I am getting ready to head back to Ireland. So, it’s that time for the top, pre-vacation question. You are going back to Ireland … again? It is then followed by … why?
There are some funs answers (50 Reasons Why I Return to Ireland), but the ones that really matter are still difficult to articulate. Thankfully, over time, one has finally percolated to the top. Simply ….
Ireland still surprises me.
It truly seems that every day that I am in Ireland I manage a ‘unexpected experience.’ Sometimes, they can be small. And, interestingly enough, I will often return to see if a place goes stale. You know … time to move on to another place. But, my return trips still hand me at least one surprise and so, I keep returning.
I will be stopping at Powerscourt for the sixth time next month. Each time I manage to discover a nook or cranny that yields an unbelievable image. For example, there is this little pine tree by Pepperpot Tower that just lit up by an early morning sun last December. Simple and it stopped me in my tracks. I am kind of hoping to see that one again. Kilkenny? It only took five return trips to discover the side alleys. And then there is the Newgrange Passage Tomb … to stand in this structure that is older than the pyramids and knowing that it has stood the a test of time; it never get’s old. Even Glendalough can lend its hand at healing one’s soul. There is a reason that St. Kevin put up a tent there, so to speak. I find that I can just ‘be’ for hours.
And don’t always listen to the tour books. For example, I actually like Blarney Castle. Most tour books will suggest you avoid it due to long lines for the Blarney stone. True. What I didn’t expect was the grounds or the Blarney House. I was there for my third time in May and after four hours of walking the grounds, we finally headed to the car.
Oh, and those long lines … many tour busses only stop for an hour or so. That means, if they want to kiss the Blarney Stone, it will be the only thing that they have time for. The rest of the grounds can actually be quiet.
And, if you can go off the beaten path, a whole new host of opportunities await you. Have you every been to Lahinch, County Clare? It is a beach/surfing town on the West coast. Who knew? Fethard … we were returning to the B&B on the back roads, drove around a curve and, wow! Here is this small town still encased in a Medieval stone wall. Glenmalure and it’s waterfall? It took me two attempts to find it. The waterfall is nice, but the cottage at its base creates a one-of-a-kind picture. Copper Coast? No buses allowed and it is a wonderful, leisurely, drive along the south cost. I can go on ….
I would be remiss if I didn’t talk a bit about the people. I have been very fortunate to meet a few people along the way that have become friends. There is something genuine in the connections. There seems to be slower pace (at least outside of the cities) and you can actually have a conversation. I still feel community spirit in most places and it is healthy to see people watching out for their neighbors. Family is still important … and if you want to question that, spend a few hours in the Dublin Airport … the Irish have made welcoming family home an art.
I know that Ireland is far from perfect. Ireland has many of the same problems we see here in the US. I listen to Irish radio and read Irish news sites every day. There have been economic hard times, high unemployment, a health care crisis, crime, etc. But as an outsider looking in, I see people banding and trying together to make a difference; they don’t shy from pushing back when they see ‘wrongs’. They still care. That can surprise even the most cynical around.
So, I am at 30 days until I board that plane. I have a very long list of possibilities and no itinerary. I will be lucky if I make it to a handful, but that’s okay. There is always another trip. All I know is that when I return, I will have a very long list of unexpected experiences that will fortify me until my next trip.
In the end, I am still betting on Ireland … and that she will continue to surprise me.
Benches … they are everywhere in Ireland. They are located around many venues for those that need
a place to wait on their companions. If you have been walking for a distance, they are an excellent opportunity to take a break and catch your breath. You even see them on front lawns as you are driving through a town or the countryside; inviting neighbors for an evening chat. For each one that I noticed, I would hear a voice asking … Join me?
So, I started photographing them. I have dozens of bench images and I can’t wait to capture more. Some are plain, some are weathered, and some add to the elaborate backdrop to a historic venue. Most are wooden or metal. Although, I have come upon some very uncomfortable ones of stone.
My favorite few are those that are tucked away. The ones where you can sit undisturbed for an hour or so. I find myself getting lost in the moment as I blend into the scenery.
And, I always come back to the thought … think of the stories that these benches could tell; the conversations they have heard over time. Now that would make for a great blog! We could call it ‘The Benches of Ireland.’
High crosses (sometimes referred to as standing crosses) are dated back to Irish and British origins. At Kilkieran, County Kilkenny, three of the earliest high crosses can be found. It is said that they date to the 9th century; two of them are ringed ‘Celtic crosses’ and have a capstone. The third is unique; it is very thin and is lacking a ‘ring.’ The crosses are located at Kilkieran Cemetery, north of Carrick-on-Suir.
Also onsite, was a holy well dedicated to St Kieran.
Location via Google Maps:
The are two towns called Kells in Ireland. The more famous one, located in County Meath, was home to the famous Book of Kells. The second one, is located in County Kilkenny and my last stop of the day.
As I entered the town of Kells, I came upon the ruin of St Kieran’s Church. A bit of wandering around meant that I found numerous grave slabs. The church was locked up, but since iron gates are used, you can still see inside. This church was built prior to the arrival of the Normans and before the Priory was built.
To the north, and through a field, is Kells Priory. An Augustinian priory built in 1193, with additions in the 15th centuries, it sits alone in a large field and looks more like a castle or fortress than a monastery. (Wikipedia link on Kells Priory).
We have had a lot of rain and the pasture didn’t look too hospitable, so I tired to find a path from the other side. However, the river was very high and I thought it would probably be best to play it safe. So, from the bridge, I was able to get some photos.
One of the tour books that I have said something about having the place to yourself, along with bleating and pooping sheep. When I arrived … there were no sheep to be found. By the time I drove back to the main parking area, what did I see come over the hill? Sheep! So, I hung out for awhile for photos!
Location via Google Maps:
My goal today was the Kilkenny Craft Trail. Unfortunately, off season and the holidays can mean that things are closed. However, it wasn’t all lost. I had a backup plan to swing by a couple of places. Jerpoint Abbey was one of those places.
On Sunday, I spent time at Jerpoint Park where across the street (and through the trees), I could see Jerpoint Abbey. The day was coming to a close, so I chose not to swing by and check it out. Today, the Abbey, located just outside of Thomastown, County Kilkenny, was on my way from one town to another. So, it provided the perfect opportunity to have a look around.
The Abbey was built in the 12th century, with the tower and cloister added around the 14th/15th centuries. There are a variety of graves; some hundreds years old, some within the last decade. There is work currently being done, so areas were partitioned off. However, I was able to see through the windows and photograph the inside, as well as a stone carving.
Some photos of Jerpoint Abbey…
Location via Google Maps: