#20 Popes Hill, Popes Road (Cork, Ireland)
Today I joined a bus tour and we visited Blarney Castle, which is not too far away from Cork. Again I woke up early in order to be out the door by 8:45. I’ve been making scrambled eggs and toast each morning while I’ve been in Cork and also a bowl of oatmeal that I eat sometime during the night. I must really like it here because I’ve been waking up less often and my wake times are only 10 – 15 minutes. There have been times when I’m awake from one to two hours during the night.
We left the departure point in Cork on time and were at the Blarney Castle in less than 30 minutes. I noticed that my legs were sore as we walked to the castle entrance, but perhaps it was because I sat so much yesterday during the long bus trip to the Ring of Kerry.
The castle, which is one of Ireland’s most visited sites, is set in the middle of beautiful gardens. I think the gardens were designed so visitors can take great pictures of the castle from most any angle. The castle design is more of a tower type of castle and not one with thick outer walls and a moat.
Our driver said there were over 100 steps up to the top where the Blarney Stone is located. Also there were warning signs that cautioned visitors that the steps are uneven and it might be difficult for some to climb. Though I knew that I wasn’t planning to be kiss the stone I still wanted to make the climb, which turned out easier than expected. It took probably less than 15 minutes to reach the top where the stone is located.
Each person who kisses the stone gets their picture taken and a donation of a couple of Euro is requested. One guy takes your money and operates the camera and another helps you get into position, which involves laying on your back with your head extended so you’re in a position to kiss the stone.
I just kept walking when it was my turn and was more interested in looking out at the view from the top of the castle. There really isn’t much time to admire the view since any delay would interrupt the flow of people through the castle. Was easy to get down to the bottom and then you’re free to walk around the gardens. I took a detour and had a cup of tea and a scone at a nearby cafe.
By the time I had my tea and scone, then walked through some of the gardens it was time to board the bus again. I did have time to go through a shop that was near to where the bus was parked. It proudly stated that it was the largest Irish shop in Ireland. And when I went inside I discovered that it probably was the largest. Three floors of merchandise. It was a little overwhelming and I left after 10 minutes.
We were now on our way to Cobh (pronounced “Cove”) which is the harbor just south of Cork. The ride there took over 45 minutes and once there were were given nearly two hours to explore the town and the sites. It was about 1:00 so I decided to eat lunch. I ordered a bowl of Irish beef stew for lunch and enjoyed every bite.
In the same building was an exhibit of the history of Cobh. Cobh was the primary exit point for most people who emigrated to the U.S. and Canada and also the last port where the Titanic stopped before beginning its voyage across the Atlantic. Also, many survivors of the Lusitania, which sunk nearby, were brought in through Cobh.
After lunch I purchased a ticket to see the Cobh history exhibit. One part of the exhibit was a genealogy service for people who wished to know more about an Irish ancestor. I waited my turn and asked about an Irish ancestor that arrived in the U.S. in 1798. When I showed the guy who was providing the service the date when my ancestor traveled, and that he was born in Antrim, he quickly dismissed me and said that my ancestor was probably a Scotch-Irish and Protestant. (Antrim is a county in Northern Ireland.) He quickly referred me to a resource in Belfast. I guess the Catholic immigration and records are kept separate from the Protestant records. I was a little shocked at first but knowing what I’ve learned over the past couple of weeks it makes sense.
After our visit to Cobh we were give a choice to tour the Jameson Irish Whiskey plant, the Wildlife Park or to be dropped off at our departure point in Cork. It was a little after 3:00 and I was tired and was okay with skipping the Jameson tour and Wildlife Park.
Think I need a break from bus tours. When I returned to the flat it wasn’t more than 15 minutes before I took a nap. I was exhausted. Later I’ll make dinner and watch another Harry Potter movie.
Tomorrow I move to Waterford but don’t have to leave until just before noon. Waterford in only a couple of hours away and the place where I’m staying has received excellent Airbnb reviews. Of course the highlight of my visit will be to see the place where the Waterford glass is made. I’m looking forward to another excellent night of sleep.