Throughout all of Ireland, and Northern Ireland there are a plethora of ruins that inspire the imagination and have a rich history and lore. Some, like Blarney Castle are well known, and have had a myriad of visitors over the years. Other spots like Corcomroe Abbey, the Mulgrave Barracks, and even Mahon's Rock appear to have slipped out of time and seem to be waiting to be discovered again by visitors who stop by for a visit. One of the more accessible spots with a rich medieval and modern history is Dunluce Castle, whose ruins rest a hundred feet above the ocean along the coast of Northern Ireland.
For as long as Niagara Falls has been known to man, there has been an inexplicable desire to either explore the falls in a new way, or experience the rush of going over the falls. From unprotected falls, to barrels, to tightropes and beyond, the falls have seen beyond their fair share of daredevils and deaths. And, over the years, the Niagara Falls zone has seen an uptick in “extreme” tourism, helicopters to zip lines to hiking trails through the gorge, and trips behind the falls. For those wishing to head above the falls and have a unique and “extreme” experience, the Whirlpool Aerocar is a 101 year old attraction with a near perfect safety record.
One of the most distinctive buildings in the city of Victoria is the Parliament Buildings for the province of British Columbia. For those entering Victoria by ferry or boat, the buildings are an impressive sight along the waterfront. The buildings, which were commissioned in 1893, and completed in 1898 are an excellent example of neo-baroque architecture. While the buildings are still in use today for the British Columbia legislative assembly, tours are available, and the buildings themselves are a popular spot for photo opportunities by tourists visiting the city on a day or multi-day trip. But for those looking for a bit more unconventional photo, and to experience what the power (and discomfort) of government feels like, the grounds of these buildings also feature an interesting curiosity, a sculpted replica of the interior Speaker’s Chair.
In addition to its iconic destinations, such as the Space Needle, Seattle, and its surrounding suburbs is home to a number of stranger destinations, such as the Fremont Troll, Fremont Lenin, and of course, Bruce Lee’s grave. While all of these spots and many others have a certain amount of quirkiness, there is only one spot in all of Seattle where the quirkiness and the mainstream meets, and that is the Gum Wall at Pike Place Market. In all fairness, even without the Gum Wall, Pike Place Market is a unique spot that has more than a bit of quirkiness on its own. From the fresh produce, to fish being thrown, to all sorts of stores that sell almost anything new and used from all over the world, the market is a spot that represents Seattle in the minds of tourists from around the globe. With this backdrop, perhaps it is unsurprising that the Gum Wall arose one night in the midst of souvenirs, ghost stories, and street performers.
No matter what country one is in, there are always locations that have changed the direction of history. Some of these locations, like Gettysburg and Waterloo are well-known, and well visited. Other locations, like Mahon’s Rock in Ireland, are hardly visited, but are equally important. One of the most important historical figures in Ireland is Brian Boru, who became high king of Ireland in the late 900’s, before being killed at the Battle of Clontarf in 1014. However, what is not well-known is that Brian’s rise was predicated on the killing of his brother, Mathgamain (Mahon), who was, prior to his death, Brian’s leige, and the King of Munster. While Irish medieval history is complex, what is known is that in 976, Mahon was betrayed at a meeting that he thought would be with the Bishop of Cork, and kidnapped. Once kidnapped, he was brought to a remote location - Mushera Mountain - far from his base of power - and killed on the rock that remains to this day. In order to avenge his brother, Brian started a series of campaigns that ended with him ruling Ireland, and occupying his fateful place in history - things that would not have happened without the actions that occurred on a remote mountain on a remote rock.
Unless one is an avid spelunker, one does not think of caves when one thinks of Ireland. However, the island is actually a location with a number of interesting geological features, including a number of caves that can be explored by a casual traveler. Generally, most of the caves in Ireland are known as “Show Caves”, which means they are operated by either a onsite concessionaire, or the government, and access is regulated via guided tours. While there are caves one can explore on one’s own, most notably in the Burren region, these caves are the purview of actual cavers, not casual tourists. Out of all of the caves in Ireland, there is only one cave that was the actual site of a mass murder, and that is Dunmore Cave.
With castles and looming nineteenth century manors, Ireland is well-known for its well-preserved parts of modern history. With much less fanfare, however, Ireland also has a number of well-preserved pieces of ancient history, such as Newgrange, and various portal tombs scattered around the island. While there are over one hundred and seventy portal tombs in Ireland in various states, none is more well-known, visited, and photographed than the Poulnabrone Portal Tomb. Before discussing the many unique features of Poulnabrone, it’s helpful to have a frame of reference as to what “Portal Tombs” or “Dolmens” were. While no one is entirely sure what portal tombs were constructed for, given the length of time that has passed – some five to six thousand years – they are classified as two standing stones standing parallel that are covered by a large top roof stone (known as a “capstone”). And, while no one knows exactly for sure, the “portal” aspect of the tomb was that of a gateway to the “Otherworld” – either keeping it out of our world, or for providing access between realms.