Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Monday the 31st-Blarney, Ireland

Map of Cork
Here's Cork--it's in the Southern part of Ireland. I went to the Blarney Castle (it's labelled on the map, kind of in the middle) today. My hostel is right next to the Shandon Bells.

Cork City Gaol/Jail

Cork City Gaol/Jail

Tree at Blarney

Lookout Tower, Blarney

Blarney Castle

Maria (the German girl I met in the hostel yesterday) and I were fortunate enough to be sharing a room with an Australian lady named Rebecca who had rented a car. We all took the journey to Blarney (about a half hour drive) which is an old, dilapidated castle with a massive amount of land. Blarney is in Southern Ireland. The main draw is kissing the Blarney Stone--legend has it that those who kiss it will be "blessed with the gift of gab".

Blarney Castle has an interesting history. It's the third structure built on those particular grounds, with the first being just a wooden building. It was built by Cormac McCarthy, King of Munster. Apparently he helped supply troops to Robert the Bruce at the battle of Bannockburn, who gave him the Blarney stone in show of gratitude. The Blarney Stone itself was built into the battlements--this means it's at the very top of the castle, and it's over a ledge. They have installed metal bars and handles to make it safe, and a worker helps everyone lean out to kiss the stone.

The word 'blarney' itself comes from Queen Elizabeth I. She sent the Earl of Leicester to take the castle from McCarthy. He, in turn, always responded by delaying in some way, such as having a banquet. When the queen asked the Earl for a progress report, he would respond with long letters and flattery--the Queen is said to have been so annoyed with him that she remarked he was full of 'blarney'.

Lord Broghill broke down the walls of the castle, and succeeded in taking it. Most of the people in the castle had escaped through the Badger Caves, so there wasn't really any fighting.

At the beginning of the 18th century, another fellow by the name of Sir James St. John built a Georgian Gothic House up against the keep of the castle, as was the custom. They built a large garden on the estate around it, called Rock Close on druid remains. Most of the trees are incredibly old (this is why I included a picture of one above.)

Anyway, enough history lesson...the Blarney Castle was beautiful. Everything here was incredibly green--the grass is incredibly thick, the trees are in full green mode, and there is ivy or ferns or something growing on the trunks themselves most of the time. I also got to go into the Badger Caves--it was extremely muddy (it usually rains about 4 times a day in Ireland, or so I've been learning), but otherworldly. They also had a dungeon, fern garden, horse graveyard, wishing steps, waterfalls, and a fairy glade. We had a chance to take a nice long walk around the grounds, so we took it, and it was nice and peaceful.

We ended up getting back to the hostel around 3, and I decided to try and make it to the Cork City Gaol (which really just means jail) before it closed at 5. I got lost for a bit (of course), but found a delightful pedestrian footpath that went by the river. After I found my way (and climbed a gigantic hill to get there), I took the tour that's guided by tape through the jail and learned a little about it's sad history.

I walked around a bit more, and then headed back to the hostel for the night. Maria was technically couchsurfing for the night, but she came back to the hostel so we could go get a pint. We ended up going to a random pub we found while walking, but soon left to go to SinE (pronounced shin-AY), where we met up with Christina, who was hosting Maria for the night. There was a band playing--there's almost always a band playing at pubs here--that played mostly traditional Irish music after we arrived, which was great. After this, it was just a great night of sleep for me.

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