Seeing a city with new eyes

You can live in a city without noticing the splendour that surrounds you. Mary Cody got into tourist mode and hopped onto the city’s two

tourist trains to discover the rich and vibrant history that is quite literally on her doorstep.

THE two trains that traverse the city are a regular sight on our streets, particularly in the summer months.

Prior to my train trips I had paid little attention or harboured no real desire to jump onboard regarding them as an activity exclusively for tourists. Last Wednesday evening I met Ivan Sheridan who founded the Kilkenny City Road Train Tour in May 2011. He was warm and affable

and joked with his passengers as well pulled off from outside the castle. After an informative historical introduction we were on our way learning about the history of Ormonde College and Talbots Tower (one of nine watchtowers that once protected our city). We meandered

on down Parnell Street, pausing to take in the magnificient Gothic structure that is St Mary’s Cathedral before passing down Blackmill Street and pulling in for a moment to appreciate the simple yet overwhelming beauty of the Black Abbey. I live a few hundred metres

from both these churches and pass by them on a daily basis but listening to their rich and vibrant history while watching visitors marvel at their awe made me see them in a new light.

The train then trundled through The Butts and for the first time I saw the Butts Cross (having past it countless times) before moving down to St Canice’s Cathedral. It was the little details of the history of my adopted home that impressed me most - that Coach Hill is where the oldest settlement was, the division of the city by the River Breagagh and that the infamous and often celebrated Dame Alice had nocturnal meetings with the devil.

We continued on up through High Street past St Francis’ Brewery, Rothe House, the courthouse, the Thosel and finally arriving back at the Castle.

I immediately joined a second group of tourists who were boarding the Castle Express, which started in competition with the Kilkenny City Road Train Tour last summer. I expected the same route and was pleasantly surprised when we turned right onto RoseInn Street and continued over St Johns Bridge, up John Street, down Wolfe Tone Street and over Greens Bridge before continuing past the same attractions as I had previously seen. Apart from the extended route I preferred the

Kilkenny City Tour, mainly due to more comfortable seating and a more subdued less cliched selection of Irish background music (The Castle Express played Dublin in the Rare Auld Times, a somewhat unusual choice given the location).

The sun shone down and Kilkenny looked spectacular. I walk the same streets everyday but often forget to marvel the medieval magic that surrounds me. Moreover passerbys smiled, waved and welcomed the passengers as they journeyed through the city and I realised that often the beauty and inspiration we seek is staring us in the face if we look with new eyes.