Ireland scenes: Kilkenny a good place to start a visit
We knew the reputation of the Irish before touching down at Dublin's airport on a sunny Saturday morning earlier this month.
The online ads and travel brochures tout the country's friendly nature. Before my wife and I left on our trip we were told by others who had visited, "Oh they're so friendly over there. You'll love it." to the point where we were almost expecting a red carpet and muffin basket upon arrival.
Neither appeared but the first clue that this preconception about Ireland was spot on came from our brief interaction with a customs officer at the airport who seemed happy to see us. He peppered us with a few questions about our itinerary but also had a few questions about Oklahoma. Specifically about hot weather and tornadoes.
"Have a great time," he said as we walked away.
Having just spent a week in bustling London and rowdy Edinburgh we were ready for the slower pace of Ireland. And after picking up our rental car, and running up over the curb on our left side four or five times as we got reacquainted with driving on that side of the road we were off to Kilkenny, about a 1.5 hour drive from Dublin's airport.
We checked into our B and B (Rosquil House) and were met by Rhoda who runs the place along with her husband John. She gave us a map of Kilkenny and we spent a few minutes talking about the States (where she lived for several years) and the best things to do in Kilkenny today. A visit to Kilkenny Castle was our first stop. The castle dates back to 1195 but like many of these old buildings had fallen into disrepair at alternate times and was later fully restored in the 20th century. It's highlight is a long banqueting hall adorned with paintings of past owners.
From there we set out on a walk through town. There are a myriad of stores selling tourist trinkets but the town still retains much of its medieval charm. The remnants of a medieval wall still rings the older section of town. Cobblestone streets are ever present and when you get lost, it's just a matter of time before a local stops to ask if they can help. It happened not once but twice in a short span here. We checked out the Black Abbey and St. Mary's Cathedral to wrap up our afternoon.
We closed out our day with dinner at Langton's, a restaurant Rhoda recommended. I asked our waiter if any of the pubs in town would have traditional music tonight. He thought for a moment and said it was unlikely because it was late in the season. But there was one place up the street called "The Dylan" where we might find some on a Saturday night.
Sure enough as we walked closer we could hear music coming from inside. We popped in to a wood paneled bar that fits every American stereotype of what an Irish pub should look like. And while the mostly local crowd seemed to notice our arrival the place had a friendly feel to it. I got a Guinness from the bar and sat down and listened to the three-man band play some traditional Irish music. This is where Ireland began for me. And it fit the many late afternoon daydreams I had sitting at my desk at work leading up to the trip.
Have a listen:
And the end result of the evening. Dead pints.
Next stop: The Rock of Cashel and the Ring of Kerry