Note: If you’re wondering why the posts jump from Day 6 to 8, it’s because on the 7th day we rested. Frankly there wasn’t much to write about in what we did that day, but I did use the day of downtime to write my Things That Surprised an Ignorant American post.
After a day of recharging our batteries we set out to east over to Kilkenny, Ireland.
In case you’re wondering Kilkenny is pronounced just like that famous South Park phrase, “Oh my God, they killed Kenny” – and we were told that specific reference when we were at a pub in Limerick – so don’t shoot the culturally insensitive messenger. While this city celebrated it’s 400 birthday 2 years ago, it actually has been in existence since the early sixth century, and definitely has the history to show for it. We ended up visiting the two big attractions: St. Canice’s Cathedral and Kilkenny Castle.
We set out looking for St. Canice’s, which turned out to be a scavenger hunt. Apparently St. Canice’s was originally built by the Catholics, but after the English Reformation it became part of the Church of Ireland, so the Catholics built another Cathedral: Saint Mary’s, which is only 154 years old. We originally thought that was St. Canice’s, but got steered in the right direction. Nonetheless, St. Mary’s was a very nice church in itself.
We then set out into town and stumbled into the Black Abby, which is a residence of the Dominican Friars that was established in 1220’s. It was also beautiful, but not what we were looking for.
Finally after walking another two blocks, we found it!
The inside of the Cathedral was very interesting. There were tombs actually inside of the Cathedral, as well as stained glass and high-arching ceilings.
The gem of this church is that it actually has a 100 foot high round tower that was built in the 9th century. Apparently it’s only one of two towers of this type in Ireland that you can climb. There were 6 zig-zagging wooden ladders that have replaced the circular steps on the perimeter. It was definitely a tight climb, especially when you reached the last level. The last level uses the last few steps to break through the floor of the top of the tower. It’s pretty narrow climbing in and out of it, and you need to coordinate with people who are coming up and down as to who is doing what.
Once at the top there were some very nice views of the entire town.
After climbing back down and a quick stop for lunch we went to the other attraction, the Kilkenny Castle. The views of the outside of the castle were really cool, but unfortunately pictures were not allowed inside of the castle. When you first walked in, there were some transparent walk-ways that showed you the original castle floor when it was built. However, it seems that the rest of the inside of the castle has been modified quite a bit over the centuries, to the point where it seemed like a fancy 19th century home. It was still impressive, but hard to get a grasp of what was authentic at which point in time. This does make a statement about how the Irish continue to make use of their historical buildings, instead of tearing them downs for new ones as what happens many times in the US.
Kilkenny itself was a really pretty little town. We really saw only the city center, but it was full of shops and pubs along the main roads. The center of town has a quasi-mall shopping center in the middle of it. There is a brewery there called Smithwick’s, which was actually Ireland’s oldest operating brewery (having opened in 1710). It actually is owned by Guinness now. The tour there was actually booked up, and while they didn’t have a tasting room, we were happy to sample some of their beer in a nearby pub. The beer was good, but I think I’ve grown pretty attached to Guinness Draught right now.
On the way home we stopped for dinner in Quin and ate at the Abby Tavern. We filled up on a really excellent three-course dinner, the fanciest and probably one of the best dinners we’ve had in our time here. Across from the tavern were some really pretty ruins of the Quin Abbey. I don’t think they allow tours in there any more, but we did get a chance to walk up and check out the exterior before dinner.
Another fantastic day in Ireland is in the books. We’re now down to three full days left. Next up is the Rock of Cashel!