|Thursday May 31
On the road from Kilkenny this morning, heading southwest. Our first stop was the Rock of Cashel. This huge stone mound rises above the farmland in County Tipperary. It is an obvious defensive position, and was held from 300-1100 by various ancient kings, including one that St. Patrick baptized in 450 AD. Finally the current king gave it to the church in 1101, and it developed into a major ecclesiastical center. (Doing so, he made points with the church and kept the rock out of the hands of his enemies.) We spotted it towering over the surrounding plains as we approached the town, but it took some doing to find the right street to reach the car park. From there it was quite a climb up the path to the rock. (I realized how steep it was when I was walking back down later.)
The oldest chapel was closed for restoration, but the original 92 foot round tower (1100’s), much of the huge cathedral (1200’s), the graveyard, and various other buildings remain. The view out over the surrounding plains is wonderful, and includes yet another abbey ruin.
Our next stop was nearby in Cahir (pronounced like care) where a medieval castle (1142) rises along the river in the center of town. Cahir castle ended up in the Butler family by 1375 who also had Kilkenny Castle. Since a surrender was negotiated with Cromwell, most of the castle survived his takeover. It seems like only one wing of the castle was modernized, and most of the rest (the keep, gate, portcullis, banquet hall, etc., are presented in their medieval version.
Following the castle, we assembled a picnic at the supermarket, and headed for Swiss Cottage nearby. We found a bench by the river where we had lunch, and then walked on to the ‘cottage’. This was built by John Butler, the 10th Baron Caher in 1810. By this time they had built an elegant town house separate from the castle (along with homes in Dublin and London). The cottage was built, not as a residence, but as an entertainment and relaxing place to get out of town and enjoy the country life. The cottage was designed to look like it grew to blend into the natural environment around it. Things were intentionally crooked and asymmetrical, in contrast the formal architecture of the time. Folks would come and even dress up as peasants enjoying the simple life. Of course they brought their servants along (kept working in the basement), and went home to the mansion at night after a day of picnicking, fishing and playing. It looked like a fairy-tale come to life.
We headed further south to our B&B for the night, and found it without too much wandering. It seems like few places in Ireland have a numbered street address! On the way we crossed a narrow stone one-way bridge (controlled by a stop light). At the B&B we have a couple of nice rooms with a friendly local host. (Nobody home when we got there, but we called and he had run the kids into town for soccer, and would be back soon.) We asked for a dinner recommendation, and he had us follow him into town where he led us to ‘The Hunter’s Rest’, took us and introduced us to the waitress. We had excellent meals, and managed to find our way home where we settled in for the night.
Friday, June 1
Since we are at a B&B, we got a great home-cooked breakfast to set us up for the day. It was an overcast morning, but still warm. Heading out from the Glanworth area, we joined up with the motorway heading south. With some careful map reading, we bypassed Cork and associated traffic, left the freeway, and made our way to Bandon. I wanted to visit, since the founder of my hometown, Bandon Oregon was founded by an Anglo-Irish Lord from here. It is a bustling workaday medium-sized town. We parked and Ruth climbed up to see the church while I walked along the main street a bit just checking out a few shops and taking a few pictures. We talked to a nice woman in one of the shops, and she told us she subscribes to the Bandon Oregon Chamber of Commerce newsletter!
I got the first experience filling the tank here. The car is clearly marked for diesel, so that was no problem. It took about $50 to top up the tank for all the driving we have done since Dublin, so that is not bad, relatively speaking. We’ve had lots of traveled lots for the money.
We got to places where we could see the sea in the distance. The sun was breaking through by afternoon, and we were definitely enjoying all the shades of green. We were on the N21, the main road going around the southwest. It was not a motorway! Most of it did have the center line, and enough space to comfortably pass oncoming cars. There were more challenging sections, however. Quite often the speed limit would be the equivalent of 62 mph, but you would be crazy to drive that fast given the winding narrow roads with little or no shoulder.
The rest of the afternoon was basically joyriding along, enjoying beautiful scenery of mountains, fields, bays and nice little towns. Today’s lunch picnic was served overlooking Ballylickey Bay near Bantry. We rolled into Kenmare in the late afternoon, and found our B&B using the coordinates on the GPS with no problem. I guess there was a problem with the coordinates we had for the place in Kilkenny, so we can’t blame the GPS.
It was a longer driving day, and now we rest up for the drive around the Ring of Kerry tomorrow.
By the way, if anyone cares about cars, it is a Renault Captur. I would recommend getting as small a car as you are comfortable with for driving here, and think several times before you consider any type of RV!
Trivia time: I had never made the connection with our use of the word ‘camping’ with a military campaign. The guide yesterday at the cottage pointed out a ‘campaign bed’ that had been used by one of Napoleon’s officers; it was a folding iron bed that could be taken along when they were on the march.