Our 4th day in Ireland started a little more slowly. The previous day seemed fast and full, with a lot of time spent “on the ground.” Today, we spent a fair amount of time “on the bus.” Before breakfast, I walked down through the bar district, to the little marina and harbor of Galway.
The “primary” destination was Knock, Ireland, to visit Marian Shrine. If I had one or two of the destinations to re-schedule, I have to say, this would have been one of them. I personally would have shortened (or even skipped) this destination. I would have scheduled a much longer visit to our next day’s first stop, the Cliffs of Moher (but not my trip and not my call). And, it may well be that for some in our group, this visit was actually a highlight of the trip – diversity makes things interesting.
However, Knock is a place of great religious significance, particularly to those of the Catholic Faith. Knock is a tiny berg, in County Mayo, Ireland, pretty much in the proverbial “middle of nowhere.” The story, however, is that one afternoon, some local inhabitants saw an apparition of the Virgin Mary, John the Baptist, and Joseph at an altar, on the side of the local Parish Church. They are reputed to have stood for over 2 hours in the pouring rain during which time the apparition remained. The Catholic Church has acknowledged the visions, and in 1979, Pope John Paul II made a pilgrimage to Knock, to the shrine. The building is modern looking (not like most of the churches in Ireland – or for that matter, Europe), but the interior, impressive. There is also a small museum which houses many old tools and artifacts of the inhabitants living there back in the 1800′s. Some of the tools were fascinating.
As we were preparing to leave, our guide mentioned a mosaic wall behind the main altar in one of the several buildings on the grounds, which was underground. I trotted over there to see the mosaic and it is indeed impressive. I was also taken by the serpentine pattern of the hedge bordering the underground chapel.
The afternoon got more interesting (or maybe it just seemed that way to me). We headed over to the Kilbeggan Distillery, in County Meath; Kilbeggan, Ireland. The distillery, straddling the diminutive River Brosna, is said to be the oldest continuous working distillery in Ireland. Much of the original mechanical machinery was powered by a paddle wheel mounted on the side of the factory over a waterfall on the river. The views of that machinery are fascinating. Most of it is now for show, but some is still being used (though converted to electrical power).
The tour took us through the old distillery from the point where the grain was brought in, made into mash, strained and then put into the pot stills for “cooking.” Irish whiskey is a single malt product. It is not blended. From our first night in country, I began sampling the various Irish whiskeys, including several variations of Powers, some Paddy’s and even their top of the line “Greenspot” (which has recently become available in the U.S.), along with the Kilbeggan we tried here at the distillery.
It is my understanding the most of the Irish whiskey brands, like Jameson, Powers, Paddy’s, Bushmills (distilled in Northern Ireland), etc. are now owned by a large conglomerate – “Irish Whiskey Distillers.” It was rumored when we were in the Kilbeggan distillery, that the Jim Beam Company had recently acquired Kilbeggan. I haven’t done any independent research to verify, so consider this part of the poorly informed “rumor mill.”
It’s always “Guinness Time” somewhere in Ireland
We tasted several of the available Kilbeggan distilled whiskeys, following the tour. My whiskey of choice has always been bourbon. While I have tasted scotch on a number of occasions, it has never been a personal favorite. Bourbon is sweet (probably from the corn) and I guess I have always had a sweet tooth. Most of the scotches are too smokey and not “syrupy” enough for my personal taste. To me, the Irish whiskeys were somewhere in between. It is fascinating that there are so many different flavors and palates (much like scotch and bourbon), and it was fun to taste and try to discern the differences. I doubt that Irish whiskey will soon become a “go to” drink for me, but while in Ireland, its fun to “be Irish.”
We boarded our bus for our final night in Galway. I think I enjoyed our Galway hotel stay the most of any of the nights in Ireland. And in the evening in Ireland, it’s always “Guinness Time” somewhere, right?
Filed under: PHOTOGRAPHY, TRAVEL Tagged: | Andy Richards, color, Europe, Galway, Galway Harbor, Ireland, Irish whiskey, Kilbeggan, Knock, Knock Shrine, LightCentric Photography, Marian Shrine, PHOTOGRAPHY, travel