Posted by: vikingsinspace | May 24, 2010

I.4.06. Visit Ireland

Date Accomplished: 3 January – 7 January, 2008 

Fields from the Rock of Cashel

I had come back to England early from my Christmas break so that I could attend the graduation ceremony for my Master’s degree (see III.04. Get an MA), and had been joined by my father.  While he was with me, we decided to do some traveling, but we both wanted to go somewhere neither of us had been before (a bit difficult as my father lived in Germany for five years, and subsequently travelled quite a bit through Europe).  We figured this was a perfect time to hit Ireland, since it was new to both of us and we could get cheap flights from Newcastle to Dublin. 

Etching Waterford Crystal

My father was really big into Waterford crystal at the time, so we decided we would hire a car, book a hotel in Waterford, and use that as a staging point to see all we could in the south of the country (not enough time to see it all, so might as well stay focused in one area).  Had we known then what we know now, we may have arranged things a little differently.  Both of us knew that the time to travel by car in England is much longer than the States, and we were expecting Ireland to be about the same – wrong.  It takes LONGER.  That first drive to Waterford after landing in Dublin was a long night, with even more narrow streets than I had grown accustomed to in England, but we eventually made it and had our base of operations set up.  The first day was spent on a tour of the Waterford Crystal factory (which was just up the road from us), then a wander through Waterford itself (which doesn’t have much to it, but there is a cool 12th century fortification called Reginald’s Tower). 

Ardmore Round Tower

On the second day, we drove down to Cork.  Along the way, we made a slight detour to see Ardmore, which has one of the best preserved remains of a round tower in Ireland.  This was a defensive structure for the monks associated with St. Declan’s Cathedral: when there was a viking raid or a local disturbance, the monks would pile all the monastery’s valuables into the tower, and then pull in the long ladder which was the only means of entering the tower.  Inside the tower, there would have been several floors going up the tower, all of which were only accessable by moveable ladders, which could be moved further and further up the tower if need demanded.  The remains of the cathedral itself are from the twelfth century, but I have no idea on the date of the tower (I would suspect a similar time period since it is made of stone, but I honestly do not know). 

Blarney Castle

Moving on from Ardmore, we drove in to Cork – and then kept on driving because Cork looked like it had nothing special to it, and was simply a modern European city.  We’ve seen and done that.  After taking a quick look at the map, we saw that we were really close to Blarney, so we thought we might as well be cheesy tourists and kiss the stone.  Neither my father nor I had any real desire to visit Blarney and kiss the stone, but it was there, so we did it.  I was actually pleasantly surprised with Blarney.  I was expecting it to be a complete tourist trap, but it was actually a gorgeous ruin of a castle set in some beautiful green land.  We had almost free reign to wander around the castle and grounds, and were practically alone while there (this was early January, after all…).  There was still an attendant there to help you kiss the stone at the top, so of course my father and I did that (but I have yet to see improvements in my eloquence…  maybe they have been more subtle than I realize).  This was about all the time we had for the day, but was well worth it – Blarney turned out to be the highlight of the trip! 

Rock of Cashel

On day three we drove to the Rock of Cashel, and visited the ruined monastery there.  I feel I didn’t get to enjoy Cashel as much as I would have liked because the weather was terrible.  It was a heavy downpour that just wouldn’t quit.  But we made do, and had a look around at what we could of the ruins.  I think this was also a sunday, as I remember there not being anything else open in the town of Cashel.  Oh well, it was still enjoyable and I got some great pictures.  There is still plenty that I need to see in Ireland, so hopefully I will make it back again soon, if for nothing else to see some of the Celtic sites that are on my list…

My Travel Journal

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