Happy 4th of July, everyone!!! Today we celebrated our independence, even though we’re on The Emerald Isle. Save for a few brief downpours or drizzles, we have been blessed with splendid weather this trip–and this morning was no exception. Clear, robin’s-egg skies held strong all through breakfast and into our short 30-minute drive to our first stop today…Cahir Castle! We are going to not one, not two, but THREE castles today! Talk about amazing. 

Cahir Castle is settled by the River Suir, built in the Thirteenth Century and eventually owned by the influential Butler family. It truly seems like an impregnable fortress–our amazing and quite hysterical tour guide, Mick, explained each defensive strategy in hearty and humorous detail. One thing he said that absolutely cracked everyone up (especially Taryn and Mark, they were doubled over in laughter) was:


One Irish soldier was standing on the top of the battlements, when he saw one of his other soldiers drinking from the river below him. Knowing the water is poisoned with rotting animals from the English side, the soldier called down:

“Ná hól an t-uisce sin, a olc!” (Irish for “don’t drink the water, it’s bad!”)

The soldier looked up, and in perfect English said, “What are you saying, lad? Speak the Queen’s language, will you?” 

The Irish soldier, realizing it was his enemy speaking, said:

“Sorry! Of course! I said, drink the water with two hands! It’ll be quicker!”


Anyways, that joke went down with some wonderful levels of hilarity. 

Everyone had some free time in Cahir to explore the Well, the various turrets (one had a BEAUTIFUL view of the sweeping town below), and the various other displays. After taking a group picture (a favorite habitual occupation of the ILE), we hopped on the bus and drove on over to The Rock of Cashel–a lovely 30 minute drive from Cahir.

As we rounded a bend in the road, The Rock of Cashel swept into view–the crown jewel of the city, sitting sentinel atop its own hill, observing the many comings-and-goings of the town. 

We sat down below the castle to have a nice packed lunch from Newtown (sandwich, chips, an apple, water, and a Penguin–a favorite chocolate in Ireland). It was still sunny at this point, but you could feel some sort of certainty of stormy rain in the air, so everyone trekked up the hill to The Rock of Cashel. 

Here we met our wonderful tour guide, Patrick. Most of the places we are going are part of the OPW, Office of Public Works, and the OPW tour guides have always been FANTASTIC. Taryn even got all the students OPW cards, so in their free time, they can explore other heritage sites that we don’t go to in our tours. 

The Rock of Cashel is very exposed, so the wind whipped around all of us as we listened to the tour. We were more sheltered from the gales when we went into the castle–but not from the rain–the Rock of Cashel has no roof! So, when the EPIC rainstorm lashed down after the tour, everyone scrambled sadly back to the bus (We’re talking rain that is here as quick as it is gone, and drenches you to the bones in about 4 milliseconds).

Luckily, and true to dear Ireland’s nature, the sky cleared back up to its normal hue by the time we arrived in Kilkenny. We weren’t getting an actual tour in this castle, but 2 hours of free time to use at our leisure. We could stroll down the medieval mile, a gorgeous street known for (as the name states) its incredible medieval buildings, or use our OPW cards to get a tour in the castle. But first, of course, we all took a lovely group picture in the Rose Garden. 

Taegen, AJ, Dennis, Paul, and Strider went to Elvery’s–the popular sports store here, some thrift stores, and got ice cream. Clare, Aspen, Adi, Cassidy, Ana, Lydia, Maddie, and Shawn all shopped around a bit, then strolled around the extensive forested grounds and the Castle’s lovely Rose Garden. 

Wow!!! What an amazing day so far! And yet, after 3 jaw-dropping castles, we were far from done. In fact, back at Newtown, our 4th-of-July festivities were just barely beginning! Everyone was surprised with a pizza party and movie. And not just any movie (The Sandlot), but a movie shown in a wonderfully decorated, patriotic room! There were strings of red, white, and blue Christmas lights, streamers, balloon garlands, American flags, American flag glasses–it was pretty neat. 

Once everyone was done watching Sandlot, we had one last Independence surprise–sparklers! We also sang The National Anthem and ‘Proud to be an American.’ 

Finally, everyone dead on their feet but full of joy in their hearts, we all tromped to bed, falling soundly asleep to dreams of rain-swept castles. 

Happy Independence Day from Ireland! Thank you to everyone who made it possible! 


From inside the walls of Cahir Castle
The view from on top of Cahir Castle
The lovely rose gardens on the grounds of Killkenny Castle
Killkenny Castle
The gorgeous view of The Rock of Cashel
The lovely (pollinator-friendly) Cahir Castle
The incredible antlers of an Irish Elk! These guys weren't actually elk, but a type of prehistoric deer. They stood about 7 feet tall--at the SHOULDER. Imagine seeing that walking around your backyard! There have been thousands of antlers found preserved in bogs, so most antlers are in storage. But sometimes you get to see these beautiful specimens on display!
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Trip Dates: June 30-July 24, 2024