17.09.2012 - 21.09.2012
Tipperary was our first destination on this trip. In order to see as much of Ireland as possible, we preferred to travel through the smaller towns rather than the often more direct national roads and motorways, trusting TimTam (our GPS!!) to assist us. However, as 'he' preferred to take us via the major roads, we countered this by plotting the towns as we went on the roads we wanted to travel. However, we still had to check our map, which was far from ideal as it didn't give enough detail on the smaller 'B' roads. At one point I thought I knew where we were but couldn't correlate the map with the road we were on. Eventually I realised that Timmy had taken us out of our way and on a different road altogether. I know it is a long way to Tipperary, but I think on this occasion Timmy must have been on the Guinness.
We finally made it to 'Tipp Town' as the locals call it - cold, wet, 14degC - but perfect for lunch at the local. After lunch we went for a short walk down the main street (in the rain), but it was too uncomfortable so we continued on our way. But I was very pleased to be able to say that I've been there. Timmy must have recovered as we found our B&B in Clonmel without further trouble.
Next day, the Rock of Cashel
This is a spectacular group of medieval buildings set on an massive outcrop of limestone. The majority of buildings on the current site date from the 12th and 13th centuries. Few remnants of the earlier structures survive.
The buildings which remain include Cormac's Chapel, St Patrick's Cathedral, The Hall of the Vicars Choral and The Round Tower. Cormac's Chapel, begun in 1127 and consecrated in 1134, is the most important, historically and architecturally. The frescoes in Cormac's Chapel, which are the oldest Romanesque wall paintings in Ireland, were covered with whitewash at the Reformation (16thC) and remained hidden until the 1980s. Extensive remains of paintwork were also found on the south wall showing part of a scene depicting the baptism of Christ.
A wall surrounds the entire plateau on which the buildings and graveyard lie. Initially important as a fortress, it was the traditional seat of the kings of Munster, and its origins as a centre of power go back to 4th or 5th centuries. Its history is filled with political intrigue. In 1101 the then King, gave the Rock of Cashel to the church thus enhancing his own position and depriving his enemies, the original owners, of the opportunity to take it back. In 1111 it was set up as one of the main dioceses of the church, and in the early 12th century the Rock began to be developed into a major Christian center.
Notice the arch in the first pic .. it is positioned off-centre. Our tour guide couldn't give an explanation why it was built this way .. design fault, incompetent builder!!! but I think it adds interest.
The buildings have been built at different times over centuries. The earliest is the round tower, rising 28m high it dates from shortly after 1100. St Patrick's Cathedral was built in the 13thC and remained in use until 1748. The Hall of the Vicars Choral, built in the 15thC century was restored in 1975 and is now used as the information and entrance centre to the complex. The vaulted undercroft beneath the hall contains a collection of stone sculpture mostly from the Rock.
The grounds around the buildings are home to an extensive graveyard. A ballot was used to draw the names of local residents who wished to be buried in the grounds. Only a few were lucky as there are only a small number of sites remaining.
Another interesting item is 'St Patrick's Cross' (12thC). The original cross, now quite weathered and damaged, was carved from sandstone. It was moved inside in the 1970s to protect it from weather damage. A concrete replica now stands in the place of the original. I think the Irish High Crosses are beautiful and I was on a mission to find the oldest and most beautiful during our trip.
TimTam did an excellent job taking us through the Dublin traffic and we arrived at our B&B quite easily. Our main reason for coming to Dublin was a visit to Trinity College, specifically to see the 'Book of Kells' exhibition in Trinity College Library. We arrived early (an excellent strategy if you wish to get in before the hoards!!) and it was fun to watch the students setting up stalls and clowning around - I think it must have been 'O' Week. Universities definitely have a great vibe.
Unfortunately no photos or video were allowed so I cannot show you the beauty of this exhibition, but I have to say this is one of the most exciting and spectacular exhibitions I have seen.
The Book of Kells is a manuscript which contains the four Gospels of the New Testament. Written in Latin, on vellum (prepared calfskin), it is an 'illuminated manuscript', which means that the text is supplemented by the addition of decoration. Probably produced in the early 9thC by the monks at a monastery on the Scottish island of Iona, and continued after fleeing to Kells, Ireland, some time after 806AD when attacked by Vikings which left 68 of their community dead.
The illustrations and decorations are beautiful, depicting human figures, animals and mythical beasts, together with Celtic knots and interlacing patterns in vibrant colours. The complexity of the images, the artistic talent of the monks and the beautiful colours are mind blowing. It is hard to comprehend how they were physically able to sit for long periods, and maintain concentration and steadiness of hand to complete these beautiful intricate designs.
To quote from Wikipedia: "The illustrations and ornamentation of the Book of Kells surpass that of other Insular Gospel books in extravagance and complexity." Widely considered to be Ireland's finest national treasure, over 500,000 people visit the exhibition each year.
The Book of Kells remained in Kells until 1654. In that year, Cromwell's cavalry was quartered in the church at Kells, and the governor of the town sent the book to Dublin for safekeeping. It was presented to Trinity College in 1661. In 1953 the manuscripts were rebound into the four volumes that it is today. The exhibition displays two volumes at a time on rotation, one opened to display a major decorated page, and one to show two pages of script.
I thought this exhibition was exceptional, more from an artistic rather than a religious perspective. The highlight of our trip.
Have a look at the Wikipedia site to see examples of the illustrations in the book. You won't be disappointed - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Book_of_Kells
The Book of Kells exhibition is housed in Trinity College Library, a tour of which is included in the entrance fee. The main part of the library, The Long Room, is amazing. 65m in length, with two stories, it houses over 200,000 of the library's oldest books. Other items of interest in the Long Room is an exceptional collection of marble busts of famous people, one of the few remaining copies of the 1916 Proclamation of the Irish Republic, a beautiful old harp (the oldest of its kind in Ireland dating from the 15thC), and many magnificent original books on display, such as the first Bible ever printed in England. Oscar Wilde and Jonathan Swift, along with many other notables, studied here.
It is hard to explain the beauty of this room, so those of you who are bibliophiles have a look at the picture on this site: http://kimbofo.typepad.com/readingmatters/2009/08/a-visit-to-the-long-room.html
We also had a quick visit to Dublin Castle, which really wasn't a castle but more a collection of government buildings which include the State Apartments. We were only interested in a visit to the Chapel Royal which was, unfortunately, closed for renovations. However we had a wonderful vegan meal at The Silk Road cafe in the Chester Beatty Library which was delicious.
After a brief visit to Temple Bar (just to say we've been), we went to Ryans for dins, part of the F.X.Buckley Grill group, a family of butchers who have taken their steaks into a chain of restaurants. Ryans is a quality restaurant above the bar, however there was not a lot for me on the menu, I explained that I was vegan and asked if the chef could put something together. I was thrilled to receive a delicious, beautifully presented meal specially prepared for me. It was very much appreciated and enjoyed.
Unfortunately we only had one full day in Dublin ... next stop the Wicklow mountains.