Today we begin our exploration through Irelands Ancient East. Irelands Ancient East contains lush landscapes and charming villages, bordered by the River Shannon and the Irish Sea. On your journey today you will learn of legendary tales and experience the romance of ancient life. We visit places that saw Viking invaders, Norman knights, and high kings.
Killarney to Straffan, Co Tipperary
Start the day and enjoy the Irish countryside as you drive from Killarney to County Tipperary to visit the Rock of Cashel. Enjoy the beauty of County Tipperary in the heart of Irelands Ancient East. Maybe the song, “It's a Long Way to Tipperary” will come to mind.
Rock of Cashel
As you drive up, you see this huge castle on top of a hill. The site is breathtaking. The Rock of Cashel was where the kings of Munster lived for several hundred years before the 12th century. In the 12th century, it was a gift to the church. The castle was the reputed spot wherein the 5th century St Patrick converted a Munster King to Christianity. It was at this time that most of Ireland’s practicing religion was Celtic Paganism.
Unfortunately, most of the medieval buildings that remain are from the 12th and 13th-century. The round tower is the oldest surviving structure. The Gothic Cathedral is from the 13th century and the Hall of Vicars the 15th century. At the Rock of Cashel, they have a museum in the Hall of Vicars which contains the original cross of St Patrick. This beautiful collection of Celtic art and medieval architecture is picturesque. They even recreated the furnishings and lifestyle in a couple of rooms making you feel as though you are transported back in time.
Home Cooked Lunch
For lunch, we recommend the Rock House restaurant in Cashel, just across the street from the castle. Joe, of Rock House, serves delicious freshly prepared, home-cooked meals. I had a typical Irish lunch with mashed potatoes and vegetables followed by apple pie and a cappuccino. Yummy! They also serve beer and wine. The day we visited we ate inside due to bad weather. But, they have outdoor garden seating available with beautiful views of the Rock of Cashel.
4000 Year Old City
Next, on your journey exploring Irelands Ancient East, set your GPS for the town of Abbeyleix in County Laois. For your first stop visit the Abbeyleix Heritage House. Here you will receive information about this 4000-year-old city and even discover its tie to the famous ocean liner, the Titanic. The Heritage House has a model railway exhibit as well as a carpet making display. Abbeyleix is a great city to walk around. Maybe get a photo of all of the fountains which provided fresh water for the residence before the advent of modern plumbing. Also, note the old mailboxes around town that display King George V’s emblem on the front. Lastly, don't forget to keep an eye out on some of the old handrails on the buildings. You might see bullet holes from the old civil war.
Make sure to visit Morrissey’s Public House located on the main street in Abbeyleix. It is a dimly lit old world style pub that opened in 1775. In 1880 a pot belly stove was added that is still there today. I learned to pour my first pint of Guinness here.
Spend the Night in a Castle
We recommend spending the night in nearby Barberstown Castle located in Staffan in County Kildare. Barberstown Castle initially built in 1288 and converted to a hotel in the late twentieth century is impressive. The grandeur begins as you drive up the long driveway. Barberstown Castle is a luxurious 4-star hotel that was once a fortified castle. It has had many distinguished owners, one of whom was Eric Clapton in the 1970’s. The name of each guest room in the castle is that of a previous owner. Breakfasts and dinners are scrumptious here, so I recommend you make sure to include them in your stay. I would recommend two days here. Use the second day just to enjoy the castle and its amenities.
Irelands Ancient East
Today was just the beginning of our exploration through Irelands Ancient East. We explored ancient history as well as enjoyed modern conveniences. Watch for three more posts in this four post series as we continue our journey discovering Irelands Ancient East.
A video tour of our day 1
Be sure to read our other part of our Ireland journey included staying in Castles and Manor Homes
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