We were driving through a little town. I could easily get used to saying “and there was a castle and an abbey” for us to explore. Living here, that would definitely be an advantage.
We parked and walked over to the castle walls. There were barriers all around the castle because of restoration work. It was still an impressive sight to see. It was beautiful in it’s history and determination to remain standing.
We wandered around the boundary to see if there was more information posted, and read whatever we could find. Seeing as much as we could we got in the car to find the abbey. And right down the road, we could have walked, there it was.
We parked in the lot and walked through the grave yard to enter the magnificent abbey. And I mean, magnificent. I greatly appreciate the work of the Irish who built walls that last centuries and centuries. We read the plaques telling us about the abbey. We heard voices and tried to avoid going where they came from. It sounded like a tour and we didn’t want to crash something someone else may have paid for.
At one entry way there was a hole in the wall from the doorway, reaching out to a corridor I was standing in. My husband said “let me take your picture”. He stuck his hand in the wall with his camera and I bent to look in the wall. Suddenly we hear a very pleasant Irish voice say “did you lose some money in there?”
My husband stood up, not hearing what the man said. I started laughing and said no, he was taking my picture. The small group got a kick out of that. They all asked us to join them. One lady whispered “do join, it’s free!” We eagerly joined.
Anthony was our guide. He was so well matched to what he was doing. The others welcomed us and the group laughed, and learned together. Anthony did a wonderful job teaching us.
At the end of this tour Anthony recited a poem.
He then gave us each a sprig of shamrock that was growing right there at our feet.
Anthony invited us all to go back to the castle. The others said they had been there and it was locked. He tapped his pocket and said “aye, but I have the key”. Four of us elected to go with him.
Anthony told us they do not charge for tours, they accept tips for the fund for preserving the sites. We told him we would tip him but I gave him a book first. He put his arm around me and told my husband to take our picture.
Then he hugged me. 🙂
We all regrouped at the castle.
And again, I was grateful for the people we have run into in our travels. Anthony was born and raised in this town. He raised his family in this town. He told us how he would play all through this castle as a child. He leaned in to tell us how they climbed the steps up to the higher floors, where there were no more floors. He said “and do ye think my mother knew what we were up to?” We all told him we were pretty sure she did not. He agreed with us.
Anthony grew up with this castle. And it is now being protected and preserved for the future. Anthony obviously had a great appreciation for the past, and he respected his connection to both the church and the abbey. He showed us pictures of the parts of the castle that were currently blocked off. Including an 800 year old wooden door that still hangs on it’s hinges, and works, in the castle. I was in awe. Think, I said, of the people, their dress, and their purpose, when walking through that door all those years ago. I can’t stop imagining the history that walked back and forth through that door.
It was easy to see Anthony as a child playing in the castle ruins. I could easily see him being the king of the castle in his backyard. It was even easier to see the passion he has had all along for this place.
It was clear why he never left. Though I suspect a little piece of him leaves with anyone who was intrigued by him and his information.
We gave Anthony a tip for the preservation.
He hugged me again.
I told him he was my newest friend. He laughed.
And I will keep looking for those castles in little towns.