Kilkenny to Killarney via Kinsale

The morning was not wet neither was it cold. “This is not your typical Irish morning”, said my host as she took down my breakfast choice. Between, the full and the half Irish breakfast option, there was not much of a choice to make, full it was!  A wholesome breakfast is a good way to start the day especially when you know that there might be no lunch happening. Of course, at that moment I did not know that nor did I know the portion size of a full breakfast. It took me some time to finish my hosts offering that morning, and when I left, the only sign of anything being wet was my windshield. As the engine started the wipers quickly ran through the traces of the typical Irish morning and the wheels moved towards the direction, Rock of Cashel.

Rock of Cashel

A few minutes into the drive, I rolled down my windows. The scent of the morning had a mix of all that I was seeing around. Driving in Lofoten Islands, Norway, the sea was everywhere not only in front of my eyes but also in my lungs, mixed with the occasional dry cod, here in Ireland on the local road, it was mostly just grass, wet grass. It felt fresh when I stepped out to take a picture of the imposing Rock of Cashel. In the overall leveled landscape a structure like the Rock of Cashel felt like an abode of a ruler back in the times. I did not get to know more of it, as the road that led to the top was shut due to maintenance. Having made up my mind of coming back here with the group, I was thinking that even if the rock was open to visiting, I would’ve skipped it and driven where I was headed, on an impulse. South instead of North West, South to the town of Cobh, on the Atlantic.


With the change of direction came a change of plan. Maybe I would now reach Killarney, my destination for the night, a little late. Late in Ireland was 8 pm, which I realized that night. However, at that point when I was facing the town of Cobh, in the distance over the bay, and using the natures restroom, it felt good to just let go of any plans and see where the next few hours would take me. Cobh was known to have a Titanic museum. The Titanic on its maiden voyage called off at Cobh as the last port in Ireland before sailing to its fate in the North Atlantic. There was a group of people waiting to enter the Museum and I thought walking on the streets of the town was a much better use of my time. I had marked both Cobh and Kinsale on my ‘want to go’ list the night earlier, but I wasn’t sure I would be able to make them both. Here in Cobh, the houses all lined up on the street felt like a good sight but then in Kinsale it felt even prettier. Out of the two, I knew I would come back to only one. I would come back to Kinsale.


I did not spend a lot of time in Kinsale, but it was the kind of town which felt local and touristy at the same time. I like it when in a town, the establishments know how to work in tourism and the people running them get more locals than the tourists. ‘Tourists are welcome but we cater to local tastes’ is what it feels when you enter the café’s, book shops, or restaurants in Kinsale. It also is one of the most colorful towns I have seen in Ireland. When I started from Cobh, Kinsale was not the next town. I was maybe not too pleased with Cobh so I had decided to drop out on the south entirely and drive straight to Killarney. But I was glad I made the detour and also that on my way I gave a lift to a man returning from a funeral.

In the next few hours, I got a lot of low down on Ireland. The man was like a guide and even though at times it got a little too much, I would remember that route from Kinsale to Killarney through all the local roads, and the wild pastures more coz of the info I got on what we drove by. Stories always make a place more lively and my co-driver had a lot of them. It was for the first time that I learned, in Ireland, the counties have their pride and together that’s where the pride of being Irish comes from. I think it was the County Cork that we did most of the driving in, on my day 1 in Ireland. He always spoke of the town first and then followed it with the county.

My destination was in Killarney, I had told him before. Now after 3 hours of driving and talking about Ireland. I spoke about Killarney again, only this time I followed it up with County Kerry. I was already talking like an Irish, at least when referring to towns. Speaking of towns, Killarney was quite a surprise. As I entered the town through its central street, I saw more tourists than locals. It was not like where I had stayed the night earlier. I was late in reaching Killarney, but I was told that coz of the tourists the restaurants stay open longer into the night than the other small towns. Later when I walked in the town center, it felt more crowded than it felt from inside the car. It was exactly opposite of Kinsale, ‘we have more tourists but locals are welcomed’. You cant blame Killarney though, It is the base for exploring the Ring of Kerry and ultimately the unofficial start of the Wild Atlantic Way.

Enroute in County Cork

Killarney had a lot of color on its bars and the streets felt lively. But the strong Irish character was missing. Such is tourism though, you win some you lose some!

Kilkenny, Ireland

Kilkenny was the first town in Ireland where I felt the cobbled stone streets under my feet. I think it was a Sunday evening and that’s why I thought it felt so empty. It was only later in my trip that I learned that all the evenings felt this silent in Ireland. The sounds came, but only when the door of a bar opened, and sometimes the sound traveled like it did that evening. I had to only walk in that direction and very soon I was seated next to three very happy men at a bar counter. My first Irish bar in my first Irish town had a vibe which was different from the one I was used to in Eastern Europe or Peru.

The bar and restaurant street

There was only space on the counter to keep my phone and my drink, as most of it was occupied by the empty beer glasses the men had consumed. The bar was not as full as its counter but was loud, and when one of the three men near me to make a conversation, I simply said ‘India’ coz I assumed it was the most standard question, ‘where are you from’? The atmosphere was lively and when the singer switched over from classic Irish to western country, a few of the North American bar mates joined in. One of them like me, even said, ‘Canada’. I think he just wanted to differentiate himself from his neighboring country.

On the top of the table

Very soon both were on the table, my second drink and the singer. He had decided he wanted a higher stage. The barman looked at me, smiled and said, ‘Welcome to Ireland’. I smiled back and said, “could I get one more?”. The food was pretty basic but I was not complaining about such an atmosphere. It was loud only with the noise, it did not feel loud. I walked out onto the streets of Kilkenny and once again was surrounded by silence. It felt as silent as walking in midnight in the Arctics.

The town of Kilkenny has its share of sights with the Castle looming large over the city. The town center though has more bars than sights to visit but then the bars are a sight in themselves. The River Nore runs through the town and a view of the castle with the river in the foreground is quite nice especially coz not many people would come in between your camera and the castle.

Kilkenny castle

That evening when I walked back to my accommodation, I had thought I would go to the castle in the morning before driving out of town. I, however, found a piece of town on its central street and therefore felt no such need to go to the Castle. When the shops are closed and the streets are empty, a town bears a deserted look, which has its beauty. Kilkenny too felt beautiful that Sunday evening and as I slept that night, I felt a sense of excitement. Kilkenny was known as a beer brand around the world, but to me, I will always know it as my first town in Ireland, the first time I liked Ireland.

Top 5 Kilkenny Experiences

  1. Walk on the central street, interestingly called ‘The Parade’.
  2. Go bar hopping on a weekend with live music pouring out on the streets.
  3. Try the classic goat cheese dish in any of the restaurants.
  4. Even if you aren’t a big stout fan, have a Kilkenny beer.
  5. Choose some time in the late evening to just stare at the River and the Castles reflection on it.
Classic sheep cheese recipe

Note: This post is written and published as group of posts for Ireland and Scotland. More to follow.

Scotland – Ireland, From the Mind to Screen Via the Wild Atlantic Way

It had just started to snow and the weather update on the radio mentioned of a possible road closure by late evening. Google maps had already mentioned the arrival at my destination much before that. So, with a momentary sigh of relief, and not being worried about driving in snow, I continued towards, Aberlour. The road  was already very scenic and a town by the River Spey in the highlands of Scotland was a good setting for a hotel. The idea was to check into The Highlanders Inn, which came heavily recommended for its Japanese owner and his knowledge of the whiskeys of Scotland and in general from the world.

Road to Aberlour

The sun had long gone outside the window, but at the bar in Highlander’s Inn, the ambiance was bright. Those who gathered spoke fondly of their favorite spirit, The Single Malt Whiskey. Perhaps it was the alcohol or it was just the drive that day, or maybe a heady mix of the two that prompted me to think, Scotland as a tour is a good thing. People, especially lovers of good Whiskey (and there are many in India) would love to go on a single malt trail. A trail that would introduce them to the home of their favorite single malt. By the end of my drive in Scotland, I had come to an understanding that I do not need to even go to its neighboring country, Ireland, even though it would be a good sales idea to combine the two countries.

Back home in India, the idea of going to Ireland was not even an idea for an entire year. Travel to Ireland was so foreign that even going to Irish Bars did not excite me. At the same time though, I started thinking, just a ‘single malt trail’ tour was a little too much. Maybe this is why Ireland started to slowly make a headway, through the back door. I think it was not until I realized that like me the Irish were not very big fans of the Queen, that the second door opened in my mind. I guess I also started hearing or maybe started paying more attention to what people spoke about the Republic, around the world. Especially, the people who had driven in Ireland. So somewhere in early March this year just on an impulse, I booked a ticket to Dublin. It was a one-way ticket!

“Let me just go to Ireland for a couple of days and if I do not like the way it feels, I will fly back”, is what I thought the night before the flight to Dublin. Well, that was the last time I thought about Ireland that way. 25 km out of Dublin as I accidentally took the wrong exit out of the motorway, my mind took the right turn I think. As the road got narrower, the idea got broader, and by the end of the day, I was convinced, Ireland needs at least 3 – 4 days in an itinerary with Scotland.

In the next one week of driving in Ireland on the Wild Atlantic Way, two things happened. One, the equation reversed from 4 nights in Ireland and 8 in Scotland to only 4 in Scotland.  Second, I had to (without wanting it) book a ticket out of Ireland!

Fanad Lighthouse

As I sit to write an itinerary for Ireland and Scotland for next summer, the scenes keep flashing in front of me, much like the waters of the Atlantic, that splash on the rugged coastline of Ireland. They make a sound but from way up there you can only see them and the sound is that of only the wind. Both the wind and the water are wild, and that’s where Ireland scores I think. It feels a bit like the wilderness in Patagonia. Today, it is as much of a pleasure to put words on the screen, as it was to put the first gear and start driving every day in Ireland.