Most of the towns in Ireland are small and you can experience almost everything in a few hours of walking. Athy, the town we were staying in while we were in Ireland, is so small that we walked the town in about an hour after enjoying our traditional Irish breakfast (eggs, Irish bacon, beans, mushrooms, bread, potato, black and white pudding). I can still taste that wonderful lean bacon and fatty white pudding. The food was amazingly fresh in Ireland. The butter and milk are delicious, most likely because Ireland is inundated by farms with sheep and cows. It makes for wonderful food and scenery….albeit stinky at times.
Athy has a population of 10,490 which makes it the sixth largest town in Kildare and the 50th largest in the Republic of Ireland (according to Wikipedia). Considering I live in a town with roughly 136,416 people, it’s a big difference – which is nice. Athy also has a church that was built in the 14th century: St. Michael’s Church. There is also a river that runs through the town, known as River Barrow and the main bridge is called the Barrow Rail Bridge. Athy contains the only permanent exhibition on Ernest Shackleton, who was born not far from Athy in Kilkea House. The exhibit is housed in the Athy Heritage Centre, which has a collection of artifacts from Athy’s past as well as some interesting articles from Shackleton’s expeditions. This explains why there was a room in the house we stayed called the “Ernest Shackleton” room where my buddy Michael Rooney stayed. It was the only room with no shower but with a giant Jacuzzi tub…and a leopard blanket on a canopy bed. Of course Rooney wanted that room. Ernest Shackleton was a polar explorer who led three British expeditions to the Antarctic, and was eventually knighted for various acts of heroism and bravery. He was a generous man who gave his gloves to a member of his crew and suffered frostbite as a result. Seems fitting to who stayed in that room
While walking around Athy, we walked along the River Barrow, an old cemetery, a few different churches, and just wandered. Wandering around is my favorite way to scout a new place, especially when you have a few days and don’t feel rushed. I am glad that we took an hour to explore the town.