Thursday, December 31, 2015

Giant’s Causeway

Executive summary by darmansjah

Planning a visit to the Giant’s Causeway soon? Why not book online in advance to save time (and money).

Flanked by the wild North Atlantic Ocean on one side and a landscape of dramatic cliffs on the other, for centuries the Giant’s Causeway has inspired artists, stirred scientific debate and captured the imagination of all who see it.

Inquiring minds have marvelled at the regularity of the stones’ shape and the vastness of their number. Science, of course, holds the answers to most of these questions but in the days before scientists there were storytellers.

Storytellers have their own explanation for this captivating stretch of coast, and many stories endure to the present day. The most famous legend associated with the Giant’s Causeway is that of Irish giant, Finn McCool. It was imagined that the causeway is the remains of the bridge that Finn built linking Ireland to Scotland. The landscape became so imbued with the spirit of this legend that it gave rise to the name – the Giant’s Causeway.

If you require tourist information while visiting the Giant's Causeway, please be advised of procedure at the Visitor Centre.

Visitors' centre

Giant's Causeway at sunset

The Causeway was without a permanent visitors' centre between 2000 and 2012, as the previous building burned down in 2000. Public money was set aside to construct a new centre and, following an architectural competition, a proposal was accepted to build a new centre, designed by Dublin architectural practice Heneghan Peng, which was to be set into the ground to reduce impact to the landscape. A privately financed proposal was given preliminary approval in 2007 by the Environment Minister and DUP member Arlene Foster. However, the public money that had been allocated was frozen as a disagreement developed about the relationship between the private developer Seymour Sweeney and the DUP. It was also debated whether a private interest should be permitted to benefit from the site – given its cultural and economic importance and as it is largely owned by the National Trust. Coleraine Borough Council voted against the private plans and in favour of a public development project, and Moyle District Council similarly signalled its displeasure and gave the land on which the previous visitors' centre stood to the National Trust. This gave the Trust control of both the Causeway and surrounding land. Ultimately Mr. Sweeney dropped a legal challenge to the publicly funded plan.

The new visitor centre was officially opened by First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness in July 2012, with funding having been raised from the National Trust, the Northern Ireland Tourist Board, the Heritage Lottery Fund and public donations. Since opening, the new visitor centre has garnered very mixed reviews from those visiting the Causeway for its pricing, design, contents and placement across the causeway walk descent.

There was some controversy regarding the content of some exhibits in the visitor centre, which refer to the Young Earth Creationist view of the age of the Earth. While these inclusions were welcomed by the chairman of the Northern Irish evangelical group, the Caleb Foundation, the National Trust stated that the inclusions formed only a small part of the exhibition and that the Trust "fully supports the scientific explanation for the creation of the stones 60 million years ago." An online campaign to remove creationist material was launched in 2012, and following this, the Trust carried out a review and concluded that they should be amended to have the scientific explanation on the causeway's origin as their primary emphasis. Creationist explanations are still mentioned, but presented as a traditional belief of some religious communities rather than a competing explanation for the causeway's origins

The Giant's Causeway (known as Clochán an Aifir or Clochán na bhFomhórach in Irish and tha Giant's Causey in Ulster-Scots) is an area of about 40,000 interlocking basalt columns, the result of an ancient volcanic eruption.

It is located in County Antrim on the northeast coast of Northern Ireland, about three miles (4.8 km) northeast of the town of Bushmills. It was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1986, and a National Nature Reserve in 1987 by the Department of the Environment for Northern Ireland. In a 2005 poll of Radio Times readers, the Giant's Causeway was named as the fourth greatest natural wonder in the United Kingdom. The tops of the columns form stepping stones that lead from the cliff foot and disappear under the sea. Most of the columns are hexagonal, although there are also some with four, five, seven or eight sides. The tallest are about 12 metres (39 ft) high, and the solidified lava in the cliffs is 28 metres (92 ft) thick in places.

The Giant's Causeway is today owned and managed by the National Trust and it is the most popular tourist attraction in Northern Ireland.

The discovery of the Giant's Causeway was announced to the wider world in 1693 by the presentation of a paper to the Royal Society from Sir Richard Bulkeley, a fellow of Trinity College, Dublin, although the discoverer had, in fact, been the Bishop of Derry who had visited the site a year earlier. The site received international attention when Dublin artist Susanna Drury made watercolour paintings of it in 1739; they won Drury the first award presented by the Royal Dublin Society in 1740 and were engraved in 1743. In 1765 an entry on the Causeway appeared in volume 12 of the French Encyclopédie, which was informed by the engravings of Drury's work; the engraving of the "East Prospect" itself appeared in a 1768 volume of plates published for the Encyclopédie. In the caption to the plates French geologist Nicolas Desmarest suggested, for the first time in print, that such structures were volcanic in origin.

The site first became popular with tourists during the nineteenth century, particularly after the opening of the Giant's Causeway Tramway, and only after the National Trust took over its care in the 1960s were some of the vestiges of commercialism removed. Visitors can walk over the basalt columns which are at the edge of the sea, a half-mile walk from the entrance to the site.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015



Executive summary by darmansjah

Galway or the City of Galway is a city in Ireland. It is in the West Region and the province of Connacht. Galway City Council is the local authority for the city. Galway lies on the River Corrib between Lough Corrib and Galway Bay and is surrounded by County Galway. It is the fourth most populous city in the state and the sixth most populous on the island of Ireland.


Galway is known as Ireland's Cultural Heart (Croí Cultúrtha na hÉireann) and is renowned for its vibrant lifestyle and numerous festivals, celebrations and events. Every July, Galway hosts the Galway Arts Festival which is known for its famous Macnas parade.

In 2004, there were three dance organisations, ten festival companies, two film organisations, two Irish language organisations, 23 musical organisations, twelve theatre companies, two visual arts groups, and four writers' groups based in the city.

Furthermore, there were 51 venues for events, most of which were specialised for a certain field (e.g. concert venues or visual arts galleries), though ten were described as being 'multiple event' venues. The main squares in the city are Eyre Square (containing John F. Kennedy Park) in the centre of the city, and Spanish Parade next to the Spanish Arch.

In 2007, Galway was named as one of the eight "sexiest cities" in the world. A 2008 poll ranked Galway as the 42nd best tourist destination in the world, or 14th in Europe and 2nd in Ireland (behind Dingle). It was ranked ahead of all European capitals except Edinburgh, and many traditional tourist destinations (such as Venice).

Places of interest

Lynch's Castle on Shop Street is probably the finest medieval town house in Ireland. It is now a branch of Allied Irish Banks.

The Church of Ireland St. Nicholas' Collegiate Church is the largest medieval church still in everyday use in Ireland. It was founded in 1320 and enlarged in the following two centuries. It is a particularly pleasant building in the heart of the old city.

Its Roman Catholic counterpart, the Cathedral of Our Lady Assumed into Heaven and St Nicholas was consecrated in 1965 and is a far larger, more imposing building constructed from limestone. It has an eclectic style, with renaissance dome, pillars and round arches, and a Romanesque portico that dominates the main façade – which is an unusual feature in modern Irish church building. It was suggested by a church in the city of Salamanca in Spain.

Not far from the cathedral stands the original quadrangle building of National University of Ireland, Galway which was erected in 1849 (during An Gorta Mór, the Great Famine) as one of the three colleges of the Queen's University of Ireland (along with Queen's University Belfast and University College Cork). The university holds the UNESCO archive of spoken material for the Celtic languages.

Another of the city's limestone buildings is the Hotel Meyrick, originally the Railway Hotel and then the Great Southern Hotel, built by the Great Southern Railway Company in 1845. Sitting at the southern perimeter of Eyre Square, it is the City's oldest hotel still in operation.

The Spanish Arch, in the southwest of the city, was built in the 1580s as an extension to the city walls, a part of which can be seen in the Corbett Court shopping centre.

In front of the Spanish Arch and opposite Jury's Hotel is a monument (see photograph at bottom of this article) to Christopher Columbus. It was presented to Galway by the city of Genoa in 1992 to commemorate both the 500th anniversary of the voyage to the New World and the visit of Columbus to Galway in 1477.

The remains of the Menlo Castle can be seen outside the city, on the Eastern bank of the River Corrib. It was one of the ancestral homes of the Blake family, one of the Tribes of Galway from c1600-1910. It is best viewed from the west bank at Dangan or the riverside walk at NUIG. The façade of the families townhouse (Blake's Castle) can be seen beside Jury's Hotel at the bottom of Quay Street.

The Eglinton Canal, named after a former Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, joins the River Corrib to the sea, and, flowing for just more than a kilometer, is a very pleasant walk from the University to the Claddagh.

The Claddagh is the oldest part of Galway but little or nothing remains of its old thatched village. However, in a side altar of the parish church, St Mary's on the Hill, is the late medieval statue of Our Lady of Galway and visitors in mid-August can participate in the ancient ritual of the Blessing of the Bay, on the Sunday nearest the feast of the Assumption.

The Bowne doorway, originally located on Lower Abbeygate Street but now standing at the north end of Eyre Square, was the doorway to the townhouse of the Browne family, one of the fourteen Tribes of Galway.

The Lynch Window, (on Market Street), commemorates one of the city's most enduring legends. Here, in 1493, the Mayor, James Lynch FitzStephen, hanged his own son for the murder of Gomez, a young Spanish visitor who had the misfortune to befriend the Mayor's son. The son, mistaking friendship for love, stabbed the Spaniard to death in a fit of jealousy and dumped his body in the River Corrib. The Mayor was both Judge and Executioner in the case as nobody else would carry out the execution according to legend. This event is advanced as the origin of the phrase Lynching

Dillons Claddagh Gold on Quay Street are the original makers of the Claddagh Ring and are also Ireland's longest established jewelers, having been founded in 1750. The little museum attached to the premises holds the world's oldest examples of the Claddagh Ring.

The Hall of the Red Earl (Halla an Iarla Rua) can be viewed through a protective glass wall off Flood Street. It is the earliest medieval settlement fragment surviving within the walls of the city. It was built by the de Burgo family in the 13th century and was a key municipal building for the collection of taxes, dispensation of justice and hosting banquets. It was the medieval equivalent of tax office, court house and town hall.

Galway City has a fine collection of mainly early 17th century marriage stones which can be viewed throughout the city centre both inside buildings (as in the King's Head Pub) or on exterior lintels.

Galway Atlantaquaria which is also the National Aquarium of Ireland can be visited on The Promenade in the western suburb of Salthill.

Watching Atlantic salmon from the Salmon Weir Bridge (one of the bridges that spans the River Corrib) as they swim upsteam to spawn is a popular pastime with both locals and tourists alike.


By Air

Galway Airport, located 6 km (3.73 mi) east of the city at Carnmore, ceased to have scheduled passenger flights on November 1, 2011. Because the runway is too short to take modern passenger jet aircraft, its operations are limited. The airline that served the airport was Aer Arann. Aer Arann announced that they will not be resuming flights from Galway Airport.[34] Aerfort na Minna (22 km (13.67 mi) west of the city) operates regular flights to each of the Aran Islands (Oileáin Árann). Shannon Airport (90 km) and Ireland West Airport Knock (86 km) are also within easy reach of the city, both of which have flights around Ireland and to Britain, Continental Europe and North America (from Shannon).

By Bus

Buses are the main form of public transport in the city and county. There are fifteen routes in the city operated by Bus Éireann and Galway City Direct.

Various bus companies also provide links throughout County Galway and nationwide. These operate from a number of locations:

The main bus and rail station in the city is Ceannt Station.
Galway Coach Station, located at Fairgreen, is also a coach transport hub. Scheduled direct and commuter services operate between the Coach Station, Dublin and Dublin Airport, as well as services to Limerick, Cork and Clifden. These are operated by Gobus and Citylink.

Other regional bus operators user various bus stops around the city centre, and many serve the NUIG and GMIT campuses as well.

By Rail

Galway's main railway station is Ceannt Station (Stáisiún Cheannt), which opened in 1851, and was renamed in honour of Éamonn Ceannt in 1966. A major redevelopment, including a completely new urban district, Ceannt Station Quarter, has been proposed for the station and adjoining land.

The Midland Great Western Railway reached Galway in 1851, giving the city a direct main line to its Broadstone Station terminus in Dublin. As the 19th century progressed the rail network in Connacht was expanded, making Galway an important railhead. The nearby town of Athenry became a railway junction, giving Galway links to Ennis, Limerick and the south in 1869 and Sligo and the north in 1894. In 1895 the MGW opened a branch line between Galway and Clifden.

The 20th century brought increasing road competition, and this led the Great Southern Railways to close the Clifden branch in 1935. In the 1970s the state railway authority Córas Iompair Éireann closed the Sligo-Athenry-Ennis line to passenger services. It later closed to freight as well.

Iarnród Éireann, Ireland's national rail operator, currently runs six return passenger services each day between Galway and Dublin Heuston, also serving intermediate stations. Travel time is just under 3 hours. Services on the Galway–Limerick line have now resumed, with around 5–6 trains each way per day.

Western Rail Corridor ex-GSWR line south of Limerick in green, other ex-MGWR lines are in red.

Throuhg the Road

Three national primary roads serve the city: the N17 leading North (Tuam, Sligo, Donegal Town, Letterkenny and Derry), the M6 motorway from the East (Athlone, Dublin), and the N18 from the South (Shannon Town, Limerick and Cork). By 2015, the Galway-Dublin, Galway-Limerick and Galway-Tuam routes will be motorway or high-quality dual carriageway standard. In addition, there are plans for a semi-ring road of the city, the Galway City Outer Bypass, which should also be complete by 2015. There is also an Inner City Ring (Cuar Inmheánach) route that encircles the city centre, most of which is pedestrianised.

Galway is considered the gateway to Connemara and the Gaeltacht, including Mám, An Teach Dóite, Cor na Móna, Ros Muc, Bearna and An Cheathrú Rua. The N59 along the western shore of Lough Corrib and the R337 along the northern shore of Galway Bay both lead to this largely rural and highly scenic region.

Cross Waterways

The River Corrib is by far the most important waterway in Galway and a number of canals and channels were built above and through the city. The purposes of these to divert and control the water from the river, to harness its power and to provide a navigable route to the sea. Of these, there were two major schemes – one between 1848 and 1858 and the other during the 1950s. The canals provided a power source for Galway and were the location of the first industries in the mid-19th century. The Eglinton Canal provided a navigation from the sea (at the Claddagh Basin) to the navigable part of the river (above the Salmon Weir Bridge). Most of the mills are still used today for various purposes; for instance, NUI Galway still uses a water turbine for electricity generation for their building on Nun's Island.

Currently, there are four bridges across the Corrib. Following the southward flow of the river these are, from the north: the Quincentennial Bridge, the Salmon Weir Bridge, the William O'Brien Bridge and the Wolfe Tone Bridge. There are plans for a fifth bridge as part of the Galway City Outer Bypass project. The Clare River flows from the North of the County Galway, through Tuam, Claregalway into Lough Corrib.

At Harbour

Ballyknow Quay, Claddagh

Galway is the most central port on the West Coast of Ireland in the sheltered eastern corner of Galway Bay.[citation needed] The harbour can be used by vessels up to 10,000 metric tons deadweight (DWT) and the inner dock can accommodate up to 9 vessels at any one time. Pending approval, Galway Harbour may see major changes, should the €1.5 billion development plan go ahead.

Regular passenger ferry and freight services operate between Galway and the Aran Islands. The islands also have regular links with the towns of Rossaveal and Doolin, which are physically closer but far smaller.

Commuter ferry services have been proposed to the tourism town of Kinvara, on the opposite side of Galway Bay.

Major work in the harbour area was carried out in 2009 to accommodate the stopover of the Volvo Ocean Race. This was one of the biggest events ever to visit Galway. The event returned with the finale of the race in June 2012. This was unprecedented in Volvo Ocean Race history.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Dylan Thomas’s Boathouse

Executive summary by darmansjah

Even if the poet, writer and broadcaster Dylan Thomas (1914-1953) hadn’t lived at the Boathouse in Laugharne for the last four years of his tragically short life, it is a truly remarkable place to visit.

The Boathouse terrace offers wonderful views of the Taf estuary and the Gower beyond – a haven for egrets, lapwings, herons, oystercatchers, seals and otters with fishermen and cocklers continuing the ancient traditions.

The Boathouse tearoom with its locally sourced, home-cooked menu provides a welcome respite for walkers tackling the newly launched Wales Coast Path.

It was Dylan Thomas, however, who made the Boathouse iconic. Dylan Thomas first arrived in Laugharne in 1934 aged 19. He came with a friend by ferry from the other side of the Taf estuary and would have alighted just behind the Boathouse. He was instantly fascinated with Laugharne and moved his family here in 1938 to live in a humble fisherman’s cottage: Eros on Gosport St.

Shortly afterwards he moved to a grander residence, Sea View, behind the castle where he settled very happily with his wife Caitlin and their young family. After the war he tried for many years to return to his beloved Laugharne but it wasn’t until the actress Margaret Taylor bought the lease of the Boathouse in 1949 that he was able to fulfill this dream.

Poems written here include "Do Not Go Gentle", "Poem on His Birthday", "Over Sir John's Hill" as well as his most famous play for voices, "Under Milkwood", inspired in part by the people of Laugharne.

It was from the Boathouse that Dylan made the fateful journey to New York where he died in 1953 aged 39; an early death that turned a talent into a legend.

The house itself has an interesting history. The earliest records show that it was leased by the Corporation to a local family in 1834. Later it was converted into 2 fisherman’s cottages but in 1899 it was converted back into a single residence.

Since that time it was mainly used as a family home or for holiday lets but there are also rumours that the Boathouse was used by smugglers, as there is a secretive entrance down to the water that leads to the path near the front door.

For centuries soldiers marching from Pembroke to London, and pilgrims journeying from St Davids to Canterbury would have crossed at a point just behind the Boathouse to avoid travelling miles inland, and in 1913 the harbour wall was built in front of the Boathouse to bring coal into the town.

These two facts suggest that when the port of Laugharne in front of the castle became silted up after a tsunami devastated the Bristol Channel in 1607, the area around the Boathouse became important for the shipping of goods and ferrying of passengers.

Dylan’s family still have a very strong connection to the Boathouse. Aeronwy, Dylan’s only daughter, became an ambassador for his work as well as a fine writer herself. Since her untimely death in 2009 the mantle has passed to her daughter, Hannah Ellis, who is herself a regular visitor to the Boathouse with her family. This is a place the Thomas family still feel very much at home.

From 1st November to 30th April 10:30am to 3:30pm (last admission 3:00pm)


    Adult - £4.20
    Concession - £3.20
    Child 7-16 - £2.00
    Tea room only - Free
    Family (2 adults and two children) - £10.00
    Groups 5+ - 10% discount

The Boathouse is a 10 minute walk from the centre of Laugharne along Dylan’s Walk, passing the Writing Shed which can be viewed from the pathway.

There is no vehicular access or parking facilities at the Boathouse.

The Dylan Thomas Boathouse is managed by Carmarthenshire County Council.

Dylan Thomas first arrived in Laugharne in 1934 aged 19. Dylan’s family still have a very strong connection to the Boathouse. Aeronwy, Dylan’s only daughter, became an ambassador for his work as well as a fine writer herself. Since her untimely death in 2009 the mantle has passed to her daughter, Hannah Ellis, who is herself a regular visitor to the Boathouse with her family.