And off we went into the wilds of Ireland, driving on the left side of the road, with the steering wheel on the right. The first stop was Athy, a tiny town in the middle of the world. This stop was on the way from here to there, and we put it on the itinerary to see if we could find John Falkin, blacksmith. By a combination of asking for one set of “girl” directions (all landmarks, no street names or route numbers), zen navigation, and some blind luck, we found the smithy… And it was closed. Argh.
South we sped to Kilkenny. Our guide book said that the old town was lovely, with many little shops and a convenient parking lot right in front of the castle. Well, things obviously change. Downtown/old town Kilkenny was completely torn up and under construction, so it required a hugely circuitous and highly frustrating circle around town to find parking. We ended up parking in a pay parking lot behind a grocery store and hiking back across town to get to the castle and its related “craft store.” Now, when I think of “craft store” I think of handmade one-of-a-kind items, not large amounts of mostly factory produced objects that are specifically aimed at tourists. Sure, the candles that looked like rocks were cute, but really! Sigh. Still, we did end up with a few nice things there.
Kilkenny Castle has an interesting setup. Cromwell’s invasion blew out the fourth wall of the castle, which was never rebuilt, so the castle has a beautiful view of its own grounds from almost every room rather than just one side. There is a lovely long hall for dancing as well. The portrait gallery in the long hall had far better labeling than the usual, with the portraits grouped by family/subject, and cross-referenced so that the viewer understood that the woman in portrait 12 was the mother of the man in portrait 14, who married etc. Each blurb had dates, a quick point of relevancy to the castle if there was one, and a reference to another portrait if applicable. This was far easier to follow than most portrait galleries that just have names and dates.
We had a late lunch at the Left Bank pub, where I had a lamb and mint Panini. That was wacky, but good. Then we doubled back to the craft store to actually make our purchases and hit the restroom one more time before hitting the road. From there we headed straight for Blackwater Castle.
We found Castletownroche and Blackwater Castle in plenty of time for a late dinner with the group and more exploration down to the river below the castle. We wandered downriver with Scraun, Q_Goat and D_Muse, where we found lots of interesting plants (stinging nettles!), a spring and a well, and eventually encountered the ruins of the old mill. We explored and played until sunset at 10 PM, at which point we turned back and turned up the first path that Q_Goat found for us that would get us up to the road. We came back to the Castle for a garden tour in the twilight – artichokes, gooseberries, raspberries and flowers – and eventually called it a night. Happy castle, everyone, and happy opening night of One True Party!