Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Whiskey Rocks - or Rather, Seeing the Rock and Drinking Some Whiskey

Our first tourist site to visit was the Rock of Cashel, which oddly, is actually a big, ruined church. I suppose the actual Rock is the big hill the church stands on, but these days, the Rock of Cashel refers to the actual ruins. This place (the rock, not the church) was the seat of the old kings of Ireland for about 800 years, but as there was loads of clan warfare, Murtagh O'Brien handed the rock over to the church about 1100. What happens when you give really good stuff to the church? Influence. Smarty O'Brien landed himself power within the church AND kept his land out of the hands of his main rival. My favorite description of him is this phrase from Wikipedia: "self-declared High King of Ireland." I just love declaring oneself the High King, or Queen, as it were. I'll have to keep this practice in mind.

Rock of Cashel has some beautiful ruins, set atop a hill and visible for miles.  The cathedral has an arched ceiling in places, and in others, open sky. It's rose window frame makes a filigree against the sky, and it's graveyard is filled with Celtic crosses over the scattered graves. This was our first look at a gathering of the Celtic crosses, and what an evocative sight! Standing on the Rock, with the crosses surrounding us, we were buffeted by the wind as we looked out over the brilliant, green countryside and the storm clouds rolled in. But in a race to get to Old Midleton Distillery, down in County Cork, before the final tour of the day, we didn't have time to sit and reflect, or even stop for a little pot of tea, which we quickly found to be quite restorative in our rushed days. The town of Cashel itself looked so charming, and I found out on our return to Italy and after a conversation with my sister that Cashel was one of her favorite towns as a study abroad student a few years ago.
One happy guy
The Old Midleton Distillery was great fun. We arrived just in time for the second to last tour (which turned out to be vital since that meant time for a little taste test and shopping at the end) and got to see things like the oldest, copper still in the world (holds over 30,000 gallons). This distillery once made Paddy's Whiskey, but when the company merged with Jameson's in the 1970s, the distillery was closed and operations moved right next door. Now, every single drop of Jameson's in the entire world is produced at the next door facility. Pretty cool, as was our sample at the end.
Aging Whiskey
We quickly realized that this trip needed to be an overview tour, and one day, we'll have to return to Ireland for a longer period of exploration. Every single day brought new places in which there was never enough time to see and do it all...but boy did we try.


  1. Stephanie - Just remember ... in order to declare yourself the High Queen, you need to have a really cool tiara. I sure do enjoy reading about your travels - Leeanne

  2. Don't worry, I already have my tiara. I wear it on my birthdays, but it's ready and waiting for any other potential extravaganzas. And in case that's not enough, I got myself a sweet "hat on a headband" while in Ireland. It's a humongous, beige flower. I may or may not post a photo.