A lot of people are guilty of never seeing things that are right in their own back yard. We take for granted places that have always been there. I grew up less than 30 minutes from Niagara Falls but had many friends that had never seen the Falls in person. I showed a young Irish man a photo Niagara Falls yesterday. He was astonished at its beauty and immediately added a visit to his bucket list.
We decided that Monday would be a day of seeing sights in our cottage’s backyard. We stayed within a 15k radius of Croan Cottages (www.croancottages.com).
Our first stop was Jerpoint Abbey. http://www.heritageireland.ie/en/south-east/jerpointabbey/ We went into the Visitor Centre as were pleasantly surprised that the admission price was only 8 Euro for the entire family. The docent at the desk asked if we would like the 45 minute guided tour or the treasure hunt for the kids….no charge for either one. With three active children we decided the treasure hunt would be of more interest to them. They were able to work together on the hunt so off they went. The questions caused the whole family to look closer at some of the objects that we would have normally just walked by. We had a few questions at the end and a docent was around the site and more than happy to answer them. I know that the tour would have been wonderfully informative (I eavesdropped on one as we were leaving) but the treasure hunt got the kids interested and engaged and that’s what it is all about.
Our next stop was just up the road. Jerpoint Glass Studio. http://www.jerpointglass.com This is a family owned and operated business that makes exquisite pieces.
I don’t know about your children but I can never figure out what will keep my children’s attention (except for dreaded computer games) for long periods of time. Most tours of Ireland will have you stop at Waterford Crystal for a factory tour. After all, they are world famous but the idea of constantly having to tell the boys not to touch anything. Keep your hands to yourself. Watch where you are going. You get the idea. On top of a 30 Euro fee for the tour at Waterford was the knowledge that most of the stickers on Waterford items (or at least the ones that we could afford) stated that they were made in other countries. I wanted to see Irish products that were made in Ireland.
Jerpoint Glass more than fit the bill. We were welcomed by the owner and invited to go into the glass studio to watch her sons make bowls. We were given actual front row seats to watch the process from start to finish as Rory made the items. He answered questions and showed us the different stages he has to go through to complete the bowl. It was informative, educational, entertaining…and free!! Since I had saved some money it was alright to splurge a little in their shop. (Don’t you love my logic?) The kids each got a paperweight and I absolutely love the 2 items that I picked out. Not sure if I will talk myself out of giving it to my sister before I get home.
By this point my kids were STARVING. Two different people had mentioned the café at the Knockdrinna Farm House Cheese. We went in and saw a case with delicious looking food. Cottages pies, chicken & ham pie, sausage rolls (totally different than ones in America), leek and potato soup with brown bread and a large plate with a variety of salads. We ate very well. There an older Irish gentleman that regaled us with tales of the area. Once the kids were finished eating the cheese case had 3 sets of eyes staring. We sampled, we bought and we are going again (to buy some to bring home) the best cheese that I have ever had in my entire life! http://www.knockdrinna.com
Next stop was Kells Priory. It is a massive Augustinian Priory built in the 1180’s. The scale of it is hard to imagine. It is visible from all around town. We parked and walked across a foot bridge and entered the Priory. The walls have been stabilized but no restoration has been done. The kids could go wherever they wanted. Climb. Run. Play. Imagine. No rules. What more could you ask for??
Oh wait, there was more. One last stop just up the road to see a beautiful example of a round tower and a Celtic high cross marking of the grave of Niall Caille – an Irish High King.