Thursday, September 22, 2011

Southeast Ireland

Technically the region called Southeast Ireland is comprised of Counties Wexford, Waterford, Kilkenny, and Carlow; but as we did not spend any time in Wexford or Waterford and only briefly passed through Carlow but did visit a major sight in County Wicklow when we left Dublin, I will include it in this post.

After picking up our rental car on the outskirts of Dublin, it was a fairly easy drive out of the city to connect to the R755 then R756 to Glendalough.. We had purchased an Ordnance Survey Complete Road Atlas of Ireland for 9.99EUR at one of the tourist offices in town to better navigate our way around the country. We also brought our Rick Steves' Ireland 2011 guidebook to help us focus on the "best" sights and regions.
St Kevin's Church at Glendalough
 As it was raining off & on all day, we had to don our full waterproof gear for our sightseeing stop at Glendalough, an early Christian ecclesiastical settlement founded by St. Kevin in the 6th century. We probably wouldn't have driven this way if it wasn't for our Heritage Card, which gave us free admission to this site. The visitor center was very well designed and had nice, interactive exhibits on the history of the area. We also enjoyed watching a short video about the settlement before taking a guided tour (in the rain).
a model of Glendalough in its prime
We then crossed the scenic, sheep-covered Wicklow Mountains and headed south to Kilkenny. Although we planned to stay in B&B's for most of the trip, I had booked us a room at the Aspect Hotel Kilkenny, primarily because of a great deal I discovered on their website. For a total of 77EUR, we got a standard room with full Irish hot & cold buffet breakfast, a 3-course dinner for 2 people in the hotel's restaurant and 2 complimentary beverages (alcoholic or non). Unfortunately, by the time we arrived at the hotel, I had a migraine which I think was caused by the changes in altitude and weather we encountered throughout the day as well as the stress of driving. But I still managed to eat my delicious dinner and drink a glass of wine before taking a Zomig (prescription migraine medicine) and calling it a night!
sheep grazing at Glendalough
Thankfully I woke up headache-free the next morning and after eating our heavy Irish breakfast we checked out of the hotel and drove into town. Based on advice in our guidebook, we parked in a centrally located lot then walked from one end of town to the other to see the sights. There isn't really much to see or do in Kilkenny but it is a cute place for a quick look around.
13th century St Canice's Cathedral
St Canice's Cathedral was first on our list, but the primary reason we wanted to visit it was to climb the round tower and as it was closed due to an electrical outage, we decided to skip paying 4EUR each to go into the cathedral itself (which is not included on the Heritage Card). We walked across town and after a brief stop at the Smithwick's Brewery where it is free to look at exhibits narrating the history of the brewery but a tour costs 10EUR per person (which is a bit steep in our opinion), we continued on to Kilkenny Castle to which we gained free admission with our Heritage Cards. We took the self-guided tour and listened to a 20 minute talk in the famous Portrait Hall then walked back to our car, conveniently parked near a Dunnes Store, where we bought a bottle of Jameson Irish Whiskey for the long road ahead. :)
Kilkenny Castle
The link to all of my photos for Glendalough & Kilkenny is embedded in this post's title.

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