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Our trip to Graigue / Dunquin
on the tip of the Dingle Peninsula, Ireland
April 11-20, 2008

Page 5: Cork

Page 0: Preparing for the trip.
Page 1: Graigue Cottage.
Page 2: Connor Pass / An Droichead Beag.
Page 3: Sybil Head.
Page 4: The Blasket Islands / An Droichead Beag.
Page 5: Cork.
Page 6: Inch Beach / The South Pole Inn.
Page 7: Shopping / Brandon Mt. / John Benny Moriarty’s.
Page 8: Return Home.
Original, all-on-one-page version.

Press here to return to personal picture menu.

Page 5: Cork

Wednesday, April 16


We woke up at 9:00 a.m. today. The sky was overcast and the wind was howling. Michael had been right! The wind whistling over the chimney reverberated inside the house making it sound much worse than it was. I loved the sound – it made me feel like I was ‘safe from a storm’.

Right after KC and I came downstairs, Rick noticed that the sheep in the field below were running madly from one field to the next as though something had terrified them. I jumped up and saw a dog herding them! As soon as all the sheep were moved, it ran back to the farmhouse across the road. We found out later that the farmer who lives there trains sheep dogs! Next year, we plan to pay him a visit. (Thank goodness Rick spent so much time looking out the window or we would have missed the rainbow, the sheepdog, and the sunset!)

We left the cottage around 10:45. The drive down to Cork was uneventful except for the occasional “Mario!” from the back seat. Rick and Colleen had started calling KC “Mario”, as in Mario Andretti the race car driver, and would use that every time he forgot to slow down before a curve!

We hadn’t eaten much breakfast and the drive took almost 3 hours so we were pretty hungry when we got there but decided to do the castle first, rather than take time for lunch, even though KC said he was so hungry he could “eat a horse”.

Blarney Castle:

The entrance fee for the castle was 10 Euros. The castle was built in 1446 and was last occupied in 1739 when a more modern residence was built against its east wall. Once inside I was surprised at how well preserved the castle was although I suspect that the cement floors were a recent addition to improve their strength given the number of people standing on them every day.

One of the most interesting parts was the dungeon which was reached by crawling through a low cave-like passage. KC and I really wanted to explore it but we were wearing the wrong clothes so we decided to save that for a future trip.

The dungeon – a goal for a future trip:

Another thing that surprised me was the disclaimer posted by the door to the castle relieving the government of any liability for injuries sustained while inside. I doubt that would fly in the US and was SO glad they had left the castle as authentic as possible, especially the narrow winding stone staircases at either side. I never realized that the narrowness was intentional, to prevent more than one person at a time from coming up them, in the event the castle was invaded.

I was glad, however, that the castle’s other defenses – the Oubliette and the Murder Hole (holes in the floor through which, respectively, an unwelcome visitor could be dropped to his death or had boiling oil poured on his head) – had been cemented over.

The disclaimer by the door to the castle:

There weren’t that many people around so I was able to get some good people-free shots. In the one below you can see the what-I’m-sure-is-a-new-floor next to the original stone walls. The holes at the top of the walls were used to hold the wood beams for the floor that used to be there but has since deteriorated.

The castle walls – I didn’t notice the mold on them until I saw the pictures:

The picture below was taken looking UP into the chimney over the kitchen! The kitchen was located on an upper floor to reduce the chance of the castle burning down due to fire. I don’t know why there isn’t more soot – maybe it just didn’t show up because of the flash.

The chimney over the room that was the kitchen:

There were several smaller rooms on either side of the central ‘great rooms’ – the main hall on the second floor which was used for entertaining, and the ‘family room’ on the third floor where the family would gather -- but we didn’t get any pictures of them. Colleen and Rick wanted to kiss the Blarney stone so we made our way to the top.

I didn’t realize that the stone was part of the crenulated wall at the top of the castle and that to kiss it, you had to lay on your back over a precipitous drop to the ground, and then bend your head backwards to kiss the wall. There were two men by the stone, one to hold you firmly and make sure you didn’t slip through the hole, and the other to take pictures which you could then purchase when you left.

There are apparently hundreds of people kissing the stone every day and the area that most people were able to reach was so shiny it looked wet. Although I am less germ-conscious than most people, for some reason the thought of touching that area where millions of other people had placed their lips grossed me out! I watched as Colleen, Rick and KC all did the deed but still couldn’t bring myself to do it and, even now, I’m not sorry I missed it.

I was VERY impressed that KC was able to manage it, given his fear of heights. Although the pictures below don’t show it, he was in and out so quickly it made your head spin! Yes, we did buy the pictures they took of him. I scanned them in – they are below with the ones I took.

KC as he leans back towards the stone:

KC kissing the stone:

KC getting away from the opening as fast as possible:

The drop from the Blarney Stone, if you would happen to fall through:

The stone is rumored to have been given to Cormak McCarthy, king of Munster, by Robert the Bruce in gratitude for McCarthy’s support at the battle of Bannockburn in 1314. It is also rumored to be a portion of the Stone of Scone, the pillow stone said to have been used by the biblical Jacob. According to one legend, it was the Coronation Stone of the early Dal Riata Gaels when they lived in Ireland, which they brought with them when settling Caledonia. Certainly, since the time of Kenneth Mac Alpin, the first King of Scots, at around 847, Scottish monarchs were seated upon the stone during their coronation ceremony. At this time the stone was situated at Scone, a few miles north of Perth. In 1296 the Stone was captured by Edward I as spoils of war and taken to Westminster Abbey, where it was fitted into a wooden chair, known as St. Edward's Chair, on which all subsequent English sovereigns except Queen Mary II have been crowned. I could find no reference to the magical properties the stone is supposed to possess….

After kissing the stone, and buying the photos, we walked back to the gardens so Rick could find the geo cache there. In this shot you can see them using his GPS to find the general location in what was called the Rock Close.

Male bonding:

Although it was early in the year and not much was in bloom it was still beautiful. It must be stunning in the summer but then there would be so many people it would be overly crowded for me. The photos below were two of my favorite areas, the druid ring and the fairy glen.

The Druid Ring:

The Fairy Glen :

Press here for link to Blarney Castle website (a new window will open).

Rick finally located the cache (I think Colleen actually found it) and we left to find something to eat. Right outside the castle walls was a small restaurant, The Lemon Tree, in the Blarney Castle Hotel . Although it was now after 3:00 p.m. they advertised ‘food all day’ so we went in. KC and Rick had a burger, Colleen had chicken breast in a wine sauce, and I had a tuna melt on homemade brown soda bread. The soda bread was so good I asked if they sold it separately and was told that they do, if they have extras, but today had been a busy day and there were none. Colleen raved about her chicken.

We paid our bill, used the facilities, and went back to car to plan the trip to the Jameson Distillery . We didn’t know how late they were open and Rick didn’t want to call from the restaurant in case they’d been about to close and we would have felt pressured to rush through our meal. So, in the car, Rick pulled out the certificates of authenticity (COAs) he had saved from the bottles they’d consumed and, after calling several numbers, we finally managed to get through.

Yes, we were told, they were open until 6:00 p.m. but the last guided tour left at 5:00. It was 4:40 now and the distillery was about 20 minutes away so we decided to go for it! Rick navigated and we were encouraged by the signs along the road that we were going in the right direction. When we got to Middleton, though, the signs mysteriously disappeared and our map didn’t have directions!

When we got to the roundabout in the middle of town KC made a split second decision to go left but after driving for several miles into the country we realized that we’d gone the wrong way so, at the first available opportunity, KC turned around and we headed back in the other direction. Just past the center of town we saw the sign for the distillery on the OTHER side of the street!

So, again, at the first available opportunity, KC turned around and we finally pulled into the property but, by now, it was after 5 o’clock! We hurried into the building (a mile from the parking lot, of course) and when we saw no one at the front desk, assumed we’d missed out, so Colleen and I wandered into the showroom/store. KC suddenly motioned to me to come quickly – a woman had appeared at the front desk and was going to let us join the tour even though it had already started!

Apparently, those COA’s that Rick had brought along were taken seriously by the distillery and Rick was being treated as a VIP! Not only did they let us into the already departed tour but they waived the fee. Although we’d missed the video at the beginning, of the origin of the term “Uisce Beatha”, or the water of life, the tour was very interesting. I was surprised to discover that the distillery is no longer used. There is a newer facility, directly behind the one we were in, where the spirits are currently distilled but we were not allowed in there.

The granary below was used to store the 1250 tones of grain the distillery bought every fall. The black dots on the walls are actually steel bars used to support the weight of it and the windows were used to keep the grain cool and reduce the possibility of spontaneous combustion. The courtyard where we were standing was where the farmers would come to sell their grain.

The granary:

This huge 22-foot cast iron water wheel powered five sets of millstones which converted the dried barley and malt (sprouted barley) into the grist (coarse flour) used to make the wort (slurry) which was then fermented. There was an electric generator inside which was used when the wheel wasn’t able to keep up (low water pressure).
The waterwheel:

After fermenting, the liquid was distilled using this, the largest (32,000 gallon) pot still in the world! A coal fire was built under the copper still which heated the liquid inside. Since alcohol has a lower boiling point than water, the fumes that rose were funneled off, condensed, and then distilled two additional times before being barreled for aging. American whiskey is distilled once and Scotch is distilled twice. Only Irish whiskey is distilled tree times making it a very smooth libation.

The largest pot still in the world:

An interesting look at the liquid inside the barrel after 1, 2, 5, 12 and 18 years of aging. You can see the liquid condense and darken in color. The color comes from the tannins in the oak barrels. All of Jamison’s barrels are imported from America, Spain and Portugal and were previously used to mature bourbon, sherry and port. The quantity of the whiskey which is lost to evaporation during the aging process is called “The Angels Share”.

A look inside the 1yr, 2yr, 5yr, 12yr, and 18yr old barrels:

When the tour was over we were invited into the bar for our complimentary glass and the guide asked for four volunteers. Only two people raised their hands so I rushed over to KC and told him to raise his, too! He didn’t know what he was volunteering for – the guide hadn’t said – but he listened (he’s a good boy) and was delighted to discover that he’d volunteered for a five-shot tasting! Rick tried for the forth spot but someone else beat him to it. Since KC was our designated driver, Colleen suggested that Rick replace KC, but KC assured her that the shots were small, that he had no intention of drinking them all, and that Rick could have what was left!

The tour guide giving the volunteers instructions:

KC comparing the color of two of the shots:

The five shots were: Paddys, Jamisons, and Powers, all produced by the Jameson distillery. These were compared to a Scotch (one of the less expensive brands, I can’t remember which) and Jack Daniels. Because KC did not consume all of the shots, when the tasting was over Rick finished them for him! The picture below just cracks me up – it makes it look like Rick couldn’t drink them fast enough!

Rick tasting the remnants of KC’s shots:

The certificate they gave KC:

The distillery store sells a 12-year special reserve whiskey that is not available anywhere else. The bottles can also be personalized so we bought one, of course, with KC’s name on it, and an engraved shot glass to serve it from.

Press here for link to Jameson website (a new window will open).

We left the distillery just before 6:00. Colleen asked us to find her a cup of coffee so after making our way out of Cork we stopped at a gas station where she picked up a bag of scones and some of the raspberry jam we’d had on the ferry in addition to her cup of joe.

The trip back again took 3 hours and we arrived just as it was getting dark. When we got in we broke out the cheese and crackers again (boy, those Jacobs Cream Crackers are good, as is the local oak smoked cheese with the black rind!).

At 10:00 Rick and Colleen went off to bed. KC read and he did some laundry and I worked on a crossword and updated my journal. We hit the hay at 12:30.

Page 0: Preparing for the trip.
Page 1: Graigue Cottage.
Page 2: Connor Pass / An Droichead Beag.
Page 3: Sybil Head.
Page 4: The Blasket Islands / An Droichead Beag.
Page 5: Cork.
Page 6: Inch Beach / The South Pole Inn.
Page 7: Shopping / Brandon Mt. / John Benny Moriarty’s.
Page 8: Return Home.
Original, all-on-one-page version.

Press here to return to personal picture menu.

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OOAKFolk, Inc., and artist Barbara Healy are not affiliated in any way with the original manufacturers of the dolls pictured in this site. No photograph, text or graphic on this site may be copied without written permission from Barbara Healy. Copyright © 2004 OOAKFolk, Inc.

Last Revised: October 19, 2009
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