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Cliffs of Moher

These famous cliffs (photo at right) on Ireland's rugged west coast stretch for 5 miles, with a height of 700 feet. It is home to thousands of nesting seabirds. In the past, locals would use rope to descend the sheer face to gather the birds' eggs for food.

The Burren

The name Burren, an area in County Clare, comes from the Irish word for "stony place." This rocky area (photo above) has the appearance of an eerie barren lunar landscape, yet between the cracks in the limestone rocks unique combinations of Arctic and Mediterranean vegetation flourish.

Located in the Burren is Poulnabrone (photo at right), an ancient Dolmen estimated to be 6,000 years old. Dolmens are man-made rock formations, thought to be Celtic burial markers.

Aran Islands

Off the Galway coastline in the Atlantic, these islands are a ridge of limestone rock. The inhabitants remain Irish-speaking and make their living on fishing and tourism. In order to cultivate the stony land, layers of sand, seaweed and soil are piled over the bare rock to make fields for growing potatoes.

The Arans are most famous for their wool sweaters, hand-knit in a variety of intricate patterns.


Blarney Castle

This castle (photo at right) in County Cork was built by the King of Munster in 1446. It stands 83 feet high, and its walls are 18 feet thick. The castle stands on splendid grounds, and it has become Ireland's most famous tourist spot: "3It is said that anyone who kisses the Blarney stone receives the gift of gab."


The stone is 4 feet long by 1 foot wide and 9 inches deep. It's placed in an odd spot, at the top under the battlements (circled at right). There are many legends connected to it, but the most interesting one is about a witch.

The tale tells of the King of Munster saving a witch from drowning. In return, she promised that if he kissed the stone, he would have the ability of persuasive speech and his subjects would obey his every command.

The kiss

It takes some skill and a little help from a friend to reach the Blarney stone (photo at left). You have to lie down, lean backward over a protected 80-foot drop and grab the two small railings with someone holding you at the waist. It's a strange experience, but don't worry: the stone is scrubbed with disinfectant four times a day.


Dunluce Castle

Dramatically situated on the northern cliffs of the island in County Antrim, Dunluce Castle (photo above) is now a ruin. Underneath the castle is a hidden cave that gives boats a safe entrance from the sea.

This castle has seen its share of tragedy. In 1588, the Spanish Armada galleon Girona sank in front of its rocky coastline. Then in 1639, the kitchen fell into the sea during the preparation of a lavish banquet; seven servants perished along with all the pots and pans.

Legend of a giant

Giant's Causeway (photo at left) is one of the wonders of the natural world. Located on the same coastline as Dunluce Castle, it is a must-see for tourists.

Its formation started 60-million years ago when underground volcanic explosions brought molten basalt to the surface, forming polygonal columns. There are 40,000 in all, the tallest reaching 40 feet.

To ancient inhabitants, this geographical freak clearly must have been built by a giant, specifically the legendary Finn MacCool, warrior and commander of the King of Ireland's armies.

Legend says that he fell in love with a giantess from the Scottish Island of Staffa and built a highway 15 miles through the sea to bring her across. She did not return his love, so in a fit of rage, he smashed the road, leaving only the formations on Northern Ireland and Staffa.



County Wicklow (photo at left) is known as the Garden of Ireland with its variety of mountains, hill-pastures, forests, lakes and waterfalls. Set in this lovely scenery is Glendalough (photo at bottom), a monastic settlement built by St. Kevin in the 6th century. For eight centuries it was a flourishing center of knowledge and learning.

The main buildings include a church and a round tower, which is surrounded by an ancient cemetery. Settlers built the door to the 100-foot tower near the top to protect them from the ever-intruding Vikings. The ladder used to get to this door could be pulled inside if the enemy was near.

Dublin' fair city

Dublin, the capital and largest city of Ireland, was founded by the Vikings more than 1,000 years ago. The settlers noticed the rivers were tainted by the color of the bog fields, thus giving the name Dublin or dubh linn Irish for "black water."

One-third of Ireland's population lives in Dublin. Grafton Street is a popular shopping area and Trinity College houses precious amounts of Irish history, including the 8th-century Books of Kells. These decorated manuscripts of the four gospels remain a symbol of ancient artistic tradition created by the monks.


St. Patrick

Patrick, patron Saint of Ireland, was born a Roman Britain during the 5th century. In his youth, he was captured and brought to Ireland as a slave. For six years he tended his master's sheep, during which he taught himself to pray. Eventually he escaped, stowing away on a shipbound for France.

Fifteen years later, Patrick received a message in a dream to return to pagan Ireland as a Catholic missionary. On his return he was successful in converting the island to Christianity.

No snakes

According to a popular legend, St. Patrick drove all the snakes out of Ireland except one. He enticed it into a box with an offer of wine saying, "I promise to let you out in the morrow." Once the snake was in the box, however, Patrick threw it into a lake. To this day, children say, if you listen hard enough, you might hear a faint voice calling out, "Is it the morrow yet"

Another possibility, if you can believe this one, is that various Ice Ages made these reptiles extinct.


The green three-leaf Shamrock is the national flower of Ireland. St.Patrick used it to explain the Catholic belief of the Blessed Trinity: three persons in one God; Father, Son and Holy Spirit.


Little compares to the beauty and mystery of Irish folk music and dance. They are as popular today as they were in days gone by.


Many tunes have survived for generations, and some have evolved into new songs. Here's a look at a few traditional instruments and the names of some artists who carry on the folk tradition today (U2, the Cranberries and American songs such as When Irish Eyes are Smiling, do not fall into this category):


The Celtic harp is the national symbol of Ireland, and it can be seen on the tail side of the country's coins. It was popular with the old Irish poets who were known for their combination of music and verse.


This percussion instrument (pronounced BAW-ron) is a hand held drum made from goat skin, stretched over a beechwood frame. A bone was originally used for a drumstick, which is rolled, not beaten, over the surface to give a haunting tone.

Other instruments

The Uillean pipes or "elbow pipes," are operated not with the mouth, but with the arm, emitting a lonely eerie wail. Other instruments include accordion, flute, tin whistle, guitar and fiddle.


Immigrants brought step dancing (solo) and Ceili dancing (group) to Canada and America and established "roots" for tap dance and clogging. Today Irish dance is featured in major productions such as the Grammy Award-winning Riverdance and Lord of the Dance.

If you are interest in either step or Ceili dancing you can contact Jack Duffy with the Butler School of Irish Dance at 882-0741.

Check out these artists:


Mary Black

Luka Bloom



Seamus Egan

Loreena McKennitt

Christy Moore

The Pogues

WMNF-FM 88.5, Music of the Isles, Thursdays, 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

The Provinces

The island is divided into four provinces: Connacht, Leinster, Munster and Ulster, locally referred to as the Four Green Fields.

The North

Nine counties make up the province of Ulster, three within the Republic and the other six comprise Northern Ireland.

The Republic won independence in 1922, yet the North stayed part ofthe United Kingdom. A campaign of violence from rebel forces continues today over this border dispute.

The Claddagh

This image depicting hands holding a crowned heart comes from the legendary Claddagh Ring of County Galway. Wear this ring on your right hand with the heart facing outward and the world will know your heart has not yet been won. Worn on your left hand with the heart turnedinward, it means your heart is taken.

Heart = love

Hands = frienship

Crown = loyalty

Quick facts

Land area: 102,025 square miles, slightly smaller than Colorado

Population: 5-million, 46% under age 25

Language: English and Irish (Gaelic)

Religion: Catholic and Protestant

Climate: Mild with an average rainfall off 200 days per year; snow is rare


Irish is a celtic language, also referred to as Gaelic or Gaelige. It is the offical language of the Republic, yet English is the most popular. Irish is taught as a compulsary subject in school and must be placed before English on all official documents.

Learn to count

Number Irish Pronunciation

1 ah-aon (a hayn)

2 a do' (a doe)

3 a tri' (a tree)

4 a ceathair (a KEH-ar)

5 a cuig' (a KOO-ig)

6 a se' (a shay)

7 a seacht (a shockht)

8 ah-ocht (a huckht)

9 a naoi (a nee)

10 a deich (a jeh)

Road signs

One popular image of rural Ireland is the signpost at the crossroads. In the Republic, signs are written in both Irish and English.

If you were wondering, drivers do drive on the left side of the road.

Irish English Kilometers


Try these:

Ireland: Eire (AIR-uh)

Hello: Dia dhuit (JEE-ah gwitch)

Health: Slainte (slan-CHe)

John: Sean (shawn)

Julia: Sile (SHEE-luh)

Fairy: Soig (SHEE-ogue)

Farewell: Slan leat (Slawn laht)

Text, photos, design and illustration by Times artist Teresanne Cossetta (for Mom)