Our stay in the lovely city of Kilkenny was indeed too short, due to our miscalculations in directions and the 10 Hour Tour, but our host at the lovely Rosquil House Bed and Breakfast welcomed us with true Irish hospitality on that late night. He reassured us that the drive from Glendalough to Kilkenny is no easy feat, describing that often times guests with reservations at their B&B don’t quite make it to Kilkenny if driving late at night. Finally my momma and I could ease up and stop being so hard on ourselves for our shortcomings on our first driving day in Ireland, and we could continue to be optimistic and excited about our packed agenda and sightseeing. We popped into the center of town for a quick dinner (the first EHH meal we had in Ireland thus far, nothing to drool over or brag about to you fine people) and a short walk through the center of town. Kilkenny’s impressive Medieval Castle was lit at night and allowed us to feel like we were in another century, walking the streets of ancient Éire trying to keep warm in the dead cold of winter. Did you guess it? It was Fookin’ Freezin’ on this splendid evening, and we were forced to retreat back to our quarters. But we didn’t mind, as we had big plans for our 3rd day in Ireland.
We greeted the new day with an early start, which would allow us to see the most possible in beautiful Kilkenny (Cill Chainnigh).
Afterall, our 1st Castle was awaiting our visit. But I’ll get back to that in a bit. Let’s talk FOOD. Let’s talk about what a wonderful spread our dear hosts at Rosquil House prepared for us. There was a grab and go selection of fruits, healthy cereal with seeds/nuts/dried fruits, yogurt, honey, and SCONES. . . ohhh the Heavenly Fresh Scones with homemade jam and marmalade (pictured below). My mom ordered a simple omelette with tomato and herbs, while I went for the “Irish Breakfast” again (pictured below).
Now if you read about my first meal in Ireland, you’d know why I ordered the Irish Breakfast again… because it’s just too delicious. This time my plate had the addition of mushrooms and the traditional white & Black Pudding (the two circles nestled between the sausage and the bacon). These puddings may sound a little scary, or adventurous as I would like to say, but they were genuinely tasty.
Black pudding actually contains pork blood (I’m sorry my vegetarian friends!) and a good portion of oatmeal, barley and spices. It’s hearty; it’s filling. It kind of tastes like Thanksgiving stuffing; flavorful, hearty home cooking. It’s fried (like most of the dish, sorry my healthy friends!) It’s a nice companion to the other elements in the Irish Breakfast, but be warned, it’s not for everyone.
KILKENNY CASTLE was originally built in 1195, as a wooden castle. By 1213, the castle of stone was constructed on the property, with remnants that still stand today (like the corner towers, 3 of the 4 are original). By 1391 it was owned by the Butlers, a family who gained fame and fortune by serving the Royals, like English kings and princes. The Butler family lived in this particular castle for over 500 years. . . talk about wealth and prestige.
It’s quite fantastical to imagine the many balls, parties, and celebrations that would have occurred in a Castle of such standard. My favorite thing learned on our visit was the familial connection of Anne Boleyn, King Henry VIII’s second wife (he beheaded her, remember!!), who was the granddaughter of a Butler, Lady Margaret Butler (born in Kilkenny Castle). My advice, take the tour of Kilkenny Castle. The history is rich there. The property is gorgeous. No interior pictures allowed, but the exterior grounds are impressive.
You are warned though. . . there are quite a bit of paintings of the various Butlers on the walls of the castle, SO MANY that you may not get that image out of your head for weeks. The Butlers look quite alike, almost all of them, men and women alike. Pale skin.
The day was perfect for picture taking, but the exterior temperatures in Kilkenny were freezing due to an impending snowfall, so our pictures around the exterior of the castle were far from perfect. Layered, and bundled, we walked the city streets to see more. My mom radiated with joy in the city… understandably so. You never forget your first Castle (First First Castle for my momma, first Irish Castle for me)!!
We walked from the castle to a few of the shops, to the not so nearby St. Canice’s Cathedral, a 13th century structure. They were closing the cathedral during their lunch break however when we arrived, so we walked all that way for a quick 10 minute look at the interior and exterior (Not enough time to appreciate the building really, or to hear more about the history of it). Also disappointing, was that we had also missed the opportunity to climb the 100ft “Celtic Christian” Round Tower from the 9th century, part of the site. You can actually climb the flights of stairs to the top and see all of the city from this viewpoint. I was bummed . . . and cold. . . My mom was tired . . . and cold. We hadn’t stopped or sat down since before our tour of the Castle. She was such a trooper, didn’t even complain, but I noticed her energy was down.
We decided we would head back to our car and hit the open Road again, saying goodbye to beautiful Kilkenny, as we wanted to see the famous ROCK OF CASHEL before sundown…
and we had just over an hour drive to reach it. In similar fashion to the day before, we got lost en route. Medium roads became small roads, and once we noticed we were on what looked like a private road in the countryside, we had to stop and regroup. Lucky for us, a local was on the same road and he kindly told us to turn back around to reach Cashel, with a smile on his face of course (I love the Irish!) The drive was scenic, gorgeous Irish countryside on both sides at times, and by the time we reached the road leading into Cashel, we could see the Castle towering unmistakably from atop the limestone hill.
Pictures will give you a sense of what it was like, seeing the Medieval ruins/remains of what once was a Powerful Castle and fortress, but actually standing up on that hill, and being pushed over by 30km winds (& add freezing winter temperatures to that), you will NOT FORGET your experience in this magnificent place.
The Rock of Cashel fortress is from the 5th century and “the stone fort”, as it was called, has been the seat of Irish kings and bishops for about 900 years. The most famous Irish saint, St. Patrick that is, was even said to have converted the Irish King of Munster to Christianity on the site (giving the site its other nickname: St. Patrick’s Rock). The most famous King at Cashel would have been the Munster King Brian Boru, who became High King of all of Ireland when the King of the O’Neill’s surrendered to him in 1002. But revolts and Vikings and history as we know it, would prevent Ireland from being ruled by one Irish King for too long. . .
C’est la vie.
The important thing is that history is preserved here in this place for us to experience and appreciate. The Celtic art, the impressive stone buildings, the Round tower, and Nature’s elements all combine to make this a Must See Place in Ireland. **Fair warning for winter and spring months: dress warmly from head to toe. You don’t want to miss out on exploring and feeling the energy here because it’s too cold. brrrrrrrrrrr!!
Kilkenny Castle represented stability and prestige to me, while the Rock of Cashel represented sheer power, strength and presence.
I have included links to both of the Castles for information, hours of operation and pricing. Your heritage card will get you into both sites, so go on, and get your Castle History On! CHEERS TO YOU ALL!