| Ire­land

Porthole Cruise Magazine - - History Repeated -

NEXT STOP WAS IRE­LAND, WHICH HAS an­cient hstory galore, along with some com­pelling, more modern his­toric sites worth vis­it­ing. For an­cient his­tory, we chose a tour to the vil­lage of Glen­dalough, about an hour out­side of Dublin, for its ex­tra­or­di­nary stone ru­ins. Founded in the 6th cen­tury, Glen­dalough thrived as a monas­tic set­tle­ment for many cen­turies, dur­ing the time when Ire­land was known as the is­land of saints and schol­ars. To­day, the site in­cludes a 100-foot-tall round tower and sev­eral churches, most dat­ing to be­tween the 10th and 12th cen­turies. It’s easy to see why this was cho­sen as a spot for spir­i­tual en­deav­ors. Even to­day, the place is large enough that tourists don’t over­whelm, and a visit can be peace­ful. The stun­ning nat­u­ral set­ting — with lakes and forests, moun­tain paths, and wild­flower-dot­ted pas­tures — makes it a walker’s par­adise.

Back in Dublin, we spent time ex­plor­ing more modern his­tory. Ire­land’s long bat­tle for in­de­pen­dence from Great Bri­tain was re­newed in 1916 with the Easter Ris­ing, which still echoes to­day in a di­vided Ire­land. You can see key bat­tle­grounds with a walk through Dublin.

We knew stately Trin­ity Col­lege as Ire­land’s pre­mier univer­sity and the keeper of the famed me­dieval manuscript the Book of Kells. But dur­ing the 1916 re­bel­lion, the col­lege’s sturdy ring of grey stone build­ings also served as a field hos­pi­tal and stag­ing area for the fi­nal Bri­tish as­sault on the rebels.

It was at Dublin’s Gen­eral Post Of­fice on Easter Mon­day 1916 that rebel leader Pa­trick Pearse read the procla­ma­tion of Ir­ish in­de­pen­dence, and then held out for a week against over­whelm­ing Bri­tish fire­power that left the build­ing a black­ened shell, so dam­aged that it took 13 years to re­store and re­open. To­day, it’s a bustling, or­nate post of­fice with a small mu­seum ad­ja­cent.

Many of the rebel lead­ers met their end a cou­ple of miles to the west in an­other bricks-and­mor­tar text­book of Ir­ish his­tory, Kil­main­ham Gaol, where 14 rebel lead­ers were ex­e­cuted by fir­ing squad in the aus­tere, high-walled Stone­break­ers Yard. The jail was closed in 1924 but was re­opened as a his­toric site in 1966 by Éa­monde Valera, the Ir­ish pres­i­dent who, as a rebel leader, had been im­pris­oned there.

Fur­ther north, in Belfast, re­cent tragedy-filled his­tory is on dis­play where bar­ri­cades were first erected dur­ing sec­tar­ian vi­o­lence in the 1960s. Now, vis­i­tors flock to the brightly graf­fi­tied place known as the peace wall that sep­a­rates Protes­tant and Catholic neigh­bor­hoods, sym­bol­iz­ing cen­turies of con­flict.

But Belfast’s most spec­tac­u­lar tourist draw of re­cent years is the Ti­tanic Belfast mu­seum, opened in 2012 in the cen­ten­nial year of the ill-fated ocean liner’s first and last voy­age. The mu­seum is a tour de force of his­tor­i­cal sto­ry­telling, start­ing with its ex­te­rior de­sign — built to re­sem­ble the prow of the ship, at a height ex­actly the same as Ti­tanic’s prow. In­side, ex­hibits tell the story of the ship’s con­struc­tion — which took place only a few steps from the mu­seum site — as well as its sink­ing and the heart­break­ing af­ter­math. One high­light is a fun­house-style ride that car­ries vis­i­tors through a re-cre­ation of the harsh, ca­cophonous world of a ship­yard in the early 20th cen­tury.

Clock­wise from top: The monas­tic vil­lage of Glen­dalough, Gen­eral Post Of­fice, Kil­main­ham Gaol, the Trin­ity Col­lege li­brary; Cen­ter: Ti­tanic Belfast mu­seum

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