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Published: June 25th 2017
Geo: 52.6538, -7.24798
"It's a long way to Tipperary,
It's a long way to go.
It's a long way to Tipperary
To the sweetest girl I know!
Farewell Leicester Square,
It's a long long way to Tipperary,
But my heart's right there."
For some reason I had always been fascinated with the the remote Triple T's of travel. Timbuktu and Tuktoyaktuk (for Canadians at least) because they are both somewhat mysterious and very remote, and Tipperary because of the famous wartime song that suggested that it was a long, long way to Tipperary. After days of hard travel a few years ago we did eventually reach Timbuktu so next up was Tipperary... well Tipperary is about an hour and a half north of Cork along a pretty good road. Not particularly remote but I suppose if you're stuck in a trench somewhere in Europe during the dark days of WWI, it would seem a very long way off.
It was a wee bit out of the way (speaking fluent Irish requires a distinct overuse of the descriptor "wee"😉, and despite a lack of the more standard tourist attractions, it just didn't seem right to drive past Tipperary without dropping in for a coffee at least. Tipperary, like Timbuktu
before it, didn't seem to revel in it's fame (or maybe the locals have just grown tired of tourists trying to goad them into yet another rendition of the famous song). There were no "Long, Long Way" T-Shirts, ball caps, or fridge magnets that we could find and since we were there in the morning we couldn't even find a nice cafe or restaurant in which to toast our time in Tipperary. We eventually found a grocery store which had a cafe attached (which served up a pretty good cafe late) and, in a stroke of luck, the store was also selling tickets to the opening match of the hurling season which was scheduled later in the week.
Not too far from Tipperary was one of Ireland's more famous attractions- The Rock of Cashel. According to Irish legend, the devil was flying home (since it's an Irish legend, presumably home was England) when in a fit of anger he bit off a piece of the nearby Slieve Bloom Mountains and spewed it out into the middle of the Tipperary Plain, creating the Rock of Cashel. The mountains are comprised of sandstone and the Rock of Cashel is limestone, so the flying
Devil story only makes sense if the Guinness is flowing. A slightly more credible story has the Rock of Cashel as the seat of power for Irish kings and bishops for over one thousand years , ruling the surrounding country, and for a time, all of Ireland. The kings of Munster were crowned here and you could appreciate why- the ruins of the cathedral are towering and majestic, and the Rock itself sticks out of the landscape like a giant throne.
And since you can never get enough Irish castles we made our way to Kilkenny, home of not-so-creatively named Kilkenny Castle. Unlike many of the castles we had seen in Ireland, this one was more palace than castle (and it must be sitting on swampland since the Butlers, who had owned it for almost 600 years, sold it to the people in 1969 for £50!!) It's possible that Tipperary was a little shy of tourist sites because Kilkenny has them all. In addition to the castle, there's St. Canice's Cathedral and round tower, Rothe House, Shee Alms House, Black Abbey, St. Mary's Cathedral, Kilkenny Town Hall, St. Francis Abbey, Grace's Castle, and St. John's Priory. And the town itself makes
for interesting walks- it's a well-preserved medieval town and hosts all kinds of festivals and cultural events.
But Tipperary is home to the Irish Hurling Champions, and Kilkenny is not.
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