Jerpoint Abbey in Thomastown, Ireland

Ireland: Day Two – Kilkenny to Killarney

Entrance to Castle Kilkenny, Ireland
Entrance to Castle Kilkenny

Today was a very interesting travel day: from Kilkenny to Killarney.

My travels first took me to town center Kilkenny to see the Castle Kilkenny, which is situated immediately next to a river. Immediate access to water seems to feature prominently in the ruins I’ve seen thus far. I recalled a professor’s comment at Emory: “Everything in human history is about geology.”

The town, perhaps once home to the peasants who served the castle, is now a thriving community filled with energy on this Sunday morning.

I recalled reading Indian Givers, the story of the impact of the American Indian civilization on the world, in which the author said the potato, which made its way to Ireland to become the “Irish Potato” because it grew so well here, created the middle class and ended serfdom.

Next, I was off to see Jerpoint Abbey in Thomastown. The abbey was first started around the turn of the last millennium–not century. I’ve been fascinated by the ancient ruins of Catholic churches and abbeys. They abound here in Ireland. Often by ancient graveyards, these entire structures are now a tomb of an ancient way of being.

I want to know the stories these places tell.

How could such a prominent, expensive structure often in such rural areas, places that at one time had to be a center of community, if not survival, fall into ruin? How did these places become irrelevant to the people around them?

Jerpoint Abbey in Thomastown, Ireland
Jerpoint Abbey in Thomastown


Then I was off to Cashel to see the Rock of Cashel. Unfortunately, I arrived 3 minutes after they closed for the day. But I really wasn’t too upset about this. The weather was quickly becoming impossible. The wind has been astounding to me since I’ve arrived in Ireland. As I was leaving the Rock of Cashel, the walk became treacherous. The road was a very wet and steep descent back to the car park. I seriously worried I would be blown off my feet!

I’ve only worried this would happen twice before in my life: at Point Lobos, California, after a storm came in from the Pacific Ocean, and atop Dalsnibba, Norway–one of the more terrifying, yet beautiful, places I’ve been.

Rock of Cashel, Ireland
Rock of Cashel


On the way up to the ruins, a group of about 5 or 6 boys was playing foolishly close to the edge of the wet rocks. As I was coming down, fearing I would be blown off of my feet, I happened to notice these same young daredevils had the sense to cower all huddled up near a huge rock that shielded them from being blown down the precipice.

Then the weather really turned foul. The sky became so dark, combined with the wind and the rain, I had to abandon photography shortly after shooting this shot of a nearby abbey in ruins.

Abbey Ruins near Rock of Cashel, Ireland
Abbey Ruins near Rock of Cashel


A Garmin GPS has successfully steered the course on this trip. Today, however, was a bit of a nightmare!

In a previous post, I’ve mentioned that the constant rains have caused significant flooding all over the country. The roads in Ireland are mostly rather small. Actual highways seem to be fairly new–some seem to be very new indeed. So the GPS has often placed me on very small roads, like the one I shot below–completely unaware of the new highways. (I would never incriminate myself and suggest the photo was shot in a moving vehicle through the windshield and is therefore a bit blurry.)

Typical Road in Ireland
Typical Road in Ireland


Yes, that’s one of the actual roads the GPS had me taking! They are cute. They are quaint. They are perilously narrow. They have a speed limit of 60kph! (Dear god! Who in their right mind…) And, they are all too often flooded!

Think of a rectangle with Kilkenny in the top right. My destination is Killarney on the bottom left. Tiny little roads much like the one pictured above, cut diagonally across. The GPS chooses these roads. Off I go.

It’s now dark and rainy as I come upon my worst nightmare: “Road closed because of flooding!” I have no idea where I am. It’s pouring rain. The roads, even the large ones, rarely have lighting. (Think r e a l l y dark!!) I turn around hoping the GPS will reroute me. It does–via a quick tangled web of roads, it puts me in touch with another road closed due to flooding. All told, I found three of them, all in the dark middle of no where! I was beginning to feel like I was trying to escape some twisted horror movie.

The GPS would not take me south to Cork and then west to Killarney as that was so out of the way. Yet those were far bigger roads. Those roads were passable.

After much trickery, I ended up in Cork, first heading for a ferry (oh god, no!). Cork’s road’s, in town at any rate, were jammed as much as the roads in Rome. I barely squeezed through between the parked cars on the sides. I felt like an embolism squeezing through a clogged capillary.

What a nightmare! I finally arrived in Killarney in one piece, safe and sound, about 4 hours later than I should have.