Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Black Rock Castle . . .

Black Rock Castle
August 13, 2014 -- A couple of days ago we went to Market Lane for dinner. We initially sat at the bar and ordered a "pint". As it is, the bar only serves "Murphy's", so we ordered it and liked it! We like Guinness better,  but Murphy's is darn good. The manager, Mark, offered us a table even though it looked like were going to have drinks only. We did order a full dinner and the food, as stated earlier in this blog, was "outa sight!".

We went back again last night and were welcomed by Mark and his "girl at reception" Tracey. A "getting to know you" chat ensued, and in answer to the questions "what do you do", I mentioned I build telescopes and gave Mark my card. Tracey then explained that one of her best friends works at Black Castle Observatory. She picked up her phone, called and got us an appointment for a private tour today at 11 a.m.

Alan Giltinan and self in the "lab".
This morning, we found our way to the bus station and by bus to Black Rock Castle. It was about a 20 minute ride. Along the way, we met Violette who was getting off at the same stop. She walked along with us a short while to be sure we got to the castle OK and we said our goodbyes. It also happens that the Market Lane restaurant has a eatery on the grounds of the castle called -- oddly -- The Castle. We were early enough to enjoy breakfast and a cup of coffee and then made our way into the castle/science center lobby.

The castle dates back to the 16th Century and was originally built to defend Cork Harbor and the "upper river". We had a chance to join a history tour to see those parts of the castle originally used as its defensive encampments. As has been the case with the other castles we've seen in Ireland -- the castle is fairly small, but solidly built and has a commanding view of the river. The walls, we learned, are 2.2 meters thick and will deflect a "cannon-ball" shot at close range!

Black Rock Observatory.
In the early 2000's, the castle was redeveloped by the Cork City Council, the Cork Institute of Technology and a private funding source into the Science Center it is today.  The goal was to create "a Center for Scientific Research, Outreach and Communication." The science center opened "for business" in 2004. I learned that the Science Center is one of the few of its type in Ireland and has been busy with visitors since its opening.

Linda at the 17th Century Fireplace.
Later in the morning we met Alan Giltinan, a System Manager (and in charge of everything!!) who was kind enough to spend an hour, or so, taking us on a private tour of the facility. Alan's tour included the "labs" and telescopes. He explained how the "outreach program" helps the staff conduct some serious astronomical research at the Center. Blackrock Castle Observatory (BCO) has remote telescopes in Palo Alto California, on the roof of the castle itself and a venue in Spain. We visited both of their telescopes, a 6" SCT and 16" Meade SCT on the top roof of the castle.  The climb of 100 steps to the top was daunting, but we survived and had a great visit with Alan.

The Lab.
We left a couple of hours later, happy to  have been given the unique opportunity of seeing the inside workings of the Observatory and Science Center.  We wandered down and around the castle into a small village at the base of the hill. After enjoying a cup of coffee and well deserved rest, we made our way back to central Cork by bus. Since this is our last day in Cork, we continued to wander the streets of this beautiful city. Needless to say, we'd love to come back for a longer visit. We've thoroughly enjoyed the people, the food and the many places we've visited.

We're off to Dublin tomorrow. We'll use the city as "base" from which to visit many of the surrounding villages, cities and attractions. I just know there'll be a "castle" or two to be seen!! One especially is the 72" "Lord Rose" telescope in Birr.

We want to thank Mark and Tracey at the Market Lane Restaurant in Cork, Clair at BCO -- and especially Alan Giltinan at BCO -- for their help in setting up this extraordinary visit. Linda and I appreciated every minute of it. . .