For the last couple of days Sydney and I have been with a friend of mine that I met on The Camino De Santiago 5 years ago. She has been gracious enough to show us around Tipperary where she lives. She has taken 4 days away from her life and is shuttling us around from place to place, feeding us, allowing us to stay in her home and treating us like family. A couple of years back I went to Austria and visited another friend that I met on the Camino, as is the case now with my Irish friend, my Austrian friend and his family were absolutely wonderful to us. I cant even begin to explain the hospitality and friendship these people have shown me. The reason I mention this is to demonstrate how important travel is. I think it is important to choose travel options that allow you to meet people from around the world. It may sound cheesy and a bit hyperbolic but these people, as well as others I have met in my travels have made my life better. Not only have they shown me first hand accounts of their countries, they have shown me different ways to see the world, different ways to think, and of course have been terrific friends when I do get the opportunity to see them. Perhaps an 800 km walk in Spain (The Camino) isn't for everyone, but it has provided life long friends for me that 5 years later are still ones I cherish. Ok, off my soapbox and onto some pics.
On our way to meet my friend we had a short drive from Glendalough to Clonmel but of course there were many stops along the way. What absolutely amazes me about Ireland is the number of old relics, churches, ruins, from 1000 years ago. There are so many that they can keep up with finding them, restoring them and maintaining them. Whats cool about this is that around every corner is something awesome. On top of all of that there is unparalleled natural beauty, here is some proof. We came across this randomly. It wasn't even good enough to make the guidebooks. Amazing
Before arriving in Clonmel, we had two pitstops one in the town of Kildare and one in the town of Kilkenny. Kildare is a small town with some charm, but our main reason for coming is a wonderful 12th century church and an over 100 foot round tower. A round tower, if you are unsure, is really a watch tower and defensive structure for the people living in the church and town around the church. They are high, round stone towers. There are only two in Ireland that you can climb to the top of and the highest one is Kildare. I have to say this was one of the most terrifying experiences ever. This isnt a nice spiral staircase with ropes secured to the walls to pull you up, this is 15 foot Victorian era ladders built into various levels if the tower that meander their way to the top. It is tough to explain but it was terrifying and the view were stunning from the top. Check them out. The church was also wonderful and charming, with a great little graveyard full of 19th century tombstones.
Kilkenny was the next stop. Kilkenny is a true tourist town. There are a number of things to do in the town for the tourist, and it is busy. Sydney and I thought the town had a Banff feel to it, only Medieval. The main draw is the castle and a couple of cathedrals. Overall, the castle was wonderful but I found the town a bit touristy. It is worth a go for the castle alone, and the other round tower in the country that is climbable is in Kikenny but I had had enough of round towers for the day. Here are the highlights from Kilkenny.
There have been some driving mishaps but I will keep those to myself for now. The roads are narrow, windy and the cars are all standards. To make it worse, the shifter is on the left because the car is a right hand drive car. It has made for some interesting moments, but I think we are getting the hang of it. I have let the cat take over driving duties as I can no longer be trusted.
Today was a wonderful day as my friend took us on the first of her own guided tours. She took us to the spots that we had planned to go and added a few more that are not in any guidebook. The first spot was a nice hidden away delight just outside of her town. It was a peaceful and tranquil spot that had some rich history. It was St Patrick's Well and is an important spot in the legend of St Patrick. It was a wonderful spot to spend a half hour.
The next spot was Cahir Castle. I think it is considered less important than the Kilkenny castle but I think I liked this one better. There was lots of cool areas to get lost in, some cells to lock up Sydney in and generally a cool and peaceful castle. I enjoyed the town of Cahir as well. There is a 2km stroll to another great, and much more modern building, the Swiss Cottage. The Swiss cottage is an 1830 home that was basically abandoned in the 1960s and restored again in the 1980s. The cool thing about this house is the thatched roof and careful design choices inside to mimic nature. It was owned by a guy who owned a lot of castles and a good chunk of Ireland in the 1800's and he used it as a summer retreat. It was very nice and a lovely enough home to make anyone jealous. In 1981 a Canadian purchased this house for $30,000 imagine what it would cost today. She no longer owns it, however she also didnt sink the half million Euros that went into restoring this. It was fascinating and the tour was wonderful and well worth the visit.
The last stop was probably the most spectacular, it was the Rock of Cashel. This is another castle, but the best of the bunch. It had a significant function for the Catholic church. I believe it was the main building for the Bishop that was head of the church in Ireland. If I understand it correctly, this is the most important castle in the country, but perhaps I am over stating this. Either way, it was wonderful despite the scaffolding that was visible for renovations and the views from the top of the hill were fabulous.
The day was finished off with another wonderful meal from my host and a beautiful dessert, baked apples. They were wonderful. However, I do have to ask my fellow Canadians a question. Apparently in Ireland there are eating apples and cooking apples. What you see here are cooking apples. Apparently they cannot be eaten raw as the are very sour, but the cook up marvelously. They are also huge. Do we having cooking apples in Canada? I have never seen them but apparently they are popular and common here. They are tasty when baked. Until next time.