Thursday, May 5, 2016

THE WESTPORT HOUSE AND THE IRISH PIRATE QUEEN


Soon after my trip to Ireland in 2012, I learned about Grace O'Malley (Grainne Ni Mhaille) who was known as the Irish Pirate Queen or "The Sea Queen of Connacht",  I read the book "Ireland's Pirate Queen - The True Story of Grace O'Malley" written by Anne Chambers.  I am still hoping to discover that I am related somehow to both Grace O'Malley and Anne Chambers.


The Westport House is a beautiful historic home built in 1650 by Colonel John Browne and his wife Maud Burke (Grace O'Mallley's great great granddaughter).  It was built near the site of the O'Malley Castle.


I missed seeing the Westport House in 2012, but decided it was a "must see place to visit" on my latest trip to Ireland.  Although the Westport House property also contains a Pirate Adventure Park and campgrounds, our sole focus was the historic house.;  The house is located in parkland setting with a lake and terraces.  It also has a view of Clew Bay and Croagh Patrick.  It is definitely a must see on anyone's trip to Westport!

VISITING WESTPORT IN COUNTY MAYO


In 2012, my husband and I visited Westport for just a few hours.  We stopped there on our way back from Castlebar and Islandeady to Galway.  We ate some lunch and did a little shopping.  I thought it was a darling town and decided then that I needed to return some day to do more exploration. So, of course when planning our latest trip a stop in Westport was a no-brainer!

Westport (or in Irish "Cathair na Mart") is located on the southeast corner of Clew Bay.  Croagh Patrick is just ten kilometers west of the town.  One of the main things that I love about Westport is that the Carrowbeg River runs through the town, surrounded by low stones walls with hanging baskets of flowers from the walls and the bridges.


We visited St. Mary's Catholic Church in Westport.  The original church was built in 1831 in a neo-Gothic style.  However, the congregation became too big for the church so the present day church was built in two phases in 1928 and 1958.  


Spending just the afternoon in Westport was not long enough, so we decided to return the next day to tour the Westport House.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

THE TOWNLAND OF LETTER IN COUNTY MAYO


The property (location of their farm) where my Great Grandmother Bridget Chambers was born and spent her childhood is located in the townland of Letter in County Mayo.  According to Griffith's Valuation, "Lietir means spewy hillside.  It is bordered on the north by Derrycruv, on the south by Derrycooraun and Derrygowla and on the west by Kilmaclasser."

Years ago my cousin Betsy got the opportunity to visit the actual property where the Chambers lived and has shared with me photos that she took while she was there.  I had hoped that during my trip to Ireland, that we would be able to see at least the townland of Letter.


 Townland may be misleading.  It is more like a housing development or a few houses with lots of land rather than an actual town.  As such it is rather hard to find.  It is much easier finding it on an online map at home than it is driving down tiny roads with no signs and hoping you don't get lost.  We probably got within 100 yards of it.

So I am keeping it on my "bucket list" with the hope that some day I may actually have the opportunity to see it.  Until then I will just appreciate Betsy's photos of the Chambers land.


Thursday, April 14, 2016

INTRODUCING MY CHILDREN TO THE TOWN OF ISLANDEADY


It was important to me that my son and daughter got the opportunity to visit Islandeady (the home town of my great grandmother Bridget Chambers) while on our trip to Ireland.  So on our first full day in County Mayo, we drove to Bilberry Lake -- located near N5 road, halfway between Castlebar and Westport.  We drove down a narrow country road -- thank heavens for signs!  From there we could see the Old Islandeady Cemetery on a hill, across the lake.  I love how lovely and peaceful this lake is, surrounded by green trees, green hills and green grass.


After admiring the view of the lake and taking lots of photos, we drove over to the Old Islandeady Cemetery.  From the parking lot of the cemetery, you can see Croagh Patrick, where according to legend, Saint Patrick banished the snakes from Ireland.  The four of us walked through the cemetery and to the ruins of St. Eiden's Church, located on the shores of Bilberry Lake,


St. Eiden's Church has been in ruins since the penal times and was restored in the 1990's.  Of course we took photos to commemorate my kids' first visit to Islandeady!

We then drove a short distance to St. Patrick's Catholic Church in Islandeady.  This was my first visit to St. Patrick's.  According to legend, St. Patrick preached on the shores of the lake on his way to the holy mountain in 440 AD so hence the name of this church. The roof of this church was originally


thatched but the church building was slated in 1849.  Other improvements and upgrades have been made since then.  This was a very meaningful visit for me since this was the church that my 2nd great grandparents Thomas Chambers and Ann Kilroy Chambers attended Mass on Sundays and where their children, including my great grandmother Bridget Chambers was baptized. It is so exciting to me when I can actually walk in their "footprints".  It makes me a little sad, though, to think that my Dad and Grandpa never got to visit this place.  I think they would have enjoyed the peaceful lake, the old church ruins and just knowing that Bridget grew up not far from here.

Note:  This is my 200th post in this Home of Sherlocks blog and thought it was very fitting that it would be about Islandeady.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

AMAZING HOUSE IN CARROWKEEL


After picking up our son at the Dublin Airport, we headed northwest to County Mayo.  It was a 3 hour drive.  We met the husband of the owner of our rental vacation house in a tiny town called Ballyvarry.  We then followed him to the house -- down the road to Carrowkeel, down another road, past a campground and down another long country road.  We arrived at the rental house and was greeted by the owner Ann Marie who had brought us a homemade cake called "treacle".


We were given a tour of the beautiful house with hardwood floors, 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms and a washer and dryer.  The backyard was large and very green. The view out the front windows was mesmerizing.  During our three day stay at this house, I often stood by the window and gazed at all the beauty of the countryside.


My 2nd great grandparents, Thomas Chambers and Ann Kilroy Chambers raised their family in the townland of Letter (not more than 15 minutes away) in a rural setting, probably much like Carrowkeel.


Monday, March 28, 2016

THE RING OF KERRY



Visiting the west coast of Ireland would not have been complete without a visit to the Ring of Kerry.  Yes, we did visit the Cliffs of Moher on our last trip to Ireland in 2012.  Our bus tour of the Ring of Kerry would cover 110 miles and take over 6 hours.  Even though this would be a longer tour than we desired, we thought it was preferable to trying to drive it on our own.

Our first stop was at the Kerry Bog Village (photo above).  We saw Irish wolfhounds, peat bogs and Kerry Bog ponies.  We learned how to make Irish coffee and of course needed to sample one (okay, we drank the entire thing).  It was delicious!


Continuing on our tour, we saw the Dingle Peninsula and Slea Head (the most western point of Europe) and the Askill Islands.  We stopped again and watched a demonstration with two border collies displaying their skills at herding sheep.


Our next stop was the shores of Ballinskellig Bay.  We walked along the shore, admiring all of its natural beauty and of course taking lots of photos!


We stopped for lunch at Scariff Inn in Caherdaniel, where we enjoyed amazing views of Derrynane, Kenmare Bay and Bantry Bay.  Continuing on our tour we also saw Dunloe Gap, a spectacular glacial valley.



Our last stop (and my favorite) was at Ladies' View, which has an absolutely gorgeous view.  Supposedly this site was named "Ladies' View" after this area was admired by Queen Victoria's ladies in waiting.

I am in awe of all of the natural beauty in Ireland.  It is so peaceful and so beautiful!

Sunday, March 27, 2016

KILLARNEY NATIONAL PARK


What should we do on our first full day in Killarney?  We wanted to see some of its natural beauty but not spend all day on a tour.  Killarney National Park is close by and I hear it is beautiful.

Cars are not allowed in Killarney National Park so we took a 1 1/2 hour tour of Killarney National Park in a jaunting car (a 2 wheeled horse drawn vehicle).  Killarney National Park was the first national park established in Ireland.  It is the home of red deer, black Kelly cattle and cypress, linden and holly trees.


We saw St. Mary's Cathedral, Mt Tomis, Loch Leane (the lower lake) and Innisfallen Island.  We stopped and visited the grounds of Ross Castle, which is located on the edge of Loch Leane and is the ancestral home of the O'Donoghue clan.


Later my daughter would tell me that visiting Killarney National Park was on her favorite highlights of her trip to Ireland.