Wednesday 1 March 2017

Storytelling Trails in Ireland’s Ancient East

The English Market, Co. Cork
The English Market, Co. Cork

Ireland is a nation of storytellers and this tradition is being kept alive in the most novel of ways across Ireland’s Ancient East, which is packed with remarkable tales for you to discover.

Ireland’s Ancient East a touring region  spanning 17 counties and celebrating 5,000 years of history and heritage across some of Ireland’s most lush, green landscapes. The spotlight is now firmly on the region which is also garnering attention for excellent restaurants and accommodation, food tours, festivals, distilleries and breweries. 

From the Smithwick’s Experience in Kilkenny to Cork’s English Market, Tullamore D.E.W. in Offaly to foraging and hiking on the Blackstairs Eco Trails, the area has a rich bounty from the coastlines to the countryside. 

Tailored itineraries have been crafted across the region with themes ranging from pilgrim’s trails to Titanic tales which are brought to life by the best storytellers in the world.

Storytelling is at the heart of it all, and here are just some of the great Storytelling Trails in Ireland’s Ancient East to whet your appetite:

1. Float Through Time in the Boyne Valley

Trim Castle, Co. Meath
Trim Castle, Co. Meath

A storytelling river tour from Boyne Valley Activities in County Meath offers the chance for visitors to marvel at Medieval Trim while paddling on rafts and experiencing the very best of Ireland’s eco tourism.  The tour floats through time bringing to life stories of the largest Norman castle in Europe to the oldest unaltered bridge in Ireland.

This is a tour with a difference as the guides immerse the participants in the story and show them what it was like for ancestors sailing across Europe and Asia, as they pushed their way up the Boyne, experiencing battles that changed history and seeing the abbeys and castles constructed by the ‘rock stars’ of medieval Ireland.

2. Hear Ireland’s Only Town Crier

The town of Youghal in Co. Cork is another great location for a Storytelling Trail in Ireland’s Ancient East.  Though its name derives from ‘Eochaill’ meaning Yew Wood in Irish, this is very much an Anglo-Norman town. A walking tour through the town and following the 13th century walls, which are among the best preserved on the island, reveal astonishing stories of its past. The tour will also take in the base town which is a 15th century extension and finish at Youghal’s best known landmark – the Clock Gate Tower. 

Youghal Clock Tower Co. Cork
Youghal Clock Tower Co. Cork

The most famous name associated with the seaside resort of Youghal is Sir Walter Raleigh who became Mayor of the town after helping to suppress a rebellion and the storytellers will reveal how Ireland’s first potatoes were said to have been planted here.  Youghal is also home to Ireland’s only Town Crier who greets visitors to her streets every day.

3. The Big House Story

Castle Leslie, Co. Monaghan
Castle Leslie, Co. Monaghan

Glaslough Village is a picturesque, magical village on the outskirts of Castle Leslie Estate in north Co. Monaghan.  Visitors will hear stories of the past and present and how the name comes from the Irish translation of ‘calm or green lake’. 

There are a multitude of stories to be told in this unspoilt village which boasts many historical and architectural features and is surrounded by ancient woodlands and glittering lakes. Castle Leslie is at the centrepoint of many of the tales. Set on 1,000 acres, the Leslie family arrived in Ireland in the 16th century and stories of ghosts, WB Yeats and more will keep everybody entertained.

Storytelling at Jepoint Park, Co. Kilkenny
Storytelling at Jepoint Park, Co. Kilkenny

4. Jerpoint – The Story of the Lost Town

Jerpoint Park at Thomastown, Co. Kilkenny hosts a monument of national importance in Ireland – the Lost Town of Newtown Jerpoint.  There are guided heritage tours of this extraordinary and unique deserted town. Founded in the 12th century, it was once a vibrant town with approximately 27 dwelling houses, a court house, woolen mill, tannery, brewery and was said to have had 14 taverns. 

The site contains the Tomb Effigy of St. Nicholas, Bishop of Myra. Many Christian churches and countries still observe December 6th his feast day with celebrations, processions, services and gift giving.

5. Laois Heritage Trail

The county of  Laois is not always given the focus it deserves but it has a wealth of churches, abbeys and monasteries to explore. Now part of Ireland’s Ancient East, its treasures are being rediscovered, including the stories and history of locations such as Timahoe Round Tower. This stunning carved example of 12th century stonework is one of the most elegant round towers in Ireland. 

Timahoe Church and Round Tower
Timahoe Church and Round Tower

The tower was built on the site of a religious community founded by Saint Mochua, a 7th century warrior who converted to Christianity around 600 AD. For those that want to further explore the Heritage Trails of County Laois, which is at the Heart of Ireland’s Ancient East, there is also a free app now available.


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