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Affordable and fun guiding throughout Northern Ireland

I had an interesting genealogy site tour with a lovely lady from America this week in search of her family roots in County Fermanagh.  Her research took us to a beautiful little church on the shores of Lower Lough Erne called Slavin Parish Church or to give it its correct name "Chapel of Ease".

Thanks to a local parishioner Florence we had the privilege of stepping inside this small 19th century church and looking over the original registers listing her 19th century relations.  This certainly was something special - thanks Florence.

Always on the lookout for local history books produced by locals I spotted a book for sale "The Slavin Poetry".  Not only does this book contain some beautiful poetry and pictures of the people involved in the church both past and present but it also highlights the life of a certain lady called KATHERINE CECILIA ELLIOTT.

Katherine, poet and the first organist in Slavin Parish Church was born in London in 1850, daughter of Architect Robert Williams Armstrong who was involved in setting up the famous Belleek Pottery in collaboration with Dublin businessman David McBirney and local landlord John Caldwell Bloomfield.

She received her early education in Castle Caldwell and later she attended Boarding Schools in France and Germany.  Returning to Bellecck she fell in love with James Elliott, a local farmer.  They were married in 1873 and set up hgme on a farm at Gortnalee.

A talented musician she became deeply involved in Slavin Parish Church and trained up a very accomplished ladies choir.

Katherine died in 1910 and she requested to be buried near the church door, where she might hear the choir sing on Sundays.

There, she lies in the churchyard where today a simple headstone marks her grave.

You could not miss this little churchyard as it sits on the roadside as you travel the A46 from Enniskillen to Belleek.  It is just before the turnoff for Rosscor Viaduct.

Have you got Irish Roots in Ulster?  Ever remember your grandmother or grandfather talk about their parents life?  Those who emigrated from this small island of Ireland to step into what was relatively the unknown.  Leaving the quiet of the countryside of Ireland and stepping into the noise of large foreign cities - daunting?  Eventually settling in regions similarly to what they left behind?  They were brave people - you should be proud to a part of that family.

As I travel around this old province of Ulster I am constantly reminded of those who left these shores and took the long risky journey to the "new world".  I see the remains of mud wall cottages mostly now incorporated into a modern farmyard but not always.  Many are roofless, walls tumbling down, chimneys gone and often the only standing thing is a lone tree at the gable wall!  Sometimes the old rambling rose bush still blooms and high banks escort a tree lined lane to this home. In the name of progress these old homesteads are fast disappearing and evidence of what was once a family home only remains in the naming of the large field now!

Townlands have disappeared from our postal addresses and small national rural schools are closed.

Why not come over and walk the land of your ancestors and celebrate their bravery among those of us who are the custodians of the land today.  We'd love to meet you, hear about your country and give you a hearty Irish welcome home.

Happy Saint Patrick's Day 

 

It's the Eve of St Patrick's Day and I have been busy preparing some traditional Irish food ready to enjoy before and perhaps late into the night after St Patrick's Festival in Armagh City tomorrow.

My Guinness Bread always goes down well served with Irish blue cheese.  Homemade soda farls are a must for any good traditional Irish breakfast.  

Enjoy St Patrick's Day all however and wherever you choose to spend it.

 

 

Researching the birthplace of AE Russell today in Lurgan, County Armagh. Born in 1867 and moved to Dublin when he was eleven.

Visited the spot where his family home once stood close to the Brownlow Castle - the architecture of which is said to have been an inspiration for some of his writings.  The nearby Model School with its lofty red brick tower which he attended is still in use today.  

His main subject, however, was mysticism.  Russell was one of the major writers in the Irish Literary Renaissance.

 

Well most of the snow has gone and signs of spring are appearing around our countryside.  Took this picture just this week and the vibrant yellow flower is opening up all around the countryside now.  We locals live with it and don't give it much thought but visitors always comment on it.   There are many Celtic traditions associated with it.

Gorse is often associated with love and fertility.  It was for this reason that a spring of gorse was traditionally added to a bride's bouquet and gorse torches were ritually burnt around livestock to protect against sterility.  However one should never give gorse flowers to another as a gift for it is unlucky for both the giver and receiver.  

By tradition when gorse is out in bloom, kissing is also out of season!

Enjoyed a private walking tour around Cathedral Quarters, Belfast last week - in the sunshine! Big Jim Larkin's sculpture was of great interest to the visitor.  This bronze statue by the  Belfast artist Anto Brennan stands in Donegall Street Place, close to Waring Street where Larkin led the Belfast dockers' strike of 1907.

The Belfast Dock strike or Belfast lockout took place in Belfast from 26 April to 28 August 1907.  The dockers both Portestand and Catholic, had gone on strike after their demand for union recognition was refused. They were soon joined by carters, shipyard workers, sailors, firemen, boilermakers, coal heavers, transport workers and women from the city's largest tobacco factory Gallaghers.

Although largely unsuccessful the dock strike led to the establishment of the Irish Transport and General Workers' Union.

Finally the winds and snow of the winter lifted and the winter sun shone through so out I went off to the hills and mountains close to my home.  What a day!

Come with me on a stress free easy hike around the hills and mountains of County Down.  I don't do hard hikes.............

Did you know that St Valentine is laid to rest in Dublin?

John Sprat was an Irish Carmelite that was known for his abilities as a preacher and dedicated work with the destitute in the city of Dublin.  While visiting Rome, his fame had apparently preceded him, and he became hot on the Jesuit circuit, giving sermons and receiving tokens of esteem from his peers.

One of the more impressive tokens he was gifted were the remains of Saint Valentine by Pope Gregory XV1.

Today the shirne is popular with couples who come to pray for St Valentine to watch over their lives together and to celebrate the feast day of February 14th which includes the Blessings of the Rings for those about to marry.  This shrine is today in Whitefriar Street Church Dublin.

So what does this particular collection of St Valentine relics contain?  According to an inscription on a gold plate attached to the casket -

This shrine contains the sacred body of Saint Valentinus the Martyr, together with a small vessel tinged with his blood.

 

Oh what sweet memories.  Every good Irish home made pancakes for tea; the main meal on Tuesday before Ash Wednesday - beginning of Lent.  

I have big memories of a smoke filled kitchen with the pan on the range and the pancakes more or less flying from the pan to the table!  With nine mouths to feed it was just like a production line.

All decorated up with lots of butter and sugar.............no fancy syrups etc! 

Delicious but what a mess, melted butter all over your hands and sugar all over the table but lots of laughter around the table.

A thoroughly memorable family meal.

Enjoy your pancakes today BUT keep it simple!

It's February 2018 and I'm looking out the window at the winter sunshine and frost on the rolling hills around my farm here in County Armagh.  I'm planning to wrap up warm and take a walk out and check out what is happening in the countryside now that as my mother used to say "the days are on the turn".  Snowdrops have appeared and daffodils are not far behind.  The heather is also on its way into colour.

Are you visiting Ireland this year?  Are you planning to visit the North of the Island?  Do you want to see the vast rural countryside rarely mentioned in promotional materials?  Meet the locals in their village shops and enjoy a chat at a local farmer's mart?  Maybe you simply just want a drive into the countryside to enjoy the landscape, step inside a traditional local pub and taste the traditional food of Northern Ireland - potatoes, vegetables and meat, all washed down with a glass of local cider or beer and of course there's soda bread?

You know in your heart of hearts just what you want to see when you visit this rural island of Ireland.  Don't be put off with the thoughts of how to travel into the countryside we can arrange that all for you.  We may even get you a job on the farm!

Contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to witness the real life of Ireland in 2018.  Will be waiting to hear from you soon...........

 

 

 

Traditionally each Irish home would pull rushes every 1 February and make a replacement Saint Bridget's Cross to hang over the door of their home and also on the rafters to protect the house from fire and evil.  Saint Bridget shares her name with a Celtic Goddess and held supernatural ability rivaling that of any other Irish Saint.  Faughart, County Lough is said to be her birthplace.  Her conversion to Christianity and her ability to convince the King of Leinster to give her enough land that her cloak would cover proved to be a shock to the King when she placed her cloak on the ground and it grew and grew to provide enough land to build the first of many Christian Monasteries in Ireland.

Enjoy Saint Bridgets Day with its mix of Celtic and Christian beliefs.  Is it the start of Spring with the fertility of the soil in view?  Hope so however snow is still around the hills here at my home - never give up maybe by the end of the day things will have changed.

 

I have been walking the hedgerows over the weekend and discovered this little shape on my dirty boot when I finished my walk today!  Is it a lucky shamrock?  I'm going to take it as that and start the season with "Hedgerow Walks".  January always brings the walkers out but what boring routes they take.  Walking with the hedgerows is inspiring, refreshing and stimulating.  Every month they produce visible changes.  Wildlife and smells vary and the soft land keep your mind and body alert.  I know I am lucky to live on a farm and have hedgerows everywhere but you can find hedgerows in public places as well or why not ask a farmer if you can walk his field - provided there are no animals in it!  Enjoy nature get a REAL pair of walking boots and get out there!

Well I find it difficult to close the page on 2017.  It was such an eventful year for me.  While every year I meet lovely people 2017 was something special.  I met so many lovely people, walked many new routes, discussed life today in Northern Ireland and told a few ould yarns along the way.  Laughed and laughed with strangers who became my friends.  I just love this job and am delighted that my 2018 diary is already pretty full of interesting adventures with new visitors whom I look forward to sharing my homeland here in the North of the Island of Ireland with.  Will you be in Northern Ireland this year?  I would love to walk, talk and laugh with you along your chosen route.  

Hello all, 

A message of Best Wishes to all my friends and my numerous 2017 visitors; wishing you all an enjoyable family time at Christmas and a Healthy & Prosperous 2018. I'm off now to bake some shortbread and mince pies for a traditional family dinner at Beechlodge Farm.  Looking forward to meeting up with my new visitors and working with my regular Tour Operators in 2018.  Thanks all for your support in 2017.

 

 

Great two day trip around the Antrim Coast in winter sunshine all wrapped up with a quick cookery class at Tracey's welcoming home on the shores of Strangford Lough. Soda bread and homemade Abernethy butter topped with Tracey's very own delicious plumb jam.  What an afternoon of fun, laughter and amazing good Irish breads and treats.  Sorry Tracey we left your kitchen in such a mess!!  Guests were certainly overwhelmed with true Irish hospitality.

 

 

This is an amazing piece of work which stretches 80 metres long.  Made from Irish linen, the tapestry has been hand woven on  a state-of-the-art Jacquard Loom using linen thread sourced from one of the last surviving mills in Northern Ireland.  Thirty stitchers meticulously hand-embroidered all of the finer details.  Well worth a visit when next at Ulster Museum, Belfast - to be enjoyed not only by Game of Throne followers but also those interested in crafts.

Just had a very successful four day bespoke Thanksgiving  Hop Around Tour of Northern Ireland. Enjoyed the Antrim Coast and Giant's Causeway at its best; purchased some fine Irish Linen; checked out Titanic Exhibition and walked Belfast; Thanksgiving at Ulster American Folk Park and followed the trail of Saint Patrick to Armagh City.  Savoured lots of good local food, craft beers and of sampled lots of Irish Whiskey along the way.  What an amazing run around all from the idyllic  setting of the Slieve Donard Hotel, Newcastle, County Down.

 

Great private tour along the North Antrim Coast on Sunday - little traffic - great visibility - and good company.  

Enjoy the seasons and visit Northern Ireland all year round.

 

Team up with a local professional guide as your traveller, shopper and driver and enjoy local life in Northern Ireland.

 

Now taking requests for bespoke planned day tours or extended tours for visiting Groups or individuals 2018.  Contact us to discuss.

Contact Us

Barbara Ferguson
Accredited Blue Badge Tourist Guide
Northern Ireland Guided Tours
41 Coolmillish Road
Markethill
Co. Armagh
BT60 1SH
Northern Ireland

For your answer to an experienced & fun guided tour of Northern Ireland - Barbara is here to help

+44 (0) 28 3755 1119

+44 (0) 7740 511 442

Email: info@guidedtoursireland.com

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