There's an old song, from World War I I believe, that's called, "It's a long, long way to Tipperary." Well, it is a long way and today we finally got to Tipperary County to see more castles.
If there's one thing Ireland has plenty of it's castles and plenty of rocks. It's hard to drive very far without seeing the ruins of some kind of military fortification. With all the invaders tromping around in their country, the locals took a defensive pose from the very beginning of Irish history. We saw rock piles on the Dingle drive that had been coastal fortifications. The next type of defense was a hill created by scooping out the earth and piling it up and then a wooden defensive building was put on top. In this climate wooden buildings did not last long. Rock is available everywhere and soon stone fortresses became the rage. They had tiny windows for shooting arrows out and very little light inside. They may have done a good job of protection, but the cold and dark stone must have made for unpleasant living conditions. The nicer ones had a passageway running down between the floors where human waste was tossed. Living in a castle wasn't all it was cracked up to be! Castles no longer were able to defend their occupants after the invention of the cannon. Some castles were totally abandoned; others were converted and remodeled into homes that would be more comfortable for their occupants.
As we drove past Cashel town last night the edifice called the Rock of Cashel
loomed on the hillside like some ghostly apparition. This morning we gave it a closer examination.
It started out as a fortress, but was eventually donated to the clergy,
who built a huge church next to the fortifications. Eventually even the clerics who were used to a life of deprivation, decided that living in a stone building on top of a cold windy hill was not for them. Although the building was abandoned, the grounds were still used as a cemetery.
The next castle in Cahir
was in a much better state of repair. The roof was intact, the stone walls were white washed, and the windows had been put in the place of the small holes that bowmen had used to shoot their arrows. This castle was erected on an island in the middle of the river
which gave it a naturally defensive position. Another picturesque spot.
Then it was back to the car for a two hour drive to Galway. We are here in Ireland during the low season and have found it nice to have attractions pretty much to ourselves. We have had no trouble finding a B & B without a reservation and often were the only guests there. But when we arrived in Galway, we discovered where everyone has been - here! The pedestrian zone was wall to wall people. Even though the temperatures are in the mid 40's, people were sitting outside dining al fresco and drinking Guiness. Musicians were playing saxophones on the street, artists painting pictures, and farmers selling organic vegetables. The real shops did a brisk business ranging from tourist souvenirs to chic clothing to hand knit sweaters. Galway is also a ferry city where tourists come to sail out to the Aran Islands, an especially quaint group of rocks where people still follow the old ways. It sounds like this sail is better saved for a summer day.