Tag Archives: Ireland


Kilkenny is a small town of about 24,000 inhabitants by the river Nore in the province of Leinster. The city is best known by its Castle, built by William Marshal, 1st Earl of Pembroke (Wales), at the turn of the XII to XIII centuries on the location of a previous fortification built by his father-in-law Richard de Clare, 2nd Earl of Pembroke (of the 1st earldom creation), better known as Strongbow, one of the leaders of the Norman invasion of Ireland in 1170.

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The castle was later purchased by James Butler (3rd Earl of Ormond) in 1391 and would be the Butler’s family main residence for the following 6 centuries, until they left it in 1935 and in 1967 was sold to the municipality for 50 pounds.

The castle went under a strong restoration which sought to re-build most of the rooms to what they would have looked like at some points in their history. Today, the castle is open for visits. At the basement, the foundations from the XIII are still visible; other than that, the castle resembles more a XIX century palace, with dining rooms, halls, a library, a “Chinese” room and the large picture gallery with its wooden ceiling, fire place with marble from Carrara, etc.


Picture gallery.

From the visit, I took the following takeaways more or less linked to Spain:

  • The “Moorish” staircase, created by the architects Deane and Woodward, which resembles very much to the style seen at constructions in Cordoba, Sevilla or Granada.


  • The tapestries. Several tapestries, located at the tapestry room and at the picture gallery, show the story of Decius Mus, a Roman consul in 340 BC who sacrificed himself through the ritual of devotio to allow for the victory of his army at the battle of Vesuvius. After 300 years in display, the tapestries needed to go through some conservation work, which was entrusted to the Real Fabrica de Tapices in Madrid.dsc02336
  • The Butler gallery at the basement of the castle offers space to contemporary art. In it there is a collection of the posters of some prominent artists for whom an exhibition was organized, one of them the Spanish Antoni Tapies, in 1992.


Other than the castle, another highlight of Kilkenny is St. Canice’s Cathedral, the second largest in Ireland, after St. Patrick’s in Dublin. It was built in the XIII century at the location where St. Canice had built a small monastery back in the VI century. The cathedral has a typically Irish round tower, with the uniqueness that this is one of the only two in the country that can be climbed to the top.


Some of the main attractions that can be found inside the cathedral are several tombs of the Butler family, an archive with the names of all the Irish who lost their lives in the World War I, or the stone throne of St. Kieran.


Kilkenny was as well for a decade, 1642-1652, the seat of the Irish Catholic Confederation, or the “Confederation of Kilkenny”, which following the Rebellion of 1641, established itself as a self-government, until the conquest of Ireland by Oliver Cromwell (1649-1653).


Stone marking the place were the Confederation Hall stood.

During the visit, after having walked through the lively High, Parliament and St. Kieran streets, I went to look for Tynan’s Bridge House, a pub established in 1703 where I wanted to have taken a beer. I found the pub, but closed.


… and talking about beer, it is in Kilkenny that the beer Smithwick’s is brewed and the brewery can be visited, though I didn’t. Smithwick’s was acquired by Guinness in 1965. We visited Guinness brewery in Dublin some days later (I may write about it one day), which is a giant museum but lacks the artisanal touch that I experienced when visiting Bowmore whisky distillery in Sctoland. I wonder whether at Smithwick’s that would have also been the case.


Nore river.


Black Gate.


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Rock of Cashel

Cashel is a small town of about 4,000 inhabitants, in the county of Tipperary, on the way from Kilkenny to Limerick, which is dominated by the Rock of Cashel, a eclesiastical site on the top of a hill which was once the seat of the over kings of Munster, ever since the Eóganacht, the descendants of Eógan Mor came to prominence around the 4-5th centuries AD.


Conall Corc, a descendant of Eógan Mor, is said to be the founder of the Cashel kingship and according to the tradition St. Patrick baptised the grandsons of Conall Corc at Cashel in the 5th century AD.

Replica of St. Patrick's Cross.

Replica of St. Patrick’s Cross.

Today, the Rock of Cashel is a historical site that can be visited in about an hour. The entrance is 7 euros (free if your B&B happens to have a voucher, ask for it).

The main historical constructions remaining are the round tower (from c. 1100), Cormac’s chapel (consecrated in 1134, though at the time of my visit it was under restoration and not open for visit), the Cathedral (from 1270), St. Patrick’s Cross (from 12th century) and a replica of it in the garden, and the Hall of the Vicars Choral (from the 15th century).

Original St. Patrick's Cross.

Original St. Patrick’s Cross.

Round Tower.

Round Tower.




The views of the surroundings from the Rock are impressive, as impressive is the view of the Rock as one approaches it from the bottom of the village, especially from the “Path of the Dead” connecting the Rock with the R505 road at the south-west of the hill. I discovered this path during my early morning run before sunrise, this allowed me to enjoy the view of the Rock with the first rays of light of the morning sun. A nice experience.

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Finally, another highlight that I wanted to have visited in Cashel was the Bolton Library collected by the archbishop Theophilus Bolton from 1730 to 1744. The library was recommended in the guide and according to a local brochure was the finest outside of Dublin, including works by Swift,  Dante, Calvin, Erasmus, or Machiavelli. The pity is that since a couple of years ago the library is not anymore housed in Cashel, as the building didn’t meet the best conditions for the preservation of the books. Today the books are conserved at the University of Limerick.

Bolton Library.

Bolton Library.

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The Importance of Being Earnest (Oscar Wilde)

oscar-wildeOne of themes present at all times during a recent visit to Dublin was literature. The tourist guide offers you literary walking tours, a literary pub crawl, suggests to visit different libraries, book shops, major parks are adorned with statues dedicated to Irish writers, etc.Thus far, point taken. Already while in Dublin I was taking note of authors and books to be read in the near future.

During the stay in Dublin, our hotel was close to Merrion square, where Oscar Wilde lived as a child. I, therefore, decided to start with one of his plays, “The Importance of Being Earnest“, which was performed for the first time in 1895 in London.

The play, a critical satire of some of Victorian England social institutions and values (in particular marriage, literary press, religion, honesty, punctuality), is centered around two friends, Algernon and Jack (John Worthing), who go about from criticizing each other’s habits, to sharing each other’s faked relatives, to proposing to each other’s cousin and ward. After drawing several parallels between the two characters and their fiancées, and going about several absurd situations,  the play unravels in the most unexpected way.

The book is rather short (~45 pages in the digital version I read) though it’s full of surprising turns and punch lines. It has a memorable and quotable sentence in every other page. I will share some below:

“[…] I have come up to town expressly to propose to her” – “I thought you had come up for pleasure?”

“More than half of modern culture depends on what one shouldn’t read.”

“Literary criticism is not your forte, my dear fellow. Don’t try it. You should leave that to people who haven’t been at a University. They do it so well in the daily papers.”

“Do you smoke?” – “Well, yes. I must admit I smoke.” – “I am glad to hear it. A man should always have an occupation of some kind.”

“I have lost both my parents.” – “To lose one parent may be regarded as misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness.”

“I would strongly advise you [..] to make a definite effort to produce at any rate one parent…” – “[…] I can produce the hand-bag at any moment.”

“All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does. That’s his.”

“[…] Algernon. It is not at all a bad name. In fact, it is rather an aristocratic name. Half of the chaps who get into the Bankruptcy Court are called Algernon.”

“I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train.”

“True in matters of grave importance, style, not sincerity is the vital thing.”

“Never speak disrespectfully of Society. Only people who can’t get into it do that.”

“He has nothing but he looks everything. What more can one desire?”

“I see no reason why our dear Cecily should not be even still more attractive at the age you mention (35) than she is at present (18). There will be a large accumulation of property.”

“I never change, except in my affections”.

I strongly recommend the reading of the play (it took me about 3 hours). You may find the ebook here at Guttenberg Project or you may watch below the play in Youtube:

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The first stop I made in my trip to Ireland last week was to visit Glendalough (Gleann Dá Loch, meaning “Valley of two lakes”), in the county of Wicklow, where there is a monastic settlement dating from the Middle Ages, when it was founded by St. Kevin.

The entry to the settlement it’s free and several routes are proposed to visit the place including some walking trails (from 1 to 11 km) around the lower and upper lakes.

Some structures from the X to the XIII centuries remain today, such as the Gateway (unique in Ireland due to its two stories and double arch), the Round Tower (with over 30 m of height and an entrance at 3 m to protect it in case of attack), and the Cathedral.



Round Tower

Round Tower

Cathedral of St. Peter and St Paul.

Cathedral of St. Peter and St Paul.

On the way to the upper lake, it is found the Deer Stone (where St Kevin would have fed some infants with milk from wild a deer), St. Kevin’s Cell (small circular structure where he retired to pray and meditate) and Reefert Church (Righ Fearta, the “burial place of the kings”, where members of the once important O’Toole family would have been buried).


Deer Stone.

Lower lake.

Lower lake.

St. Kevin's Cell.

St. Kevin’s Cell.

Reefert Church.

Reefert Church.

Reefert Church.

Reefert Church.

Upper lake.

Upper lake.

Leaving on my way to Kilkenny, I still had time to enjoy the views of the valley and find some other ruined churches along St. Kevin’s Way, a pilgrim path that starts at Hollywood and crosses the Wicklow Gap to arrive at Glendalough.

Wicklow Gap.

Wicklow Gap.


The previous night I stayed at the Trooperstown Wood Lodge just a few kilometres from the monastic site and more than recommended. The lodge is run by the same people who manage a nearby restaurant, The Wicklow Heather, which not only serves great food and has a good atmosphere but it’s decorated around Irish literature, especially its “Writers Room”, where customers may discover some of Irish authors and its writings.

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In the morning I went for a short run from the lodge across the river and nearby forest, in the southern part of the Wicklow Mountains. Thus, you can imagine that the complete experience was wonderful and I can only recommend to visit the place.

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