Last month I was driving on the wrong side of the road, in a rented car, in Ireland. I went with a girl friend, we found a deal on Living Social and decided to go for it. Last year I traveled with a group, from my church, in Israel. This year I was ready to travel more independently.
In many ways Ireland reminded me of my home in the Pacific Northwest: green, beautiful, wet, and full of charm. But Washington doesn’t have castles and layers of history around every corner. I loved that feeling of history in Ireland (and in Israel). That feeling of walking with ghosts. Of wondering what events happened in this place over the decades and centuries.
I won’t talk about the entire trip in this blog post, it’s too broad a subject to be contained in one post. But I will talk about one place. The place which made me feel like a child who, while exploring, stumbled upon place which I thought only existed in books.
It was on our fourth day in Ireland. The weather was wet and windy. We were staying in Kenmare and wanted to explore Killarney National Park. We hesitated when we looked out the window, but we hadn’t come all this way to sit in doors and watch TV. We ventured out and were glad we did. We got rained on from time to time, but it was well worth it. We saw a waterfall, went on a jaunting carriage to Muckross house, explored Killarney, and visited Ross Castle.
We were heading back to our B&B, damp and a little cold, but happy, when we saw the sign for Muckross Abbey. I had wanted to see that. The night before I read online that it was supposedly haunted and Bram Stoker, himself, had wandered the ruins of the abbey in the dead of night. But we hesitated. It was getting late and it seemed unlikely we would be able to gain access. Besides the warm car felt really nice after a day of exploring in the weather. Yet I knew we’d regret it if we didn’t at least stop and take a look.
We did and learned the abbey was open to the public 24/7. Surprised, we followed a paved path and found the abbey was only a short walk from the parking lot. The evening was nice, the sun was breaking through the clouds for the first time that day.
W came upon the abbey.
Aside from the fact that there was no roof it was in good condition, the walls were solid and whole. Walking through a scattered cemetery we entered Muckross Abbey.
We soon split up so we could explore and take pictures at our leisure. I found of a beautifully intact dome-arch and wandering a little further realized there were actual passageways and enclosed chambers.
My excitement grew as I realized there was more to this place than I had originally assumed. I gleefully spotted a stairway, which I intended to climb as soon as I had finished exploring the ground level. Then I came into a corridor which encompassed a small square in the heart of the abbey and in the cloister was an ancient elm tree. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I felt like I’d stumbled into a magical place which belonged in a fairytale. Places like this just don’t exist!
Full of awe and excitement I took pictures and continued my exploring. I discovered that the windows from the second level looked down into the cloister and I took more pictures.
There was even a tower but here, at last, I was met with a locked door. Disappointed I retraced my steps and soon found myself in the cloister again, looking at the tree who’s branches reached over the walls of the abbey. Sunlight was streaming in from the windows and the clouds had parted so that there was blue sky for the first time. It was perfect.
My friend and I had a hard time leaving, but the idea of food finally convinced us.
This was probably my favorite experience in Ireland. There were other beautiful sights, other moments of awe, but this was the moment with the most magic.
~~Lady of the Pen~~