Old Churches

Today, I booked a ride with Kilkenny Taxi to take me out into the wilds of Co. Kilkenny to see some interesting ruins. I had wanted to see Jerpoint Abbey and Kells Priory, and Paul, the driver, suggested I add Kilree as well, as it was right in the area and pretty cool.

So, he picked me up around 11:30, and off we went. The day was generally overcast and not terribly warm, but though it looked to be threatening rain, that never materialized.

Jerpoint Abbey was built in the 12th century, with some expansion and decoration up to the 16th century. There was some restoration started in the 1950s, and it’s ongoing today.

The towers out front are in pretty good repair, for being 800 years old, though a lot of the restoration work is replacing the mortar.
These buildings were for the monks. The lay brothers would have had separate buildings that don’t exist any more. And the whole thing would have been enclosed in two sets of walls.Those walls also don’t exist any longer, but the abbey complex has it’s own walls, binding the buildings together.
They’ve restored part of the cloister arcade, starting in the 1950s. The pillars were apparently all carved at one time, with images of saints, churchmen, and mythical creatures, and many were painted. They’ve only got two sides done, right now.
There’s a lot of carving all around the place, much of it preserved from it’s original dates rather than restored, like the cloister pillars. Here’s a very lovely St. Christopher.
Here are a couple of carved tombs still in the church area.
Another carved tomb, this one with several of the apostles.
This carved tomb marker has two soldiers on it, and is referred to as The Brethren. Apparently the tomb had been in the floor, and a lot of that is being dug up as part of the restoration efforts.
This was an interesting thing in one of the small display rooms in the abbey. It’s an ogham stone. Ogham inscriptions are generally pre-Christian, so I assume this one was found on the abbey lands, rather than something the religious community here would have made.

We left Jerpoint Abbey after the tour, and made our way over the Kilree. On the way, Paul took us through the Mount Juliet estate, showing off the lovely golf course, gardens, and houses.

Kilree is a little site, with a small cemetary, a ruined church, a round tower, and a high cross.

The little cemetary is shrouded in heavy trees. It’s a very picturesque place.
The church at Kilree no longer has a roof, but there are still some tended graves inside it.
This is the round tower at Kilree. It rises up out of a little grove of trees, and you can see it quite a ways off.
There’s a high cross out in the field. It’s not that tall – maybe six feet – but still pretty cool. There’s also a sign saying that there’s a bull loose in the field. We didn’t see it, but the ground around the rails surrounding the cross was all churned up in a very cattle-like way.

Then, it was on to Kells Priory, a 12th century site. This one hasn’t been as maintained or restored as Jerpoint Abbey, and is an open site – no visitor centre or admission or tours. But it looks like they’ve recently1 started doing some restoration work.

The priory is down a pretty significant hill. You have to walk through a sheep pasture to get to the outer wall. The sheep were kind of grumpy, bleating loudly as we walked through.
Down the hill, and through the gate, into the outer ward of the priory.
The buildings of the priory aren’t anywhere near as preserved as at Jerpoint, but are nicely picturesque.
Here’s a shot of the cloister and the inner wall. You can faintly see the white-shrouded tower in the background – that one is currently undergoing restoration

The walk up the hill was significantly more punishing than the walk down it. By the time we made it back to Kilkenny2, I was pretty wiped out. I started working on this post, but was going to fall asleep if I stayed in the hotel room, so I walked down to a nearby theatre and went to a movie. After that, I grabbed some dinner, and came to finish up the blog.

Tomorrow, I’m taking a day trip by train to Waterford and going on a walking tour there. Should be a fun day.

  1. Like, in the last five years or so. []
  2. After a quick detour to drive around Kieran’s College, which is a cool looking school. []

Kilkenny Revisited

Okay. So, Kilkenny was run by ten merchant families. Of those, there were three who were pretty much at the top, and each had a private chapel off the main area of St. Mary’s. This was the private chapel of the Rothe family. Interestingly, instead of religious iconography, this memorial was decorated with all the coats of arms for the Rothes. The only concession to less worldly ideas is a tiny memento mori skeleton right up at the very top.

Last night, after publishing the last blog post, I went out and got some dinner. I walked down the street, back towards the train station, to Matt the Millers1, which I had seen on my walk to the hotel. I had heard they had good food, and there was traditional Irish music that night.

The pub is sort of scattered around several floors of the building, with lots of open ceilings. I wound up in the Loft bar, overlooking the stage where Wallop the Cat were going to be performing.

This is the view from my seat at the rail of the Loft bar. The Tobacco Shop is not a tobacco shop, but a room for private parties. It’s been decorated in old tobacco ads and memorabilia. The folks you can see downstairs are in the Stage bar, sitting behind the performers’ area. The performers face out into the main bar, half a floor down.

There was some sort of important football2 game going on this evening, so the music started a little late so folks could watch the end of the game.  I used the time to eat some very nice stew and drink some cider.

This is Wallop the Cat. Mainly, they sang and played guitar and mandolin, but I was keeping my eye on the concertina sitting on the shelf behind the guitar player.
In fact, I was watching that concertina so hard, I didn’t notice that the mandolin player had picked up a low whistle until he started playing it.

It was a good set. They were on until 9:00, but I only lasted until around 8:00, being dead tired. I did find this video of them also performing at Matt the Millers back in 2012, so you can get a taste of what I got last night.

And then I went back to the hotel and went to bed.

Walking back across the bridge, I took a quick picture of Kilkenny Castle. It looked pretty good in the bright sunset.

This morning, after a nice breakfast, I went for a little walk before my walking tour. It was a good reminder that Kilkenny has something that we don’t in Winnipeg – hills3. But I found a pharmacy that was open, and got the things I wanted to get – deodorant, toothpaste, and razors, all stuff I don’t want the hassle of carrying in my carry-on luggage.

Now, I’ve been on this tour before, so there wasn’t much new. If you’re curious about Kilkenny, check out my post from last time. A couple of things had changed – notably, I didn’t see the big head of St. Canice in High Street, and there were some changes to St. Mary’s church and the Butter Slip.

The Butter Slip is a little, steep lane connecting High Street and Kieran’s Street. It used to run all the way down to the river, where bargemen would haul up the butter, milk, and cheese for market, and sell it out of the slip, sheltered from the sun. The restaurant on the right is new, and it’s called Petronella, which is the name of the maidservant of Alice Kyteler, the famous witch of Kilkenny. Petronella didn’t escape, like Alice, and wasn’t rich enough to buy her way to freedom, like Alice’s son, so she was burned alive in the High Street for witchcraft.
This is St. Mary’s Church. Last time I was in Kilkenny, it was abandoned and run down and overgrown. The guide on that tour mourned the fact that it was such a historically important building, but the city didn’t have the funds or the will to do anything to preserve it. Today, I saw that it has been greatly restored and turned into the Medieval Mile Museum.

You can see the numbers marked on the stones making up the gatepost, showing how they’ve been reassembled. I was tremendously happy to see the new museum4, and went back after the walking tour to have a look.

This is the inside of the Medieval Mile Museum.

I took the guided tour, which took about an hour. I was surprised at that length of time, because it’s not a huge place, but Pat, the guide, was amazing. He provided a real in-depth history of the city, and how it was different from pretty much any other Irish city, and why that was important, and how that gave context to all the stuff he was showing off.

Okay. So, Kilkenny was run by ten merchant families. Of those, there were three who were pretty much at the top, and each had a private chapel off the main area of St. Mary’s. This was the private chapel of the Rothe family. Interestingly, instead of religious iconography, this memorial was decorated with all the coats of arms for the Rothes. The only concession to less worldly ideas is a tiny memento mori skeleton right up at the very top.

Notice the two floor levels. Due to… uh, religious differences between the Catholic merchant families of Kilkenny and the Protestant king5, when the king took notice of the clandestine Catholicism, he sent a man to straighten things out. This man, among other things, took all the Catholic markers and plaques in the church, put them on the floor, buried them, and put a new floor over top. It’s only in the last couple of years, when the archaeologists got set loose in the church, that all these markers and tombs were found.

Obviously, the story of the hidden tombs was not completely lost. During the archaeological processing of the site, they found in one of the Rothe tombs some guns that had been hidden there circa the 1916 uprising.
These are resin and plaster replicas of high crosses made my an Italian artist for the National Museum in Dublin. He made 12, and 10 are in storage at the National Museum. These two used to mark the border between the kingdom of Munster and the kingdom of Ossory, of which Kilkenny was the capital. They were imposing and ostentatious shows of wealth for the time, and say a lot about the nature of Kilkenny’s merchant families.
The graveyard is being restored, as well. It’s still somewhat overgrown, but now it’s artistically disheveled, instead of just neglected.

After the Medieval Mile Museum, I went to see Rothe House, a 16th and 17th century townhouse6 that has been restored by the local archaeology society.

Here in the reception room of Rothe House is the skull of a giant Irish deer. These went extinct about 10,000 years ago, and this skull was found in a bog. The antler spread is about seven feet.
Quern stones gathered up by the Rothes, because rich person archaeology.
This is a cist grave from County Carlow. It’s in the courtyard of Rothe House because they dug it up, disposed of the cremated remains in it, and moved it here. Because, again, rich person archaeology.
One more piece of weirdness from Rothe House. These are pieces from a flying machine. Long story short, rich dude in the 1850s built an aerial chariot in his dining room. It looked kind of like a Da Vinci drawing. He had to expand the dining room door to get it out, took it to a high place, and made a not-rich guy try to fly it.
It didn’t work, and not-rich guy broke his leg.
This did not stop the rich guy from patenting the aerial chariot.

This evening, I went on the Kilkenny Ghost Tour, which was a lot of fun. It lost a little something because it wasn’t dark, yet, but we did get to wear black polyester capes. Nothing really new to take pictures of, though.

But it was nice to go walking past all the pubs and hear so much traditional Irish music spilling out the doors.

And then I came back to the hotel to do this post.

Tomorrow, I’m off to Jerpoint Abbey and Kells Priory. It’ll be a taxi tour that takes up about half the day. Should be fun.

  1. For all the writers reading this: that’s the way they spell it. Don’t come at me about apostrophes. []
  2. Maybe it was rugby. []
  3. To anyone in Winnipeg who wants to argue that point, just don’t. If you’re arguing with me about this, you haven’t faced Kilkenny’s hills. Stop embarrassing yourself. []
  4. I also tweeted about it, but made a typo, so I called it the Medieval Mike Museum. A friend asked if that was related to Magic Mike, and I said that was what you called Magic Mike when he reached his Middle Ages. I’m a funny guy. []
  5. And Oliver Cromwell. []
  6. Two centuries, because it’s really a series of three townhouses built back from the street. First one was built in 1594 and the third in 1610. []

Made It!

All packed and ready to go.

Over the last week, I got all my errands run and all my packing done. My luggage choice this trip is the Hero’s Journey from Tom Bihn. It’s a backpack with a detachable shoulder bag – the main backpack is about the size of my beloved Aeronaut, but is designed kind of from the other direction, as a backpack that can be converted to a shoulder bag or duffel, rather than a duffel that can be used as a backpack. The backpack is about the maximum size allowed by most airlines for carry-on, and the detached shoulder bag is about the perfect size for your personal item. Once off the plane, I was able to zip the two together, and wear it as a large backpack.

So, I managed to get everything for three weeks packed, and still was able to lift it. And wear it that way for an extended time1.

And then, yesterday morning, I got into the taxi to the airport, and the adventure began!

Of course, the flight to Toronto was delayed, but only by about 20 minutes. Headwinds, apparently. I believe that, because even though we left 20 minutes late, we were only 4 minutes late getting into Toronto.

And that’s when I realized how spoiled I’ve become with online check-in for flights. Instead of just heading right for security, I got to try and find the Aer Lingus counter, and then wait for two hours before the counter opened. And there were maybe five whole chairs in the entire check-in area. The hate for the backpack weight started then.

But, I made it through that, made it through security, and made it to the lounge, where I planned to wait for the flight to Dublin.

Unfortunately, there were several people in the lounge who seemed to be competing in the Loud Important Business Person of the Year Award, in about three different, braggadocio-laden conversations. After about an hour and a half, I decided to go down to the gate to get away from it, and found that the flight had been delayed by an hour.

Sitting down there, surrounded by other loud people, including what seemed to be a class tour of very excited teenagers. And I still preferred the noise they made.

Reflective Rick in business class.

But we got on the plane at last, and off we went. And I had a nice dinner, and got about three hours of sleep2. For those of you trying to do the math at home, we landed at what for me was around 1:30 am.

And then we sat on the tarmac for 90 minutes, because we were late leaving Toronto. I didn’t mind it all that much, but I had a comfy business-class seat and no connecting flight to catch. Other passengers3 were not as sanguine about it all.

Of course, we made it in to the airport, and I took advantage of the Revival Lounge to have a shower and some orange juice.

A little perk of flying business class. I like business class.

Then I caught the Airlink bus into central Dublin. I wanted to get some stuff at the Lush store there, and get a local sim card for my phone. The helpful fellow who sold me my ticket told me that the bus would drop me off on College Green, just around the corner from Grafton Street, where Lush and the phone shop I wanted were.

He was right, but my memory of Dublin is not what I thought it was. While Grafton Street was literally right around the corner, I turned the wrong corner getting off the bus. And spent over an hour wandering around, failing to find any of the landmarks I remembered. When I found that I had inadvertently circled right back to where I started, I realized that I needed help, so I went in to the tourist office there and asked for directions.

And they told me that Grafton Street was literally right around the corner. The moral of this story is that I shouldn’t trust my brain.

So, I got the stuff I wanted, and took a cab to Heuston Station to catch the train to Kilkenny. By the time I got on the train, I was starting to fade. I spent the train ride nodding off, trying not to sleep through my stop.

Being so sleepy, when I say we were going through Athy, I got the song Lanigan’s Ball stuck in my head. Right up until we went through Carlow, and I got Follow Me Up To Carlow stuck in my head. But all I could think about when we got to Kilkenny was the Cats of Kilkenny rhyme.

I planned to take a cab to the hotel, but there wasn’t a cab at the train station, so I walked. Every step of the way, I kept telling myself that this was how I got lost in Dublin. And I told myself that right up to the moment I got to the hotel

The moral of this story is that I should trust my brain.

Checked in, and got to my room, and there was no electricity. Tried all the outlets and all the switches, then went down to the desk to tell them. And learned about this:

This is what the concierge called the electricity box. You need to put your key card in it for the room to have power. And leave the card there. “It’s pretty much a European thing,” said this nice lady so that I didn’t feel like too much of an idiot.

And now I’ve done up this little blog post, and haven’t fallen asleep, so I win. I don’t want to go to sleep too early, because I need to get on the local schedule, so I’m going out to a pub tonight for some dinner and music. Matt the Millers is nearby, and apparently has live traditional music starting in about half an hour.

I made it to Ireland!

  1. Though, even with the planning and testing, I knew that I’d be hating the weight of the thing by the end of the first day. Spoiler: I was right! []
  2. Flight was about six and a half hours, and take-off and dinner service took about two hours, then they woke us up about an hour before landing for breakfast. []
  3. And, indeed, the flight crew, who were understandably ready for their day to be over. []

Locked Down

The planning board is complete.

Okay. Locked down is kind of an overstatement. I’m still waiting to hear back on a couple of things, and there’s at least one tour I’d like to get on that I can’t book yet. But still. Things are about as close to being locked down as they can be.

So, the picture is my planning board. I put one of these together for every big trip. A card for each day, colour-coded to indicate what city I am based in that day. It’s a good way to visualize the entire span of time, and it helps me get to grips with where I’ll be when.

I also use the itinerary page I build on this blog1, but that helps me keep track of details and links. The board helps me visualize and structure the trip, and the itinerary helps me organize the information about all the activities. Using the two tools in concert helps me make sure I haven’t missed anything2.


I’ve fleshed out the stuff I want to be doing during my stay in Dublin. Some of it3 are revisiting things I’ve seen before, but usually with a different tour. Some of it has changed – for example, it looks like the hop-on-hop-off bus tour that I love so much in Dublin has added another route that takes in more of the northern part of the city. And the Newgrange, Monasterboice, and Hill of Tara tour I’ve got booked was canceled on my last trip.

I’ve scheduled myself less completely than I have on previous trips. I have more confidence on this, my third Irish adventure, in my ability to find interesting things to do. And I feel less pressure to see everything. And I’ve found that just bumming around Ireland with no pressing plans for a day is kind of awesome.

Also, I’m getting old4, and maybe the lighter schedule will be easier on me.

Less than two months. Can hardly wait.

  1. Which is also as complete as it’s probably gonna get. []
  2. Not foolproof. For the UK trip, I somehow managed to miss booking a hotel the first night in London and the last night in Edinburgh. Nothing is foolproof. But you can believe I’ve been double-checking dates for accommodations this trip. []
  3. As with several things in other cities. []
  4. Okay, I’m already old. I’m getting older. I’ll be turning 50 on this trip. []


Well, I’m not going to Ireland this year.

I ran into some health problems this past summer. I’ve been trying to get them under control, but it’s been a bit of a long process. Things are starting to fall into place, now, but it’s already March.

See, I didn’t want to be off in Ireland and have to go to the hospital. Not that I mistrust Irish medicine or anything like that – it’s just not what I want to be doing on my vacation. So, I was waiting until I had everything under control before booking flights and accommodation and stuff. And now, with things still in flux, a lot of the places I planned to stay are booked for the period I wanted to be there.

Better, I figure, to wait for 2018, and do it right.

But this year, I am planning to finally go out to Portland, Oregon, and check out the H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival in October. It’s run by a couple of friends of mine that I see every year at GenCon, and they always tell me I should attend. And this year, I will.

It’s only three days, but it should still be a fun trip.

Early Days

I’m going back to Ireland next year.

That’s about all the decision I’ve made so far. I was torn between another trip to the UK and going back to Ireland, but news that Aer Lingus was going to start using the same reward miles company as British Air1 means that I should be able to get a cheap(er) flight to Dublin than I had feared. But the new system won’t be in place until summer, so I can’t book my ticket until then, and so I don’t know the dates, and so on.

Doesn’t stop me from reading travel sites and books, though. And so I’ve made a new itinerary page, though all it has on it right now is some links I don’t want to forget. I mean, I know I’m going to want several days in Dublin, and a few days in Waterford2, and a few days in Donegal3, and maybe back in Doolin for a bit, and maybe go kiss the Blarney Stone again4, but I don’t have anything definite sorted yet.

So, like the title says, it’s early days. But it’s starting.

  1. Where I have a lot of stranded reward miles after converting some from my credit card to theirs when planning the UK trip. []
  2. I haven’t seen that much of the south east. []
  3. I haven’t seen that much of the north west. []
  4. Kissing it’s good for seven years. I need to recharge my gift of gab. []