Irish Stones

Co. Down in the SE corner of Northern Ireland faces Scotland and England, and with lots of fertile soil (apart from the Mourne Mountains) has attracted lots of settlers over the millennia. Settlers lead to resistance. Resistance leads to castles. The ancient Irish Druidic tradition with its emphasis on learning and on residential colleges was absorbed by incoming Christianity, and the growth of abbeys with educational traditions was marked in Ireland. Monks from these centres helped to preserve religion and learning in Dark Age Europe. The castles are probably largely of Norman origin

 The abbeys gradually became ruinous as a result of Henry VIII’s religious changes in the 16th. century. The castles died a natural death in warfare, made redundant partly as a result of the adoption of gunpowder. Some were converted into mansions and extended as the years went on.

Both types of ruin produce varying reactions in the observer. These include melancholy over the loss of past glories, aesthetic pleasure in the impact of the architecture (often the greater when roofs and window glass are lacking). The weather conditions also have an effect on the observer. Bright sunshine (beloved of many photographers) looks false. Brooding ruins look even more so in the rain. Ireland is happy to oblige with the latter! Actually you can get both within the space of five minutes, so you have a choice.

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