Posted in Places To Visit

Places to Visit – The Museum of Appalachia

This week, I’m taking you to my happy place. No matter how many times I have been, whenever I’m in the area, I have to stop by the Museum of Appalachia. Many of my maternal ancestors are from this area of Tennessee, which makes visiting the museum even more special. Let me try to put into words why I love this place so much!

Looking out from one of the cabins

The History

The Museum of Appalachia was founded in 1969 with the intentions of showcasing an authentic mountain farm and pioneer village. John Rice Irwin, who was instrumental in the founding of the museum, helped to collect over 250,000 artifacts ranging from folk art, musical instruments, baskets, quilts, and so much more. Side note: John Rice Irwin is my 4th cousin 2x removed on my maternal. I had no idea of this connection when I started going to the museum, but now it just adds something special!

John Rice Irwin

The main focus of the Museum of Appalachia these days is to preserve its massive collection and to develop educational programs. The goal of the educations programs is to encourage others to preserve the past for the future. This is something I can very much get behind! The museum is also a Smithsonian Affiliate museum.

Things To Do

The Museum of Appalachia covers about 65 acres that are absolutely beautiful. The land boasts 35 log cabins, barns, farm animals (my favorite are the goats), churches, schools, and gardens. Speaking of farm animals, watch out for the peacocks. The last time I was there, two peacocks were ruling the roost. They just wander the grounds from the gift shop to the outer cabins. They are beautiful to look at, but don’t get too close!

The Peacock!

The gift shop is a must visit and hard to miss. Literally, it’s hard to miss since that is where you buy your tickets. Everything you could possibly want to shop for is in the gift shop. Of course, the majority of it is geared to Appalachia. They have everything from books to candles to toys to apparel. I mean, I could almost guarantee that you will not walk out empty handed.

The Gift Shop

If you want to make a day of it, make sure to visit the museum’s restaurant. If you are looking for some yummy, authentic Appalachian cuisine, look no further! They do only serve lunch (from 11am-2pm), but serve lighter dishes, such as soups, sandwiches, and desserts until 3pm. They do have a daily menu, so check out their website to see what they are serving on the day you are visiting. An example of their daily menu would include Herb Roasted Pork Loin, Chicken Noodle Casserole, Turnip Greens, Broccoli Casserole, Sweet Potato Casserole, Buttered Corn, Deviled Eggs, and Mac & Cheese. I’m full just thinking about it!

More Information

Ticket prices range from $18.00 (adults) to $6.00 (children). There are group rates and senior discounts, so make sure to check the website for more information. Their summer hours are 9am-5pm (monday-friday) and 9am-6pm (saturday & sunday). They are closed on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day. They also have special events and special days throughout the year.

All this information and more can be found on their website https://www.museumofappalachia.org/

I can’t recommended enough the Museum of Appalachia. When I’m there, I just feel closer to my ancestors that lived much in the same way that they are preserving at the museum. If you have Appalachian ancestors, or just wonder how folks lived there in the past, you will not be disappointed!

Posted in Places To Visit

Places To Visit – Glendalough

Now that the world is starting to open back up, I thought it would be the perfect time to highlight some of my favorite places to travel.  These places include archives/libraries, historical places, cemeteries, and some of my favorite ancestor related places.  Basically, no place, be it big or small, local or international, is off limits.  Also, if you know of a place that I should talk about, let me know!

In today’s post, we’re visiting Glendalough, County Wicklow, Ireland. This is by far my favorite place in all of Ireland. The scenery, the atmosphere, and the history were all amazing! While I have no genealogical connection to this area of Ireland, visiting still hit me right in my history loving heart.

The History

For those who are not familiar with Glendalough, let me explain it’s significance. Located in the Wicklow Mountains, Glendalough is home to one of the most important monastic sites in Ireland. Founded in the 6th Century by St. Kevin, this area was a “monastic city” where many came to live and learn. The city itself flourished until 1214 when it was destroyed by Norman invaders. Many of the original buildings from the 10th and 12th centuries survived and visitors are able to walk in the footsteps of the monks who lived there.

St. Kevin’s Church at Glendalough

The Personal Connection

For me, Glendalough and the Wicklow Mountains were more than just home to a medieval city. While driving to Glendalough from Dublin, I began to realize with my ancestors settled where they did when they came to America. You see, the majority of my ancestors came to America in the early to mid 1600s. While they started their journey on the shores of Virginia and North Carolina, many ended up in the Appalachian Mountains. Specifically, they settled in the Smoky Mountains of western North Carolina and eastern Tennessee.

The Wicklow Mountains

The day I visited Glendalough, the weather was foggy with a light drizzle. I felt very much that I was back “home” in the East Tennessee mountains. It was an unexpected ancestral connection. I came to Glendalough because it was one of the top places to visit in Ireland. I left feeling like I had a better understanding of who my ancestors were. While not specifically from County Wicklow, I have Irish ancestors and while standing on the banks of the Upper Lake (at Glendalough), I felt like I had come home.

Things To See

There are so many things to see at Glendalough besides the 10th Century ruins. I highly recommend going though the heritage center before visiting the ruins. It gives you a better understanding of who St. Kevin was, why people followed him, and how they lived. When you know the stories, it makes walking though the ruins all the more impactful.

My friends and I standing in the ruins of Glendalough Cathedral

Don’t miss St. Kevin’s Cross! The cross’ arms are over 3 Feet across while the cross itself is over 8 Feet tall. There is also a legend that surrounds the cross. The story goes that whoever can wrap their arms around the body of the cross and touch their fingertips, will have all their dreams come true. I tried it…and I wasn’t even close!

My attempt at getting my arms around St. Kevin’s Cross

After walking the ruins, take your time going through the cemetery. Even though I didn’t have any ancestors buried there, it was very interesting to read the names and inscriptions on the headstones. Take your time and soak it all in.

Lastly, do not miss walking the short trail to the Upper Lake. Even with dreary weather, it was an amazing view. I literally could have stood there all day! Also, if you’ve ever seen the movie “Leap Year”, the wedding scenes take place at Glendalough.

For More Information

If you would like more information about Glendalough, visit their website at https://www.glendalough.ie/