Cashel, Cahir, and Clonakilty

We had a late start to our day this morning.  I had a lot that I wanted to share with the kids but doing that comfortably required an “early to bed/early to rise” strategy.  Neither of those elements were in practice this time around. 

Rock of Cashel

We started from Kilkenny around 10:00 a.m. and arrived at the Rock of Cashel just as the tourist buses were unloading. The Rock of Cashel (ROC) is not a rock, but a cluster of ancient and not-so-ancient ruins atop a high hill in County Tipperary. It was seat of the Kings of Munster hundreds of years before the Norman (think France/Normandy) invasion. In 1101 the king gave the fortress to the church. Most of the remaining structures were built in the 11th and 12th Centuries. From a distance, seeing the Rock of Cashel takes your breath away. It is so imposing and extensive. I’d hope to go to a high vantage point after our visit for a good photo but things didn’t happen that way.

We did find a good parking space right at the base of the ROC and began the incline up to the top.  The day had turned out beautiful and once again we found ourselves shedding layers.  We wandered around the interior of the ruins and spent time in the burial area from which the ruins of Hore Abbey were also visible.  The oldest structure is said to be the round tower believed to have been built in 1100 AD. 

Having visited ROC with Bill before, I found myself focusing on the smaller details, rather than the imposing structures.  

Once the kids had satisfied their curiosity, I suggest that the guys hike down to Hore Abbey and that Seana and I would drive down to meet them. On the way to the carpark, I bought some water and Seana paused to shop at souvenir shop at the corner near the carpark. I was tired and not in the mood to shop. I’d built in a trip to Blarney Woolen Mills later in the day so I told her I’d wait in the car.

I waited a long time.  Finally, I went back to the souvenir shop, then the public restroom across the street.  No Seana.  I HAD LOST SEANA!  There wasn’t much I could do except hope that she would return up the incline to the ROC.  I had no way of getting in touch with Keenan and Taylor and only hoped that they would there.  I wanted to panic, but I kept thinking, “When you’re lost in the woods, stay put!”  So I stayed and waited.  Seana came walking up the hill maybe 30 – 45 minutes later.  It seemed like an eternity.  Her poor brain did not remember the way back to the carpark.  Once she was in the car we set off to find the most direct way to connect with her brothers.

After some weaving and winding around Cashel, we were on the road to Hore Abbey.  Thankfully, Keenan and Taylor had stayed by the road entrance once their adventuring was done.  They loaded in the car and we were off.  As much as I wanted to take that great photo from the hillside, I knew that I was drawing on energy reserves this day.

Cahir Castle

Our next stop was Cahir Castle. This is one of the biggest castles in Ireland with construction commencing around the year 1142. It was granted to the Butler family (yes, the same one) in the 1400s. There is not much restoration at this castle and visitors can scamper up and down the towers independently. Our first challenge was just figuring out how to pay at the carpark. It appeared that we had to download an “app” to our phone in order to pay. I finally said the heck with it – I’ll pay the ticket! Once we got into the castle, the desk clerk there told me of another machine that accepted coins. I headed back to keep us honest.

We enjoyed this castle because of it’s lack of restoration I think. It had a more playful feel rather than a “don’t touch” feel to it. We stayed no more than an hour. Although our next stop was the promised “shopping experience” at Blarney Woolen Mills, I’d read of a place called “The Vee” several miles south of Cahir. In spite of running behind, I decided to take this slight detour and check it out.

Sometimes it’s worth the detour.  The Vee is thus called because of a major switchback at the top, but on the way to the actual “V” is a stunning valley of blooming rhododendron and other blossoming shrubs.  Pine woods also line the road.  

First we went almost to the top of the V and enjoyed the incredibly vista of the landscape below.  Climbing a bit higher we encountered our first sheep in the road, but also a lovely little alpine lake.  At the crest of the rise we turned around to visit the first pull-off we’d passed.  This was the best for viewing the colors.  We agreed it was a great stop as we headed off to Blarney.

Along the way, my charges again slept. I had asked, “Should we go by way of the highway, or the scenic route?” My error. The scenic route was incredibly tedious and since there were mostly sleeping traveling companions, a bit of a waste. Seana gave her best effort as navigator but when my phone (which she was using for driving directions) thudded to the floor, I realize she too was fast asleep.

Somehow we made it to Blarney Woolen Mills for the power shopping.  The kids were not in need of seeing Blarney Castle, perhaps castled-out for the day.  Taylor was hangry as could be, in part because he needed to take food with some medication he was on.  We initially thought we’d eat in Blarney but decided to make our way to Clonakilty and our hotel.

Clonakilty is the birthplace of Michael Collins, famous Irish Revolutionary figure.  It took another hour to reach Clonakilty and by then I was truly exhausted.  We found the smallest of spaces to park our station wagon (VW Passat) and checked out our rooms.  As soon as my belongings were organized I hit the bed and started snoring.  Somehow I woke up when the door shut only to find the kids heading down the hallway to get something to eat.  Not without me!  That little power nap got me through the next several hours.

We chose to eat O’Donovan’s Pub, part of O’Donovan’s Hotel where we are staying.  It’s the real deal.  I believe we were the only tourists in the place.  After we’d placed our orders, I noticed an older gentleman unfolding a board and opening a container with game pieces on the table in front of us.  He then commenced to play chess with a middle-aged fellow.  Some minutes later the partners changed and a boy, maybe 8 or 9 years old (if that) was playing against the middle-aged fellow.  There were three tables of chess players and the inter-generational aspect of this game night was definitely not lost on me.  I was delighted.  Here we were in a pub in Ireland, watching 2 boys and one young man, playing chess with older men.  What a concept!

Our food was good but we were all pretty tired.  Keenan and Seana were determined to find a way to watch the final episode of “Game of Thrones” on her laptop but as I type she is sleeping soundly with the laptop on her chest.  She could not get the technology to cooperate with the desire but certainly went down fighting.

When I review the day I feel especially bad about “losing” Seana.  I really had no idea that the mixup in her head would cause her to go straight instead of turn left.  It seemed so simple to me and yet so complex for her.  I was also reminded that the more people you add to a travel plan, the more you should be willing to compromise.  That being said, I am an important part of that equation as well.  I had never seen “The V” and damn it, I was going to have my way on this one thing!  Turned out to be good for us all.

We are all in for the night and looking forward to tomorrow’s adventure as we travel part of the Ring of Kerry to the village of Portmagee. 

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