M9—it was smooth, wide, virtually vacant, and fast. M9, between Waterford and Dublin, is one of Ireland’s interstate highways. It is much like our own I-system but with only 10% of the traffic and hardly a truck to get in my way. At least that was my experience until about 20 km south of Dublin where the traffic picked up a bit.

Kilkenny on River Nore

Kilkenny on River Nore

On this last day in Ireland we detoured off M9 and spent several hours in Kilkenny, a mid-sized town on the Nore River in Leinster Province. It was a delightful, relaxed place of colorful streets, quaint shops, and craft centers. It also had the most beautifully restored castle/mansion that we had seen during our stay. The castle originated with Strongbow’s Army as a defensive structure during the 11th century but served as the home (considerably expanded) for the Butler Family for 600 years, until 1935, when it was abandoned. In 1967, after considerable decay, it was given to the city and finally restored in the mid 90s. It was a gem compared to the many ruins we had seen along the way.

Kilkenny CompositeThe surrounding gardens were equally impressive with their diversity, beauty, and extensive use of long-lived perennials. One gets the impression that many centuries of horticultural experience and expertise have been captured and retained in these refined landscapes.

Kilkenny was a great last stop for a lasting impression of Ireland. Moreover, on this last day, Lauren found the perfect wool and cashmere sweater Grandpa promised to buy (a hard-to-find petite size), along with all the right souvenirs.

On the way to the airport the traffic was heavy but civilized as we transitioned from M9 to M50, the bypass around Dublin. No worries; it was easy access to the airport and rental car return. Now at the Radisson Airport Hotel, drinking my last Carlsberg pint from the glass with the raised, green, “Carlsberg” script (I would love to bring 6 of these home), I am wondering how high the grass might be in the front yard, and whether or not the potato bugs and cabbage worms got the best of my garden (a first-world problem for sure).