Yesterday, we had a great excursion through some Medieval castles!!
Stop 1: Rock of Cashel
Stop 1: Rock of Cashel
After an exciting three hour bus ride, we stopped in the town of Cashel to see the Rock of Cashel (outside pictured on the right). Unlike the Blarney Stone, the Rock of Cashel actually refers to a giant mound of limestone that one of the oldest powerhouses in Ireland still stands on today. The Rock of Cashel has a huge castle, cathedral, and many other religious sites. Most importantly, Cashel was originally the site of the Kings of Munster, who lived there in the 4th Century. St. Patrick walked up the mountain to where the kings were living in a giant stronghold, and it was here that he converted them to Catholicism. The cross of St. Patrick is still on site to this day. Apparently, if you hop around it nine times, you will be married within a year. If you can hug it, you’ll have good dental health. Cool. We had a pretty
bad tour guide, so I can’t give you the detailed history that I know you yearn for when reading about someone else’s pseudo-vacation (OK, “class.”) After St. Patrick converted the pagan kings, the Rock became a religious center, and they built a huge cathedral on site in the 11th Century. To this day, there is a fresco painting on the wall there. Our guide says it was the oldest fresco in Europe that still exists, but that is actually not true (think Italy…) Outside of the buildings, there is a beautiful cemetery, and you can see all around because the castle is situated so high up. The County Tipperary, where the castle is located, has the most fertile grounds in Ireland (pretty fertile). It was sooooo green and romantic! Also, you could an old castle still in good repair in the background, which made it feel very Medieval :-) You might notice that my face has a somewhat grim look on it. This is because it was soooo cold and windy up there! No wonder it was easy to convince people then that there were so many gods-- if I lived up there, I would be constantly scared of higher powers!
Stop 2: Cahir Castle
Our next stop was a younger castle about thirty minutes away. Cahir Castle (pronounced “care”) was built in the Thirteenth Century, and used as a family home until the last member of the Butler family (who originally owned the castle) died in 1961. This tour was highly interesting, as we went through it as if we were trying to attack it. There were soooo many different precautions that the owners put on the castles at the time to prevent it from attack! We, of course, felt that it was necessary to demonstrate all of them.
One of my first favorite parts of this castle is the moat! Although it is not fully there anymore, the castle was once surrounded by the river as the first line of attack. To get to it, a person would have to take a small bridge to enter.
VERY OLD DEER ANTLERS
Although not a flattering picture of our tour guide, this room was redone to look the way that the room would have originally looked in its Medieval heyday. The antlers above the tour guide belong to the Irish Deer, the largest species of deer known, and which became extinct after the Thirteenth Century. These antlers were found in a bog, completely preserved after all of those years.
This is the courtyard, complete with canons, from the top of one of the towers :-) And Dorothy saying hello in Irish.
This is me, scouting out the area from the top of a tower. They let us go into all the passages and up to all of the towers. It was sooo cool! However, I can definitely see how they built the castles to guard against enemies, because the stairs were all extremely uneven and steep. It was very hard to get up down-- we were literally taking our lives into our hands :-)
This is me, defending the castle from Kimber. Dorothy took these action shots, which will probably be recorded as part of the castle's history in the years to come. Thanks, Dorothy.
After said power trip, I almost fell to my death- clearly didn't see the warning for the "Unprotected Stairs!!!!"
Porticullis- never know when it will fall on you!!! Dorothy and I would have gotten it up, though. This portcullis is actually the one that the crew from Braveheart went to when they filmed the sound of a portcullis for the movie.
One more look at the castle before leaving... What an adventure! Some coole tidbits I forgot to mention before: There is still a canon ball stuck into one of the walls of the castle from a battle in the 15th Century. There is also a hole in the ceiling going out from the Banquet Hall, called the "Murdering Hole" in which people in the house could pour hot oil/ canon balls from above on impending attackers.
Stop 3: Swiss Cottage
No, unfortunately we did not go to Switzerland. But! We went further down on the castle's property to what the Irish peasants used to refer to as the Swiss cottage. It was built by the Butler family in 1810 as a playhouse for the rich. The family never actually spent the night there, but it was used for garden parties. The house is actually supposed to look asymmetrical and imperfect because it mimics nature, which is always imperfect. Similarly, the windows, floorboards, walls, and everything else were uneven- even if you can't tell! We couldn't take any pictures of the rooms, but the outside of the house is gorgeous. The
tree that we are pictured in is actually a 900 year old Yew tree, planted by monks to keep animals off of the cemetery. The tree is poisonous, and if animals eat it, they will die. I'm glad we stood all over it, ha ha :-)
After such an exhausting day, we of course felt the need to go out afterwards! We went to a pub that specialized in Irish music, and sat down amidst a huge crowd of people that could even be as old as my parents... Yikes! But the music was great. I am posting some Irish tunes that he did (not very clear, but you'll get the gist), although I did not record the Garth Brooks and Killers music that he occasionally decided to play. The pub culture, although somewhat overwhelming at times, is really great for music like this. I have really enjoyed being a part of such an energized, easy-going setting.