Clonmel is a very interesting town. I wondered for a while if I could describe it in one word and I failed miserably. There’s an awful lot going on in this little town that you have to wonder how anyone finds the time to organise it all!
Getting to Clonmel, the first thing I noticed was that it tidy. Like it is extremely tidy. Clonmel is literally the tidiest town I’ve been in (ever) and the people clearly take pride in it. I checked into my hotel, which has a great history to it! Hearns hotel on Pearse Street used to be the base of operations for Bianconi stagecoaches, and they have really held on to that heritage. Fergal, the owner was incredibly nice and made sure I settled in well! There’s a bar downstairs and a club if you’re feeling frisky (more on that later).
Buskers along the streets of Clonmel
Next up, I met up with Rita who was helping organise the busking and medieval trail that just happened to be on the weekend I was here! Rita took me to the top floor of the Project Arts centre where there was a room full of people donning medieval garb and sipping copious amounts of wine, about to go on a pub crawl. I felt like I’d stepped into a story book! We glided from pub to pub as I attempted to keep up with the professionals! There was busking all along the way and it was fairly surreal at many points… Picture a group of about twenty people walking the streets late at night dressed as knights and lords and ladies and ladies in waiting, belting into song and dance from time to time; pint firmly in hand!
Some of the medieval people on the trail
At some point several bars later, I realised that on the crawl was three of the town counsellors, two people from the chamber of commerce (including the head) and none other than the mayor himself! Honestly, I’ve never seen politicians so loved by the people they represent and mingle the way they did! They were full of stories too; did you know Clonmel was founded where it is as people followed a swarm of bees to what they hoped was fertile land? (I don’t know how true it is, but I love the story regardless!) We eventually ended up back in the club (it is the only club in the town) at which point, my body realised I had probably had one too many with the politicians and decided I must get to bed (all the evidence will be on the JJ Kavanagh & Sons Facebook page)
Roisin and Neil from Abarta Audio Guides
I woke up to my phone buzzing and I was oh so late to meet archaeologist couple Neil Jackman and Roisin Burke (yes they met on a dig, yes that is very romantic). On each one of our trips, one thing that always happens is that I leave with a greater understanding, not only of the day to day happenings of the towns and cities, but of the history of the place. The same can be said of Clonmel. We drove down to St Patrick’s Well were an underground stream bubbles through the limestone and forms a beautiful brook that flows serenely into the river Suir.
The beautiful steps down to St Patrick’s Well
The stillness of the place is beautiful and the old, roofless church is something you have to witness to really enjoy; I can picture storytelling happening in there and it would be a beautiful scene! Neil and Roisin were some of the best guides I’ve ever had and they really do know so much about Irish history and heritage through their digs around the country.
Roisin explaining to Laura about the churches ancient ruins in Athassel Priory
They really came into their own at Athassel Priory after a short drive through the Golden Vale which is stunning countryside. Athassel priory is a Norman ruin hundreds of years old. It used to be a thriving settlement and as you walk over the bridge and the remains of what used to be a moat, you can really feel or begin to imagine what life was like back then; the animals, the shopkeepers, children, nobles and craftspeople would have been going about their daily business.
You can still see the remains of their culture in the carvings in the stone; it truly is a beautiful place to spend a couple of hours in. Neil and Roisin truly are passionate about what they do and you can see some of their work at Abarta Audio Guides and read Neil’s articles in The Journal!
Hickey’s famous pink bike!
After all that and it was only lunchtime! I was lucky enough to have Laura Kavanagh, of JJ Kavanagh with me as we went to get a bite to eat in Hickey’s Bakery, a place so many of you guys recommended! Hickey’s is just beside the West gate of the town, where Clonmel made a stand against Cromwell in 1650 (I did my homework guys) It has been a family run business for four generations and it really shows from the range of clientele; there was everyone from babies to people in their nineties in for a bite to eat. I loved the food, especially as I ordered a sandwich, which I never do! The hot chocolate came just how hot chocolates should come; on the end of a stick, dissolving in frothy milk! There’s a beautiful bike outside that looks like it has sat outside the bakery for a century and I think that’s a lovely touch!
After lunch, I popped back to the hotel to get ready for a lovely evening, and you can see Part two of Clonmel very soon! Stay tuned to #TrailsOfIreland