Friday, July 21, 2006

Jerpoint Abbey

Well, the plan was to hire a bike today and get out into the countryside on a wee circuit. But when I arrived at the camping ground where you can hire bikes, it turned out the only bikes to hire were men's mountain bikes. I think I was a bit spoiled in France with my wonderful bike, but a hard man's seat and a too-high bar changed my mind about biking. At that stage it was drizzling anyhow and it looked like rain might set in. (It didn't: we have another warm afternoon!)

Luckily the hostel I am in, Kilkenny Tourist Hostel, in a genuine Georgian mansion, has the best, most informative noticeboard I think I have ever seen in a hostel. It had the bus times for a local bus to Thomastown from where it is only about a 2km walk to Jerpoint Abbey. So equipped with times and bus stop details I set off again.

The bus driver on the New Ross service I took was a lovely old Irish man. He wished me "God bless you" as I went to my seat and sincerely meant it. He had obviously picked me for a tourist and took care to tell me where to get off the bus, which direction to walk in for the Abbey, and where to catch the bus on the return trip at what time. Real genuine Irish hospitality for a stranger.

Jerpoint Abbey was well worth a visit and we had a really informative guided tour, describing the history of this Cistercian Abbey. There were interesting sculptures on quite a few tombs and in the cloister area. There were patterns on some capitals. When it was "disestablished" the roof was removed over the nave area as it had valuable lead, but the chancel roof which was stone was left alone. The rest of the walls were not destoyed then but have deteriorated over time. There was at one stage a huge amount of land associated with this Abbey, and the powerful Butler family of Kilkenny had a close association with it.

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