Counties Cork and Kerry, Ireland

On our second day in Ireland, we headed to the town of Blarney in County Cork to pay a visit to Blarney Castle.

IMG_1016

Most people who visit Blarney Castle do so to kiss the infamous Blarney Stone, said to bestow the gift of eloquence, but my husband and I decided to avoid the long queues in favor of exploring the expansive castle grounds. Occupying over 60 acres, there’s really a lot to see here, and we wished we’d had more time.

Our first stop was the Poison Garden, home to over a dozen fatal plant species, including Wolfsbane and Mandrake made famous by the Harry Potter series.

IMG_1021

I was surprised by how many plants were either caged or missing. Do people snip off a bit to create their own murderous concoctions?

IMG_1023

IMG_1026

My favorite part of the Blarney Castle grounds was the Rock Close Garden, which lies on the site of an ancient Druid settlement.

IMG_1028

They even have the remnants of a sacrificial altar!

IMG_1030

The Rock Close Garden is also where the Witch of Blarney lives. Apparently, it is quite common to leave pennies as an offering atop the stone where she resides. Fortunately, she only emerges a night so we didn’t encounter her.

IMG_1031

You can also visit the Witch’s Kitchen, where it is said one can often see remnants of a fire in the early morning hours.

IMG_1035

For those up for a bigger challenge than kissing the Blarney Stone, one can walk down the “Wishing Steps” — a dozen steep steps, absent a handrail, overlooking a cliff — backwards with your eyes closed. If you complete this process without meeting your demise, all of your wishes will come true. As I am not a sensible person, I was up for the challenge, but my husband talked me out of it.

Only after we left the Blarney Castle grounds did I learn there is also a Megalithic tomb near the Rock Close Garden. This is something I wished we’d seen as well, but unfortunately it wasn’t highlighted in our brochure.

We then paid a brief visit to Blarney Woollen Mills — the world’s largest Irish store. I was glad I’d looked at their offerings online in advance of our trip, as it was a bit overwhelming.

IMG_1040

For lunch, we decided to avoid the masses of tourists at the Blarney Woollen Mills restaurant, and we trekked the 500 yards to the Muskerry Arms pub. I had a bowl of their excellent homemade seafood chowder.

IMG_1042

On to Killarney, where we stayed the next two nights, we began our preparations for St. Patrick’s Day a few days early at O’Donoghue’s Pub, adjacent to our hotel. I tried a few beverages local to the nearby city of Cork — Bulmer’s Cider and Cork’s Dry Gin. The latter I found to be especially good served over ice with a twist of lemon.

IMG_1044

But it wasn’t too late of a night, as we were up early the next morning for a motor coach tour of the Ring of Kerry, a 179 km loop road that traverses the Kerry Peninsula in southwest Ireland. Throughout the course of the day we made at least a dozen stops to check out interesting sites and stunning scenery.

IMG_1056

At the Kerry Bog Village, we learned about typical 18th century village life in the region. I was especially interested to learn more about the bog bodies that had been found nearby — naturally mummified remains nearly 10,000 years old that were likely victims of ritual sacrifice. I had hoped to see the bodies on display at the National Archaeology Museum in Dublin, but we just didn’t get there.

IMG_1066

Throughout the day, there was no lack of impressive scenery.

IMG_1072

IMG_1076

IMG_1078

IMG_1087

IMG_1118

IMG_1122

Stopping for lunch at the Ring of Kerry Hotel, I had one of my best meals of the trip: oak-smoked salmon served with a salad, brown bread, pickled fennel and oranges.

IMG_1093

At the highest point of our journey, some of us got to hold a newborn lamb.

photo

The owner was nearby to prevent these cute fellows from being kidnapped.

IMG_1111

We ended the day with a carriage ride through Killarney National Park.

IMG_1132

This included a brief visit to Ross Castle, built in the late 15th century.

IMG_1134

 

Advertisements
This entry was posted in Becky's Adventures, Photography and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Counties Cork and Kerry, Ireland

  1. A.M.B. says:

    The poison garden sounds fascinating! I’m surprised I haven’t read a novel set in a garden like that. Were the plants missing because it wasn’t the right season for them? What a great trip.

    • Becky says:

      Yeah, I had thought about it not being the right season for certain plants. But it sounds much more exciting to make the claim that they were stolen for ill use. I agree the poison garden would make a nice setting for a novel. It has certainly inspired my own writing!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s