Cork Ireland is definitely a working persons town. It is more industrial than beautiful but not without its own charms. Dublin is being challenged by Cork to be a top destination in its own right. In my opinion it has a long way to go. While Cork has a cute little district downtown with pubs, restaurants and shopping the rest of the city is pretty industrial looking. Cork is a great place to stay to take a few day trips. So take advantage of that and the easy transportation to explore the region.
We spent a day in Cork walking around downtown, finding amazing dark chocolate with salted caramels (this became an obsession with me everywhere we went in Ireland-you can find them in Butlers Chocolate Cafe throughout Ireland). We also walked over to St. Finn Barre’s Cathedral. A monastery was formed on the property in 606 A.D. by St. Finn Barre, eventually, in the 1800’s the cathedral we see today was built and consecrated. Throughout history it has evolved as a medieval church (a little of what still remains) into the Gothic church we tour today. Relics of its history lie on the grounds around the church and are very interesting to check out. It was so interesting to walk among the old gravestones, and building parts through the years. IWe loved seeing the 24 lb cannon ball in the church which was left from the Siege of Cork in 1690.
The second day in Cork we took a county bus to the town of Kinsale. This adorable little town is located right on the water. It’s downtown buildings are all very colorful and unique, housing some great shops and restaurants. I loved seeing the colors after being in Cork. It was so easy to catch the bus back and forth allowing us to spend a few hours in Kinsale buying beautiful sweaters, yarn and eating a delicious lunch. Kinsale is really different from Cork, not only because of the colorful buildings, but the people were warmer, the lifestyle more relaxed but also because of the quaint architecture we found missing from Cork.
Our third day we headed to Blarney castle. We hopped on another county bus and got there in about half an hour with no problems. The bus dropped us right in the little town, about a 5 minute walk to the Blarney castle entrance. I really had no idea what to expect when we arrived. I had decided I didn’t care much about kissing the Blarney stone, I just wanted to tour the castle. Having no idea what to expect left me surprised all day.
First, the castle is pretty much in ruins. I was expecting castles like we saw in Wales where they are still mostly in tact. What we saw were parts of the castle, which were still very cool to see, just not what we had become accustomed to. I also didn’t realize that the Blarney stone was at the top of the castle. It is a bit of a hike from the ground floor, and definitely not for the faint of heart. The stairs are extremely narrow, dark and the stone is uneven from where it has worn away over the years. When we reached the top of the castle there is a square walkway part of which is the blarney stone.
Now I am not afraid of heights at all. When I laid down on my back, hung half of my body over the side of the walkway and then had to bend backwards to kiss the Blarney stone I was taken aback. Perhaps it is seeing the lush green fields below, upside down, or the fact that half of my body was hanging of the side of this ancient castle and all that was keeping me from falling through the hole was two metal bars and a young Irish guy who had probably been drinking pints for lunch, I am not sure. It really freaked me out. The experience was exhilarating. I am glad I did it instead of skipping it like I thought I would.
The other surprise at Blarney castle was how incredibly beautiful the grounds were. The various gardens are vast and impeccably kept. We spent hours walking around, checking out 100 year old trees, walking through fern gardens and the gorgeous privately owned home on the property. It was such a luxury to have the time to walk around the property.
There are a few restaurants in town and some souvenir shops so no need to plan on spending a lot of time in the city.
I have to be honest that if I were planning the trip again I would skip Cork and drive from Dublin to Blarney castle on my way to the Ring of Kerry. More on that part of our trip to come.
So far we have spotted no Doyle or Robinson pubs, restaurants or shops. The search for our surnames is on…