We stayed last night in the Lyrath Estate Hotel – our only 5 star hotel of the tour. It is in Kilkenny. I had checked it out before the trip began and packed my swimming trunks for this place. After checking in I headed straight down to the pool. Had it all to myself.
After about 30 minutes I headed into the steam bath. From there I alternated between the steam and the jacuzzi. The experience put me in just the right mood for a delicious dinner and early sleep time.
The next morning I headed out for a breath taking walk. The hotel is situated on the Lyrath Estate – 170 acres of rolling grassy hills, hay bales, lakes and woodlands. Le Rath – the name comes from the Le Pointe family in the 12th century who lived in the monastery. It opened as a hotel and convention centre in 2006
The Hawkeye School of Falconry is a unique feature in southern Ireland. Guests can learn about the “sport of kings” from experts with falcons, owls or an eagle.
There was a covered walkway from the hotel to the parking lot. Behind the lot was a circular trail.
The early morning sun casting a glow on the fields.
Time for breakfast after the long walk. And nothing says good morning like cutting off a slab of honeycomb.
I had time before our bus left to walk around the walled garden. They were designed by Lady Charlotte in 1921 and faithfully restored based on original family drawings
The walled garden area was once used for growing fruit and vegetables for the estate.
There are a number of different paths and walkways to explore. However, I had to get back to the bus as we were leaving for the historic Rock of Cashel.
The Rock of Cashel is located in Tipperary. It is built on top of a rocky hill, it was quite windy. We had a private guide who took us around the various sections.
It was established from the 9th to 11th century to protect from the Vikings.
Another example of the Round Tower. It is a type of architecture that makes it the only building that is unique to Ireland. The same principle of having the doorway elevated from the ground. The base as been fortified to make it safe. The top window would be above the tree line allowing the monk to spot Vikings coming up the river.
The holes in the wall would hold the timber beams that suggest there were 5 floors. Also the beams were used for scaffolding on the outside.
It became a waiting game between the monks and Vikings. With the weather they have, no doubt it was the Vikings who blinked first. Of course, the door was made of wood, the interior supports were wood so it is probable that they would set fire to the door, smoking out the monks.
Legend has it that the King of Munster was converted here by St Patrick in the 5th century. It became the seat of power for the kings of the Munsters. They donated the rock to the church in 1101. Seen here is Cormac Chapel – finished in 1134. The Hiberno- Romanesque style influence is seen in the pillars and round arches.
The famous Brian Boru was crowned high king at Cashel in 978.
The inside is equally impressive but only limited to a small number of tours (we were not part of that tour). Because of the sandstone structure, water damaged the interior frescoes. Wrapping the inside with a rain proof structure along with dehumidifiers has been part of the restoration. Notice the zig zag stone work in the arch. The debate is still on about what the animal is.
The sandstone is easier to carve but deteriorates over time. The rain seeps in – over 900 years of rain- eventually the interior and frescoes were waterlogged. During the first 18 months of restoration, close to 125,000 litres of water were removed. It took 8 years to complete the draining and restoration. No wonder the entrance to the interior had a security guard posted.
Each stone was taken out, dried, retooled and put back exactly as it was.
Our guide says that pre-pandemic, they would get 3,000 people a day coming to the Rock of Cashel. His family have been tour guides – father, grand father. He explained that people are still buried in Cormac Cemetery but there is a condition. Only people living at the Rock at the time of the agreement, could be buried here.
St Patrick’s Cathedral at Cashel was built between 1235 and 1270.
In 1647, Oliver Cromwell’s troops invaded the Rock and massacred 1000 people in this building. 3000 troop outside and only 200 inside to defend. The set fire to the cathedral which is why there is no roof.
From the account of one survivor, the bodies were piled up 6 high against the walls. Both King Henry the VIII, Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Charles have visited the Rock of Cashel.
Our tour finished, we gathered for a group photo.
Walking back to where our bus was parked we went through the town of Cashel.
There were no bathrooms at the Rock we could use so we stopped at the town of Seem for a break. I found a wonderful espresso bar and bakery where I sat and pretended I was on a sunny Tuscan patio.
We had an afternoon of leisure time in Killarney and I had planned a pub tour. I also wanted to check out what music was playing that night. First stop was McSweeney’s. They had a duo booked to play traditional Irish music who setup in the area by the window behind me.
Next was a Lord of the Rings pub called The Shire.
There was a party going on in the back but the front bar was quiet. “Not all those who wander are lost”.
The front area was populated with LOTR memorabilia.
The last pub was The Laurels. It was packed. There was an empty standing space at the bar. I asked the hostess if she could find a chair for a tired, Canadian senior? Off she went and came back shortly with a bar stool.
The Laurels is a famous greyhound race that was held each year at Wimbledon – the Wimbledon Plate. The pub tells the story of the greyhound Kilbrean Boy and how he won the first Wimbledon Plate race in 1930. The prize was 1210 pounds and a gold trophy worth 100 pounds. In 1980 the owner of the trophy got a letter from Wimbledon Stadium asking if they could buy back the trophy. The answer was no – it would stay in Ireland. Turns out the Wimbledon Stadium had 49 Laurels trophies on display but was missing the first one.
A portrait of Kilbrean Boy hangs on the wall of the pub.
We were staying at the Dromhall Hotel in Killarney. It was a 10 minute walk from city centre. I headed back for our group dinner. Jayne, our tour manager, had arranged for a birthday surprise. I got a Guinness espresso cup and a lovely card.
I had worn my party “hamburger” shirt.
The kitchen had prepared a lovely birthday desert with candles.
It was a special moment on the trip that I will cherish in years to come.