707-710 – 2nd-5th May 2017: Kilkenny
We found a friendly campsite on the River Nore outside Kilkenny – Dan’s the man there – 30 minutes walk to the city. I hadn’t been here for 40 years and explored the Cathedral, music (Irish traditional), Smithwicks brewery – tasting too. We were so taken by Kilkenny – we stayed for 4 days instead of 2!
A little history …. Kilkenny is a city. The smallest in Ireland and apparently locals are a little sensitive if you call it a town! It was the unofficial capital of ireland in the Middle Ages.
Back to Camac Valley Campsite on 5th – for early start for moi on 6th.
View as we walked into Kilkenny.
Coffee stop in one of the narrow streets full of bars and eateries.
Roathe House – Ireland’s best surviving example of C16 Merchant’s house. now a museum.
Inside St Canice’s Cathedral. The second largest medieval cathedral in ireland. It was defaced by Cromwell who used it to store horses and troops. Alice Kyteler’s (more anon) brother saved himself by paying for a lead roof … it proved too heavy and collapsed. Kilkenny is also known as the marble city as much of it was built using local black marble. Well, it looks grey until polished. The church is home to a fine collection of floor grave slabs and Medieval tombs when life sized effigies of the interred were carved. J paid to go in, whistle I sat outside with Oscar. When I went to pay, I was told J had spent so little time, I could go free. Nice.
This grave slab is thought to be the father of Alice. I know the song “Who the F is Alice” comes to mind! The story of Alice is that she was widowed 4 times and all to wealthy men. Perhaps it was jealousy but she was convicted of being a witch and condemned to death. English nobility who were friends smuggled her away to London where she was not heard of again. Her poor maid, Petronella, was burned at the stake in her stead!
Effigies of Piers and Margaret Butler 1539 – The Butler family owned the castle from 1391 until 1935.
Stone chair of St Keiran embedded in the wall from C13. In the C5th, he is said to have visited Kilkenny and challenged the Chieftains to accept the Christian faith.
A boozy long lunch at Kyteler’s Inn, where the with Alice was born. A superb rambling building….
… We returned the next night for more food and music.
I asked Dan the Man of the campsite if we could cycle along the river to Bennetsbridge … No, path not suitable and about 15 stiles, but he offered to give us a lift up there so we could walk back. He dropped us at the old flour mill that is now a working pottery … some lovely patterns but not for us at EUR24 for a mug!
One of the 28 man made obstacles along the river walk … not a mere 15! So pleased we’d asked if it was suitable for bikes!
We’ve seen a few derelict mills. It was a 9km walk where we did not see another sole … just lovely.
The Smithwick brewery tour was quite interactive – these portraits of Smithwick’s talked to us … Harry Potter-esque. In 1710 the first brewer, a Catholic, was forbidden to own a business, so he had a Protestant sleeping partner. It was centuries before he bought the business outright. When Smithwick sales out stripped Guinness, it was sold to Guinness in the 1960’s. More recently Budweiser was brewed here, but now nothing. Sad that it is just a tourist attraction after centuries of brewing. It was the same story at Jameson’s – the original distilleries are too small and inefficient.
J had a ‘senior paddle’ to taste Smithwick’s ale, pale ale and the new Blonde. I managed to ‘lift’ the shapely pale ale glass … naughty but Kerstin would be proud.
The Black Abbey, dissolved by Henry V111, and turned into a courthouse. Roofless post Cromwell and then restored in 1866. I admired this window to a local chap working inside … The traceries (stonework) date back to C12. The glass was designed by a German Jew who was killed in WW2 and all the plans went with him.
St Mary’s Cathedral C19, but some wonderful mosaics inside.
In the Castle Grounds, where Prince Charles has just been photographed with a sliothar and hurley (hurling ball and stick to me!) and was in the papers.
The bag contains some Donegal wool … I am a knitting maniac now! And two picture frames we had converted to Perspex so they won’t shatter if they fall off the wall. This pic is a shop in Tralee, named J Clune. A friend of Delia’s had spotted it in an antique’s market and give it to J at his Dublin birthday bash. It has pride of place … above the bog! Actually the only bit of wall large enough ..
711- 713 – 6th-8th May: Medical for James and Fridge
OK readers – what’s considered an early start? Howsabout 2:30 am??? Flight at 6:00 am – walk to bus at 3:15! I was so earlybird that on my walk – the Saturday night party at the Green Isle Hotel was still in full swing… A ‘domestic’ going on outside – “Pleeze don’t leave me” from husband as wife walked to car? Gatwick at 8:00 – and Ash Vale for sleep….. Trip was for the medical to get my over-70 driving license for Jez. Wonderful opportunity to have supper with Sinead and Shane in London – on the South Bank – memorable meal. I was pushing out Zzzzs at 9:00 pm.
Monday – all complete by 10:00 am and back to Gatwick to complete the whirlwind journey. In the meantime, K had been cleaning, had coffee with sister-in-law Amelia and investigating a repair for our fridge – not looking good so far… K: Perhaps I should not read forums so much … both the ones I use had suggested that since the fridge vents had been cleaned by our supplying dealer mid April, it was likely to be dirty gas, blocking pipes and destroying regulators. I drove to a reluctant (difficult to get him to agree to look at Jez) motorhome dealer outside Dublin. He was at pains to be alarmist and explain all the dire consequences of dirty gas to every part of our gas system and said he would not touch our van due to the later issues that could crop up. Cripes! Someone on Motorhome Craic forum suggested we try Leisure Technical Services in the North … he could see us on not until Thursday. Feeling low with a sense of doom and £ signs in form of my eyes!
714 – Tuesday 9th May: Dogheda Not
K here: I telephoned the Tourist information to find out where we could park Jez. On arrival the carpark had a height barrier. Back on the phone … the second suggestion also had a height barrier. So we aborted and headed for the coast as I had seen a wild parking spot there. We parked up outside yet another car park’s height barrier and I joined a local couple for a dog walk. As we passed a small area of statics, the gent (and he was a gent) asked a local where J and I could park up for the night … Tom, as he introduced himself offered to let us stay at the end of the statics’s strip … but we sailed slightly past the the end of the road and parked up just outside the now demolished fisheries. We really ought to have been on electric for the F/F, but with two ice packs and a frozen water bottled … fingers crossed I would not have to do a massive defrosted cook off. And this area was too lovely to pass up. J joined me on another walk (lucky Oscar) and we found the long beach round the head. We were only disturbed by a few walkers, birds and some passing freight ships and yachts. Idyllic.
How about this for a peaceful spot.
Maiden’s Tower and Maiden’s Finger (yes all it needs is a couple of boulders at it’s base to be another part of anatomy!). The local couple told the tale that the women folk would watch for the return of their fishermen from the told of the tower. Our heroine understood from the flags on the fishing ships that her man had perished. in anguish she jumped from the top of the tower to her death, leaving a finger caught in the stone wall.
715 – Wednesday 10th May: Dogheda Yes and MK’s
A further phone call to the Tourist Information and the good lady had been doing her homework for us, identified a surface carpark with no height barrier. Drogheda, here we come. Now the good folk of Drogheda were not big fans of Oliver Cromwell in the 1600s – he captured the town and slaughtered 2,000 inhabitants. Not sure why but the Irish seem to think that the Brits totally love Cromwell, I know he established Parliament, but he was quite brutal. Today, its a commuter town for Dublin 30 miles to the south. It is a pleasant town … not architecturally stunning but the history is interesting. It also has not one, but two St Peter’s Churches.
St Lawrence’s Gate C13: Dogheda was one of Irelands largest 4 walled towns in min C15. This is pretty much all that remains. The guide books tells me that it is in fact a Barbican, a fortified structure to defend the gate.
Magdalene Tower – the bell tower from a C13 friary. King Richard II accepted the submission of the Gaelic chiefs in 1395. Peace only lasted a few months. And it looks like this spindly structure should not have lasted as long as it has.
Cadaverous Medieval wall tomb (not James!!!) in the graveyard of the Catholic St Peter’s Chuch. It was in this church that Cromwell burned the spire, killing 100 people who had taken sanctuary inside.
The Catholic St Peter’s houses the head of Saint Oliver Plunkett … Archbishop who refused to leave his people but then his head left his body in London in 1681!
My Goddaughter and niece Mary-Kate lives near Banbridge and she, Michael, Daniel and baby Amelia welcomed us into their home and provided the driveway for Jez and our sleepover. Wonderful meal by K and lots of family chats during a top evening…
A gorgeous pic of Mary Kate and the baby. Sadly Daniel was not up before we left. But he helped with the cooking, played with bubbles in the washing up sink and I read him a few stories.
716 – Thursday 11th May: Leisure Technical Services Trumps All
Our next shot at fridge repairs was LTS near Banbridge (Dromore) – and they came up trumps (not the ‘Donald’ kind, thankfully… ). They quickly identified that the gas was getting to the fridge burner, so all this talk of dirty LPG was misleading. A part removed, showed signs of a burn out at the back. Tomorrow, they may have the part – so a campsite with electric hookup for the freezer at nearby Oxford island on Lough Neagh was the overnight for us. Fabulous walking around the largest freshwater lake in the British Isles . BBQ in the evening after warm sunshine – sitting out in the heat – Oscar and I used sun lotion! We could easily spend a week exploring this area of Northern Ireland – another time, definitely. K: I should mention that the camping gave us a 10% discount for the cafe… was that another full Irish James?
A wildlife haven, so lots of hides.
Our walk was through wild flower meadows and different woodlands. When we texted Mary kate to tell her where we were staying, she replied with OMG – that is our favourite place. We can see why.
717 – Friday 12th May: Fridge Fixed and Wilding Again
Excellent spot for running – K back to running after a hamstring problem. A slow breakfast and a walk in the best park in the area – Lurgan. LTS fixed the fridge – and seriously debunked the myth about ‘dirty’ gas – but filters fitted to our tanks, for extra care. And LTS will process the warranty claim for the fridge part and the filters and fitting only cost us £100. A superb result.
At last – a return to ‘wild’ camping – where? The top of a mountain in the Sperrin range – called Eagle Rock. Remote, no phone or internet signal – gorgeous views – until the heavy mist and rain surrounded us! Almost Harry Potter-esque spooky – the ‘forbidden forest’ – and Hagrid’s cottage could be around the corner. You can tell we’ve been listening to the audio books while driving – excellent tales!!! Soooo quiet here……
In the morning, we will travel to Magilligan Point for more ‘wilding’ and sea walking – possibly better weather – but we have all the wet gear we need.
A good life? “The Good Life”, indeed…..