Sep 26: Leaving Ireland’s Ancient East

Happy birthday Grandma!!!

It was hard leaving the Cherith Lea House this morning. Karin and Mervyn were such great hosts and have set the bar very high for future AirBnB’s. But onward we went! I couldn’t get Mellifont Abbey out of my head. It was calling to me so I typed the coordinates into my phone and off we were. Twenty minutes and a beautiful scenic drive later we pulled into an empty car park. (Irish for parking lot). I was so happy to have the place to ourselves but that didn’t last as another car pulled in shortly after us. Oh well!

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This was our first visit to ruins and I was quite taken with the sight, sounds and energy of the place.

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I could hear rushing water and it sounded close by. Looking around the area, Mom noticed stairs leading down to what we presumed was the river and it was.

We were able to get close to watch the fast moving water without worry of falling or getting wet. The sound of rushing water is just so peaceful.

I really enjoyed touring the ruins and just spending time taking photos, listening to the water and the birds and just being.

Just as I was heading back to the car, Mom mentioned the church at the top of the hill. I made my way up the steep hill, climbed the even steeper steps and was delighted by the old church. The pictures just don’t encompass the special feeling of standing inside this centuries old structure. We don’t have anything like this in Canada and I am so awe-inspired by the ancient ruins of Ireland.

A quick ten minute drive took us to Monasterboise which is a round tower and amazing celtic cross that has figures depicting stories from the bible carved into it. It is believed to have been used by the clergy (or perhaps monks… not to sure on the history here) to teach the common folk the stories of the bible.

I was expecting the round tower and the cross but didn’t realize it was also a cemetery and a currently used cemetery at that. I was surprised to see new tombstones in amongst the ancient stones. We found several Quinn’s, a Murphy and a Connolly. No Burkes though.

From here our journey would take us south west towards Galway where we would be spending the night in a rustic old shack of a building. (wink wink)

We had an uneventful drive, with the exception of a missed turn off the traffic circle which worked out well in the end as we found ourselves in the parking lot of a Tesco which might not seem so wonderful to you, but just shortly before – while having lunch at a local pub – we discovered the cheapest place in town to purchase alcohol was the Tesco. I didn’t know what a Tesco was or where or how we would find one but alas, there it was. Tesco is a grocery store and, in Ireland, you can buy wine and hard liquor at the grocery store (even better than Quebec!)

Now that we had a few tiny bottles of wine and a bottle of Baileys, we were set for our amazing adventure and dream come true for Mom – spending the night in a real castle. Not a commercial hotel type castle, but a real authentic, scary spiral staircase with a rope handle, authentic wooden doors and even a turret.

On the route, we saw a hot air balloon in the sky, followed by another, then another, then another and then we noticed they were just taking off. As we turned off the highway onto the side road that would take us to the castle, we noticed a line up of cars pulled over to the side and people on the other side, hanging off the fence of a field watching the balloons inflate the lift off. We pulled over too and I was able to get a couple of shots. Turns out Pete, our host for the night, was also there watching. Apparently this is not a common occurrence and the locals were over themselves excited to witness such a beautiful sight.

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Our first rainbow!
We continued on down the road and were a little worried we might be on the wrong path as we hadn’t seen sight of the castle yet. A local woman had just pulled her car over to the side of the road to stop and take pictures of yet more balloons and waved at us to do the same. We rolled down our window and started chatting as if we were long lost neighbors. Eventually we asked her if Pete’s castle was near by and she was delighted and a little envious we were spending the night here. She assured us we were on the right track and we continued on down the road. On the next turn, we could see the castle before us. What a spectacular sight! (The next day Pete mentioned we made a positive impression on his neighbour, although she believed us to be American.)

We pulled in and were greeted by Eva, Peter’s partner. Mom had wisely decided this morning to pack a lighter bag for our night at the castle (i.e. not take our small carry on suitcase in, just the essentials) and we were never more grateful for that decision as the stairs went on forever and a bit. We eventually made it to the top, exhausted and huffing and puffing and what little air we had recouped, quickly exhaled as we took in our surroundings! Oh My Well there are no appropriate words. I will try to fill in our excitement with pictures!

 

The balloons were such a hit in the neighborhood – and the castle – that we made our way to the turret (yes, more stairs) and we stepped out to watch them land in the castle adjacent to us.

I’ll post pictures so I don’t have to go into too many details but want to say, the toilet is compostable which is really neat. The floors are heated which makes the rooms toasty – almost too toasty! Although the stairs are not heated and can be very cold on bare feet!!! The bathtub is in the living room area but is hidden in the floor – you have to see it to believe it! The kitchen is compact and fits behind beautiful cabinetry. Peter did all of the work himself. He spent three days with a stone mason to learn how to do the brick work and he does all of the carpentry himself as well. The place is amazing. He made the master bed out of trees from the yard… Need I say more?

Well, It’s been yet another long day and I really need to get outside and see the stars from the top of the castle.

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