With St. Patrick’s Day just past, The Friday Flyer is continuing its “Luck of the Irish” series with two very different stories. The first is about an Irish girl and a Southern California boy who fell in love in Dublin and got married at a castle in the heartland of Ireland.
Ellen Malone was born and raised in the town of Callan, in the Republic of Ireland’s charming County Kilkenny. While many Californians are enthralled by their Gold Rush history that dates back to the 1800s, Ellen lived in a town that was founded in 1207 and reputedly got its name from the High King of Ireland, Niall Caille.
With only abut 3,000 residents, Ellen says she loved the small village feel of Callan and being able to walk everywhere. The small town feel is one of the things she appreciates about living in Canyon Lake too, after moving here with her husband and daughter Della in August 2012.
The city of Kilkenny, a medieval town in southeast Ireland, is known for its grand Kilkenny Castle built in 1195 by Norman occupiers. Kilkenny has many well-preserved churches and monasteries, including St. Canice’s Cathedral and the Black Abbey Dominican priory, both from the 13th century.
Kilkenny also is a crafts hub, with shops along its winding lanes selling pottery, paintings and jewelry. Not far away is Dunmore Cave, the reputed site of a Viking massacre. A treasure of silver and bronze items was discovered in a rocky cleft deep in the cave in 1999. Needless to say, Ellen recommends County Kilkenny as a tourist destination for her neighbors who want to visit Ireland.
Ellen says she met her future husband Geoff Hongthong in 2004, when he came to her birthday party in Dublin. They were married in March 2007 at Kinnitty Castle, County Offaly. Geoff grew up in Southern California, and his work commitments as an expatriate for a U.S. company gave the newlyweds the opportunity to live between Ireland and California.
As a child, Ellen remembers celebrating St. Patrick’s Day by wearing shamrocks and green, and attending the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Dublin. She has since learned that the parade in Dublin is little more than 75 years old. Since the first official St. Patrick’s Day Parade began in 1762 in New York, she assumes Dublin got its idea for a parade from the U.S. and not visa versa. In Ireland, St. Patrick’s Day is a religious day, with Catholic Mass celebrated. It’s also a national holiday, with schools and banks closed on March 17.
“Now that I’m here in the USA, we try to keep the traditions alive (on St. Patrick’s Day) by making an Irish dinner of corned beef and cabbage or shepherd’s pie,” Ellen says. “And of course my daughter likes to dress up in honor of tradition.”
As for the best way to visit Ireland, Ellen has a few recommendations. “There are many great tour companies, but with so much to see and do I would recommend renting a car on your own. This will give you the opportunity to stop and see many off-the-beaten-track places,” she says, noting that Aer Lingus will be starting to fly direct to Dublin again in June 2016.
Here are some of her “must-see” destinations in the Republic of Ireland:
- Cliffs of Moher.
- Ring of Kerry.
- Kilkenny, including Kilkenny Castle and Dunmore Cave
- Wineport Lodge in County Westmeath (“a hidden treasure that’s worth a visit to get away from the hustle and bustle”).
- Trinity College, founded in 1592, where the Book of Kells is stored.
- Guinness Storehouse, a Guinness-themed tourist attraction at St. James’s Gate Brewery in Dublin. (It covers seven floors surrounding a glass atrium shaped in the form of a pint of Guinness.)