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Centenary Plus One

Last year we celebrated the Centenary of the Easter Rising.  The Rising was not only a result of British injustice but also the Potato Famine several decades earlier.  The famine was actually a blithe on the potato crops that prevented the poor Irish farmers living under British rule from paying their rent. During the years 1845 -1849 record crops were sent to England from Ireland. The poor in Ireland who depended on the potato had to choose to eat or pay their rent.  A million plus people could do neither which resulted in their starving to death.  Some families resorted to stealing food to feed their starving children. Those who were caught with even a single loaf of bread were given up to 20 years of hard labor in an Australian penal colony.  Many who chose to stay, lost their homes and were sent to work houses that were almost as bad as the English prisons. The starving peasants are remembered by statues located on the Quay of the Liffey River in Dublin.

Forced to leave their homeland a million Irish people emigrated to Europe, Australia or America to escape the death spiral.  Even so thousands of these emigrants died on these black ships sometimes called ‘death ships’.  One restored Death Ship the Jeanie Johnson is pictured below.   The famine finally ended but excessive taxation and ill treatment did not. The result was the Rising of 1916. Though the Rising failed, the execution of the leaders and murder of many innocent people kept a guerilla movement growing.  Finally in 1922 A.D. the English had enough.  Twenty-Six of the Irish Counties were granted independence. The six colonies in the North (Northern Ireland) remained under British control until 2005 A.D. when the last of the British troops were finally removed. The north and the south are still separated and each is an independent country today.

In spite of over 800 years of brutal treatment by the British government and their landlords the Irish people have chosen to be forgiving of the English.  Forgiveness however, does not mean forgotten.  We should always remember the sacrifices that were made and the hardships of our ancestors. These brave people sacrificed, fought and died that future generations can now live in peace and freedom.  Almost every city around the beautiful this island has statues and monuments remembering the brave men and women of the Easter Rising.  If you would like to learn more about these heroes,  read the historical novel by Morgan Llewellyn entitled “1916.”  This is a work of fiction with many real people and historical facts.  Miss Llewellyn has written several other historical novels that makes learning the history of Ireland fun.  I have read them all and each one was enlightening.

 


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A Story of True Love for Valentine’s Day

Jospeh and Grace broken hearted

In 1915 Joseph Mary Plunkett joined the Irish Republican Brotherhood and quickly rose in rank to become a leader of the Easter Rising of 1916. Joseph had contracted Tuberculosis at an early age and struggled with poor health all of his life.  Joseph was well educated and even wrote a book of poetry.  One of his poems was incorporated into a song about his relationship with his wife, Grace. Poems by Joseph Plunkett

 

In 1916 shortly before the Rising, Joseph was taken to the hospital to undergo surgery to the glands in his neck. He practically crawled from his hospital bed with bandages still on his neck to join the other leaders in the General Post Office. Several days later after heavy shelling and running low on ammunition the GPO was surrendered.

Joseph was taken and held at the Kilmainham Gaol in Dublin to be court martial. His poor health was never an issue to the British who quickly sentenced him to execution by firing squad. Seven days before the execution was to be carried out he was allowed to marry his long time sweetheart Grace Gifford. They were allowed one kiss and 10 minutes to talk with guards all around them in a small room.

On May 04, 1916 Joseph Mary Plunkett was shot where-the-1916-rebelsdead in the court yard of the Kilmainham Gaol. So ended the life of one of Ireland’s bravest patriots. Grace Gifford Plunkett died in Dublin on December 13, 1955. Grace had never remarried.

 

Please listen to this moving story in song by Wolftones:

Wolf Tones

Click here to hear – Wolf Tones – Grace

 


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Who Invented Whiskey?

Few topics have flared tempers in pubs more than the question: Who invented whiskey? Was it the Irish, the Scots, or someone you’d least expect, like the Chinese or Arabs?

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Whisk(e)y is sunshine in a glass. Uisge baugh, or water of life in Scots Gaelic, and uisge beatha, water of life in Irish Gaelic. It’s the cure for what ails you, and the Celt’s gift to the world. It’s now distilled and bottled on nearly every continent, with a variety of regional grains.

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Interested in attending a Whiskey Tasting?

The origins of distillation are pretty murky. Some say it first started with ancient Babylonians, or possibly ancient Greeks, or maybe it was the Chinese… at this point in my research, I’m willing to say it was anyone but aliens…

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The origins of whisk(e)y are just as obscure. The Irish claim that they have been making whiskey for anywhere between 1000 and 1600 years, depending on who you ask, and frankly, who are we to argue?

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Excuse me, sir, can you tell me if the Vikings invented whisk(e)y?

One story tells of Irish monks bringing the secrets of distillation back to Ireland from the Middle East. Another story claims that the Vikings had learned to distil while raiding in Greece or Syria, or possibly Turkey and brought the technique to Scotland when they built villages on the West Coast of Scotland. I could go on because there are many more stories of the origin of whisk(e)y. So many more stories…

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So, we’re left to draw our own conclusions, dear reader, at least until someone smarter than I, with access to some arcane tome that definitively sorts this matter once and for all. I, for one, conclude that just as the Irish and Scottish histories, people and culture are intertwined, so are the origins of whisk(e)y. Maybe we should just be content not to know and just enjoy the magic that is whisk(e)y.

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Slainte! Check out The Whiskey Cowgirl’s videos here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Dublin, a Viking City?

Dublin is an iconic city, where the Liffey meets the Irish sea. It’s a city that’s full of monuments, beautiful architecture, art, and bridges. It’s the seat of Irish culture, music, textiles, and all things Irish. In fact, ask anyone to name a city in Ireland and chances are that Dublin is the first city they think of. Dublin is undeniably Irish, but that hasn’t always been the case.

Ha' Penny Bridge in Dublin

Ha’ Penny Bridge in Dublin

From Wikipedia: “The earliest reference to Dublin is sometimes said to be found in the writings of Claudius Ptolemaeus (Ptolemy), the Egyptian-Greek astronomer and cartographer, around the year 140, who refers to a settlement called Eblana. This would

Boru Wood Quay Warrior pendant from The Celtic Ranch

Boru Wood Quay Warrior pendant from The Celtic Ranch

seem to give Dublin a just claim to nearly two thousand years of antiquity, as the settlement must have existed a considerable time before Ptolemy became aware of it. Recently, however, doubt has been cast on the identification of Eblana with Dublin, and the similarity of the two names is now thought to be coincidental. It is now thought that the Viking settlement was preceded by a Christian ecclesiastical settlement known as Duiblinn, from which Dyflin took its name. Beginning in the 9th and 10th century, there were two settlements where the modern city stands. The Viking settlement of about 841 was known as Dyflin, from the Irish Duiblinn (or “Black Pool”, referring to a dark tidal pool where the River Poddle entered the Liffey on the site of the Castle Gardens at the rear of Dublin Castle), and a Gaelic settlement, Áth Cliath (“ford of hurdles”) was further upriver, at the present day Father Mathew Bridge at the bottom of Church Street.”

Viking Lion Figurine. Photo courtesy of National Museum of Ireland

Viking Lion Figurine. Photo courtesy of National Museum of Ireland

It’s widely accepted that Viking Dublin was a thriving city by 840 AD, with trading outposts scattered throughout the Island. For those of you who watch the hit series Vikings, **SPOILERS** Ragnar’s son, Ivar The Boneless was one of Dublin’s Viking Kings, and his brother, Sitrygg Snake In The Eye, briefly reigned in Waterford. Vikings reigned in Dublin until 1014, when they were defeated by Irish High King, Brian Boru and the Battle of Clontarf.

Norse Alphabet Runes

Norse Alphabet Runes

Keith Jack Norse Forge Dragon Weave Bracelet from The Celtic Ranch

Keith Jack Norse Forge Dragon Weave Bracelet from The Celtic Ranch

It’s believed that in the two centuries of Viking expansion in Dublin, Viking and Celtic cultures began to meld, and they even developed a hybrid Gael-Norse language. In fact, there are still remnants of Norse in modern Gaelic. Religions were combined as well, with Roman Catholicism, Celtic Christianity, and Viking Paganism all being practised in ancient Dublin. But just as quickly as the Vikings arrived, they left, taking most of their culture, language and descendants with them. In fact, only around 1.4% of Irish people have Viking DNA, where the numbers are significantly higher in Great Britain, with some areas, like Orkney and Shetland, where 25-29% of men were found to have Viking DNA.

Viking Artifacts courtesy of The National Museum of Ireland

Viking Artifacts courtesy of The National Museum of Ireland

So, Is Dublin a Viking or a Celtic city? Yes. It’s both. The bones of the city are undoubtedly Viking, even if you’d have to dig pretty deep to find them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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The Irish Whales

 

At the turn of the Twentieth Century, with anti-Irish sentiment running high in both America and Britain, Irish Olympic athletes faced a choice of either competing as British athletes, for a crown and flag that they resented, or emigrating to America or Canada, where they were not wanted nor welcomed. The world did not yet recognize Ireland as a nation and these Irish athletes, who came to be known as The Irish Whales, became unlikely heroes as they set and broke records in track and field events between 1896 and 1924, competing under British, American and Canadian flags.

Irish Whales Team

Irish Whales Team

The Irish Whales were so named because they were large men, both in stature and in character. They were known for their fiery spirits, showmanship, and were the first Olympic heroes of the modern era. Pat McDonald, Simon Gillis, Con Walsh, John Flanagan. Matt McGrath, James Mitchell, Paddy Ryan and Martin Sheridan took the world by storm and did much to earn the Irish diaspora respect around the world.

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All told, the Irish Wales won some 25 gold medals between the Athens Olympics of 1896 and the Antwerp Olympics of 1920, mainly in the shot-put, hammer and discus events.

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During the 1906 Intercalated Games in Athens, the Irish Whales won the bulk of Britain’s medals and the anger and resentment among the Irish athletes was starting to peak. After winning the gold medal for the hop, step and jump event Peter O’Connor ripped the Union Jack from the flagpole that had been raised above his head and replaced it with the green flag of Erin, making quite the statement to all who witnessed such a bold act of Irish patriotism.

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In 1908, the Summer Olympics were held in London and by then, most of the Irish Whales had joined the American Olympic team. There were countless diplomatic failures at these games, notably, the United States flag went missing and was not displayed in the Olympic stadium with the flags of all the other nations.

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According to Roger McGrath writer for Irish America, “As the music of Grenadier Guards filled the stadium, King Edward settled into the royal box with Queen Alexandra and Princess Victoria at his side. At the Bugler’s signal, the gate leading to the athletes’ quarters was flung open and the parade of national teams began. One by one, they marched and dipped their flags to the King of England. It was a glorious moment for the host nation. Even the hard rain that had drenched the stadium earlier in the day had stopped. God seemed to be smiling on the empire. Then came the Americans, including the world-record hammer thrower and New York City cop, Matthew J. McGrath. When they approached the royal box, the County Tipperary-born McGrath, a six-foot, two-inch, 245-pound human bull of a man, stepped beside the team’s flag bearer and is rumored to have  said, “Dip that banner and you’re in hospital tonight.” Old Glory went unbowed past the King of England. The English were left in shock. London newspapers lashed the Americans with the severest criticism they could muster and called for an apology. Veteran Olympian and world-record discus thrower Martin J. Sheridan, another New York City cop, spoke of “Mighty Matt” McGrath and the other American team members when he answered the English by pointing to the flag and saying, “This flag dips to no earthly king.” The precedent had been set. To this day the United States does not dip its flag at Olympic ceremonies.”

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The Irish Whales forever changed the Olympics, and inspired Irish and American athletes for years to come. They raised the standards of competition in track and field and gave Irish people around the world a sense of pride and encouragement that would help embolden Ireland to fight for freedom and independence. These mighty men will forever be our Irish Whales.

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Lughnasadh

Lughnasadh (pronounced Loo-Nah-Saw) is the Gaelic harvest festival, which has been celebrated throughout the Celtic lands since ancient times. It is traditionally celebrated midway through the summer solstice and the autumn equinox.

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According to Wikipedia, Lughnasadh is mentioned in some of the earliest Irish literature and has pagan origins. The festival itself is named after the god Lugh. It involved great gatherings that included religious ceremonies, ritual athletic contests (most notably the Tailteann Games), feasting, matchmaking and trading. There were also visits to holy wells. According to folklorist Máire MacNeill, evidence shows that the religious rites included an offering of the ‘first fruits‘, a feast of the new food and of bilberries, the sacrifice of a bull and a ritual dance-play in which Lugh seizes the harvest for mankind and defeats the powers of blight. Much of the activities would have taken place on top of hills and mountains. Lughnasadh customs persisted widely until the 20th century, with the event being variously named ‘Garland Sunday’, ‘Bilberry Sunday’, ‘Mountain Sunday’ and ‘Crom Dubh Sunday’. The custom of climbing hills and mountains at Lughnasadh has survived in some areas, although it has been re-cast as a Christian pilgrimage. The best known is the ‘Reek Sunday‘ pilgrimage to the top of Croagh Patrick on the last Sunday in July. A number of fairs are also believed to be survivals of Lughnasadh, for example the Puck Fair. Since the later 20th century, Celtic neopagans have observed Lughnasadh, or something based on it, as a religious holiday. In some places, elements of the festival have been revived as a cultural event.

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Lughnasadh is also known as Bilberry Sunday, Blueberry Sunday, Crom Dubh Sunday, and Garland Sunday, and can be celebrated anytime between the middle of July and the end of August.

Berry picking is a traditional part of Lughnasadh and legend holds that if there is a plentiful crop, then the rest of the harvest will also be plentiful.

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Another Lughnasadh or Garland Sunday tradition is the making of garlands and wreaths, which are then placed around all of the Holy Wells in Ireland, honoring the patron saints.

So how can you celebrate the Lughnasadh Festival? However you want! Bake a pie, dig in the garden, relax around a fire or decorate your home with flowers. However you choose to honor this tradition, we wish you a happy and bountiful summer!

 

 


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The Puck Fair

The Puck Fair in Ireland is one of the island’s oldest festivals thought to date back to the 4th century and was originally part of the Celtic harvest festival, Lughnasa.

Photo by PuckFair.ie

Photo by PuckFair.ie

From Slate.com “During this ancient celebration, a wild male goat (known as a puck) is crowned king of the town for three days before being returned to his normal life in the Irish hills, his royalty all but ignored by his fellow goats. The festival begins each year on Aug. 10, when the captured goat is brought to the town square where he is crowned by the “Queen of Puck,” who is not another goat, but a young girl from the town. His worldly station raised, “King Puck” is then put in a cage on a high scaffold where he may survey his kingdom for the duration of the festival. The bars are allowed to stay open extra-late during the fair, so his majesty generally gets to see some drunkenness. At the end of the three days, the king goat is deposed and led back to into the wilderness.” -Sounds like fun, right?

Photo by puckfair.ie

Photo by puckfair.ie

The Puck Fair is celebrating 403 years of documented festivals and although some animal welfare groups have called for an end of the tradition of crowing the goat king, the festival, which runs from August 10-12, is more popular than ever with more than 10,000 people gathering in the small town of Killorglin for the festivities.

The first day of Puck Fair is called The Gathering and includes the Coronation Ceremony. The Goat King and the Maiden Queen are paraded through town, before being crowned, kicking off 3 days of festivities.

The Gathering is also the oldest running horse fair in Ireland. People travel from all over the country to show, buy and sell horses and tack.

Photo by dochara.com

Photo by dochara.com

 

The second day of Puck Fair is called Fair day and it’s a full blown carnival complete with cotton candy, crafts, and a Cattle Fair.

The third day is called The Scattering. The Goat King is lead back up the mountain to rejoin his herd and is followed by a grand parade. The festivities conclude with a massive fireworks display.

 

Photo by IrishFireside

 

I think that we can all agree that if you’re going to be in Ireland in August, you’re going to go the The Puck Festival, right? It’s not every day that you can meet a goat king.

 

 


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Fairies

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Fairies have been spoken of in whispers in Ireland for centuries. The fabled creatures are sometimes malevolent but are often portrayed as friendly if properly appeased. Fairies are mythological creatures said to have magical powers. They like to live in stone piles or cairns, in holes in trees, and underground. Legend tells us that if you make friends with the fairies near you, they will us their powers to protect you, bless you, and might even bring you gifts of food, or tend your garden.

According to Encyclopedia Britannica, “while the term fairy goes back only to the Middle Ages in Europe, analogues to these beings in varying forms appear in both written and oral literature, from the Sanskrit

From A E Williams fine pewter, UK A little fairy, moon and star is a perfect place for the tooth fairy to find a tooth, or to collect other teeny treasures.

From A E Williams fine pewter, UK
A Little Fairy, Moon and Star 

gandharva (semidivine celestial musicians) to the nymphs of Greek mythology and Homer, the jinni of Arabic mythology, and similar folk characters of the Samoans, of the Arctic peoples, and of other indigenous Americans. The common modern depiction of fairies in children’s stories represents a bowdlerization of what was once a serious and even sinister folkloric tradition. The fairies of the past were feared as dangerous and powerful beings who were sometimes friendly to humans but could also be cruel or mischievous.

Fairy myths are mainly associated with the Celtic cultures of Ireland, Scotland, Cornwall, and Wales. To this day, fairy dwellings are protected in parts of Ireland.

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There are dozens of explanations for the origins of fairies. Some believe that they are fallen

The Irish Fairy Door available at The Celtic Ranch

The Irish Fairy Door available at The Celtic Ranch

angels who were left stuck between heaven and hell. Some believe they are spirits of the dead. According to Wikipedia “At one time it was a common belief was that fairy folklore evolved from folk memories of a prehistoric race. It was suggested that newcomers drove out the original inhabitants, and the memories of this defeated, hidden people developed into the fairy beliefs we have today. Proponents of this theory claimed to find support in the tradition that of cold iron as a charm against the fairies, which was viewed as a cultural memory of invaders with iron weapons displacing inhabitants had only flint and were therefore easily defeated.”

Kneeling Fairy With Bird, Fairy Charm

Kneeling Fairy With Bird, Fairy Charm

Fairy Gardens became popular during the Victorian era and today, miniature, fairy-sized gardens and fairy doors can be found in homes and gardens across the globe. Many people also like to accessorize their gardens with fairy charms to lure fairies who, being the obsessive creatures that they are, might be inclined to pull weeds, water, and chase off unsavory characters.

Seesaw Fairies from A.E. Williams, the finest pewter manufacturer in the world

Seesaw Fairies from A.E. Williams, the finest pewter manufacturer in the world


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Celtic Crosses

celtic-899427_960_720Celtic Crosses are one of the more ubiquitous symbols in Ireland and throughout Irish

Mullingar Pewter Celtic Cross

Mullingar Pewter Celtic Cross

history. Legend has it that St. Patrick introduced the cross to Ireland, combining the traditional cross with the nimbus, the Pagan symbol of the sun to help the converts understand the importance of the cross. Others believe that the Celtic cross predates Christianity. Either way, it’s undoubtedly Celtic.

Celtic Christians erected high crosses, large, intricate stone crosses in churchyards and cemeteries throughout Ireland, Britain, and

ShanOre Sterling Silver Emerald and Diamond Celtic Cross

ShanOre Sterling Silver Emerald and Diamond Celtic Cross

mainland Europe, but the Protestant Reformation in Britain and Europe led to the removal and destruction of most of the ancient stone crosses.

Keith Jack Oxidized Sterling Silver and Gold Cross

Keith Jack Oxidized Sterling Silver and Gold Cross

In the 1800’s, Ireland underwent a Celtic Revival, and with the new sense Celtic pride, preservation of historic landmarks, and Celtic crosses became a priority. New crosses were built as the ancient symbols regained popularity, and today it is a symbol of Celtic Identity, as well as a sacred symbol.

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Fado Celtic Cross

Fado Celtic Cross

The tradition of Celtic crosses lives on today in the form of tattoos, garden statuary, and jewelry. Did I mention jewelry? We have some of the finest Celtic crosses made in Ireland, here at the Celtic Ranch. With names like Keith Jack, ShanOre, Fado, and Mullingar, you won’t find better quality, fine Irish silver, gold, platinum, and pewter Celtic crosses anywhere else.


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The Giant’s Causeway

The first time you see it, you think there’s no way it can be real. The otherworldly rock ireland-914207__180formations of The Giant’s Causeway look like something out of a movie set. In fact, they have been a set location for the hit show Game of Thrones and the movie Dracula Untold.

The Giant’s Causeway, located in County Antrim in Northern Ireland is a formation of interlocking, basalt columns that have an unusual, geometric shape, or rather shapes. The columns are usually perfect hexagons, but you can also find pillars with anywhere from four to eight sides.

giants-causeway-1182945__180“Formed 50 to 60 million years ago, during the Paleogene Period, the Giant’s Causeway resulted from successive flows of lava inching toward the coast and cooling when they contacted the sea. Layers of basalt formed columns, and the pressure between these columns sculpted them into polygonal shapes that vary from 15 to 20 inches (38 to 51 cm) in diameter and measure up to 82 feet (25 metres) in height. They are arrayed along cliffs averaging some 330 feet (100 metres) in elevation.” –Encyclopedia Britannica

So, now that we’ve covered the sciency stuff, we need to talk about the really cool, totally true legends of The Giant’s Causeway.  From Wikipedia “According to legend, the columns are giants-causeway-539869__180the remains of a causeway built by a giant. The story goes that the Irish giant Fionn mac Cumhaill (Finn MacCool), from the Fenian Cycle of Gaelic mythology, was challenged to a fight by the Scottish giant Benandonner. Fionn accepted the challenge and built the causeway across the North Channel so that the two giants could meet. In one version of the story, Fionn defeats Benandonner.[9] In another, Fionn hides from Benandonner when he realises that his foe is much bigger than he. Fionn’s wife, Oonagh, disguises Fionn as a baby and tucks him in a cradle. When Benandonner sees the size of the ‘baby’, he reckons that its father, Fionn, must be a giant among giants. He flees back to Scotland in fright, destroying the causeway behind him so that Fionn could not follow.[10] Across the sea, there are identical basalt columns (a part of the same ancient lava flow) at Fingal’s Cave on the Scottish isle of Staffa, and it is possible that the story was influenced by this.[11]

giants-causeway-539867__180The Giant’s Causeway was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1986, and in 1987 it was named a National Nature Reserve. It became a tourist destination in the 1800’s and a magnificent new visitor’s center was opened in 2012, making this a must see, bucket-list vacation spot.


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