Where: A packed day with a stop at the Rock of Cashel and the Blarney Castle to kiss the Stone before settling into Cork for the night.
When: May 2013, part of our 10-day trip around Ireland
Hotel: In Cork, we stayed at the Ambassador Hotel
Why Cashel, Castle and Cork: The Travel Network said Kissing the Blarney Stone was one of the Top 100 things to do before you die, and arguably one of the most famous attractions in Ireland, so there was no way we were missing out on that! The Rock of Cashel was one of Renee’s “Must-Sees” and Cork was the perfect location to settle in for the night before we continued our way to the west side of Ireland!
The Trip: After getting a MUCH NEEDED good night’s sleep in Kilkenny, we were back in the car, heading to Southwestern Ireland with a quick stop at the Rock of Cashel before hitting the Blarney Castle. This was one of the days I was most looking forward too, mainly for the Blarney Castle and for the town of Cork. The first part of our trip, from Kilkenny to the Rock of Cashel was only around 50 minutes total.
I had never heard of the Rock of Cashel before it was added to the itinerary, but Wikipedia and two of the handy travel guides purchased for trip (FYI – Eyewitness guidebooks and Lonely Planet are my two favorites – neither have let me down yet!) quickly filled us in on the history of Cashel. It was the seat of the Kings of Munster for several hundred years before an invasion. A majority of the buildings date from the 12th and 13th centuries.
After making our way around the grounds, we were back in the car for the hour trip to the Blarney Castle. I’m not sure if it’s true or not, but we made it to the Blarney Castle right around lunch time – or when most of the tour groups would be stopping for a lunch break, which is why we were able to walk right about to kiss the Blarney Stone. We honestly only waited about 15-20 minutes, although I had heard horror stories about 2+ hour waits. So if possible, aim for the 11:30 – Noon timeframe. As we were leaving the Castle grounds a couple hours later, the line to kiss the stone was winding around the outside of the castle!
The Blarney Castle is right outside Cork, so it was a short drive into town to get to our hotel, The Ambassador. It sits high on a hill in Cork, and while it isn’t in the center of town, it is a walkable distance away – which is what we opted to do. It was a nice night, and after spending so much time in the car, it was good to get to stretch the legs. Cork has a river running through it, with hills on both sides. What was most surprising to us was the fact that we had a really hard time finding a restaurant that wasn’t crazy expensive – that literally took up most of our time, walking from restaurant to restaurant. We had one planned, but upon arrival, didn’t look very appetizing, so we tried to find another one but were told that at night – all of the non-expensive ones close up shop fairly early and the market belongs to all the “fancy” places. We finally found one that wouldn’t break the bank, but it took a surprisingly long time! After dinner, John and I took a stroll around the various cathedrals. They were so pretty lit up at night!
Final Impressions: I wouldn’t have minded spending more time in Cork. We got there not long before many of the stores closed, making it seem a little rushed! It was a cute little town and I really enjoyed the time we did spend there. The Blarney was so completely worth it as well – it is definitely an experience not to be missed. It may seem touristy in theory but the gift shops were limited to the perimeter and inside the castle and the grounds itself, there was nothing touristy about it. It was just very cool to explore.