Tag Archives: waterford

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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If you missed the prior posts, you can see them here:

 

 

 

Waterford Ireland – Studs, Crystal, and Craic

After a couple of days in Dublin, we began our journey towards Waterford, Ireland. If you’re unfamiliar with Ireland, here is the route of that trip.

Dublin to Waterford

Waterford, Ireland

As far back as I can remember, we’ve bought Waterford Crystal Christmas ornaments and items for the china cabinet. It was a treat to visit the factory where these heirlooms are all hand-made.

Waterford Crystal Factory

Waterford Crystal is almost as old as the United States, it started in 1783 by George and William Penrose. Upon the death of the owners, the business was sold several times. In 1825, Great Britan and Ireland placed a hefty duty on glassware and this eventually caused Waterford to go belly up. However, in 1947, Charles Bacik and Noel Griffin reopened Waterford Crystal and it has thrived ever since.

The artisans of Waterford Crystal go through intensive training. They first go through 5 years of apprentice training before they can test as a Master. If they fail to pass the Master test, they normally leave the company. If they pass the test, it takes another 3 years to become a Master artisan.

Waterford Master Aristan

I was really surprised at the types of crystal they make. It’s not just vases, glasses, and ornaments — you will find NBA and NCAA trophies and all kinds of odd uses of crystal.

 

Irish National Stud Farm

On our way to Waterford, we stopped by the Irish National Stud Farm. This is where championship horses are bred. The property is beautifully manicured and has even been visited by the Queen of the United Kingdom.

Irish Stud Farm Grounds

Irish Stud Farm House

It’s amazing how much they charge to breed Champion studs. The most expensive Stud on the farm is Invincible Spirit. His stud fee is £ 120,000 — that’s $158,168! This horse is bred about 4 times a day so he brings in $632,672 per day. Now that’s some serious money!

Invisible Spirit.JPG

Invisible Spirit Stud.JPG

Japanese Gardens

On the grounds of the Irish Stud Farm sits a Japanese Garden. It’s an incredibly manicured garden of various native (and even some non-native) plants.

Japanese Garden Bridge

Japanese Garden

Jack Meades Original Irish Pub

We had a special dinner at the Jack Meades Irish Pub. This is a traditional Irish pub that carries a lot of history.

Jack Meade exterior

The pub dates back to 1705 and it has been in the current family since 1857. As you walk into the pub, you must duck your head because the ceiling height is only about 6 feet and some of the header boards are just over 5 feet high. As you look around the 200 square foot bar, you see locals bellied up to the bar sipping Guinness.

The upstairs is bigger and that’s where we had dinner. A local talent serenaded us with Old Irish songs and we all sang along. Danny Boy and 40 Shades of Green were the crowd pleasers.

The singer also told us about Galway girls. Galway is a coastal town we visited later and they supposedly have the most beautiful Irish girls there. Most have dark hair and blue eyes. They think this happened as the Spanish visited the coastal city and left a bit of their heritage behind.

The singer also said that in recessionary times, they converted the upstairs of the pub into a funeral home because in Ireland they like to celebrate a person’s life by pounding pints of Guinness. This was a logical fit and it ran as a pub/funeral home for many years.

I had the best seafood chowder I’ve ever tasted at this pub — it was  a wonderful night of craic.

Next Stop: Cork and Killarney

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 Cork and Killarney.

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If you missed the post covering Dublin, you can read it here.