Ireland The Beautiful

By Dr. Anton Anderssen, ETN Special Correspondent and Ambassador Journalist.

There’s nothing more beautiful than enjoying a bright spring day in Ireland. I love to take quick flights over to Shannon whenever RyanAir is running one of their famous one cent sales. For the traveler who loves Gaelic culture and tradition, western Ireland is the place to visit.

They still broadcast radio in Gaelic in Shannon; I can’t understand the conversations, but the music is delightful to hear. Unlike Dublin, which has sought to become a world-class, modern city, Shannon remains quaint and lovely.

To begin your fairy-tale emerald escapade, take a stroll through the picture postcard village of Adare, considered the prettiest village in all of Ireland. Adare’s streets are flanked by thatched-roof cottages, Tudor style houses, magnificent gardens, and ivy-clad medieval abbeys towering above flower-strewn meadows.

The crown jewel of Adare is a palatial estate situated alongside the Maigue River. Adare Manor Hotel & Golf Resort is the ultimate luxury five star vacation destination, complete with an 18 hole championship golf course, luxurious treatment rooms, world-class dining facilities, fishing, shopping, sightseeing and a host of other estate activities guaranteed to make memories which will last a lifetime.

Desmond Castle is located on the edge of the village of Adare, erected in the early part of the 13th century. It was the seat of the Earls of Kildare for nearly 300 years until the rebellion in 1536, when it was forfeited and granted to the Earls of Desmond who gave the castle its present name. My direct ancestor, Maurice FitzGerald, Lord of Lanstephan, was the patriarch of the Earls of Desmond. Walking through Adare sent me centuries back in time to witness a strand of my Irish roots.

Bunratty Castle is a most special place to visit. Every evening, costumed singers and dancers perform while a mouthwatering banquet is served on medieval dinnerware. My direct ancestor Sir Thomas de Clare, Lord of Thomond, built the original structure on the site, and his daughter Margaret, my 22nd great grandmother, was born in the original Bunratty Castle.

Alongside Bunratty Castle is an authentic folk park, particularly popular with families, tourists and schools. On the grounds are reconstructions of historical cottages and buildings, recreating the ambiance of a 19th century village main street. Costumed interpreters work with old tools, bake bread, work handcrafts, and tell stories of life in Ireland during the olden days. We ate a most delicious lunch from the bakery, delighting in baskets of hand-churned butter and Irish soda bread. The living history park is major tourist attraction along with the castle; together they welcome thousands of people who pass through their gates annually. For more info, see http://www.shannonheritage.com/Attractions/BunrattyCastleFolkPark/FolkParkVillageStreet .

Just before the medieval banquet began, we scurried down the glen to a traditional Irish pub, called Durty Nellies. Established in 1620, this famous landmark offers the thrill of pulling the perfect pint of Guinness in a unique “Pull Your Own Pint Bar.” Legend has it that Nelly introduced Poteen (moonshine) to Ireland, and the Irish have enjoyed partying ever since. For more info, see http://durtynellys.ie .

In mid-March, churches and villages prepare to celebrate the life of Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland. It is a common misconception in America that Saint Patrick was associated with the color green. He was not; his color was blue – more specifically, “St. Patrick’s blue” – which is also the color associated with royalty in Eire. The Irish Presidential Flag is colored "St. Patrick's blue."   

Shamrock is the English pronunciation of the Irish Gaelic seamrōg, which means little clover. There is no one plant, unique to Ireland, which alone bears the name shamrock, but Parochetus communis is a popular clover variety that blooms wonderful rich blue pea-like flowers this time of year. It is a favorite of Irish ethno-botanists. In the past, it was popular to wear the flower for panache in dressy hats.

Shamrock grows everywhere in Ireland, and while in bloom, honey bees delight in its sweet nectar. Apiarists keep bees in order to collect beeswax, which is turned into luxury products. We tested beeswax lotions, salves and balms, enjoyed romantic dinners at night under the glow of beeswax candles, and tasted mead, an alcoholic beverage derived from honey. We ate honey and oats muffins, honey-baked ham, and even bathed with herbal soaps crafted from beeswax and honey.

Galway Irish Crystal has long been one of the world's best known and loved brands of traditionally crafted Irish lead crystals. Nestled in the heart of the west of Ireland, on the shores of Galway Bay, Galway Irish Crystal is steeped in the rich and diverse heritage of this unique hinterland. Unlike Waterford, which can be purchased by the masses at Costco, Galway Crystal retains its uniquely Irish prestige.

My favorite souvenir to buy in Ireland is Belleek pottery. Each piece of Belleek China is a truly original piece of Irish craftsmanship, made using materials and techniques handed down from generation to generation. No two pieces are ever the same. Every handle, flower and brush stroke is lovingly applied by hand to create the look and feel that is uniquely Belleek. Belleek’s shamrock tableware is served in the best restaurants throughout Ireland and The Continent, and when set atop fine Irish linens, an irresistible charm radiates from the dinner table.

On Saint Patrick’s Day, everyone is Irish, even if just for the day. Nothing says good times like getting together with friends and family, and celebrating the Celtic spirit. March is a great time to forget about winter and think about more optimistic things, like the luck o’ the Irish.

Follow Anton and Marco as they travel the world, by joining them at http://www.facebook.com/teddybears .

Éire

Éirinn Go Brách [To] Ireland forever

The Scotti were an Irish tribe who became known to the Romans from the later 3rd century AD.

However, the celtic tribes of Scotland, together known as the 'Picti' (painted people) remained the dominant culture in what is today Scotland until the 9th century. The Irish Scots, under our great king Fergus, eventially settled permanantly and formed the Scottish kingdom of Dalriada, in what is now western Scotland, from the 6th century AD, and for several centuries, competed with the Picts for dominance.

It used to be thought that the Picts were somehow 'pre-celtic' but this idea is now invalid. The Picts were just as celtic as the Scots, they just formed a unique branch with their own distinctive culture.

However, from Kenneth McAlpine (Anton's 33rd Great Grandfather) and onward (860s AD) the Scots gained dominance over the Picts, and over the next couple of generations Pictish culture disappeared, replaced by Scottish culture. By 900 AD this process was largely complete.

From Kenneth McAlpin onwards, the Scottish-controlled dominion was still refered to as 'the kingdom of the Scots and Picts'. However, by the time of King Domnall mac Causantín (Anton's 31st Great Grandfather) who reigned from 890 to 900 AD, this title vanished and was replaced by 'Kingdom of Alba' or in Latin 'Regia Scottorum'- 'The Kingdom of Scotland'.

Its seems that in around 50 years, Pictish culture vanished, replaced by the Scottish.

However, this might lead people to believe that this was some kind of genocide. The majority of Scots were former Picts. Its was just that Scottish culture replaced Pictish culture, not an actual physical replacement.

It is remarkable how quickly this cultural assimilation took place. Scholars are amazed how complete it was. To this day, we know nothing of what the enigmatic Pictish symbolic script found on Pictish stones actually means. The "Picti" (or "Pretani" or "Priteni") apparently spoke some form of Brittonic (which at the time was apparently not much different from Gaulish), and are likely to have also spoken a pre-Celtic, non-Indo-European language like Basque.

There were Scots in Alba during at least part of the Roman occupation of Britannia. The "Senchus Fer n-Alban" records reveal that the Dál Riata (aka "Scotti") had been colonising western Alba for 10 generations before Fergus Mór mac Eirc (or "mac Erca," aka "mac Nisse") and his brothers established their dynasty in Scotland circa 500 AD.

According to folklore, Anton's 48th Great Grandfather is the Irish King Niall Noígíallach. According to later tradition, during one of his many raids on Britain, Niall captured the future Saint Patrick and brought him in bondage to Ireland. Many years later Patrick succeeded in escaping to Britain, but he eventually returned to Ireland and played an important early role in the conversion of the Irish to Christianity.