Sunday, April 16, 2017

Ireland Travel Series: Cork, Ireland: Blarney Castle

This is the sixth installment in the Ireland Series about studying abroad in Galway, Ireland. Read Part I here.

ONE OF THE LAST ADVENTURES we took in Ireland was a weekend trip to the city of Cork in the far southwest. Visiting Limerick and Cork is nice to pair together. We had no problems catching a bus cross country. Two popular bus services are CityLink ( or Bus Eireann ( and takes a couple hours. Traversing the green pastures and villages dotting the moors makes the journey pass quickly.

In Cork, we set up shop in a dorm room hostel. It’s definitely recommended to take advantage of the cost-saving hostels throughout Ireland, and choose a room arrangement that is right for your group. We were feeling particularly thrifty and tried out a 12 person mixed dorm. The room consisted of only bunks, but there were locker options to keep valuables safe. There was also a communal room to cook your own breakfast.

However, we didn’t plan on spending much time inside. Our main attraction was Blarney Castle, a towering fortress of rock and limestone surrounded by a garden of hedges. The Castle is open year round, and you can view a list of admissions pricing here:

The castle originates from around the tenth century and holds the famous Blarney Stone, whereby kissing it, you will be blessed with “The Gift of Gab,” i.e., eloquence. The castle is a series of levels that spiral ever upwards until your reach the battlements. The Blarney Stone is conveniently located in the wall on the outer hub of the battlements. There’s no standing upright to reach it—you have to lay down and grip two iron bars while lowering your upper body into midair to kiss the stone, that has received the attentions of thousands of visitors before you, including statesmen, council members, and celebrities. It’s still great fun, although there are no guarantees that you’ll leave the castle being able to rap Shakespeare. There are many legends surrounding the Stone; some claim it to be a war prize, others that it is of Biblical origin, and others still that a witch revealed the Stone’s power to the castle’s owners upon being saved from drowning.

Looking up at the Blarney Stone. Visitors lay down and suspend themselves in mid-air to give it a kiss. 

This is a classic castle and you can easily spend hours exploring here. We branched off into the gardens and found several amusing stops, such as a sacrificial alter and a dungeon (we were way too fascinated by the dungeon). After roaming the grounds in the brisk air, we stopped off at the Stable Yard café and indulged in ham-and-cheese pizza rolls, Guinness Irish stew, homemade cakes with cream, scones with jam, and washed it all down with a Bailey’s coffee. There is nothing like warm, hearty fare to stave off the chill.

Then it was back to Cork where we found the nearest pub to our hostel to pass the night away. Often the pubs are welcome to newcomers coming on stage to join a circle of musicians, whether you’ve brought your Irish bagpipes or fiddle along, and tonight was no exception. After returning back to Galway, I looked forward to backing my bags again, this time to visit family in Sligo. 

Read Part V of the Ireland Travel Series here.

Disclaimer: the above is presented as fiction, not fact.

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