13 June 2016: Kissing the Blarney Stone
Today was our best so far. After breakfast in the hotel restaurant, we took the short drive to the Blarney Castle and Gardens. We hiked to the top of the castle to beat the crowds in line to kiss the Blarney Stone. I’m not sure what I expected, but this wasn’t it. The Blarney Stone is part of the castle and you have to lay on your back with the help of an assistant, as not to plunge to your death,… ok, a little dramatic… and kiss the stone. It was a little weird.
Once we got past the obligatory smooching of the stone, we took our time touring the castle. As with any of the structures this old, passageways and openings are quite small. The stairs up and down the tower are extremely tight, reminiscent of our climb to the Statue of Liberty crown, especially wearing a backpack. Frankly, I’m not sure how some of the heavier and elderly visitors made it. The best part of the castle was not even the castle itself. We spent most of our time exploring the grounds, gardens, caves and walking paths.
Next up was Charles Fort in Kinsale, only about 48 km (30 miles) to the south but took over an hour to drive. The drive was pleasant but some of the roads were extremely tight, especially up and down from the fort itself. Charles Fort sits up on a hill above the town of Kinsale and overlooks the earlier James Fort. Charles Fort is a large and impressive set of structures. Cara and I enjoyed the views of the bay but the kids enjoyed roaming around the complex more. We learned some of the history of James Fort at Charles so we decided not to visit it as I had originally planned. We were all forted out. Kinsale would have been a lovely place to grab a bite but the streets are so narrow, we didn’t want to deal with trying to navigate the any further and find parking, so we headed back to Cork City.
We ate an early dinner at The Oliver Plunkett Pub in the heart of the English Market, a short walk from our hotel. The city was preparing for Ireland’s first game in the EuroCup and it felt a bit like the Super Bowl. When Ireland scored their lone goal, we could hear a rumble throughout the area. With our fill of Irish cuisine, we walked the streets of Cork City. We made a long loop down the English Market to University College of Cork and back along the Lee River. With a stop at a grocery store along the way, we headed back to the hotel to get cleaned up and ready for tomorrow.
University College of Cork