Blarney, Cork and Cobh

Monday the 8th

 

Harbor Hill Farm B&B

Harbour Hill Farm B&B

 The Harbour Hill Farm is a newer purpose built B&B high above the harbour at Kinsale in the countryside; it’s about two miles to town. The family of five also live in the house but you don’t see them much unless you need something or want to talk to them. A conversation with Siobhan (think Showvon), the wife, is great, she has a marvelous sense of humor and is knowledgeable about the surrounding area. 

View from our window at Harbour Hill Farm

View from our window at Harbour Hill Farm

We are on the second floor and the view of the bay is wonderful. The gardens around the house are great too; nice to have a little quiet break at the end of the day. The rooms are very nice, the food good and the showers excellent. I understand that it is customary to comment on the showers when talking about Irish lodging, but I haven’t had one yet that wasn’t hot with good water pressure. Perhaps I just research better than some when planning a stay. 🙂

After a lovely breakfast, I had the salmon and eggs, we left for Blarney Castle.

View of Blarney Castle an attacker would have

View of Blarney Castle an attacker would have

The grounds at Blarney are extensive and well kept with running water here and there to provide counterpoint to the specimen trees and plants. There is also an old family residence to visit on the grounds which at one time provided a more genteel lifestyle than that of the castle. The castle was a residence and was definately defensive in nature. It was held under siege at least four times and was taken only once, by Cromwell. The castle includes the infamous “murder hole” which is simply a two foot square hole in the floor of the room directly above the entrance.

In Irish (Galic) and English plus the graffiti of course

In Irish (Galic) and English plus the graffiti of course

If intruders broke through the outer door, defenders would pour boiling oil on them or fire arrows at them through the murder hole while they were trying to break through the second door. Of course one keynote of a trip to Blarney is the Blarney Stone. The stone is just below the battlements at the top of the castle. There are one hundred steps to the top, although it isn’t as bad as one would think. The stone stairs are an extremely narrow and steep enclosed spiral. The turns are so tight you almost expect to see you own backside disappearing around the corner ahead of you. There are various rooms to stop at on the way up the five levels with description of their use and, in many cases, humorous commentary about it. Of course the question is, did I kiss the stone. Those of you that know me would probably agree that I have no real need of additional gift of gab and indeed I did pass the stone by. I considered that the more prudent action; better than being assasinated in the future by some poor desperate soul in need of silence. By the way, the difference between baloney and blarney is said to be the difference between telling an eighty year old woman that she looks eighteen and asking her how old she is so that you will know at what age real beauty begins. 🙂

 

We headed into Cork because mom wanted to have a picture of me next to the plaque entailing the history of St. Patrick’s bridge.  
Dedication stone at St. Patrick's Bridge

Dedication stone at St. Patrick's Bridge

You that know me know that I am no saint, but I guess the first name gives some creedence to the picture. We wandered the shopping district along St. Patrick’s street and checked out the English Market. This large indoor market has been there for centuries and is a thriving place of business now, mostly for various foodstuffs vendors; great place to visit to pick up a noon nosh. What really suprised me was the difference in price between the market and the various food stores I have been in since here. For instance, six eggs in the food store is about 2.50 Euro; at the market you get twenty eggs for 2.90 Euro. I guess it pays to live close to the English Market. 
Since the day was getting away from us we took the car ferry to Cobh, pronounced Cove.
Memorial to the victims of the Lusitania

Memorial to the victims of the Lusitania

We did a walking tour of the town. This has been a maritime center of commerce since the days of the Vikings. It was also the last stop of the Titanic on its ill-fated first voyage; you can see artifacts from the ship at the Heritige Center. The Lusitania was torpedoed just off the coast here during the early days of WWI in 1915 and the survivors were brought to Cobh. 1198 people died. The sea claims her due, but sometimes man tragically helps her along. This was also the embarqation point for hundreds of thousands of emigrants that have fled Ireland in her past for the chance of a better life elsewhere.

We finished up the day with pubgrub down in Kinsale and I had a wee drop and conversation with Nigel, the proprietor at our home for the day. It’s very nice to get the local view of life and world affairs. More tomorrow.

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Blogging Resumes

My most sincere apologies for the break in blogging. We were staying in Inistioge where there is no high speed internet, just dialup, and there is no public access at all. One of the locals was complaining that they are in “the stone age” when it comes to access. After that we stayed out of town by Kinsale and my netbook was only getting a very weak wi-fi signal at the B&B; it was also slow. Every time I got connected and tried to upload a blog it would work on it for three or four minutes and then drop the connection. Once we got to Kilarney I got connected and uploaded the first three blogs I had written. Read from the bottom up to catch up. Thanks.

Oh, BTW, I don’t know if I will be able to get a connection at the next stop in Doolin, but that is in three days so expect new posts until then. If I can’t post at the time I will post when I get a connection next. Thanks, Pat

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Travel Day to Kinsale

Sunday the 7th
After breakfast and saying our goodbyes to the lovely people at the Woodstock Arms we were on our way to Kinsale. Oh, did I mention the advantages of staying over a pub? I had a very nice conversation with a 30ish couple; a little suprising how much we agreed.  Perhaps they were just placating the crazy american.  I also had a great conversation with a fellow from Inistioge who had worked the oil patch in Texas for several years. Of course there was the Guiness and the 0100 bed time, but you only go around once; live it while you can.

 

We headed south to New Ross, a port just below the confluence of the rivers Nore and Barrow, to visit the Dunbrody. 

The Dunbrody

The Dunbrody

This ship is a replica of the three-masted barque that transported passengers from Ireland during the time of the potato famine. The ship is only 176 feet from bowsprit to rudder and carried as many as 300 emigrants to the U.S. under what most would describe as horrific conditions. Compared to other ships of the time, some of which only had survival rates of 50% on the six to eight week voyage, the Dunbrody’s skipper did what he could to help the steerage passengers and only 8 out of the 300 might not survive the trip. As someone with an Irish ancestry, it gave me some concept of the desperation and determination that drove them.

One of these accomodated up to ten passengers and their luggage

One of these accomodated up to ten passengers and their luggage

It’s a stop that I would recommend for anyone travelling to Ireland.

From New Ross we traveled northwest to Cashel, to visit The Rock of Cashel. The location was chosen as the seat of minor kings of southern Ireland in the fourth century. It was originally a fortification but at that time was undoubtedly constructed of wood with a palisade around it and wood buildings within.

Rock of Cashel

Rock of Cashel

The Rock later became the seat of the King of Munster who controlled a quarter of Ireland in those days. The high king of Ireland was crowned at Cashel in 977 and the location remained a royal capitol until 1101 when the king handed over the location to the Church to keep it out of the hands of his enemies. Once the Church owned the land they started construction of stonework chapels, cathedrals and other buildings at the site.

Cathedral Interior Rock of Cashel

Cathedral Interior Rock of Cashel

Although it may look like a medival castle all the buildings on the rock are ecclesiastical and not fortifications, however they were designed to be defensable since the location was known to be very wealthy. The buildings on the rock were destroyed, burned, rebuilt, abandoned and reoccupied repeatedly (can’t we all just get along?) until 1874 when it was turned over to the government as a monument. One of the most facsinating things I saw there was Cormac’s Chapel.

Cormac's Chapel, check out the roof

Cormac's Chapel, check out the roof

Although the entire building is marvelous and the most intact of all, the construction of the stone roof on it just puzzles me. How do you make a solid stone roof support itself with no timber bracing? It was a great visit.

We headed south toward Kinsale via the V Notch road. If you ever get a chance to drive this road around this time of year do it! Although we have seen many wonderful things so far, this was the highlight. Bonnie was struck speechless and if you know her, that is saying something. And no I am not being rude, those were her words later. The rhododendron are in bloom and I have never seen such a beautiful natural sight in my life. I hope the pictures do it justice although I doubt they will. 

The V Gap Rhododendron

The V Gap Rhododendron

After reviewing the pics and later realizing the settings were wrong I know they don’t.  As they say here, Sorry!  Words will not suffice, but I will try. The entire small valley we were in was a riot of pink and purple flowers covering bushes that grow twenty feet tall. They cover nearly the entire area that is not treed; in some cases growing half a mile up the hillsides. It is shocking to look at; it’s almost overwhelming. If you get the chance definately take this drive this time of year. Further up the road, in the direction we were going, is a pullout that gives you a panoramic view of the valley far below. It is beautiful and we were lucky to get a mostly clear day for the drive, but after the flowers it was an anti-climax.

We are staying at the Harbour Hill Farm B&B while in the Cork area, more on that later.
 

 

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Kilkenney

Saturday the 6th
Well, the disadvantage of staying over the pub in a tiny village is going to bed at 0200 after a rousing Friday evening of eavesdropping on the locals and discussing everything under the sun with the locals over a pint of Guiness. Or two, or three, or four … I am nothing if not enthusiastic; no half measures here. 🙂 Although Bonnie doesn’t care much for Guiness she seems to have developed an strong affinity for Smithwick’s. I tucked her in near midnight after four pints.

The Woodstock Arms is a good place to stay if you are looking for a location between Kilkenney and Waterford. The rooms are kept up well, the staff are nice, the food is good fare and the prices reasonable for the area. Three full days there would be good if you wanted to cover the area pretty well. We are just here two nights and after discussion, Mom decided she would like to have a look at Kilkenney first.

The morning started out mostly sunny but cool and breezy. By mid-morning it was rain and wind; foolish us, we left the umbrellas so we carried on damply with great spirit.

I left the ladies to their devices in the shopping district and went to find a tire shop. Of course it was sidewall damage so I purchased a tire and they had it mounted in ten minutes for me. Great service, but cheap tires for a Focus in Ireland are 70 Euro; actually I thought it was fairly reasonable. Just my opinion, but I think its far better to buy a tire than have a head-on collision at thirty miles per hour; details in the previous blog.

I had left the phone with Bonnie and needed to call so I could rejoin them. Mobile, as the Irish call them, phones have taken over here as in the States. I went on a search to find a public phone. The result, after asking around for a while, was a small news and smoke shop that had a flimsy wooden booth in the corner with what looked like a cheap home phone screwed to the wall. Dialing a mobile phone from this type landline is interesting here; you dial 00353 then the prefix 056 (or whatever) but you drop the 0 which you don’t if calling mobile to mobile and then 1234567 which is the actual number. You can get tired just dialing all the numbers. Not to mention confusing the hell out of this American. Maybe it was just the place I called from.

I rejoined the ladies and we visited Kilkenney Castle.

Entrance to Kilkenney Castle

Entrance to Kilkenney Castle

This is a wonderful restoration of a castle that started as a fortress dating from 1192 under Strongbow the Norman although the site had been a stronghold since the 600s, possibly earlier. The Butler family acquired the castle in 1391 and lived in it until 1935. Over the period it was converted from fortress to palace, the interior modeled after the palaces in France. It gradually fell into disrepair over the last century of occupation until 1935 when the family left the castle.

Kilkenney Castle from the Grounds

Kilkenney Castle from the Grounds

In 1967 the family sold it for 50 British pounds to a preservation organization which has since restored it to its previous glory. I wish I could have taken pictures of the interior to post, but photograpy was not allowed. It is well worth the time to tour it and enjoy the great carvings, paintings, tapestry and furniture.  BTW, I apologize for the quality of the photos.  One of us accidentaly set the camera to a color replacement scheme which I didn’t discover until Blarney Castle.  So if they look a little strange, they are!

After a hot drink break, did I mention we left the umbrellas? don’t do that in Ireland 🙂 , we toured the Rothe house. Not one of the more photographically stunning places we visited so I didn’t include photos.  This is one of the oldest existing houses in Kilkenney, it was built by a wealthy merchant in 1594. Interesting that one of the garden walls is the old town defensive wall. The house is actually three buildings connected by courtyards, one of which still has the old water well with windlass to draw the water up. I think he just kept adding buildings as the family grew; he had 12 children. It also has had the family garden restored. Large enough to feed the family, it is over an acre in size and is a working garden modeled after the archeological finds from that plot. I personally think he built the place the way he did so he could hide from the rest when he needed a little peace.

Finally, we visited St. Canice’s Cathedral.

St. Canice's Cathedral

St. Canice's Cathedral

The Irish for Kilkenney is translated as St. Canice’s Church. Although the monastery there dates back to the sixth century, the cathedral was built over a period of time in the 1800s as the parish could raise the money. The cathedral still holds Mass and the organ which dates to the mid-1800s is still used.

One of the stained glass windows in St. Canice's

One of the stained glass windows in St. Canice's

It’s one of the largest cathedrals in Ireland, over 200 feet long and is imposing in and out.

We had dinner in Graiguenamanagh, don’t ask me to pronounce that, at the Duiske (sounded like duskeeen, du as in doo-skeen) since the Waterside was booked with a large party. Good food, of course I haven’t had anything that I didn’t like yet so who am I to say. 🙂 More tomorrow.
 

 

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Travel Day to Inistioge

The following is Friday the 5th.

After breakfast I started the day walking to a nearby cell phone shop and buying a phone; the phone shops are all over the place. After doing some checking I thought it would be a better deal than renting, although most companies that rent will deliver the phone to your guesthouse. I bought a pay as you go phone for 50 Euro and got 50 Euro of talk time free. Since this is for emergencies and contacting our B&Bs 50 Euro will be more than enough. Mary Gibbons had told us there is an organization to assist caretakers of disabled children called the Jack and Jill Foundation. They accept and repair broken or old phones and sell them. The Post will even mail them free. Sounds like a good new home for the phone once we are done with it.

The car was delivered, packed and we were off (although you that know us realize that has been true for years). We weren’t even out of Dublin and a fellow going the other way decided that he needed half of my lane to pass a parked car. This was before I learned the “cooperative” method of driving they use in Ireland. To avoid him I pulled left and smacked the curb; no the curbs are not nice and rounded, they are sharp cornered stone curbs.

Changing Tire at Powerscourt

Changing Tire at Powerscourt

As you can see it cut the tire, just a slow leak, and Bonnie thought that she just had to take a picture for the scrapbook when I changed it later. 🙂 Of course this couldn’t have had anything to do with the fact that at the time I had about ten minutes practice driving on the left, nooooo.

We headed south to Powerscourt. Mom wasn’t much interested in the gardens but wanted to see the waterfall at Powerscourt.Travel to inostige 2  These are the highest falls in Ireland, although in many parts of the States it would be considered a cascade. It tumbles down a 398 foot cliff into a lovely vale filled with old oaks and other specimen trees. The area is very nice and appears to be a family picnic favorite as there were several families there enjoying wonderful weather.

I got my first real taste of narrow roads on the way to Glendalough. Here is where you ask “How narrow were they???”. They were so narrow I had to pull over and stop to let a bicycle work its way past me. 🙂 But seriously, narrow enough that it was interesting, slow going when you met someone. Even the locals slowed way down when meeting someone and it appears that most of the time they don’t slow down for anything when they are outside of town. Understand that in the east these are the very back roads. If you are in a hurry or travelling near a motorway (interstate) there are much faster ways. Many areas in Ireland are only served by small roads though and getting there is half the fun isn’t it? The GPS also proved its worth on these back roads. Just be sure you program it with points you want to see before you go. I am glad that I did.  You should also keep track of where you are regardless, sometimes it will send you off on “shorcuts” that are interesting to say the least.

Continuing south we stopped and toured Glendalough. This is an ancient monastic settlement founded in the sixth century by St. Kevin that rests in a beautiful valley with two lakes.

Irish Round Tower at Glendalough

Irish Round Tower at Glendalough

Although most of it is now ruins, the Irish round tower there still stands. That is particularly amazing because it is 103 feet tall and sits on a foundation that is only three feet deep, which means they built it perfectly. This is also the first place we ran into the rhodendron in bloom. In fact many flowers are now in bloom which just enhances the lush beauty of this country.

We traveled southeast, pausing briefly in Arklow and then on south to our next home, Inistige. Since I wanted variety we are staying above the pub in this tiny village. I think that may have its advantages and its disadvantages. 😉  More later.

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Gone North, Newgrange and Tara

Well, we got a bonus weather day today, sweeeet!!! The weather forecast from four days ago was wrong and it was high sixties and partly cloudy today. It is supposed to cool into the mid-fifties tomorrow with a chance of rain. Like I said before, we are prepared and all will be marvelous!

We took the Mary Gibbons tour to Newgrange and Tara. I cannot

Newgrange: Over an acre in size!

Newgrange: Over an acre in size!

recommend this tour more highly. Mary is extremely knowledgable about the area and Irish history; she tells you things you wouldn’t have thought to ask about. Newgrange is one of those places that is far more impressive in person than you could imagine when reading about it. This is the only stone age astronomical observation site in the world that is in good shape after thousands of years. The thought that supposedly simple people could build something like this over 500 years prior to the construction of

The entrance with the light portal over the door.

The entrance with the light portal over the door.

the pyramids in Egypt boggles the mind. As farmers in the cold north, these people needed to know when to plant and harvest. They also needed to placate the sun god to ensure a good harvest. Newgrange is a 200,000 ton spiritual place of worship and a device that still, nearly 4000 years later, still shows the exact date of the winter solstice by allowing a shaft of light penetrate to the chamber inside only at the winter solstice.

The entire Boyne valley is a treasure trove of Irish history. There are three major and thirty-six minor constructions like Newgrange in the valley; and then there is Tara. The Hill of Tara is the seat of the ancient Kings of Ireland from the Celtic era. There were 142 kings coronated at Tara. It was the seat of Celtic power of the time although little is left of the buildings and fortifications now. From the view at Tara it is easy to see why they chose it; they could see any enemy coming for miles.

The view north from the Hill of Tara

The view north from the Hill of Tara

As an interesting aside, the author of Gone With the Wind’s grandfather was from the area, thus the name of the plantation in the book and movie, Tara.

Just a bit about our stay at The Ariel House. I do recommend it. Great staff, good food, nice rooms and reasonable (for Dublin) prices; I got a special on the internet. It is also about one hundred yards from the DART station at Lansdowne Road which makes it very convenient to get around Dublin without a car. I’ve read it before but I would like to repeat; if you haven’t done it before, DON’T make driving in Dublin your first attempt at driving right drive.

Hope this finds everyone well; we are headed south tomorrow with the car. Thank you to all that have commented, great to hear from you. 🙂

Sláinte Pat

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The Arrival Dublin

We arrived in Dublin and deplaned a little after 0800. I have read where some recommend not flying into Dublin because it is a zoo, but we were thru passports, customs, baggage claim and on the AirLink to Connolly Station by 0900. Perhaps it’s the time of day or the economic downturn has hit tourism here worse than I thought. We caught the DART (light rail system) to Lansdowne Road and walked the 100 yards to The Ariel House, our home for a couple of days. More on the Ariel House later.

There were a few things that Mom wanted to see in Dublin so we did the hop-on hop-off bus tour. If you want to do that tour justice it really needs a couple of days, but as I said there were only a few things on the list.

Although pictures I’ve seen are great The Book of Kells is (are?) amazing to see in person. It is hard to imagine that anything exposed to war, fires, thievery and burial could survive in excellent shape, but these vellum books written and profusely illustrated with organic inks are vibrant. There is no personal photography allowed; I wish I could provide pictures for you.

Saint Patrick’s Cathedral is a magnificent place. It is hard to believe that it has been rebuilt and restored multiple times. Pictures don’t do it justice but I will try to give you some idea below.

IIRC Sixty Yards Long and Fifty Feet to the Ceiling

IIRC Sixty Yards Long and Fifty Feet to the Ceiling

Side Set of Stained Glass Windows

Side Set of Stained Glass Windows

Of course I had to do the touristy thing and visit the Guiness visitor center. It tastes a bit different from the stuff that gets imported to the States but mmmmmmm.

Just Another Beer?  Naaaa!!

Just Another Beer? Naaaa!!

Well, I’ve been up for about 34 hours now since I couldn’t sleep on the plane so I will bid you adieu till the morrow.

Sláinte Pat

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