Ireland is the living, breathing definition of the word “enchanting.” Just look at the scene above if you have any doubt. (Truth be told I was in such a state of euphoria that I first thought the white horse might be a unicorn.)
Okay, let’s get back to reality, and the two day, three county tour. Here’s day two.
County Kilkenny is known for crafts…in fact, there’s even a “Kilkenny Craft Trail” which leads you in and around the various potters and glassblowers and weavers studios. Not far from our home base, the Inn at Ballilogue Clochán, is Thomastown, where one of my favorite craftspeople, Karen Morgan, has her studio and shop. Look at the graceful shapes of her porcelain, glazed in a color palette of watery blue and green, and creamy white.
Karen’s studio is at the back of the shop, so you can see her at work.
Just around the corner is the chocolate shop, The Truffle Fairy…you can’t miss it, and you won’t want to.
Gorgeous is the name of this home accessories / gift shop on Pipe Street. Love the name, and I drooled at the window because it was closed when we were there.
As luck would have it, they have a website, gorgeousgiftsandinteriors.com, and here’s one of the multitude of cool products they sell. It’s a clever vase that has a glass sphere inside with four different size holes, so you can make four different size arrangements…and it’s a great objet d’art when it’s empty!
Eddie Murphy has a pub here, but I’m pretty sure it’s not the Eddie Murphy.
Straw hats hang outside the door of Simon Treacy’s Hardware.
Time it so you’re here for lunch…the Blackberry Café serves up delicious homemade soups and salads, and mile-high chocolate cake.
There’s a crumbling castle on the way out of town, and yet another white horse…this girl is feeding him breath mints. (I didn’t ask any questions.)
Just outside the village is Jerpoint Abbey, from the 12th century. It is famous for its unique stone carvings, which I’m sure are amazing…but with two days and many things to see, some things had to be missed, and we had to be satisfied with doing a drive-by.
Next on the craft trail is the Jerpoint Glass Studio. If you are familiar with Simon Pearce glassware (which had its start, by the way, in a studio in Kilkenny), then you’ll know about the gorgeous, heavy, hand-blown glassware that is produced here.
There’s two guys working in the studio…they both learned the art of glassblowing simply as a job to do. It is endlessly fascinating to me how glass can be melted, manipulated, and blown into shapes.
Next stop, pottery. About halfway between Thomastown and Kilkenny is Nicholas Mosse Pottery, in Bennettsbridge.
Now I’ll admit that I’m not usually a fan of the “cutesy country” look…but somehow in Ireland it doesn’t seem hideous. This pattern is called “Wildflowers”.
That said, a little bit goes a long way…one little wildflower bowl, or pitcher, or whatever, is really all you need. More than that and you’re into cutesy country territory, and that’s not a good thing.
From here, it’s a short drive into the town of Kilkenny, where the first thing you’ll see is the castle. It’s a storybook castle in a storybook village. We love Kilkenny.
The original Anglo-Norman stone castle was built in the 12th century. Since then it changed hands only three times, with the last family selling off almost all of its contents, in a ten-day auction in 1935.
There’s a 1902 photograph of the Picture Gallery, showing the extensive collection of artwork that had been collected before it was auctioned. When the castle was turned into a museum in 1969, there was an attempt to recover the works and replace them in their original spots. You can see before and after in the photos below. (No photographs were allowed inside the castle, so I’m sharing these from the Kilkenny Castle website.)
Picture Gallery, 1902
Picture Gallery, today
I disobeyed the no photograph rule when I took a picture of this little sign. It looked hand-drawn, and must be at least a hundred years old.
The basement kitchen has been restored, and now houses a café.
Across the street is the Kilkenny Design Centre, where you’ll find the motherlode of Irish crafts.
Every craft you’ve seen anywhere in Ireland is in this compound of stone buildings. Several craftspeople have their studios alongside the main building.
After you shop ’till you drop, head through a little door into the glorious gardens of the Butler House for a rest.
The Georgian mansion is now a hotel, with this wonderfully serene garden. Contemporary sculptures are placed among the greenery, and there’s a view of the castle over the Design Centre.
Kilkenny village is quintessential Ireland…quaint shops in centuries-old buildings, a stone church, perfect little pubs and cafés, all in a town that’s not too big and not too small, but just right.
Photo, National Trust for Ireland
The Smithwick’s Brewery is here. You can tour the brewery and sample the beer if you have the time or inclination. (We didn’t.)
This young girl sang her heart out in a pedestrian alley, providing an authentic soundtrack for the day.
At the entrance of the alley was a historical plaque…funny.
The Rothe House is a 17th century Irish merchant’s home right on the main shopping street.
It’s now a museum, and I took a few style moment-y pictures, but the truth is, it could use a little sprucing up.
Dinner was at a fabulous restaurant called Campagne, in the heart of Kilkenny.
It’s a “farm to table” restaurant, where they use fresh, local ingredients. They even give credit to their suppliers: Eamon Wallace and Thomas Farrell provide organic eggs and vegetables, fish comes from John Hoyne at the fishman’s market, and free-range chicken and geese are from Mary Walsh’s farm. I had asparagus soup with herbed gnocchi for a starter, and Mary Walsh’s chicken with peas, lettuce, and bacon for an entree.
Just look at it…it was absolutely delicious.
And so we conclude our two day tour of Counties Kilkenny, Waterford, and Cork.
Next stop, Galway.