Friday, July 24, 2015

Ireland: Day Three (Part One - Blarney Castle)

We woke up on our second day in Cork, excited to go to the Blarney Castle.  We were originally supposed to go there the afternoon before, but our spontaneous trip to the Jameson Distillery made that impossible.

Good thing too!  The Blarney Castle isn't just the Blarney Castle; it's the "Blarney Castle and Grounds."  And when they say "grounds," they're not messing around.  Besides the main Castle, there are over 60 acres containing ridiculous amounts of gorgeous flowers, a lake, a waterfall, gardens, and a manor.  What we thought would be a 3 hour tour turned into a 6 hour photography extravaganza, so strap in!

We got our first view of the Castle after passing a harpist and making a slight left on the path.  And there it was, huge and rundown and gorgeous.  We spent at least 45 minutes in the grass in front of the Castle trying to get that perfect shot of it.

Blarney Castle

After we finally broke down the tripod and packed up my photography gear, we headed off to the castle.  At the base of the castle, there's a small opening where you can crawl back into what they believe used to be the dungeon.  Chris was carrying the large camera backpack, so he couldn't fit.  But I could!  So, I crawled through a very cold, muddy, dark, and wet "hall" back to a tiny opening.  There wasn't a whole lot to see but it was eerie (and totally cool!) being back there all by myself!

Dungeon at Blarney Castle

Next, we headed into the main part of the Castle and got in the extremely long line to kiss the Blarney Stone.  We didn't mind the line too much, however, since it winds you all the way through the Castle as you climb to the top.  There were plenty of photo opportunities the whole way.

Flowers growing on the walls of Blarney Castle

Detail of hand rope on the stairs to the Blarney Stone

Climbing the stairs to the Blarney Stone

Room in Blarney Castle

Greenery growing in the cracks of Blarney Castle

About 45 minutes after we got in line, we finally reached the top of the Castle and the Blarney Stone.  To kiss the stone, they have you sit on the ground with your back to the wall.  You then grab onto some steel bars attached to the wall and lean back over a gap between the wall and the flower, while someone holds onto your waist to make sure you don't plummet to your death.

Eeek!  Getting ready to kiss the Blarney Stone

The thing was, I'm so damn short that they had to tell me to keep scooting back so that I could reach the actual stone.  By the time I was back far enough to reach it, my butt was actually hanging off the edge of the wall!  It was thrilling, and yes, extremely touristy, but it was totally worth it.  Although, I'm not sure my "gab" actually became any more gifted...

Kissing the Blarney Stone

We made our way back down the long spiral staircase to the bottom of the Castle and then headed over to the little cafe right next to the castle.  There were beautiful white flowers growing up the stone walls around the outdoor eating area, so we had ourselves another little photo shoot there, then had a delicious lunch right next to the Castle.

Flowers growing on a stone wall near Blarney Castle

Lunch at Blarney Castle

After lunch, we decided to explore the vast grounds around the Castle.  Our first stop was the small waterfall where we got to practice our long exposure photography to blur the water.  It worked!

Waterfall at Blarney Castle

Next to the waterfall was a really lovely archway made entirely of branches and leaves.

Archway on the grounds of Blarney Castle

Both Chris and I took shots of it.  I took mine from the safety of the walkway but Chris got a little more adventurous and hopped off the walkway to get the shot he wanted.....and that was HIS first experience with nettles.  I even have a picture of the fateful moment.


If you're not familiar with nettles, let me tell you, they're jerks (aside from their medicinal properties, I mean).  If you just slightly brush them with any exposed skin, it will feel tingly and then very stingy, and I mean VERY stingy.  Then you break out into a nice rash that'll last the rest of the day.  Luckily the initial intense sting goes away fairly quickly but you're left with weird tingling and the rash for quite a while.  Chris was stung all over his arms and, at this point, we didn't know what caused it, which meant we didn't know what to avoid...(that's foreshadowing, people).

Once we decided that Chris most likely was NOT going to drop dead (at least not anytime soon), we headed towards the lake that's on the grounds.  On the way, we saw some beautiful trees and flowers.

Tree and flowers on the Blarney Castle Grounds

We also passed by the Blarney Manor where we were lucky enough to see horses and cows grazing out front, which makes for a lovely picture. 

The Manor and horses on the grounds of Blarney Castle

Now, to get this shot, I was using my telephoto lens, but I also needed to stand on my tiptoes and reach over the fence so as not to get it in the shot.  I was also using the fence to steady my hands as I was using a slower shutter speed than I would've liked to while handholding the camera.  Strangely though, my arm kept twitching while I was trying to take the picture.  I looked down and realized that my arm was actually resting on an electric wire around the top of the fence!  Luckily, I was wearing about three layers of clothing so it didn't directly touch my skin (I've been hit by an electric fence before and it's no fun, I tell ya).

Once we made it to the lake, we took a few shots of the surrounding area and the tons of lily pads!

Lake at Blarney Castle Grounds

Lily Pads in the lake on Blarney Castle Grounds

From there, we started back up towards the Castle, and on the way I had MY first wonderful nettle experience.  As I was taking this photo, I stepped directly in a patch of nettles which promptly found the slightly exposed skin in my shoe...

Horse on the grounds of Blarney Castle

Again, we couldn't tell what had caused the stinging pain, and so this would not be our last encounter with the evil plant.

Finally, we finished our loop back to the Castle, took our last shot of it, and (6 hours after we got there), we headed out to drive about 45 minutes away to the little town of Ballycotton.  To be continued...

Last view of Blarney Castle

Like the pictures?  Want to see more?  There are loads posted to my Flickr photostream, but to see what I consider the best of them go straight to my Best of Ireland 2015 album.  I'm adding more every week!

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