Mizen Head Signal Station & Visitor Centre – County Cork

Of all the coastal places I’ve visited in Ireland, and there were many, Mizen point is one of my favorites and after numerous visits to the area, the scenery, cliffs and views from the head still takes my breath away.

The visitor centre has a lot to offer visitors and even on a less-than-perfect-weather day is well worth a visit, though I’d recommend visiting on a day when the weather is fair to experience the walks fully.

The visitor centre offers Navigational Aids Simulator, Fastnet Hall, the Geology of the Mizen, the Fastnet Rescue Tide Clock, Tidal Mural, Historical Tour of the Mizen Peninsula, SS Irada Propellor and much more, including a lovely little gift shop filled with a great selection of maritime gifts, model boats, books, toys for all ages, postcards, cards and maps.

From there take the walk to the Signal Station, down the famous 99 steps, and over the Arched Bridge.  The scenery and views from there is amazing, with the possibility of seeing seals, kittiwakes, gannets and choughs. It’s also said to be one of the best places in the world to see Minke, Fin and Humpback Whales and Dolphins.

For those unable to take on steep climbs, there is a level path out to overlook the famous footbridge and enjoy the wonderful views from there. Look down from the bride and you may see a seal or two playing in the waves below (we did).

From there take another path down the cliff to see the Sea Arch Over the Bridge, then walk up the third path to see the view over Dunlough Bay to the Sheep’s Head and Beara Peninsulas.


You can also take a walk down the path to the old derrick platform for a better look under the bridge. Below you will see the Keepers’ Quarters in the former Irish Lights Signal Station; the Engine Room with Marconi Radio Room and The Workman’s Quarters with the Mizen Map Collection, the spectacular Bird Mural room with 100 Birds in the Mizen area and their eggs, Whales and Dolphins, Wrecks and CIL Boats displays.

Or just wander around the paths and enjoy the incredible scenery and cliffs, which by themselves alone makes this place worth visiting.

Mizen Point is a lovely family friendly place, WELL worth a visit and highly recommended!

For opening hours, etc, see their website: http://www.mizenhead.ie

Amazing Places in Ireland – Kilcooley Abbey, County Tipperary

Kilcooley Abbey is a Cistercian abbey situated close to the village of Gortnahoe in Tipperary, Ireland. The now derelict abbey is located within the grounds of the Kilcooley Estate, the main house of which is privately owned and occupied, though the abbey itself is open to and accessible by the public.

The abbey dates from 1182 when Donal Mor O’Brien granted lands to the Cistercians, to build an abbey here. The abbey, which is a sister house to both Jerpoint Abbey and Holy Cross Abbey, is considered to be a hidden gem, not well known, tucked away as it is in this remote corner of Co. Tipperary, inside a private walled estate.

After the Reformation, Kilcooley passed into the possession of the Earl of Ormond. It was granted to the English-born judge Sir Jerome Alexander in the 1630s and through his daughter, Elizabeth, it passed by marriage to the Barker baronets of Bocking Hall, the last of whom died in 1818.

The Cloisters of the abbey are long gone with only one column still remaining. The path of the cloisters though still remains with a pebbled walkway around the grass square.

The main part of the abbey consists of the Entrance Chamber, the Church, the Tower and the Sacristy. The Entrance Chamber has a well carved baptismal font on its south wall. The nave of the church is still roofed, but the rest of it is out in the open. The church has two large carved windows on its east and west side. The chancel contains two stone tombs and a stone altar.

One of these tombs is that of the knight Piers Fitz Oge Butler. His tomb records his death as taking place in 1526 and has some carvings of 10 apostles on the side of it carved by Rory O Tunney, who is also noted for his work in Jerpoint Abbey.

On top of the Butler tomb there is the effigy of a knight with a dog curled up at his feet.

The Sacristy is entered through a carved archway that has many carvings, such as a scene depicting the crucifixion and a mermaid holding a mirror, which was meant to depict vanity. Roger Stalley suspects this screen wall may represent the entrance to a private Butler chapel, as two Butler shields are depicted. The east end of the nave is notable, because seats for the officiating clergy have been carved into the crossing piers.

Outside the abbey there is also a beehive shaped ruin. It is not known whether this was used as a Columbarium to store ashes or a dove-cote for pigeons. But most probably it was a dove-cote since there is a 3-foot (0.91 m) wide hole in the ceiling from which they would have entered and left. Also outside the abbey is the Infirmary which is still in a fairly good condition although access to the roof of it is blocked.

Beside the Cloisters the Parlour and Chapter House are still there. Also the Calefactory (Warming room) still remains but without a roof. And on the south side of the Cloisters the Monks Dining Hall still stands. Although the dining hall has no roof, it still has a spiral staircase, but this has been barred up along with all the second floor rooms such as the Monks Dorms and the Main Tower, the Parlour, Chapter House, and Calefactory.

Much of the abbey however is open and accessible and well worth a visit.

Amazing Places in Ireland – Kilfane Church, County Kilkenny

The main feature of this lovely ruined 14th Century church is is the Cantwell Fada, an effigy of a knight built in the 1320s/30s, but during our visit we were pleasantly surprised by a real treasure-trove of interesting and well-preserved features.

Three original doorways in the north and south walls headed by ogee stones, remains of an altar, piscina, book rest and multiple recesses all grace the interior walls.

Carved from a single slab of limestone standing against the North wall, the Cantwell Fada (long man) is famous for its intricate detail, historical relevance, and at over two metres in height, the tallest such effigy in Ireland and Britain. With legs crossed (possibly signifying that he had been on the Crusades), wearing a fine suit of chain mail, spurs and accompanied by sword and shield bearing the arms of the Cantwell family, it is believed that the figure represents Thomas de Cantwell who died in 1320. The effigy is beautifully carved, well preserved and definitely worth the trip to this wonderful church.

A 13th century sedilia near the altar is believed to have come from an earlier church at the site. In addition, the church has an adjoining original 3-storey fortified presbytery and bell tower which is definitely worth exploring.

Amazing Places in Ireland – Glendalough, Co Wicklow

Glendalough is a place I much enjoyed visiting and a place I’d highly recommend to any visitor to Ireland. Close enough for a day-trip from Dublin or Kilkenny, it’s peaceful, beautiful and family friendly. Perfect for a day out in some of Ireland’s most beautiful countryside.

With its ancient graveyard,  beautiful lakes, peaceful forest and abundant wildlife, Glendalough has a lot to offer in terms of history, monuments, archaeology, architecture, landscapes, geology, parks, flora, fauna, wildlife habitats and mining history. The valley is also home to one of Ireland’s most impressive monastic sites, founded by St. Kevin in the 6th Century.

If you enjoy walking in beautiful natural settings or forests, Glendalough is a must! We spent some time wandering around the well kept footpaths, through the forest and along the edge of the lake, where I was delighted to meet this curious, fairly tame, deer, that came out of the trees to say “hello”.

For fanciers of ancient grave sites and history, there are some amazing old tombstones dating back centuries and incredible old ruins. I personally found it a little upsetting that some of the footpaths around the grave site went right over graves though. Care should be taken when wandering around the area.

Glendalough is accessible year-round and entrance to walkways, lakes and sites free of charge. We found parking hard to find, due the high number of cars already there when we arrived, so plan your visit to arrive early if possible.

There are a number of restaurants and cafes in the region that offers lunch and if you fancy staying a night, accommodation is offered in B&B’s, hotels etc in the region. For more info on these, visit http://www.glendalough.ie

Amazing Places in Ireland – Ballykeeffe Amphitheatre, Co Kilkenny

What do you do with an abandoned limestone quarry near the Tipperary border at Ballykeeffe, Co Kilkenny?

Abandoned by Kilkenny County Council as a source of road-making materials, the quarry became a dump for old cars, furniture and other rubbish, while becoming a repository for beet being supplied to Thurles sugar factory. Rock climbers saw the potential for sports on the quarry’s rugged edge in time and the quarry soon attracted rock climbers from all over Ireland.  In 1999 the Mountaineering Council of Ireland adopted a policy of accepting bolted protection in quarries where traditional climbing had not previously taken place and Ballykeeffe quarry became a sports-climbing venue and the only area with full bolted protection in Ireland.

The sudden interest and visitors to the quarry caught the attention of the locals, who soon realized the potential of the quarry and it’s spectacular setting. The end of the last century plans were unveiled by KBK, the local enterprise group, to turn the quarry into an entertainment venue. The rubbish, beet and cars were removed as a Millennium project and Ballykeeffe Amphitheatre was born.

In 2011, the original makeshift stage was replaced with an innovatively designed, outdoor stage costing €100,000 – the first of its kind in Ireland. The venue now has no difficulty attracting quality Irish and overseas acts, while still playing host to rick climbing enthusiasts and for the less adventurous, offers walks in the attached nature reserve. It certainly is worth a visit for the spectacular views alone!

For more information, as well as scheduled acts and performances in the amphitheatre, visit http://ballykeeffeamphitheatre.com