Monday, June 14:  Rock of Cashel

It was a fitful night with everybody’s allergies acting up and the poor ventilation in the room. Breakfast was down the street again, where we had another filling meal -- pancakes with sugar and lemon for the other three, French toast for me (in honor of France’s victory last night?). Checked out, where the clerk tried to give me way too much change, and hired a taxi for the drive to the rental car office.

Processed all the forms and all, making sure I used my Mastercard for the transaction so that we get the insurance covered by the credit card. Visa and American Express have pulled out of the business in Ireland since the claims are so numerous and expensive. Managed to get the manager onto our case with the Holyhead drop-off, no word yet from her on that one. We now are driving a brand-new diesel VW Passat. I like it a little better than the Rover 75, since I’ve yet to kill the engine, so the clutch and gears must be a bit more manageable. The drive away from Dublin was uneventful, except for one extra turn where the road signs and the directions we were given did not jibe. Not sure if Robert noticed.

After about a 2.5 hour drive to Cashel we rounded a turn just outside of town and the Rock and the ruined castle and cathedral came clearly, and prominently, into view. Being early for our B&B and late for lunch, we parked right along Main Street once we spotted Spearman’s Bakery, a Lonely Planet recommendation for a light lunch and a good dessert. Wrong. Only one pre-made sandwich remained. They’d converted to more of a coffee shop two years ago, and the guidebooks haven’t caught up. The owner was helpful, and directed us to Mikey Ryan’s beer garden down the street. Cheap sandwiches, good beer, and a huge, nicely landscaped garden. Right. (Photo 222)

Drove a short distance to Rockville House, where Patrick (“that’s a good man”) Hayes got us squared away in a nice (cool) family room. We are about a 300 yard walk to The Rock, a large abrupt hill in the middle of a small plain, which has been occupied since at least 400 AD. (Photo 221) It was here that St. Patrick converted an Irish king to Christianity in the 500’s and another Irish king was later coronated here. Lots more history this jaded medieval tourist can’t remember for even a few hours. Now there is a wall surrounding the site, ruins of a cathedral, a small Romanesque chapel and a modern (1800’s-present) graveyard. (Photo 220) We wandered the site for a while, then lay on the grass to kill time for the next video presentation in English. It was a good video, I think, though I slept through a fair portion of it. David and I returned to the room, he to type, me to nap. Robert and Pat hit the other big attraction in town, a cultural center just below the Rock.

Dinner was at Hannegan’s, a Lonely Planet recommendation, which Pat had visited a few hours earlier to fulfill a craving for a Guinness. The boys had kid meals, Pat let me have the last chicken curry and she had roast turkey and ham. She got mashed potatoes, I had the best potato salad I’ve ever had, and we still got a basket of french fries to share. Washed it all down with another pint of Guinness each.

It has been a crystal clear, warm day, but on The Rock there had been a steady wind. Now after dinner we wandered up and over towards the ruins of Hore Abbey in a farmer’s field just beyond the base of the Rock. (Photo 219) Footpaths led us there, and there was one interpretive sign out front, but otherwise the ruins were being left to decay some more. Back up over The Rock and we sat on a bench while the boys scrambled over the limestone outcroppings for a while. A woman in a small econo-box drove up the road, then began to back down the dead-end stretch in front of us that stopped at the gate of the castle. She drifted onto the grass, we presumed in hopes of parking the car there, but it soon became clear she was about to back onto a large rock and get hung-up on it, so we motioned for her to stop. Then she couldn’t seem to find first gear to get going again. I tried talking her out of the jam, telling her which way to go. Another fellow joined me, and soon he was into the car trying to drive it out since I’d declined to get behind the wheel and it was clear she was only going to make matters worse. The front wheel on the shoulder-side of the car was right on a hunk of smooth rock, so that wheel kept spinning, while the other front wheel kept sinking lower on the pavement. Soon the front wheel was clear of the rock, but was also hanging about 3 inches above ground. The driver opened the door, I stood on the running board and rocked the car up and down until it screeched with traction on the pavement and very nearly threw me off. It was not unlike getting a car unstuck in the snow. He got the car turned around for her, since she was visibly shaken by the whole ordeal, and she coasted downhill and parked it.

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Photo 222  Mikey Ryan’s, Cashel
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Photo 223  Dingle Streetscape