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Report 2018: Southern Ireland with Mom

By nikkihop from Texas USA, Spring 2012

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Page 8 of 12: June 17, 2012 – Kilkenny Castle, Jerpoint Abbey, and Glendalough.

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Kilkenny Traffic - a bit too close for comfort

This was our last full day in the car as we were scheduled to return the car to Avis in Dublin the next day. I was not sorry. I really did not mind the left-hand shift or the driving on the left, but the narrow roads were stressful. I woke up thinking about this. DM and I were a bit slow in the morning. We lollygagged around the room until 9:00 since the breakfast was continental and provided mini-bar style in the room, which had a small fridge with yogurt, milk and orange juice, fresh fruit, cereal and a selection of tea and coffee. We packed up, left everything in the room, and hopped down the block to visit Kilkenny Castle.

The castle also had a fillum, which was mainly about the history of the Butler family, who owned the castle, rather than the castle itself. The castle is an incredible eighteenth century wonder, restored to much of its previous glory. You're allowed to wander through the castle on your own, with docents in each of the main rooms to answer any questions the self-explanatory plaques don't cover. We saw the dining room which has an imposing set of china and crystal with service for ten, although it could have sat 20 easily. The parlor, library and retiring room are all one huge gallery with many of the original furnishings, Chinese wall paper and small details like sewing boxes, magnifying boxes and hand-stitched fire screens. The upstairs bedrooms share an old fashioned toilet, which looked like Fat Albert would be the only one comfortable on it. Everyone else under 450 pounds would fall in. Perhaps it doubles as a swimming pool? The castle sports a Moorish staircase straight out of Ali Babba with deep stone byzantine arches spiraling down three fights and bright rose-red walls. The picture gallery was the highlight for me: a long room approximately 100 feet long with Romanesque arched windows and an amazing vaulted painted ceiling that includes interlaced beams with gilded animal and bird heads on the cross beams. The whole castle came across as eccentric and colorful.

After our castle tour, we walked through the huge stables complex (now shops) and through a tiny door into a garden that leads through the Butler House, an inn next door to our B&B. We just walked through from back door to front door as if we belonged there. It was very convenient.

We fetched the car and drove a few miles away to Jerpoint Abbey, which is famous for its wonderful carvings on the stone balustrades of the cloister. At this point, we were starving and couldn't find any pubs open on a Sunday. We drove down teeny tiny roads through a half dozen villages that looked exactly the same and all had in common the fact that they don't have eating establishments open on Sunday. DM and I were just hitting hunger DEFCON 1 and were debating testing the Irish reputation for hospitality at the nearest farm or house we came to when we finally got to the larger town of Carlow.

One of the first open places we saw was McDonald's, which I at least am trying to avoid. Thankfully, right across the square from the golden arches was a restaurant called Din ri. Don't ask me what it means: maybe "sanctuary" given DM's and my low blood sugar moods. It was an interesting place, sort of home-cooked cuisine that you get by assembly line with your tray sort of like Luby's in the USA. We both had breaded chicken with scalloped potatoes and cabbage and carrots. It tasted great, but that could have been the hunger talking. I don’t remember the price, but that’s also probably because I was so hungry I would have paid anything.

Next, we drove through the Wicklow mountains to Glendalough, a peaceful large monastic site next to a river about 45 minutes south of Dublin. Although there were lots of tourists, it still seemed quiet and pastoral. We walked through the jumbled gravestones with Celtic crosses and large leaning slabs of limestone, and visited the tall bell tower and monks' dwellings and church ruins. There was a woman playing the ulyian pipes as we walked down the path towards the car, which we miraculously parked front and center just steps away from the monastery. For those driving, be aware that parking is extremely limited and difficult due to the tiny road in front of the monastery. DM and I noticed a soft serve ice cream truck, so we each had a cone before heading on, past the Wicklow Gap mountain pass to Dublin, and finally Newgrange.

We're visiting Newgrange, a world heritage site, first thing tomorrow. We wanted to stay as close as possible so we could get the first tour (supposed to be less crowded), so we booked a room at the Newgrange Lodge B&B just down the road in a small village called Donore. We found Donore with no problem, and in the center of the tiny village, there's a small brown and white sign that says, "Newgrange Lodge B&B" with an arrow pointing directly into the parking lot of the village's only church. Uh. We pulled into the parking lot, but unless we were sleeping on a pew, we figured this ain't it. We drove down another (wrong) road, turned around, and finally parked in front of the Daly's Inn pub, which was hopping on a Sunday night. Seriously. There were three horse carts out front with about a dozen kids running around, some dogs and half the townsfolk. DM got directions from about six people at once and discerned that we needed to go the opposite direction that the sign was pointing in. We found it no problem once we were on the right road.

Since the townsfolk were so helpful, we drove back to Daly's for dinner and walked into the pub only after telling our life stories to the villagers out on the front stoop. They remembered us from 10 minutes ago. We walked into the pub proper, which was packed with everyone who lives in a 10 km radius ... and their dogs. Literally. I have a nice photo of a pretty black lab in a neon yellow vest who was happily licking the salt from our small table top. I waited 10 minutes at the bar to order two diet cokes and DM and I started to worry about getting fed when there were so many patrons clamoring for service. Finally, I noticed some people walking toward the front of the pub with take-away boxes and, as it turns out, there's a restaurant attached to the back of the pub which is quiet, spacious and dog-free. We settled in for a long wait (they were cooking and serving for the folks in the pub too), but it was worth it. DM got the steak and Guinness pie again, which came with a lovely golden brown French bread mushroom roof on her pie, and her beloved mashed potatoes. I had the seafood pasta, which was excellent. We ate, paid, and wave good bye to the town.

Back at the Newgrange Lodge, we sat upstairs in their guest lounge to use the free WiFi for a bit. DM fell asleep in her chair waiting for me to finish this. Tomorrow: Newgrange, Trim Castle and Dublin!

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