Wednesday, June 28, 2006

County Tipperary and the castle

DAY 6: My prince didn't show up, but it was very pleasant to wake up in a castle. As we expected, the breakfast room was as grand as the rest of the house. All the silverware was out and breakfast was indeed a very civilised affair.

The breakfast room looked out to the back gardens, which were actually surrounded by the ruins of the original 17th Century castle. It was all spectacular. We loved the castle and everything about it. I want one.

Setting off, we did a quick lap back through Tipperary in case we'd missed anything as went sailing through the day before. We hadn't.

Then we set off to Cashel to see the Rock of Cashel. Rising 200 feet above the surrounding land and topped by a cluster of ruins, the Rock of Cashel is an impressive site.

A friendly guide called Moira explained that the kings of Munster ruled their lands from the top of this limestone outcrop from around 370 until 1101, when it was turned over to the church.

We walked though each of the five buildings - all religious sites - and through the cemetary. Moira explained the various legends associated with the Rock of Cashel. It is said to have been formed when the Devil, flying across Ireland in a great hurry, took a bite of the mountains in his path and spat it out in the Golden Vale.

A gap to the north, called Devil's Bit, is said to be a perfect match to the dimensions of the rock. St Patrick arrived in 450 to baptise King Aengus and his brothers. During the ceremony, the saint accidentally drove his sharp-pointed staff into the king's foot, but the king didn't flinch, believing that the pain was part of the Christian initiation rites. From then on, Cashel was also called St Patrick's Rock.

So...that's a very brief history of that particular chunk of stone. The rain started to fall once again - big drops this time...bloody torrential, in we decided to end our tour of Cashel and continue driving north-west back to Dublin.

This was our last day, and we attempted to play our 60 songs worth of irish hits in one day. I think some of my fondest memories of Ireland will be driving through the green countryside, belting out Irish tunes with Mum.

Compared with County Clare and Country Kerry, County Tipperary is a bit sparse in terms of attractions, and even it's towns seem a little more bland than other places we'd passed through. Abbeyleix, however, was a cute little town, that made for a good lunch stop. We had our 10,000 cup of tea and headed on our merry way back up the M7. We had planned to stop in Kildare to kill time before the flight back to London, but a quick loop through that town encouraged us to keep going into the airport. There was a bar there, after all!

The traffic going into Dublin was abysmal, and probably made us appreciate all the quaint little towns a million times more, now that we were back in the big smoke.

We dropped the car off and headed into the usual nightmare that is a RyanAir check in queue, and then headed for the bar. We had about 2 hours to kill before the flight, and fortunately, the FA Cup final between Liverpool and Arsenal happened to be playing. The whole airport was practically squashed into the bar, and flights seemed to being delayed all over the place as people craned to see the last few minutes of the game. It was hilarious! I've never heard so many announcements... "Would Mr Paddy Smith please go straight to gate 47. Your plane is waiting". This went on and on until the game finished (Liverpool won), and the second the final bell sounded, the whole bar emptied out as people rushed to their planes.

And so ended our six days in the Emerald Isle. To be sure, Ireland is a wonderful place and I would go back in a heartbeat!

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