Friday, May 31, 2013

Carlingford Historic Town, County Louth

Carlingford in County Louth is a beautiful atmospheric town that still retains it's medieval character. Carlingford was founded at the beginning of the thirteenth century by Hugh de Lacy (the younger son of the Hugh de Lacy who constructed Trim Castle). He began by constructing a strong castle on an outcrop of rock that overlooked the Lough, and soon afterwards a settlement began to flourish in the shadow of the fortress. The name Carlingford has a number of possible origins, many of which appear to have a blend of the Gaelic Irish Cairlainn meaning bay of the hag, and the Norse Viking Fjord. Carlingford would have been an ideal location for a Viking Longphort or Overwinter Camp, but no evidence has been discovered so far to conclusively prove a Viking settlement.
The town flourished during the fourteenth, fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, and many of the beautiful buildings listed here date to that period.  The town entered a steep decline however throughout the seventeenth century, a turbulent time in Irish history of war, famine and plague. The town was overshadowed by the near neighbours Dundalk and Newry which quickly developed into bustling urban centres, while Carlingford stagnated. However this decline served to protect the historic structures of Carlingford, as there was little development here in comparison to Dundalk, ensuring that today it is a wonderfully atmospheric place to visit. Here are some of the main features of the town (in no particular order).

 King John's Castle

The castle at Carlingford was established by De Lacy in around 1200 AD. It was named after King John who took the Castle in 1210. The castle is essentially a D shaped enclosure with a large curtain wall and projecting towers. It appears to have undergone regular alterations throughout the later medieval period, but by the later part of the sixteenth century it appears that the castle had already become derelict as it was described as being 'in a wretched condition'. The Office of Public Works began conservation works on the castle in the 1950's, and it is currently undergoing more conservation works so there is no access to the castle for the moment.

The Tholsel and Town Wall

The 'Tholsel' is the only surviving medieval gateway into Carlingford, and probably dates from the fifteenth century. Originally this would have been a three storey structure, but it has been modified in the nineteenth century and is now two storey with a modern slate roof. This gateway would have given access to the main street at the Eastern end of the town, with a levy being paid at the gateway before any goods could enter the town. There is very little of the medieval town walls left today, you can find a short section just south east of the Tholsel, and the other is at Back Lane at the north-west end of Carlingford.

Holy Trinity Church

The church of the Holy Trinity is an early nineteenth century Church of Ireland place of worship that has many clues of medieval structures that may have originally been on the site. The pointed doorway on the south wall appears to be from the seventeenth century or perhaps slightly earlier, and the church is attached to a tall three storey crenellated tower that may originally date back to the fifteenth or sixteenth century. The eighteenth and nineteenth century renovations makes the origins of this site a little unclear, but it is still well worth dropping in as the Church was leased to the Carlingford Lough Heritage Trust and is now a visitor centre.

Carlingford Priory

The remains of this Dominican Friary date back to the early fourteenth century. The Dominicans were invited to establish a foundation in Carlingford by the powerful Richard de Burgo. The Friary followed the usual convention of a Dominican establishment, with a cloister, a church, dormitories, a refectory and kitchen and a small mill that would have operated on the stream that runs alongside the site. Today you can still see the nave and chancel church with a fine tower.
The Friary reflects the turbulent times during the late fourteenth and early fifteenth century, when raids on such monastic sites were common. The buildings were fortified and battlements were added to make the site more defensive, including a machicolation above the entrance.
The site was dissolved during Henry VIII's reign in 1540, but Dominicans returned to the site in the late seventeenth century.
You can access the interior of the site and explore the nave and chancel church, and the partial remains of the residence block.

The Mint

The Mint is located on the main street a short walk from the Tholsel Gate. It is a fortified townhouse that dates to the fifteenth – sixteenth century.
The name 'The Mint' presumably derives from a 1467 charter that granted Carlingford permission to strike its own coins, however it is more likely that this structure is simply the well built and defended townhouse of one of Carlingford's prosperous merchants during the late fifteenth or early sixteenth century.

One of the great features of this building is the beautfully decorated limestone windows. Each one bears a different design, and perhaps shows a harkening back to pre-Norman Romanesque design that may have been fashionable at this time.

Unfortunately it appears that you cannot access the interior of The Mint.

Taffe's Castle

Taffe's Castle is another good example of a fortified medieval Irish townhouse. As it is positioned close to the harbour front it was probably the home of a wealthy merchant, and is likely to have also served as a well protected warehouse for their goods. The usual layout of a fortified townhouse from this period is to have all the public business conducted on the bottom and lower floors, and the upper floors as the residence. The name is likely to derive from the powerful Taafe Family, who became Earls of Carlingford in the middle of the seventeenth century.

Unfortunately it appears that there is no way to access the interior of Taffe's Castle.

This is just a very brief overview of a wonderful historic town. Carlingford is certainly worth a trip to enjoy the atmospheric medieval streets and beautiful scenery. Nearby you can visit a number of sensational heritage sites, particularly the fantastic Castleroache.

I hope you enjoy this blog, we're trying to cover as many sites as we can across Ireland. If anyone has any suggestions about sites you'd like us to cover please do leave us a comment. If you enjoy information and images of Irish heritage sites then do follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Google+ If you'd like to support us then please consider downloading an audioguide to one of Ireland's wonderful heritage sites. They are packed with original music and sound effects and are a great way of experiencing the story of Ireland. They only cost €1.99 and are fun whether you are at the site or listening from the comfort of your own home. Our latest guide is to Viking and Medieval Dublin, visit us at for free previews and to download your free audioguide to the Rock of Dunamase

All photographs © Neil Jackman / 

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Eisenhower Park Fitness Hike - Wed., May 29

Okay, I did it again. We went on a fitness hike. After the first one, I wasn't going to do the fitness hikes, they're just too darned fast for me. But when I read the description of tonight's hike, the "fitness" part didn't jump out at me. They walk 3.5 to 4 mph up and down rocky trails. {{{pant, pant, pant}}} Thank you, Anthony, for hanging out with us in the back so we didn't get lost.

I opted to do one loop of three miles. When we got to the intersection where the decision was made to do another loop, I bailed out to walk 0.7 mi. back to the car.

Bob came separately from work in his truck and he opted to do the second loop. So midway through the walk, we parted ways.

Uphill climb

The tower.
Below is a highly zoomed photo of Six Flags Fiesta Texas. If you enlarge it,you can see some of the roller coasters in the park.
Six Flags Fiesta, San Antonio, Texas

Part of our hiking group.

Our hike leader, Paul.

Bob heading downhill.
And there he goes.
A paved trail here.
Shortly after the above photo, I opted to head back to the car, 0.7 mi away. On the way back to the car, I moseyed, lollygagged, photographed, admired the scenery and chilled (as much as one can chill when it's 80 degrees and muggy).

The paved trail.
Rain lily.
Blackfoot or rock daisy (Melampodium leucanthum)

Trail scenery.
Juniper berries. Lots of juniper trees in this park.
A very large juniper.
Recent rain.
Greater tickseed (Coreopsis major)
Close up of the flower stalk from the yucca below.

A nice fence to keep people from going on a trail.
This park is in the flight path for the San Antonio airport.
Texas plume (Ipomopsis rubra)
When I returned to the meetup area everyone was already back! Was I THAT slow? No, the rest of the group bailed on doing the second loop. They all wanted to go to Freetail Pizza for pizza and beer.

We followed someone who knew where they were going and found the place. For dinner, we ordered the "Date Night Special,"  a pitcher of beer and a small, one-topping pizza. It was fun talking to Kevin, Nicki and Don for an hour.

What a great way to spend the evening. Thanks to everyone for coming out.

Travel Bug out.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Brook Hollow, San Antonio, Texas - Tues., May 28

Today I tackled Brook Hollow neighborhood Volksmarch on my own. My Centurion Challenge is getting behind so I need to do more Volksmarches. A good benchmark is 50 walks completed by the end of June. Currently, I have finished 35.

The Brook Hollow walk is very close to where Bob works. The start point is La Taza Coffee House on San Pedro Ave. Most of the walk is in established neighborhoods with old oak trees. The temperature was 84 degrees with 70% humidity and a nice breeze. Even though I developed a moist sheen on my face, neck and arms, the breeze dried me off. There were sprinkles for five minutes, but nothing to speak about.

Here are photos from today's Volksmarch:

Magnificent magnolias in bloom.
Tall mountain larkspur (Delphinium scaposum)
Nicely shaded streets.
Stately old oaks. You can see the humidity in the air.

Almost missed this doe. She was hiding behind bushes and lawn furniture.
Mimosa tree.
Clematis "Integrifolia" feathery seed head.
Long, quiet neighborhood streets.
Red bird of paradise, also called pride-of-Barbados (Caesalpinia pulcherrima)

What kind of cactus?
Oleander and cactus.
Oleander flowers.
Six cats live here (at least those I could see).
Healthy, content kitties.
Meanwhile around the corner, what happens if this driver leaves in a hurry?
Leftover rubble on the sidewalks from the downpours.
Texans love their BBQs!! Look at this set up.
Why it's called a white-tailed deer - tail goes up in alarm when disturbed.
The 10K (6.2 mile) walk took 1 hour and 50 minutes. Very pleasant area to walk in. I felt safe.

From the coffee shop where I finished, it was a short drive up the US 281 access road to the building where Bob works. The office suite is on the 9th floor. There is so much space. He has an office with a window looking south. Nice view from up there. The office just opened up this weekend which is why Bob was working  Sunday and Monday, helping to move in furniture and files. It still looks sparsely occupied now, but they have room to grow.

Both of my hearing aids were having problems so a trip to Costco was in order to have them cleaned. Once they clean them they can tell if there is damage or a problem. However, the Costco near Bob's work could not take care of them as they are closed all week. The Hearing Aid Center sign said to please visit another Costco. Arrgh! That means a detour to a Costco that's 20 minutes away.

Bob joined me on the trip to Costco near his work and we had lunch together. He said it was nice to get away from work and relax for a bit. I took him back to work after lunch, then headed over to the other Costco.

The Hearing Aid Center was busy at the next Costco. I had a 30-minute wait, but it was worth it. The right side hearing aid only needed cleaning, but the left side doesn't work and has to be sent for repair. I'll be without it 7-10 days.

While at Costco, I purchased a box of baby spinach and some blueberries.

That's been my day so far. Sunnie keeps me company while I'm on the computer, lazily stretched out on the back side of my computer screen.

Ciao for now. Travel Bug out.