After getting a much better night’s rest, we left the wonderful little town of Kilkenny and headed out in the general direction of Cork. This was easier said than done. Our GPS decided quite literally to take us in circles, and it wound up taking about half an hour to find our way out of Kilkenny. We headed Northwest toward Durrow to get back onto the M8 toward Cork, as Fintan had suggested the road was much better, despite the slightly added distance.
Also on the advisement of Fintan Murray, we stopped in the small town of Cashel to visit the Rock of Cashel, a ruined castle towering over the town from a natural rock outcropping. We had a quick bite of breakfast at Ladyswell Restuarant, and made our way up to the castle. The castle is very impressive, made even more so by its location several hundred meters above the town. While it is nice to visit castles that have been restored, such as Kilkenny castle, there is a certain reverence owed to castles in their ruined states, standing for centuries without care.
On our way back down to the town, we stopped in at the Cashel Woolen Store. Alexis purchased an Aran wool scarf. We were very impressed with the woman running the shop. She was the perfect example of Irish geniality, and we heard her speaking at least three languages in the few minutes we were in her shop. It’s one of the better shops we visited during our vacation.
After an enjoyable morning in Cashel, we got back on the road. Next stop: Blarney Castle. After a quick (and sort of stressful) drive through the bustling city of Cork we arrived at the castle, an impressive monolithic structure standing tall above some truly gorgeous grounds. You could spend all day walking the grounds, as there are extensive walking trails on the property. In addition to the castle, admission gives you access to these trails, as well as some gardens, including a garden full of poisonous plants! We also saw the largest thistles we’d ever seen. These things were the size of my outstretched hand. You can see in the picture the stem is the size of my index finger.
As there were plenty of tourists, it can take awhile to navigate through the winding staircases and tiny rooms of the castle, but we still really enjoyed it. Various placards give you insight into what life in the castle would have been like. This was also the first castle we’d seen that had murder holes, which soldiers would have poured boiling oil through onto unwanted visitors. We had previously told ourselves we were not going to kiss the famous Blarney Stone, as one of our Irish friends told us other bodily fluids might be on it other than saliva, but once we were in line with the rest of the tourists, we decided we would probably be fine. A man hangs you upside down over the edge of a murder hole and has you kiss the stone. I didn’t so much kiss it at as I did smash my nose into it.
Having our fill of castles for the day, we moved on to Kinsale, a quaint seaside city. We had heard very good things about Fishy Fishy Cafe, and one of the things we wanted to do on our trip was have some good, fresh seafood. We were still full from Irish breakfast, so we both ordered a bowl of seafood stew and we shared a sampler seafood platter. Bread and butter came before the meal, and it is worth mentioning that the butter was the absolute best both of us had ever had. It was rich and flavorful, almost like eating brie. The seafood stew was quite good, though we wished it had had more chunks of seafood. It was tomato based, unlike the white chowders we had had before. The seafood sampler had crab claws, mussels, clams, smoked salmon, and seared tuna. It was all good, but served cold, which we weren’t expecting. The seared tuna was the highlight of the meal, and while all of it was certainly fresh, we felt that Fishy Fishy may have been hyped a bit too much. It was good, but not spectacular.
Though we wanted to spend more time in Kinsale, we were both tired and the farmhouse we were staying at that night was a ways out of town. Not wanting to try and navigate there after dark, we drove the short distance to the Seafield Farmhouse.
When we arrived, the owners’ daughter was the only one home. She made us a nice cup of tea, and we settled in to our room. The room was very comfortable, and the bed was very inviting. So much so that we had to have a quick nap. We awoke around sunset, which presented one of the most spectacular views we would see on our trip, right from our B&B window.We spoke to our gracious host, Eileen, for a bit and then took a brief walk down to the fields, which are aptly named. As the sun set, the mosquitoes came out, and we called it an early night. Having a nice, comfy bed was a welcome departure from the rock hard hostel beds we’d become accustom to.