We chose to take a bus tour from the Dublin city center to three sites: Rock of Cashel, Cork City, & Blarney Castle. We had just missed the date cut off to do the tour to Skellig Island, which was featured in the Star Wars movie. Instead, we decided to see the “famous” Blarney Stone and check out some sites closer to Dublin. Although the tour was 12 hours, there was not quite as much driving as the Scotland tour, and more time was spent at each site, which we greatly enjoyed.
It was raining as we left for the tour, but 45 minutes into it, the sun came out, and we had relatively good weather, except for a bit of rain at Blarney Castle. As we rode to our first stop, our tour guide, Edell, chatted and gave us all kinds of interesting information.
For instance, she told us that the Guinness Family of Ireland birthed 21 children, and that Ireland used to be 95% forest, which included wolves, bears, and wild boar. Another tidbit she shared was that bogs formed in Ireland as people began tearing down the forests, the high acidity preserving things really well. So well, in fact, that a man’s remains were found from the city of Cashel, the oldest preserved body in Europe, dating back to 2,000 B.C.
We arrived at the Blarney Castle, originally built in the 10th century. This third castle was built on top of the previous castles, in the 15th century. There was a story posted inside the castle, explaining how the castle got its name. The story goes that the owner was so good at charming others with his speech that when Queen Elizabeth would send a messenger to collect taxes, year after year, the messenger would return without them. The Queen got so upset, that she exclaimed the owner was full of “Blarney!”
Everyone immediately lined up to see the Blarney Stone, so we headed for the Poison Garden instead, which featured poisonous plants from around the world. We enjoyed climbing on the rocks around the garden too.
After exploring the gardens, we went back to the castle, and voila, there was no line left to see the Blarney Stone. The boys and I climbed the 100+ winding stairs to the top level, where a misty rain greeted us. The very last set of stairs got extremely tight, but we made it!
The famous Blarney Stone, or the Stone of Destiny, was built into the structure of the Blarney Castle. It resides at the top of the castle, and if kissed, you will be granted the gift of eloquent speech!
Our tour guide’s version of the legend is that the owner of the castle saved a “maiden” from drowning. What he didn’t know was that she was actually a witch. To show her appreciation and as a thank you for saving her life, she put a spell of eloquent speech upon the rock.
The stone itself was built right into the castle wall, so it wasn’t the kind of “stone” that I had pictured. Two men were positioned at the stone. One man helps you to lay down on your back, dangle over an opening straight down to the ground below, grab the railings and place a kiss on the stone, upside down. Notice the camera poised above so you can purchase your picture as “proof?” Hmmm…wouldn’t your gift of eloquent speech be proof enough?
That’s it below – that dark area of the wall is where it is to be kissed! See that opening you dangle over with bars to keep you from plunging to your death? “How many lips have touched that stone?” I asked. “Hah! Millions!” was the reply. Even Presidents have kissed it!
After we toured the remains of the castle, we walked through the damp caves underneath the Castle.
Then we strolled along the river and admired the flowers and trees. The trees along the pathway were decorated with crocheted coats wrapped around their trunks.
Next, we stopped in the city of Cork for a one hour lunch break. We went to the recommended Gallahans Restaurant, which was pretty good, except for a long wait for food.
Our final tour stop was at The Rock of Cashel, a medieval tower, chapel, cathedral, and fortress, seated high on a mound, overlooking gorgeous green fields and the town of Cashel, buildings dating back to the 10th century! It was so impressive a site to see in person, that as we ascended the walkway and rounded the corner to the top, even my boys gasped out loud at the majesty of it all.
It is also known as St. Patrick’s Rock, as this is the place where St. Patrick converted Aenghus, the king at the time, to Christianity in the 5th century. This site was the symbol of Religious and Royal power for over 1,000 years. It is the most impressive collection of medieval buildings in Ireland.
This was a beautiful ending to our time in Ireland…
Watch the video version of our Ireland Trip: