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. []