When I told my sister, Taryn, we would have to wake up at 5:30am for our Monday full day tour with DayTours.ie she groggily looked at me with jet lagged eyes and said “Okay”. What else could she have said? I already booked us in and I was in desperate need to explore the countryside. I wanted to see my first castle and roam among old cemeteries contemplating life, history and compositions of potential photos. I had just learned a whole lot from BlogHouse and I wanted to put all of it into action. What better place to practice than Ireland?
My sister wasn’t quite as eager as I but who could blame her? I had already explored most of Dublin and was basically acclimatized to the time change. Taryn on the other hand was cursing my name on her second day as I urged her to get up before 10 am and fight through her paralyzing jet lag.
Monday morning at 5:45 am she woke up particularly grumpy. By 6:20 am we were rushing out the door to discover that we had left the turnkey in the door lock of our room. We had to return the key each time before leaving the hotel and if we lost it…40€.
The hotel clerk decided to play with us in our desperation as well. We had 20 minutes to walk from the end of Grafton Street to the Dublin Tourism office and I wanted to be early to ensure a seat together.
The clerk had insinuated that we would be charged the 40€ because we had lost the key. And after horsing around I finally became impatient as he stood there refusing to help. He then asked “How do you know you do not have the key in your room? Which is it? Did you lose it or was it left in the door?” with a condescending tone. I barked back “If we knew we wouldn’t be standing here. Did anyone drop it off at the front desk or what?”
“No,” he said. “I grabbed it out of your door this morning”.
I couldn’t believe it.
I had the feeling he was trying to run us through for 40€ because we had made an oversight. Yes it could have been costly in more ways than one but we were on a floor with only 3 other rooms so if anything had happened it wouldn’t be hard to figure it out. Plus aren’t we supposed to be staying in a safe environment and he was simply doing his job?
My sister and I were frustrated and didn’t quite feel comfortable with this person in control of our room’s safety but we had to leave. We had to rush and, luckily, we had made it to our bus on time.
Our first stop would be the Rock of Cashel, about a 2 hour drive from Dublin’s city centre. Taryn drifted asleep as I payed undivided attention to everything our guide had to say. He explained the turbulent history of Ireland, the maltreatment by the British throughout the course of history, the violent Vikings who set up shop which became towns like Kilkenny and Dublin. Where history and our tour would first collide was the Rock of Cashel. As the bus weaved around a few crooked corners the stronghold manifested before us behind a veil of mist. Perched on top of a lush green hill overlooking what’s known as the Golden Vale of Tipperary County. This Golden Vale refers to the view. As a fortress it is at an advantage point as you can see for miles into Tipperary county and would be able to properly prepare for an invasion if anyone should chose to attack the stronghold.
I tapped my sister awake in excitement. Her eyes peeled open and she lifted her heavy head, “Oh cool!”. She then dropped her head back down, shut her eyes and waited for the bus to park before our disembarkment.
Two of the most notable historic Irish characters associated with the Rock of Cashel are St Patrick and Brian Boru.
St. Patrick has a peaceful association with the grounds having converted pagan King of Munster Aengus MacMutfraich here around 450 A.D. After this time the Rock of Cashel was mainly a fortress where the Irish kings of Munster would preside. Brian Boru is the most legendary of them all as he united the quarrelsome Irish kings to take a stand against the violent Vikings and in doing so Boru unified Ireland under one ruler, himself.
Much of what we see today is from the 12th Century when it was turned over to the church in 11o1 and was added on to/altered during the 13th Century. However, the Rock of Cashel is considered the most impressive collection of Celtic and Medieval ruins in all of Europe.
We wandered around in silence as I found inspiring subjects in and around the fortress walls. I was particularly struck by the recency of a few of the graves one being within the last ten years and others as old as the plague, literally. You can tell which grave markers are from the plague by their proximity to the ground. The ones that have been ground down by time and weather to be less than a foot tall with no writing to be read are from the time of the plague.
During moments of standing within and upon history it is always important to take a deep breath, put down the camera and soak it all in. The history, the figures, the view that remains relatively unchanged since the battles won and lost. These are the moments I travel for and discovered many of them during my time in Ireland.
I wanted to stay longer – become absorbed by the surroundings and dissipate with the mist. Taryn had to yank me back to the present and run for our bus. Before we knew it we were back on the road heading to Blarney, driving deeper into Medieval history and further away from that uneasy morning in Dublin.
OMG, it is so GREEN. This is one part of the world I have yet to step foot in and after seeing these posts, plus ones from Lunatic at Large earlier this year, I really must remedy that!