May 30, 2017:
Today we left Dublin, headed south for our ultimate destination of Kilkenny. Along the way, we enjoyed many stops along the way. The first of those was at the National Stud Farm, where many of the premier racehorses in the world are bred. These horses compete in both flat races and in steeple jumping. Me; I was just there to see all the new colts!
We continued to drive through the Irish countryside, admiring all the green. Every so often, we’d pass by a Norman tower house, built sometime in the medieval ages. In any other country, each of these would be its own tourist attraction. But here in Ireland, they’re just part of the scenery because they are so common.
Our driver guide, Dermott, next took us to Mount Juliet golf course so the guys could a round of golf. Jim has been practicing for a couple of months so he didn’t embarrass himself. We all ate lunch at the golf club, and then left the boys to their torture.
For the rest of us, we went sightseeing in the Kilkenny area, and stopped first at Jerpoint Abbey, which is the ruins of a Cistercian monastery founded in 1160. The cloister in the middle has fallen into ruins, but you can still see the intricate carvings in the interior. Sadly. most of the front of the Abbey was undergoing renovations, which somewhat messed with the moody look of the church. Damn scaffolding anyway!
We got into Kilkenny proper about 4:30, which gave us just enough time to dash into the Castle of Kilkenny, which was built in the 1190s. Kilkenny was a very important city from medieval times onward. The Butler family (of Anglo Norman descent) came to power in the late 14th century, and the Butlers lived in Kilkenny Castle from then until 1935. Kilkenny was the medieval capital of Ireland. The castle is very large and well-maintained, and has a lovely location on the River Nore.
We then checked in to our hotel, the Lyrath Estate Hotel. The girls and I enjoyed some wine on the lovely patio, and then we enjoyed an Asian dinner at the restaurant in the hotel after Jim got home from golf, and we got ready for another day of exploring Ireland.