In the early 1800s, thousands of ordinary people were imprisoned at Kilmainham Gaol not only for serious crimes such as murder or rape, but even for cattle stealing and other minor crimes: a fourteen-year-old boy was convicted for seven days for stealing two loaves of bread.
This jail (now a museum), located in Dublin, is famous because of its link with the history of Irish nationalism: the majority of the Irish leaders in the rebellions from 1798 to 1916, prisoners during the Anglo-Irish War (1919-1921), and anti-treaty forces during the civil war were detained there.
In May 1916, during the Easter Rising, fourteen men were sentenced to death and shot by firing squads in the Stonebreakers’ Yard of Kilmainham Gaol. Seven of them had been the signatories of the Proclamation of the Irish Republic that was posted on Easter Monday on the walls around Dublin and read on Sackville Street (now known as O’Connell Street, renamed in honor of the nationalist leader Daniel O’Connell ) by Patrick Pearse. These were Thomas Clarke, Seán Mac Diarmada, Thomas MacDonagh, Patrick Pearse, Éamonn Ceannt, James Connolly, and Joseph Plunkett (the man who married Grace Gifford in the Gaol chapel the night before he was shot).
The firing squads in charge of the executions at Kilmainham Gaol, composed of six kneeled and other six standing soldiers were provided with just one real bullet and the rest blank, so that they wouldn’t know who shot the killing one.
After the harsh treatment of those leaders of the Easter Rising, Irish citizens began to empathize with the Rising’s cause and later, in the general United Kingdom election in 1918, the Irish republican party Sinn Féin received huge support among voters in Ireland. They refused to take their seats in the U.K. parliament, founded a separate parliament in Dublin and declared Irish independence, ratifying the Easter Rising Proclamation of the Irish Republic, leading subsequently to the War of Independence in 1921.
The official closing order of the Kilmainham Gaol was issued by the Minister for Justice of the Irish Free State in 1929.
Constructed in 1743 after the ‘Black Spring’ famine by John Glin for the Government of Irelandon commission by local landlady Katherine Conolly, the Wonderful Barn is a spectacular corkscrew-shaped grain store built to avoid shortage of grain in case of another famine period. Its construction gave employment to the impoverished local people. The building, located in Leixlip, County Kildare, is 22,25 meters high and there are 94 limestone steps to the top from the 11 meters-diameter base. Since 2006 the Wonderful Barn is placed on the World Monuments List of 100 Most Endangered Monuments.
Some of the Northern Ireland‘s neighborhoods are still divided by walls: the Peace Walls (or Peace Lines) separate the nationalists/Catholics/Irish from the loyalists/Protestants/British people.
Most of them are in Belfast, others are also existing in Portadown, Derry and Lurgan, with a total length of around 34 km; some of them have gates that are opened only during daylight.
The walls were initially built as a temporary structure to avoid the violence episodes; the first peace line is dating back to 1969 in Belfast after the riot that had involved nationalists, loyalists and police that caused more than 150 homes destroyed, almost two thousand families evacuated, 8 killed and more than 700 injured people.
The number of the walls have raised from less than 20 in the early 1990s to more than one hundred nowadays; there was also an increase after the Irish-British Good Friday Agreement of the 10th April 1998.
According to the public local opinion, the walls are still necessary to maintain the peace and avoid the violence in those areas: the majority of the people still think that more time is needed to change the mentality that has caused lots of conflicts in the past.
In September 2017, the Northern Ireland Department of Justice published its Interface Programme, which intention is removing all the structures by 2023.
Reading the messages of thousands of people marked on the Peace Walls, it is evident that the thought of the people, with or without walls, is still aimed at peace.
The Lough Tay, located in the Wicklow Mountains, about 50 km south from Dublin, is also known as the Guinness Lake due to its shape and colours.
The white sandy beach on the northern coast makes the Guinness foam. The brown colour of the water close to the beach (due to the water coming from the streams that rise on peat covered uplands) complete the incredible visual similarity to the famous Irish pint.
You can see the lake from the R759 scenic route, or if you want a better view from the top, take the walking trail towards the Luggala mountain (accessible from the R115 — the best scenic drive in the Wicklow mountains) or the Djouce mountain, one of the most spectacular walks in the Wicklow Mountains, from which you can see the whole Dublin bay and, on a clear sky day, also the Welsh coastline.
The Lough Tay beach was chosen in 2013 as the set for the village of Kattegat in the Vikings tv series.
The Croagh Patrick (also known as “The Reek”), whose names means (St.) Patrick’s stack, is considered the holiest mountain in Ireland.
It is located in County Mayo on the Wild Atlantic Way, overlooking the Clew Bay; 764 meters high, it is the 4th highest mountains of the region.
Since the Stone Age the mountain carries on a tradition of pilgrimage; still nowadays every year (the last Friday and Sunday of July and the 15th of August) thousands of pilgrims ascend to the summit, where is believed Saint Patrick fasted for forty days in 441 AD. According to the tradition, the pilgrims should climb the mountain barefoot.
The view of the Clew Bay and the charming town of Westport from the top is absolutely outstanding. The 7km round trip walk trail starts from the Murrisk car park.
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