After four glorious days in Dublin, we set out on our fifth day to explore more of the Emerald Isle. But first, we had one more site to see before our tour bus whisked us away from the capital city: Kilmainham Gaol.
I came away from this trip realizing two things: first, Ireland’s history is really complicated and, second, I want to learn more about it, particularly the struggle for independence. Though I feel like I only scratched the surface while in Ireland, Kilmainham Gaol – which held many of the leaders from the various rebellions – provided an excellent and poignant introduction to some of the struggles of the past. On our guided tour, we saw the cell blocks, the tiny chapel, and the spots where some rebel leaders were executed. The Gaol also had an excellent museum, which described the horrible realities (crowded and unsanitary conditions, disease) of life at the prison. It was all fascinating but quite sobering.
After touring the Gaol, it was off to the spectacular Rock of Cashel. We arrived in the town of Cashel right around lunchtime, so we stopped at Cafe Hans to grab a bite to eat. One tip about Cafe Hans: there might be a bit of a wait, but for good reason – the food is delicious. My lamb burger with tzatziki sauce was the best lamb burger I’ve ever eaten. Granted, I’m not sure how many lamb burgers I’ve ever actually eaten, but this was quite flavorful.
As for my mom’s Nicoise salad with hake, I don’t know how it tasted – but it sure did look pretty:
After finishing lunch, we began a short but steep hike up the hill to the Rock itself, which was an ancient fortress. Also, fun fact: the Rock was visited by none other than St. Patrick in A.D. 450. We started our visit in the graveyard, which featured beautiful Celtic cross graves and some really spectacular views of the surrounding countryside.
(I took the above picture and thought, wait, is this real life?!?)
We also had the opportunity to peek into the various buildings and chapels on the Rock – these were interesting but, for me, the real highlight of the Rock of Cashel was looking out from it at the beautiful, lush plains below. Ireland, you’re kind of gorgeous.
From Cashel, we traveled to the town of Kinsale, where we would spend the next two nights. Kinsale, with its colorful buildings and lovely harbor views, is postcard picturesque.
For dinner, we headed to Kitty O Se’s, a pub right in the heart of town. I started with a glass of Bulmers Cider, which was on my “must try” list while in Ireland – and it was so tasty! This might be sacrilegious, but when it comes to Irish beverages, a pint of Bulmers far trumps a pint of Guinness in my book.
For my meal, I ordered the fish ‘n chips, which I literally never tired of ordering on this trip; you just can’t go wrong with them. And for dessert, I had the sherry trifle which, with its explosion of multi-colored sprinkles, made me feel like a little kid again.
After dinner, we were treated to some live music at the pub. Our tour guide had taught us some popular Irish songs on the bus and we were all encouraged to sing along – and though it may sound super cheesy, it was actually pretty cool. If there’s one thing I really gained an appreciation for this trip (besides those delightful Irish accents), it was the Irish musical tradition. It seemed like in every town, large or small, there was wonderful local music to be found – a beautiful thing indeed.
- Kilmainham Gaol: Inchicore Rd., Dublin 8, Ireland | +353.1.453.5984
- Cafe Hans: Moor Lane, Cashel, Ireland | +353.1.626.3660
- Kitty O Se’s: 1 Pearse Street, Kinsale, Ireland | +353.1.470.0053