I’d like to introduce you to Ivar the Boneless. He’s a Hyundai i10, which we don’t have in Canada, and despite his backseat and four doors, he was very small. His hatch could barely fit our two carry-on cases, nothing else, and those two cases had to be arranged just so.We had him for a week, picking him up in Dublin and dropping him off at Shannon Airport. PG very quickly mastered both driving on the left-hand side of the road and manoeuvring in roundabouts (which we do have, just not so big and not so numerous as in Ireland).
We went to Kilkenny and saw things like this castle: I thought it was much more like a palace than most of the castles that I have seen in Europe, as it’s been restored to what it looked like in Victorian times rather than to its 17th century construction. Nice portrait gallery, though.
We spent a morning at the Rock of Cashel, historic site of ancient Irish kings from about 300 to 1100. After that, the site was given to the church, and now there are five stone buildings in various states of repair, the oldest being the Round Tower (early 1100s) and the youngest being the Hall of Vicars Choral (early 1400s). And as is my European travel curse, Cormac’s Chapel, built in the 12th century, is currently covered in scaffolding for renovation purposes. However, the Rock of Cashel is a fascinating place with a cool graveyard and wonderful views of the Plain of Tipperary.
We went to Waterford and at the Waterford Crystal Visitor Centre, saw how crystal is made into vases and bowls and knick-knack type things (yes, yes, of course I bought something) and in Reginald’s Tower, learned about the Viking presence there, beginning in 819. And of course, there we christened our very own Ivar the Boneless, simply because we loved the name!
One day, we took a five-minute ferry ride on the cutest wee ferry you ever saw, and checked out the town of Cobh (pronounced “cove”). Cobh’s big claim to fame is that it was the major port of Irish emigration form 1815 on. And because it was such an important port, it was actually the Titanic’s last stop before heading out across the Atlantic Ocean. At that time, it was known as Queenstown, because Queen Victoria had come there first on her first visit to Ireland in 1849. There is a super-interesting museum called The Queenstown Story that goes into great detail on the history of Cobh as a port town. There’s also a big Titanic exhibit somewhere else in town, but PG and I skipped that, because we felt that we’d thoroughly done Titanic back in Belfast. But Cobh itself, Titanic or no Titanic, was adorable!
Another day, Ivar the Boneless took us to Kenmare, yet another picturesque Irish town in the countryside. There, the big attraction for me was the ancient stone circle. How ancient, you ask? Well, they (whoever they are) figure it’s about 3000 years old. That’s pretty ancient! Now, I’ve seen Stonehenge and I’ve seen smaller stone circles in Scotland, but this particular stone circle at Kenmare was by far the most accessible. The circle is maybe 15 metres across, with about 15 stones and we were the only people there! It was great fun to clamber over and around the stones and pose for silly photos (which I won’t show you here!)
I’ve already raved about how gorgeous the Dingle Peninsula was, but I haven’t yet shown you the beehive huts that we visited along the way. These are like stone igloos in which people lived – they think – from around the 12th century. Often, they are linked with circular stone walls, suggesting a defensive purpose. Not a whole lot is known about them, but they certainly fired up my imagination!
There’s SO much more that we saw and did, of course, but how can a few blog entries even begin to do justice to a trip like this? It’s impossible. So although I’ve shared with you many of the highlights of this Irish adventure that PG and I had, really, the best parts will remain wonderful memories in our minds always.
You’ll just have to go to Ireland and see for yourself!