Glen of Aherlow, Ireland

I generally prefer not to cover the same ground twice. I’ve got something out of pretty much everywhere I’ve travelled to and I’ve no objection going back to most places, but, the way I see it, there is so much of the world to see that, all else being equal, I’d rather see something new. There are, however, exceptions.

Glen of Aherlow

Eleven years ago I had taken a driving tour around Ireland with my sister. We had covered a lot of ground but spent a lot of time in the south west of the country, staying in Cashel and Cork. This time a friend was getting married in the same area. So rather the just shooting in for the celebration, I decided to stay on for a while, and retread some of the same ground. If nothing else, I have a better camera this time around…

Pub, petrol station and shop

Last time we had a car and rarely stayed more than one night in any location. This time I decided to base myself in a hotel in the Glen of Aherlow, just outside Tipperary.

As soon as you arrive it is immediately clear why they call it the emerald isle: it’s so green and verdant and wet. It rained quite a lot while I was there, but not so bad that it forced a change of plan.

"5 in a row my arse"

As with last time, driving was fun. Signs seemed to be scattered rather than planned, with dozens at some junctions and none at all at others. Getting to the hotel in the first place was made more complicated by a road closure and a diversion. A big sign directed me left, down a small road which finally intersected with a larger one. The diversion sign was the first and the last I saw. By the time I got to the main road there was nothing. I guessed right and then, seeing a lot of cars taking another right after a minute, I took a punt and followed them. After a few minutes it led to another sign. Unfortunately one that said “Road closed.”

To cut a long story short, it was necessary to ignore the signs, drive around them, and continue down the road regardless. After another few minutes there was the hotel.

Glen of Aherlow

Before the wedding I took a series of short walks in and around the Glen. Some started in small towns where the petrol station, pub, restaurant and shop were one and the same. Others started just off a main road, where you had to rummage around for ten minutes to find where it was supposed to begin. In either case, they were pleasant and easy and felt like a million miles from London, which is pretty much exactly what you want when on holiday.

Rain in Glen of Aherlow

On a few occasions I decided to sit in the car for a short time, hoping that the rain would stop. I got lucky for the most part.

Glen of Aherlow

When the clouds lifted and the sun shone through, it really is a beautiful area. Last time we had driven into Tipperary — more for the name than anything else — but had not stayed long. It was good to spend more time here.

Glen of Aherlow

In Tipperary itself there was in a party spirit. Tipp Town, as they call them, had a big game coming up and the whole place was covered in blue and yellow livery. Even one of the statues.

Celebration in Tipperary

After the wedding I decided to go a little further afield. Tipperary sits at one end of a triangle, with Cahir and Cashel at the other two corners. The former has a castle and the latter a rock. I’m not really selling the rock, am I? Well, on top of the rock is a church and at the base is an old monastery. It’s so significant that the Queen visited on her recent trip to Ireland. Make of that what you will.

Band in Cashel town centre

Of course the Queen had a welcoming party and tour guides and probably an easier time parking. I had a band playing in the main square. At least I assume they were for me. But I could have used a guide as I did not have an easy time finding The Rock. It’s is kind of bizarre when you consider that the town basically has a single attraction!

Pub in Cashel

Okay, I exaggerate slightly but I did take a wrong turning and ended up on completely the wrong side of town before realising my error. I don’t remember it being this hard last time I was here!

View from the Rock of Cashel

The church was covered in scaffolding and so not looking its best. I decided to walk all the way around the rock instead. About a third of the way round there was an unwelcoming fence but it wasn’t big enough to dissuade me. I clambered over and continued. From the rock I could see some way in the distance in all directions. The old abbey, the cows grazing in the fields, the wind farms on the distant hills.

View from the Rock of Cashel

Back in the car, I drove to the third corner of the triangle, Cahir. The main attraction in Cahir is a castle. I got lucky on two fronts. First, I managed to be there when they were offing free admission. Second, I arrived just as a tour was about to start.

Cahir Castle

Like many castles, it has a long and rich history and the guide, with her strong, local accent, drew our attention to the visible evidence of it all.

Cahir Castle

Unfortunately this was the last “real” day in the country. The last day I just drove to the airport, though I did take quite a detour. I went south to Cork. When I was here in 2001 this took half a day as the drive was entirely on smaller, winding roads. Since then they built a motorway so it only took an hour to get there.

Cork, again, struck me as a pleasant town, though one, seemingly, without significant attractions to photograph!

Blarney town

The nearest famous tourist destination is the Blarney Stone so on my way out of Cork, on the way to Shannon, I stopped off for a quick look around. I guess I assumed a big field with a stone in the middle, kind of like Stone Henge but without the cordon.

Don’t believe my gut instinct.

Admission costs €10, though, to be fair, it includes entry to the castle and gardens as well as the stone. It seemed like a lot for kissing an unhygienic rock, so I passed and continued down the road to the airport.

Spending a night at an airport hotel is not a terribly glamorous way to end a holiday, but the flight the next day was early and I’d have missed Cork, Blarney and Bunratty had I stayed in the Glen of Aherlow for another night. Ultimately you can’t see everything, but I was very happy with what I did manage.