After visiting Waterford, we made our way to Cork and then to Killarney. Cork is the 2nd largest city in Ireland and looks very industrial. Cork was settled in the 6th century and was taken over by Vikings in the 10th century (around 915 A.D.). One of the big attractions of Cork is the Blarney Castle, more about that later.
Killarney is a beautiful lake-side city complete with green rolling hills and a deep lake. It won the Best Kept Town award in 2007 and in 2011 it was named Ireland’s tidiest town and the cleanest town in the country by Irish Business Against Litter. We boated around the Lakes of Killarney and took a “jaunting car” (horse and buggy ride) around the beautiful Killarney National Park. More about that later.
To get your bearings, here is the trip route (the light red shade is from the prior days):
Blarney Castle: The Gift of Gab
When visiting Cork, we stopped by the Blarney Castle. According to Irish folklore, anyone who kisses the Blarney Stone receives “The Gift of Gab” (ability to speak eloquently). The Blarney Castle is a medieval fortress that dates back to the 10th century.
There have been 3 structures erected on this site, the first one in the 10th century was a wooden hunting lodge. Around 1210, the wooden structure was replaced with a stone building that was later demolished and replaced by what is currently standing.
To reach the Blarney Stone, you climb 127 stairs to the top of the castle. For over 200 years, pilgrims have climbed the steps to kiss the Blarney Stone and receive the Gift of Gab. The stone was brought to the castle in 1314 when Cormac MacCarthy, King of Munster, sent 4 thousand men to defeat the English at Bannockburn. After the defeat, the stone was split in half and sent to Blarney. A few years later, a witch was saved from drowning and revealed the special powers of the stone to the MacCarthy’s. And the rest is history.
The climb to the top provides incredible views of the surrounding area.
Once you reach the stone, you must lay down on your back and bend backward to kiss the stone.
Lots of people on our tour were hemming and hawing about germs and the like but when they got to the stone, all of that went out the window: they all kissed the stone.
The Blarney Castle is surrounded by beautiful gardens and caves.
Cameron and I wandered into some caves and almost had to climb through on our stomachs at parts. Once we reached the end of one cave, we saw lots of engravings from people that made their way here in the past.
Killarney: A Land of Lakes
Our first stop in Killarney was the Ross Castle where we boarded a boat for a tour of the lake. Ross Castle was built in the 15th century by O’Donoghue Mór and was eventually owned by the Earls of Kenmare. They owned an extensive portion of the lands that are now part of Killarney National Park.
Legend has it that O’Donoghue still exists in a deep slumber under the waters of Lough Leane. On the first morning of May every seven years he rises from the lake on his magnificent white horse and circles the lake. Anyone catching a glimpse of him is said to be assured of good fortune for the rest of their lives.
We took a nice boat ride around the Lower Killarney Lake and learned about the history of the area. We saw a huge eagle that was circling the mountains, we were told that there are a couple of eagles that inhabit this area.
Killarney National Park: Jaunting Cars
After our boat ride, we were picked up by Jaunting Cars (Horse and Buggy) and received a picturesque ride through the Killarney National Park, arriving back into the heart of Killarney.
Check out my slow-mo video of the Jaunty Car ride.
Our Jaunting Car driver works during the summer season and he takes care of the horses in the off-season. He said the horses will gain about 100 pounds in the off-season and it takes them a few months to get back in shape.
Muckross Traditional Farms
For dinner, we visited a working farm called Muckross Traditional Farms. It’s like time traveling back into the past, as they still use old-style plows, harrows, corn drills and horse-drawn mowers.
We had a demonstration of making butter without any use of electricity, as they did in older days.
After touring the farm, we sat down to a traditional Irish feast — I had lamb stew and it was incredible. A couple provided entertainment which included singing old Irish songs and playing an electric bagpipe. The electric bagpipe costs about $15,000 so it’s a bit difficult for young people to take up this musical instrument due to the cost.
On our final day in Killarney, our tour guide had a photo taken of our group with Lake Killarney as the backdrop.
Next Stop: Ring of Kerry
We spent 2 weeks on this trip to Ireland, Northern Ireland and Scotland, so I will continue chronicling our journeys over the coming weeks. The next blog will cover our visit to Ring of Kerry – a spectacular coastal drive with amazing vistas.
If you are not subscribed to our blog and would like to subscribe so that new posts come directly to your email, scroll up to the right top section of this page and type in your email address.
If you missed the prior posts, you can see them here: