Blarney Castle

One more Ireland post after this one.   Something that was on my bucket list for Ireland was to go inside a castle.  We had passed a few that were closed or no viewing was allowed, but  we weren’t detered.

There are many famous places and spaces in Ireland, and probably the most famous would be Blarney Castle and the Blarney Stone.  We left Cork and drove north and a little west to our final night’s stay with the mission to see Blarney Castle on our way.  The weather was great, which it really was for the majority of our trip.

I guess I didn’t realize that Blarney Castle was castle grounds with gardens and such.  I thought of it more as ‘just’ a ruin.

This was one of those “I can’t believe we are here” moments:


Anyway, a bit about the mythology of the Blarney Stones (as relayed by our B&B host).  One legend says that there was a king who had difficulty speaking with some sort of speech impediment. He was out one day and saw a woman drowning. He saved her and she turned out to be some sort of fairy queen.  She wanted to reward him with a kiss, but could not actually kiss him on the lips. So, she kissed a rock and told him to kiss that spot. When he did, his speech impediment was gone.  Hence the ‘gift of gab’.   I’m not sure how that rock ended up in Blarney Castle, but the rest is history.  Of course, that’s just one of many legends of the stone.

The castle is quite impressive, even from a distance:


Waaaaay up at the top is the Blarney Stone. Yes. You have to climb all the stairs to get to the top.

This castle is huge. This is the bell tower here, which is a lot shorter than the castle itself.




Underneath is a rocky cave that probably was used as a prison. I climbed in there and even for a shorty like me, I was quite crouched over.


Even with that light it was so dark that I couldn’t hold my camera still long enough to get a good shot. I ended up using a rock as a tripod to take it.

Here is me coming out through a tiny door:


Almost to freedom there!

As you climbed up all the stairs, you come across different rooms, like a bedroom:


It’s fun to imagine this castle with all its finery, tapestries and full of fire and warmth (hopefully).

The spiral stairs up to the top were really narrow and steep. No railings except sometimes there was a rope to grab:


I think if you fell you wouldn’t actually go down very far because of how narrow it is. You’d just get stuck and stop LOL.

Between crouching through the cave and these stairs, the castle did give the quads a workout, I have to say.

Finally at the top!


It’s all open at the top. This is the line to kiss the stone. You actually have to go through the line to go back down, but you don’t have to kiss the stone.


This is the view looking over the railing into the castle.

img_4162bPersonally, I think kissing the stone is kind of gross. They did have a bottle of some solution sitting by the helper, but I didn’t see him use it. Not to mention that I was sick, so who would want to kiss the stone after me? Yuck.  Anyway, this picture is how you kiss the stone (from the official website)


There is a holder to assist you. Just to the left out of the picture is a camera person up on a chair taking a picture as you kiss the stone, which you can then buy at the souvenir shop (of course). It’s open to air and you are warned no hats or glasses and nothing in your pockets or it will end up down below.

I was way more interested in the view from the top of the castle. It was really something:


I am a squidge afraid of heights, so I was a little nervous up here, but I managed to peek over the wall and take a picture straight down:


Not sure if you can see the person by the bench just about in the middle. They were actually taking a picture upward, so I guess I photobombed them 😀

Anyway, very, very cool.

Blarney Castle has a lot of grounds to explore as well.  There are a bunch of different gardens like the poison garden:


Every single plant in this garden is poisonous in some way. Nothing was really in bloom at this time except some monkshood. There were the usual suspects like castor plant, nightshade, cannabis (yes the plant was there!), poppies, foxglove and lily of the valley. Some were surprising to me like irises, rhododendrun, and larkspur. I had no idea!  I actually have quite a few poisonous plants in my garden.  Oopsie.

This was the herbaceous border:


I never did find out what those cloth things were for. Maybe just decoration.

There are stables on the property, which aren’t used for horses now, but a cafe LOL!


We had a yummy scone here:


There is also a house on the property called, wait for it… Blarney House.   Actually, that’s really an understatement because it’s more a mansion than anything else.


You can tour this, although it is lived in by someone.  I can’t imagine living there! I would probably get lost.

So visiting a castle is now crossed off my bucket list.


This is most definitely worth the stop, whether you kiss the stone or not!

Corn Maze!

We were looking for a group outing this weekend and ended up choosing a corn maze.  We did one about 5 years ago and had a good time. This year we went to Schuyler Farms to try theirs.

It’s amazing to me how big and complex the mazes are.  This is an aerial view of our maze:




Our welcoming host:


Come on in!


There was a phone number on our tickets to call if you got lost.  We split into 2 groups, the teens and the adults.  Of course, the girls finished before we did even though we ran into them a couple times.


Lots of twists and turns. We just kept going in circles over and over again coming up to this bridge.


It was no help to be up here because you couldn’t see the paths LOL!


Wait up!


This maze is open at night and is a haunted maze. There are some props and things around the maze.


John going into the slaugherhouse:


Uh oh:


We entered.

Rickety bridge:


Once we got through the first part, the rest of the maze went a lot faster and we finally made it out!


We ended up walking 2-1/2 miles through the maze! That was a lot of walking.  It was really fun. We need to do them every year.

Schuyler Farms has other things to do along with the maze. You can pan for gems:


Visit the petting zoo:


Hey lady, where is the food???


And the sweetest young cow:


Isn’t it the cutest thing?? Eeeee!

You can pick up pumpkins and gourds as well.


It was a great day. Really windy, but at least all the rain was gone from Saturday.

Until next year corn maze!


What’s Blooming!

It’s getting to the end of the blooming posts. 🙁   We have had more warm weather, which had let some buds open.

This is that chrysanthemum that I got for free:


I’m really surprised the bunnies didn’t eat this. It had buds in the spring and they all got eaten.

My Fair Bianca opened up several blooms. You can smell this rose from the driveway. It’s heady!


The blooms are almost peony like, which is what I love about them:


I am so tempted to put a big rose garden in our front lawn! Beats trying to get rid of crabgrass and weeds…

Fall displays are blooming.  Here are a couple from a walk I took the other day:




The leaves have just passed peak here.  The other day they were gorgeous!


Then we got rain and a lot of leaves are down now.  Guess it’s time to rake!

Cities of Cork and Cobh

After Kenmare, we headed a little more east to the biggest city of our trip, Cork.  Cork is Ireland’s 2nd or 3rd biggest city and really seems like any big city.


This is the main section where all the department stores and business stuff was.  Mostly the same stores you see in the US, actually, except for some with a European counterpart:


I don’t know why this made me laugh every time I saw it. We never did go in there and I love shopping the Maxx!

Cork is split by the river Lee.


I think roughly the historic part is on one side and the newer part on the other, although that’s a little simplistic because a lot of Cork is old.img_4094b

The cathedral in this picture I think is St. Finn Barre’s. It’s hard to keep track of all the churches and cathedrals in Ireland.  We stayed in the historic part of Cork near the butter market museum. They have a whole museum dedicated to butter. It was a huge industry in Cork.  Our B&B was very quaint and the owner was a wonderful storyteller. He told us all the mythology behind places like the rock of Cashel, the Blarney stone and fairy trees.  He was great.  Our room was really tiny, though. Here is a peek out of our window since I couldn’t get a shot of our room in the camera frame because it was too small LOL!


That round building is Firkin Crane, which really sounds like swear words to me, but it used to be the butter hub in the area where all the butter went through. Firkin is the name of the butter barrels and Crane is the name of the scale they were weighed on.

We were only a couple blocks from St. Anne’s Cathedral:


Lots of nice architecture in Cork.

The city layout was a little confusing with curved streets and tiny alleys.




You really could book your whole vacation in Cork. We only scratched the surface here. There are museums and some are free!


Then there is the famous English Market:


This market has been around since 1788!  It’s a foodie’s dream, too.


We picked up some lunch at one of the stalls and the worker there was having trouble with our order. He then apologized and said it was his first day. We said it was our first day in Cork, so no worries!

This sign also gave me the giggles:


I’m not sure if it is meant to be humorous or not, but I found it to be.

We found some good coffee in Cork. One place roasted their own:


That is a serious espresso machine right there.  It made this:


One day from Cork, we took a train to Cobh.  Now that is pronounced Cove, not Cob (like I kept accidentally doing even though I knew it was not).  Cobh is a port city. If you have any ancestors that came from Ireland, most likely they left from Cobh.


Two other points of interest about Cobh.  It was the last port of call for the Titanic before it sunk. There is some attraction there called the Titanic Experience or something like that, but we didn’t do it.  Instead, we went to the Queenstown Story in Cobh Heritage Center.


It covers the story of Irish emigration and also the other point of interest for Cobh, which is that after the Lusitania was sunk, Cobh was the port survivors and injured were brought to and taken care of.  When you pay admission to see the exhibits, you are given tickets, each with a name of an actual passenger on the Lusitania:


Then you can find out whether you lived or died at sea. Eeek!  We actually both lived.

Cobh was definitely a neat place to visit.


I do wish we had more time in Cork. When you only go to Ireland for a week, there’s a lot you can’t fit in!

One last shot of Cork at night and the river Lee:


Staigue Fort and Kenmare

Back to Ireland! We drove down more to the southwest for our next “base camp”, which was Kenmare.  Many people stay in Kilarney, but that was a little touristy for us, so we chose Kenmare instead.  Our plan was to go around the Ring of Kerry. We had a bad weather day for that and only made it about half way around and headed back. We found a real gem, though, the Staigue Fort.  But first, we had to go up a 4K super narrow road:


John kept saying “This better be worth it” LOL.  It was.


This was our worst weather day of the week and I think it really leant itself to the atmosphere.


This was all built without mortar.

Won’t you come in??


Inside was very cool. It was all open and you can see the stairs that criss cross the walls.


They were a bit narrow, but you could climb up them to get to the top of the wall.


My thought on climbing these – Whatever happens, save the camera.


It’s quite the view from here:


Very broody.

View down into the fort from the top of the wall:


That was a neat find. All of the ruins were fun to see, though.

Then it was back to Kenmare to get warm and dry.

I have to say that Kenmare was my favorite city in Ireland. It was big enough to have lots of shops and restaurants, but small enough to still be quaint.  This was our B&B


We were right in the heart of the town, which was great because we just parked our car and walked everywhere. This looks out from our place:


And around that corner to the right:


We walked a bunch of miles around this town. Kenmare is also home to the biggest stone circle in southwest Ireland.  This was erected probably in the Bronze Age:


Stone circles always have an odd number to them.  The middle stone is called a burial stone or something like that. It’s amazing that these have stood here for thousands of years.

The houses in Kenmare are fun, too.


The gardener in me was really itching to get in there and clean that up LOL!  This place was for rent if I remember right.

Same parking on the sidewalk as all the other cities.


I honestly don’t know how the wheelchair bound get around in this country.


Many, many shops and pubs.


Just super quaint. I loved it here and would stay again for sure.  There was live traditional music in most places at night, so we went out and listened to some along with the beer!


I blocked out the lady’s face there behind John. 😀  That is his new Irish knit sweater, too.  We each got a sweater, although mine is more of a cardigan.

Night view in Kenmare:


Kenmare highly recommended if you plan on going for a Ring of Kerry drive (or take a tour bus).  It’s close to Kilarney National Park as well, which we blipped through on our way there – scary roads LOL!

Rush Pond Hike

We decided to go on a hike this weekend. Do you know this is the first hike we have done all year?  Other than hiking all over Ireland. Time just get away from us and we spent a lot of time on the bikes.

Saturday was a gorgeous day, about 60 degrees and sunny. This is a trail that we pass by on one of our regular bike routes, so I wanted to check it out.


Colors are a poppin’ now.


This is really a beautiful trail. Much different from our mountain hikes.


The path is pretty smooth and well marked. A few climbs here and there, but not too hard.


Not sure why this is off to the side. It kind of seems like something you would see on a mini golf course or a theme park LOL














The sun was streaming through the leaves of this tree.  It looks like an instragram filter or something.




Somebody lost a shoe!








The hike ended up exactly 5 miles. It’s such an enjoyable trail and I could see doing some winter hiking here. We thought about cross country skiing, but some of the hills are too steep for newbie skiers 😀

More Ireland posts coming this week!

What’s Blooming!

Okay, back to the USA for this post 😀

We had one freeze overnight earlier this week, but most of my plants survived it and it has been relatively warm for the rest of the week.

We bought some pumpkins to be carved later, but now they are outside.


Those are some of the gourds we grew on accident. They keep rolling around or something rolls them around.

The Fair Bianca has buds on it. I thought these might have gotten nipped with the freeze, but maybe they are okay:


The big one should open, but the 2 others probably don’t have enough time before more frost. I love how this rose has the pink buds and opens to white flowers.

The geraniums sent out some fresh blooms:


The mums in the ground are just starting to open.


For the life of me, I can’t remember what color the one on the left is.  Guess we should find out soon!  Close up of the purple.


I went to get some more potted mums to decorate with and the nursery was having a clearance sale. Clearance sale, people! How could I resist?  The perennials were $2 and $3 and I found some that I was going to put in anyway next year.


Ladies Mantle. I got a couple of those and some white astilbe, all for the shade garden. With the warm days, these plants should get a good root system on them. I like planting in the fall because it gives the plants a head start for spring.

These are the marigolds that I direct sowed in the spring.


I couldn’t even get a bloom in the whole growing season and it is now mid October. I’m surprised these haven’t died yet, but another really cold night and they probably will. Please open!!

Look at all my zinnias!


Those dark patches are the old flower heads from my baby  Joe Pye.  I ended up getting some more zinnia seeds for next year since these were such a success.


I just need to be patient enough to wait for them.

More foxgloves:


I am letting all of the seed pods from these plants fall to the ground.

Lastly, more of the Enchanted Evening rose:


I love this rose. It smells wonderful. It would be nice if it got bushier next year. Third year is the charm for baby perennials, so my fingers are crossed.

Garden cleanup to do this weekend. That’s always a bit sad when you cut away the foliage for the season. I’m already thinking about next year!

Ireland eats!

So before I do more “doing things” posts, I know you all want to know how the food was in Ireland, right? This post is going to be kind of long and picture heavy, so sorry about that. And if you are hungry while reading it, I’m really sorry 😀

It was said in a lot of places that you don’t go to Ireland for the food, so we weren’t expecting anything other than sustenance. Well, turns out we were mistaken!  Ireland has some really great food.

The larger the city, the more choices of cuisine, obviously, but even the  smaller towns had a nice variety of food and everything was plated so nicely.  For those of you who don’t know, John is a vegetarian. We weren’t sure what his options would be. Quite a few, actually. Almost every restaurant had at least one vegetarian selection (even the pubs). The only thing is that there were no vegetarian versions of ‘traditional’ Irish dishes.

Anyway, our bed and breakfast places all had good food. Except the coffee at Rose Cottage. It was terrible LOL. I mentioned before that the breakfasts were huge. Or had the opportunity to be. We definitely ate less than we could have.  It was nice having the porridge. Sometimes with eggs. We asked for the eggs to be scrambled with a little cheese and our host made it look so attractive – and even cut the toast into a little square:


So  much bread. Every breakfast had the brown bread (a grainy quickbread thing that is really good) plus white toast.  Not to mention all the butter!  I ate a lot of butter that week LOL.

Lunches were just in little shops that we stumbled on. Even in a much smaller town, there was a good lunch for John of quiche and various salads.


For the price, we were pretty suprised at how much food came on the plate. Very reasonable.  All of the coleslaw/potato type salads we came across were really mayo heavy. I don’t know why, but I guess the Irish love their mayo.  At that place I had a ham, corn and cheese sandwich.


I’ve never had corn on a sandwich before. I don’t know if I will do that again. It was fine, but nothing special.

Another small cafe that served sandwiches in Adare:


See what I mean about how they plate everything nicely, even just a sandwich? This was a caprese sandwich.

There was always soup of some kind on the menus, with the ubiquitous brown bread. This was a place pretty much in the middle of nowhere near Staigue Fort (another post).


There were scones at all these places, too.  The interesting thing is that they were always homemade scones, even at the really busy places like the Blarney castle. They don’t mess with the scones.


Usually served with jam and cream.

This was a “traditional” lunch:


Irish stew, potatoes and vegetables.  This was quite good.

Since we were in Ireland surrounded by the ocean, I decided to try some fish and chips. I am not a big fish fan because it tastes…fishy. But, I figured it would be the freshest here. This was on our anniversary:


It actually was quite tasty, although I’m not used to having fries and a fried item. The fish didn’t taste fishy LOL!

At this same restaurant (pub), John had falafel, which he really enjoyed.


He got a soda with his meal. There are no fountain taps in any place it seems. You are given a bottle of soda everywhere. And it shows up on the bill as “mineral”.

The dinner I enjoyed the most was the cottage pie:


This was a Guinness beef stew on a bed of mashed potatoes with a pastry crust on top.  Very good. While most of the portion sizes in Ireland were a more reasonable size than you get in the US, this one was a lot of food and I couldn’t finish it.

Ireland hosts a lot of different cuisines. There were tons of Indian restaurants, and we ate at one. The food tasted fresher and brighter than the Indian restaurants around here and really, really good.  This is a samosa appetizer filled with potatoes and vegetables.  We were sharing it and the chef plated one for each of us.


Now that is service!

We tried a French crepe restaurant:


These are buckwheat crepes. Mine said it had 2 kinds of bacon in it. It had what I call ham inside and the bacon outside. So good.

Another traditional dish (and another huge portion) was bacon, cabbage and potatoes with parsely sauce. Look at what they call bacon!


It’s ham LOL! This was at a pub with live entertainment. The food in the pubs is quite good!

You all know I love my coffee and I was concerned about being able to find coffee in Ireland, figuring it would be all tea. Well, apparently the coffee wave has hit over there and towns had multiple coffee shops. Yay!


The interesting thing is that they don’t have urns of brewed coffee to pour from. If you order a cup of coffee, you are made an Americano.  Makes it nice and fresh that way.  The only issue I had with the coffee shops is that almost all of them closed at 6:00.  I guess after 6:00, they figure you switch from coffee to Guinness!

Lastly, the sweets. I mentioned before that Ireland does its sweets really well – and boy, do they! All the desserts were delicious. A few samples of what we had:








Ireland is really a melting pot of different cuisines and there certainly is plenty of good food to find. Can you believe I only gained 1 pound??

The Burren and Poulnabrone

Welcome back to my travelogue! LOL.  I hope you enjoy the Ireland posts, and there will be a few more.

One thing about Ireland that we wanted to make sure we experienced was the scenery and landscape.  That was part of the reason we decided to nix Dublin from our trip this time around as it is pretty metropolitan, other than just too much driving.

Anyway, we took a drive to the Burren as shown below.


The Burren is an area of limestone landscape formed by glaciers and has its own ecosystem. There are also ruins and ancient sites within it. It really covers a huge area and one could certainly spend a day or two just hiking the Burren. It sort of looks like a moon surface, although with plants LOL.


Where all that greenery is growing are crevices. I had a death grip on my phone because you don’t really know how deep some of those cracks are!


The exposed rocks are called clints  and the crevices are called grikes. Just in case you get on Jeopardy. 😀


There are some farms in the Burren where cattle graze:


People made those stone walls, obviously. I don’t know if that keeps the cattle in place or not.

We came to this particular area to see one of the more famous dolmen called the Poulnabrone, which is a stone megalith.


In my mind when thinking about this as a megalith, I had pictured this to be enormous. It looks like it in this picture, but it’s really only about 6 feet tall!  It’s dated to around 3600 BC.  I think this is probably the oldest thing I have ever seen created by people.


I can’t imagine how they got that capstone on there. It’s one of those things we will never know. The Poulnabrone is a portal tomb and excavations have found bones in the area surrounding the stone.

This stone probably fell down at some point in time and probably would have been sort of the back of the tomb:


It’s very cool. I think this would be another must see site on a trip to Ireland.






On a fun note, we got stopped by cows leaving the Burren:


They weren’t in any hurry, either 😀

Cliffs of Moher

The cliffs were one of my favorite things in Ireland.  The cliffs run for about 5 miles, but there is only one “official area” where most everyone goes.


You are warned of the risk of falling.


I love this sign! They did have t-shirts with this printed on them, but I didn’t get one. Maybe I should have 😀

We had downloaded an app that gave an audio tour of the cliffs – and it was free!  It was fun to have that.

The cliffs are truly breathtaking.


I was just kind of gaping at them because it really is impressive. It almost didn’t seem real to look at.


This is one of those times when the camera just does not do something justice. The cliffs are majestic.  We were there in the morning, so there was some mist on one side. The sun was hitting the other side of the cliffs.


The highest point of the cliffs is O’Brien’s tower:


This looks huge here, but it’s not like a castle or anything. The tower was built in 1835 as a viewing platform for the cliffs. You can pay money and go up into the tower, but it’s really not that much higher than the wall you can see just to the left in that picture.

From here, you can see the Aran islands:


We got the the end of the official visitors area and then crossed over to the footpath. You are warned when you go past it that it is at your own risk. The footpaths run almost the whole 5 miles, I think.


It is scarily close to the edge. If it was really windy, we wouldn’t have been on it.


The cliffs on this side:


You can see all the people walking along the path behind us. They look like goats on a mountain!


Where we came from:


Strike a pose!


You can see O’Brien’s tower almost at the middle of the picture. I am glad we decided to walk along the trail for a while.  It’s beautiful.


We turned around and went back to the other side. It was very sunny by this point.

When you turn around from the cliffs, this is the view behind you:


Yes, the cows were that close to the viewing areas, although there was a wire fence between them and the people.

Here is a view from the other side looking at O’Brien’s tower:


This is definitely a must-see for anyone going to Ireland. Very impressive.  I would love to go back again and view in the evening to see the sun setting on the cliffs.  We are already talking about what we would do the next time we go to Ireland LOL!