Castles and county hoppin’ adventures!

Wednesday the 6th…

We hopped in our car after a full breaky in our B&B and attempted to leave the city limits behind. I say attempted, as the Olympic flame was being run through the city and it was quite a task to escape the place! We saw the flame get run past, as well as the pop sensation duo Jedward hanging from one of the buses as we were held up at the lights. The things you see in Dublin!

We drove for around two hours to arrive in the County Kilkenny, there we checked out the local castle. It had been heavily restored on the inside and sort of recreated to look like it once was. So far Greg and I prefer the beaten up and old looking castles to the restored ones though. It had some nice gardens and an art gallery as well. We had a late lunch in a nearby pub and had a wander around the city. Kilkenny is technically a city, but it didn’t feel like one! We also found a candy store ๐Ÿ™‚

We kept heading towards the coast, which took a while. We eventually got to the seaside town of Youghal – famous for having harbour shots for the film “Moby Dick” shot there ๐Ÿ˜‰ It is a small fishing town basically, but nice. We checked in to our B&B “Roseville” then had a stroll about town, Youghal has a few old churches and things to take a peek at, but it’s not going to keep you busy for long ๐Ÿ˜‰ We walked up to the small old lighthouse, then went back to a nice pub to have dinner. So many pubs in Ireland!

Thursday the 7th June 2012

We drove out from Youghal towards Cork with not much planned. We had the Lonely Planet on Kindle, a few brochures and Bessie to guide the way. We had a quick stop at the old Jameson Distillery in Midleton, but as neither of us drink whiskey we decided not to take the tour. The girl behind the counter still gave us a free ginger ale with whiskey which was nice of her, even if it did taste revolting! Greg seems to think he needs to start drinking whiskey now that he is “old”….bah, he’s such a dork ๐Ÿ™‚ If you are legitimately into whiskey – it seems like a good place to tour (although they don’t distill it there anymore, but there are plenty of other places to go for that!)We continued on and then turned off near Carrigtwohill to check out Barryscourt Castle. It was really good! A one hour tour of the castle and free too.ร‚ย  The tour detailed the history of the 16th century Barry family (yes, what a name) and the lengths people went to get their hands on the castle. One of the Barry’s was quite wily, he changed sides to suit keeping his hide intact and also burnt his castle down behind him at one point to stop anyone else claiming it. Of course then he had to rebuild it later.

Barryscourt Castle

The castle itself is very cool, it’sร‚ย  prime example of a tower house – which is what people built all over Ireland as a display of wealth, power and to defend their lands. It has an oubliette style dungeon and an unusual staircase. It goes straight up (most are spiral) and is built with steps of uneven heights.ร‚ย  The staff call it the “stumble staircase”, the idea behind it is that attackers might trip in their charge up the steps. We saw a few of the upper levels and learnt a thing or two about the way castle life would have been. (Quite stinky and cold in winter it seems).

Stumble Steps..

One of the most interesting things we learnt about was that at some point long after all of these castles popped up, the government placed a tax on any dwellings with roofs on them. Farmers who had old ruins on their land tore the roofs off to avoid paying this tax! Only one tower castle (according to guide) in Ireland has it’s original roof still intact. So all of the castles you visit in Ireland are likely to have had their roofs rebuilt in the style of this one castle! We saw a lot of church and small building ruins sans roofs over the next few days and felt very in the know as to why!

Example of a toasting cup – four handles to allow it to be easily passed around.

Moving on from the Barryscourt castle we ventured in the city of Cork for lunch. We ate at a restaurant above the very awesome “English Market”.ร‚ย  You can eat your food above the hustle and bustle. The market itself is very big, they have a lot of butchers there, selling all sorts and right in the middle of the city. We had a wander around the markets and surrounding shops. There is a chocolate vendor who knows his stuff – he was selling hot chocolate shots for one Euro – tasty! We could have spent hours there – but we had countryside to cover!

In the afternoon, we ended up at the Blarney Castle . It wasn’t very far from Cork although we were a bit dubious about going – it is a crazy big tourist attraction. I did want to see the Rock Close gardens attached to it, as they sounded good (in the Lonely Planet at any rate). The legend of the Blarney Stone is what really draws the crowds – it’s a piece of bluestone set into the castle at the top. People come from all over to kiss the stone and hopefully walk away with the ‘gift of the gab’.

We got there and it wasn’t too crowded! Win! We started with a stroll through the front gardens. You cross a bridge over a stream to get to the castle, it is a nice mini walk. The castle itself is pretty big, it takes around ten minutes to climb up the tower steps – but there are plenty of little stopsร‚ย  to draw this out along the way . I imagine on a busy day it would be terribly annoying to have to shuffle around everyone.

Anyhoo, we got to the top and I performed some kind of bend back yoga manouver to kiss the stone… Seriously, you have to lay down on your back and lean over a ledge, whilst holding onto some iron barsร‚ย  to get to it. How many people got there before me that day? Don’t want to know! Has it improved my eloquence and ability to slightly BS someone…who knows?! Was it worth the Euros for the experience to kiss a bit of stone and say that I have…not sure! If you don’t mind a bit of fun, I say go for it. You can’t be a grumpy traveller and complain about crowds all the time – although I do try! Greg opted to watch me and decided he didn’t need to be anymore charming then he already is (some could debate this :P)

After the castle climb and my stone smooch, we well, climbed back down again! We then explored the “Rock Close” which is an area full of a bit of old magic – Druid circles, wishing steps and witches lairs ๐Ÿ˜‰ The area is a lovely walk and and full of large trees, rocks,small waterfalls and ivy. It really is a lovely little enchanted place. I could wander around there a few more times! The Blarney Castle grounds have a lot of different gardens (arboretums and pinetums as well) to explore and the Rock Close is among them. I would go back there on a sunny day to explore the green bits and ignore the castle!

It’s Greg in the Druids cave…get it?! ๐Ÿ™‚

The weather was looking pretty grim by this stage and it was getting late, so we started heading back. We got caught in some awful traffic on the way back and it started to belt down so! Hooray for bad weather ๐Ÿ˜‰ After a quick dinner back in Youghal, we collapsed into bed. It had been a long day of adventure, winding our way through the green, green grass of Ireland.

This entry was posted in Europe 2012, Megamoon 2012, Travel and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Castles and county hoppin’ adventures!

  1. Al says:

    awwww! looks amazing. and not too cold?

  2. Al says:

    Daniel and i like whiskey..

  3. Trisanah says:

    Not to bad – cold at night though!

  4. Cheryl says:

    Great photo of Blarney – looks like you are the only ones there. Well done. Sounds lovely too, I had heard about the contortions required to kiss the Blarney Stone but not about the wonderful gardens.

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