Saturday 11 August 2018 Kilkenny – Carlow
- Kilkenny Castle and a walk along the canal
- Carlow – Brownshill Dolmen
- Carlow Castle
We walked into town along the picturesque canal where there was a swimming event taking place and all the competitors were wearing full length wetsuits, so I guess it must have been a bit chilly.
We continued to Kilkenny Castle which was built in 1195 to control a fording-point of the River Nore and the junction of several routeways. It was a symbol of Norman occupation and in its original 13th century condition it would have formed an important element of the defences of the town with four large circular corner towers and a massive ditch, part of which can still be seen as you enter the gates. It is now operated by OPW and is free to members.
With the guidebook in our hands we followed the tour, room by room. The architecture, decorations, furnishings and paintings within the castle are as close to the original, as all the furnishings were auctioned by the Butler family whom owned the castle. In another part of the castle is an audio-visual presentation which covers the history of the castle in great detail and the families who occupied it.
After walking back, we headed towards Carlow where we stopped to look at Brownshill Dolmen, a prehistoric passage tomb. The dolmen has a granite capstone weighing over 100 tonnes, making it the largest of its kind in Europe. The massive capstone rests on two portal stones which border a door stone and slopes downwards where it rests on a low boulder. It is thought that religious rites, possibly human sacrifice were performed there for four and a half thousand years (2500 B.C.).
Last site of the day was Carlow Castle near the meeting of the Rivers Barrow and Burrin. It was built in the 13th century and remained relatively unscathed until 1814 when it was accidently blown up during works to convert it into a modern lunatic asylum. Now only the west wall and two towers remain so you can only walk around this section, which is still pretty impressive.
Tonight, we stayed at the railway station carpark.
Sunday 12 August 2018 Carlow – Wexford
We drove from Carlow to Wexford, stopped at the supermarket then headed to the tourist office and parked in the carpark overlooking Wexford Harbour. We then went for a walk around Wexford city streets which being a Sunday were quiet. After dinner we headed over the road to John Barry, a pub which had live music advertised. There were two men playing Irish and other music on guitars and banjo. On several occasions a guy who was parked next to us in his motorhome played the spoons. It was another great night.
Monday 13 August 2018 Wexford – Ferns – Enniscorthy – Wexford
- Ferns Castle and The Ferns Tapestry
- National 1798 Rebellion Centre
- Vinegar Hill Battlefield
After exchanging our gas bottle, filling up with water and emptying the cassette at Blackwater we drove to Ferns to visit Fern Castle built in the 13th century. To visit the castle, you have to go on a guided tour. The castle originally formed a square, with large corner towers, but only half of the castle now remains. We climbed the very skinny circular steps through the three floors of the most complete tower and on one of them contains a fine circular chapel with carved ornaments. We came out on the top of the tower and the views across the countryside were spectacular. The guide gave a great account of the history of the castle, told stories of the resident King of Linster, Dermot McMurrough who brought the first Normans to Ireland and was also very passionate and entertaining.
Inside the Visitor Centre run by OPW is the Ferns Tapestry which contains 24 panels of stitch work which relate the story of Ferns from the period 598 AD with the arrival of St Aidan to preach Christianity up to the coming of the Normans in 1169. It was made by a group of local ladies in 1997 and the detail of the stitching is flawless and is a spectacular piece of work.
We then drove to Enniscorthy on the banks of the river Slaney to the National 1798 Rebellion Centre which retells the doomed 1798 Rebellion and the Battle of Vinegar Hill which was fought on June 21, 1978 and was the last major battle. The Rebellion, led by the United Irishmen, was based on the principles of the French Revolution of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity and was an attempt to achieve a democratic and equal Ireland. Through audio visual presentations and recordings and an astonishing 3D audio visual interpretation of the Battle of Vinegar Hill, the centre gives a great insight into the epic and heroic recount of the Rebellion.
From here we drove to Vinegar Hill Battlefield (119metres above sea level), the site of the most famous and bloodiest battle of the 1798 Rebellion. Here 20 000 men, women and children faced 10 000 well-armed and well-trained members of the Crown Forces, in a battle that lasted only four hours, but left 1 500 dead and a county distraught. On the top of the hill the only remnants of this horrific day are the ruins of a stone tower. The Rebellion was the start of a 125-year battle for Irish democracy and independence, which ended on January 21, 1919 with the meeting of the First Irish Parliament in Dublin.
At the end of the day we completed the remainder of our housekeeping in readiness for leaving Ireland tomorrow night bound for France. We drove back to the same overnight campsite as last night, overlooking Wexford Harbour.
Tuesday 14 August 2018 -Wexford – New Ross – Rosslare Harbour
- Irish National Heritage Park
- Ros Tapestry Exhibition Centre
- Dunbrody Famine Ship
Our first stop today was the Irish National Heritage Park in Ferrycarrig. After watching a film about the ancient sites of Newbridge, Knowth and the Hill of Tara which are spread throughout Ireland we went on a guided tour in the company of a costumed guide. The park is an authentic recreation of Ireland’s heritage. It features prehistoric campsites, ringforts, crannogs, a fully reconstructed early Christian monastery, mill, a Viking house and boat, and a Norman Castle. Starting at the first site which dated back 9 000 years ago we moved through the park and with each site the years moved through the past and finished with the arrival of the Normans. Each site represented a period of time and was recreated as it would have looked at this time and was very authentic. The guide gave a great explanation of the people of each time period, their beliefs and the implements they used.
Next, we stopped at New Ross to see the acclaimed embroidered tapestries. In 15 large embroidered panels the Ros tapestry tells the story of the Normans in Ireland and founding of the town of New Ross. We sat in front of each panel and with a hand-held audio guide and listened to a recount of the stirring tale. The tapestry is still a work in progress and on completion it will be the largest Tapestry work in Europe. The quality of the embroidery is absolutely stunning and very labour intensive, with one panel taking 10 years to complete. The detail in each of the panels is remarkable with a large centre piece and then several smaller detailed scenes around the border.
Further along the Quay is the Dunbrody Famine Ship, an authentic reproduction of an 1840s emigrant vessel. The centre provides an insight into the bravery and fortitude with which Irish people faced up to a desperate situation.
In front of the Emigrant Experience building on the New Ross Quay is The Emigrant Flame which is a memorial to all those who left Ireland. It was initially lit from the Eternal Flame at the graveside of President John F Kennedy because he was an emigrant son of Ireland.
We then travelled to Rosslare Harbour to await our journey to France on the Stena Line vehicle and passenger ferry to Cherbourg, France. We booked a cabin for the trip as it is an 18-hour journey.
Sadly, this ends our 5 weeks travelling around Ireland. Dispite a few rainy days, the weather was terrific with the locals complaining of the heat and the lack of rain and in some places, there are water shortages. The country side still looks magnificent and green to us and the views spectacular. We heard some great Irish music and are finding travelling in the motorhome a fantastic experience.
We now look forward to the next part of our magical mystery tour in Europe, starting in France. We have 2 pre-arranged destinations on our itinerary, 26-28 August in Dusseldorf for a motorhome show and 6-7 September in Malaga Spain to watch our mate Flash (Mark McLean) compete in the over 60s World Masters Games in the decathlon. We are very excited about the next leg and what challenges we will encounter with driving on the right-hand side of the road with a right-hand drive vehicle.