Friday, July 5, 2013 @ 10:10 pm from Ireland
I spent pretty much the entire day today (10:30am-7:30pm) on buses or in bus stations. I had to take a bus from Kilkenny to Cork, then from Cork to Tralee and finally from Tralee to Dingle. The views along the way were absolutely amazing. The Dingle Peninsula is absolutely gorgeous with mountains, sheep grazing areas and farms. These are the kinds of landscapes you see when you see photos of Ireland. Green as far as the eye can see.
I finally made it to Dingle and checked into the Hideout Hostel then set about finding some food. I had fish-n-chips #2 and was still let down a bit unfortunately. I'm not sure what the deal is. The guy even battered and fried everything in front of me. It was just lacking some kind of flavor.
After that I came back to the hostel and did an hour or so of work. Now I'm going to head out and see if I can find some live music. It is Friday night after all! Also, 10:00pm is "early" in Ireland I've noticed for Friday night's. I'm not used to this...
Thursday, July 4, 2013 @ 04:37 pm from Ireland
Last night walked around and couldn't find anything worth listening to as far as live music was concerned so I came back to the hostel. I started talking to some of my bunkmates and it turns out two of the girls were from Australia and were a month into their year long backpacking trip. We met up with a couple other people from the hostel and went out in search of music again. We ended up finding a Trad band with some Irish dancers at a pub and watched them for a while. Afterwards I came back and went to bed. I knew today was going to be a long day of hiking so I wanted to get a good night's sleep.
Yesterday I was at the tourist office and found a map of all the hiking trails around Kilkenny. There was an 11km (6.8mi) hike (one-way) that started about 2 miles from the hostel. The trail is called the Nore Valley Walk and follows the River Nore down to Bennettsbridge. Along the way there were old abandoned mills and quarries used to mine all the limestone found in Kilkenny.
The map showed a way to cross over to the trail from my side of the river but it ended up being a little less clear than I had expected. I ended up doing an extra mile or so backtracking and navigating over a huge bridge. There were some nice views of the valley from the top of the bridge though.
The weather on the hike today was great. There were some clouds but it was mixed with long spots of sunshine. I didn't need a jacket today either and was actually getting a little warm in my hiking pants.
After the first part of the trail where I had an issue finding it, the trail was very well marked and went through a lot of fields and grazing land for cattle. I saw a heron and some swans hanging out in the river too. It took me about 2.5 hours to make it to Bennettsbridge from the time I left Kilkenny. I was able to get through the entire Mumford and Sons Babel album and the entire M83 Hurry Up We're Waiting album on the way there. I wasn't really walking too fast and was stopping to take photos too. The bridge in Bennettsbridge looks nice so I stopped there for a few photos.
I had packed a sandwich so I hiked into town and ate in a park. On the way out of town I was craving something else so I stopped into a local convenience store and bought an Aero mint candy bar. Not being someone who eats much sweets, it was pretty good!
The way back ended up being about 30 minutes faster. I guess I had upped my pace and was full and re-energized from lunch. After I got back to town I made my way back to the hotel to give my feet a rest. All in all I think I did about 15 or so miles today. My legs feel pretty good... probably from all the walking I've been doing over the last week.
Tonight I'll head out again to try to find some music and probably have another pint. There won't be any fireworks here tonight for the 4th. Maybe I'll run into another American or two I can say happy 4th to! I've still got to figure out what I want to do about dinner. I had some spicy cajun red bean stew last night at a pub and it ended up being really good! Tomorrow I get on a bus and head to the Dingle Peninsula for a couple of nights.
Bennett's Bridge in Bennettsbridge
Wednesday, July 3, 2013 @ 07:28 pm from Ireland
Last night I got lucky and stumbled across some local musicians practicing songs in a local pub. It was fairly empty since they were doing an impromptu jam session so I was able to get front row seats. I watched them play for a couple hours over a couple pints.
This morning I started my tour of Kilkenny by walking down to the Kilkenny Castle and walking around the gardens and park area. The castle looked really neat and had the River Nore along one side. After the castle I walked along the river for a bit then came back and zig zagged through the city seeing the various old buildings. Some of the sights were The Black Abbey, St. Canice's Cathedral, St. Mary's Cathedral, Tholsel, County Hall and parts of the original wall surrounding the city.
Kilkenny is known as the "Marble City" due to its polished limestone that looks like marble. All of the limestone was quarried locally and I plan on walking by the old quarry tomorrow on a 12 mile round trip hike that will take me by the river and by some old mills and church ruins to another city southwest of Kilkenny called Bennettsbridge.
I originally had tonight as my last night in Kilkenny but decided to stay another night so I could do this river hike. I'd been thinking about heading to Killarney next to see some of the Ring of Kerry (a 179 km loop in southwest Ireland with beautiful views along the way). Unfortunately I forgot what day of the week it is and I tried booking a hostel for Friday and Saturday nights but every one of them was booked. I had to adjust my destination a bit and instead I'm going to Dingle in the Dingle Peninsula on Friday and I'll be staying there Friday and Saturday nights.
Dingle is a small fishing town but it's surrounded by some really nice mountains and islands. There's a "Mount Brandon" there so I want to see if I can hike it or at least part of it! After Dingle I'll start my journey northward and work to hit the Cliffs of Moher and then Galway.
It's still pretty early (almost 7:30pm) so I might try to hunt down some more live music in a bit. Everything was really dead when I was walking around the town a little while ago.
The Tholsel - Built in 1765
Kilkenny Castle - Built in 1195
St. Canice's Cathedral - Built in 13th century
Tuesday, July 2, 2013 @ 07:05 pm from Ireland
I arrived in Dublin during a downpour and left Dublin during a downpour. Fortunately I only had some rare light showers during most of my stay there and it hadn't started raining yet when I left for the bus station. I did most of my packing and organizing last night so this morning all I had to do was eat breakfast and take off.
The bus terminal was a short walk from my hostel and I made it there around 9:30am. Unfortunately I didn't realize there was also a 9:30 bus but I was just a few minutes late for it. I ended up hanging out at the bus station until 11:30 when the bus I originally planned on was set to leave. By the time I was getting on the bus it was raining pretty hard. I thought for sure I'd be in the rain all the way to Kilkenny but fortunately it let up by the time I got about 45 minutes outside of town.
It was still very overcast by the time I got to Kilkenny so I made my way to the hostel to get checked in and drop off my pack. It ended up being about a 20 minute walk through town from the bus station but it wasn't too bad. I got to the hostel and checked in and set off to explore a little bit.
On my way into town I passed by the Smithwick's Brewery Tour at the St. Francis Abbey brewery. For 10 euros I got a 1 hour guided tour through the facility and the old St. Francis Abbey. Afterwards I got a complimentary pint of Smithwick's Pale Ale.
Most of the brewing is done off location at the St. James Gate (Guinness brewery) in Dublin. They said that they're going to finally halt all production here by the end of the year and take everything down. I'm glad I was able to see the tour while it was still up and running.
It was about dinner time when I got out of the tour. I saw a Turkish Kebab place when I was walking around earlier so I thought I'd give that a shot. I was craving something filling and cheap and this definitely hit the spot. I had a mix of lamb and chicken and they also served it with some sauces, onions, cabbage and lettuce. It was a huge amount but I ate the whole thing.
The weather looks a little iffy so I might just stay in at the hostel tonight. Kilkenny is definitely more laid back than Dublin was and I don't really see there being too much happening on a random Tuesday night. The hostel also seems pretty empty but so far the majority of the people staying here seem to be Americans.
I booked this hostel for 2 nights but might extend my stay here after hearing about how I can rent a bike and ride out of the town a bit to see some sights.
Busaras Terminal in Dublin
Kilkenny Castle and River Nore
Pint of Smithwick's after the brewery tour