KILLARNEY - Day three of Brian Moore International Tours' Ireland fam trip began early this morning as the sun peeked out over Dublin. Our coach headed southwest out of the city where industrial buildings and people became outnumbered by green hills and sheep. (The 'green, rolling hills of Ireland' has only become a cliche because there really is no better way to describe them.)
Our first stop was to the Rock of Cashel in County Tipperary. The Rock was once the traditional seat of the Kings of Munster province, and the majority of the buildings on site date from the 12th century. Here, Travel Agent took a 45 minute tour of the historic remnants and the grounds.
Following the tour we hopped back on the bus and headed for Cork (the second largest city in Ireland), just as the sun began to burn off the mist from the morning to give way to blue skies and sunny fields (which, we were told, is very uncharacteristic for Ireland during this time of year). We arrived at Blarney, a small village outside of the main city of Cork, which is home to the famous Blarney Castle and Blarney Stone. Legend has it that kissing the Blarney Stone will bring to the kisser eloquence of speech. But, in order to kiss the stone, you have to be held backward over a ledge that drops somewhere around 100 feet to the ground. Needless to say, we remain less than eloquent.
For those who have a similar fear of heights, the castle and its grounds are still worth a trip. On a clear day, views stretch out far over the plains of County Cork. The Blarney area is also home to the Woolen Mills, a sizable store that offers traditional wool clothing and gifts and other Irish trinkets including Celtic jewelry and Waterford crystal. We recommend carving out two hours to tour the Mills and the Blarney Castle grounds.
Tonight we are staying at the Killarney Towers Hotel & Leisure Centre in the town of Killarney, County Kerry. We will be exploring the traditional Irish music that the town has to offer. Tomorrow, Travel Agent sets out for the Ring of Kerry.
Dining Tip: On our last night in Dublin, we dined at The Church, a converted church that became a restaurant about five years ago. The Church offers a cafe, bar, restaurant and club and it was here that we ate one of the best meals we have had in Ireland. We suggest trying the pork belly with scallion mash and a glass of pinot noir (and definitely the banoffee pie for dessert). Cool touch: Arthur Guinness (yes, that Guinness) was married in the church in 1761 when it was St. Mary's Church of Ireland.