I heart public transportation. Throughout my stay in Dublin and throughout the country I’ve taken the tram, buses, DART, and ferries. I planned one trip to a city far outside of Dublin which would require a long-distance train ride. I wanted to kiss the Blarney Stone and visit Cork. When I googled to figure out their locations, I discovered that the Blarney Stone and castle were a thirty-minute bus ride from Cork. Two birds with one stone and all that. So, I planned an entire day to head out to Cork with a stop at Blarney castle.
I woke up early at my hostel and took the tram down to Hueston station. I was so excited to get on a train! The trains to Cork depart hourly and I almost missed the one I was aiming for which would have put me back an entire hour. I just barely boarded the train and sat down in the dining car before I felt the pull of it moving forward. It was a lovely train ride that gave me a chance to sit and watch the countryside pass me by. I ate my breakfast while watching fields flick by and yes, cows, grazing.
Once at the Cork train station, I headed to the main part of town to grab a bus. After about twenty minutes waiting I hopped on the bus and headed to the town of Blarney. The bus was insufferably hot, the heat boxing us in and the sun searing through the windows. It had hardly rained during the entire five weeks I was in Ireland. Ireland experienced a drought this summer and a heatwave at the end of June which was hard to deal with as no buildings have air conditioning. I sat on the hot bus, fanning myself as the heat built up in the bus.
Despite the oppressive heat, the ride went quickly, and I hopped off and headed to the entrance of the park and gardens where the castle stood. I headed quickly up the path and saw the castle rising to the sky. As I approached the castle, the sound of a bagpipe grew louder. At the base of a castle a man played the bagpipe to eager listeners. At some point later in the day while I was in the castle, he must have gone home because the music stopped.
Before getting in line to climb the stairs to kiss the stone, I entered through a doorway at the base to go into the dungeons. The coolness under the stone and the shade away from the heat was a major relief. A couple walked out from its depths and I started to make my way through the cramped quarters. I maneuvered myself partially through and decided that I was not up to squatting and practically crawling to go deeper. I took some pictures and left, heading up the hill to find the line for getting inside.
It was over an hour wait to get to the stone and part of it was standing in the direct sunlight. I glanced up the walls of the castle to the roof where I could see the protective rods underneath the Blarney stone and tourists getting their kiss. They seemed to cycle through people quickly but the line barely inched. I was so thankful when the line did start to move and I was finally able to go inside. It was a tough day to be in the heat.
The castle is set up with a staircase leading up to the top. On the way up, you pass and can actually walk inside rooms like the kitchen or the daughter of the kings’ room. The stairs are narrow, and you sometimes only have a rope to hold yourself going up the uneven and slick stone slabs. There is a warning not too far into the climb that states it is the last point you can ditch the climb, otherwise you have to go all the way up.
It was very close quarters and I walked behind an older couple. They were making jokes about how small the space was. Winston Churchill had climbed the castle, and this became the running joke between us as we climbed. Well, if Churchill can squeeze through here, I can too. If Churchill could climb this castle, I can too. I made several jokes about my fear of heights and slight claustrophobia which amused the couple a lot. The husband shared my weariness with heights and once we did make it to the top of the castle, he abstained from pulling himself down for a kiss.
After climbing the narrow staircase, it was a relief to be in the open and the views were beautiful.
Once I kissed the Blarney Stone (and in doing so was granted the gift of gab), I headed down the exit stairs, stopping to take photos of some rooms not accessible on the way up.
Finally, outside of the castle, I headed for a quick stop at the poison garden. The garden is aptly named, filled with trees, flowers, and other plants that cause serious harm or death.
While in the garden I noticed a structure that looked like a piece of equipment from a jungle gym. I headed over to get a look, initially thinking it was a play thing for kids. In hindsight that was a pretty stupid idea considering Ricin, Mandrake, and Wolfsbane were scattered all around. As soon as my eyes met the sign outside the structure I burst into a bout of laughter. I’m sure I looked goofy to the family walking near me. The entire garden was filled with poisonous plants that you theoretically could (you shouldn’t) touch and the only plant that had any barrier to it was the cannabis plant.
Still chuckling to myself, I left the gardens and snapped a handful of shots of various interesting sights on the top of the hill. Then I headed back down to catch a bus back to Cork for some city sightseeing.