11 Mar Clonmel
Clonmel is Tipperary’s county town, a prosperous and pretty place with plenty of life and, if home-grown novelist Laurence Sterne’s writings are anything to go by, some whimsically rum goings-on. Sterne lied during the 18th century and is best known for his picaresque novel, Tristram Shandy. Other writers have connections with the town: Anthony Trollope worked for a while in the local post office, and George Borrow, the 19th century traveller, was at school there.
There are no outstanding sights in the town, but it has lots of pleasant shops and eating places, and stands on the edge of some extremely picturesque touring country. The circular drive to the south, along the Nire and Suir valleys, is very well worth taking on a fine day. So are trips into the unspoilt Comeragh Mountains near by.
The town was once an important stronghold of the powerful Butler family. Its Main Guard replaced the courthouse destroyed in the Cromwellian siege. The West Gate dates from 1831 and stands on the site of an earlier medieval gateway. Near St Mary’s Protestant church are sections of the old 14th century walls which defended the town against Cromwell for longer than any other Irish town. A few churches have minor points of interest; several have eye-catching 19th century, ‘streaky bacon’ coloured brickwork.
Clonmel is famed for its its field sports, notably fox-hunting and hare-coursing. It is a great centre of the greyhound world, and the sleek animals can often be seen being exercised along the road, much as racehorses are in Kildare.