Ireland to Ourselves

On a gorgeous day in early September 2021, with the sky a brilliant blue and temperatures in the 70s, we visited the very popular, ancient, beloved Irish town of Kilkenny.

Almost all by ourselves.

Kilkenny was Ireland’s capital in medieval times, so it has lots of heritage and history. It has a well-preserved castle and some magnificent old churches. (Though it must be said that old castles and churches are almost as common in Ireland as pubs and roundabouts.) Kilkenny also has a maze of streets and alleys chock full of interesting shops and cafes. And it has some lovely views of the River Nore.

So on a spectacular late summer day, Kilkenny should have been packed with tourists. And it would have been, of course, if not for Covid.

Here’s Kilkenny Castle. But where are all the tourists?

According to the locals, the town was indeed crowded during the summer. But the tourists were mostly Irish. Like people everywhere in the world, the pandemic left the Irish with a lot of pent-up energy, so when Covid appeared to be on the wane back in June, they packed their bags and their families and went out to see the sites in their own country.

The cashiers we spoke with at this chain gift shop told us that the store had seen plenty of business over the summer.

But now the summer holiday season had wound down and school had started again, and the domestic tourism in Ireland had mostly dried up. And unfortunately for towns like Kilkenny (and Waterford, where we were staying, and presumably most everywhere in Ireland) the foreign tourists – especially Americans – weren’t around to take up the slack.

We found this gift shop well stocked with merchandise. Customers, on the other hand, were scarce.

The cashiers at the Carroll’s in Kilkenny were as lovely and friendly as all the Irish seem to be. And they were only too happy to chat with us and pose for pictures. Because, you see, they had no customers to wait on.

So many super-nice people in Ireland.

After the castle, we visited St. Canice’s Cathedral, a 13th Century masterpiece. The attendant assured us that, on a sunny September day pre-pandemic, the place would have been teeming with tourists. But during our midday visit, we pretty much had the church to ourselves.

“Till death do us part, my dearest…” “Screw that! You’re stuck with me FOREVER!”

Our hotel in Waterford was actually pretty busy, but again, the guests were almost exclusively Irish – many of them older folks whose kids (if they had kids) were no doubt well past their school years. And sadly, lots of pubs, restaurants, and shops in Waterford remained “temporarily” closed, as they had been since the pandemic first hit full force in early 2020. For many of those businesses, reopening may never happen. Of course, this kind of economic turmoil has hit communities hard all around the world. But somehow, it feels especially troubling to me in Ireland. Maybe because the people are just so damned nice.

Live music performances were banned in Ireland from May 2021 until early September.
But they’re back!

George and I know we won’t really have Ireland to ourselves on this trip. Foreign tourists like us are slowly returning. And those Irish with the means and opportunity will no doubt continue to take holidays in their own country too. But we don’t expect to encounter the massive crowds that are usually part of the Irish tourism experience. For us, that’s kind of a good thing. We wouldn’t mind if this trip lasted forever. But for the goodhearted and hardworking people of Ireland, the time of Covid can’t end soon enough.

One of the well-preserved interiors at Kilkenny Castle. I love the period furnishings. Not sure about the color scheme.
Need a shave in Kilkenny? Hmm.
Palm trees in Ireland? Sure. It doesn’t usually freeze here. It just gets very, very wet.
Palm trees AND beaches? Yep. The southeast coast of Ireland has some enchanting shorelines.
Did I mention that every Irish town has a castle? This one is in Enniscorthy.
Waterford has lots of interesting murals. This one frightened me a little.
Cigarette machines in the 21st Century? I find that frightening too.
Feel free to make up your own caption for this one. I have no idea.
The Vikings were here.
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  1. Joan Gavin

    I’m really enjoying these blogs. Tho I’d really rather be in Ireland for real, these blogs help to mitigate my longing. Thanks’

    1. Craig David Singer (Post author)

      I know how you feel. I’d rather be in Ireland too. I’m saying that as a projection of myself in the near future, when I won’t be in Ireland like I am right now. Wait, what?

  2. Paula

    Suggested caption for the Slimming sign: Better than a gym – only pay for the bicep curls you choose!

    1. Craig David Singer (Post author)

      Only the ones that pump me up.

  3. Mike Dieffenbach

    Dear Craig,

    Did you know KilKenny was the inspiration for killing Kenny on Southpark? It was! I am so glad in Kilkenny you ate maize and saw Kirstie’s alleys! I can does learning to READ! While you and George are in Ireland, say “hi” to Kathy! Kathy Ireland!


    1. Craig David Singer (Post author)

      Kathy was lovely until we dropped your name. Then she wouldn’t talk to us anymore.

  4. Margie

    So jealous!!!
    Hope you are enjoying a pint at every great pub and assume the food continues to improve over what was considered pretty standard ‘meat and potatoes’ of old? ??
    Keep the posts coming and enjoy!!!

    1. Craig David Singer (Post author)

      Irish cuisine has definitely been upgraded from the old pub grub – though that’s still abundantly available and we have partaken of it shamelessly. We wish you two were with us!!

  5. Dang

    Again, very historical in appearance and beautiful! The coastal scenery is gorgeous. So sad to see the stores and restaurants having a hard time, but which country doesn’t have this problem? Enjoy.

    1. Craig David Singer (Post author)

      You’re absolutely right. The hurting in Ireland is the hurting everywhere in the world.


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