We hated to leave the idyllic location of Kilgraney House and the perfect hosts that were Bryan and Martin, but the rest of Ireland beckoned! Our first stop was Jerpoint Abbey, the oldest remain being the 12th century Romanesque church, but there was also a lovely 15th century cloister. This was one of many OPW Heritage Card sites that we intend to visit (the first was Kilmainham Gaol, and entrance to this site paid for the card). The helpful staff member on the desk also filled us in on our next stop, Kells Priory, which is an open site with no information at hand – so her passion and information was most helpful!
Kells Priory is referred to in Rough Guides as, “one of the country’s most atmospheric ruins,” and it wasn’t an oversell. What really enhanced this atmosphere was that there were only sheep grazing through the ruins and a young family picnicking and playing hide and seek with their golden retriever amongst the stones – not bus loads of tourists! It was quite extraordinary what was still intact, considering the turbulent history – 2 or 3 sackings in the 13th and 14thcenturies. As with lots of sites in Ireland, money is being gazetted to it and major restoration is constantly happening. Really good choice to visit here.
We arrived in Kilkenny in time for our lunch booking at Campagne. We couldn’t find the place at first – it’s a little tucked away and we walked straight past it, not paying attention. Instead, a lovely local lass carrying a take-away pizza escorted us to the door – once again, the hospitality of the Irish abounds! Campagne is a relatively new and quite funky little restaurant that we had booked from home, but many people had recommended it on our travels so far. The female maître d’ was efficient, friendly and attentive, as were all of her staff. The décor was soft moss green and cream, and the S-shaped bench/booth seating worked very well – providing intimacy and economy of space. Our choices of dishes were: a spinach & ricotta parfait with whipped goats cheese, roast tomato & tomato vinaigrette; fillet of cod, braised calamari, tomato & basil. Too, too delicious! Go to Campagne
From our filling and deeply satisfying lunch we went to Butler House to check in for the night. This accommodation used to be the dowager house for the castle, so it wasn’t too shabby at all. Some people on TripAdvisor have complained about the noisy floorboards of the rooms above them, but as we had a gigantic room on the top floor, this was not an issue for us – and it was only after Nic’s constant reminders to John to ‘tread lightly’ that we discovered that we were the only people staying in the B&B! Maybe because it was the Sunday night before school went back and no one but the Bontaks were on holidays . . . who knows? Who cares? We felt very privileged!!
Kilkenny Castle was one of those fascinating journeys back in time – all the while fantasising that we were the ‘upstairs,’ of course, never the ‘downstairs!’ While it was built in the early 13th century, its interiors were remodelled in the 19thcentury in a more contemporary country-house style. It was far too easy to imagine ringing the poor hardworking and underappreciated servants for tea or to lug water for a bath. Keep dreaming! Go to Butler House
From the castle we headed along the quite picturesque and small Main St doing some window shopping on our way to St Canice’s Cathedral. The attraction to this particular cathedral is that it also has on its grounds a 100ft tall round tower – one of only 2 in Ireland that you are able to climb. This one was built some time around 800AD, and was unbelievably sturdy. It was also built from the inside (scaffolding erected on the interior) so the outside is very smooth and nicely finished. It was lovely to be shown about the place by two young people (in their 20s) connected with the history of the church, and passionate about preserving it.
After our excessive and sumptuous lunch, we didn’t need much in the way of dinner, so we headed to Kyteler’s Inn for drinks, soup and some fine fiddle playing. This place is named for Alice Kyteler who was tried and found guilty of being a witch in 1324. She fled to England and left her maid, Petronella, to take the rap – and her place in the fire!! Ironically, the location and atmosphere were well suited to kicking back, relaxing and blogging!
Once again, slept soundly in our large, slightly 70’s art deco suite at Butler House. Breakfast the next morning was across the garden in the converted castle stables that now house the Kilkenny Design Centre (and the café that provided our morning repast). The service was friendly, but microwaved porridge and scrambled eggs (!!) were not the breakfast highlight of the trip! Oh well, on to bigger and better breakfasts (and elastic waisted pants!!).