Wednesday 15 July – County Kilkenny
Today dawned bright and sunny – a major change in events weather wise and we turned out attention to County Kilkenny.
I had the itinerary all worked out. Starting at Castlecomer at the coal mining Discovery Centre, followed by a tour of Dunmore Cave. On to Kilkenny Castle and Kilkenny Town and finishing at Jerpoint Abbey in Thomastown. A kind of circle from Ballon and back.
Well, that was the plan but as plans go it went a bit skewy.
First mistake – take the WRONG road out of Carlow and point in the WRONG direction away from Castlecomer and straight to Kilkenny. Um, that actually bypasses the first two activities of the day. Oh well, no bother we’ll start at the bottom and work our way back up. So first stop now – Jerpoint Abbey.
All good. Well almost. Would you believe that on the first day of sunshine I left the camera behind. Yes, a day without rain so that photos will actually have blue sky and do I bring it with me – nah! why would I do that. Sheesh!!! Oh, and there was really photogenic stuff at each point too. Typical!
So first off we went to Jerpoint Abbey. This is a ruin of a monastery and is maintained by the Office of Public Works or OPW as it is known. This government authority handles a lot of Ireland’s historical sights. A guided tour was offered without extra cost so we took that up. And it turned out to be a private guided tour as the other visitors to the site were doing their own thing. Lucky us as our guide was extremely knowledgeable and there is no way we would have got as much out of the visit by ourselves without his information. We ended up being there for about 1 1/2 hours. The Abbey (or what is left of it as it Oliver Cromwell’ed** so it has no roof) which means exposure to the elements over the centuries but there are tombs and the most amazing carvings – which I couldn’t take pictures of of course! Our guide was not only knowledgeable but gave his knowledge in such as way as to convey that he was interested in the subject and had learnt the information because he had to. Made for a very enjoyable visit.
** When Oliver Cromwell went to Ireland and carried out Henry VIII’s orders with respect to churches and religious orders he destroyed the roofs of buildings so that they were no longer useable.
Next stop was Kilkenny Town. As it turned out the cafe had free wi fi but I didn’t know that so didn’t take the Macbook in with me. That too would have been sensible. I was not having a very good day of it organisation wise.
Kilkenny Castle is right in the town and so we wandered up with the expectation of just seeing inside a castle. Stepping inside the castle walls we were in for a very pleasant surprise. The castle grounds! A fantastic parkland that stretches for ages, still walled, with the river running along one side. A very very nice way to spend a walk.
We took the obligatory tour of the castle – also managed by the OPW, if only we’d known about the OPW membership card we could have saved euros as that would have given us entry to OPW sites and it is only 21 euros for an adult for a year. Very good value for anyone considering travelling to Ireland (the Republic that is). Get yourself an OPW card! It’s cheaper for seniors 60+. Dad gets to get in cheaper to most everything just for being old!! Mmph!!
Our host is a Church of Ireland Minister and as part of visiting Kilkenny he recommended a visit to the Cathedral. He also recommended climbing the round tour – I will consider forgiving him for that shonky recommendation at some point in the future. But I digress. The Cathedral. A short walk back to the High Street and up a bit, climb some steps and there it is. OK, it’s a nice building with the obligatory graveyard. But then we went inside! Oh my, it is beautiful. There are carvings, tombs with carvings and effigies, beautiful floor tiles – it is well worth the visit.
We then went outside to climb the round tower. I had purchased a combined ticket (there is a cost for going into the cathedral and a separate cost to climb the tower) and managed to lose it in the Cathedral! I’d left my brain cells somewhere that morning that was for sure. Luckily the lovely kind staff member remembered selling me the tickets and she replaced it so I didn’t have to pay double.
The tower is very tall and very narrow. Now those that know me well know about my issue with heights. Let us just say it is not pretty. Our host had assured me it was fine, the steps were all inside and I wouldn’t be able to see out until I got to the top – all good, easy peasy. Well, what he neglected to mention (and remember he is a Minister of the Church of Ireland and therefore knows the Cathedral only too well) was that the steps were a series of wooden stepped ladders of ever increasing steepness until the top was reached. The last few steps were stone (I naively decided to believe that the whole thing was stone inside and I wouldn’t be able to see all the way down) that lead up through a narrow hole to stand (or in my case SIT!) on the top which thankfully had a cyclone fence all the way around. I still couldn’t stand up though, I kind of sat and shuffled around holding on very firmly to the cyclone wire. Going down was an event to say the least! I just kept telling myself that I had climbed the Shot Tower in Tasmania and that was worse so I could do it. I had no choice really, it was either climb down or live up there!
After surviving the descent we ventured on to see a merchant’s house a few hundred metres up the street but unlike most attractions it closed at 17:00 and we missed it “by that much”. Oh well, we looked at the outside and then it was time to return to Ballon. Another day in Ireland over. Where to tomorrow?
Until next time…