My family and I continued our route to Cashel after we explored the Wicklow Mountains. We drove through narrow roads to get there, which took over two hours. Be that as it may, we loved seeing the picturesque rolling green hills and fields shaped like patchwork quilts. I was happy to see the sun come out too. The Emerald Isle is infamous for having cloudy and rainy weather and it was like that for most of our time in Dublin and the Wicklow Mountains. It was lovely to see the sun for a change!
By the late afternoon, we arrived at the Legends Guesthouse in Cashel. Its main lounge reeked of peat, decayed vegetation used for heating purposes. It is commonly used in the rural parts of Ireland and Scotland. I could not stand its pungent aroma but it did not prevent me from having a pleasant there. The staff were nice to provide us with extra cots for our room and to serve us delicious breakfasts and dinners. Unfortunately, the Legends Guesthouse is no longer in business.
Perhaps the guesthouse’s greatest factor was that it had a spectacular view of the Rock of Cashel, a fortified historic landmark on a hill that overlooks the town, which my family and I saw the next day. Since the attraction was close to the guesthouse, we just walked to it. We went on a guided tour and learned a lot about the site’s history. In the 5th century, the Rock of Cashel was home to the Kings of Munster. Munster is the province where Cashel is located but during the early middle ages, it was a thriving kingdom that covered much of southern Ireland. By the early 12th century, the Rock of Cashel was given to the Catholic church and it successfully remained as a religious center for hundreds of years. Suddenly in 1647, the site invaded by a Cromwellian army, which killed 3,000 people. Back then, Ireland was controlled by Britain and the Irish suffered from a lot of oppression by the British. Many of those who perished were the Catholic clergy and civilians. The Rock of Cashel’s holy artifacts were stolen as well. Two hundred years later, the place was completely abandoned and the cathedral’s roof was removed!
These days, the Rock of Cashel is frequented by tourists. They love to see the landmark’s Celtic, Gothic, and Romanesque architectures, despite parts of it being ruined. In fact, the cathedral was having some construction done while we were on the tour. I guess some of the cathedral was falling apart. Regardless of the construction, we enjoyed checking out the Rock of Cashel. We liked seeing the landmark’s remaining church carvings and designs. The cathedral and chapel both had their tall cloisters and alcoves. The Hall of the Vicars’ Choral had the adorable painted angel statues and colorful tapestries. There was also the 92 feet (28 meters) round tower. It would have been lovely to go to the top of the tower and see outstanding views of the countryside but it was not open to visitors. From the ground, we were still able to view the landscapes, which we took many pictures of. My family and I noticed a bunch of sheep wandering the plains. The Rock of Cashel had a graveyard and we took some shots of the Celtic crosses as well. The crosses were decayed but I liked their tangled carvings. I also walked up to the walls that guarded the site, which were way taller than me! It was hard for me to believe the Rock of Cashel was invaded despite its tall walls and being situated on a rocky hill. Then again, the Cromwellian army used artillery fire to attack the site. The Rock of Cashel may be a somber attraction but it is a fascinating historic landmark to see in Ireland.
Cashel itself was a nice town. There were a variety of pubs and shops in the town center. It was not as fast paced like Dublin so it was easier to walk around. We ate at one of the restaurants for lunch and I remember us not enjoying the food. It had a dry texture and tasted pretty bland but the food did not stop us from enjoying the rest of our day. After lunch, my family and I got to see Cahir Castle, one of Ireland’s largest castles.
The castle is on an island by the River Suir in the center of Cahir. During the middle ages, it belonged to the Butler’s, a prominent Anglo-Norman family and endured many sieges over the next centuries. Because of the attacks, parts of the castle were rebuilt many times. Most of the site, especially the tower and defense walls are well-preserved that you would forget that battles happened there. The site also has vast courtyards where you can gawk at and walk through the colossal walls and see the cannons that remain there. My sister and I loved exploring through a dark passageway that would lead to a balcony looking over the town. We even noticed a dungeon below the passageway, which looked dark and a bit scary. It must have been dreadful to be imprisoned there!
The Great Hall of Cahir Castle was not impressive to say the least. I expected the Great Hall to be very embellished like how castles tend to be. One of the only decorations it had antlers from an elk, plus a few furniture. I thought it would have paintings or tapestries, common features that are found in great halls. After all, there was a model of what Cahir Castle looked like when the Butler family lived there. The model showed the castle having livestock roaming the courtyards and guards patrolling the tower. It was interesting to see how prosperous Cahir Castle was hundreds of years ago.
The Blarney Stone:
The third destination of our Irish vacation was Killarney in County Kerry. On the way to Killarney, we stopped at Blarney Castle in County Cork. Blarney is known throughout the world because of its stone. Legend has it that if you kiss the stone, you will receive good luck. My family and I heard about the legend of the Blarney Stone plenty of times and we had to kiss it. I was curious to know if kissing the stone would actually give me the gift of gab. It is located at the top of the castle’s tower, which hangs 37 feet above ground. A man holds you as you kiss the stone so there is no need to worry. We had to wait almost an hour in line to kiss it. We climbed up 127 steps of stairs! When it was my turn to kiss the stone, it a little awkward to do the process since I was upside down. I was able to kiss it and I believe that it gave me good luck afterwards. Back then, I was getting ready to go to high school and I was worried that I would not perform well academically. In the end, I got good grades and was able to make new friends/acquaintances too. I guess that kissing the Blarney Stone was worth it!
To be continued…