Tuesday, September 8, 1998
Tuesday was a bright beautiful day. After a wonderful breakfast and a kiss good-bye from our hostess, we went to visit the Rock of Cashel. Of course we drove completely around it (literally) before I realized where it was.
The Rock of Cashel is a dramatic collection of ruins perched on a rocky outcropping. There is a large cathedral, a smaller church, and a round tower. In the small chapel the roof is decorated with ancient frescos. The larger cathedral is impressive and includes many "hidden" passageways. I believe that the large cathedral is a contemporary of St. Patrick's in Dublin. It is interesting to see and compare the similarities and differences between the two.
Speaking of St. Patrick, there are three interesting stories concerning Cashel in which he plays a part in two (interesting structure words there...huh?). The first is the legend that the Rock of Cashel is a chunk of the Sliveardagh Hills that is about 20 miles away. It seems that the devil was chasing Patrick but was unable to catch him. So he bit out a piece of the mountain and spat it at Patrick. Luckily, he missed. From Cashel you can see the bite in the mountains.
The second story is when Patrick came to Cashel to baptize the king. The Rock of Cashel is located on the top of a very steep incline. Patrick was old and very tired after climbing the steep slope. During the ceremony he was leaning on his crosier (a staff). He accidentally placed the crozier on the king's foot and the steel point pierced through to the ground. At the end of the ceremony he realized what he had done and apologized profusely to the king. Upon asking the king why didn't he yell out, the king replied, "I thought it was part of the ceremony."
The final story concerns the building of the cathedral. Supposedly when it was built the people formed a line of twenty miles from the quarry to the site of construction. All the stones were passed from person to person the whole way.
Actually, I have two more stories concerning Cashel. On the ancient Coronation Stone of the Kings is the "original" St. Patrick's cross. Supposedly if you can stand on the ground, reached around the cross, and touch your fingers, you will never have a toothache in your life. I managed to do this so I should save a bundle in bills from the dentist.
The final story is the graveyard. As with many of the ancient church sites in Ireland once they fell into ruin they were used as graveyards by the local people. In some places it seems that people are buried on top of each other. At Cashel the ground is very shallow because the site is built on a rock. In the early Thirties the government officially closed the graveyard. Before doing so they allowed the members of the community who wanted to be buried there to sign a list. Currently there are only ten people left on the list. Once they die the cemetery will be closed.
Cashel was also the site of a terrible massacre. During the Cromwellian invasion the Cathedral became a fortress in which many townsfolk hid. One of Cromwell's Generals promised that if they would come out he would free them. Many did and he promptly had them killed. He then set fire to the Cathedral and burnt those remaining inside.
There are also many other tales concerning Cashel. You do need to make a special effort to get to Cashel as its out of the way from many of the other attractions (actually its on the main road from Dublin to Cork - but who takes main roads?). The drive is well worth it. The ever present video was boring. I walked out in the middle. But Cashel was one of the most interesting places we visited.
From Cashel we headed south again to Cahir to visit Cahir Castle. Cahir Castle is one of the best preserved castles in Ireland. After the VIDEO, we went on an informative but boring tour. Our tour guide was a teenage girl who did a decent job, she was just very nervous and sounded very mechanical in her presentation. I am sure as time goes by she will get better.
In one wall of the inner keep of the Castle a cannonball is lodged. This was from the Cromwellian invasion. There are many passages to explore including one that goes to a watchtower located outside of the wall overlooking the river.
I would highly recommend a visit to Cahir Castle if you are in the vicinity. I don't know if it would be worth going too if you had to travel a substantial distance out of your way. If you get to within 20 miles you should go by. We decided to walk around town for a while. Sallie and I exchanged some money and bought some snacks in a small corner store. I also purchased a phone card.
I should have done this earlier. The first thing you should do when you arrive in Ireland is to buy a phone card. I bought an £8 Pound ($12 USD) card but could have got by on a £4 Pound card. Almost every phone in Ireland accepts the cards so there is no problem using them. You insert the Card in the phone and it will tell you how much credit is left on the card. If I had purchased this card earlier it would have saved me at least ten dollars. I had once used coins (which the phones uses at a seemingly enormous rate) and used my Visa card several times at a $1.20 USD each. So buy a card. At the end of the trip I used the remaining credits on the card to call my grandmother and sister back in the states.
I then called a farmhouse located in Castlefreke (near Clonakilty) south of Cork. The farmhouse was described as in glowing terms. So it sounded wonderful. It was only a little after 3 p.m. but it was starting to become cloudy. We had thought about trying to get to Blarney Castle but had been told that during the rain they wouldn't allow you to climb to the top of the castle and kiss the stone. Instead we decided to go to Cobh (pronounced Cove). Cobh is located on an island just to the east of Cork.
It was in Cobh that the Titanic made its last landfall before it made a deep sea floor fall. It was also just off the coast of Cobh that the Lusitania was sunk by a German U-Boat thus pulling the U.S.A. into first World War. In Cobh we stopped at the Cobh Immigration Heritage Center but decided not to spend £5 ($7.50 USD) apiece to go through the Immigration Museum. Instead we did some shopping in the gift shops and then drove on into town.
Cobh is perched on a hill overlooking the harbor. In the center of town is a statue commemorating the victims of the Lusitania. Perched on the top of the town is another of those large imposing cathedrals that are all over Ireland. It was in Cobh where I saw the only military presence in Ireland. There were four men armed with automatic weapons escorting a truck down the road. I don't know what they were doing and I didn't stick around to ask questions.
Leaving Cobh we found a ferry that would take us across the harbor which saved us a trip back into Cork and down again. On the other side we somehow got on the wrong road. This was no inconvenience and only took us on a more picturesque route to Clonakilty. In many places we were driving along the coast. The scenery was beautiful. Deep green fields stopped only at the cliffs that dropped into the ocean where huge waves were breaking over the rocks.
It took an hour or so to reach the Farmhouse. While the location was lovely the house was a disappointment. The rooms were clean but not overly so. The bathroom needed a good cleaning. The boat could not be used. There were horses nearby but not within walking distance. There was no town nearby. The local pub must be seasonal as it was closed. In general we were all disappointed.
We decided to go into a nearby town to eat. On the way we stopped at some riding stables. Sallie and Jody made an appointment to go riding for half a day the next morning. I think it cost them about £25 each ($37 USD each). Rosscarbery, was a few miles away. We went into town to eat but there were no restaurants opened. So we headed back down the hill to the harbor where a large hotel was located that had a pub attached. We had skipped this thinking originally it would be too expensive. Looking back now, I realize that we ate at four pub/restaurants that were attached to hotels. At each of these the food was wonderful and the prices were very reasonable.
The Old Forge Pub had a great atmosphere. A signed announced on several days a week they have special dinners accompanied by Irish music. I ordered oysters and Ham and Cabbage. In general I was very disappointed with seafood in Ireland which I found surprising. The oysters were extremely small and very expensive. I think I paid about $1 USD for each. Later in Galway we walked around the city for an hour looking for a decent seafood place. All the restaurants put their menus on the wall outside (by law). After looking at about twenty menus we stopped trying to find seafood.
After dinner Sallie and Jody walked back across the causeway to the other side of the harbor. Mom and I met them there and we headed back to the Farmhouse (only getting lost once on the way back.) We sat around and talked with the other guest