Kilbline Castle, County Kilkenny

Kilbline castle and its attached 2-storey house is situated approximately 1 mile from Bennetsbridge, Co Kilkenny. It is not open to or accessible to the public, but its current owners kindly gave me a quick tour of the building  and some information on its history.

Kilbline castle was built in 1539 and records from the era reference to it being forfeited by one Thomas Comerford of Ballymac in 1566. Subsequent owners have been members of the Shortall family of Rathardmore Castle in the same county. Thomas Shortall of Rathardmore died in 1628 and shortly after his heir Peter moved to the castle of Kilbline. His substantial estates, which ran to around 1,500 acres were declared forfeited by the Cromwellian government in 1653 and his sons ordered to be sent to Connaught. In later years, it’s believed to be after the restoration of Charles II in 1660, one of the sons seem to have returned to Kilbline.

Kilbline once more changed hands during this period when William Candler, originally from Newcastle in Northumberland, was granted lands in County Kilkenny, including those on which Kilbline Castle stands. He is believed to have served as an officer in Oliver Cromwell’s army during the Irish wars of 1649-53 and as a reward for his endeavors, was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel and granted these lands as result. He and his wife Anne Villiers had two sons, the younger of whom, John lived at Kilbline.

An interesting side history here that is worth mentioning: John’s son Thomas lived at Callan Castle. He had four sons, the youngest of whom Daniel, married an Irishwoman, possibly a Roman Catholic, called Hannah, and as a result was obliged to leave Ireland. Around 1735 Daniel and Hannah Candler moved to the USA, initially settling in North Carolina before moving to Bedford, Virginia. Their great, great, great-grandson was Asa Griggs Candler, the entrepreneur who in 1888 bought the formula for the well known soft drink Coca Cola.

According to it’s current owners Kilbline Castle continued to be occupied with a Ryan family living in the castle until 1840, before marrying into the Lannon family, who occupied the castle until 1979. At some point a two storey three-bay house was added on the west end of the tower house and a further single storey structure adjoining this. The interior of the house remains relatively intact  and though the current owners mentioned no plans are in place currently to restore the castle, measures have been taken to “keep the rain out”.

Much of the castle, due to the questionable condition of some of its floorboards, were inaccessible for safety reasons, but I did get to visit the delightful and architecturally significant paneled room on the south-east corner of the ground floor. Most likely of oak this looks to date from the late 17th or early 18th century. All the wall paneling is intact and in remarkably good condition. Overall the interior of the castle is in fair shape and it was an absolute joy to visit and photograph.

Amazing Places in Ireland – Glendalough, Co Wicklow

Glendalough is a place I much enjoyed visiting and a place I’d highly recommend to any visitor to Ireland. Close enough for a day-trip from Dublin or Kilkenny, it’s peaceful, beautiful and family friendly. Perfect for a day out in some of Ireland’s most beautiful countryside.

With its ancient graveyard,  beautiful lakes, peaceful forest and abundant wildlife, Glendalough has a lot to offer in terms of history, monuments, archaeology, architecture, landscapes, geology, parks, flora, fauna, wildlife habitats and mining history. The valley is also home to one of Ireland’s most impressive monastic sites, founded by St. Kevin in the 6th Century.

If you enjoy walking in beautiful natural settings or forests, Glendalough is a must! We spent some time wandering around the well kept footpaths, through the forest and along the edge of the lake, where I was delighted to meet this curious, fairly tame, deer, that came out of the trees to say “hello”.

For fanciers of ancient grave sites and history, there are some amazing old tombstones dating back centuries and incredible old ruins. I personally found it a little upsetting that some of the footpaths around the grave site went right over graves though. Care should be taken when wandering around the area.

Glendalough is accessible year-round and entrance to walkways, lakes and sites free of charge. We found parking hard to find, due the high number of cars already there when we arrived, so plan your visit to arrive early if possible.

There are a number of restaurants and cafes in the region that offers lunch and if you fancy staying a night, accommodation is offered in B&B’s, hotels etc in the region. For more info on these, visit

Tickincor castle

“The House at the Weir” (In Gaelic, Teagh-an-Corr), now known as Tickincor Castle, was once a once formidable three-storey fortress built during the reign of James I.  About 3 miles from Clonmel, it is situated on the south bank of the river Suir, on the Tipperary/Waterford county border.

This former stronghouse was built by Alexander Power in c.1620. It passed to Sir Thomas Stanley and then in the 1650s to Sir Nicholas Osborne. His descendants continued occupying the castle until the late 18th century, when they moved to Newton Anner in Tipperary. Its last inhabitant, Sir John Osborne, died in 1743.

Today all that remains of this once beautiful castle is ruins in a spectacular setting on the banks of the river Suir. Well worth the short drive to see it, the castle is adjacent to a privately owned and occupied property and not open or accessible to the public.

Amazing Places in Ireland – Ballykeeffe Amphitheatre, Co Kilkenny

What do you do with an abandoned limestone quarry near the Tipperary border at Ballykeeffe, Co Kilkenny?

Abandoned by Kilkenny County Council as a source of road-making materials, the quarry became a dump for old cars, furniture and other rubbish, while becoming a repository for beet being supplied to Thurles sugar factory. Rock climbers saw the potential for sports on the quarry’s rugged edge in time and the quarry soon attracted rock climbers from all over Ireland.  In 1999 the Mountaineering Council of Ireland adopted a policy of accepting bolted protection in quarries where traditional climbing had not previously taken place and Ballykeeffe quarry became a sports-climbing venue and the only area with full bolted protection in Ireland.

The sudden interest and visitors to the quarry caught the attention of the locals, who soon realized the potential of the quarry and it’s spectacular setting. The end of the last century plans were unveiled by KBK, the local enterprise group, to turn the quarry into an entertainment venue. The rubbish, beet and cars were removed as a Millennium project and Ballykeeffe Amphitheatre was born.

In 2011, the original makeshift stage was replaced with an innovatively designed, outdoor stage costing €100,000 – the first of its kind in Ireland. The venue now has no difficulty attracting quality Irish and overseas acts, while still playing host to rick climbing enthusiasts and for the less adventurous, offers walks in the attached nature reserve. It certainly is worth a visit for the spectacular views alone!

For more information, as well as scheduled acts and performances in the amphitheatre, visit

My Ireland

For many people Ireland brings to mind beautiful countryside, good beer, music, friendly people and and great places of historical significance to visit. For me, personally, Ireland meant and still does, a lot more…

In June 2015 I left my country of birth, South Africa, and made Ireland “home” and though I refer to it as “my Ireland”, it was more a question of Ireland adopting me. I came here with well thought out plans and intentions of making a success of my venture, as we do, but life has a way of happening and disrupting our plans. In my case it was my marriage ending and along with that, getting diagnosed with cancer (thankfully in the very early stages). I decided to make the best of a difficult situation and make a go of things, in-between surgeries, looking after my then 10-year old son and still trying to adapt to life in a foreign country.

It was following those events that I got to really meet the Irish and see and experience firsthand just how absolutely incredible these people are. And how blessed we are to be able to live here amongst them. The Irish are writers, musicians and poets, but they are also generous, sympathetic, compassionate, caring… They have hearts. They truly are the most beautiful people and I love them dearly for it.

They calmly and quietly walked into my life, took me under their wings and looked after us as best they could, respectfully, drew me into their community, their church, accepted me and let me know I was accepted and cared for. Me and my son, strangers, foreigners, it mattered none to them. From the Garda (Irish Police) to neighbors and casual friends, hospital staff and school teachers, they were there for us and I still don’t have words to adequately express my gratitude to them all.

This blog is for sharing information on places, things and experiences we had as immigrants, including lessons learned by trial and error! But it’s also my way of giving something back to Ireland and telling the world about the wonderful things I discovered and enjoyed in my time here and promoting them all as my “giving something back” to this country that gave us so much.

I hope you all reading my posts here will find something, a place yet unheard off, an adventure you just have to take, where you will find your own bit of Ireland magic.

Higgins Castle – Co Tipperary

Little is known about Castle Higgins, one of the few castles scattered around the medieval town of Fethard, Co Tipperary, except that the Addis family is listed as occupiers of the castle in the year 1834.

The castle is located a short drive from Fethard, in the Coolmundry townsland, along the R692, on private land used for grazing. The castle itself is in derelict state and what remains is used to house the cows occupying the surrounding pastures.

Graystown Castle – County Tipperary

The ruins of Graystown Castle is set on an outcrop of limestone rock overlooking the Clashawley River valley, 3km west of the village of Killenaule.

Graystown castle in it’s heyday guarded an important route linking north and south Tipperary along this river valley. It is said that the name Graystown derives from the Norman lord and military genius Raymond le Gros, who accompanied Strongbow on his invasion of Ireland around 1170. However, it seems more likely that the area is named after one of a number of Norman knights called Grey, who are named in documents from around 1300.

The castle itself dates from the 1500s, extends to five storeys and is 60 ft. high. In the 1650s it was occupied by Henry Laffan, an official of the Butler Family and the castle was the residence of the Laffan family, who owned most of the parish of Graystown in the late medieval period. The site and associated structures were also owned by Henry Laffan. Graystown was later confiscated from Marcus and Henry Laffan by the Cromwellian administration and in 1659 two English men, Giles Cooke and Edward Pippen, were the principle land owners in Graystown. The Laffans failed to get their lands back after the Restoration of King Charles II.

The castle had been unoccupied and left to fall to ruin over a number of years and today is quietly sitting in a field used mainly for grazing, overlooking the nearby quarry.  It is well worth a visit, not least for the spectacular views over the surrounding countryside.

The castle is situated on private land and dangerous to enter, so visitors are requested to view it only from the adjacent roadside.

Irish Weather

Approximately 5 minutes before it started sleeting.

Before we moved to Ireland I chatted with a native about his chickens and chicken housing and management and asked him how they manage the wet conditions and rain here. He told me “Honestly, it doesn’t rain THAT much in Ireland!” About 5 months after we arrived this happened:

On our first visit to Ireland, we arrived in October and anticipating a cold winter, asked the locals if we can expect to see snow. Every single one of them responded with exactly the same answer: “It NEVER snows here! But it did two years ago.” A few weeks later this happened:

Caha Pass on the Co Cork and Co Kerry border – 2014

About two weeks after this pic was taken, we picked up a hitch hiker and and I asked him if he thinks we’ll be getting more snow. Guess what he said to me? “It NEVER snows here! But it did two years ago.”

I’ve come to the conclusion that the Irish are in denial about their weather and should NOT be trusted!

After spending more than 2 years in Ireland myself, in total, and switching from wishing it would rain to wishing it would stop, experiencing a few light snowfalls, getting drenched and learning which flooded roads are safe to navigate and which are better avoided, I’ve learned to enjoy and appreciate sunny days. There are plenty of those and they are wonderful, even if many of them are interrupted by quick, light showers, coming seemingly out of nowhere and disappearing again before you had time to change your plans, or in my case, find shelter.

The Irish don’t think they get a lot of rain, but they do get rained on often. “Frequent rain” comes to mind first when I am asked about the weather. Followed by “mild”. Temperatures are mild year round, with a few evenings and early mornings dipping to below freezing and mid-summer days occasionally seeing a hot day. But summer days are generally quite comfortably warm… with the odd shower.

In spring (February – April), the average highest temperatures range from 7 to 12°C/46 to 54°F, with April considered quite pleasant.

In summer (May – July), the averages for highest temperatures are between 17 and 18°C/64 and 68°F, but the temperatures may occasionally rise to the low 30°C/mid 80’s Fahrenheit. This is not very common though.

In autumn, (August to October) the highest temperatures average between 13 and 17°C/57 and 64°F. September is considered a mild, temperate month.

Winter air temperatures inland normally reach 7°C/46°F, while the coldest months are January to March.

The sunniest months in Ireland are May and June when sunshine duration averages between 5 and 6½ hours per day over most of the country. The southeast gets the most sunshine, averaging more than 7 hours of sunshine a day in early summer. December is the dullest month with an average daily sunshine ranging from about 1 hour in the north to almost 2 hours in the southeast. Over the year as a whole most areas of the country get an average of between 3¼ and 3¾ hours of sunshine each day. Irish skies are completely covered by cloud roughly half of the time. I did mention earlier that I’ve learned to appreciate and enjoy sunshine!

With all this in mind, what to wear and what clothes to bring to Ireland for the unpredictable weather is a frequently asked questions by visitors. I always tell people to bring whatever they feel comfortable in, as long as they are modest and neat and to bring a light, waterproof jacket for summer, a heavier coat for winter and a pair of waterproof shoes with good gripping soles year round. In spite of the frequent rain, many sidewalks, steps and parts of the roads here are slippery underfoot when wet and on roads outside the towns and cities, covered in puddles, due to inadequate roadside drainage. So if you plan to hike or walk around a lot, bring the right shoes!



Travel, Accommodation and Money Saving Tips


Ruin Exploring in Co Kerry

Everyone has their own ideas, budgets and plans for visiting Ireland on holiday. Us? Well, we had NO plans when we arrived here, not detailed ones anyway. We didn’t arrange anything beforehand either and basically just winged it,  figuring things out (some the expensive way!) along the line. Apart from looking for a place we’d eventually like to settle into, our plan was to first spent a lot of time travelling around the country and exploring it and we did… This post is some tips for you for saving a saving a bit of money during your stay, along with some recommendations for getting the most from your time here.

First off: some money saving tips.

If you are planning to hire a car and drive on your trip, do not wait until you arrive at the airport before arranging a hire car. Booking a car online and arranging pick-up at the airport (they can and will have the car ready for you all hours) can save you a lot of money! Shop around before committing and book through a car hire agent that works with a number of different companies, if possible. It’s a bit of effort, but it really will save you loads of €€€. To give you an example friend of mine got an absolutely loveable, almost brand new car for a 5 days for around €80 last year (2016). We picked up an arrive-at-the-airport-and-hire-a-car, a not-quite-as-nice (and 6 years older) model for about… A few hundred Euros more? Shop around and check out all your options!

When stopping for gas/petrol/diesel for your car, look at the price offered at a few filling stations before filling up. Prices shown are per litre and fluctuate quite a bit between the different filling stations and Murphy’s law would have the first one you stop at be the most expensive one. Yep, been there! Believe me, after just filling up @ €1.49/litre at that one filling station in Cork and finding unleaded @ €1.37/litre at another in Tipperary I was not happy!

Next up, accommodation. Though it may make sense to book a room in a hotel, it’s worth looking into B&B accommodation, which is wonderful and very affordable, with the added benefit of great hosts that will be only too happy to chat with you and tell you about the area, places to go, eat and more. One of our hosts helped us enormously when we told him we’re after buying a car, warning us about potential pitfalls and frauds and even went online to find and print out car adverts for us. They will also arrange taxis etc for you, if needed.

When booking a B&B, avoid going through the first online booking agent you see. They add a commission and you end up paying way more than you will when booking directly with the B&B’s owners. Rates vary greatly depending on the B&B, some may let any children stay for free, or at a reduced rate. If you are on a tight budget, shop around first. Out of season (during winter) many B&B’s are closed, but there are many that stay open year round and vacancies in the slower months are easier to find. When we came over we drove around looking for B&B signs, stopped and asked if they had vacancies. It sometimes took up to five stops before we found a vacancy though. Also keep in mind that many B&B’s are extensions of private homes, so start looking and enquiring late afternoon/early evening. The benefit of this flexible approach to accommodation is that it leaves you free to go about as you please and not have to be in a certain town or village on certain days. Most of the B&B’s we stayed in were lovely and the hosts wonderful, except one in Cavan. The hostess was very unfriendly and our room was haunted. But that one thankfully was an exception on both counts! Air B&B bookings are gaining popularity in Ireland as well and is also worth checking out.

Food-wise… B&B’s serve a good size “full Irish” breakfast (with healthier cereals and fruit for the less adventurous). When dining out, some of the nicest meals we had were in pubs. Delicious, generous dinners and very affordable too. If you are on a very tight budget, check supermarkets for ready meals and ask your B&B host if they’d heat it up for you. Otherwise, even the smallest Irish villages now host a Chinese or other foreign owned Take-Away/fast food restaurant, often locally known as the “chipper”. These offer meals ranging from burgers, to fish and chips, kebabs and pizzas and some are really, really good! I’ve had burgers from “chippers” that would put MacDonald’s to shame and at half the price of one from the more popular outlets.

Exploring West Cork

When traveling around Ireland, we didn’t pick out “must see” places beforehand and drove around and explored spontaneously instead (and got lost frequently!) Buy a good road map book and get a good GPS, but allow for some “off the beaten track” adventures away from the main tourist attractions as well. I found some incredible places, castles, beaches and little villages by asking locals and just driving around, exploring. Not saying diss the tourist spots, but after paying to see the Cliffs of Moher, I discovered Achill Island’s coastline is just as stunning, if not more so, and there is more of it too. (And it’s free…)

If you want to see castles, the locals would most likely recommend the more well known ones, like Kilkenny, but I found incredible castles by exploring, like Lismore Castle, Co Waterford. I am crazy about castles and found there are many, many wonderful ones to explore here. Some are open to the public, some are on private land. I’ve started documenting the castles I found in the Irish Castles section.

There are lots of truly wonderful places here, villages, etc that are not well known. Be spontaneous and adventurous and ask locals. They know the best places and most of them are only to happy to recommend places or show you where to go. We picked up a hitchhiker near Cork city one day and he ended up showing us the region around Castletownbearhaven and the road up to Dursey Island, which is quite simply breathtakingly beautiful! He also recommended the lovely town of Eyeries and that region ended up becoming one of our favourite haunts.

I feel personally, that the best way to really experience Ireland would be to head off the beaten track, find and explore the smaller villages, follow the small roads, talk to the locals, be open-minded and be spontaneous. You never know what you’ll find, but I can assure you, you will not be disappointed!

Some personal recommendations and quick tips:

Jaunting Car Ride – Killarney

If your time is limited, head South-west to Co Kerry and Co Cork and explore the coast line, go for a “jaunting car” ride in Killarney (it’s well worth the money spent) and drive along the coast up towards Waterford, stopping along the way in places like Eyeries, Allihies, Glengariff, Baltimore, Clonakilty…

Co Clare is lovely too, with the curious “Burren”, well worth a drive through and a stop. I lived in the Burren for about 3 months. It’s an amazing landscape, quite unlike anything I’ve seen before.

If you head up the coast towards Mayo, clear a day or two for exploring the amazing Achill Island…. 

Achill Island – Co Mayo

Pack clothing for all weathers (it’s almost guaranteed to rain at least a little bit most days) and pack good waterproof shoes for exploring, especially around the castles. Note that Ireland is often wet, so make sure your shoes have non-slip soles!  The charm of an ancient ruin will quickly fade when you lose your footing and and land on a gorse (been there, done that… Those plants are mean!)

Make sure you always have some cash on hand, especially coins, for parking meters, toll gates, public toilets (usually 20c coins) and small purchases. Some shops require a minimum purchase of €10 for card payments. Many also offer a “cash back”, so you can ask them to add an amount of up to €50 or so onto the transaction, which they give you back in cash.

If driving on the M50 around Dublin check in at the nearest filling station as soon as possible afterwards and give them your car’s plate number so they can see if you have to pay the e-toll. (Chances are you would) The sooner you get that done, the better. We tried to pay ours later in West Cork at a shop that claimed they can take the payments, but couldn’t, and nearly got fined!

Most importantly, keep your camera battery charged and have fun!

Buying a car and getting insurance in Ireland

Buying a car and getting insurance in Ireland for immigrants can be an expensive hassle, so it pays to do your homework and be as prepared as you can be, before you start shopping.

First of all, let’s talk a bit about buying a car. The easiest way would seem to do what we did, when we arrived. Do a quick tour of the dealerships in and around Dublin and buy a car that looked to be suitable and not too expensive.  On hindsight that turned out to be a very expensive mistake.

First off,  cars in and around Dublin are fair expensive. Setting a price range and shopping around in counties further afield can save you a LOT of money and potentially bag you a real bargain. So take your time and don’t hesitate to travel to get to a better deal. Don’t discount private sales either. I bought a lovely car privately, negotiated on the price a bit and ended up getting a good car at way less than I expected to and was prepared to pay. Look and look and look some more before you buy.

Secondly, once you find a car you like, before you buy, check if the vehicle has an up-to-date NCT, road tax paid up etc. If not, and it’s often the case,  these requirements would add to the cost and hassle (getting an appointment for an NCT test usually takes a few weeks, add to that the pre-NCT check at a garage and inevitable minor repairs needed). Check the disks and ask the dealer/seller.  The tax disc states the annual amount payable and expiry/due date.

Secondly, let’s have a look at car insurance. This, in Ireland, is a sore point, with premiums high and increases over the last 2 years hitting cash strapped motorists hard.

TIP: Before you buy a car, contact a few car insurance companies and/or an insurance broker and find out what their restrictions are.  Ask them about any restrictions on vehicles, your licence, your driving and insurance history etc and buy a car accordingly. 

If you buy a vehicle on a foreign driving licence be prepared to be turned down by a few companies. I spoke to a few that will not, for any amount of money, insure you on anything other than a full Irish or preliminary licence. One company told us they will insure a foreign licence holder for a month only, another said they will not insure a vehicle older than 10 years for a foreign licence holder.  Another company told me they will only insure foreign drivers holding licences from the UK, other EU countries and “possibly” Australia.

Some companies now refuse to insure cars older than 10 years and one told me today they will not insure cars older than 17 years (currently 2000 model), so find out of your chosen company has a  restriction on car age etc before you buy one. Or just play it safe and buy a car no older than around 9 years.

Insurance companies keep changing their regulations, so phone around and ask questions, or go through an insurance broker and let them do it for you.

Something that is required by some insurance companies and will save you a small fortune with all of them is what they call a “no claims bonus”. This means providing paperwork proving that you have had previous insurance for a car or other vehicle in your country of origin and even better, no claims. Ask your insurance company to write you a letter detailing your insurance history with them and present this to the company you contact for a quote in Ireland. It will save you a LOT of money! If you are from a country where insurance is not compulsory (like South Africa) and have no insurance history and/or was not named on  a car insurance policy in the last one to two years, be prepared to fork out an exorbitant fee for your first year’s insurance in Ireland. And be prepared to be turned down by some companies for lack of experience.

If you find yourself in this unfortunate position, your cheapest option would be Third Party Insurance, if you can get it, which is the minimum legal requirement and will generally insure you for claims resulting from any third parties due to damage caused by your car. This includes damage to the third parties car, their property and personal injury. This level of insurance will not cover damage to or theft on your car though, so if you are in an accident you will have to pay the damages and repairs sustained by your car yourself. The first year’s fee for this cover however could still set you back a substantial amount of money and finding a company that is willing to insure you may take some effort, so find out before you buy a car and when you do, buy a car with a low market value, until you have some “history” with your insurance company and can get better rates.

Also see my post about Driving In Ireland