by agriculi on 26/07/09 at 5:20 am
Follow a trail along the sunny south east of Ireland, which brings you on a magical history tour. Don’t forget your wellies.
About 10 miles south of Kilkenny lays Thomastown. When you follow the Waterford road for a few miles you will see Jerpoint Abbey. In this area the settlement of Newtown Jerpoint was built by the Anglo Normans around 1190 AD. The town was completely dissolved by the plague in 16th century.
The myth goes that St. Nicholas of Myra, the archetypal Santa Claus was put to rest near this very settlement by crusaders at the end of the 12th century. His grave still exists, although those who want to visit the relic is advised to wear wellies.
You can get to the graveyard via the Grennan Mill Craft school. Park your car at the statue of the hurler Ollie and walk along a narrow road. Across from the craft school you will find a ‘path’ along the river Nore that will lead you to where Newtown once existed. The best time to do this walk is the summer. In the autumn and winter the river might be flooded, unless you bring a canoe you will not be able to continue your mission. Except for the occasional cow and sheep you will have little chance of meeting a human soul. This is also an excellent spot for trout fishing, however why should you while you can buy it at the nearby trout farm?
Is this all a bit too adventurous to you then you might be more interested in visiting the Watergarden in Thomastown. The Watergarden is home to a pottery, basket weavery, a garden for the blind, a secret garden, of course a water garden, a coffee shop and many more. All the workshops including the coffee shop are run by people with an intellectual disadvantage and volunteers from all over the world.
The coffee shop serves homemade scones, cakes and organic lunches. On a summer’s day you can eat your food at one of the pick nick tables outside. This is a place where you can enjoy your meal or tea at leisure.
Once you have drenched your thirst and filled your stomach you might consider a visit to the neighbouring village of Inistioge, which is found some five miles south of Thomastown in the direction of New Ross. ‘The Circle of Friends’ was filmed in this picturesque village, although one scene took place in the old Watergarden coffee shop.
However there is more to Inistioge than this. Who doesn’t remember or hasn’t heard of the famous Woodstock concert in the 1960’s? Although the concert took practically place in a certain Mr. Dylan’s back garden in New York, the real Woodstock estate and gardens exists since the early 1800’s. Entering the village turn right and follow the steep High Street, this will bring you to the entrance of the estate. Stop after a few metres and you’ll have a magnificent view of the Nore Valley from the hill.
Once you have parked your car you can enjoy a variety of formal and informal gardens among which an arboretum, walled garden, terraced garden, winter garden and a not to be missed beautiful rose garden. Stroll along the stunning Monkey Puzzle avenue with its 31 pairs of Araucaria araucunas. This is the largest and most mature avenue of Monkey Puzzle trees in Europe. If you prefer a more gracious walk, tread alone the Noble Fir avenue.