Friday was shopping day and we headed off to the Old Boot Factory to see if I could find a pair of boots to supplement inventory of things to put on my feet. After wandering around a bit we did find the place and ultimately picked up a nice pair of low boots and several other things for our trip. Heading back to the room, we stopped at a nice Italian restaurant for lunch and then after unloading our stuff we went to tour Kilkenny Castle.
The Normans built Kilkenny Castle in 1195 to control a fording- point on the River Nore. It was both a symbol of Norman occupation and used as a defensive point for the City. Over the years it was modified and changed ownership several times but the longest owner/occupants were the Butlers. They owned and controlled the area for over 500 years. The final hereditary owner decided to grant the State ownership for fifty pounds. Thirty years of neglect meant the refurbishment was costly, but area families who had bought up furniture when the family moved south, responded to a request to donate furnishings from the 19th century. Photos by one local gallery owner over a period of time provided guidelines for wall coverings, room designations etc. The carpeting throughout was rewoven from patterns that had been designated as “not to be duplicated” except for the family. The family , over a 500-year residence, adapted the surrounding 12th century walls to the needs of each generation, including removing all the south walls to reveal the beautiful park. We spent about an hour on a guided tour of the Castle and ventured into a number of different rooms, learned the history of the place, and very much enjoyed what we saw. We have been in a bunch of Chateau’s, Castles and Big Houses, and I would have to say that the Kilkenny Castle was one of the most enjoyable ones I have seen.
The town of Kilkenny is a generous host to gatherings like the Subtitles Film Festival that was going on while we were in town.
They generate many return visitors, and seem to have a love of American culture
We left Dublin, via rental car with David driving, and headed to Kilkenny. The day before we headed out it had rained virtually all day, flooding Dublin. Our trip south, fortunately, was in good clear weather and there were no problems figuring out which side of the road to be on. I will admit that Janeen kept a sharp eye on me to help out our navigation. Kilkenny is a medieval town in southeast Ireland – we had been close to it when we were in Waterford but didn’t venture into this part of Ireland. This spot had been a recommendation of our guild, Tony, on our CIE Adventure around Ireland. The town has deep religious roots and there are many well-preserved churches and buildings. The primary highlight is the Kilkenny Castle built in 1195 by Norman occupation.
We stayed in a nice place just up from the Castle and the main intersection of town – Butler Court.
We arrived in Kilkenny in time for a light lunch at Pennyfeather Tea Room and a quick walk around town before getting changed for dinner. During our walk about, it was very clear that the American influence of Black Friday sales has come to Ireland. There were lots of Black Friday sales signs inviting us to come in to various shops and buy stuff at great discounts, and Janeen found a warm wool cardigan,20% off! We decided to make plans for a Friday shopping for David boot excursion.
It being Thanksgiving, David made reservations for dinner at a nice restaurant in town – Campagne, a one star Michelin Restaurant where the executive chef/owner had been at Chapter I in Dublin for many years prior to opening the spot in Kilkenny. When we got to the restaurant I sent a card into the Chef that I had picked up at Chapter One along with one of my Loverofwine cards and he came out to our table to meet us. Not one to let an opportunity get by, I asked if he would prepare three dishes for us he considered his best representations of the menu paired with wine.
He gave that some thought and said he could do that. So, over the next couple of hours we had a wonderful relaxed dinner without knowing what would be coming next! We highly recommend this approach if you can be adventuresome and get a Chef to agree to do this.
OK, it was time to hit the Guinness Storehouse ,which our C.I.E. had provided vouchers for, along with transportation on the Hop on Hop off Bus. For those out there who don’t know, St James’s Gate Brewery is the official name of the brewery founded in 1759 by Arthur LEE Guinness (Yes, Lee is his middle name – meaning I have IRISH in my background) and has been brewed in Dublin ever since. Arthur LEE Guinness put a lease on the land for IR£45 (Irish pounds) per year for 9,000 years – not a bad deal. The main product of the brewery is Guinness Draught.
The Guinness Storehouse covers seven floors surrounding a glass atrium formed in the shape of a pint of Guinness. The building was constructed in 1902 ,designed by a Chicago architect and was the first multi-story steel framed building to be constructed in Ireland. It was used as a fermentation plant until it was closed in 1988. In 1997 it was decided to create the Guinness Storehouse Experience and it opened in late 2000 as it is today.
The ground floor starts the tour with the beer’s four ingredients – water, barley, hops and yeast and an introduction to the founder Arthur LEE Guinness. Other floors of the building feature the history of Guinness advertising and other aspects of the brewing process.
There is a tasting spot where you get a shot glass size taste and instructions on how to taste the beer – it’s really just like tasting wine so we figured out that part really quickly.
Part of the admission price is a pint of Guinness in the Gravity Bar located at the top of the building with a 360-degree view of Dublin City.
We had a nice time touring the building and of course the Pint in the Gravity Bar was delightful. We looked in the gift shop for a bobble head of Arthur LEE Guinness but couldn’t find one.
Leaving the Storehouse empty handed, we flagged down a cab and headed back to our hotel. Unfortunately ,we didn’t get far as the rain and flooding created a massive traffic jam and the taximeter kept running. So I convinced Janeen to get out of the cab (big mistake on my part) and we started walking. Well, we walked and walked and walked all the while it was raining. We were walking along and Janeen said “we are stopping in this pub to get warm and dry”.
To my surprise, when I looked at the food menu, we had landed in The Brazen Head.
The Brazen Head was built as a coaching inn in 1754 on the site of a merchant’s dwelling dating back to at least 1613. Local tradition claims that the site has housed a tavern or ale house since 1198, although there is no documentary evidence to support this, who cares! I had hoped to stop at this place and lo and behold Janeen made it happen.
We had a couple of Irish coffees and some food before heading back out to try and flag a cab to get us back to the hotel (which ultimately happened after walking a block or two more).
Tuesday we had made an appointment for Janeen to have her hair done so off we went. The shop was along a main shopping area but we didn’t spend much time (together) shopping but got the hair thing done and continued on our Dublin Adventure. I did do a bit of shopping while she was being cared for – a nice sweater and also looked at an watercolor painting of Poppies (295 euros) and had a lovely coffee.
Once we were back together we were off to explore. Our first stop was to pop into a pub called McDaids.
The building that houses McDaids can be traced back to the late 18th century and is reputed to have housed the City Morgue. It took on it’s more ecclesiastical features when it was taken over by the Moravian Brothers some time later. They developed the practice of standing their corpses in a vertical position and it’s suggested this may be the reason for the very high ceilings in the pub. It went through a litany of owners including John Nolan who had the pub at the turn of the 20th Century and it was known as William Daly’s Bar before John McDaid purchased the pub in 1936. There was no food so we had a pint and continued on our way.
The decorations, wall tile and stain glass, were really quite lovely and the sign behind the bar was beautiful.
From there we got on the Hop on bus and just took it around the City to see the sites. Once were close to our hotel we got off and got ready for our dinner at Chapter One.
Chapter One is a Michelin star Restaurant that had been recommended by Darren at The Ledbury when we dined there in London the prior week.
Reservations for an early dinner, 6 or so, were made and off we went. This restaurant with understated and elegant dining rooms is clearly doing a good job of pushing the menu with new and different presentations of Irish dishes.
We thoroughly enjoyed our dinner and the wait staff was attentive and informative. When I mentioned we where heading to Kilkenny later in the week, the GM recommended a restaurant called Campagne. Turns out the Chef-Owner of Campagne had been the Executive Chef at Chapter One prior to moving to Kilkenny. Naturally we made reservations at Campagne, but more about that later.
Dublin – we returned to Dublin from our trip around Ireland and stayed at a nice hotel across the street from the major sports stadium called Croke Park. The Hotel wasn’t in a central place so we did some walking which is always a good idea when having such wonderful meals. Our first adventure was to walk to City Central and pick up a two-day hop-on-hop-off bus.
These tickets were part of our CIE Tour package. Once we picked up the tickets,
I realized we were basically around the corner from one of the restaurants recommended by Darren in London. This Irish restaurant in airy room overlooking the River Liffey with downstairs bookshop was a nice place to enjoy a meal and a good glass or two of wine (they had a nice wine selection for such a small place).
From there we walked across the River to find the Chester Beatty Library.
This world-famous library, in the grounds of Dublin Castle, houses the collection of mining engineer Sir Alfred Chester Beatty (1875–1968), bequeathed to the Irish State on his death. Spread over two floors, the breathtaking collection includes more than 20,000 manuscripts, rare books, miniature paintings, clay tablets, costumes and other objects of artistic, historical and aesthetic importance. Turns out Beatty, an American, fell in love with Ireland and became a naturalized British citizen in 1933. He died in 1968 in Dublin.
While the Library is located on the grounds of the Dublin Castle, we didn’t venture in to it but looked around the grounds and buildings from the outside. There is quite an interesting memorial to the police officers that have died while on duty near the Library.
From here, as it was starting to rain, we took a cab back to our hotel to rest up for the next days adventure.
Along the road towards the Giant’s Causeway we stopped and took a view pictures of this ruined Norman Castle.
Originally all the castles would have been White. This one, from the ocean, would have been very visible showing those heading that way the power of the owner and to stay away!
Further along we stopped at an overlook at a rope bridge that links an island to the coastline. Fisherman to get out to the island and catch fish used this rope bridge.
Now it is basically a tourist attraction allowing the brave to cross over to the island. We didn’t have the time to make the trip.Next up was the Titanic Belfast Experience.
This is a very large building that was built at the location where the Titanic was originally built and launched.
The building points directly towards the dock where the hull was constructed.
Inside the building are a number of different displays about the area around Belfast when it was built, various shipbuilding displays and other information. The doors opened on this place on March 31, 2012, marking the centenary year of the launching of the Titanic.
Of course there are depictions of various parts of the Titanic including various staterooms, dining areas and of course a listing of the passengers that either made it or didn’t. All in all it was a very well done display but kind of of depressing when you think about all the history we all know about this ship. At the final display is a video of
Bob Ballard who discovered the Titanic gravesite in the mid 1980’s after extensive research.
Next stop – a Pub for dinner, music and some lite entertainment. Once that was done we got back on the bus for our final stop in Dublin and the end of the tour.
Once upon a time in a faraway place called Ireland…there was an Irish giant called Finn McCool, also known as Fionn Mac Cumhaill, who got himself into a spot of trouble with an angry Scottish giant called Benandonner who made a claim for Finn’s island of Ireland.
Enraged, the giant called Finn starts throwing boulders into the sea just off the Antrim coastline in Northern Ireland. Inspired by the way they fell into the water, Finn decided to use his boulders to make a bridge – or a causeway – all the way to Scotland to challenge his rival to a duel.
In a mythical world where size dictates winners and losers, Finn realizes he has underestimated his enemy – Benandonner is Giant even for a giant! Brute force won’t work on him – so Finn quickly returns to Ireland via his causeway and decides the best way to beat Benandonner is to con him.
Leaving the Giant’s Causeway for Benandonner to find, Finn McCool’s wife disguises him as a baby. When his rival arrives, he finds Finn’s wife tending her enormous baby giant. Realizing that if Finn’s child son was this big, Finn himself must be huge! Benandonnar hurries away, tearing away bits of the causeway as he retreats to the Highlands, determined to leave Ireland and stay away from the giant Finn McCool, who regains undisputed control over Ireland once more.
Now for the reality, the UNESCO World Heritage site is the result of an ancient volcanic explosion some 60,000 years ago.
The burning and quick cooling of the lava left a series of impressive 40,000 interconnected basalt columns hugging the northern Irish coastline, forming the Giant’s Causeway, one of Ireland’s most iconic and impressive landscapes to date.
Wednesday, and we are leaving Galway heading towards Derry (an Anglicized version of the Gaelic for Oak), or Londonderry as it is officially known, with stops along the way. Our first stop was at the Knock Shrine. The Knock Shrine is a Roman Catholic pilgrimage site and a National Shrine in the village of Knock. Apparently, in 1879, some observers stated that there was an apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Saint Joseph, Saint John the Evangelist, angels and Jesus Christ (the Lamb of God).
This resulted in many pilgrims making the trek to the site resulting in more and more folks showing up. Inside the church there is an artistic mosaic of the apparition and other depictions. Unfortunately, when we arrived, the church was undergoing some renovation and there really wasn’t ANYTHING to see – therefore I have added some images I found on line to show what the place is all about.
Our next stop was The Grange sheep farm and a border collie sheep dog demonstration. Remember the Disney move Babe about a pig that is trained to herd sheep? Well it was just like that but real – and Jack is a working, award winning dog.
Martin Feeney is a well-known sheepdog handler, with over twenty years experience to his name. Having learned the skill of sheepdog handling from his father, Martin has travelled the world over; both competing in and judging sheepdog trials on an international stage. We joined Martin on his sheep farm where we watched him and his trusty sheepdog, Jack, guide sheep around the enclosure. It was really quite interesting to see the way he worked with his dog to move sheep around.
Martin has about 400 sheep year round – 100 males and 300 females – and another 600 after spring when all the lambs are born. Most of his sheep graze on top of a mountain not far from his farm and he is able to send his sheepdogs up to the top to herd the sheep down each day to be individually checked. It was really an interesting demonstration.
After the demonstration of the herding, he gave us an information seminar on the types of sheep he has and the benefits of them. All of his are kept as breeding stock, not for meat or wool production. It turns out the wool is really worthless – it all is sold bulk and goes to China for use as building insulation, not to be woven into cloth.
We stopped for a delightful lunch in the little village of Donegal where we ventured off to a locals tearoom for a light lunch and lovely blueberry pie.
After we arrived in Londonderry, before we even got into our rooms, we had a local guide take us on both a quick bus tour and a brief walking tour of the historical wall of the city. The city is know for its intact 17th century walls and gates.
Originally with four gates through the walls, this was increased by three sometime during the 18th century.
The Derry City Walls were completed in 1618 by an English merchant guildsmen, and mainly planned as a defense of the prosperous city against Irish raiders from Donegal. They are up to 26 feet high, and up to 30 feet wide, enclosing the old merchant city (where the money was). The walls then earned their immortal place in Irish history through the defiance of Derry’s Protestant apprentice boys, whose slamming of the gates (“No Surrender”) in the face of an approaching Catholic army made the Walls of Derry an iconic emblem of Loyalism and Unionism.
Derry is clearly a city that has seen it’s share of the Troubles and these are represented in several murals visible along the roadways and from the top of the walls.
Once the Troubles were over (if you can believe they are really over) things have settled down and a bridge to symbolize the final peace was built across the river.
Up and out early in the morning, as we had a ferry to catch.
The car ferry was taking us from Tarbert across the river to Killimer. It saves only a half hour on the trip but makes it much more interesting.
Once across the river, we drove through several small towns. One of them had a mural depicting how owners would evict their tenants who refused to move when told to leave.
Beyond trying to smoke them out by plugging their chimney with straw, they would have a battering ram contraption that they would set up to destroy the door. Not good times for sure.
Driving along, the landscape became increasingly barren. In some areas there is virtually no soil – it has all been washed away and just the limestone is left standing. The houses all have to be protected from the raging Atlantic storms that roll through. In many cases they have extra construction at the edges of the roofs to keep the wind from getting under the edge of the roof tiles and blowing them off. Clearly a hardy bunch makes their homes in these areas and they are few and far between.
We stopped at St Bridgid’s Well a holy well believed to be blessed by St Bridgit of Kildare, a 5th century Irish saint from the area and the only female patron saint of Ireland.
This is one of the most visited Holy Wells in Ireland and people have been visiting for centuries. Inside the structure are literally hundreds of prayer cards, photographs and related items people have left over the years.
Next stop, the Cliffs of Moher. The Cliffs of Moher are one of Ireland’s most visited national attractions with a magical vista that seems to capture the hearts of up to one million visitors every year.
While it is spectacular, it didn’t quite capture my heart but I’m glad we stopped. The Cliffs rise 214 m or about 700 feet at the highest point and range for 9 kilometers or 5 miles over the Atlantic Ocean on the western coast.
We walked through the display and up to one of the major viewing points along the cliffs and braved
the winds and chill of the Ocean air. It was clear enough to see the Aran Islands in the distance. Lovely.
We ended our day in Galway, home of the Claddagh Ring – that is a traditional Irish ring given which represents love, loyalty, and friendship, and Spanish influence from all the trading being done with the City.
Lynch Castle (now a bank building)was the setting for a Father /Son tale of economy and justice. The local lord and justice of the peace, Lynch, fostered the eldest son of a Spanish merchant who wished to trade with the merchants of Galway. He was to learn the culture of Ireland, and act as guarantee that the Gomez family would redeem him and continue trade in good faith. Unfortunately, he fell in love with the Lynch son’s sweetheart and stole her heart. The Lynch son knifed him, threw him in the river and laid low. The tides brought the body back, and the deed was attributed to Lynch’s son. The local council thought Lord Lynch would choose a scapegoat to send to the scaffold instead of his son. Lord Lynch spent a night before the hanging praying and talking with his son, and when the son rose, shoved his son out of the top windows of the castle on a hangman’s rope. And so, said our guide Brian, came about the concept of a “lynching”. A good story by a great story teller, the only thing needing lynching in Galway now is the McDs, but that is just my opinion.
Thursday, after a restful evening, we were up and out at 9 for our day trip on the Ring of Kerry. The Ring of Kerry is a loop of 179 Km (112 miles) following the coastline of the lveragh Peninsula with a number of points of interest to stop and visit. We started off from Killarney heading along the road with our first stop at an overview of Lough Leane – one of the large lakes along the way.
It was a beautiful day for November. From there, we continued on for a quick view of the Ogham stones. Ogham is the earliest form of writing in Ireland it dates to around the 4th century and was in use for around 500 years. The original alphabet is made up of a series of strokes along or across a line. No clue what these things say – or at least I have no clue. Maybe “Yankee Go Home” for all I know.
A little further down the road we stopped for views of the Atlantic Ocean and Irish Sea. While it was a bit chilly it was still a lovely day and the views were great.
Along the road, we passed the birthplace of Daniel O’Connell. O’Connell is often referred to as the Liberator as he was an early Irish political leader in the first have of the 19th century in the structural for Irish Catholics to be allowed freedom within Ireland. Unfortunately his home is in ruins now but at least they are trying to keep what is left intact.
A short distance further down the road, we passed the Daniel O’Connel Memorial Church. The Church is unusual as it is not named after a Saint or deity – but a layperson.
The next stop was a photo op to take pictures of the Skellig Islands. One of these islands, about 12 Km off the coast, became a monastery in the ninth century.
Talk about a harsh place – the monks had to chip steps into the rock to even gain access up the island peak. In order to have any kind of garden, they had to haul dirt from the mainland and spread it around. Their rock shelters are in the shape of ‘bees hives’ and are still in near perfect condition withstanding Atlantic waves and wind. We didn’t actually make it to the island, it’s usually inaccessible due to weather conditions, and would have been a difficult trip as there are over 600 steps without any kind of railing secure the steps!
However, we did stop at a place for lunch that was called the Skellig Experience and it had some general information. An interesting side note is the final scene of Star Wars 6 where Luke is scene (and never speaks) was filmed on Skellig Island. They have a t-shirt for sale with Luke holding a Guinness with R2D2 next to him with the typical bird that lives on the island. Didn’t but the t-shirt needless to say.
After visiting the Skellig Experience and having lunch we got back on the bus and continued our trip on the Ring of Kerry.
We saw, but didn’t stop, one of the Ring Forts that are scattered around Ireland. These are circular fortified settlements that were mostly built during the bronze age up to about year 1000.
The Killarney National Park, was the first national park of Ireland created in 1932. We drove through it on the way back to Killarney and several of the lakes and other features of the area.
Throughout the day there were sheep – some in large enclosures some in small and the hedge rows or stone walls separating the areas were interesting to see. The Irish Republic encourages the maintenance of hedgerows as natural habitat for local birds, badgers, hedgehogs etc.