The lush landscape of this region holds within it more than 5,000 years of history amongst the meadows, towns and rugged stone monuments. Every step of the way there is a story to tell of famous battles and magic rituals. Tales of powerful alliances, bloody betrayals, great heroes and leading ladies abound (and then there’s the beer as well) at sites such as the castle atop the Rock of Dunamase where The King of Leinster married off his red-headed daughter Aoife to the Norman knight Strongbow, or the Rock of Cashel where Kings of Munster ruled for generations before Brian Boru, a rival regional king who would ultimately become High King of Ireland, captured it in the 10th century.
Meanwhile, the mighty Shannon is a waterway with a story all of its own, a constant reminder of Ireland’s trading, religious and environmental heritage, dating all the way back to the second century when it was mapped by Ptolemy.
So in amongst all this splendour, here are some of our top recommended attractions…
Take a trip back in time to one of Ireland’s most dramatic battles. The Battle of the Boyne in 1690 marks one of the most legendary skirmishes in Irish history, between English King James II and the Dutch Prince William of Orange near Drogheda. Though the battlegrounds lay silent now, you can discover the ways of Baroque horses and the training of a Cavalry Trooper, hear tales of the regiments who fought here and witness for yourself the skills of a well-trained Musketeer.
It is little wonder that Ireland has such a mystical reputation, for particularly when the sun goes down, the landscape takes on a whole new atmosphere. Deep forests hold more mystery, and it is the chance to walk in the shoes of Gaelic nobility around the ringfort at the Irish National Heritage Park on the banks of the River Slaney. Dating back 1500 years, the replica ringfort (ancient earthwork) is surrounded by a strong oak palisade complete with a tall watch-tower – let your imagination run wild as stories of early Christianity abound.
Ireland’s Ancient East nurtures a wealth of art, literature, music and artisan foods with festivals celebrating them across the region. In bustling towns, villages and market squares, they’re always a spectacle to behold. For example, the Festival of Fires on the historic Hill of Uisneach sees the rebirth of Ireland’s oldest festival. It is a Bealtaine celebration that culminates in a night parade and fire ceremony peppered with food, drink, art and walking tours.
Known as Ireland’s Maritime Gateway, the seafaring history of Ireland’s Ancient East Coast, is one of great drama, not least at Cobh, the last port of call for the doomed Titanic. A pretty little town visited by the liner on 15th April 1912, here Titanic fanatic Michael Martin runs the Titanic Trail walking tour and is full of haunting tales of bravery and tragedy. Meanwhile, at the breathtaking Ardmore is home to the beautiful ruins of a cathedral alongside a 12th century round tower on the stunning Waterford cliffs.
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