What to see in Ireland: A journey between castles, gardens and monasteries

What to see in Ireland: A journey between castles, gardens and monasteries

“If you’re Irish you should travel as soon as possible. If you really want to do it, you will do it by water”. Eugene Handley closed a large book with force. A firm gesture underscores his advice.

He is one of the custodians ofCistercian Monastery at Boyle, overlooks the key of the lake with its sharp arches, which have been eroded over time. “The heart of Ireland is here,” Handley continues, his gaze widening. It means choosing the green light of the here and now Hidden HeartlandsIreland’s most hidden center, despite its many chapters of history, has only had one true king: the River Shannon.

Liquid name of the mythical nymph, who,Emerald IslandConjured up only by stereotypes of clover, dark beer or kilometers of rocky cliffs, the place name, if anything, can recall an airport that grew up in the last decades of the boom of low-cost airlines and high-tech industries.

waterway

Beyond the clichés, perhaps this is true: basically it is Shannon, the island’s longest river It was once a small hub, stopover, and highway for all those who urgently needed to move and leave — including immigrants, hermits, and dreamers — and now it has been transformed, for those who want to return or stay. A beautiful floating treadmill to listen to a thousand stories of the most authentic Ireland.

The Shannon, like an artist’s cut on a canvas, divides the island in two from north to south: it is the border between the Viking East and the Gallic West, but its 260 km, mostly canals and closed, can be navigated between them, which also bridge in time and space.

Walked from Carrick on Shannon to Killaloe, This ever-cold (no more than nine degrees) stream of intensely colored water flows gently and cautiously through eleven counties at five kilometers per hour. For this reason, in addition to organized cruises, as experienced local sailors ironically explain, you can try the opportunity to drive small dummy-proof boats or beginners.

The secret? 35 The incongruity of this river, touching the bridges, or containing, now flows gently, now rushes across the plain, forming round lakes, spurs and prospects.

The high course of the Shannon

The spring is located 79 meters above sea level in the Shannon Pot, in the bowels of Cuilcagh Mountain, not far from Lake Allen, the first “son” of the Shannon and Arigna mines, where generations of Irishmen mined coal.

However, today comes prosperity Distilleries such as the award-winning Shed, but also from small craft realities, not born in the mists of time, but in recent decades, giving new life to an area, but rather, people like to escape in past centuries. However, we now return or descend, as many Italians have done: one always meets one on the way.

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For example, Vera and Daniele Zamboni and their five children came from another lake, Como, to seek a life more in touch with nature. They say to each other, all happily, “Bewitched by Shannon” And the new rhythms of this journey called life. “The Shannon can also be navigated by pedal”, explains Eileen Gibbons, who accompanies her on her bike along the river bank in Leitrim harbor and the new floating footbridge in Acre.

Carrick on Shannon This is the first river “capital” of the trip: a solid bridge hides the marina, where vain swans float aimlessly. A cluster of colorful pubs gives way to unexpected surprises Smallest Catholic Church in Europe: “We believe it’s the second in the world” at the entrance to the mini-temple, built in 1879 as the Costello family mausoleum.

In 1917, Shannon carried the story here. Michael Collins, A hero of Irish independence, he stopped at the Bush Hotel: “Room No. 1”, they proudly remember in reception. After Termonbari With its greedy pubs facing the lock, the navigation is slow: you’ll learn something at every stop.

Time of history

A Strokestown, for example, the hour of history strikes at the National Famine Museum, dedicated to the famine between 1845 and 1849, which resulted in a million deaths due to poisoning of diseased potatoes. He sent many away.

“The Irish followed this river to travel to the sea, to America and beyond”: Aidan McBride, red-haired, explains how his family got a second chance in Australia. How he, born there, decided to return to the place where it all began.

Today the By national famine (nationalfamineway.ie) A very popular 165km route from Shannon to Dublin, passing through Roscommon, with flocks of sheep grazing past a Dominican abbey and medieval castle.

The navel of the island

Athlone, with its fortress never tamed despite sieges, is the true navel, not only of Shannon, but of Ireland as a whole. Here the water becomes more challenging: the rapids in the center of the city are a cross and a delight.

Boats must choose side channels; Ducks and birds, on the other hand, pounce and launch themselves on epochal slips.

At sunset, they are fed by the residents of the Strand, overlooking the riverside villas with well-tended gardens. At Sean’s Bar, however, there’s always colorful chaos: after all, pints have been tapped here since at least the 10th century. It was one of the first pubs in Europe and the oldest in Ireland.

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The scents of the river

Athlone owes its fortunes to its river. “But not for fish, for any crops”, he assures Chef John Coffey In Thyme’s cuisine, Bib Gourmand Michelin 2020, mixes flavors and seasonality “thanks to a network of producers within a radius of 30 km, through which the classics of regional cuisine can be revisited”.

And, from roast beef to cheese, they’re all served with a sprint of energy to resume navigation. If they could, they would buy it too Monks and Brave Monks of ClonmacnoiseIt can be descended by boat or car to the south.

Today it is a hill strewn with Celtic crosses and small churches have escaped oblivion, but for 600 years it was a bustling town on the banks of another bend in the Shannon. One day in 644 he arrived here Ciaran, epigone of St. Patrick, Columba and Columbano, Evangelicals in Ireland.

He folded his arms and created one of them Scriptorium Most valued on the island, from which precious manuscripts came out, monks later spread throughout Europe. Today the most famous ones are locked up or on display in London Trinity College Dublin, come on The Book of Kells. The colors and circular insular calligraphy that inspired all of Ireland’s pub signs are just a snapshot of nature enveloping the visitor in a spiral of beauty on the Shannon.

The River Gardens

Continuing south, in fact, the Shannon really thrives: it does Portumna returns to its original glory in the gardens of the castle of the same name; He does so at Lough Burra Reserve, where the legend of ancient bogs has given way to new trees and contemporary art institutions that have sprung up among the heather.

He does this especially in the Bir groves, where another vision, William Parsons, Ross’s third figure is that for 70 years he dreamed of celestial exploration thanks to a 17-meter telescope, the world’s largest telescope. Built in the 1840s, it saw nebulae and intuitive truths about the planets that the Apollo 11 astronauts could only confirm a century later.

Where is the bad wind?

Going straight down Scarif It’s time to paddle: here the Shannon feeds Lake Derg, a paradise for water sports: “The problem is never the current, it’s the wind that whips the waves”, explains Ron Gallagher.

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He and eleven friends spent 12 days digging a small canal which is now home to Derg Isle Adventure Centre. Paddle, Paddle, Canoe: You can paddle out to Holy Island for a picnic or roast marshmallows near Les Pieds Dans l’Eau, a small private castle. TO Two Mile Gate, Instead, the University Center UL Sports Adventure attracts students like Tadge Farrells, who teaches paddle boarding (or sup) to managers from around the world, between PhDs and doctorates.

a little further away, Tuangreni It was a magnet for many. The Farrells arrived from Dublin, first on vacation, then forever, “for fun, for the joy of life”, Patricia explains, decorating her chocolate bars called Wilde, “the Oscars we learned and loved in books, before they changed your life”.

Shannon is a hidden gem, a hidden gem Anke McKernan, Arrived here from Hanover: “I was a rebellious girl; Today, thanks to a few looms and Eugene’s love, I am an ex-entrepreneur girl”, she says, spinning imaginatively woven scarves that bear her family name in the liquid heart of the island.

Seeley d’Ireland

Between twin villages Killaloe in Ballina Shannon becomes a delicate fresco. There is also a bridge here which has made a place in history for the tragic struggle during the freedom struggle.

Today, if anything, the battle is in its very long traffic lights, which allow you to get lost between two banks. So you have time to get into the restaurant Andrew Lofthouse’s Old Bridge, The Anglo-Florentine tricolor cuisine that follows fate here and now offers a thousand tips: “Stop, don’t hurry: this corner of Ireland speaks to those who have time to listen”.

However, the whistle soon comes calling for everyone on board: it’s Captain Whelan. James runs the family business.

Father started a general store, and then asked the passengers to accompany him down the river, and he boarded a ship. Today on board we drink Irish coffee and admire the shores to the docks where the emigrants sail: the tide would have driven them down, Limerick and to the Shannon Estuary. A new world for them. Here’s to those who continue the adventure, under this Irish sky, as Fiorella Mannoia sings, “an ocean of clouds and light.”

Image: Fort and garden portHistoric home of the family BurghIn County Galway, near the lake Derg.

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