Saturday, 17 September and I was up at 8:30 and out of the Handel Hotel in Dublin at 9:15. A ten euro taxi ride had me to the train station with plenty of time to get my seating ticket from the kiosk and chill waiting for the platform to be open, with even enough time for me to get coffee. The train ride was a half hour, and we had an unexpected stop at Newbridge before arriving in Kildare. As this was just a day stop for me, I needed a place to park my gear.
Checking with the station staff, they recommended the Tourist Office. Perhaps a 15-minute push up a slight curving hill road, the glass-enclosed space sat in an island off the main square. Staffed by a single gentleman, he was willing, as long as I knew that he’d be closed for an hour for lunch. Not an issue (the next train after lunch was at a quarter to four), so armed with a map of the town, I headed towards the round tower and the cathedral.
Women were in the cathedral, adorning it for the harvest festival that weekend. The CoI St Brigid’s Cathedral is cruciform in shape, constructed with large, heavy blocks of stone, and very rectilinear. Entering through the south transept, the organ, in the north, was being tuned with an acolyte at the keyboard responding to directions from the tuner buried within the works. The central aisle through the nave faced a simple altar under a three-lights stained glass window, while pairs and single panels filled the arched windows along the sides, featuring various saints.
On the floor were multiple tile patterns, around the tombs and statues that lined the space. Not particularly bright, the representation of the woven St Brigid’s cross was featured on several walls and under some of the windows.
The round tower called me. For a fee, you climb stairs to the tower entrance, and then with ladders steeply aligned to fit through narrow openings, I was able to squeeze my bulk up to the top. One of only two Irish round towers open at the top for those who mount their ladders, I was provided a great view of the surrounding County Kildare, as well as the cathedral building. Ascent and descent is negotiated with fellow visitors, with the landings barely large enough for two adults. Great adventure for me.
Once back on solid ground, I began walking the perimeter, spotting various carvings on the church, as well as interesting gravestones in the burial yard.
Forty-five minutes after starting in the churchyard, I was heading back into the town square. I had a plan of the streets, and was looking at various local sites to see if I wanted to visit. Off into the country were horse farms and stables - this was in the heart of thoroughbred country - but distances weren’t detailed and I’ve found tourist maps can be deceptive. The local RC church, also dedicated to St Brigid, was near the center, so I headed there.
The original church had been augmented, with a second seating area perpendicular to the original nave. Various representations of the patron saint hung on walls or filled a light. Interestingly, many depict this fifth century woman religious with a crozier, and sometimes holding a church building - the symbolic representation of a bishop. [There is a legend that St Patrick asked St Mel to give St Brigid her habit, and read the consecration of a bishop instead of a nun when doing so. Needless to say, bringing this up to RC priests gets a blustery denial, or an explanation that the “cathedral” is actually an abbey.]
Back to the square, I decided to lunch at the jockey-themed Silken Thomas. With an Electric Bus IPA, I had a Philly beef sandwich (strip of roast Irish beef, grilled peppers, onions, cheese sauce, dijon mustard mayonnaise on ciabatta bread with chips.)
For a pale IPA, the quaff was okay, but I found the sandwich bland; the chips were fries, not true chips. I returned to the T.O. to collect my bags. Taking an alternate route, which proved to be shorter and easier, I had an hour to wait for the train to Carlow.
My luggage went into the racks at one end of the carriage, while I wound up sitting at the opposite end Traveling with a young man heading to Waterford, we talked for the half hour ride. Once outside the station, the walking directions provided by Google Maps looked too complex, so I hired a taxi and was there five euros lighter.
My room at the Seven Oaks Inn was on the ground floor, had two beds and plenty of space. After retrieving my camera from the small roller (I had found that it is much easier to minimize what I was hanging on my chest or shoulders while in transit,) I headed out to visit the cathedral.
My route took me past the imposing city courthouse with its thick columns and cannon. The multitiered spire of the Cathedral of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary stood out as a beacon drawing me closer.
Saturday Vigil Mass was at 6:15, so I had enough time to get inside to capture my photographs and exit, skipping services. The church is in a narrow plot, with the wide lawn of the neighboring college (former seminary) separated by a high wall on one side, and the buildings of commerce and residence in downtown on the other. The transepts are not deep, with the baptistry to the north (carved combination of a hanging baldachin and sounding board above), a Marian altar to the south. The organ in the choir loft is above the west entrance.
A shrine to St Willibrord, patron saint of Luxembourg and First Apostle to the Netherlands (both countries I hope to visit next spring) with a relic drew my attention. Because it was a bright and brilliantly sunny day, the late afternoon sun created deep contrasts as it poured into the back of the church. This cathedral claims to be the oldest of the post-Emancipation Roman Catholic cathedrals in Ireland.
After a wander in town, including a stop at a pub for a Smithwick red while watching the end of a football match, I headed back towards my lodgings. Opposite the city jail was The Clink, where I stayed for dinner. Sipping a 12 Acres pale ale (IPA), I was served a salmon darne and a half-pound of wings. Back to the room, I did my backup, read email, and prepared for a busy day on Sunday, having walked 10,441 steps.
After checking out and putting my luggage into day storage, I headed across town to the bus stop where I could catch a ride to Oldleighlin. Stopping in a local coffee shop, the owner was listening to a broadcast of the Quran being sung as I collected a latte, which I had with the half scone from Dublin. A six euro round trip, half an hour after boarding I was ready to walk 3.3 kilometers off the roadway to St Lazerian’s Church/Cathedral.
It was a long but interesting walk, over rolling hills on a country road. Stunning vistas of farmland, grazing livestock, copse of trees. Arriving in the tiny town, I entered the churchyard through a stone gate, and proceeded to find a small church on the downslope from the graveyard above.
I walked around it, trying each door, but had no success getting into the building. As I was readying to begin my walk back, an older couple who were visiting the gravesites of his parents, sister and nephew greeted me. On finding that I was walking back to the bus stop, she directed her husband to drive me.
Thus, I found myself with an unanticipated extra hour before the 1:30 return bus. Curiosity took me across the road to find the “bridge” of Leighlinbridge, the oldest still used bridge in Ireland. There was an interesting castle-like structure ruin, the Black Tower, and nicely tended gardens along the River Barrow. Signs abound, giving the history of the Black Castle and some of its notable occupants and neighbors. Also coming from the town was Cardinal Moran, the first to wear the red hat in Australia.
Stopping at a pub for a half pint of Guinness, one of the patrons offered to ring the parish priest to come and give me a tour - apparently both the Church of Ireland and the Roman Catholics use the building I’d visited for services. Because it was close to my return bus ride time, I deferred, but continued to be amazed by the friendly, open generosity of the Irish. I walked back, stood across from the petrol station on the opposite hillside, and was soon heading back to Carlow.
Once again in Carlow I headed back to the hotel, collected my bags, and walked (it was much less complicated with the front desk’s directions than Google’s) to the train station. Boarding the Waterford train, I was soon in Kilkenny, where I was the last passenger to leave the station. No wrong turns, I soon arrived at the B&B that faced the river. I’d heard from the owner the day before, and had texted her my arrival time, but dealing with the funeral of her mother probably was overwhelming. A phone call, and soon I was inside and in a ground floor front bedroom (with en suite bath).
Closing time at the Cathedral Church of St Canice was 5, and I was pushing that clock. Arriving a quarter hour before, I found the door closed with a sign. But I was able to push it open, and the staff was gracious once I explained my purpose, and I sped through my picture taking ritual, leaving a donation for the cathedral’s maintenance.
Of significant note were the carvings in the quire, the awesome vault, and several of the windows, albeit the church was barely lighted. Outside, I walked a circuit, passing the round tower, and wound up leaving as they locked up the gates.
The Roman Catholic cathedral was on the next hill over, so I began my descent and climb, although I’d allowed time the next morning for its visit. As I walked, I was joined by a couple from St Louis as we entered the Black Friary, a Dominican church. It was dark inside, full of history, with some nice glass.
I arrived at the back (east end) of St Mary’s Roman Catholic Cathedral, so I began taking outside shots.
Once by the west entrance, I entered to find I would be joining Sunday evening Mass at the sermon. The priest explained the purpose of the parable of the dishonest steward as a way to encourage care ecologically.
After Mass, as I was taking my inside pictures, the St Louis couple reappeared. Roger was using his iPhone to take a VR image (360-degree) from the main altar, while Betty directed. We both were unable to capture the tower vault, as it was too dark. I found the building lacked interesting glass, and the organ had not been used for Mass, so all I could appreciate was what I saw of the loft from below.
While I was checking in at the Bridge View B&B, I’d received a few recommendations for dining. Arriving at 6:45pm, I was offered a table in the main dining room, which I declined as it was too close to the musicians performing traditional Irish music (too loud for me.) The staff at Kyteler’s Inn were able to accommodate me with a 2-top on the other side of the inn, and I ordered Cajun wings, lamb stew and a Smithwick red for dinner. The wings were seasoned well, with the inclusion of sage which I found inventive. Fried, they still didn’t meet my expectations for Cajun.
As I finished my Smithwick, I ordered a Sullivan’s red, a more local brew. The stew needed more - something to punch it up. I thought about soy sauce or English mustard, to flavor the carrots, celery, potato and the bland white sauce. The second red ale,while darker in color, didn’t have as much flavor as the Smithwick’s.
To conclude my meal, I went for a premium Irish whiskey tasting: Midleton Very Rare 2022 blend; Connemara 12yo; and Redbreast 15yo (the latter included in my Redbreast sampler pack.) The whiskey expert in the house was pleased to have someone tasting his better fares, and suggested I cap it off with a Dunville Single Cask #991 (Limited Release) 18yo aged in an Oloroso cask. This latter had a 55%ABV rating, and was delicious and very warm.
How I got across the river, I don’t know. But I apparently took some night shots, including a few that came out well!
A quick note made while in the room indicated I was risking failure by not backing photos up. I didn’t even open my bag, and decided to just rewear everything the following morning, and deal with it all in Waterford. I even expected to catch the later bus. But I still noted the 22,072 steps for the day.
Amazingly, I was up at 8:30, had the B&B’s breakfast of scrambled eggs, sausage, yogurt, banana and coffee. I wandered across the river around the Kilkenny castle, and then returned to the B&B to collect my gear. Pushing my gear up the hill, across from the bus stop the EMTs were dealing with an older woman who I’d seen earlier when checking that I knew where the bus stop was located. The bus trip went smoothly, with me spotting a modern suspension bridge (I really like that technology), and the river.
My lodgings were a short walk along the riverfront.
Once in Waterford, after an on time departure and smooth ride, I was able to check into my room, #217, at the Fitzwilton Hotel. Grabbing my camera, I headed to the front of the Waterford Treasury Museum for a walking tour. “Utter failure” was my reaction: the woman guide was tardy, didn’t use the microphone equipment she carried for the 16 members of the group, and was generally unengaged. She was an automaton, with no real interaction with her passel of clients. (Yes, another scathing review.)
But, from the museum which we briefly entered, we went around the Viking Triangle to the old tower, the longboat replica, the huge carved sword, a church ruin, and alongside the Church of Ireland cathedral. Most I would return to see in my ramblings to study further.
Wandering after the Viator tour, my first stop was the Anglican Cathedral Church of the Holy Trinity, also known as Christ Church. A single spire stands over the entrance of this white washed simple church building. From the vestibule, the entry into the nave is under the organ loft, a rarely seen placement in my travels. Painted walls in cream and white, there are plaster decorations on the pale vault. The columns are curious, in that they rise from square-blocky supports to simple columns with elaborate capitals.
Crystal chandeliers hang over the central aisle, adding to the natural light pouring through the side windows. Historic references, including the sign explaining the wedding of Strongbow and Aoife, as well as the multiple memorials lining the walls abound. Structurally and by its ornamentation, I was reminded of the Anglican cathedral in Birmingham. This jived with another sign honoring the architect, John Roberts of the eighteenth century by the Irish Georgian Society: he had designed both this church and its local Roman Catholic counterpart, which I would soon visit.
Exiting, I was intrigued by a pottery factory and gallery. Open air and open doors, patrons off the street were able to browse various works by multiple artists. Chatting with one, he told me that the summer tourist season had been good, an improvement from the previous 2 Covid years. I continued my meandering, with the other cathedral my eventual goal, but enjoying the street traffic and public art.
Arriving at the Cathedral of the Most Holy Trinity, getting a profile shot was going to be difficult. With angled shots from its entry facade, I hoped for other options after my interior tour. Both the exterior and the interior were more embellished than its “twin”. Unique for me was the placement of the Stations of the Cross - the 14 paintings were curved and mounted on the paired (on both sides) columns supporting the vault.
In the sanctuary, a baldachin stands over the high altar in the rear, while the elaborately carved pulpit hovers over the nave pews. At the opposite end, over the entrance, a dark wood loft with stenciled organ pipes contrasts with the white of the walls and ceiling. Similarly, dark wood facing covers the fronts of the galleries over the side aisles.
Exiting out onto what I’d call the streets and sidewalks of tiled stones, within 10 minutes I’d returned to the ruins of the Triangle walk, the Franciscan Priory. While the rear is tumbled down, there is a lovely church, much larger than I’d expected, with tastefully clean lines and a stunning tabernacle.
Needing the facilities, I headed to the Waterford Crystal display room, and also browsed the products on display. The last tour was forming up, but I decided to wander a bit more in town. Passing the Royal Theater, I was then back at the Norse longboat and tower, where I took multiple detail shots of the carvings on the long wooden sword, including a video.
Heading back to the hotel, I decided to check the transportation setup for the next day. No one to issue tickets (or even discuss bus routes and schedules), I was told to just pay the driver in the morning after boarding the bus. Leaving the bus centre, I started looking for dining options. Near the mall, the choices were mainly hotels, kebabs, pizza or fast food, all of which are not options for me. I walked through the pedestrian plaza, past a number of bars which were catering to the large student population, and noted most didn’t have kitchens. Into Revolution, which wasn’t part of the chain of the same name that I’d visited in Bristol.
The chief barkeep was a jolly soul, also the cook, and was proud of the place’s several annual awards for being best pub in County Waterford. Plus, he reveled in the wall of whiskey: they had accumulated a serious chronological collection of Midleton, as well as many other premium varieties.
While I had two local craft beers to start, along with a “Meat Feast” pizza (pepperoni, spicy beef, cajun chicken, sauce, mozzarella and, at my request, extra garlic.) The locally sourced beers were Yellowbelly Citra and Hopfully Graciosa. Then I tapped into the collection: Midleton Barry Crockett; An Dair Ghaelach Knockrath Forest (22yo, American oak casks plus 2 years in virgin Irish oak); and cask strength (52.6%ABV) Green Spot, Revolution cask, 14yo. My tab was over 100 euros.
Back at the room after a wary walk on dark, damp streets, I backed up my pictures, did some email and folded early after recording 16,314 steps.
After my 7:30 alarm, I was downstairs for the buffet breakfast in 20 minutes, snagging a pastry for the rides as well as getting a banana and yogurt eaten. I checked out, left most of my luggage behind and hefted my backpack off to the bus centre. Getting a TFI card from the tobacco stand, I was stymied at my first attempt to use it (it may have been coded for local use?), but got to ride the 56-seater coach for free.
The second 16-seater bus, from New Ross to Enniscorthy, was a local and didn’t accept the Transport for Ireland card. The two-master was across the road.The third bus took the card, but I was told it had a negative 4,70 euros balance, so I pulled out a 20E note and went positive on my way to Ferns. Somehow, I seem to think I lost 15 euros in fare.
The bus stop at Ferns is at the top of a hill, across from a very modern Catholic church. However, I was looking for the Church of Ireland cathedral, which was down a slight decline, beside a graveyard which included a monastery ruins and round tower, all behind an encircling stone wall.
St Edan Cathedral, despite a sign indicating it would be open every day, was locked. Seemingly two buildings joined at a square tower, the stone blocks looked solid. I had nearly 2 hours planned in Ferns, so after checking every door, I wandered a bit in the graveyard and went to check out the ruins.
With each car pulling into the area by the small entry door, I hoped a local was coming to unlock the building to no avail. With time on my hands, I figured out the optimal shot, which involved exiting the yard and walking about half the length of the wall to the far end by a horse paddock. At least it was a great shot.
The bus stop indicated an earlier bus back to Enniscorthy, so I sat with a pair of locals and 30 minutes later was underway. The bus dropped me across the River Shannon, so I crossed and walked up the hill into the city center and the St Aiden Cathedral.
Roman Catholic, I guessed that incorrectly its patron was the same as my other cathedral that day. Designed by Pugin, it is a handsome building, central spire, with a tall vault lined with clerestory windows. The ribbed vault contrasts with the white of the walls and columns. “Long, narrow, and high” were the catchwords of the architect, setting his design for this cathedral.
The vault below the tower is red and green, with historic stenciling, contrasting the blue between the sanctuary vault’s ribs. A small spired baldachin is set above the tabernacle, which rests on the old high altar. Behind, the reredos features statues of events from the Old Testament. No individual printed guide, positioned around the church were notes addressing the uniqueness of this church.
Blaming timing, I didn’t visit the castle, but rather took the Wexford bus towards Rosslare. I felt that it was better to wait to get on the ferry than to miss it all together. The Wexford leg went smoothly, however, I found the port leg a bit spotty. Finally getting a 29-passenger local service van, we headed down the coast getting me to the terminal about an hour ahead of departure. Once the ferry was ready for foot passengers, a dozen of us were herded out into a small jitney and driven on the ferry. Up three sets of “green” stairs, it was into a lounge very crowded with passengers taking vehicles across to Wales.
Before we left port I sent a text to Tony, the taxi driver who would meet me in Fishguard and then take me to my lodgings, getting a confirmation and assuring me. I tried pushing through emails, but the Stena wifi seem to be slowing usage down and blocking anything remotely questionable. A text email from CruiseCritic (I’d been part of that “rollcall” for several months) indicated the Canadian Covid app wouldn’t be required, but a Covid test was still on the books for my Royal Caribbean cruise in mid-October.
Smooth seas and clear skies were visible out the marred and scuffed windows (making picture taking near futile from inside). Foot passengers were last to be allowed off after the 3.5 hour crossing, and my taxi flashed his lights as the jitney took us to the terminal. Tony agreed to give a woman who’d crossed with me a lift to her parked car, and then for 30 minutes we were on smallish country roads to St Davids. With a fifty-five pound fare, I’d be low on my UK currency, but I figured to find an ATM. The door at St David’s Cross Hotel was locked, but after phoning, I was admitted. In fact, a pair of women who’d arrived soon after me in a hired car also got in. Assigned to room 6, I was up a flight of stairs to drop the backpack, grab my camera, and head out in the dark to see the UK’s smallest city.
I walked down the hill, through a stone arch, and peered at the dimly lighted cathedral down in a valley. I noted a shop had a countdown for Christmas, and stood at the Cross in the square in front of the inn. I looked for a snack, but the only “open” restaurant was finishing up for the evening and denied me entrance. So back to the room and a granola bar, and then I settled in for the night, recording 10,234 steps.
Neglecting to set an alarm, I was still up at 8:30, enjoyed a breakfast of porridge, yogurt and OJ. Leaving my backpack behind the counter after checking out, I headed back down the hill to Church in Wales St David’s Cathedral.
Much larger than I expected, it has a cruciform footprint, is set in a crease on a downward slope (to hide it from observation from the sea), and I found it stunning. The weather was sunny, and I was in enough before the 10am service in the Lady Chapel to get some pictures there. Susan, a woman I’d chatted up while watering the flowers at the square with the Cross, had followed me down and was watering the cut flowers decorating the cathedral interior.
She offered some insight, and when she encountered a friend who is a docent, we were pulled to some of the hidden marvels - the wrapped head, the church mouse. I found green men, and could probably have spent the full day marveling at the vastness of this building. Of note, the last inside arch is pointed, while the remainder are rounded - and that arch is skewed! There are so many small rooms and chapels that I’m sure I missed many.
Outside, the ruins of the bishop’s palace were slightly down the incline. [The floor of the nave has a slope which drops about a foot over its 200-300 foot length.] I’d enjoyed the organist who’d been practicing the first hour of my visit. Back up the stairs and through the arch, I collected my backpack and asked after the bus stop to the port. After a brief 10 minute wait, I was cruising along, taking detours through small towns that the taxi had skipped. Do I love Wales, especially Pembrokeshire!
The bus dropped me a distance from the passenger terminal, so I followed the train spur and arrived with 15 minutes before the check-in cutoff (although I didn’t see it being enforced.) About fourteen foot passengers, we again boarded a jitney before it pulled onto the ferry. I observed fewer westbound passengers than the day earlier, but many more children.
Hungry, I had fish and chips with a Guinness, but skipped the peas and declined an overloaded pile of chips, which were being kept warm with a heat lamp. I chatted with a couple who were traveling with a car, who had been in the cathedral just after me. We shared ideas, and I got a strong recommendation to visit Umbria, and to spend a week in Malta when I explore Italy-plus next year. (God and the Fates willing.)
Arriving in Rosslare enough before 4 allowed me to get the 4pm express bus from the passenger terminal to the riverside in Waterford, rather than several local buses. Back to the Fitzwilton, I was in room #118 this time, with the luggage retrieved from their storage. I headed back to Revolution, as I’d had a good evening there two nights earlier, but Flash and his crew were off, leaving me to a fill-in server. Taking a risk, the bacon cheeseburger came with crispy fries and bacon, a burger reduction; side salad with blue cheese sauce; and a Sullivan’s red ale. Fries were chips (thick) and not really crispy. The salad was greens under chopped up tomatoes, and the sauce lacked blue cheese flavor. A half pint of Guinness to wash away the taste of the poor meal, but I did treat myself to a nightcap of Waterford Whiskey’s Primavera Single Malt. Back to the room, I adjusted the NOWA watch for the second time that day after noting the 10,791 steps.
Something I must have eaten didn’t agree with me, as I had to scamper to the toilet at 4am. As I am a prepared traveler, I took a single antidiarrheal, and was in good order by the time I got up at 9, with no further incidents. Breakfast of eggs, sausage, OJ and a banana. After checking out, 10 minutes later found me at the bus centre, purchasing a ticket for Dungarven, where I’d have a brief period before boarding the next bus for Lismore. On the first leg I caught a view of some sailing boats in the harbor. Approaching the town of Lismore, there was a great view of its castle.
Exiting the bus, I approached the West End Pub to see if they could watch my bags, which they willingly did. The Blessed Virgin Mary and Saint Carthage Cathedral Church is RC and rather stark inside, belying the exterior’s appearance. Tough sight lines, per my notes, I did enjoy the bosses in the vault, with those over the sanctuary being colored. A rood screen was unusual, and the stained glass varied between old and newer.
After lunch I was able to catch the mini-bus service to Fermoy.
Getting directions to both the bus stop I’d need later and to the church, I was next facing finding a place for the bags. At the crossroads, neither bar was open that early in the afternoon. A bit further on, at a pub, the woman barkeep was very willing to keep them, and I headed a bit further down the street to the former Co-cathedral of St Patrick.
It was unlocked, but not as brilliant as the online photos had hinted. The Stations were intriguing, and several of the lights (stained glass windows) were notable. Understandably, I wasn’t able to climb the rear loft. I searched for some indication of its former cathedral status without success, but as I left, a parishioner told me it was a “bishop’s parish”.
Back at The Wagon Tavern, over a Smithwick red, several patrons confirmed it had been a cathedral in the past.
Rolling the bags back to the corners, I waited for a 20-minute late #245 bus to Cork. The driver didn’t recognize Google Map’s stop name, but we were able to determine its location, and he pulled over to let me out. I’d put my bags underneath, but on the driver side, so we had to be cautious of oncoming traffic. Safely on the sidewalk, I was in Cork.