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May 21, 2006: Ireland - Cahir and Cashel

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Today has been all about moldy ruins. Literally. We got up early so we could track down a phone booth and make our reservations for the next few nights (in fact, last night we sat down and mapped out a general plan for the rest of our trip), and it was already raining hard enough to require jackets and umbrellas. Directly after breakfast we piled into the car and off we went down the road, in the rain, toward our first heap of moldy rocks.

First stop - Cahir Castle, in Cahir. It's one of the most complete castles in the country, since it remained in the (you guessed it) Butler family until the last one died in the 1960's, and they did their best to keep it from falling down around them. I don't remember exactly when this particular castle was built, but it was famous for falling to the Earl of Essex back in the time of Elizabeth I (although amusingly, the Butler family got it back less than a year later because those Butlers, they are a surprisingly tenacious family when it comes to their castles), and this particular attack was notable because it was the only time the castle had fallen - and it only fell because they used guns (in fact, there is a cannonball still stuck in one of the tower walls).

We got a short guided tour, but most of the time we were there, we were just allowed to wander on our own, with a simple admonition to just please be careful because the rain made things slippery. Um. Yes. We very carefully climbed the open stair to the ramparts, and avoided a few of the other staircases, one of which was literally just some stones sticking out from the wall. The stairs to the prison tower were also unprotected and slippery, but we braved them anyway.

And I wasn't kidding about the mold. The main room we could go into in the prison tower was so heavy with mold that the air reeked of it, and the windows in the banquet hall were bright green with growth. No wonder the people in those days suffered from so many respiratory problems!

After the castle, we headed North to Cashel, primarily to see the Rock of Cashel. In fact, we can see the Rock from the window of our B&B room, which is positively spacious compared to the teeny little room in the place in Waterport (for one thing, neither of us will end up having to sleep on the floor!). We dumped off our bags, found one of the only places open for lunch on a Sunday and joined crowds of other people squashing into the little restaurant to get out of the rain.

The rock is quite impressive once you get inside it, especially the sheer size of the cathedral. We listened to a short presentation about the history of the Rock, and then got to wander about at will. I'm not sure if it was the rain, or the day (Sunday) but there weren't very many people there at all, so we could poke about as much as we wanted.

The presentation mentioned the Hore Abbey, which was built for the monks at some point in the history of the Rock, and it was visible in the distance from the Rock (to be fair, *everything* is visible in the distance from the Rock - it doesn't take much to figure out just why someone decided this was a good place to build a fortress), and there were signs pointed toward it, so once we were done wandering the Rock, we set off for the Abbey, through the mud and the rain, down a steep hill, and then down a road until there it was, sitting there all abandoned and covered in moss, smack in the middle of a field of cows. Literally. In fact, we had to walk through the field of cows to get to the abbey, and when we got there, there were only two other people in the ruins, and they left shortly after we arrived, so we had the whole thing to ourselves.

Having gone through Jerpoint and having been given all the information by the fabulous tourguide there, we could now easily pick out various parts of the abbey and figure out about where things were and what they might have been used for. This particular abbey was missing most of the cloister, but had more areas where you could see the outer buildings that surrounded the inner gardens.

By this time the rain was finally letting up, although it continued to sprinkle on and off the rest of the day. So we headed back to town and stopped into the Tourist Information office, to find out if there might be anything in town actually open late enough to serve dinner on a Sunday (exactly one place, it turned out). Luckily it was just about a block away from the B&B, since by this time I wasn't sure how much more walking around I could take, and even though the tiny little place was packed, we were able to get seats at the bar pretty quickly, and they were willing to serve us there. The food was delicious, and it was actually kind of fun to sit at the bar, since we got to watch their system in action. The kitchens were obviously on the next floor up, so the had a little food elevator built into the wall; dirty dishes would go in, and scraps of paper with orders written on them; plates of food would come back down.

We came back to the B&B and decided to just relax for the rest of the evening. There's a few chairs in the little landing near our room, so we went out there and I did a bit of knitting and Richard read and did some writing, before finally heading into our room (again - a nice change from the cramped conditions of the place in Waterford!). From our window we can see the Rock, where they've got it lit up for the night. We turned on the television and ended up finding a British film that had enough gentle humor to make it enjoyable, since both of us are to tired for anything requiring actual thought.

Pictures from Cahir and Cashel.

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