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County Kilkenny, County Cork and County Tipperary, Ireland

Kilkenny Castle
From Hook Lighthouse, we drove northwest planning a visit to Kilkenny Castle.  The original wooden castle was started in 1195 AD, followed by the stone castle 30 years later.  Over the centuries, many additions and renovations have taken place, so the current building is composed of a variety of architectural styles.  In 1967, the castle was "sold" to the people of Kilkenny for 50 pounds.  The Office of Public Works maintains the property now and they have taken extreme care to reinstate the rooms on display (about half of the castle is open for viewing) primarily in the manner of the 19th century inhabitants.  Located along the River Nore, the castle's 3rd floor vantage point provides wonderful views of the city.  From the castle, we wandered the narrow cobblestone streets of the city which traces its beginnings back to the early Medieval period in the 6th century.   Located at the opposite end of town, St. Canice is the second largest cathedral in Ireland.  The original church was founded in the 6th century, but the current building was completed at the end of the 13th century.

The following morning we headed southwest toward Kinsale, but we stopped along the way to visit
Rock of Castle
the town of Cashel and the renowned Rock of Cashel.  We could see the well-known landmark from quite a distance on our approach.  This site first gained its importance as a fortress in the 5th century AD.  Sometime between 1230 and 1270 a cathedral was added, and through the centuries other additions were completed.  Free guided tours are included with the entry fee, and our guide was informative and entertaining.  The mural in Cormac's Chapel is a rarity since most paintings in Irish medieval churches have not survived and this mural certainly reflects its age.  After the tour, we walked around town and found two other buildings of historical significance.  Hore Abbey, built in 1270, was located next to the Rock.  The other structure was located in town.  St. Dominic's Friary was originally built in 1243 and then rebuilt in 1480 after it was destroyed in a fire.

Kinsale Harbor
Next, we drove to Kinsale considered the "Gourmet Capital of Ireland."  The town celebrates with an annual Gourmet Festival in October.  With many top-notch restaurants in town it wasn't difficult to find a great lunch spot, and decided on The Blue Haven following a recommendation from a local.  It  was so good that we returned for dinner since they also offered traditional music in the evening.  The seaside town is also know for two forts.  James' Fort located on the peninsula across from the town harbor was completed in 1607.  The star-shaped Charles Fort completed in 1682 is located at the waters edge on the other side of the harbor.  Both forts are open for viewing by the public.

Departing the following morning, we were headed to Dingle along the dramatic western coast of Ireland.
Formal dining room in the Castle
View of gardens from Kilkenny Castle
At Rock of Cashel  
View of Kilkenny from the Castle

Looking back at Kilkenny Castle from town
View down to Hore Abbey from the cemetary at Rock of Cashel
St. Dominics Friary - 1480
Mural in Cormacs Chapel
Hore Abbey - 1270 
Streets of Cashel
Charles Fort
St. Canice Cathedral

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