Trip Review: Rock of Cashel, Blarney Castle, and Cork, Ireland

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.Β 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.

Sheep in a pasture in Ireland.

We spied plenty of sheep on the drives between our tour stops.

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.

The exterior of the Rock of Cashel

The exterior of the Rock of Cashel

The arched walkways in the Rock of Cashel

The arched walkways in the Rock of Cashel

Later additions to the Rock of Cashel

Later additions to the Rock of Cashel

The roof of the Rock of Cashel has long since been lost.

The roof of the Rock of Cashel has long since been lost.

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.

Not us.

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.

The view of the Blarney Castle, from the ground level.

The view of the Blarney Castle, from the ground level.

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.

The top of the Blarney castle, where we waited to kiss the Blarney Stone.

The top of the Blarney castle, where we waited to kiss the Blarney Stone.

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.

I kissed the stone! Now you’ll never get me to shut up.

Alternately, it could just be that the ritual of it all makes it more exciting πŸ™‚

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.

A pathway dripping with the Golden Rain Tree at the Blarney Castle gardens.

A pathway dripping with the Golden Rain Tree

The Calico Bush at the Blarney Castle Gardens.

The Calico Bush at the Blarney Castle Gardens.

The hubby by a waterfall in the fern gardens of the Blarney Castle grounds.

The hubby by a waterfall in the fern gardens of the Blarney Castle grounds.

Giant redwoods at the Blarney Castle grounds.

Giant redwoods at the Blarney Castle grounds.

A tiny plant grows in a single shaft of light in the caves under the Blarney Castle.

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.

A flag-laced street in Cork.

A flag-laced street in 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 Smoking Bull Burger, with a beef patty, smoked Gubbeen cheese, tobacco onions, smoked bacon, BBQ mayo & smoked aioli at CoqBull.

The Smoking Bull Burger, with a beef patty, smoked Gubbeen cheese, tobacco onions, smoked bacon, BBQ mayo & smoked aioli at CoqBull.

The hubby ordered the half-chicken and was very pleased as well:

Half a rotisserie chicken at Coqbull

Half a rotisserie chicken at Coqbull

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!

Whitney

  • Mel

    Looks like a great tour! The rock Of Cashel must have been fun to explore. Of course, you have to kiss the Blarney Stone, but I think I’d be just as happy wandering the gardens. It’s always nice to find something beautiful that you were not expecting.

    • Absolutely! I think, overall, I was much more impressed with the gardens, but kissing the stone was just one of those boxes you need to check πŸ™‚

  • Jean

    What an awesome tour. I agree that the occasional tour is a welcome break from travel life. I love the idea of seeing the castles and the wonderful gardens that surround them.

  • I have never been in Ireland, but these amazing castles really make me wanna go. All the nature is so pretty and the sheeps give it this typical touch. The rock of Cashel must be exciting to visit.

    • I was glad to see the castles – they were on my Ireland “must-see” list, and this was a good way to check them out πŸ™‚

  • AMIT AGRAWAL

    The rock of Cashel is fun to explore and looks exciting. Sheeps grazing on green grass while driving is amazing. As I love to roam in streets then flag laced street in Cork is my kind of place.

  • Lois Alter Mark

    Ireland is one of my favorite countries, and this scenery is a big part of that. We had so much fun kissing the Blarney Stone. I agree – the ritual of it just makes it special!

  • Wow, the cheeseburger you photographed made my mouth water! The Rock of Cashel looks very Instagrammable, I’d love to photograph it. The scenery whilst driving looks so lush and the sheep are always wonderful to see. Kissing the stone at Blarney Castle is a must I see! the queue is so big.

  • I love ireland! We only got to spend 2 days there so I hope to head back one day!

  • Marta Mizik

    Great post! Hope I’ll visit Ireland one day!

  • Mel B

    I love castles and I remember going to the Blarney Castle about 10years ago to kiss it πŸ™‚ Glad you guys had a great time and I loved that cheese burger it made my hungry and I have just eaten

  • I didn’t know that the Blarney Stone now has an assistant to help visitors do the acrobatics to kiss the stone. Amazing. You made the right choice for visiting the castle second – those pics of the gardens are just beautiful.

    • Thanks, Ali! I was so surprised by the gardens…I’m really shocked more people don’t talk about them, as they were truly stunning.

  • Nina Ahmedow

    I still have never been to Ireland, but it’s definitely on my list for next year. πŸ™‚

  • Anete Ilmete

    Ireland is such a magical place. It has some kind of special charm. THose photos of nature and city sights are amazing!

  • Jenni Sheldon

    I have heard of kissing the blarney stone but I never thought there would be a queue lol. The castles always look so amazing in Ireland I really should go one day and see them for real.

    • Oh, absolutely, there was a huge queue. Our tour driver actually said we were lucky, because during the summer there’s almost always a cruise ship in town, and that makes the line to get in hours long.

  • Oh how I love ruins! And when you have nature and the quiet of some old era – it is just so enchanting! Never been to Ireland but have now added this place to my ever growing personal list of ‘places to visit when in Ireland’ πŸ˜€ Loved the post.

    • Thanks, Vaisakhi! It was really amazing to me, as an American…our country is less than 250 years old, and yet they have bars and pubs that have been around longer than that, hahaha.

  • I prefer self planned road trips to tour operators as I can stop at will and change itinerary too. Viator seems to be good from your description. You did get to see a lot of places in this tour. Never knew of kissing the blarney stone!

    • Yes – and I liked that they basically got you through the admission gate, letting you skip the line – but then left you to do your own thing. I don’t like to be too tied to a group πŸ™‚

  • Allison Green

    Blarney Castle looks so cool! I especially love the garden area, it’s so green. I hope to go back to Ireland soon!

  • Aareeba Mohammed

    I love to visit castles and this looks one of those places I want to visit.The garden area is also so beautiful <3 Thanks for sharing this amazing place

  • Marissa Abao

    I like joining tours because it saves you time and money. You mentioned a good tip when you visited The Rock of Cashel. I also let others go first. People are always in a hurry so it is better to wait until they are done. Then, you can capture good photos but it is not always the case. Kissing the stone is interesting. I am not sure if I want to do it also.
    The giant redwoods make you look so small. They kinda look unbelievable.
    Lastly, I like the fries, burger, and roasted chicken at the CoqBull. The servings were good especially the fries. I think it can be shared by two people.

  • Victoria

    I really enjoyed this post! The lush green fields with the sheep was beautiful and the rotisserie chicken is calling my name. πŸ™‚ I loved seeing the Blarney Stone experience too. Thanks for sharing Ireland with us! xoxo

  • I usually am not a tour person myself, but yeah at times, it does help to hop on to a tour and explore the places. I can very well relate to your comment about the sheeple effect. When I am with a group, I head out to the direction, opposite to where the group goes. It helps in getting those shots without everyone in it.