Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Ireland - June 2016 - Part 7

June 11th - DAY 7. Sunshine this morning! So exciting to look out and see sun on the green fields across our little bay! Today we would be checking out and moving on, so while Celebsul took her morning bath, I set out for one last meander around Castle Townshend. 

There's a hill just above our cottage and the main house with the church at one and a walking path to the top. In times past, the family of the great house had built a couple stone follies, one called Swift Tower and the other Brian's Fort. As I tramped a mowed path amongst overgrown ivy and old trees to the bit of sunny meadow on top, I pictured Victorian ladies in their summer gowns going up to have a picnic, or perhaps enjoy a little afternoon flirtation with their gentlemen suitors. Trees blocked most of the view but there was one space where I could see across the inlet to boats at anchor and an ivy-covered medieval tower. Meanwhile the neighboring cows grazed in the sunshine and ignored me altogether.

Bidding Castletownshend farewell, we took the N71 in the other direction, making a quick stop at Bandon before heading catching the N25 for points northeast. Through the broad, beautiful harbor of Dungarvan to the gentle green country near Dun Ross we passed, and there turned south. Once again we gravitated to the sea, passing signs to the John F Kennedy Family Homestead. Our first destination today was Dunbrody Abbey below New Ross near Arthurstown.

Wow, what a find. Plunked in the middle of some cow pasture, the abbey sprawled in ruined splendor, like something from a movie. And indeed, I saw mention that some filming had been done there. Best of all, once we figured out admittance and got a key to open the gate, we saw nobody there. Tourists instead congregated at the other ruins of ____ where they had a maze for kids to play in, a popular spot judging by the squeals of laughter wafting over the wall. We left them to their noise and set out down the long path, the ruins waiting silent and peaceful and holy.

It truly was magnificent. A herd of Holstein weaner calves dozed in the warm sun while crows and rooks wheeled above the broken walls. Once inside the wrought iron gate, soaring arches bent high overhead while ornately carved stone windows opened to empty blue sky. Wildflowers found niches in the broken-jawed walls and gangs of crows wheeled raucously above. It was a place of such perfect peace, warm and holy and kind.

Then in the most wonderful chance of timing and location that I may have ever known, I saw striding out the long lane to the abbey ... a monk. I mean a real, genuine monk dressed in full habit: long grey robes, a beaded cross at his belt and sandals with socks on his feet. He was a big man, too, well over six feet and solidly built, wearing a big gray beard. I spoke to him and he replied pleasantly, but Celebsul and I stayed out of his way. We soon left him there among the ghosts and left him to his musings in that holy place.

Our next stop was nearby Tintern Abbey, named after the majestic Tintern Abbey in Wales that I fell in love with some years ago. We found this Tintern to be a smaller and a much lesser place, once-holy ground that had been converted to a house in the 1600s. It now stands in a curious state of preservation, halfway between living quarters and monastic ruin. The remaining tower held interesting displays and we took tea at the shop downstairs. But there were quite a number of people and children about, so it held not at all the reverent hush of Dunbrody.

From there we headed out to our lodgings for the night at Glendine House B&B of Arthurstown.
http://glendinehouse.com/ A Georgian manor just on the edge of town, along with a garden and broad lawns they had an enclosure of pet deer and another of Highland cows. This place was definitely a long step up from our self-catered cottage. The owner/hostess, Ann Crosbie, greeted us graciously and when we saw our room - wow. I felt positively noble! Once settled in, we asked about places for dinner and she told us about a local pub conveniently named The Local. She drove us there and told us we could either walk back or call for a lift.

The Local was a curious little place tucked away up a lane behind the Dunbrody Country House Hotel. The pub appeared to have been built in a farmer's stable or machine shed. One end of the room still had the original sliding door that once led out into the barnyard - and out the back windows was still parked farm equipment! I'd be curious to know if the proprietor leased the place or of an enterprising farmer simply diversified. Anyhow, it seemed well-populated and the food smelled good. The menu was basic but my fish and chips came wrapped in newsprint paper, like it should be, and the portions were HUGE. Celebsul had a burger as I recall, but at any rate, it was filling and satisfying and a good end to our day.

We walked back to Glendine House under gray skies and after sorting out the password (or lack thereof) for the house internet, we tucked ourselves in for the night. As we each had a nightcap the rain began to fall and we drifted off to the whisper of pouring rain outside.


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