Blarney Castle

I’ve seen quite a few castles in my time in many different countries, but none are quite so charming as Blarney Castle in Southern Ireland. There’s a reason it’s one of the most famous castles in all of Ireland- a title which really means something in a country where there are literally hundreds of castles through the cities and countryside.

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Blarney Castle, 2015. c. Leah Putz

The current castle as it stands dates all the way back to 1446, but it’s believed that there were fortifications on site as early as the 1100s. Since its construction, Blarney Castle has stood strong and nearly intact through the test of time. There’s something really magical about being inside or stranding upon a structure that has survived through so many years.

Blarney Castle Tower, 2015. c. Leah Putz

View of the Irish countryside from atop Blarney Castle, 2015. c. Leah Putz

The Blarney Castle grounds are enormous. Gardens cover every inch of the area, including the poison garden which features poisonous plants in large cages. If you’re planning a visit, I would suggest setting aside a whole day because it will take that long to explore the beauty of the various gardens as well as the castle itself. There are also many other historical features on the Blarney Castle grounds, like the noble horse graveyard and the Blarney House, a mansion which was built in the 18th century.

Gravestone of Tullig the horse, 2015. c. Leah Putz

Seven Sisters and other photos from the Blarney Castle gardens, 2015. c. Leah Putz

One of the most critical moments in the castle’s history is the placement of the Blarney Stone into the tower in 1446. People travel far and wide to kiss and stone and – according to legend –  receive ‘the gift of Blarney’ or the ‘gift of gab’. The origin of this magical stone is shrouded in mystery, making it all the more appealing to visit. One of the theories as to its origins tells of Blarney lord Cormac McCarthy, who kissed the stone that had been blessed by the Irish goddess Cliodhna and was thus able to convince Queen Elizabeth I not to deprive him of his lands. While kissing the stone yourself, try not to think about the fact that its been kissed by millions before you, and just enjoy the adrenaline rush of hanging upside down over a clear drop from the top of the tower of the castle to reach it!

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Kissing the Blarney Stone, 2015. c. Leah Putz

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Top 5 Things to do in Cork City

  1. Old English Market

 

The best sausage I’ve ever had in my life was at the Old English Market in Cork. The sausages alone are reason enough to visit, let alone all the other foods and history (two of my favorite things). The market is best known for its fresh meats, buttered eggs, spiced beef, and other delicious treats.

Though the current building was built in the mid-1800s, a market had stood on site since as early as 1788. The market has since drawn many visitors, including Queen Elizabeth II and has won a gold medal from Europa Nostra!

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The River Lee, Cork, 2015. c. Leah Putz

 

  1. Cork City Gaol

 

If you want to visit a building with a grim, but fascinating history, look no further than the Cork City Gaol. Now a museum, the Gaol operated as a prison for nearly 100 years, having opened in 1824, and saw Cork through a lot of turmoil, including the Irish War of Independence and the Irish Civil War.

After closing the prison in 1923, the Gaol operated briefly as a radio station, but stood empty for almost 50 years before reopening as a museum as recently at 1993. Today, you can tour the Gaol and witness the history of the prison firsthand, not to mention the beautiful 17th century architecture., for an adult admission rate of only €8,00.

 

  1. Saint Fin Barre’s Cathedral

 

Speaking of architecture, Saint Fin Barre’s Cathedral is a magnificent work of it. It was built in the 1800s by William Burges in the French Gothic style, and is marvelously imposing. If you’re a religious Catholic, it may be interesting to see the burial places of bishop William Lyon and archbishop Richard Boyle, who were both laid to rest here. Saint Fin Barre himself was supposedly buried in a graveyard at the east end of the Cathedral after founding a monastery on site in 606A.D.

Tours of the Cathedral are only €5,00- a very low cost for the opportunity to explore such a beautiful building.

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View of Cork City from the Shandon Tower, 2015. c. Leah Putz

 

  1. Shandon Tower

 

Connected to the Church of St. Anne is the Shandon Tower, which consists of the clock tower and the bell tower of the church. The tower stands tall over the city and is a striking and famous landmark. The clock, which is known as the ‘Four-Faced Liar,’ shows a slightly different time of each of its four faces. Atop the tower is a salmon-shaped weather vane painted in gold leaf, symbolizing how important fishing industry was to Cork.

For only €5,00, you can climb to the top of the tower, ring the church bells, and witness an incredible 360 degree view of the city from above.

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The Shandon Tower, 2015. c. Leah Putz

 

1.Visit pubs

Sitting down in the pub, listening to live traditional Irish music, and having a pint of beer is a staple of Irish culture. During my time in Cork, I visited many of the pubs including Mutton Lane and the Sin e. The Sin e is considered by many to be one of the best pubs in Ireland, and was voted one of the best places in the world to spend St. Patrick’s Day!

My favorite thing about the pubs in Cork is the atmosphere. Rather than having electric light bulbs, a lot of pubs had empty liquor bottles with long lit candles in the neck scattered throughout the bar, and fairy lights. This creates a relaxing aura and, coupled with the traditional Irish music, there is no mistaking that you are in Ireland.

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First Guinness in Mutton Lane, 2015. c. Leah Putz