Opening note: Kudos to golfer Rory McIlroy on capturing the Irish Open last Sunday. He will donate his winnings in excess of $750,000 to children’s charities.
Glendalough (pronounced “Glen duh lock” and meaning “Valley of the Two Lakes”) in County Wicklow had been on our to do list. A 6th century monastic settlement founded by St. Kevin, grand forests in the national park, and (surprise!) a distillery lure thousands of visitors each year.
Glendalough Distillery’s website has a short video that tops any Super Bowl ad I’ve ever seen. If this link doesn’t get you there, you can read the post on http://www.triciapimental.com and it will appear.
Unfortunately, with only one day remaining before departure for home, there wasn’t time to see it all. We opted instead to head toward Cashel by way of Macroom. After a scrumptious breakfast of porridge, eggs, meats, homemade breads and fresh-squeezed orange juice, we said good-bye to our new friends at Waterfalls Farmhouse. Meeting Nora May and Johnny had been a highlight of our trip. Peanut looked downright depressed as we packed our car, breaking my dog lover’s heart.
Macroom is about halfway between Cork City and Killarney. A 12th century castle stands in the “the town that never reared a fool,” as the legend goes. We weren’t fools, either. In search of some mid-morning java, we found it at Bean and Gone Mobile Coffee Bar in the town square.
Leaving County Cork for County Tipperary, we drove until we arrived in Cashel. There we found St. John the Baptist Anglican Church (foreground below, with the Catholic church in the background). Effigies dating from the 13th century of members of the prominent de Hacket family, of Norman origin, are set into niches in the town wall surrounding St. John’s and its graveyard.
The main point of interest that had drawn us to this town was the Rock of Cashel. According to local legend, the Rock came from a mountain called the Devil’s Bit, twenty miles north of Cashel. When St. Patrick banished Satan from a cave there, it resulted in the Rock’s landing in Cashel. Whatever the story, the Rock of Cashel was the traditional seat of the kings of Munster for hundreds of years prior to the Norman Invasion.
On the way up the hill to the Rock, we stopped at Cashel Folk Village. Owner and operator Bernard Minogue spoke to us about the Great Irish Famine, the 1916 Revolution, and much more. The word “memorabilia” doesn’t come close to covering the scope of treasures housed in Cashel Folk Village, and the wealth of Bernard’s–whose family history is inextricably intertwined with that of the Rock of Cashel–knowledge is limitless.
The caravan on the property, more than ninety years old, was designed after those used by Roman Gypsies on the Continent. They were copied by the Irish Tinkers, who were gifted tinsmiths. Because they were also wealthy, when the Irish began to suffer the loss of their homes and land in the past, they were the first to be forced into a mobile lifestyle.
Living conditions were cozy. Inside there is a bed used by the parents. Underneath, smaller children slept in what looks like a cupboard, while older children slept outside on the road. A family of sixteen lived in this caravan until 1986.
One interesting note was the similarity in the colors on the caravan to those on the organ of the Catholic church in town. Nowhere else in Ireland had we seen such vibrant folk decoration.
We finally tore ourselves away from Bernard and the Folk Village, practically jogging to the Rock. Too late. The door had closed five minutes before we arrived. It was okay; we’d learned a great deal firsthand from a true historian and story teller. Missing Cashel Rock would be just one more reason to return to Ireland.
Next time: Farewell to the Emerald Isle