Walking & Gawking in Ireland – Part 3

Gawking at Blarney Castle was a slow process.  We arrived at The Spaniard late for lunch with the only other patrons a few men visiting the bartender.  From the yelling and laughing I surmised they were good friends.

Lovely place to eat and drink on The Spaniard's bar patio

The Spaniard’s bar patio graced by a handsome German man

We sat on the patio in the sunshine enjoying pints and the view from The Spaniard’s lofty location on a curvy road snaking up the Kinsale hillside.  Jim had fresh fish and home-cut chips, while I gave in to a Cajun chicken wrap.  Complimenting most of our meals was the standard bit of greens tossed in a light vinaigrette.

Tasty lunch at The Spaniard in Kinsale

Tasty lunch at The Spaniard in Kinsale

During our respite at The Spaniard we noticed a good number of vehicles with deep scratches or dents on the passenger side and mirrors torn off, all driven by local folks.

It made us feel more comfortable about the hedge scratches on our rental, which was brand new when we picked her up.

 

We left The Spaniard refreshed and drove on High Road to Charles Fort, an English 17th century  star-shaped fort which once guarded Kinsale Harbor.  The walls packed with turf, they were almost impregnable to cannon fire.

Charles Fort on Kinsale Harbor

Charles Fort on Kinsale Harbor

During the Williamite wars William of Orange defeated the Catholic King James II at Charles Fort by approaching from the land side and laying siege for 13 days, finally breaching after 3 days of steady cannon fire on a single spot of the outer wall.  My most important lesson of the tour was do not ask questions about William of Orange if you want to keep your friends in The Republic.

Inside Fort Charles

Inside Fort Charles

We wandered the fort after our tour silently taking in the panoramic vistas and the sailboats of Kinsale in the distance.  Ireland once again struck us dumb, smiling nostalgically even though we had not left yet.

Charles Fort

Back at our hotel we laid our heads down for a mere half hour before Kinsale’s pubs called to us to come play.  We found The Sea Captains at The Armada, a duo who played the banjo, acoustic guitar and Irish whistle.  We settled on Caesar salads with warm, dense brown bread, and a few pints for dinner.  The Armada is one of the few pubs that served us beer at our table, in which case it is entirely appropriate to go against the standard and leave a fat tip.  As I listened to The Sea Captains tears began to roll down my face.  I was actually at an Irish pub listening to two Irishmen play after visiting Blarney castle, eating well-prepared, flavorful, and fresh food in Ireland, hiking the grounds of a star-shaped fort, and eating the best brown bread I tasted so far.  My tears were happiness overflowing and I took a deep breath and told myself “remember this, remember this”.

Irish Flag flying at Charles Fort

Irish Flag flying at Charles Fort

View over Kinsale Harbor

View over Kinsale Harbor

Charles Fort

Expansive grounds of Fort Charles

Expansive grounds of Fort Charles

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Walking & Gawking in Ireland – Part 2

Leaving Glendalough we wound our way through the Wicklow mountains to the Hollywood Inn, where we were introduced to the Hurling Finals and learned a few Irish turns of phrase not mentioned in guide books.

Great food, beer & patrons at the Hollywood Inn

Great food, beer & patrons at the Hollywood Inn

Ravenous from hiking about, I dug into fish and home-cut chips, fascinated by the muscular men on the field balancing a tiny ball on short clubs while running, hitting the ball and being hit by it, all with no protective gear, but plenty of blood and bandages.  The excitement rivaled a Superbowl party and Hollywood Inn was more than I hoped for with an uneven stone floor, heavy dark wood , a stone courtyard, tasty fresh food and superb service.  Our first day in the Irish countryside was a success, now we had a real drive.

Bolstered by a hamburger he described as “very lean”,  Jim drove us on narrow back roads to Kinsale, a quaint harbor town in County Cork, where we stayed at the Actons Hotel overlooking the harbor.

Actons Hotel in Kinsale, County Cork

Actons Hotel in Kinsale, County Cork

Our TomTom was set to avoid toll roads, which made each trip a bit longer and more scenic than motorways.  We had no trouble finding “toilets”, a convenient petrol station in many towns we passed through.

Billy, our bartender in the lounge at Actons, patiently explained how children in Ireland begin their first day of school with a lunch box, a backpack, and a hurling stick.  An older gentleman at the bar put us through a course of Irish dialect in a descriptive telling of a helicopter ride over County Tipperary that his daughter gifted him with on a recent birthday.  They both asked what we liked most about Ireland thus far.  I said I loved the water everywhere, especially the streams flowing down mountains and bubbling over rocks.  The old man said, “Ahhh, that’s the piss!”, then laughed open-mouthed as did we.  I told him I also like the potatoes, they were better than at home.  He said, “Ahhh, yes the new potatoes are in, but don’t eat the chickens!”.  Billy told us of growing up in Kinsale and said he would like to visit the Wicklow Mountains someday.  Huge sprays of Asiatic lilies and eucalyptus graced tables throughout the hotel while small bouquets of hydrangea and roses adorned each stall in the lobby bathroom.  Our room was modern  and bright with clean lines and a warm breeze blew through a tall unscreened, tilted window.  Sailboats rocked in the moonlit harbor.  We slept deeply.

Kinsale Harbor

Kinsale Harbor

 

After our first day of venturing we had a true appreciation for a full Irish breakfast, which consisted of an array of juices, fruit, pastry, cereal, breads, cheeses and smoked salmon.  We ordered eggs and sausage and the plate unnecessarily came with white and black pudding and a grilled tomato.  Each day seemed as though it may be the one to try  the pudding, but I never did chance it, afraid my stomach might upset our plans.  We walked around Kinsale’s colorful streets while our breakfast settled before taking off for Blarney Castle.

Kinsale, Ireland

Colorful Kinsale

Colorful Kinsale

Blarney Castle was THE castle of our trip and we took our time exploring all the nooks and scary crannies.  Stone stairs spiraled up to the stone with a rope on one side to hold on to.  As we ascended the walls grew closer and the old man in front of us stopped in fear, the opposite of my typical run through it reaction.  Voices filtered up from the stairs and signaled a group coming up behind us.  I felt trapped already, barely able to breathe.  I jumped back down two stairs and yelled to my husband that I’d see him when he came down.  My discovery of the family room, murder-hole above the castle’s main entry and arrow shaft views throughout the castle rooms thrilled me more than if I kissed a stone that through my camera zoom looked wet.  Ugh.  But, do not let claustrophobic me deter you.  Blarney Castle

Manicured grounds, gardens and a long carriage house were lush with vintage blooms and beside the castle stood a poison garden planted with castor beans, foxglove and other nefarious, yet pretty, flowers and plants.  We rested and took in the groups of people who dotted the expansive lawn before we perused the gift shop and purchased a watercolour that I would carry on the plane to insure its safe arrival home.  Our breakfast worn off, we headed back to Kinsale and away from tour bus crowds in search of a late lunch and a pint.

One of many Blarney Castle Gardens

One of many Blarney Castle Gardens

stairs

Before the Blarney Stone stairs turn scary

Under Blarney Castle

Under Blarney Castle but not the dungeon

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blarney Castle Family Room

Blarney Castle Family Room

Blarney Castle TowerBlarney Castle

Blarney Castle looking at me from the topBlarney Castle window view