Thanks to a book left by our hosts we set off for some scenery and a hike just north from our rental house in Annestown towards Dungarvan. The Nire River Valley is truly a hiker’s paradise, and along with viewing Mahon Falls it’s a great place to stop on the way north to Kilkenny. Continuing on towards Kilkenny, we stopped in Dungarvan for a quick bite. We found Café Ormond, a top rated lunch and pastry café right in the city square. Excellent fresh fish, and lasagna that was warming, along with tea, a cappuccino and Pellegrino, all for $27 Euro.
Our next stop was at the Kilkenny castle with its impressive landscaped gardens and extensive renovations. The castle dates back to the 1100’s and was part of the Butler family for generations. The Butlers were very close to Queen Elizabeth and it was rumored that Mr. Butler fathered a child with her. For many years this castle was left in shambles as the Butlers no longer had the financial resources to keep the castle alive. Then, in 1967 Arthur Butler sold the castle to a restoration committee of Kilkenny for a mere £50 with the hopes of seeing it restored to its full splendor.
Next we visited the city of Cashel where the Rock of Cashel stands – also known as St. Patrick’s Rock. It’s pretty difficult to miss as you drive into town as it is perched on a large mound of rock looking down at the city. I imagined it was a castle of some kind, but it has been transferred over the years from a fortress stronghold to multiple churches, and cared for by monks and priests. Some of the earliest found wall paintings in the world are located in the ancient cathedral and the views of the surrounding valleys are spectacular.
Our last stop of the day was to the Swiss Cottage, a quaint peasant reproduction house built by the Butler family to host parties and guests in the countryside. It appears to be about a 4,000sf house, but the thatched roof is very deceiving and only four small rooms exist. The strangest part is the Butlers never ate or slept at this cottage as it was just a place to enjoy being out in nature and their attempt to connect with the common people. Marie Antoinette started the trend when she dressed up with her friends as a peasant or dairy maid and had cottages built like this one in the Versailles gardens. Something that rich people got a kick out of doing, and even the architecture was purposely done with imperfections to reflect a peasant-style of living.