Our sales representative, Sarah Cassidy, tells us all about being on the road, exploring Ireland on a daily basis and Ireland’s Ancient East.
The job of being a sales representative for The O’Brien Press involves visiting bookshops and other retail outlets throughout Ireland. One day you can be in Belfast and the next Galway or Waterford. It is a great perk of the job to be able to visit every corner of the country, particularly when the sun is shining, the sky is clear and Ireland’s breathtaking scenery is at its best. Some days the Atlantic Ocean is so blue I think about pulling the car over and going for a paddle but I soon remember I’m in Ireland and the likelihood of my poor toes being frozen off is quite high! Instead I grab my lunch from the car, perch on a nearby stonewall and listen to the sound of the rolling waves as I munch on my ham sandwich. Feeling energised by Ireland’s natural beauty (or the bucket of coffee I picked up at Barack Obama Plaza), it is back to the car and on the road again to the next customer.
It is not just Ireland’s coastal roads that offer beautiful scenery; the countryside and rolling hills that are often dotted with the ruins of castles and monasteries can be so vibrant and green in spring and summer, riotous with russet and gold tones in autumn and captivating coated in early morning frost in the depths of winter. This year in particular, the O’Brien Press reps gained a new appreciation for the countryside and the sights that can be found on the eastside of our beautiful island. We have been selling Carsten Krieger’s fifth book with The O’Brien Press, Ireland’s Ancient East. Filled with fantastic photographs and captions from this talented photographer, Ireland’s Ancient East is the perfect book to guide you around the east side of the country. Linking the Stone Age period with Saint Patrick, the Vikings with the Normans, Ireland’s eastern counties are abundant with monuments and relics that bring to life the stories of our ancestors. Whether you are an armchair traveller or looking to get out and explore the delights of our ancient east, this book is a great place to start! We put it to the test as we took to the roads to sell our autumn list.
Ireland’s Ancient East spans the area outside of Dublin and east of the River Shannon, extending from Carlingford in County Louth to County Cavan and south to Cork City, including East County Cork and East County Limerick and across to Rosslare Harbour. There is so much to see and do! We started in Meath at the UNESCO World Heriatage Site, Brú na Bóinne (meaning the ‘palace’ or the ‘mansion’ of the Boyne). This is the site of Newgrange, a passage tomb found in the Boyne Valley area. Built around 3200 BC this phenomenal structure is older than both Stonehenge in England and the pyramids of Giza in Egypt! Newgrange is a large circular mound, 85 metres in diameter and 13.5 metres high. The mound is surrounded by 97 kerbstones, some of which are engraved with megalithic carvings. Inside is a 19 metre stone passageway, chambers and a roof-box. It is here that Newgrange reveals itself to be more than your average megalithic tomb. Every year on the winter solstice as the sun rises over the tomb, the beam of light travels through the roof-box, illuminating the chamber within for 17 minutes. The visitor centre holds an annual lottery for tickets as only a limited number of people can actually enter the passage tomb and witness what our ancestors created almost 5,000 years ago. So if you do visit make sure to get your name in the draw!
From here we travelled on to the heritage town of Trim which is alive with history. Close to the River Boyne it is surrounded by rich, fertile land that provided an ideal location for a medieval settlement. Trim Castle on the outskirts of the town is one of the finest examples of a Norman castle in Ireland. You might recognise it: Trim Castle and its surroundings featured heavily in the movie Braveheart (‘They may take our lives but they’ll never take our freedom!’). Sloping down from the castle gate is a winding path leading down to the town and what would have been a busy medieval market place. Although little evidence of shops or taverns remains in Trim, street names indicate that such establishments did exist. Take Fishamble Street, for example. This street name survived as such up until the 18th century. Likewise Cornmarket Street suggests an area where corn was sold. From Trim we headed south towards the garden of Ireland, County Wicklow. This gorgeous county is a haven for day-trippers from Dublin and meandering Sunday drivers for a reason. There are so many glorious sights: the majestic Powerscourt waterfall where you can picnic on a sunny day, the valley of Glendalough and St Kevin’s monastery, the many walkways, hills and mountains calling out for a climb and, of course, the gorgeous beaches, seaside towns and locally made ice-cream!
We headed on to the medieval town of Kilkenny with its cobblestone streets and magnificently preserved 12th-century castle but the skies opened up and the rain poured down meaning the camera never made it out! The same happened in Waterford, Ireland’s oldest city founded by Viking raiders in AD 914. Waterford is the largest settlement in Ireland to retain its original Norse- or Viking-derived place name, Vaderfiord, meaning ‘haven from the windswept sea’. It wasn’t quite the haven we hoped for but beautiful none the less!
This is only a fraction of what is out there to discover on Ireland’s Ancient East. Carsten’s gorgeous photos have given us ideas about where we would like to explore next. It was great to take some time and become tourists in our own country, appreciating the beauty and stories right on our doorstep. We would encourage you to get out there and embrace Ireland’s Ancient East! It has a lot to offer with plenty of history, nature, locally produced food, photo opportunities and, of course, bookshops! Or you could always just pick up a copy of the book and go touring in your mind…
Sarah Cassidy, July 2017
Thank you to our sales reps Sarah and Brenda for the photographs.
Ireland’s Ancient East is available here and in all good bookshops!