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Lara’s Travels: Republic of Ireland

March 17 is the feast day of Saint Patrick, the Romano-British missionary and bishop who lived in the fifth century and went on to become the primary patron saint of Ireland. The “Emerald Isle” has inspired generations of storytellers and has featured in several Tomb Raider stories over the years, most notably in the 2000 game Tomb Raider Chronicles.

This edition of Lara’s Travels will examine Ms Croft’s visits to the Republic of Ireland and hopefully inspire you to follow in her footsteps someday.

Misadventures on the Black Isle

When most Tomb Raider fans think of Lara Croft and Ireland, they immediately think of the Black Isle and its many supernatural inhabitants. Sea hags, mischievous imps, phantom skeletons, and the demon-possessed corpse of Russian horseman Vladimir Kaleta were among the many foes the teenaged Lara Croft encountered during her brief visit to the island.

Fans hoping to visit the infamous Black Isle are fresh out of luck; no such island exists. There is a Black Isle in nearby Scotland but this Black Isle is actually a peninsula and home to a number of charming towns and fishing villages. You won’t find any sea hags and devilish imps there. Instead, you’ll find a Highland paradise for nature lovers and anyone looking to escape the hustle and bustle of city life.

But if you’re aching for an island adventure in the seas around Ireland, there are options to suit all tastes and budgets. Until recently, the uninhabited island of Inishmurray would have been an excellent day trip for those interested in ancient monasteries and abandoned villages, but tours are not currently permitted due to safety concerns. Star Wars fans will no doubt want to visit the awe-inspiring Skellig Michael, which was used as a filming location for The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi, but there are also many other islands to choose from which do not require booking trips months in advance and are less physically challenging to explore.

Skellig Michael – Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

Whichever island you choose to visit, just make sure you respect the visitor guidelines and avoid damaging any of the ancient structures or else the only ghoulish wrath you will incur will be that of the local tour guides!

Emerald Hunting on the Emerald Isle

Ireland was also the setting for two issues of the Top Cow Tomb Raider comic series back in the summer of 2004. In the two-part story “Tower of Souls”, Lara makes her way to Lotte Castle in County Offaly in search of the infamous Dolmen Emerald. Cursed talismans, Irish pubs, haunted castles, tortured souls, Celtic Otherworlds, and references to legendary High Kings of Ireland, this story arc is extremely tropey but makes for a fun, campy read… and it offers some offbeat travel tips.

Image credit: Top Cow Productions.

You probably won’t find any cursed emeralds in present-day County Offaly but this part of the Irish Midlands is home to a number of idyllic nature reserves, historic towns, the Slieve Bloom Mountains, early Christian monastic sites, and centuries-old castles. Dolmens – megalithic tombs that date back to the early Neolithic period – are dotted throughout the Irish countryside, though there are few such sites in County Offaly itself. Carrowmore in County Sligo is the country’s most impressive megalithic site and is home to over 30 stone tombs and boulder circles, but you can find other megalithic tombs in County Clare and County Roscommon.

Lotte Castle is fictional but is quite likely based on the very real Leap Castle in Coolderry, County Offaly. Said to be “the most haunted castle in Ireland”, Leap Castle has a long and bloody history that may date all the way back to the 13th century. Like Lotte Castle, Leap Castle is rumoured to be haunted by an elemental spirit and both castles have a “Bloody Chapel”. In fact, the O’Connor family history cited in the comics is almost identical to that of the O’Carroll clan, right down to the fierce rivalry between brothers which ended with one brother slaughtering the other in the aforementioned chapel.

Leap Castle – Image credit: Wikimedia Commons.

And then there’s the dungeon, where the O’Carrolls – and their fictional counterparts the O’Connors – are said to have given some of their guests a most unpleasant welcome. Numerous skeletons were recovered from the Leap Castle dungeon in the 1920s. Needless to say, a tour of the castle might not be for the faint-hearted or squeamish.

An Eventful Visit to Dublin

Lara’s most recent visit to the Republic of Ireland was in Gail Simone’s comic arc “Season of the Witch”, published in 2014. The young adventurer makes an impromptu visit to the Irish capital, Dublin, after she and Jonah narrowly escape death in a freak flood mere weeks after their ordeal on Yamatai.

Built on the banks of the River Liffey and home to over half a million people, the city of Dublin has a rich cultural heritage, is home to some of Ireland’s most prestigious academic institutions, and has a vibrant nightlife to rival that of any major world city.

Image credit: Dark Horse Comics.

One of the places she visits during her time in Dublin is the place she loves best in the world, the “garden of knowledge” known as the Old Library of Trinity College Dublin. Home to the Book of Kells and picturesque Long Room, it is here that Lara meets with an old family friend, Professor Cahalane, to seek advice on a golden artefact that’s come into her possession under mysterious circumstances. I already devoted an edition of Lara’s Travels to the Old Library, so feel free to check that out if you’d like to learn more about Trinity College Dublin and its scenic college grounds.

Image credit: Dark Horse Comics.

Another iconic landmark seen in this arc is the Spire, an 120-metre high stainless steel monument that rises above O’Connell Street. The needle-like monument was completed in January 2003 and is a popular meeting point for Dubliners and tourists alike due to its unmistakable appearance and its proximity to many of Dublin’s key attractions and bustling entertainment district.

And what visit to the Irish capital would be complete without a drink in the world-renowned Temple Bar district or a walk across Ha’Penny Bridge, the elliptical cast-iron bridge that thousands of pedestrians use to cross the River Liffey each day? Artist Nicolás Daniel Selma should be commended for his attention to detail; he not only drew the bridge’s decorative arches but also included Liberty Hall and the Custom House in a wide shot of the river.

Image credits: Wikimedia Commons and Dark Horse Comics

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So, have Lara’s adventures in Dublin and the Irish countryside inspired you to plan a trip to Ireland?

You can learn more about the country, its cultural heritage, and its many tourist attractions over on the Tourism Ireland and Discover Ireland websites.

Sources & Further Reading:

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