We left Dublin in a rental car. We wanted to visit two places near Limerick that DH and I had visited in 2002 when we had spent a week in Ireland with baby Fiercely. The first of these was Clonmacnoise, above, an ancient monastery. It was built in the sixth century AD and served as a pilgrimage site for many years for scholars visiting the monastery. It is part of the pilgrim paths of Ireland, many of which are now bicycling and hiking paths. As with many places in Ireland, it was attacked repeatedly by Vikings, Normans, English, and other invaders who removed its treasures such as illuminated texts and religious objects made of gold and jewels. The stone walls of several structures remain, as do grave sites and a path used by pilgrims. It is on a hill overlooking a lake. We have told Fiercely about this place her whole life because she fell on the stone steps here in 2002 when she was a toddler. She has a tiny scar on the bridge of her nose from this fall and has always found it interesting and possibly significant (a la Harry Potter) since it came from a medieval monastery in Ireland. We spent some time trying to figure out exactly which steps caused her scar. Indoors, there is a small museum with several high crosses (top photo above shows an example that remains outdoors) and other carved stones. A life-sized diorama in the museum shows what the stone carving process probably looked like. Unlike many things we saw in Ireland, Clonmacnoise had not changed much in 14 years. Here is Truly rolling down a hill and some stone steps where Fiercely may have tripped:
We also stopped nearby to see the Clonfinlough Stone, which has carvings that may date to Christian pilgrims heading to Clonmacnoise in the 9th to 12th centuries. It was in a beautiful location:
That might we stayed in a town called Bodyke in a golf resort, of all places. They had some kind of rental deal which was very affordable and we had a large, two-story house to ourselves that night. We did not stay long to enjoy it, however, since we had plans the next day.
We visited Bunratty Castle and folk park (above) which has many examples of Irish buildings through the ages. There are rural thatched roof buildings, a recreation of a Main Street, a foundry, and a fisherman’s house to name a few. Some of these are actual homes and buildings that were moved to the site, including a church that was relocated there stone by stone. There are also playgrounds, goats and chickens, extensive gardens, and the castle itself. The grounds are over 25 acres and feel even larger. Although it is a popular stop on the tour bus route, it does not feel crowded because it is so spread out. This was the second place we re-visited after 14 years and it has changed significantly, adding several buildings and opening more of the castle to visitors. Next we were off to the southern “Copper Coast”. It turned out to be one of our favorite places of the whole 20+ country trip!