The Irish Roadtrip Begins: Kilkenny Castle

Saturday, May 21, 2011 | Kilkenny, Ireland (map)

Kilkenny Castle was in far better shape than any of the castles I have visited in the Middle East.
Within minutes of arriving in Dublin, I had stepped into oncoming traffic and had to leap back to the curb to avoid being squished. Given that I was supposed to drive us around on the left side of the road for the next week, this troubling early sign was on all our minds on our third day in Ireland, when my mom and sister and I picked up our rental car. As my mother gripped her seat, white knuckled, and made gasping sounds of certain impending death, I pulled the car onto the road and began to adjust to the disorienting sensation of lefthand driving. After managing to avoid plowing into any cars in the first few blocks, I made it to the highway and began to feel more comfortable. We were on our way.

At Kilkenny, a few hours south of Dublin, we stopped to visit the town castle and its stables and gardens. Though the castle was clearly of the same origin and similar construction as many of the
Crusader castles I had explored in Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan, the experience of visiting it could not have been more different. For starters, this castle was wholly intact—restored to some degree of course, but it had also been continuously inhabited and maintained since its construction around 1200 AD. While goats and shepherds had the run of the Levant's long-abandoned Crusader castles, this castle had not only a roof, but also fully intact salons and a grand portrait gallery.

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