We arrived in Kilkenny late on Monday afternoon, and checked into our Airbnb, which was actually just a room above an old pub with access to a tiny kitchen. We’ve seen this type of accommodation all over Ireland, so it was certainly a classic experience. We didn’t end up actually hanging out in the pub at all, but we were definitely able to pretend that we were since we could hear the live music through the floor at night. (Of course, they were playing all of the same songs that we had been hearing in all of the other pubs.)
We’ve been planning our trip as we go, so we have to make sure to find time to do research on cities, transport, accommodations, food, etc. A good time for that has been when we get to our accommodations in the late afternoon after being out and about, and before venturing out for dinner. Martin has also had quite a bit of consulting work to do, so between that, research for our trip, sight-seeing and driving most of the day, we have been keeping very busy. Which is also why I have had a hard time keeping up with this blog…
Even though we’ve been moving around every few days we’ve managed to get into a routine: to get up (relatively) early and go-go-go during the day, then come back and relax, do some work, freshen up, and find dinner. Since we left Matt and Kelley’s place in Galway we haven’t had access to a kitchen so we’ve been going out to dinner every night, which can be fun but it can also be hard to find places that have good food, are within our budget, are to easy to get to, have good reviews, and introduce some amount of variety into our diet.
So, after settling into our place in Kilkenny, doing some work/research, we headed out to wander around the town. It’s another small medieval town with quite a tourist presence, but it is very cute and we enjoyed exploring it. We found a good place for dinner that also had some good live music going and then called it a night after dinner.
We spent Tuesday exploring around the historic center of Kilkenny. There is a medieval castle with some lovely gardens, both of which we visited. I believe the castle had quite a bit of historical significance that I can’t remember anymore, but the interiors had been renovated to look as they did several centuries ago. There was a lot of information on the renovation which was actually very interesting: They were able to find the original designs and patterns for some of the rugs, tapestries, wallpaper, etc. and went to the companies who had originally manufactured everything to have it all remade for the renovation.
We spent some time wandering around the banks of the River Nore, which runs straight through Kilkenny. It was very pretty and picturesque, but something we’ve noticed all around Ireland was certainly most evident there: There are life-preservers everywhere near any body of water! We saw five in just a few hundred yards along the Nore, and we have seen them also by the ocean, near beaches, on piers and docks, next to rivers and streams. All of the stands that hold the life-preservers also have stickers that say, “A stolen buoy, a stolen life.”
After some (actually quite good!) Thai food for lunch we continued wandering around the town. There are lots of medieval buildings that are still standing and are still in use, so it’s kind of a trip to walk around and feel like you’ve been transported back in time 400 years. I’ve really been enjoying spending time around so many old buildings and historical relics interspersed with the trappings of modern life because in California (and on the West Coast generally) we don’t really have structures that are more than a hundred-or-so years old. Especially all of the construction that is entirely out of stones that would definitely not survive the California earthquakes.
Because no day for us is complete without climbing to the top of something, we decided to check out the round tower at St Canice’s Cathedral. The round tower is 100 feet tall and is one of three round towers in Ireland that you can still go to the top of. We paid the 6 Euro for our tickets, and then we had to wait while the previous visitors came down. Because the tower is so small, they only let five or so people up at a time and even that seemed like a lot once we got to the top and there was barely room to move around each other. It was definitely a worthwhile experience as we go to see all of Kilkenny from high up, and we had fun marveling at how the “staircase” kept getting narrower and steeper as we went up.
After our tower experience we wandered around a bit more and were admiring the Black Abbey from the outside when an old and wizened woman came up and told us the whole history of the building. I don’t remember much of what she said…but I do remember that Oliver Cromwell was somehow involved.
Kilkenny is a pretty small town and there isn’t much to do if you don’t want to spend a lot of money on shopping, snacking, or museums and attractions. There are still a lot of things to see just from walking around, like other medieval buildings and the remnants of the walls and gates from previous civilizations. In fact, a section of the town has been named the “Medieval Mile,” of which you can do a kind of self-guided tour. So, after walking around and feeling like we sufficiently explored (the exteriors) of Kilkenny, we stopped for a cup of tea at a cafe and did some people watching before heading back to our rental.
We wandered back into town for dinner and ended up sharing a couple pizzas and some good beer at a brewery’s outside terrace. After dinner I dragged Martin out for another round at Kyteler’s Inn. Established in 1324, Kyteler’s Inn is one of the oldest pubs in Ireland! Clearly they have made some changes to modernize it at least a little bit, but I think that most of the structure is still original and many of the knick-knacks and tchotchkes that adorn the walls and shelves looked like they have been sitting there for many decades. It was a pretty cool experience! It was totally packed when we got there because there was live music going on (a duo called the Raglan Rogues), but we were able to find a niche to stand in and listened to the music for a while. There were a couple of younger women sitting at the bar (I think they were a musical group in their own right) and the Raglan Rogues brought them up to the mike to perform all together which was very neat.
The Inn definitely had a fun atmosphere and we had a good time listening to the music and people-watching. It had a great mix of tourists and local old-timers who probably come every night for a pint and some craic (news, gossip, entertainment, etc.). You can definitely tell that even though these places become overrun with tourists and visitors, it is a big part of the Irish culture to get together around some beer and live music.
Once we couldn’t fit in any more beers, we decided to head out and meander to our Airbnb. The town was all lit up and we caught the last rays of sunshine on the horizon (at 10:15pm!) as we crossed the River Nore and meandered back to bed.
Next up: Last day in Ireland. 🙁