A Visit to Glendalough, Co. Wicklow

Posted on: April 25th, 2014 by Jessica Hickey No Comments

I’m the least outdoorsy person I know of. So, when I heard my class and I had to go on a field course for a week, I was not amused. (I may have shed a few tears) The thought of hiking, getting muddy and drenched in the rain whilst trying to collect bugs and identify rodent droppings did not appeal to me at all.

On the other weather spectrum, being burnt to a crisp in the sun and sweating through my shirt after climbing uphill to bird-watch for 3 hours, was also the last thing I ever wanted to do! The moaning stops now.

On a positive note, the fact that the trip was going to take place in Glendalough really changed my attitude towards it, in that I no longer saw it as a “week of doom”.

Simply put, Glendalough is one of the most beautiful places in Ireland.

Glendalough, County Wicklow

Only an hour‘s drive from the center of Dublin, Glendalough shows no signs of being even remotely close to a city! The area boasts the rolling green hills and forests that the world associates with our little country.

In fact, if you type “Ireland” into Google Images, you’re going to come across numerous photos that have been taken in this valley.

I took up all the memory space on my camera taking photos! I think you’ll understand why. The area is definitely a must see for birdwatchers and wildlife enthusiasts!

Being a zoologist myself, it was a real treat to be able to see squirrels, goats, mice and deer outside of enclosures, in their natural habitat.

Aww, a rare red deer/sika deer hybrid with her baby.


Apart from the breath-taking views and wildlife everywhere, the history of Glendalough is very interesting. The name is derived from the Irish ‘Gleann Dá Loch‘, meaning “glen/valley of the two lakes“. Pretty self explanatory, I think!

The area is a monastic settlement, established in the 6th century by St. Kevin. If you do come here, which I think you should, be warned that basically every tourist stall has some sort of reference to Kevin!

Saint Kevin of Glendalough

The famous holy man died in 618AD and for centuries afterwards, Glendalough flourished. Numerous raids of the settlement took place and they were all noted in the Irish Annals (Annals were the means by which monks determined the yearly chronology of feast days).

Another “claim to fame” of the area is that the longest Viking ship ever found, was built around 1042AD using wood from the valley.

Unlike the other very famous Irish built ship, the Titanic, this one didn’t sink. There is a modern replica of the longship residing in Roskilde Denmark.

For those interested in the construction of the ship, here’s a clip!

One of the most famous and iconic structures in Glendalough is probably the round tower. It stands at in impressive 33m tall and was built around 1, 000 years ago by the monks of St. Kevin’s monastery! What an incredible feat!

Took this one chilly evening whilst looking for bats!

Unfortunately it was hit by lightning in 1876, so the conical roof had to be replaced but it’s looking quite sturdy otherwise!

Round towers served as a look out for monks and a store for their assets. (For guys with a vow of poverty, they sure had a lot of gold and silver..)

The Glendalough Lakes

Despite my apprehension, the trip to Glendalough turned out to be a great experience! The 12 mile hike wasn’t the highlight and my vampire complexion was done no favours by the sun, but the views were spectacular!

Along with the nature, stories and history surrounding the area made it very much worthwhile!

I’m not a travel agent or anything, but if there is anywhere to visit when in Ireland; VISIT GLENDALOUGH!

Silver Claddagh Ring Competition

Posted on: April 15th, 2014 by Sine Treanor 2 Comments


Silver Claddagh Ring – FREE Draw

Simply choose your method of entry, below is a list of the various methods and the amount of entries each method provides.

+4 entries if you “like” Celtic Wedding Rings on Facebook
+3 entries if you leave a comment in this blog post
+3 entries if you follow @CelticRingsIre on Twitter
+2 entries if you Tweet about the giveaway
+2 entries if you follow Celtic Wedding Rings on Pinterest
+1 entry if you pin an image of the giveaway on Pinterest

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Modern Emerald Claddagh Ring: A Twist on a Classic

Posted on: April 6th, 2014 by Jessica Hickey No Comments

The Modern Emerald Claddagh Ring is a truly elegant piece. It combines all the tradition and sentiment of the Claddagh design with a fresh, inspired and appealing look!  It is the perfect ring for a woman who loves the profound symbolism of the piece, but wants a modern twist on it.

The diamond and emeralds on this piece are beautifully set into the heart, giving a delicate and very feminine feel to the ring.

The Modern Emerald Claddagh Ring

This gorgeous handcrafted ring is 14k white gold, weighs 2g and is hallmarked in Dublin. The lightness of the piece and the size of gems used make this a beautiful, yet subtle piece! The emeralds used are a bright and vivid shade of green and the use of a single cut diamond is very tasteful.

It is appropriate as a present for practically any occasion, such as a special anniversary. Also, as emerald is considered to the birthstone for May and sometimes for astrological signs Taurus and Gemini, it would be an ideal birthday gift!

The Modern Emerald Claddagh Ring can be a great representation of your Irish heritage or simply your admiration and affinity for the “Emerald Isle”! The beauty and elegance of this ring alongside the tradition and history behind the design, makes it a superbly unique gift for a loved one or indeed yourself!

Claddagh Village, County Galway

The Claddagh ring has been around for centuries, with the first one being designed and produced for the first time in Galway around 1700. The design has definitely stood the test of time, in that the ring is as popular today as it ever was!

It is widely known that the crowned heart which is held in two clasping hands represents loyalty, love and friendship. This symbolism is probably the main reason why the ring is timeless and a perfect present for any lucky lady!

A Beautiful Love Story

The story behind the Claddagh is both tragic and romantic, if it’s actually true! Robert Joyce, an Irish fisherman is said to be the designer of the ring.

He left his home in Galway to head westwards across the Atlantic and unfortunately his ship was taken over by pirates who then sold him into slavery. But, as that old cliché “everything happens for a reason” goes; he was forced to work in a goldsmith’s workshop.

Separated from his true love back in Ireland he was inspired to design a ring that symbolised his love for her; the Claddagh.

He became a very skilled goldsmith whilst enslaved and when slavery was brought to an end in 1689, he was released and went straight back to his love, Margaret.

She had been waiting for him, as he did for her and the ring he had designed as a representation of their love had a permanent place on her finger for all her days.

How is it worn?

There are many ways to wear a Claddagh ring, and they can denote an individual’s relationship status. (Without having to snoop around on Facebook.)

- If the ring is worn on the right hand with the point of the heart facing outward , away from the body, this indicates that the person is single, looking for a relationship and has an “open heart”.

- When the ring is on the right hand with the point of the heart facing inward, toward the body, this indicates that the person is in a relationship, or “someone has captured their heart”.

- If the Claddagh Ring is worn on the left hand ring finger with the heart’s point facing away from the body, this indicates that the person is engaged.

- When the ring is on the left hand ring finger, with the point of the heart facing inward towards the body, it means that the person wearing the ring is married.



Jigs ‘n’ Reels: Irish Dancing’s Past and Future!

Posted on: March 31st, 2014 by Jessica Hickey No Comments

Irish dancing was given a much needed boost in popularity in 1994, when ‘Riverdance’ burst onto the scene! 20 years later, this theatrical show is still running and mesmerising audiences around the world.

I remember being a little girl, when a rerun of the “Eurovision Song Contest” came on the television. (Which is basically 6 hours of this…) The interval show of the contest I was watching was ‘Riverdance’.

Wow!! I was absolutely enthralled. So much so, that the very next week I joined a dancing class. From 1998 until I became “too cool” in 2004, I lived and breathed Irish dancing!

I couldn’t be more jealous of the Riverdancers!


Irish dancing began a very long time ago and our culture is very much influenced by it! As an example, where I’m from is a place called “Clocha Rince” which translates as “the dancing stone”. When penal laws were introduced by the English in the 1700s, Irish customs were basically all banned! The people from all the surrounding areas gathered to dance and have a ceili on this stone there, where it was possible to look out for soldiers coming from afar.

How it came to be? Well, there are only vague references to it in Irish history, but there is evidence of Druids dancing in religious rituals to worship the sun and the oak. It’s thought that some of the circular set dances we do (whilst being drunk at 21st birthday celebrations…), have roots in these pagan rituals.

When the Celts and Normans arrived in Ireland around 400AD, they brought with them their own traditions and customs, including folk dancing. The music and dance involved in Celtic ceremonies and gatherings were retained, even after Christianity had spread throughout the country.

Three dances in particular are mentioned often in 16th Century writing;  “The Irish Hey”, the “Rince Fada” (long dance) and the “Trenchmore”. The first written reference to dance is possibly in a letter to Queen Elizabeth I in 1569 from Sir Henry Sydney.  He said of dancers he saw in Galway; “They are first class dancers.”

Modern Irish Dancing

Irish dancing has come a long way since its beginnings. The commitment and skill of competitive dancers is immense! One of the reasons I gave it up was, that to get good enough to compete and place at a major “feis” , I would have had to train for 3 hours a day 6 days a week!

The money invested in dancing by dancers and dancing schools is also crazy. It’s fair to say that the “fashion show” aspect to the competitions is out of control. Little girls as young as 3 years of age wear fake tan, make up, glitter, wigs and false nails! (There is nothing remotely “Irish” about being the same color as a pumpkin!)

Here’s a price list of the items required to take part in the competitive sport;

Curled wig: $80

Dress: $600 (minimum!!)

Hard shoes: $90

Socks: $6…….

I could go on, but you get the idea!

Despite the dresses and tans and hairstyles, these dancers are extremely talented and impressive individuals. They would certainly shine, even without all the glitter!!

Tournament Dancing is huge across the US

Fancy giving it a go?

It is so much fun. Trust me! Even though I don’t compete or anything, I always get up at parties to do a jig or a hornpipe for my granny’s sake!  Set/group Irish dancing is a great way of making friends, having a laugh and getting surprisingly fit! The “Walls of Limerick” and “Kerry Polka” are my personal favourites, alongside the “Six-Hand”, which is not for those of a confused disposition!

So, ‘Riverdance’ is only the tip of the iceberg. (Or hardshoe…) Irish dancing seems to be far less popular now than it was in the 90s. This is possibly due to the pageant style look of the young girls involved being deemed as “inappropriate”.  Maybe a reminder of how it all began might help!

Do you feel that aspects of the competitive side of dancing are “over the top”?

Do you think it hurts Ireland’s reputation abroad?

St. Patrick’s Day: Isn’t everyone a little bit Irish anyway?

Posted on: March 17th, 2014 by Jessica Hickey No Comments

On the 17th of March everyone is Irish! (Or claims to be anyway) Whether you’re a Murphy from Ballinamore in County Leitrim or an Anderson from Wisconsin, whose great great grandmother grew up in Lahinch Co.Clare, you’ll probably be jumping on the Paddy’s Day bandwagon in some way.

If you were asked to name three things associated with the Emerald Isle, I’m sure Guinness or simply the word “drunk” would definitely be one of them.  I can’t drink to save my life! That is correct. I am Irish and known as the “Two Drink Wonder”! (Basically because the third one doesn’t tend to go down too well and I’ll leave it at that…)

One shot, two shot, three shot…floor!

Aside from beer, there are lots of things I feel are synonymous with our little island in the Atlantic. With St. Patrick’s Day just around the corner, it’s a great time to reflect on a few things I love about my nation!

Writers and scholars and poets! Oh my!!

Ireland has produced some of the finest figures in literature that the world has ever seen. From Wilde to Yeats and Bram Stoker to C.S. Lewis, the contribution of our little piece of land that is over eight times smaller than Texas, is absolutely incredible!

Four Irish writers have won the Nobel Prize for literature; W.B. Yeats, George Bernard Shaw, Samuel Beckett and Seamus Heaney. For those of you who may not be so familiar with the work of Irish poets and writers, I highly recommend you to have a read.  (Maybe leave “Ulysses” by James Joyce to a time when you’re feeling particularly brave though!)

Natural Beauty and Remoteness

Ireland is full of natural beauty! (Myself included.) I count myself as an extremely lucky woman to have grown up in a field basically! I looked out of my  sitting room window as a child to see rolling green hills and no signs of civilization anywhere?! (My nearest shop was 8 miles away. Yes, remote indeed) I’m from the midlands, which is maybe a 4 out of 10 in the beauty stakes.

My backyard! (Well front yard… and the neighbors new fence.)

If you want to have your breath taken away, I suggest you visit pretty much anywhere along the coast. The Ring of Kerry is arguably the most beautiful place in Ireland.

An idyllic view in County Kerry

Tír gan teanga, tír gan anam” ― Pádraig Pearse (A country without a language is a country without a soul)

Unlike most other countries of the world, our first language is very seldom our own! The Gaeltacht regions of the country are the exception and these areas are few and far between. In actual fact, most of us can barely string a full and correct sentence in proper Irish together.

The teaching of the language in schools is abysmal and I could go on for an age about everything that’s wrong with it?! (Don’t worry, I won’t. You’re safe!) It is quite a beautiful language to speak and it’s a shame that it isn’t used very often. I try to get my “cúpla focail” (few words) in every day just to feel like I’m doing my bit to keep Gaeilge alive and well!

These are but a few things I love about Ireland and there are so many more wonderfully Irish things I feel very proud of. I haven’t gotten around to our Celtic music and dance (Sorry Mr. Flatley) or our love of the humble potato!

So, apart from our infamous drinking habits, what comes to mind when you think of Ireland?

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