My Trip To Ireland Day Four: Kinsale, Colorful As a Bag of Skittles  

Posted by Heidi



After we visited Blarney Castle, we were driven to a town closer to the coast, a place full of mist, mystery and alluring history.  (Can you tell I'm listening to Irish ballads as I write this?)


 Just before we pulled into town, we stopped to take photos of the five bastion-ed, star-shaped Charles Fort, built in the 17th century.  You can read more about Charles Fort HERE.  You might also want to google it via images so you can see better pictures of the whole place--I was only interested in certain aspects of it at the time and was preserving space on my camera card for more windows and doors. (Priorities--but I digress.)


Green and gray, green and gray, I can't get enough of this stuff!








Afterwards, we got off the coach and lined up by the visitor's center to wait for our tour guide for the afternoon.  Waiting wasn't hard when one had such a delightful spread of posies to feast one's eyes upon.






I found that I had a difficult time listening to the guide--I wanted to experience the town for myself and take more pictures with which to beat my blog audience into tears of boredom. (But, seriously, isn't that row of painted houses marching up the hill the sweetest thing ever?)


I can't resist a Gothic arch to save my life.


By this point, our group had been split in two, a mercy for the half of us who were deaf and couldn't get close enough to hear what was going on, and I was anxious to run around.  However, I found that our new guide, the daughter of our first guide, to be more engaging than her father.  And yet, I couldn't help but snap photos whilst she told us all about Kinsale.  This photo was taken in the center of town where, once upon a time, ships could sail right up to place we were standing.


ANOther door!  (I know, but this one has a lion on top of it!)



Once we had heard all about the history of the town, we took off (we only had an hour and a half!) and found this antique store.  We decided we would have to come back for that, once we had found some ice cream and chocolate!



I wonder if they pull in all the tables every time it rains?  Or are they just super water proof?


This building is particularly reminiscent of a bag of Skittles--however, I was not the first to think of it.  Our tour guide explained that some years ago, when tourism really kicked in (after the threat of bombings in the 80's) tourists were dismayed by how gray and dreary the towns looked.  So, a country-wide campaign began and there were Tidy Town contests all over Ireland.  Kinsale won (I can't remember what year that was) and well deserved their win was.  It was the tour guide's father who suggested that someone went around with a bag of Skittles and asked shop owners to choose one as inspiration for their exteriors. (Shelley V, is that you at the bottom right of the picture?)


I couldn't resist taking this picture--I thought my sister Kirsten would appreciate it.  You don't hear the name Kirsten (the Kir rhymes with hear or peer) very often.



I had no problem being nosy and taking photos of the gardens of green-thumbed natives.  I should be ashamed of myself, but really!  Look at those hydrangeas!


We made it back to the antique store, one of the few we saw in all of Ireland--and most of those were closed--but this was the first time we noticed that it was called K. Jones.  (I have a K. Jones sister . .. )



So, remembering Kirsten's Cottage, we went inside and asked the woman at the counter if she could possibly be Kirsten.  She wasn't, but wouldn't that be neat if she was?  (What thinkest thou, Kirsten Jones?)



I really wanted to bring this pitcher and bowl home with me but there were a lot of reasons why I shouldn't.  I took a picture, tho, because, apparently, a grainy photo of it is some sort of substitute for the real thing.


I look at this picture and all I can think is: "I want to go to there."


More gorgeous flowers.  I have always wanted a lobelia garden (the blue and white and violet and purple blooms at the bottom) or an entire hanging basket of them, but they regularly poop out in our heat.  I am determined to figure it out one day.


One of the places we considered eating lunch.  In the end, we didn't want to spend our time indoors and happily dined on a locally, handmade chocolate bar.  (Yes, it was as delicious as it sounds.)



When I read the signs in this photo, I feel flooded with regret.  We never saw a Carmelite Cemetary!  Or even one church.  All the glorious-ness we missed!


After Kinsale, we went back to our hotel in Cork and hit the main drag of town.  We found that the Laura Ashley store was open (why didn't I take a picture of that?) and found wonderful gluten free pizza in an Italian restaurant, one approved of by our coach driver, a CoCorkian (as we were told the natives are called).

In the morning, we embarked on what was our best day in Ireland yet.  Next time:  an idyllic farm in County Limerick.

My Trip to Ireland Day Four: Everything You Need to Know about the Gorgeous and flower-filled Blarney Castle!  

Posted by Heidi


Blarney Castle:  An ancient ruin (built in the 1446 on the site of two previous structures dating back 400 years prior) that is supposedly home to half of the Throne of Scone, reportedly given to the owner of the castle by Robert the Bruce in gratitude for his defense.  Later, Queen Elizabeth wanted the castle and charged the Earl of Leicester to secure it for her.  He never managed it and the Queen referred to Leicester's excuses as "blarney".  Thus, the Throne of Scone became the "Blarney Stone".  (Note the colors on the trunks of the trees on the bottom right--it is crochet.  We saw this all over Ireland--we even saw a bike decorated this way.)  However, the castle could not be seen upon our initial entrance to the grounds and my attention was fully taken up by all the brilliant flowers.

 Begonias and lobelia do especially well in the mild temperatures of Ireland and they are stunning!  The picture below reveals a peek of several mounds of what I call "knock-your-socks-off" hydrangeas.


And, then . . behold, our first sight of the castle walls as they rose above the trees.


There is quite a bit of contemporary sculpture at Blarney Castle which was a surprise to me.  This one below shows the tall metal spire to the right and a pair of cement eyeballs among the terraces below the fence.


I imagine this tower has a story but I don't know what it is.  What I can say is that Blarney is one of the few places in Ireland where we saw round towers--the others that I can think of off of the top of my head were Waterford and Kilkenny.  Many of the structures in Ireland were built by the Normans at the beginning of the 11th through 13th centuries and they liked square towers.



I wish I had thought to go up this particular tower so I could see what those flowers were at the top.

I was busily engaged photo-ing this tower (not the same as above ) when I was surprised to see Mary looking back at me.  I had thought she would still be investigating the possibility of going to the top but she found the line to be too long and came back down.  (I didn't want to climb all of that way only to throw my back out kissing the stone--one must lie on one's back, grasp the bars with your hands and lever yourself backwards over a ledge to kiss the stone while someone holds your legs.  Between my fibromyalgia and the humid weather, I had to wonder if they would have to carry me down on a stretcher so I didn't even make the attempt.


Not kissing the stone is the one thing she regrets about our trip to Ireland.




Reunited, we decided to explore the grounds and we were not sorry!  I never really discovered what this building was all about but it looked so very pleasant.



When we spotted this tease of a building through the trees, we were determined to find it.  However, it took us a while--there were so many distractions!



First was the poison garden.  Who doesn't love them a poison garden?  Apparently, not Mary.  I thought it was great fun, however.


This shot shows the outer walls of the castle.


I wish I could find a way to buy or make these glass face masks--they would be so great for Halloween!  I imagine they sound equal parts lovely and ominous when the breeze blows them into the metal bars.  (Seriously--does anyone know where one can acquire these?)


I wish I could remember if we went through this gate or not.  Probably yes.



Still on our way to the promise of the building in the distance, we spotted this lookout tower.  



I think I took more pictures of Mary at Blarney Castle than all the rest of the places put together.  She just looked so very happy there (aside from the poison garden) and I wanted to remember it.



At last we found the house and figured out that it is what our tour guide referred to as "Blarney House", the home of the owners of Blarney Castle (as far as I can tell, the property has been owned by the same family since the late 1600's).

This particular structure, in grand Scottish Baronial style, was not built until 1874.  The previous house (I'm not clear on why people didn't live in the actual castle) burnt down in the early 1800's.  The family continued to live in the wings until the lady of the house decided that the deaths of her young children were due to the lack of comforts in the home and had the one above built.  Clearly, this was a solution to the problem as the family lives on.





Mary, the tree-hugger, with a specimen found just across the gravel from the house.



Most of the roses we saw in Ireland were like these at Blarney House--floribunda style.





This gate marked the entrance to the family's private garden and we could not go in.  Bummer.



Eventually, we headed back toward the castle and came across this building.  Not sure what it's purpose is--maybe it's the gardener's house (sign me up!) as it had a very large garden alongside of it.  Note the palm tree on the far left.




Why we didn't walk down this path under the hanging roses, I can't figure out!  I suppose we were too stunned by its beauty to think clearly.




We trudged on and our attention was caught by this path ahead.




This one also beckoned and it is the one we took.





This garden is known as the Rock Close and was planted/created by the most recent family to live at Blarney and arranged around what was said to be a Druid's cave.


Mary was very excited by the thought of a Druid's cave so off we went!



The entrance to the Druid's cave.




The light shining over Mary's left arm in the above photo came from this hole at ground level on the far side of the cave.



We decided to see what was on the far side of the castle so we were off again.

This was where we found the Badgers Caves.  At one point British armies were able to break down the outer walls of the castle with cannon fire but once they entered, there was no one there but a few old men.  It was said that the rest fled through these caves.  One cave is said to go to Cork, one to the lake and another to Kerry.  They had taken all of the gold plate with them (we call it silverware) and several subsequent owners attempted to drain the lake to find the gold they thought must have been flung there.





I love the windows (of course) on the balcony on this side of the castle.  Perhaps it was actually what we call the bathroom.  Very breezy on the backside.




Looking back on the castle as we were heading out.


Most of the rivers and lakes in Ireland are brown.  They are still lovely and are everywhere.


Who knew I would love hydrangeas so much?  Move over, roses!


I was stopped in my tracks by the beauty of this floral tableaux.  It wasn't until after I had taken a picture of it that I realized it is the same one that stopped me in my tracks on the way in (see above).  (Far above.)  (Like, near the beginning.)


Below is a picture of the gift shop one must go through on one's way out.  There was a sign that said they had souvenirs one could only buy in that shop.  We refused to be seduced by that and rushed through to the gift shop just outside the parking area sporting signs that read that they had the cheapest prices in town.  We didn't think they were so great and went on to the HUGE Blarney Woolen Mills, where I proceeded to lose Mary.  I went up and down from the first to the second to the third floor three times only to learn that in an entire hour, she had never gotten past the first floor.  But, I did get a lot of exercise.  We left from there, Mary having been found just in the nick of time (as John, our coach driver said, "Crisis averted") and didn't have time to go back to the Blarney Castle gift shop.  And I was sorry.  They DID have neat stuff there you couldn't get anywhere else.  Live and learn.


See the sign?  "Products only available here".  If only . . . (But then I would have had less money to spend at the Belleek factory, and that's the truth.)



All roses are mine.  Mine.  Mine.  Mine.



Next time:  Kinsale, the harbor town that the locals say is painted the colors of a bag of Skittles.  (SO fun!)