Castles loom over golden vales, Viking cities give up exquisite vestments and the Titanic's last port of call remembers its past. In Ireland's Ancient East, history is never far away. In the southern area, through counties Tipperary, Waterford, Cork and Limerick, you can travel through valleys and over mountains. You'll hear the tales of desperate emigrants who left the seaside town of Cobh for new worlds, you'll wander through medieval castles perched on hilltops and chase down 12 th century dog collars in Waterford.
This is Ireland’s Ancient East… and it’s time to wander through 5,000 years of history.
Sitting on a 300ft rock said to have been discarded by the devil no less, the Rock of Cashel doesn’t just loom over Tipperary’s Golden Vale – it looms over Ireland’s history, too.
Viewed from afar, the Rock of Cashel is a captivating sight, a freak and solitary lump of limestone, reflecting the light in diverse ways throughout the day.
Rock of Cashel
A 12th century round tower, 13th century Gothic cathedral, a 15th century castle, a high cross, and, at the centre of all this splendour, something delicate and very precious... 800-year-old frescoes on the walls of Cormac's Chapel, depicting golden-haired saints clad in reds and sapphire blues, with their heads devoutly bowed in prayer.
In this place, you’ll come face to face with tales of high kings and patron saints (St Patrick is said to have baptised King Aengus by accidentally skewering the royal foot with a crozier), miraculous crosses and brutal military massacres. A sacred space, a medieval masterpiece and an enduring icon: this is no ordinary ‘rock’.
The pretty port town of Cobh is inextricably bound to the sea. Walk through its steep streets and you’ll be walking in the footsteps of those who sailed from here as emigrants or prisoners. The town echoes with names such as Titanic and Lusitania – legends of maritime history that left an indelible impression here.
…a charming hill town on a glistening estuary, speckled with brightly coloured houses and overlooked by a splendid cathedral.
Stand beside Annie Moore’s waterfront statue, it’s impossible not to be affected by this 17-year-old Irish girl’s experience. The first person to be processed at the Ellis Island immigration centre, Moore, and her two younger brothers, arrived in New York after 12 days in the shocking conditions of steerage. Her story and more are told in the
Cobh Heritage Centre.
It was off this coast that RMS Lusitania was sunk by a German U-boat in 1915, and Cobh will forever be remembered as the last port of call for the Titanic before she departed on her fateful Atlantic voyage. You can find out more about the liner’s story at the
Titanic Experience Cobh, situated in the original White Star Line Offices.
Just how did Waterford’s Cloth of Gold vestments survive? How exactly did these exquisite garments of Italian silk and Belgian embroidery, regarded as one of the greatest treasures of medieval Europe, endure the ferocious religious wars of the 17 th-century? Simple: they were buried under Waterford city. Unearthed 123 years later, they hang today in Waterford’s Medieval Museums.
This is an excellent example of a modern museum. The highlight in my opinion is the mayor's wine vault at the lowest level.
Founded by the Norsemen in the late 9th century, Waterford is one of Ireland's oldest cities and you can delve into its intriguing history in Waterford Treasures, a trio of museums in the city's Viking Triangle. Start with the Vikings in the stone fortress of
Reginald’s Tower, before moving on to the Medieval Museum and finish up in the elegant Bishop’s Palace.
Peppered with curiosities, these museums boast unique displays including the oldest piece of Waterford glass in the world, a relic of the Holy cross, and a rare, 12
th century woven dog collar. No, really…