Jason and I had trouble with jet lag/time changes on our first night and ended up waking up around 1/2 am local time.  
One good thing: we were able to get out and see the sunrise and go for an early morning walk through a field of flowering bushes!
The hotel where we spent our first night (Glenview Hotel about 1/2 hour south of Dublin) had a lovely garden that we enjoyed exploring after breakfast.  Mom found the deer sculpture adorable, obviously :)
We stayed near the small town of Cappoquin.  Our hosts recommended the town of Lismore about 10 minutes away for lunch and when we arrived we were delighted to find a gorgeous castle.  
While we weren't able to tour the castle (actually inhabited!) it had extensive gardens to explore and we had a blast doing so.  
One of the first things we discovered was this HUGE flowering bush - look how tiny it makes Jason look!!
The large flowering bushes covered the ground with beautiful bright blossoms... what a lovely fairyland!
As I said, we weren't allowed to go into the castle but it was awesome to just walk around.  
That's mom in the lower right hand corner.
“Our happiest moments as tourists always seem to come when we stumble upon one thing while in pursuit of something else.”
– Lawrence Block
While the castle wasn't open to visitors, there was a small art gallery/snack shop where we got some ice cream... maybe that's why we ended up with a cat following us around? ;o)

Over the next few days we visited various castles and ruins... 
First up: Cahir Castle
Next: Athassel Priory
I loved Athassal Priory on my previous visit to Ireland.  It's an "open site" - no big tourist buses, no entrance fee - just walk across a farmer's field and hopefully have the place to yourself.  And we did - just us and some cows and a snail or two :o)  We were even lucky enough to get some blue skies!
It's so much fun to look over the ruins and wonder what each opening was for...
was that a doorway?  A machicolation?  A fireplace?
Next stop: Rock of Cashel & Hore Abbey
The Rock of Cashel is a very popular tourist site, it perches atop a big rocky hillside and just down the hill is another open site: Hore Abbey
Rock of Cashel seen through a window in Hore Abbey
Photos on left are from Rock of Cashel - in the far left you can see Jason and Mom - gives a sense of how very large the arches are!  Far right photo is Hore Abbey.
The Towers walk near Lismore
A short walk near the town of Lismore took us to what are considered architectural "follies" - structures often more for decoration than purpose.
Kilcooley Abbey
I had never been to this Abbey before, but it now ranks as one of my all time favorite places in Ireland.  Another open site, there were a few maintenance men there but otherwise we had it all to ourselves.  The carvings inside were in incredible shape and the ornate window was just beautiful.  It's on a private estate (currently for sale for $8 million if you're interested!)
Kilkenny Castle
Kilkenny Castle has been restored very well with lots of furnishings.  It was a nice change to see tapestries and what a bedroom might look like.  The gallery room with its large skylights was a "wow" moment.  But so were the scones from their cafe which we enjoyed outside with a view of the castle, fountains and rose gardens.
Kells Priory
Kells is another open site. 
Thanks for reading!

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