Last week Laurie and I packed the saddlebags and headed to Lismore in County Waterford. The unwritten plan was a break in Lismore and then maybe west and south towards Ardmore. We only got to Lismore. This week we headed out on the bike. No saddlebags and nothing packed so there was little doubt we were coming home in the evening. A short spin from base and we found ourselves in Borris, the ancestral home of the MacMurrough Kavanaghs. One option from the Capital: take the M11 / N11 to Enniscorthy. From Enniscorthy take the R702 to Borris. The views from Borris of the Blackstairs and Mount Leinster are great, and the town itself is quaint and picturesque. The tudor style mansion, Borris House, is open to the public by prior arrangement and for special occasions such as weddings or concerts. At the bottom of the town there is a 16 arch viaduct which was built in 1860 for the Great Southern and Western railway. The railway line closed completely in the 1960s but the viaduct is still there. After a walk around Borris we saddled up again to travel about 10 kilometres or 6 miles to Graignamanagh (or Graiguenamanagh: Gráig na Manach, village of the monks) in County Kilkenny.
The most striking building in Graignamanagh is the national monument, Duiske Abbey. A 13th century Cistercian Monastery, founded by William Marshall, in 1204. It is the largest of the 34 medieval Cistercian Monasteries in Ireland and in 1228 it was occupied by 35 monks and 50 lay brothers. The name Duiske comes from Douskey or An Dubh Uisce, The Black Water, a tributary which runs into the Barrow River in Graignamanagh. The abbey is well worth a visit, with 13th century stonework still visible, some of the original medieval floor tiles, Gothic and Romanesque architecture and an effigy of a Roman Knight on display. We spent some time wandering around the Abbey, appreciating its beauty and Laurie said a few prayers for my salvation. Probably entirely wasted because the next thing that caught my eye was a small grocery store opposite the Abbey. A grocery store, oh, and did I mention it was also a bar. Of course we weren’t going in because remember, we didn’t pack the saddle bags and therefore it was definite we were going home. We just went in to have a look at the grocery. The grocery that happened to be a bar as well. There were a few chaps there sampling the wares of course. One man was from Dundalk, a fact that was correctly guessed by Laurie, after just a few utterances by him. Another man was drinking a very nice looking pint of Guinness and eating slices of cooked ham from a brown paper bag. As you do. There was a very varied selection of goods for sale. Everything from mackerel lures, garden implements, tins of beans and did I mention, pints of Guinness. Of course we weren’t staying. One pint of Guinness, and then a look around for a suitable venue for food, before we set off home again.
The next morning, when we woke up in the B&B, we were very impressed with the view from our room. We were looking out over the quay, with barges and river boats tied up and the attractive looking bridge over the Barrow River just a few yards down from the Waterside Restaurant and B&B. The bridge crosses the Barrow and Herself wasn’t slow to point out that it was County Carlow on the other side. She is from Carlow and that is why that was relevant. We had another wander around picturesque Graignamanagh. Historically it was an important town because it was a main base for barge traffic, which were the articulated truck, tractor / trailer units of their day, from the 1700s on. In the town there is a concerted effort to grow and develop, through a scheme supported by a European rural development plan and Graignamanagh Local Development Company Ltd. The renewal is making a big difference to the town and there is a massive floral effort being made by the local people. The most impressive is the Kebab House, which is weighed down with flowers. The florist located directly across from it has a lot to do with the flowers, I fancy, but lots of other buildings are well decorated with flowers too. There are attractive shop and pub fronts and some very interesting life size statues of the Cistercian Monks depicting their lives.
What do you mean I skipped a bit? Oh, how we got from a quaint grocery store to waking up in a B&B? A grocery store that happens to be a pub too. Well, as I said we decided to sample the Guinness because it looked so nice and creamy and while we were enjoying it, Pat, the owner of Doyle’s explained a little about the premises. It was originally a hotel and a stop for the Bianconi coaches. Carlo Bianconi was an Italian refugee from the Napoleonic Wars. He moved to Ireland, changed his name to Charles, and became a successful business man, inventing the first public transport system in Ireland: horse drawn coaches. The coaches required regular stops in various towns where the horses were changed. The man with the ham in the brown paper bag was telling a story about a father who had been a very hard working farmer all his life. When he died he left the thriving farm to his only son. Everyone remarked how much hard work this man had done in his lifetime. The son replied that he had left a lot of it behind him too… The man from Dundalk was telling how he had come down from Kildare in his river boat. Another customer told how he had been working in Australia for seven years and was back home for his first visit. Obviously we weren’t going home.
When I went back to the bike to get something I spotted the Waterside B&B and Restaurant and decided to book us in. After one or two more in Doyle’s we adjourned to the restaurant in the Waterside and had a delicious salmon dinner. There had been a discussion about returning to hear more about the history of Doyle’s after the meal, but tiredness won out and we retired for the night. The staff of Waterside B&B and Restaurant were so friendly and helpful, and the next morning we had a great breakfast of cereal, tea and coffee as well as the obligatory full Irish. The motorbike was safely stored away in a building to the rear where they keep the bikes and electric bikes they have for hire. The tow-paths beside the waterway were once used for the horses that towed the barges. Now bike hire businesses can take full advantage of them as ready made routes for their customers. The tow-paths are great for walkers too as the paths are flat and scenic and the next beautiful village, to the south, Saint Mullins, is only four miles along the path or Barrow Way, as it is known. In the other direction the Barrow Way is accessible all the way to the Grand Canal in County Kildare. Before we headed back out on the road, we walked down to look at the sports and rowing facility. The rowing club, unlike a lot of older, established rowing and boat clubs, is relatively new, having been founded in 2001. There are lots of sports and water activities here, swimming, canoeing and rowing as well as field sports. We were well impressed with the new poster over the rowing club. The O’Donovan brothers from Skibbereen won silver in rowing in Rio but they also made a big impression at the Olympics and are now known for some famous statements they made while being interviewed. The rowing club have harnessed this popularity with a large sign of the two heroes on the clubhouse wall.