Day 3 (continued)
The next stop on our Ireland adventure after visiting the Old Jameson Distillery was the Kilkenny Castle in Kilkenny City.
We were dreading having to get back in the car after our rough ride into Dublin just a couple days earlier. That dread was met with total exasperation when we paid for parking at the car park we had parked in on Clarendon Street. The total? Eighty euro. That amounts to about $100!!! Holy f-bomb, Dublin. When we looked at the price for parking on our first day in Dublin, we were fooled by the overnight rate. As it turns out, the overnight rate of eight euro only accounts for the overnight time period. You still have to pay a daytime period on top of that. Since our car had been parked there for a little over two days, the price was sky high.
To make matters worse, when we got off the elevators, we couldn’t find our car. We jumped to the conclusion that maybe it had been towed. Mikey’s immediate response: “See, I told you we should’ve come back to check on the car.” In situations like these, I fume. But when you’re a tourist, I find it best to keep your bewilderment levels at a minimum. So I walked up to the next level — to level 5. Sure enough, there was our car. Lesson learned: when in Dublin, consider that car park levels may not be as simple as level 5. Sub-levels are apparently a thing. We had gotten off the elevator at level 5a when we needed to be a floor above at level 5. Ugh.
With hopes of leaving such blood-pressure raising fiascos behind us, we departed Dublin for Kilkenny and found it much easier to drive out of the city than it was to drive in. Thank goodness for that. The motorways were very quiet, only a few cars in sight.
We eventually made it to Kilkenny City and maneuvered our way through the streets to Kilkenny Castle. Much to our surprise, admission to the castle was free that day! Apparently, it’s a promotion they do every first Wednesday of the month. We were happy to take part.
Kilkenny Castle has a no photography policy, which I’m never a fan of. But the exterior of the castle is really what makes a castle a castle, in my opinion.
We were able to walk through a number of rooms inside the castle, including the library, state dining room, Blue Bedroom, Chinese Bedroom and more. But the room I found most impressive was the Picture Gallery. The room was massive with arched ceilings and flanked by two walls decorated with giant portraits of noblemen and women. A picture gallery like this could never be truly functional in a modern household today — unless you were planning to throw a ball and invite Cinderella. But that was the beauty of experiencing the room — to be able to walk through a space that people in earlier centuries found necessary, if only to show off how rich they were.
By the time we wrapped up at Kilkenny Castle, our stomachs were growling, so we walked a short distance into town to find a pub for lunch. At the first intersection we came to, a sports pub called The Field sat before us. We stopped in and ordered our meal and drinks. I had the potato and leek soup with a Bulmer’s Irish Cider. He had a burger and his newfound fave, a Kilkenny Irish Cream Ale.
It was at this point that we started to get the hang of the paying process at pubs and restaurants in Ireland. In the U.S., we have a tendency to eat and run. I think there’s also a bit of fear that you’re hogging the table from other guests and preventing your server from getting more business. But in Ireland (and most other European countries, as I’ve heard), people stop into a pub or restaurant and linger. They don’t rush to eat their food. They sit and chat and enjoy each other’s company. Maybe order a few more rounds. So it makes sense that the servers in Ireland don’t leave your check on the table once you’ve ordered your dessert. They let you make the call. You step up to the bar to pay your bill when you’re ready. Otherwise, they’re happy to have you sit back and enjoy another pint.
Our next stop after lunch was to Lawcus Farmhouse, our sleeping quarters for the night. I’ll preface all the Lawcus Farm details by saying that this was by far the best place we stayed while in Ireland. This is what a bed and breakfast is supposed to feel like. This is the way to truly experience Ireland.
I came across the Lawcus Farmhouse while researching for Kilkenny bed and breakfasts on Trip Advisor. It’s ranked #1, and the reviews don’t lie. The place is fantastic. It is located in the small village of Stoneyford, just 15 minutes away from Kilkenny City by car. Before turning the place into a bed and breakfast, the property consisted of a single stone house, which owner, Mark Lawcus, expanded upon to create Lawcus Farmhouse Bed and Breakfast. That original stone house still stands today and is now marked by a yellow door.
Walk around the farm house grounds and you will smile at all the nature and wildlife that surrounds you. There are pigs, cows, swans, farm dogs and cats, koi fish and a horse. And if you happen to be there in the winter, you can fish trout and Atlantic Salmon in the King’s River, which is located only steps away from the stone house. We were in complete awe at how peaceful and truly magical everything felt. At one point, the sky started to sprinkle, and just as I suggested we find some coverage, the rain stopped and a rainbow came out to greet us. The icing on the cake of total happiness.
Upon our arrival at Lawcus Farmhouse, Mark’s wife, Ann Marie, gave us a hand-drawn map of some sights within short driving distance from the B&B. The sun was soon setting, so we jumped in the car and drove off to Kells Priory, located about a mile away.
We were ecstatic to find that we had the entire priory to ourselves. With no admission fee, we were free to walk the priory with no one else but the sheep to keep us company! And with the sun going down, I had the blue, orange and pink sky as a backdrop to all my photographs.
The Kells Priory was an Augustine Monastery, located in the village of Kells. It was founded in 1193, but suffered three different attacks and burnings within the first 150 years of its existence. The first was in 1252. The second was on Palm Sunday in 1326 by the Scots army, and the third was in 1327. The ruins that stand today are what still exist after all that turmoil. It’s amazing to see how much of it is still in tact.
I still can’t get over the fact that we had the entire priory to ourselves that night. According to Ann Marie, this archaeological site rivals the Rock of Cashel in County Tipperary, which we were actually planning to visit the following day. But something told me the Rock of Cashel would be nothing like the time we spent one-on-one with the Kells Priory. So we made a mental note to skip the Rock of Cashel.
From the Kells Priory, we drove another mile to the Kilree Tower. Mikey pulled over to the side of the road, and I climbed out to read the sign on the gate. It said: BEWARE BULL IN FIELD. Another car parked in front of us assured us that we could go in. A couple members of their party had just gone in before us. So we climbed over the fence, and in we went, being careful not to step in the numerous piles of cow crap.
What I didn’t realize was that the Kilree Tower overlooks a famine cemetery. (Yes, as in, Irish men and women who died during the infamous potato famine in the 1800s). There were a number of Celtic cross tombstones that photographed beautifully, but because it was getting darker by the second, things were starting to look a little creepy. We managed to find our car in time before the sun officially set — and before the bull in the field could catch up to us.
We then decided to head back to Lawcus Farmhouse for the night. We ate a light dinner of sub sandwiches that we had purchased earlier in the day at a convenience store, did a little laundry by hand and turned in for the night.
The next morning, we dressed and headed down to the kitchen for breakfast, where Ann Marie delighted us with a meal of our choosing. We both opted for the spinach and goat cheese omelet with bacon plus sausage for Mikey. Breakfast was superb. Best bacon I’ve ever had, and it came straight from the pigs that breed every year in the field we walked along the day before. We also enjoyed porridge and fresh fruit, all the while asking questions about the history of the farmhouse and telling Ann Marie about our Kells Priory and Kilree Tower adventure.
Once we had polished our plates, we walked a few steps up the road to the stone house where Ann Marie and Mark live. It’s a beautiful stone house that’s still under construction — all done at the hand of Mark himself. He’s been building it since 2009, but it really is a dream home that’s slowly but surely coming to fruition. Building a house on your own means being able to put your personal touch on anything and everything. With the utmost enthusiasm, Mark invited us into the house and gave us a grand tour, pointing out all the incredible details that give the house such impeccable character. For instance, the stone floors were made from limestone remnants from Irish castles. The huge dining room table is supported by the base of a gargantuan tree trunk from a 500-year-old oak tree. The kitchen island is made from an old turnip grinder that Mark so creatively turned into a functional working space. In the master bedroom, he brought us out to the balcony that overlooked the Stoneyford hills. Simply magnificent.
As a token of his appreciation, Mark left us with a wooden clover, made from the wood of the home’s original roof. I’m not sure if he gives this to all his guests, but we sure felt special. He told us, “When this castle of mine turns up in all the travel magazines, you can say you got a piece of this house.” Now that the clover is back home with us, I have every intention of dipping it in some varnish and framing it. It’s definitely the most heartfelt keepsake we were gifted in Ireland.
He also left us with some remarkable parting words. He said that he remembers growing up and experiencing certain things in life that were so good, they just stuck with him. It’s those magical moments that you’ve got to go out and experience and hold onto. I couldn’t agree more.
The experience at Lawcus Farmhouse was so good. I truly did not want to leave. As Mikey was packing up the car, I took a few last shots before we drove up the gravel road and out of Stoneyford to our next destination — Blarney Castle in County Cork. Full story coming soon.