Tag Archives: #simplytrafalgar

Cork and Killarney Ireland: Kissing the Blarney Stone

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.

Cork

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.

Killarney

To get your bearings, here is the trip route (the light red shade is from the prior days):

Waterford to Killarney

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.

Blarney Castle 1

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.

Blarney Castle 2

 

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.

Blarney Castle Views

Once you reach the stone, you must lay down on your back and bend backward to kiss the stone.

Kissing the Blarney 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.

Blarney Stone

The Blarney Castle is surrounded by beautiful gardens and caves.

Blarney Castle Gardens

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.

Blarney Castle Caves

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.

Ross Castle

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 Lake

Lake Killarney 2

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.

Jaunting Cars

Check out my slow-mo video of the Jaunty Car ride.

Killarney National Park

Killarney National park 2

Killarney Town

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.

Jaunting Car Driver

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.

Muckross Farm

We had a demonstration of making butter without any use of electricity, as they did in older days.

Muckross Farm Butter

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.

Muckross Farm Dinner

On our final day in Killarney, our tour guide had a photo taken of our group with Lake Killarney as the backdrop.

Group picture

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.

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Dublin Ireland – 10 million pints of Guinness

We just finished up 2 amazing weeks visiting Ireland, Northern Ireland, and Scotland. We visited lots of interesting sites so I will be creating a series of blogs that highlight our adventures.

Guinness Storehouse

After traveling the red-eye flight to Dublin, we arrived early at the hotel but the rooms weren’t yet ready and wouldn’t be for several hours. Our tour guide suggested we visit the Guinness Storehouse — a museum and brewery for the nitro infused creamy beer called Guinness.

Guiness Storefront

We’ve had Guinness before but during this trip, we grew quite fond of this original craft beer. It was sold in every pub at a cost of about $3 pounds (about $4 US Dollars). Compare that to $7 in a bar in the states — a great deal. Guinness is a hugely successful company, brewing 10 million pints a day in Dublin.

If you like beer and the science behind making it, you will enjoy the Guinness Storefront. They have lots of interesting ways of showing how beer is made — most of the demonstrations are backed with video and other audio/visual aids. They also have an entire floor dedicated to how they’ve marketed the product over the years. It was fun to see really old commercials and how they targeted their sales.

Included in the price of admission is a trip to the Gravity Bar to get a free pint of their nitro-infused brown ale. This is on the top floor of the building and it overlooks Dublin so it has incredible views of the downtown area as well as the surrounding mountains. Great beer and beautiful scenery, can it get any better?

Gravity Bar at Guinness

How did you find it?

After we returned from our trip to the Guinness Brewery, we met our other travel companions. This was a Trafalgar tour, so we were traveling with 27 other people. One of the couples we met were Australian and they were a lot of fun. When we met them, I talked about our trip to the Guinness Storefront (they arrived later and did not go).

After I described it, they said: “How did you find it?”. I answered, “we caught a cab outside of the hotel”. They then repeated, “so how did you find it?”. I reiterated that the cabbie knew the directions.

Then they just started laughing hysterically. Then they said “I think in American English, I meant “how did you like it?”.

Nancy Hands

We got our first Irish pub experience at Nancy Hands. This is a late 1800’s pub with lots of tradition.

Nancy Hand Pub and Restaurant

Back in the last 1800’s pubs could not sell beer during 2 hours of the day (that time was called Holy Hour). There was a bartender named Nancy that illegally sold beer to local soldiers during Holy Hour. She would pass the beer through a hole in the wall and the only thing they saw was her hand — that’s how it got its name.

Nancy Hand

Nancy Hand Pub

Glendalough

Located about 30 minutes outside of Dublin stands Glendalough — a Medieval monastic settlement founded in the 6th century by St. Kevin.  St. Kevin moved to this area to become a hermit and monk but word travelled quickly across the area and people migrated there just to be near him and to follow his example.

Glendalough

The drive to Glendalough is inspiring itself. Beautiful rolling green hills lined with purple heather. In fact, Johnny Cash wrote a song about this area called 40 Shades of Green, it is now an iconic Irish song.

The surviving buildings and graves at Glendalough date back to the 10th century.

Glendalough Graves

Glendalough Graves

Around 1042, timber from Glendalough was used to build the second longest Viking ship ever recorded.  A replica of this ship can be seen in Roskilde, Denmark.Viking Ship

Taylors Three Rock

On our last night in Dublin, we learned what it was like to have “craic” (pronounced CRACK). On our cab trip to Guinness, our cab driver introduced us to the word. He said it was an Irish word that’s hard to explain even by the Irish. When you go out, meet people, have great conversations, and just have an incredible time, you just had “craic”. There’s an interesting article that explains it better, you can visit it here.

Taylors Three Rock is an Irish Night Club and Cabaret. When it was first described, I figured it would be a corny tourist attraction but we had a really good time. We experienced authentic Irish cuisine (I had lamb stew) and a passionate crew of Irish entertainers that included song, River dancing, and bagpipes.

They picked Cameron out of the audience to go on stage and play a traditional Irish drum. He was a bit embarrassed but did a great job entertaining the crowd. After that, everyone in our tour knew Cameron’s name and graciously volunteered him for many more events over the next 2 weeks.

Next Stop: Waterford

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 Waterford and the incredible Waterford crystal factory.

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