Despite absolutely loving Dublin, there were a few more sites outside of the city that we were hoping to see this trip as well, namely the Blarney Castle. Which left us with a choice: book a car, or book a tour?
Normally I kind of abhor tours. To me they’re something for high school students and retirees. But, tours are great at two things: 1) providing transportation and 2) allowing you to skip the line at popular attractions. And since we didn’t really want to have to deal with getting an international drivers license, renting a car, dealing with insurance, and then driving on the wrong side of the road, it seemed like a tour was the better option for us.
Luckily, I’ve always had pretty good luck with one particular tour provider: Viator. We’ve done single-day tours with them in multiple locales, and always come away fairly pleased with the experience. So, we booked the Blarney Castle and Cook Day Trip from Dublin.
And it turned out to be a great tour for us. We met at the Molly Malone statue at a bright and early 6:45am to be loaded onto a nearby waiting motorcoach. The driver/tour guide stayed fairly quiet on the drive to the first location (as most people were still quite drowsy) but later added some interesting stories and played Irish music between attractions.
Our first stop was the Rock of Cashel, also known as St. Patrick’s Rock, which was built in the 12th Century AD, and reportedly an important site in Irish history all the way back to the 5th Century. The castle ruins are fantastic to explore, as is the nearby little town of Tipperary.
One pro-tip if you are with a tour group…try to avoid the sheeple effect. At this stop, there was both the small town to explore, the video in the visitor’s center, and the castle itself. Every single other person in our tour group went straight for the castle itself.
We waited and did the video first, which is how we were able to get all these great shots without anyone else in them. By the time we headed into the Castle, we basically had it all to ourselves.
However, at our next stop, Blarney Castle, there was simply no avoiding the crowds. So we headed straight for the castle itself to make sure we had a chance to kiss the stone in our 2.5 hour stop here. After about a 30-minute wait, passing through the small and winding staircases of the castle itself, we arrived at the top.
Finally, we made it to the front of the queue, and got our chance to be turned around, lowered down, and plant a backwards smackaroo on the famous stone. Legends holds that kissing the stone gives you the “gift of gab,” or the ability to talk more eloquently.
However, it’s really no easy feat. The stone was intentionally placed in the battlements of the castle, between two levels, supposedly to make it harder to steal. Just a few decades ago, the only way to reach the stone was to be lowered by your ankles by some witting accomplices. Nowadays, though, you’re instructed to lie back on a rubber platform, grasp the handrails, and then scoot back while an assistant grasps your waist.
Alternately, it could just be that the ritual of it all makes it more exciting 🙂
But really, beyond the Stone, the Blarney Grounds were the star attraction here. Unbeknownst to me, the Castle features beautiful gardens, caves, lakes, and views.
Eventually, though, it was time to load back on the bus and head to our final destination of the tour: the nearby city of Cork.
Cork was a great pedestrian-friendly town, and we just so happened to be visiting on the afternoon of the last day of school, so there was a very festive atmosphere in the air as teenagers celebrated their newfound freedom.
Since we also hadn’t yet had lunch, we walked over to Coqbull, a restaurant specializing in rotisserie chicken and burgers. And man, was this a good burger:
The hubby ordered the half-chicken and was very pleased as well:
After this most excellent meal, we walked around the city and did a bit of souvenir shopping, before eventually loading back on the bus for our 3.5 hour drive back to Dublin.
All in all, this was a great day trip, and I was so happy we booked the tour to get out and see some of these attractions! Stay tuned to hear about the rest of our trip next week…up next: our visit to Manchester!