Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Cashel, Cobh, Cork, Blarney Castle, Ireland

We left Kilkenny and drove 45 minutes to the town of Cashel. Our main purpose for visiting Cashel was to see The Rock of Cashel, which we had planned to do first thing in the morning. We arrived at our bed and breakfast and were greeted by an odd, but extremely friendly fellow who showed us around the b&b and to our room.

It was a Saturday night and we must have spent about an hour walking around in circles trying to find a restaurant or pub to eat in. There was NOTHING open! It was so weird. The one restaurant we wanted to go to didn't have anything free until about 10pm - I guess that's where everyone was since the town was dead. It was a complete 180 from what we just saw in Kilkenny a few hours prior. We finally found a pub where we had some stew and some beers. There wasn't much activity, but it had food! The town was a bit of a disappointment, but at least we still had the ROCK to see the next day.

The Rock of Cashel is a set of medieval buildings dating back to 1100. It's literally built on a rock and the site rises up from the rolling plains making it dominate the landscape from below. It really is quite a site to see from the town. The Rock of Cashel includes a chapel, a round tower, a cathedral, and a graveyard. It has a rich history and most of it is in its original rustic condition, though they were doing renovations while we were there.

Since we arrived right when the site opened we were able to see everything we wanted to see pretty quickly. We got on the road soon after and made our way to the town of Cobh. We had not actually planned on going to Cobh (though I had researched it beforehand), mainly because we didn't think we'd have enough time with everything else we wanted to do that day, but someone on our bike tour in Kilkenny strongly suggested that we stop there... and we're so glad that we did! It ended up being one of our favorite stops.

St. Coleman's Cathedral 

St. Colman's Cathedral 

Cobh (pronounced Cove) is a pretty seaside town on the southern coast of County Cork. It served as one of the main transatlantic Irish ports, transporting 2.5 million of the 6 million Irish people between 1848 and 1950. It was also the famous final port of call (then Queenstown) for the Titanic when it set out on its tragic voyage.

We walked around the town for a while and went to a small market on a plaza on the water. Next to this market was the "Titanic Experience", a unique experience detailing the history of the ship and its unfortunate journey. It's located in the original White Star Line Ticket Office, which was the departure point for the final 123 passengers who boarded the Titanic. The first part of the experience retraces the steps of the passengers who boarded on April 11, 1912. We experienced what life would have been like for the different classes of passengers and saw replica set designs of rooms. The second part examines what went wrong the night the Titanic sank. The tour was extremely informative and we really enjoyed it!

We left Cobh and drove to Cork for lunch. We went to a delicious restaurant where they use most of their ingredients gathered from The English Market (we really wanted to go to this market, but it's closed on Sundays). We walked along the water a little bit, but to be honest we didn't spend too much time in Cork as we needed to head to Killarney and wanted to stop at Blarney Castle on the way.

We had heard many things about Blarney Castle, including its famous Blarney Stone. It was built nearly 600 years ago and has become one of Ireland's most visited treasures. Blarney Stone might be some of the reason for it's popularity; the Stone of Eloquence is found at the top of the tower. Legend has it that if you kiss the stone you'll never again be at a loss for words (the gift of eloquence or the skill of flattery). The word blarney has come to mean clever, flattering, or coaxing talk sweetened with humor or wit. We were fortunate that we arrived later in the day and had no crowds to battle with since August is their busiest month and one can find themselves waiting two hours just to get to the top of the castle.

The ritual of kissing the stone has been performed by millions of people, and luckily now there are safeguards in place to prevent people from plummeting to their deaths, which did happen. I was very hesitant to kiss the stone; not because of the height, but because of the millions of people who had kissed it before me. I had planned to get into position and put a tissue between my lips and the stone, but I needed both hands to hold onto the railing. Nowadays though, they actually have people cleaning the stone with antibacterial spray after each person's kiss. It still skeeved me out a little bit, so I didn't exactly touch it, but came close enough!

There's a lot more to this castle than meets the eye! The grounds have expansive gardens, each with different names and purposes. Behind the castle is the poison garden. It contains a collection of poisonous plants from all around the world, which are labeled with information about their toxicity and traditional and modern uses. Some of the plants are so dangerous here that they have to be kept in large cage-like structures!

We also walked around Rock Close, which is an enchanting and almost magical area to be in. As you walk through you can find yourself in a shaded nook, standing on a terrace above a creek with slivers of sunlight peeking through old trees. Here one can find an ancient sacrificial alter, a Druid's circle, a hermit's cave, a witch's kitchen, and wishing steps. It was definitely an unexpected find and one that we're glad we stumbled upon.

Jon made a wish, closed his eyes, and went up and then down backwards (with eyes closed) in order for his wish to come true!

This was one of our favorite days out of our whole trip to Ireland. Taking a slight detour from our plans to visit the small but delightful city of Cobh, having lunch with fresh market ingredients in Cork, and exploring an old castle while engaging in a centuries old tradition, really stood out during our time in this exquisite country.

1 comment:

  1. Another very interesting and exciting blog about Ireland! There are so many things about this beautiful country that I don't know where to begin. Very mysterious is the first thing that came to mind when you described the gentleman that greeted you at the B&B and also when you described that nothing was open on Saturday night and you wondered where everyone was. A weird feeling I'm sure!

    The Rock of Cashel - WOW!! So beautiful and very medieval! Again, Mysterious is coming to my mind.
    The pictures of St. Colman's Cathedral! Absolutely Gorgeous!!

    And the "Titanic Experience". I have always been fascinated and very interested in the Titantic. So tragic and very sad.
    But what a great opportunity for you and Jon to be on a tour and learn more about it.

    And then the Blarney Castle! The way you talked about the Blarney Stone and not wanting to kiss it. I actually don't blame you for not wanting to kiss it, but it was very funny the way you desrcibed your feelings towards it. You made me laugh when I read it!

    Mysterious, magical, medieval are three words that come to my mind about Ireland. Like when you talked about the "Poison Garden". And then seeing the pictures of the signs that said Witch's Kitchen and Witch's Stone! Now that is something I can get into! Lol

    I loved reading this blog, and I hope that one day, Dad and I can go visit and spend some time in Ireland.
    Absolutely BEAUTIFUL!!