
Admore, County Waterford. Constructed in the Gothic style, this watch tower at Ardmore was built around 1800, most likely to protect against invasion from France, which was building an empire that spanned Europe.
Boyle Abbey, County Roscommon. Like most religious buildings of its time, Boyle Abbey (built in the 12th century) was decorated with carved representations of kings, saints and the occasional gruesome gargoyle.
Celtic crosses, County Sligo. The exact meaning of the Celtic cross is unclear. Some believe it represents a triumph of Christianity over paganism, while others believe it is a melding of the two.
False Bay, County Galway. The plentiful seafood available along the western coast of Ireland made the Connemara region of Galway an attractive location for early settlers. Evidence has been found of middens dating back to the Mesolithic era or even earlier.
C oming up next – Ballads of the Emerald Isle