Day 14: Macroom and Cashel

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.

http://glendaloughdistillery.com/

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.

Johnny and Tricia

Macroom Coffee Wagon

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.

Effigy from Cashel Prot. Church

Cashel Churches

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Cashel Folk Village

Bernard at Cashel Folk Museum

Tinker Wagon Interior

 

 

 

 

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.

Interior Catholic Church

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

 

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Day 13, Part 2: Lorge Chocolates, Molly Gallivan’s, Bonane Heritage Park

In our travels we expected to find pubs, and shops selling sweaters and woolen caps, but handmade chocolate? It turns out the Irish are very much into it. We’d already learned about other manufacturers, but nothing prepared us for Lorge.

Award-winning chef Benoit Lorge’s chocolate factory and retail store is located in Bonane on the Glengariff road, about six miles from Kenmare. We stopped in for an afternoon treat. A few free samples and a shopping bag full of the most marvelous truffles (and a dozen other goodies) later, we knew we’d discovered the ultimate chocolate experience. If we are lucky enough to return, we’ll be signing up for one of chef’s chocolate-making workshops. What better use of our tourist time?

Tricia and Benoit Lorge

Properly fortified, we drove down the road just a few minutes to Molly Gallivan’s Cottage and Traditional Farm. Inside the 200-year-old cottage, the Tea Room and Barn Restaurant were not open (the season not officially on), but at the craft shop we were directed to view a brief film presentation that gave us background on Gallivan. A widow with seven children, she provided for herself and her brood by selling products from her farm: butter, eggs, honey, baked goods and woolens. Her home-brewed whiskey, poitin, known as Molly’s Mountain Dew, was her bestseller. Of course we had to taste–and buy–some.

Molly Gallivan's

Poitin

 

 

 

 

Walking the farm we came across the ghostly remains of a family dwelling from the era of The Great Famine, as well as a Neolithic Stone Row that forms part of an ancient sun calendar. On the road in front of the cottage, an imposing figure of a Druid carved from the remains of a pine tree stands guard over time and history.

Gallivan Druid

 

Famine House

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We had one more stop to make before the day was through. Bonane Heritage Park, home to more than 250 archaeological sites, is located where the Ring of Beara meets the Ring of Kerry. While Keith went in search of the Stone Circle (known locally as Judge and Jury because there are 13 stones), I learned about crannogs, or lake dwellings. Nice, but I was happy to be heading back to Waterfalls Farmhouse for the night.

Bonsale Ring of Stones 2Bonane Crannog 2

 

 

 

 

Day 13, Part 1: Killarney National Park, Ross Castle, Muckross Abbey and Muckross House

Woodlands–in fact, the most extensive covering of native forest remaining in Ireland–bogs, lakes, and mountains combine in Killarney National Park’s more than 25,000 acres to create a natural wonderland. Located in County Kerry, it is home to the country’s only native herd of red deer. We stopped our drive along a portion of the Ring of Kerry and snapped a photo from “Ladies’ View” before moving on to Ross Castle.

Ladies' View, Ring of Kerry

Constructed by the O’Donaghue clan, Ross Castle is a typical example of the stronghold of an Irish Chieftain during the Middle Ages. For almost 100 years, beginning in the 15th century, this bastion afforded protection until it yielded during the Cromwellian Wars.

Ross Castle

Our timing was off to take a guided tour, but the visitor’s center had a detailed exhibition. One pointer (again with the puns) we picked up concerned swords and spiral staircases. Built in a clockwise direction, the center structure of the spiral would prevent attackers ascending with a weapon in their right hand from having free swing. Conversely, defenders descending with swords swinging from the outer and more open part of the staircase had an advantage. I’ll remember that next time I attempt to overtake a castle.

Next stop: Muckross Abbey, a Franciscan friary founded in 1448. Legend has it the  yew tree in the central court is as old as the Abbey itself.

Muckross Abbey

Muckross Abbey 2Muckross Abbey Yew

A short drive away is Muckross House, a 65-room Tudor-style mansion designed by Scottish architect Williams Burn. Built in 1843 for Parliament Member Henry Arthur Herbert and his wife, painter Mary Balfour Herbert, it is now owned by the Irish government.

Muckross House

Mindful of the time, once again we opted not to take a guided tour, but chatted instead with the personable woman manning the gift shop. We purchased a souvenir book. There we saw photos of the interior of Muckross House.

The pictures below are of rooms in which Queen Victoria and Prince Albert stayed in 1861. (Photo credit, Muckross House: Killarney National Park.)

Muckross Queen's Bedroom

We had a distance to drive along the Ring of Kerry, heading back to Waterfalls Farm House, where we would spend the night again. Needing sustenance, we decided on the obvious. Chocolate.

Next time: Lorge Chocolate, Molly Gallivan’s Traditional Farm House, Bonane National Heritage Center

Day 12: Blarney Castle, Kinsale, and the Ring of Beara

It was a chilly day when we visited Blarney Castle, but trees on the grounds were bursting with spring blossoms. Blarney Blossoms

The castle, built in 1446, is the third to be situated on the site, the first being a wooden structure dating from the 10th century. The 13th century keep still stands, and it is here that visitors may climb to the top to kiss the famous Blarney Stone and thus receive the gift of gab.

Blarney Castle

Blarney Oubliette

 

 

 

 

 

 

The stone spiral staircase is narrow, but if Oliver Hardy and Winston Churchill could do it, so could I. Safely past the Oubliette,  a trap door allegedly used to eliminate unwanted castle guests in the past, I approached the man who would facilitate my downward dip into eloquence.

 

Kissing the Blarney Stone

 

SMOOCH!

 

 

Frampton did it, too.

Frampton at Blarney

 

 

 

 

 

Kinsale Cookoff

Kinsale TastingAfterward we headed for Kinsale, a former medieval village that has been hailed as the “Gourmet Capital of Ireland.” We saw gulls taking a break from fishing, perhaps waiting for leftovers from the chowder festival in progress.

Kinsale Gulls

Later we explored part of the Ring of Beara. Shared by counties Cork and Kerry, its breathtakingly rugged landscape is a walking, cycling, and driving paradise.

By early evening we arrived at County Kerry’s Waterfalls Farm House, so named for the waterfall on the River Sheen which flows through the farm. Proprietress Nora May O’Sullivan greeted us warmly. So did Peanut, her pup (seen below in left foreground), who accompanied us on a walk to the falls .

Peanut and the Falls - Copy

A sign warned of Leprechauns but they were not in evidence. Yet.

Waterfalls Leprachaun Crossing Sign

We were pushing the dinner envelope in the nearby town of Kenmare, where restaurants open at all–this not yet being “the season”–were closing their doors. But we managed to find beef stew, hot bread, and red wine in a near-empty pub before returning to Mrs. O’Sullivan’s and a marvelous night’s sleep.

Day 11: The Guinness Experience

I’m not much of a beer drinker. Maybe a cold Heineken on a hot July afternoon, but frankly I prefer chilled Chardonnay. Our visit to St. James Gate in Dublin threatened to change all that.

At 18 Euros a head (forgive the pun) the price might seem a bit steep, but when you consider a ticket to Disneyland runs about four times that amount–and you don’t get a free pint of Guinness–it’s a good deal. In fact, as Dublin’s most popular tourist attraction, it’s a bargain. Because the Guinness Experience is just that: an experience.

It’s recommended to allow one and a half hours for the self-guided tour. We spent almost four, even accompanied by three children (whose admission was free) under the age of nine. The Guinness folks have succeeded in figuring out how to funnel thousands of visitors through seven floors of the building where until 1988 yeast was added to their beer for fermentation.

Guinness Crowd

Guinness Copper

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We passed placards explaining the history of Arthur Guinness’s brewing enterprise which began in 1759. There were interactive exhibits; tasting rooms; three bars, including a rooftop location with a 360 degree view of Dublin; two restaurants; and retail shops. Visitors can view the rushing waters, piped in from the Wicklow Mountains, used in the brewing process.

Guinness Water

Guinness Fish

 

 

 

 

One marketing exhibit includes famous Guinness commercials, including “A Woman Needs a Man Like a Fish Needs a Bicycle.” Hmm.

You can take a class (and receive a certificate) in how to pour the perfect glass of Guinness, which, by the way, should be served at 6-7 degrees Centigrade, roughly 43-44 Fahrenheit.

Guinness Glasses

My preference during a tasting was for the rich roasted barley and dark cherry flavors of Foreign Extra Stout, the direct descendant of Guinness West India Porter. The latter was formulated in 1801 for Irish immigrant workers in the Caribbean. To withstand the long journey overseas by ship, it was brewed with extra hops and a higher alcohol content which served as natural preservatives.

Guinness Beer That Traveled

The beef and Guinness stew we’d snacked on at St. James Gate was delicious, but we were hungry for dinner after all that walking and sipping and shopping. We headed to the Temple Bar District, a cultural quarter on the south bank of the River Liffey famous for its pubs and nightlife.

Temple Bar District

Even with its three floors of seating space, there was a wait at The Porterhouse Temple Bar, but once we had a table, food and micro brews quickly materialized. Conversation included the results of a recent study showing daily consumption by women of a small amount of hops over a three month period resulted in noticeable weight loss, despite the 198 calorie cost per glass.

I’ll let you know the result of my own research when it’s complete.

Guiness Group Shot

In Memoriam

On our second night in Dublin we met Seamus Conroy. In the space of fifteen minutes he told us three jokes and advised us to stop by Johnnie Fox’s Traditional Irish Pub.

While we didn’t make it there, we made a friend. Not a day has gone by since making his acquaintance that he hasn’t e-mailed a quick note. Often there is a poem involved. On the day I planned to write about Galway City, he coincidentally sent me the lyrics to a song with Galway in the title. I Googled it and found this lovely rendition by Eleanor Shanley, recorded live at the Temple Bar Pub in Dublin:

I look forward to my new buddy’s messages, but was saddened when ten days ago he wrote that his dog had to be put to sleep, as he put it, “after fourteen years of walking me around the parks and roads.” I love that he wrote the dog walked him instead of the other way around.

For those of us who love our pups, there is not much harder than to see that relationship come to an end. So for you, Seamus, I hope you are beginning to deal with your grief, and that sweet memories of your girl comfort you in the days to come.

Thorns may hurt you, men desert you, sunlight turn to fog;
but you’re never friendless ever, if you have a dog.

                                                                                        –Douglas Mallock

Day 10: Tales from Galway

If you look carefully, you’ll spy a skull and crossbones carved under the window in the photo below. This stone structure was built in the mid 19th century–although the window is said to have been part of Galway Mayor James Lynch’s home dating from the 15th century–as a memorial to the tale of Lynch and his ill-fated son. We heard the chilling story from a passerby who, like so many of the Irish we met, was eager to share part of their history.

The story goes, Mayor Lynch made his son captain of a ship headed for Spain. A portion of the large sum of money entrusted to the young man to purchase wine was gone, however, by the time he arrived. The merchant permitted Lynch to take the cargo partly on credit, but sent his nephew back to Portugal to ensure full payment.

On the return voyage, fearing his father’s reprisal over his embezzlement, Lynch arranged to murder the Spaniard and throw him overboard, promising to reward his crew in return for silence.

Galway Window

As we know, however, “truth will out.” When one of the sailors made a deathbed confession to Mayor Lynch, his father demanded justice–as in hanging–for his son. Locals opposed the punishment and formed a mob, preventing access to the execution site. Mayor Lynch then proceeded to hang his son from his own window. Many believe the incident gave rise to the term “lynching.”

 

St Nicholas Church Galway

Further along the block we found St. Nicholas’ Collegiate Church, the largest medieval parish church in Ireland still in constant use. Built circa 1320, the church is dedicated to St. Nicholas of Myra (now in Turkey), who of course is known to children as “Santa Claus” but also historically is viewed as the patron saint of sailors. Christopher Columbus is said to have worshiped at the church in 1477.  An organist rehearsing for an upcoming concert provided welcome relief from Lynch’s harrowing tale of deception and murder.

Galway Street

Turning onto streets in the center of town, we passed cafés and shops as musicians played Beatles tunes and traditional Irish music. One young lady sang “Purple Rain” in a voice reminiscent of Janis Joplin’s.

Eventually we arrived at Thomas Dillon & Sons, est. 1750, at 1 Quay Street. They are the original makers of the Claddagh Ring, and therefore the only company that bears the right to have the word “original” stamped on each ring. They are also the oldest jewelers in Ireland.  We chatted with Jackie, whose family now owns the store. She was charming, informative, and rightfully proud of the tradition of excellence her family upholds.

Thomas Dillon's

While there is more than one story behind the origin of the ring, one is most consistent. One of the residents of Claddagh (a fishing village in Galway Bay) was named Richard Joyce. While on route to the West Indies, he was captured by Algerian corsairs and sold into slavery to a Moorish goldsmith who taught him his trade.

When Joyce was released in 1689, he returned to Galway and set himself up in business as a goldsmith, creating, among other works, a beautiful ring to give to his long-waiting love as a marriage token.

Claddagh Ring

The ring’s motif shows two hands holding a heart wearing a crown. The meaning is explained in the phrase, “Let Love and Friendship Reign,” a perfect sentiment for a wedding ring. In the Claddagh Museum at Thomas Dillon’s, we viewed an extensive collection of Claddagh Ring memorabilia including this piece from 1757 made by another Galway native, Nicholas Burdge.

 

We purchased a ring for me and cuff links for my husband, and then headed, at Jackie’s direction, to the bridge over the River Corrib in the bay to take a look at the only remaining Claddagh house. It was closed at the time, its interior being restored for the coming tourist season (note wheelbarrow front left), but the friendly contractor invited us to peek inside anyway.

Galway Thatched Room Home

Galway City Museum

 

 

 

 

 

Moving on to Galway City Museum, we viewed an exhibition on hair hurling balls; the earliest dates from 1192. We also learned about Pádraic Ó Conaire (February 28, 1882 –October 6, 1928). An Irish writer and journalist, during his lifetime he produced 26 books, 473 stories, 237 essays and 6 plays. His statue in the museum (temporarily removed from display) is a site often used by couples to become engaged. It was the perfect place for my husband to place my Claddagh Ring on my hand. Of course we got the direction right: heart facing toward me, indicating mine has been taken. And so it has.

Next time: Seamus Conroy and “From Galway to Graceland”