Land of Mirth and Myth
To soak up a genuine Irish experience, my husband, George (McC49), and I set out with a group of nine Northwestern Alumni Association travelers last September for Kilkenny, Ireland, a medieval town about 75 miles southwest of Dublin, as part of the NAA’s Alumni Campus Abroad in Ireland travel program.
We found this Alumni Campus Abroad travel program — where travelers make their home base in a small town (in our case, Kilkenny) and make daily excursions to surrounding cities and towns — to be a pleasant blend of education, exploration and convenience.
After checking into the Kilkenny Ormonde Hotel, we walked the streets of Kilkenny. We toured the vast and well-preserved Kilkenny Castle, built in the 12th century by the powerful earls of Ormonde. We also visited Kyteler’s Inn, considered the oldest house in town and the former home of Dame Alice Kyteler, who, according to our tour guide Jim Crean, killed four husbands and was tried and condemned for witchcraft in 1323.
Farther afield, another highlight was a stop at the inland port of New Ross on the River Barrow to see the Dunbrody, a replica of one of the “famine ships” that carried more than 2 million Irish men, women and children to Canada, America and Australia during and after the devastating famine of 1845–50. In the hold of the ship were three computers on which visitors could find infor-mation about their relatives. I actually found some background on my great-grandfather and now know the year he sailed and the name of the ship on which he traveled.
Of course, many in our group would not have considered our trip complete without a stop at Waterford, the ancient Viking town that is home to the famous handcrafted Waterford crystal. Margie Kaul’s (C61, GC62) jaw dropped like a castle drawbridge when a master glass blower attached a wad of liquid glass onto one side of an elegant glass pitcher and, with skill and confidence, created a graceful handle.
On a daylong jaunt to Dublin, we spent time at the prestigious Trinity College, founded in 1592 by Queen Elizabeth I. Its library, a wondrous tour in itself, holds the famous Book of Kells, a ninth-century illuminated manuscript of the Gospels created by Irish monks.
Later, on the bus ride back from Dublin to Kilkenny, we made more memories when our bus pulled into the parking lot of a roadside pub outside Moone, and Jim announced we’d be stopping for a “rest and refreshment” opportunity. No sooner did we settle in than one of our travelers produced a harmonica. Soon we were off on a singing spree. Danny Boy gave in to Rose of Tralee, whereupon Jim, always a stickler for promptness, postponed our departure long enough for us to sing his favorite American tune, Shenandoah. Our spirits were refreshed for the rest of the ride to Kilkenny.
It was a whale of a trip. If you’re thinking about visiting this land of mirth and myth, you better, as the Irish say, “get a wiggle on.”
Marie H. Walling is a retired writer and former religion editor at the Arizona Republic. She and her husband, George, a retired Motorola executive, live in Colorado Springs.
Click here or call 1-800-NU-ALUMS for more information on the NAA travel programs, including Alumni Campus Abroad in Ireland: Kilkenny in May.