Both sides of my family have their roots in Ireland so my excitement about setting foot on the island was overwhelming. My sister Becky and her family joined me on this adventure which took place on the Crown Princess during a British Isles Cruise in June, 2010.
As we pulled into the port of Cobh Ireland (pronounced cove) in county Cork it was cloudy and rather dark but the green trees and spires of churches could still be seen. The picture of gloom I saw from the ship foreshadowed some of the things I was going to visit in Cobh.
In the morning I went into the city of Cobh and checked out the exhibit there having to do with the ‘Death Ships’. It was a heart wrenching description of the ships that carried the starving emigrants to North America during the potato famine. The exhibit had reproductions, drawings and pictures along with vocal descriptions of that horrible time in Irish History. On April 11, 1912, Cobh (or Queenstown as it was named then) was the final port of call for the ship RMS Titanic before she took her ill fated maiden voyage across the Atlantic. Cobh was also the place where 700 survivors of the sunken passenger liner RMS Lusitania were taken on May 7, 1915. So the beautiful port city has a very disturbing past.
After lunch I went on an excursion into Kinsale, Ireland. It was a wonderful drive through the beautiful country with myriad shades of green. Kinsale, also in County Cork, was a quaint village with colourful buildings and really sweet people. I did a lot of walking around the city with its air of antiquity, checking out the beautiful water fountains, statues and narrow winding streets. I was in the hopes that all of the walking would perhaps eradicate some of the calories I was consuming by eating the delicious desserts on the ship. Just walking along the interesting streets I got such a peaceful, contented feeling because the joy in the environment could be felt. I loved that village and hope to return.
I had to get up the next morning at 6:00 AM, which I hated, so I could be on the pier at 8:00 AM for a tour of Dublin. This was a fascinating city dating back to 400 AD and the Celts. The Greek cartographer Ptolemy referred to human habitation in the area we now call Dublin around 140 AD. The tour took us to Trinity College where we walked around and got to see the Book of Kells, a hand written Bible in Gaelic from 500 AD; it was wild to see this even though I couldn’t read it. Dublin is the capital of Ireland so it was much bigger and a bit more hectic then the villages we visited earlier, but it was a fun city. I found this darling chocolate café that I had to check out.
A couple of days later we arrived in Northern Ireland. I had my fears about going into Belfast, Northern Ireland but we were assured that the trouble was over. It’s very interesting how they called the battles, bombings and killings that took place in Northern Ireland for close to thirty years ‘The Troubles’. I went on a narrated city drive and got to see the dramatic murals painted on walls and fences, the Northern Ireland Parliament, the Opera house and some beautiful Victorian and Edwardian buildings; it seemed that Queen Victoria loved Belfast. I was dropped off at the Belfast city center and did some walking around and exploring on my own. I bought a cute coffee mug and a calendar.
The site of Belfast has been occupied since the Bronze Age. There is still a 5,000 year old henge near the city. It was a fascinating city.
Then we got to Inverness and Loch Ness, in Scotland. It is a beautiful lake but we were very disappointed when we didn’t see the Loch Ness Monster. We did get to see Cawdor Castle, which Shakespeare talks about in ‘Macbeth’ and the ruins of Urquhart castle. We stopped at a souvenir shop on the way back to the ship and I bought a tee-shirt. As I was leaving I saw this darling coffee mug that was a kilt with legs sticking out the bottom, but the queue to buy things was so long I knew I didn’t have time to get it.
On July 2nd we docked at Edinburgh (South Queensferry), Scotland. I took the Edinburgh Castle with City Drive excursion along with Becky, John & Kelli. We drove by Holyrood Palace, the official residence to the Queen when she visits, which is beautiful. The tour group walked up the Royal Mile to Edinburgh Castle but I stayed on Princes Street because the walk to the Castle was too treacherous for me. I told my family to look for the kilt mug and get one if they saw it. I walked around the city, talking to people and found a mug, which I bought. Of course my family found one too and got it for me, but I’d rather have two than none. So I now have a red one and a blue one. They also told me that I never would have made it up the steep hills and numerous steps to the castle.
This was a vacation that I will never forget. The rolling hills and stark cliffs jutting out over the ocean were awe inspiring and beautifully breathtaking. I hope to return to Ireland in the future and be able to spend a couple of weeks enjoying the atmosphere.