As a part of our first day trip, we went to Kilkenny and Glendalough, two small towns just an hour or so outside of Dublin. It was rough to wake up at 6:30am in the morning, especially being exhausted by the ten or so miles I walk each day, but the sights that we saw were more than worth it. Arriving in Kilkenny, we were met with a small town that had the same feeling as Dublin, but at a much smaller scale. There was one big road and stores along that, but apart from that, there was not much. While it was hard to get a more local feel since there were a lot of tourists in both locations, I could definitely feel the local community that both of these towns had in comparison to Dublin. Both Kilkenny and Glendalough are small towns that have very rich and important historical backgrounds, so for people of both of these towns, their respective sites are their pride and joy. Because of this, I see their community very much centered around their respective historical artifacts, but two distinct ways of doing so. For example, in Glendalough, there is a monastic site intertwined with the Wicklow Mountains National Park, leaving both untouched and allowing visitors to walk through the ruins of the cathedral as well as two the two lakes nearby. Buried in the grounds of the former cathedral are graves, not graves from centuries ago, but recent, eighteen century graves. For the people living there at the time, seeing this monastic site from the sixth century, they wanted to be apart of it and felt pride living there, thus placing their graves there. On the other hand, in Kilkenny, there is a bustling tourist town created from the famous Kilkenny Castle and the St. Canice Cathedral, but apart from that, there is no “localness” preserved. A few old buildings here and there, but there are many modern fashion stores, gift shops, and malls. There were a few local-based gift shops, but to me, it felt more tourist driven then Glendalough.
Owing to the history of Kilkenny and Glendaloguh, there must be a lot of tourism, and with it, plenty of ways to make money. Kilkenny, with its modern stores and aesthetics, seemed to be more tourist driven than Glendalough, but both had the same motive. So, for the locals living there, tourists are money makers, not disruption. It might be a pain with all the busses and tours coming in, but if that means a reliable source of income in a town with no real other ways to make money, that must be fine with them. Since Japan is in the same boat, I can relate, since many Japanese people that live near tourist attractions are happy to have them, since they bring so much money and jobs in, regardless of some of the tolls they have to take. We always have the perception that the people in the countryside are conservative and shut out from the city life, always disliking people that come from the outside, but from my experience, as well as my experience today, thats not the case. Looking at Kilkenny and Glendalough, tourism offsets its downsides, and since both towns need this tourism, they accept them, but see them nothing but tourists. If we look at an example where an outsider comes into a town without much of anything, I think that local’s perception of them will not be as a tourist or moneymaker, but as a guest. From my experience staying in the rural countryside of Japan, nothing really happens, so if some people come to visit, they are often greeted cordially and treated well. Same for Ireland, as long as you are not there to cause chaos or make a mess, people will be glad to take you in and hear your story. It is hard for major tourist attractions to make and have the same feel as real local towns, since there are thousands of people moving in and out of the city daily, which desensitizes the perception of foreigners in the eyes of locals.
One interesting story I wanted to share is the story of a sheep farmer who successfully used his entrepreneurship to make a successful business. At the end of our journey, we visited a sheep farm near Glendalough and saw a sheep farmer’s demonstration of sheepdogs and herding sheep, letting us touch them at the end. What was more interesting to me, was how the sheep farmer thought of the idea of letting bus tours into his farm and making money off of maybe a hours work and work that he normally does. Roaming around Kilkenny and Glendalough, I also saw many entrepreneurs, like this sheep farmer, having tents set up selling local goods and foods. As I have said in my last post regarding entrepreneurs, I admire their ability and resourcefulness to think of these ideas and make them a reality, seeing an open market of customers and filling it with their niche.