The tourism board adores their slogan, “Ireland’s Ancient East.” There’s a certain ring to it that I don’t hate, despite hearing and reading it on massive posters for more than 10 days in May as I traveled around Dublin, Kilkenny, Thomastown and Kells Priory.
The super dramatic scenery in Ireland isn’t in the east. It’s in the west and the northwest. Head there if you are dying to drive crazy cliffs, scamper up craggy outcrops and adventure through the lands that Game of Thrones used for both The Kingsroad and the Vale of Arryn.
Yet, the east has much to offer, from one of the world’s most lauded Equestrian hotels to cobblestone towns dating to the 1500s … to some of the world’s oldest dead people discovered in a bog.
Here’s a little visual romp and a few useful, snack-sized bites of information if you are planning a trip to Ireland’s eastern half. Contact me for more, if you need.
Head straight-away to the National Museum of Archaeology in Dublin to visit the Bog Bodies. It’s a permanent exhibit of a discovery made in 2011. A man accidentally unearthed a body in a milling machine in a bog. He freaked out. Scientists were called. It turns out, that body was one of dozens that were perfectly preserved, buried in the peat and muck. They date to 2,000 B.C., to the Bronze Age, and are believed to be the unlucky recipients of human sacrifice.
Kilkenny is one of the larger towns in the east, but you can do that in a day. My suggestion is head towards Kells Priory, about 20 minutes away, and pull off at Mullins Mill for coffee by the old rock bridge.
The Weeping Willows at Mullins Mill are great for shade on the rare Irish hot day.
Plant lovers and nature photographers should head to Lismore Castle for a garden tour. There are seven acres of plants here, including rare, strange palm trees along the castle walls. That’s my dad in the arch.
Lismore + my Macro Lens
The drives around Jerpoint Abbey and Kells Priory (just 20 minutes from Kilkenny) are, in my estimation, the prettiest in the area. This is Jerpoint, which is worth a stop for a few minutes.
Take a blanket and a picnic and stop at Kells Priory. The Book of Kells (worth a see at Trinity College in Dublin) was brought over by monks from the Scottish Island of Iona, to safeguard it during a Viking Invasion. The scenery and wildflowers at Kells Priory in summer offer optimum peace and calm. But due to lots of sheep (and subsequent sheep shit) … that blanket I mentioned is a must.
My mother … stealing wildflowers from the side of the road, to smuggle back to her own garden in Alabama.
Ireland vs. Scotland? I’d take Scotland … except for Mount Juliet Equestrian Center. That’s where we stayed and it was far and away one of the coolest hotels of my life. They accept riders of all skill levels. Spending long afternoons on three-hour gallops by a river was something I hope I get to do here again someday.
Falconry is another optional activity here. That bird looks pissed.
How could you not fall in love? Thank you, Ireland!