This trip has been packed with activities and our last full day in Ireland was no different.
We left the apartment around 8:30 determined to beat any crowds to Blarney Castle. We arrived right before they opened and had time to grab hot drinks from the cafe before walking up to the castle.
Blarney Castle is famous for the Blarney Stone. Legend has it that Queen Elizabeth the first wanted this castle (and typically the royals got what they wanted), but McCarthy, the master of the castle, kept making up excuses for avoiding talking with her such as, “I’m out of town” or “I’m having a banquet.” These became so common that the Queen declared his excuses “all blarney” (later to became “all bologna”).
Eventually, it went to the courts and before McCarthy went he kissed his precious castle for luck and in court was able to defend it so well that the courts ruled in his favor. Now if you kiss the Blarney Stone you will have the gift of gab/eloquent speech. Tony (see previous post about Tony), reminded us that the gift only lasts 7 years, so you have to return to renew it. He also joked that during the recession they considered lowering it to 3 years.
After a quick stop in the dungeons we went to the Blarney Stone, quickly passing the 90 and 60 minute wait signs.
It’s been a while since I’ve been in a castle and the wet spiral staircases kept me aware of any and all uneven footings. After we explored a bit of the passages off the main stairwell, we made it to the top and didn’t have to wait at all to take our turns.
It was a bit scarier than I imagined. The set up is completely safe, but it is a far stretch to kiss the right stone while laying on your back.
The camera and support guys were both great (don’t forget a few euros to leave a tip!) And we all got through it with no issues and great pictures.
Continuing on our explorations of the castle, we took any detour available down from the stone. I love seeing the huge fireplaces and side chambers while reading how they were once used.
The grounds of the castle were amazing as well. The next time I’m here I hope to take more time to explore them. As for this trip, we mostly stuck to the stable yard cafe and the poison garden (on opposite sides of the castle, I assure you).
We took a taxi to Kent station and then a train to Cobh (pronounced “Cove”) while following a day trip plan from our host, Michael.
You may know Cobh as Queenstown, the last stop of the Titanic. After the revolution, towns began changing back to Irish spellings and names. However, unlike Queenstown (named such when Queen Victoria visited), Charlesville kept its name. According to Tony, this one is French and while the town agreed to change the name, the train company decided it was too much trouble to change their signs, so it never happened. It was ok to leave the name since it was French.
Once in Cobh, we took a ferry to Spike Island, a former monastery/fort/prison. After the 15 minute ferry, we received a free guided tour and learned about the families of prison guards and soldiers who lived in the married quarters and some of the famous prisoners who were at Spike, sometimes for just a few days before being transported. The island was an active prison until 2004, and had families living on it until a prison riot in 1985 which caused them to all evacuate. Now it is a tourist attraction.
You could see the years of use throughout the buildings and learn about life on Spike Island throughout the years. It’s haunting hearing about the children’s prison and suffering that happened here, but it’s an interesting experience.
If you plan to go, book ahead. We got our tickets the night before and 2 of the times were already filled. There’s only one way on and off the island. The ferry drops you off and you’re scheduled to leave 3.5hrs later, so make sure to plan for that. If you miss your ferry and all the others are full you may end up there all day.
Back on Cobh, we sat at a pub for a drink. Horse racing is on in every pub we’ve been to in both Dublin and Cork, I didn’t realize how popular it was in Ireland.
We took the train back to Cork since Cobh is a small town and it seemed to be closing up. We ate dinner at the White Rabbit, a bar serving BBQ, and local beers/ciders. The food is good if you’re missing a bit of BBQ and need a cheaper place to eat. After dinner, called it a night and prepped for our early flight the next day.
I’m a bit sad leaving Ireland and wish that we could stay longer to explore, but I’m also excited for the new adventures that the rest of this trip holds.
-Definitely worth the time to stop and explore, leave yourself some time to see everything though and try to beat the crowds if you’re traveling during the summer.
-Make time for this area and try to visit their other museums and churches. It’s a beautiful areas even if we’re only able to survey it right now instead of fully explore.