This morning we woke up in Kinsale, had breakfast and checked out; There wasn’t really a lot to see (although I’m sure there were things we could have found to do) but it was pretty rainy and a bit windy.
We filled the rental car up with gas, which was an adventure in itself…you actually pay after you fill up, which is weird! I guess they don’t think anyone will split without paying…and then headed on our way to Blarney.
In Blarney we got a little lost for a couple minutes, and then just had to follow road signs to Blarney Castle, home of the famous Blarney Stone. It is said to give the gift of gab to whoever kisses it. You can google the information on it to see the different speculations about why the stone is so famous. (Matt thinks it’s just an ordinary stone with no importance that they hyped up to get tourists to pay exorbitant amounts to kiss. This may be actually true.) The stone itself is set in one of the battlements high atop Blarney Castle, where you have to climb a ton of skinny, narrow, tight spiral stairs to get to. Then you lie on your back, scoot out into the battlement, and a guide holds you to keep you from falling as you lean backwards and kiss the stone. Alana kissed the stone and actually heard later that tourists kiss the stone and locals pee on it. (It’s a good thing she put antibacterial gel on her lips afterwards.) Unfortunately, we only got a video of Alana kissing the Blarney Stone, which we can’t post on here; and they actually don’t let you take pictures at all, but they have it all set up so THEY can take pictures and sell them to you for 10 euro a piece. *sigh*
On the way up (and down from) the stone you can explore the different rooms of the castle, and take pictures of the fantastic scenery around Blarney Castle and gardens. There are the standard cows of course, wonderful trees and shrubs, green green grass, and the remains of the ancient walls of Blarney and lookout towers. Also on the grounds and Blarney house (which we didn’t opt to see) and Rock Close, which is the remains of an ancient Druid civilization. It was fun exploring the ruins and hearing the magic and culture behind it all. It was still pretty rainy and misty throughout our journey in Blarney but our newly purchased REI rain jackets kept us nice and dry. It probably kept some of the crowds at bay, but not enough, surely.
After Blarney we headed to Killarney, where our B&B was waiting for us. We will stay here a couple nights and kind of use it as a base for the Ring of Kerry (tomorrow) and to see the town itself. On the way, we passed through the city of Cork again, which was still trafficy and congested, and he got stopped up in a teensy tinsy little town called Macroon, which looked just like out of a storybook, but it must have been the only way to get through to a further destination because the traffic was a bit slow.
Once we arrived in Killarney, we checked into our wonderful B&B, Woodlawn House, and went out to find some lunch/dinner. We ended up eating at a place in the city center which was also a hotel, but they were practically the only ones serving lunch/dinner at that hour (which was like 3:30ish PM). Matt had a good turkey club and Alana had a BLT along with a whole pot of tea. We met some Canadians who had just taken the bus trip on the Ring of Kerry, and Alana asked whether if they had had the option to take the bus again or drive it themselves, which they would rather do. They were split in their decision so it didn’t help Alana any because she had been debating driving the narrow, treacherous roads on the Ring all day.
It was too early for any of the pubs to be open so we wandered around the town and went souvenir shopping. We found lots of cool handknit woolen things, along with your cheesy kitchy souvenirs. One thing we noticed about Killarney was that it is a BIG tourist town. Most people use it as their homebase when exploring the South of Ireland. I’d say about 90% of the people we encountered at all were American.
We then stopped for a hot chocolate and a coffee along with Bailey’s Fudge at a little cafe in town. Because it was still misting outside it was the perfect ambiance to be cuddled up warm with your coffee and hot chocolate while watching the rain. By this time it was about time for the pubs to start opening, so we stopped in one called Sheehan’s, which had a traditional irish band playing. We discovered later that this particular pub was a haven for tourists, and it wasn’t exactly the experience we’d been hoping for. Still, a couple pints of Smithwicks can cure anything.
Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post about “Alana’s Insane Driving on the Left, on the Right Side of the Car on the Treacherous, Tour Bus-Laden Ring of Kerry” trip.
Cheers! -Alana & Matt