I’m back after another exciting trip in this beautiful country! This past weekend, I went down to Cork, home of the Blarney Castle, which is home to the famed Blarney Stone. I also hopped on a Paddy-wagon bus and drove around the beautiful Ring of Kerry.
Walking through the chilly fog of an early Irish morning, we made the journey from Maynooth to Cork. After a very long and bumpy bus ride, we were dropped off in the center of Cork.
We walked along the River Lee as we explored the city a bit. After quickly checking into our hostel, we found a bus to the famed Blarney Castle. We weaved in and out of the narrow streets of Cork and got dropped off in Blarney. Walking up to the entrance of the castle shocked me, I had no idea it was both a castle and a garden! Although it was overcast, the yellows and purples of the flowers stood out even more and brightened up the day. The air smelled sweeter, and it made the walk very pleasant towards the castle.
Standing at the bottom of the castle, I was slightly underwhelmed. Growing up with Disney fairy tales, I always imagined castles as these big, majestic, architectural wonders. While this building was a wonder, it was not as big as I thought it was going to be.
The fame for the Blarney Castle comes from its Blarney Stone. Legend has it, this stone supposedly gives you the ‘gift of gab’ when you bend over backwards and kiss it. It comes from a story about the builder of the castle, Cormac Laidir McCarthy. He was involved in a lawsuit in the 15th century and pleaded to the Irish Goddess Cliondhna for her help. She told McCarthy to kiss the first stone he found in the morning, like any other morning in the 15th century. After he kissed a stone, he went on to win the case with his great eloquence. Sorry to disappoint, but I did not kiss it. More on that later.
I still strolled in, pausing to learn about the castles history. I learned I did the same tour as Winston Churchill did, so that was a cool little fact. Navigating the narrow hallways and tight spiral staircase were testing my claustrophobia (I’m a wimp and it gets worse).
My enthusiasm quickly turned to anxiety as soon as I got to the top of the castle. I have a slight fear of heights, which only supports the theory of me being a wimp. I opted out of kissing the Blarney stone, but still was amazed by the view from the castle.
After a big dinner at the Blarney Castle Hotel, we got back to the hostel to prepare for our big Ring of Kerry tour. At 7 am on Saturday morning, I wiped the sleep from my eyes and trudged back down to the River Lee to board the tour bus.
We drove along the entire Ring of Kerry in County Kerry. We stopped in Killarney, Waterville, the Dingle Bay peninsula, and then made other stops in Killarney National Forest. Our tour guide, Rory, which was spelled R-O-R-Y, was a very knowledgeable and entertaining driver. He informed us the River Lee was actually named after a famed Irish dancer, Bruce! (The cheesy jokes were strong that morning).
Rory was playing the song ‘Whiskey In The Jar‘ as we drove over the far-famed Kerry mountains. It was the perfect soundtrack for watching the fog pull the mountains up to the sky, then seeing the sheep pick at the lush Irish fields which stretched as far as I could see.
Killarney also proved to be a very picturesque town. Strolling up and down the colorful city center was pleasant, and I loved hearing music flow out of the different storefronts. My excitement for this little city overcame my exhaustion, and it was a very nice start to the full day of adventure.
We stopped in a little bakery to look at the different pastries, and some opted for a little Irish coffee. After going in and out of different little gift shops to marvel at the crafts for sale, we got back on the bus to continue on to the Ring of Kerry.
Each stop we took was more beautiful than the previous one. I cannot get over how amazing the landscape of this country is, even when it rains I still look outside with a sense of amazement. If the sky was grey, it only made the fields more green and vibrant. If the sky cleared up and showed some blue, the sun shined down on water reflecting strong mountains in the distance. I could try to continue to write about these view, but I think the pictures will do it more justice.
Getting back on the bus to Cork was a little bittersweet. I was excited to go back to my hostel where I could shower and go to bed, but I wanted to spend more time in Killarney. I saw so much in one day, but I left wanting more.
I was exhausted that night, I kept feeling my eyelids droop at another full dinner. The next morning was beautiful, with clear blue skies and birds chirping a sweet melody. I met up with Geoff and Liz, a couple who have been living in Cork for many years now. The connection was interesting, for my grandmother is friends with Geoff’s sister. I was happy to meet with them to learn more about the great city of Cork. We took a pleasant walk with their dog through a park in Ballincollig where I got to meet some other very nice locals. Everyone was so kind and welcoming, it reminded me of why I chose to study in this country.
My weekend in Cork was tiring, but one of the most beautiful places I’ve seen in this country. I’m happy I got to see the different places on my list, plus a few extra I never knew about. Here’s to more adventures, Sláinte!