Cork City and Blarney Castle

It was raining when I got up this morning. Not the quickly ended showers we had when I was in Dublin; constant, lasting rain. It kinda put a damper on my mood. So, I lingered over breakfast, then sighed, put on my hat, and went to take the Cork City bus tour.

There’s lots of neat stuff to see in Cork City, but most of it is churches and, this being Sunday morning, you can’t just go wandering in with a camera to have a look. And with the rain, there was no getting any decent pictures. I debated just giving up and going back to the guesthouse, but decided to try and make my way out to Blarney Castle instead.

By the time the bus reached Blarney, the rain had stopped. By the time I made it into the grounds, the sky was clearing up. And I got some good pictures.

This is the village street where the bus dropped me off in Blarney. The entrance to the castle grounds is just a couple hundred yards behind me.
My first glimpse of the castle through the trees as I follow the path.
At the foot of the castle. This is what looming is.

Yeah, I’m a tourist. I wanted to climb to the top of the castle and kiss the Blarney Stone. Turned out to be far more of a challenge than I had anticipated. To get to the top of the castle, you climb about a hundred steps1. This may not sound like a big deal, but they are tiny, worn steps in very tight spiral stairways. I’m not claustrophobic, nor am I acrophobic, but I am afraid of slipping on wet, uneven, little stone steps and rolling all the way down to the bottom.

But I soldiered on and, when I got to the top, the bit where you have to lean out over a hundred-foot drop – backwards, mind you – to kiss2┬ástone in the underside of the battlement, well, that bit didn’t seem so bad. I lay down, leaned out, realized I was about to die, and then gave the rock a big smooch and it was over3.

See that gap in the floor of the battlements? Yeah, that’s where you have to lean in – backwards – to kiss the Blarney Stone.

Interestingly – and happily – the way down is a lot easier than the way up4, with wider, less break-kneck steps. It took about half the time to get down that it did to get up. All-in-all, the whole endeavour took the better part of an hour from entering the grounds.

But there was a lot of other cool stuff on the grounds besides the castle and the Blarney Stone, so I went looking around.

Here’s Blarney House, the more recent dwelling place for the family. It was closed – only opens in the summer. The misty effect around the top of the picture was neat to achieve: you just need a camera and a very humid day, so the lens can get a little foggy.
A cave in the base of the rock below the castle. According to legend, this was one of the escape routes used by the defenders when Oliver Cromwell’s forces besieged the castle.
This is the Poison Garden. Everything growing in it is toxic. Apparently, this was an attempt to educate people about poisonous plants. Hmmm.
There is a magnificent garden on the grounds called the Rock Close. This is a dolmen that is part of the garden.
According to legend, this is a real witch, turned to stone. She is freed from the stone at nightfall, and spends the night gathering firewood to build a fire and try to warm up after being frozen as stone all day.
To pay for her firewood, the witch grants wishes. To get her to grant your wish, you have to walk down then up these Wishing Stairs, backwards, with your eyes closed, thinking of nothing but your wish.
This is the Fairy Glade in the Rock Close.
The old Stable Yards now have a tea room for visitors.

After wandering around the castle grounds for a couple of hours, I caught the bus back to Cork City. The weather was nice enough that I took a little walk to get a couple of pictures. It’s not much, but it’s something.

This is the back of St. Finbarr’s Cathedral. The gold angel on the dome is supposed to come to life and sound its horn on judgement day.
The patriotic monument in the Grand Parade. The lady in the centre is Eire, and she is flanked by four men who are national heroes.
The Swan Fountain in Elizabeth Park. There are eight swans, one for each century of Cork City’s age when the statue was constructed.

And that’s about it for Cork City. Tomorrow, I make my way to Portmagee.

  1. According to the signs around the castle, anyway. []
  2. I firmly believe that, at night, the locals pee on the stone. Like that’s going to stop me. However, I overheard some of the other visitors in the castle complaining about the cleanliness of kissing the stone, when the folks guarding it said they clean it four times a day. I mean, you’re kissing a stone. What about that makes you think it should be hygienic? []
  3. I have pictures of me kissing the stone, but they were taken by the castle staff, and I have them only in hard copy. I’ll have to see what I can do about that. []
  4. I’ll wait until someone makes the obligatory joke about just letting gravity take its course. There. We all done? Good. []

The Ring of Kerry

Things started off substantially better today. I actually made it to my tour bus on time, and was off on a tour of the Ring of Kerry.

One important word about this tour: if you are planning on taking a bus around the Ring of Kerry, and you are at all susceptible to motion sickness, take something before you go. I rarely get motion sick, but the narrow, twisting roads and the rocking and bouncing of the bus had me feeling nauseous fairly soon. And I was an idiot; I kept suffering through the bus ride portions between the stops, feeling worse and worse, then getting off the bus into the fresh air and feeling a bit better. I finally broke down and got some pills at a pharmacy in Killarney on the way back, and the ride back to Cork City from Killarney was fine.

Anyway. Word to the wise. I’m just even more glad that I didn’t sign up for a guided coach tour for the whole vacation.

So, our first stop was a replica 19th-century bog village.

Here’s the lane of the bog village. That big pile of black stuff is cut turves – chunks of peat ready for burning.
So, there’s this town near the bog village called Killorglin. It celebrates Puck Fair every year, wherein they crown a goat King Puck, put him in a cage on a pedestal and proceed to have a party. No one’s sure why. We didn’t get to stop at the official King Puck statue in Killorglin, but they had one in the bog village.
The village also had a couple of Irish wolfhounds. These dogs are huge, and beautiful. I understand why they need to keep them in a pen away from the tourists, but I really wish I could have got closer.
Here’s a look at the mountains from the bog village.
And here’s the view as we leave the bog village and head into the mountains.

We went on from there to a stretch along Dingle Bay that is obviously a popular stretch for pictures. The narrow road that wraps around the mountainous coast had a number of little nooks on the water side where cars and buses could stop for pictures. And they were mostly full when we stopped.

Looking across Dingle Bay.
Here’s the end of Dingle Bay, peeking around the shoulder of the hill.
Looking towards the mouth of Dingle Bay. Can’t quite see the ocean, but getting close.
The little farms across Dingle Bay.

We stopped for lunch in Waterville, a very nice little village on the end of the peninsula.

This is the main street in Waterville. Very picturesque.
Apparently, Charlie Chaplin and his family used to vacation frequently in Waterville, so they’ve put up this statue. The also recently had a Chaplin Film Festival, approved by the Chaplin Family.


This is the shore in front of the Waterville main street.
Looking out into the bay at Waterville.

After lunch, we were back on the road for about fifteen minutes, getting to this little overlook above Waterville.

Looking down the valley back toward Waterville. Can just barely see it.
Looking up the mountain above Waterville, into the clouds.
Looking down the other side of the overlook, out to sea.
Some neat rocks on the mountain above Waterville.
These stone fences are everywhere in the area, dividing the various fields. This one is unusual because it has a gate – apparently, the standard practice is to fill the opening with more stone after you get the animals onto the field.

We then drove on to the village of Sneem.

The Sneem River runs through Sneem. It’s a lovely little river. And saying Sneem is fun. Try it. Sneem.
So, there’s a traditional song called “The Stone Outside Dan Murphy’s Door.” This is either the place, or it’s a place based on the song. It’s also in Sneem.

We drove off through the mountains, up through Moll’s Gap, and on to the Ladies View, above the lakes of Killarney.

We stopped last in Killarney, but only in the heart of the city. Not a lot of really interesting picture material, but it is a very nice city to walk around in.

Really, the tour was great, but it was also kind of a tease. There were dozens of times when I wished we could have stopped to take a picture of some thing, but we didn’t. Sometimes there just was no place to stop a whole bus load of people, and the time it took to unload and reload all the people for a photo op was substantial. So, the driver picked a few very good spots.

Still, there was a beautiful view with interesting things in it pretty much around every corner. The Ring of Kerry is a beautiful drive, and I heartily recommend it.

Failure and Cork City

Well, my plans for today fell apart.

I missed the bus from Dublin to Cashel by mere seconds this morning – I watched it pull away from the station as I was scurrying to make it to the gate. Not a big deal, it just put me behind a little bit. All it meant was that I had to wait two hours for the next bus, and that would get me in to Cork a little later than I had intended, but nothing insurmountable.

See, the plan was to take the number 8 bus, which goes to Cork, but also stops at Cashel. I would get out at Cashel, take a couple of hours to go see the Rock of Cashel, and catch the next bus through to Cork. So, a little delay in the bus station wasn’t a huge problem, though it was a bit frustrating. I did get a chance to watch this pigeon very fearlessly stalk through all the folks sitting in the bus station, looking for crumbs on the floor.

I’d swear, you’d think he owned the place. By the time I left to catch my bus, he had three or four buddies with him, and they were starting to eye the humans belligerently.

I was very determined to make the next bus, and did so with no problem. But about half an hour into the trip, I realized that there had been two┬ánumber 8 buses, and that this one was the express bus to Cork City – it would not be stopping in Cashel1.

I had a momentary fit of disappointment, but then sat back to see the scenery2. And it was interesting scenery to see. A lot of it was very much like driving along the highways in Canada or the US3, with the trees pushing in fairly close to the road. But every so often, the view opens up to these marvellous hills and valleys and little towns and round stone towers4, and it becomes very obvious that I’m not in North America. I didn’t get any pictures, because I was on a moving bus, and they would all be crappy, but it was a beautiful drive.

I made it to Cork City at about the time I had planned when I thought I was going to get to stop in Cashel, which was okay. I’ve got an Irish GPS app on my phone, so it walked me through downtown Cork City to Garnish House, where I’m staying.

This is what they brought me when they asked if I’d like a cup of tea and I said, “Yes, please.”
And here’s my room. It’s tiny and lovely and comfortable. Not much of a view, but I’m not going to be spending a lot of time in it, anyway.

So, tomorrow is my tour of the Ring of Kerry. The nice folks here at Garnish House have told me where to meet it, and I should not have a repeat of today’s failure. I should also have a lot more pictures tomorrow.

Tonight, I will wallow in my despair and get that out of the way so I can enjoy the rest of my trip.

  1. This is what happens when I forget that I don’t know what I’m doing. I get cocky, think I can make decisions like a big boy without asking any questions, and bang! Express bus to Cork! []
  2. Don’t get me wrong; the Rock of Cashel was one of the things I really, really wanted to see. I am terribly disappointed that I probably won’t see it this trip. But I’m on vacation, and I’m going to concentrate on all the stuff that goes right and is amazing, rather than the one or two things that go wrong and make me sad. Otherwise, why bother? []
  3. Except, of course, on the opposite side of the road. []
  4. Called cloigthithe, I am informed. []