On our third day in Ireland, we had planned to visit Glendalough a monastic city in the Wicklow Mountains founded by St Kevin in the 6th century. We woke to pouring rain and the forecast wasn’t hopeful so we decided to drive to Kilkenny where we had reservations for the night. Steve had been wanting to see some of the interior of Ireland and we were both tired of the city. So after going to the National Museum for an hour (all the time the parking would allow!) we headed southwest on small roads (This is a two lane road!!!):
We drove into a small village looking for lunch and found The Railway House with a sign out front saying “Lunch – carvery” (the cream and green building to the left of the picture-you can see the chalkboard sign). We went inside and it looked like a typical bar with men drinking beer. We walked around and didn’t see any food. Asked and we were led through a maze of doors and halls and came into a lovely large room with a ‘carvery’ – very much like a cafeteria here.
The center and focus of the picture is the roundabout. Usually, a roundabout is a large built up curbed circle (we call them traffic circles). This one was a simple white circle on the road. They are pretty hard to see and we drove through more than one with horns blaring at us! After the first one or two, we started noticing them in time to go around them. Roundabouts are ingenious. Why in the world don’t we use them more here???? Instead of traffic lights where you sit for a minute or two with nothing coming in the other direction, a roundabout allows you to slow down, look for traffic and keep going. What a time saver!
This is Kilkenny. We went for a couple of reasons: a 1200 AD castle we could tour and the Kilkenny Design Center. We arrived in the late afternoon and once we found our B&B and talked to the owners, we drove into town. We toured the Design Center and I was disappointed to find that what they were making was mostly a higher quality souvenir type stuff. We had a pint in a pub that was the original bank in town. Then we went to the pub/restaurant recommended by our hosts. The Kyteler Inn was built in 1263 by the owner, Alice Kyteler, it has a fascinating and spooky history!
On Saturday, we toured the castle and walked the grounds where there is a man-made lake with swans, ducks, and geese. The sun was SOOOOO Bright! I could hardly look at Steve taking my picture!
There was a nature walk with Certified Herbalist, Jenny Dunnes that afternoon so we got directions and drove off. Goodness. Roads in Ireland and narrow and poorly marked. After being lost for a little while, we asked for directions and were told “drive back the way you came, when you see 2 bungalows on the right, take the next drive on the left”. The Nature Reserve had a very nice, professional brochure with color pictures and activites going on all summer and yet had no sign or marking of any kind on the road or in the town. We arrived first and ate our lunch in the car and waited and wondered if we were even in the right place. We were joined by about 50 people for a very interesting walk about the medicinal uses for common plants including many ‘weeds’ I regularly pull from my garden!
Kyteler Inn is a popular spot for Hen Parties (Bachelorette in our words) and we were told to avoid it for dinner Saturday night. Instead, our hosts told us to go to the nearby village of Kells (population 100). We ate in a small enclosed area out back of the one pub in town. The owner was Barbecuing Steak, Chicken, and hamburgers. In this small town is a Priory. It’s not listed in any of the guide books and my first thought was to skip it. Wow!!! Am I ever glad we went. It was late in the evening and the sun was setting. It was magical. Founded in 1193, the Augustine Priory covers 3 acres and is one of the largest medival monuments in Ireland.
This might be a good time to tell you about how we ate in Ireland. All the B&Bs we stayed in offered us breakfast in the morning – usually served around 8 or 8:30 am. Breakfast started with juice, muesli, fresh fruit and yogurt. Then coffee was served along with a huge cooked breakfast. A “Full Irish” is a slice or two of black pudding which we always declined (we never had it put on our plates) along with sausage, bacon, broiled tomato, mushrooms, and an egg. Along with a large basket of toast and breads and jams. The take breakfast SERIOUSLY! We ate a “Full Irish” (minus the black pudding) a couple of times, but we generally asked for eggs and bacon. Their bacon is a lot like our country ham minus the salt. It was absolutely delicious! Needless to say, once we had eaten a breakfast like that, we were not hungry before 1 or 2 in the afternoons. Lunch in the pubs runs around 10 Euro per person (about $13). There are no fast food restaurants except in the big cities and NO DRIVE THROUGHS anywhere! It was refreshing! Meals are taken seriously and you are expected to stop what you are doing and enjoy a sit-down meal. We found it much more satisfying than our rush and eat and do other things at the same time. Instead of eating in pubs at lunch, we found local grocery stores and got bread and cheese and apples and ate in parks, on beaches, and occasionally in our car. It was really all we wanted after a heavy breakfast. Ireland has a large population of people with Celiac and there are numerous options for breads, crackers, cookies, and desserts all over Ireland so eating was never a problem for me. We ate dinner in a pub or restaurant every night. The average cost for 2 dinners and 2 pints would be around $45 – 50 US.
So… after getting gas and eating a quick lunch in the car we drove on to Kenmare. Remember the skinny roads I was telling you about? Here’s an example:
Kenmare is a good launching point for entering the Ring of Kerry so we found a B&B and stayed the night. We asked for a pub that wasn’t touristy and would be a local place. Our host suggested Crowley’s. A one room pub with hard benches resembling church pews lined the walls where the locals were drinking a pint and joshing with one another. No food except for bags of crisps (potato chips) hanging on cardboard displays you could rip off.