Back on the road again, this time bound for Mike's home town of Cork. But first, the obligatory stop at Blarney Castle. The castle was built almost 600 years ago by Cormac MacCarthy, one of Ireland's great chieftains. The castle itself is a very impressive and formidable structure, but it is not the only attraction there. The surrounding gardens are beautifully laid out and well worth a visit. Of course if you are patient and not claustrophobic, you can wait in line and climb to the top of the castle to press your lips upon the Blarney Stone, or as it is more formally known, the Stone of Eloquence. At one time, visitors who wanted to kiss the stone were lowered head first over the battlements. Now with lawsuits in mind, one leans back, holding an iron railing and plants a wet one on the stone which is set in the wall. None of our group chose to waste our already short time here to wait the 45 minutes in line to get to the top. Myself, being a bit of a claustrophobe, chose not to spend that much time in an enclosed space with all the other wet and steamy tourists.
Instead, we chose to explore at least a part of the grounds, starting with the Poison Garden. As one might expect, this garden contains all manner of plants that one reads about in historical fiction novels and murder mysteries. Some of these are so pisonous that they are contained within metal cages, to prevent the curious from sampling them. Wolfsbane, mandrake, ricin, opium, cannabis, birthwort, wormwood, to name but a few.
From there we made our way over to the Rock Close, a garden landscaped around different natural features in the eighteenth century. There are many natural formations, such as the Druids Altar, the Dolmen, the Wishing Steps, the Witch's Face, the Fairy Garden along with several man-made sculptures strategically placed throughout. It is a magical place that would have been delightful to explore more, had we had the time.
Off to meet the group back at the Blarney Woolen Mill, where one can drool over the many fine woollen offerings, or grab a bite to eat at the cafe there.
Back on the bus bound for our B&B for the next two nights, Gabriel House. But first, a little tour of the central part of Cork, since our rooms would not be ready! Once settled in, we were out again headed for the English market, down in the CBD. I was expecting something similar to St. George's Market in Belfast, but it was basically just a food market, no artists or artisans. We stopped for a quick coffee and snack, then wandered around a bit. We found a small craft fair with some local artisans offering their wares, but didn't come across anything that was calling our name. Fortuitously, we stopped so I could find out how to get to St. Patrick's church, and it was right outside an optician store, so I was able to get the nose piece on my glasses replaced. It had broken several days previous and was not too comfortable poking into my nose. The kind young lady fixed it and charged me nothing!
On to check out St. Patrick's, which is a lovely church, but nothing out of the ordinary, as churches go, and believe me, we've seen our fair share here!
All that walking around had built up a thirst, so we decided to stop at a local pub, Shelbournes, that purportedly has some 360 different whiskeys to try. Irv was gobsmacked when the bartender brought out the clipboard with pages and pages of whiskeys to choose from. He opted for a Pearse, while I, not being a whiskey drinker, chose to quench my thirst with an Orchard Thieves cider (fast becoming my go-to drink here!)
While at the pub, I got to chatting with an older gentleman sitting beside me at the bar. We were watching the hurling match that was going on on the screen, so I asked him to explain what was happening. He was a lovely man and patiently explained the finer points of the game. It is a VERY exciting, fast-paced game with very little down time.
After our visit to the whiskey pub, we headed over to Gallaghers and met up with Mary and Bob, Rose and Al and Christy and Sara. Another great meal - tried the Irish Meat pie and it was delish!!
Unfortunately the light drizzle that had been happening when we entered the restaurant turned into a full on downpour for our walk (or more accurately, slosh) back to the Gabriel B &B. By the time we got back, we were all thoroughly soaked through and through! Spent time with the hairdryer, trying to get our shoes a head start on drying out so we could wear them the next day!!