Ireland '99: Day Five

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Kilkree Round Tower
Jerpoint Abbey
High Crosses
Kilkieran Well
Rock of Cashel
Hobbe Abbey

Day Five -- August 31st, 1999

We awoke the next day a bit earlier in an attempt to get a full day of touring done before having to return to Dublin for a dinner with the wedding crowd. Alas, I took a break from the bacon and had apple stuffed pancakes. Jenn had potato waffles and fresh eggs from the hens ‘round back. I stopped and petted the two horses for quite some time before we headed out.  

Kilkree round tower
Kilkree and Cross
First stop was Kilkree Round Tower, just past the Kells Priory that we visited last night. Like the priory, the round tower was in a natural state, left alone in a cow pasture. Such a state gives it such a rich feel of authenticity. I was able to climb up into the lower entrance to the tower -- it is always some height off of the ground for protection. 



Once getting to the entrance, though, I had the bejeezers scared out of me as bats/birds flew past me and out the entrance when I peeked up the tower. A second look received another flurry causing me to quickly give up my desire to jump inside the tower.  



View of Jerpoint's main cathedral through the common area 

From Kilkree, we then went to Jerpoint Abbey. This Abbey is one of the larger and best preserved Cistercian ruins in Ireland. The spot is actively maintained by Ireland’s park service equivalent. We were able to catch a tour of the grounds and were quite enlightened about the various intricacies of the artifacts and the life of a 12th century monk. Despite the tour guide, the spot was very well kept and not quite the “amusement park” atmosphere of the commercial sites. Unfortunately, we forgot to stop by the gravesite of St. Nick (yes, as in Santa Claus) who was reportedly moved to Jerpoint during the crusades.

Tig in camouflage
Look real close and you might see a ghost
Jenn enjoying the marvelous, intricate designs

We then debated heavily on heading out to see some high crosses located in the town of Graiguenamanagh. To be honest, I wanted to go there more for the name than the crosses :-). Opting out due to time, we headed west towards Cashel, where we got to see towns with the names of Knocktopher, Kilmaganny, Hugginstown, Grangemockler and Knockalufalla. Along the way we stopped to see two other sets of high crosses, the first pair residing just south of Ahenny in a cemetery in the middle of a cow pasture. The view alone was quite supreme. The crosses themselves were beautiful and were placed in a cemetery still in use today. The crosses, dating from the 8th century, were covered with the astonishingly beautiful and ornate Celtic designs and were complete with the removable cap stones (that allegedly will cure migraine headaches). I would love to have a sketch of the designs.

Jenn walking through cow pastures to see the High Crosses
This is the one picture I wanted more than any other

The second set of crosses was just down the road at Kilkieran, which includes a long needle like cross that is unique Ireland. We also both washed our faces in the holy Kilkieran waters, also said to have cure headaches. Our guide book comments: “There must have been a plague of headaches, given the plethora of cures to be found locally.”

Think it will work?

From there, we headed on to Cashel, stopping briefly in Kalsheelan for some drinks, stamps and a chance to write the first half of today’s entry. Along the way was Fethard, a small town built up and around a still intact ruins of medieval walls, towers, churches, a friary and not to forget, a sheila-na-gig.

When I saw two redheads walking down from the Rock of Cashel, I said to myself: "Now *this* is Ireland!"

At Cashel, we romped around the infamous Rock of Cashel – one of the most commonly photographed sites in Ireland. We had a tour guide who woke up on the wrong side of the bed that morning lead us and a pack of forty other tourists through the ruins. It was embarrassing to be part of the American crowd who asked questions like “is that a seltic cross?”. Included at the site is St. Patrick’s cross. We ran down afterwards to catch a photograph or two from the distance in the middle of a cow pasture, and then followed up with a visit to Hobbe Abbey, just beneath the Rock of Cashel. Jenn liked this ruin the best, as it allowed us to use all of the knowledge gained from our previous sites in understanding how everything stood.

Cashel and Cows (don't they have a view!?)
It felt a lot more dangerous than it looks
Hobbe with the Rock of Cashel in the distance
Penny for your thoughts...

On one of the roads, we rounded a corner to come across a solid line of cows walking towards us. After closer examination, we saw that a car was behind them, herding them down the road. We stopped and as the came closer, the became increasingly alarmed at the suit of our bright blue Opel. The lead cow stopped and was promptly rear ended and a cascade affect ensued. After a beep from the herding car, all of the cows released their loads (scared it right out of them) and made a simultaneous jump to get around our curious blue blob. Talk about scaring the (hmmm mmm) out of someone!


At this point, both of us were becoming “ruined out”. The individual ruins were beginning to be difficult to distinguish from each other, and their similarity in layout did not help the matter. On our drive back to Dublin that late afternoon, we passed by numerous ruins and round towers dotting the landscape. We passed by these at 70 mph instead of examining them up close and personal. Their mere existence seemed to detract from those sites we have visited and nearly claim a personal ownership over. “I guess Kilkree and Glendalough aren’t the only places with very cool round towers…”

We ended up in Howth for the night, where we will remain for the next several days for the wedding festivities. Carol and Miles were our hosts, and they were joined by a friendly shelty by the name of Max (who incidentally, lost one eye accidentally by a golf club and the other eye was heavily blinded by the well/poorly placed kick of a donkey.) Bryn and Susan are staying in the same spot, and thus became our traveling companions. That night at Howth, I jumped out to join Mark and his crowd (Bryn, Pajor and Shacorky) at a nearby pub, while Jenn stayed in and later caught up with Susan. Talking to the Purdue people, it was interesting to see how little the core of people (appear to) change over the years. Of course, to my dismay, their assessment of me agreed with the observation.



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