Irish Gap Year Student Organised Trip

We’re sad to say our time with the Irish Gap Year Students of 2016 is coming to an end. Their final assignment was to organise a major four day trip. The Irish Gap Year Student Organised Trip!! What an adventure! On the road, excited and with a full itinerary the gappers got going, Kilkenny the first destination. Although not without a number of stops on the way.

Loughcrew Cairns

img_0935First stop Loughcrew Cairns. In a landscape of inspiring beauty and intriguing history, the cairns at Loughcrew form the largest complex of passage graves in Ireland, much older than the better known Newgrange.
The Cairns are megalithic structures, originally built about 4000 bc as burial chambers. The cairns are in two groups; Carnbane West, about 15 cairns, including Cairn L which is roofed and contains superb symbolic carvings in good condition. This group is some 2km walk from the Car Park on gently sloping ground. Carnbane East includes Cairn T,also roofed and with excellent engravings, and is a shorter but steeper walk. img_0951Whilst there, our students continued their new ‘tradition’ of music album poses!!
Next, Kells….just for our own Liam Kells! Although the stop was short lived and for photo opp purposes only…;)

Kilkenny Castle

img_1060img_1077What a tour, such an amazing castle and the guided tour took the gappers around every nook and cranny of the castle. Kilkenny Castle (Irish: Caisleán Chill Chainnigh) is a castle in Kilkenny, built in 1195 to control a fording-point of the River Noreimg_1024It was a symbol of Norman occupation and in its original thirteenth-century condition it would have formed an important element of the defences of the town. The property was transferred to the people of Kilkenny in 1967 for £50.
Following a long day of sightseeing Italian Connection was a great way to end the Kilkenny trip. Full of good food and ready for a good night’s sleep. Next up Cork…..
img_1090En route to Cork the gappers stopped off in a little town north of Cork, Kilworth, for a reflection hike and a little ‘Lord of the Rings’ role play!!!

Blackrock Castle

First up in Cork was Blackrock Castle. It’s a castellated fortification located at Blackrock, img_1116about 2 km from the centre of Cork city on the banks of the River Lee. Originally developed as a coastal defence fortification in the 16th century to
protect upper Cork Harbour and port, the site now houses an observatory, visitor centre and restaurantimg_1129.

Fota Island

Fota Wildlife Park, part of the Zoological Society of Ireland, is located on 100 acres at Fota Island 10km east of Cork. The Island was the private home of the Smith-Barry family for nearly 800 years until the estate was sold to University College Cork (UCC) in 1975. Family members were descendants of Philip de Barry, who arrived in Ireland from Wales as part of the Norman invasion (1160s-1170s). The estate was sold to UCC following the death of the last of the Smith-Barrys. Fota House is now managed by the Irish Heritage Trust, while the gardens and arboretum are under the joint care of the Trust and Office of Public Works (OPW). All of this history was not lost on our gappers as they continue to visit such amazing cultural sites in Ireland.

cork-marketChristmas Market

The Glow Festival Christmas market had plenty of food and stalls to get the gappers in the festive spirit. With an amazing ferris wheel towering above the city the gappers couldn’t help but take a ride.

Rock of Dunamase

img_1197The final day of the trip took the gappers through Portlaoise to visit the historic Rock of Dunamase. Spectacular views of the surrounding countryside make the towering Rock of Dunamase a strategic place to build a fortress. Through the centuries, warriors have fought to control this site. It was the location of an early Christian settlement known as Dun Masc and later became an important Anglo Norman fortification.
img_1143The Vikings pillaged the settlement in 842. Later in the 12th century, when the Normans arrived in Ireland, Dunamase became one of the most important Anglo-Norman strongholds in Laois. It was part of the dowry of Aoife, the daughter of Diarmuid Mac Murrough, King of Leinster, when she was given in marriage to the Norman conqueror Strongbow in 1170. When Isabel, the daughter of Strongbow and Aoife, wed William Marshal, Earl of Pembroke, Dunamase was given as part of her marriage’s wedding gift.
Irish Gap Year Final TripFrom 1325 until 1609, the castle belonged to the O’Moore family of Laois, before ownership passed to the Earl of Thomond. It was finally destroyed, during the Cromwellian invasion in 1650. Despite the castle’s ruined state, visitors can get a sense of its former grandiosity and also have the opportunity to take in stunning views of the surrounding countryside.
Another long, but amazing trip. We will be sad to see our gappers leave.
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