We woke up Sunday morning around 10:45am (whoops!). We decided to go ahead with our plan of visiting the Blarney Castle and Stone followed by watching hurling national championship at the bar (more on this below). We left for Blarney Castle, a ten minute drive, around 11:30 and were fairly nervous that we were going to encounter hoards of tourists and long lines as two tour buses left ahead of us.
Somehow we lucked out. It was sprinkling slightly, but there was no wait to get in (or to kiss the Blarney stone). Admission is $12eu/adult (cash only).
|The castle's "most imposing" view|
History of Blarney Castle/Stone: There have been a few structures constructed as the castle; but the ruins that stand today were built in 1446. The draw to the castle is to kiss the famous "Blarney Stone", technically known as the Stone of Eloquence. It's unsure where this legend began, but supposedly those who kiss the stone will receive the gift of eloquence.'
We climbed up to the top of the castle (it was slightly slippery because of the rain and stone. I'd recommend sturdy shoes when visiting) and were greeted by wonderful views of Ireland.
The task of kissing the stone is slightly daunting, as you have to lay on your back and slide yourself backwards to kiss the stone one a vertical wall, which is approximately 90 feet off the ground. There's a castle worker there to hold you as you lean back. Our guide books and locals all guided us not to kiss the stone; supposedly locals pee on it, etc. But, when in Rome....
|I was slightly petrified doing this|
we kissed it after all. I mean, Winston Churchill kissed it (so technically I kissed him, right?)
The grounds of Blarney Castle itself are impressive. We spent some time wandering around the paths and just enjoying being outside (in Ireland!)
|The Fern Garden; which reminded us of Ferngully|
The Blarney Mansion is also on the grounds. We were under the impression that we could tour this; but unfortunately it said it was closed for repairs.
|The upper left portion of the castle is where the Blarney Stone is;|
See how high that is?!
After visiting the Blarney Castle, we drove back to the hotel and then got a cab back into Blarney to watch the hurling national championship.
Do you have any clue what the sport of hurling is? If you don't, don't worry because we had no idea either. When we first arrived in Kilkenny, we noticed all kinds of gold and black banners, flags and signs ALL over. We finally asked a bar tender what it was for and learned that it was for hurling.
The sport itself is kind of like a mix of lacrosse and football. There's are two teams on the field (15 players each team), each armed with a hurley stick. The goal is to get the ball from one end of the field to the goal at the opposite end. The net looks like this:
If the ball goes in above the net (similar to a field goal), the team gets one point. If the ball goes into the net (there's a goalie) the team gets three points. Players are allowed to hold the ball, but only for four steps at a time, then the must balance it on their hurley. The sport itself is high speed, high action and very intriguing.
The significance of the decor in Kilkenny is that they are the reigning champions and always win. We decided we'd root for them.
The match for Sunday was a replay, because the first national championship game ended in a tie. Think of it as the Superbowl in US, but because Ireland is so small, it's more on the scale of a college football bowl. We asked around and every person we talked to recommended Muskerry Arms as the place to watch the game. (If you go; get the brie sandwich. Amazing)
We thought we'd cheer for Kilkenny since we'd been there. We quickly found out that everyone roots against Kilkenny, since they always win. Thus, we cheered along with others as Galway scored but in the end, Kilkenny ended up winning.
We stopped briefly in the Blarney Woolen Mills, which guidebooks and others recommended as a spot for great Irish wool sweaters, but ultimately we decided we were best off to head back to the hotel. We grabbed some beer, bread, cheese and salami at the supermarket before heading back to the hotel via cab to enjoy food, drinks, and the hot tub.