Day 7 (July 5th):
This was probably one of our earliest days so far as we boarded the bus at 8:30. Our first destination was Cahir Castle which is the ancestral home of the Butler family. Cahir overlooks the River Suir and is encased by thick stone walls from which two cannonballs still protrude. A scene from Braveheart was filmed in Cahir using one of their gates. Another battle scene from the 1981 classic Excalibur was also produced here. Our guide took us around the inner keep and explained how the castle was made and how it came into the hands of the Butler family. Mike took advantage of that segue to inform students that he used to work at a church also owned by the Butlers!
Using the power of language, our tour guide evoked vividly what Medieval life was really like for the highest and lowest ranking members of the household. Our counselor Miles’ favorite moment was the explanation of the function of the garderobe and how laundry was held over what can be delicately referred to as the communal toilet. Ammonia produced by the…disintegrating bodily functions would then kill any lice and mites on the clothes and leave them smelling of Chanel No. 2.
More seriously, Cahir is a stunning place. In the great dining chamber, the rack of an extinct Megaloceros or Irish Elk was mounted on the wall, casting looming shadows that really transported the students to another age. We also learned, in a seemingly perfect call back from yesterday, that Cahir was often defended using superheated sands — not boiling oil as we had once thought! Our students seem to be amassing a wealth of knowledge on the defensive strategies of historical forts. To what end, I cannot say.
Students had the opportunity to explore the grounds after the tour had ended and go up into the towers for some fantastic views. There was also an exhibit on the roles of women during Medieval life in Ireland which was very fascinating.
After Cahir Castle, we headed to the Rock of Cashel. The Rock of Castle is located on a promontory that local legends say was uprooted from the nearby hills by the Devil himself and spat out onto the land. The grounds contain a series of Medieval buildings — from the 12th century round tower, High Cross and Romanesque Chapel, 13th century Gothic cathedral, 15th century Castle and the restored Hall of the Vicars Choral. We were guided through the history of each and walked through the walls that held so many past lives. The ancient mural recently uncovered was particularly beautiful.
Once the students had satisfied their insatiable curiosities for knowledge, we went down into the town of Kilkenny. We used Kilkenny castle as our launch point for the rest of the afternoon. The kids had free time in the city to grab dinner and tour the round tower, city hall, and all of the shops and street exhibits.
Nancy was particularly interested in thrift shopping and found a book on Irish politics! Anya found a “no parking” sign and just had to sit in front of it as per her family’s tradition. Casey gladly snapped a picture for her.
The roads leading back to Waterford were quiet and traffic free. Students were either gently napping or contemplating packing up because tonight is our last night at Newtown! We made sure to pick up the staff of Newtown some potted flowers in appreciation of all the hard work they did to ensure that our students were happy and well-fed!
We played a game of Taryn’s creation called Saran Wrap Surprise for our evening activity and honestly I don’t think anyone knows the rules to it. Everyone went to sleep early tonight to brace for a long day tomorrow!