Cities / Towns Visited: 73
Countries Visited: 20
Steps Taken Today: 14,882
Steps Taken Around the World: 2,497,834
Our day began bright and early, once more, as we had a lot of ground to cover within the relatively short window that is opening times. Thus we piled into the car and were soon on our way to our first stop for the day; Kilkenny. After a little navigation we found a suitable parking spot behind a supermarket in between our two destinations. Making a quick stop in said supermarket to pick up a couple of things to eat to fill the void, we were soon scurrying off towards the spire we could see in the distance. Upon arriving at the cathedral we soon realised that it wasn’t the same church we had written down, as despite what we had thought, Kilkenny in fact has not one, but two, cathedrals, and we were at St. Mary’s. With it seeming silly to not even pop our heads in, given the fact that we had walked all of the way there, we made our way inside, and were pleasantly surprised that it was very much worth the visit. It was only just after opening time, and the place was deserted, save for one little old lady who quickly popped in, dropped a coin into the donation box, lit a candle, and scurried back out. The interior of this gothic cathedral, with its soaring vaulted ceilings, rainbow hued stained glass windows, gilt edged altar, large stone statues, reliquary of Saint Victoria, and series of painted panels depicting the stages of Christ’s crucifixion; was a peaceful and beautiful first stop on our day. A quiet wander around taking a few photos, and we were soon back out on the street, making our way off to the cathedral we had originally planned on visiting in the first place; St. Canice’s.
A quick walk, with a little backtracking to find the parking ticket we had somehow managed to drop on the way, and we were soon climbing the stairs, and passing through the gate into the grave speckled churchyard. This cathedral is the second longest cathedral in Ireland, and it has the noteworthy draw card of being home to a 9th century, 100ft tall, round stone tower which was most likely used as a watchtower over the city and as a refuge. Entering the cathedral, we picked up our free guide and made our way around. Like most, this is a gothic cathedral, however instead of the usual vaulted stone or plaster ceiling, it has an exposed wooden hammerbeam roof which really adds to the old feel of this 13th century house of God. The rest of the interior is fairly standard, but beautiful in its own right, with its stained glass windows, and wooden seated choir stalls complete with beautiful carved wooden animals. The other noteworthy addition to the space sits unassumingly off to the side; the simple stone seat, known as the Chair of St. Kieran, built into the wall in 1120, which is still used to this day to enthrone the Bishop of Cashel and Ossory. It is doubly as fascinating as it predates most of the church which was destroyed in a fire and rebuilt in the 1200's.
With the cathedral thoroughly explored, we headed outside to make our way up the tower. Now, don’t think that this is some nice wide tower with a sweeping staircase, it is instead an almost needle-thin tower, whose top is only accessible by climbing a series of steep ladders; you even have to climb one to get to the door, as, once again, this was used for protection, and thus needed to be easily defended. Entering the tower, and showing our ticket to the solitary lady in charge of monitoring the entrance in between reading her book, we made the rather arduous trek up to the top. The tower has motion sensor audio clips with a male voice explaining the history of the tower, and, as you near the top, encouraging you to keep going. Eventually we squeezed out of the tiny hole at the top and were released onto the small rooftop, which really only has room for a few people. Luckily for us, we found ourselves alone, and had the opportunity to bask in the stunning panorama view of the city below. Eventually we made out way back down to earth, inching past a couple of families ascending on the journey. To be fair I have absolutely no idea how they would all fit at the tiny summit, but we carried on regardless.
Trekking off, back into the city, be wound our way through until we found ourselves at our next stop; Kilkenny Castle. Walking up, its hard not to be impressed by the hulking sight. There has been a structure here since the late 12th century when the 2nd Earl of Pembroke, known commonly as Strongbow, and who’s tomb we visited in Dublin just a few days earlier, had a wooden fortification built here. The current stone castle was owned by the Butler family, who were the Earl’s of Ormond, for some 500 years before it was sold to the Irish state for the measly sum of £50 as it was falling into disrepair. The interior is laid out very much in the Victorian style, all lavish plush furniture, damask walls, aging tapestries, gilded picture frames, and family portraits. There was a very old flush toilet, from back when they were first invented, and would have almost have been a centrepiece of the house, given a rather strange room to gloatingly show off to your guests; and there was even a child’s room, scattered with period toys, from wooden rocking horses, to mildly creepy porcelain dolls. We wandered happily, occasionally finding ourselves stuck behind a large tour group, but pausing contently to listen to a more in depth descriptions of the rooms, and learning a few little tidbits here and there; like the tea caddy sitting in the drawing room which was used to lock away the expensive commodities which were tea and sugar back in the day, so that the servants couldn’t pilfer any of it. I will, however, put my money on the fact that they almost certainly made weak tea with the left over leaves upon clearing the mess and taking it back down to the servants quarters for cleaning.
The most impressive room of the entire place though, would have to be the portrait gallery, located in a huge grand hall, and topped with another impressive hammerbeam roof, similar to that of the mornings cathedral, but painted very much in an almost viking style, with gilded carved animal heads adorning the beam ends. The walls are painted a rich scarlet, and upon them hang portrait after portrait of the upper crust of Kilkenny back in the day.
At this point we were a little peckish, and with the visit leaving us in the old kitchen which now houses the tea rooms, we took a moment to indulge in our first cream tea for our Irish adventure. With tea, lemon madeira cake, and warm scones with jam and cream acquired, we sat happily, munching away, sighing at how nice it is to be in the land of tea and cakes once more. With our need for sweets satiated we wandered out into the grounds surrounding the castle, stopping briefly to watch a video on the history of the sight, before leisurely strolling around the huge lawn which stretches out into the distance. Eventually we found ourselves at the side of the building, and took a few photos of the fountain dancing happily in the centre of a rose lined path.
Finally it was time to bid farewell to Kilkenny, in order to make our way just out of town to our last stop for the day; Kilfane Waterfall and Glen. Considering the advantageous positioning of our car, we ducked back into the supermarket and picked up a roast chicken, and a few bread rolls, figuring we could have a makeshift picnic at the glen. A twenty minute drive saw us pulling into the car park with little delay, and we were soon buying our entrance ticket, and wandering off to find the picnic area. It was soul feeding to sit amongst the quiet rustle of trees, and tuck into our lunch, but it wasn’t long before we were once more on our way. The path runs you past a picturesque private property, and down through the glen. Surrounded by unbelievably green foliage, with seemingly no end; you almost forget that there is civilisation just a short drive from here, except for the few stray people who occasionally wander past.
The walk to the waterfall is made all the more picture perfect by a couple of fantasy inducing stone bridges which we happily skipped across, and as you approach the final, and largest, cascade, you are greeted by something which looks like it is torn straight from the pages of a fairytale; a small thatched cottage sitting in a clearing just beside the stream, with the waterfall visible on the opposite side. To be honest, if seven dwarves had marched past, pickaxe’s in hand, I don’t even think I would have blinked. We took a moment to admire the surreal scene, at which point we discovered that the falls were actually man made by diverting a nearby river. Regardless of their less than natural origins, they fit seamlessly into their surroundings.
With the hours of daylight dwindling, we made our way back to the car and headed off to our home for the night, near the small town of Fermoy, ducked out again to grab some groceries, and were soon digging into a home cooked meal, before getting a few life admin jobs done before bed. As I lay down, my mind strangely found itself back at the tea room table. There is something calming about the process of making tea, maybe its the fact you must let it brew slowly to be bestowed with the best product, or perhaps its the familiar action of stirring which soothes the soul; maybe its just the satisfying nature of watching a sugar cube dissolve, or the mesmerising way milk swirls in the whirlpool of the cup. There are very few everyday tasks which force us to take a quiet moment to slow down, in this fast paced life; we live in a world where we want it, and we want it now, but as a result we have forgotten that good things take time. We as a species need to endeavour to find these little moments of calm; the world needs more tea making, more meditation, more nature walks, more deep breaths. We need to disconnect with technology and reconnect with the concept of patience; we need people to learn to count to ten before exploding with rage at traffic lights, when their food takes longer than five minutes to get to them, or when the internet is running slow; we need parents who teach their kids to entertain themselves without a screen, and how to be alone with their thoughts; and, more importantly, to set an example by practicing these traits themselves. In this world of instant gratification, we have created a culture of impatience, and this impatience feeds the intolerance which poisons our society. We are the longest living generation of our species, and yet we insist on doing everything at such a breakneck speed that we’re left frazzled by the toxic friction of our own movements. So you, whoever you are, and wherever you are reading this, take a minute or two before you click on the next story, or go back to scrolling away your free time, do me a favour, look away from the screen, close your eyes, and just breathe; be in this moment, here, alive and patient.