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SE Ireland


April 4th, 2022

We drove to the town of Greystones where we had an oil change appointment the next day first thing in the morning.  We stopped in to see confirm that our Minou would fit inside their garage.  It was all good and we went to find a parking spot on Marine Drive for the night where there were pay public toilets.  Turned out we could never get the latter to work after paying twice so we gave up.  It was pretty windy on the shore and the beach was kind of nice but the weather was not great with strong winds.  We wandered the town a bit and checked out the beach.

That night due to the wind we had trouble keeping the furnace running as the pilot light kept going out.  (Next day we put some tape over ¾ of the vent and that helped.  Phew!)

We were at the garage on time and were able to sit in the waiting area using Wi-Fi.  This allowed us to begin making arrangements to return to Canada for Fran’s mother’s funeral.  Fran had had a conversation with her sisters Monday night and on Tuesday, Cynthia had met with the funeral home and both Fran and her other sister were on the phone during that meeting to begin organizing things.  Since both Fran and her sister do not live near Mom and Cynthia, we thought the third week of April would be best for the services etc. as there was no rush due to mom’s wishes to be cremated.

After the vehicle was done we went to do laundry, grocery shop and have showers before heading about 45 km/ 27 miles down the coast to Arklow for the night.

Enroute we visited Ireland’s oldest hotel, The Woodenbridge, where we had an early happy hour enjoying a Guinness Hop House 13 at the bar.

We parked at the free harbour parking lot in Arklow right by the water and it again was a very gusty night.  While parked we realized we had not picked our package that we’d had sent to the garage for us – it was some E-sim cards to help us with data plans in the future.  Dang.  Our OnePlus 8T phones have dual sims so there is no e-sim capability. We wondered why the manager had not mentioned as tracking showed they had arrived and it was delivered before they opened into their mail box.  We emailed them and James got back to Fran and said no it had arrived so when she said the tracking shows it had, he went to check again and it turns out the package was black and was sitting at the bottom of the black mail box out of his line of sight!  So next morning our first destination was to go back to the garage and get that.  Done.

We have booked flights back to Canada for April 12th, and have sorted out where to park Minou and how to pay for that.  We have just five days before flying and we’ve mapped out a route based on things we wanted to see during the time before our flight.  We headed south to see one of the world’s oldest lighthouse at Hook Head.  Built in the twelfth century!

The Hook Lighthouse is a unique example of an almost intact medieval lighthouse.  It was built in the early 13th century and continues to service its original function.  It is believed to be one of the oldest operational lighthouses in the world.  It is four stories high (36 m)  and it has walls almost 4m thick.  IT was constructed of local limestone. 

There was a couple of spots near the lighthouse where we could park for the night but the wind was super gusty here on the end of a peninsula right by the sea so we decided to go further north to a visitor’s centre near an abbey.  Turns out the visitors centre wasn’t open but much of the abbey was and the parking lot was big enough and level that we stayed.  It was still quite windy but  not as bad as we figured the lighthouse area would have been.  The weather today seemed to change on a dime, sun for a bit, cloud for a bit, sprinkles and showers – a real mixed bag.

On Thursday we drove the Copper Coast Trail which highlights geological features of southern Ireland.  Before reaching the trail, we visited Waterford to see the Viking tower called Reginald.  This was believed to have first been built in 914AD by Ragnal (aka Reginald) and has since been added to over the centuries.

Reginald’s Tower is the only monument in Ireland named in honour of a Viking – thought to be the founder of the city.  Naturally it has a long and sordid history including the execution of two Vikings at this location; Prince john of England landed here in 1185 and organized the rebuilding of the city; the tower at one time contained a mint; it has been used as a prison and a munitions storehouse and more.

We also took a walk around the “Viking Triangle”  – the old core of the village.

Driving south, we passed the famous Waterford Crystal factory but did not visit it; Fran was there in 2008 and Doug was not really interested.

The Copper Coast road begins in Tramore and runs towards Dungarvan.  This was pretty interesting, for Doug especially.

460 millions years of geology at Kilfarrasy Beach

And then Dunabrattin Head also 460 million years old

Kilmurrin Cove with its volcanic rocks

A Cornish winding engine house from the mid 19th century

The final stop was the Geological garden at Bonmahon (turns out the Visitor’s Centre is closed due to COVID and not opening until the summer) that took us on a walk through time:

We ended in the town of Dungarvan at a motorhome parking spot on the sea which offers water and dumping for €10 a night.  There were a few other RV’s parked there as well and the spacing was not confining.  We took a walk to visit the castle and see some of the town but when it began raining returned to Minou – today’s weather was “four season in one day” like the lady at the petrol station said.

our camp spot view
Dungarvon Castle

It was still pretty windy but not as bad as the previous couple of nights and we had no rocking of the vehicle and no issues with the furnace.  It was a nice view and a super quiet night.

Thursday morning we awoke to sunshine and spent the morning doing errands and things online.  After we had brunch, we made our way north and inland to Kilkenny.  We had found a private parking lot on one of our apps that had dumping and water access and seemed safe for €10 a night.  It was right in town right next to a municipal parking lot.  The fellow who owns the property has a huge gravel lot where you can park and then through a gate you can access black and grey dumping sites (although while we were there the grey was not accessible due to some scaffolding set up) and there’s a fresh water tap.  You put your €10 in an envelope and drop it in his post box slot.  Easy peasy.  We went for a bit of a walk and upon returning an Irish couple had also arrived (later that night 3 more motorhomes also came).  We had a very quiet safe night and next morning we went for a walk in the town.

We visited a few medieval sites:

St. Canice’s Cathedral

The present building dates from the 13th century and is the second longest cathedral in Ireland, after St. Patrick’s in Dublin. Beside the cathedral stands a 100 ft 9th-century round tower. St Canice’s tower is an example of a well-preserved 9th-century “Celtic Christian” round tower. It is one of only three such medieval round towers in Ireland that can still be climbed to the top. The cathedral stands on the site of a Celtic Christian monastery  said to have been founded in the sixth century by St. Canice as a daughter house of Aghaboe Abbey. Following the English Reformation, the reformed church in Ireland was established by decree of the Irish Parliament to become the state church as the Church of Ireland taking possession of most church property (and so retaining a great repository of religious architecture and other items, though some were later destroyed).

The substantial majority of the population, however, remained faithful to Roman Catholicism, despite the political and economic advantages of membership in the state church. Since St Canice’s Cathedral was taken over in this way, Roman Catholic adherents were consequently obliged to worship elsewhere. St Mary’s Cathedral in Kilkenny was later built for the Roman Catholic diocese.

The cathedral contains some 16th-century monuments. The architectural style of the cathedral is Early Gothic and is built of limestone. It is richly endowed with many stained glass windows, including the East window which is a replica of the original 13th-century window. The cathedral contains some of the finest 16th-century monuments in Ireland.

The old city walls

The Black Abbey

The Black Abbey of Kilkenny, Ireland, is a Catholic priory of the Dominican Order, dedicated to the Holy and Undivided Trinity. The Black Abbey was established in 1225 as one of the first houses of the Dominican Order in Ireland

The history of the Black Abbey is marked by several reversals of fortune under different governments.

The name Black Abbey derives from the use of the term “Black Friars” to describe members of the Order. This in turn derives from the black cappa or cloak which Dominicans wear over their white habits.

In 1349, the community within the priory was affected by the outbreak of bubonic plague.  Eight members of the community died in three months. After the plague years, very few structural changes were carried out at the priory up until the end of 15th century. In 1558, Ireland was under the rule of England and the property of the priory was confiscated by the crown. Queen Elizabeth I died in 1603, but the policies of the new Protestant King, James I, did not change: the priory became a courthouse, and the Dominicans were forced to leave and find places to stay in other houses.

From 1642 to 1649, Black Abbey played a major part in attempting to save both the Irish Catholic religion and the king, Charles I of England and of Ireland; the abbey hosted the government known as the Irish Catholic Confederation. This effort did not last long however. In March 1650, the English army under the command of Oliver Cromwell surrounded Kilkenny in a siege. Many people died from epidemic and hunger, many more fled before the city finally surrendered.

From 1685 to 1689 under the rule of the Catholic king  James II, the abbey flourished, but in 1690, under the rule of the Protestant King William III, both Kilkenny and the abbey were once again occupied by the English.

By 1776, the community of the Black Abbey was close to zero, but starting in that year, the Dominicans retook possession of the abbey, first by renting it. In 1816, Black Abbey was restored as a Dominican priory, and the first public mass was held on 25 September 1816. On Trinity Sunday, 22 May 1864, Black Abbey was reconsecrated by the bishop, and was finally opened again as a house of prayer.

The Castle

Kilkenny Castle was built in  1195 to control a fording-point of the River Nore and the junction of several routeways. It was a symbol of Norman occupation and in its original thirteenth-century condition it would have formed an important element of the defenses of the town with four large circular corner towers and a massive ditch, part of which can still be seen today on the Parade.  The property was transferred to the people of Kilkenny in 1967 for £50 and the castle and grounds are now managed by the Office of Public Works. The gardens and parkland adjoining the castle are open to the public. The Parade Tower is a conference venue.

After eating some brunch we dumped the black tank and had a longish drive up to Athlone which is located right about in the middle of Ireland.  Here we’d also found a 24hr parking lot but this was a municipal one; you pay max €3 a day, nights are free as are Sundays so for €3 we parked from Saturday afternoon to Monday morning! There were no services but we are pretty self-reliant and all went well. There was some coming and going of cars but never noisy and we were left alone.

We went to the oldest pub in the world for happy hour:  Sean’s Bar established in 900AD!  See photo at the top of the page.

Sean’s Pub dates back to 900 AD.  It was original known as The Three Blackamoor Heads.  During renovations in 1970 the walls of the bar were found to be made of wattle and wicker dating back to the ninth century!  Old coins were also found which confirmed this date. 

a piece of the original wall

The bartender was quite friendly and we enjoyed our drinks and the atmosphere with music in the background.  We have begun eating food that could perish while we’re gone so the next couple of days worth of meals will be a mish mash.  Tonight it was half a loaf of multi grain French bread, some remaining cheese, some sliced deli ham, hummus and crackers with chocolate cookies for dessert.

Sunday, we awoke to cloudy and cooler weather once again; the wind was back.  Doug went for a run and after tea we went for a short walk to see the castle and a bit of the town.  Fran then went for a longer walk to get her steps but added a few layers which made a big difference.

Since all the hikes we did in Wales, her right knee has been pretty bad but yesterday she tried some Voltaren and it helped some so she did that again today and it helped again; doesn’t completely take the pain away but then hardly anything ever does. We spent another quiet night at the parking lot and then drove towards Dublin on Monday.

We stopped at a rest area to dump our WC and found a hot shower in the handicapped bathroom so we took advantage.  We have booked parking at the Red Cow park and ride for the next three weeks so that was our destination today and we trust the Minou will be fine with CCTV around while we are in Canada.