When Irish Eyes are Smiling, Day 4: A Day of Horses, Beer, and Hunger

The new day marked our exit from Dublin.  After breakfast, our group of intrepid travelers boarded the bus and began the drive to our next destination.

I had forgotten the simple pleasure of riding on a bus.  Although we sometimes traveled for a few hours at a clip, the drives never seemed boring with the lovely scenery.  I especially enjoyed driving through the small towns and villages where I soaked in the small town life with the quaint homes, B & Bs, and pubs.

Our first stop that day was the town of Kildare where we stopped at the Irish National Stud farm.  For an institution known for breeding champion racehorses, I was surprised by how few horses the farm actually housed.  Only 8 horses were kept at the farm.  Our tour guide, Chris, was a fount of information about the history of the farm.

It was founded by Colonel William Hall-Walker who was the son of a famous Scottish brewer and was a bit of a ne’er-do-well until his father had the talk with him (shape up or ship out) and he took up a very successful career in breeding horses.  Aside from his love of horses, Hall-Walker also had a keen interest in Japanese culture and astrology.  He often used zodiac signs to determine breeding times and purchases, often to great success.  His love of Japan is reflected in the Stud’s famed Japanese Gardens where we spent a bit of time at the end of the tour.

 

From the Stud, we continued heading south to the town of Kilkenny, where we had a tour of Smithwick’s Experience, the most successful brewery in Ireland.

The brewery actually had an interesting history.  The brewing process used by Smithwick’s was actually inspired by monks.  The water in the region was too hard to be drinkable.  In order to be able to drink the water, the monks brewed the hard water into beer which made it drinkable.  The lime rock in the region was especially suitable to the unique brewing process.

The company was founded by John Smithwick, but the family name was unable to be used for 120 years.  In John Smithwick’s time, Irish laws prevented Roman Catholics from owning land or businesses.  Smithwick’s business partner had to front the business while he ran it quietly behind the scenes.  Once Daniel O’Connell, the Emancipator and personal friend of the Smithwick running the business at the time, got the legislation through that changed the laws, the family name could finally be used for the business.

At the end of the tour, free half pints were given to us to sample.  I tried a blonde ale, but probably should have gone with classic red ale as the blonde was too weak for my taste buds.

 

After the tour, we had a bit of time to tour the region.  Mom and I stopped in a pub where I had a toasted ham, cheese, and onion sandwich with some chips and Dad got temporarily lost.  Luckily, he found his way back in time for us to begin the trek to New Ross.

 

In New Ross, we visited the Dunbrody Famine Ship.  This was one of many boats that helped Irish citizens emigrate to the Americas during the Great Potato Famine.  It was a very informative tour about what life was like on the boats.  There were two classes of passengers:  cabin (first-class) and steerage (everybody else).  Life was hard on the boats as the poor steering class passengers would be crammed into a single bunk and permitted a half hour a day on the upper deck solely to cook.  Cabin passengers had it a bit better as they got private rooms and were able to spend more time on the upper deck.  It’s very possible that the crew had it the best, at least in terms of eating.  The crew was fed extremely well and was the only group to get meat as they needed the strength to sail the ship.  They were also paid well, but wouldn’t get paid until they returned to Ireland for fear that they would jump ship once the boat docked in the Americas.

 

After the tour of the boat, we returned to the boat and drove to our final destination of Waterford and to the Tower Hotel, our home for the next few days.  We got into our rooms and then went to the hotel dining room where I enjoyed a meal of roast lamb and vegetables.  The rest of the evening was left to ourselves as we readied for another day of adventures.

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Tower Hotel

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