During the First World War the composer John McCormack made famous the song “It’s a long way to Tipperary”. When those lyrics were written they weren’t lying when they said it was a long way! I chose to do the Cork and Blarney Tour and I met up bright and early (well not so bright because it was raining but just as early) beside the Molly Malone statue. The guide called out for the Cork and Blarney tour and I jumped aboard. As the bus pulled off, aside from the driver, I realized I was the only Irishman on board! Not a big deal, until the guide started asking questions!
As we made our way through Kilmainham and on towards the motorway the guide told the group that his name was Cathal and that there would only be one man on board who would be able to pronounce it correctly (hint hint)!!! We made our way through the rain and darkness across the Curragh plains where the guide told us that it was where the Irish army did a lot of their training and quite a lot of the film “Braveheart” was shot such as the opening battle of the film. After that the lights dimmed, the music was lowered and i was time to catch a few Zzz.
At around 9am we pulled into the town of Cashel and towering above the tower stood the famous Rock of Cashel. As soon as we got off the bus we darted inside and the guide booked us in. The welcome area was part of the old vicarage hall and from there we made ourselves to the other side of the hall to the audio visual theatre which gave a great insight to the history of the Rock of Cashel entitling it “Stronghold of the Faiths”. I’ve seen quite a few OPW audio visuals in my touring experience and I have to say this was one of the best, the type you would go out and buy it if you could!
Afterwards we made our way around the Rock itself taking it all the amazing structures. It’s just a shame we couldn’t really experience Cormac’s Chapel with all the conservation works going on but in the long term for tourists it will be worth it. I had heard from a previous tour that had come to the Rock about an abbey hidden beside it and when I eventually caught sight of it I made my way down to take a snap of it, making sure I didn’t slip down the embankment on the wet grass. In medieval Christian architecture there are normally two styles, Romanesque and Gothic. But at the Rock of Cashel you get a unique Irish style called Hiberno-Romanesque. No matter what comes into Ireland we always seem to put our mark on something! The Rocks height made it exposed to the heavy winds that had been battering us the last few days but you could see why the Kings of Munster chose this site for their inaugurations. It was really cool to hear about Brian Boru’s connection with the Rock, as he was declared King of Munster, because of my previous workings with Viking heritage it was nice to hear about his rise from Munster to High King and finally his final battle at Clontarf in 1014.
As we pulled out of Cashel the guide gave us a run through Irish history from the Mesolithic Stone Age through to modern Ireland. He decided to ask the bus who brought Christianity to Ireland? After a few seconds of silence he looked in the rear mirror towards me and said “I’m sure someone on here knows”!!! I decided to end it their and shouted out “St Patrick” to which I was told correct! Next stop for us was the famous Blarney Castle.
On our arrival at Blarney Castle it was straight up to the stone for me, get it out of the way before the crowds descended upon it. One of the information panels mentioned an attack on the castle by one of Oliver Cromwell’s generals and I certainly wouldn’t have wanted to have been one of the attacking soldiers when I realised how far it was to the top. After climbing the 120 or so steps I made my way towards the famous stone. The story of the stone is that its origins come from Scotland when Robert the Bruce won the Battle of Bannockburn and he awarded the Irish who helped him with a rock, although the Irish term for a rock was a diamond or jewel, typical Scots!
When it came to my turn to kiss it I didn’t realise how far down into the parapet it was. Every time I leaned back the man kept saying “further” until I felt like I was going to fall through (even with all the safety bars they have now). One of the information panels explains that it is one of 99 things to do before you die, so only 98 more to go for me! Next up was a walk around the castle grounds which were still nice to look at despite it being a bleak winters day. One of the places is called the Poison Garden that has a big crossbones and skull sign saying do not touch or smell these plants! I thought it best to avoid this, lest the little Irishman inside says “sure what’s the worse that can happen, in a poisonous garden”. The gift shop is no different to any other gift shop you’ll get at a heritage site, but I was attracted by the books on Irish history and folklore! As it was approaching half 12 it thought it was best to stop for lunch and Christy’s Bar is definitely worth a visit and I highly recommend their toasted BLT. As soon as lunch was finished it was back to the bus for me and our departure for Cork City.
As we came into Cork City our guide gave us a brief run through about how Cork City got its colours, saying that the colours red and white come from the red sandstone and white limestone used on St Anne’s Cathedral. When we were dropped off in the city it was straight to the English Market for me and I couldn’t get over the smell of meat, it just hits you when you go in, I don’t know how Queen Elizabeth II could hack it in here, she doesn’t strike me as a woman who likes butchers! It was chill out time for me in the city until it was time to head off home. Our guide had one final cool fact before our departure, which was the origins of the Cork accent. Apparently because the city was frequented by merchants from all over the world the Cork accent is a mix of all the accents who had paid the city a visit while trading there. It was now home time for us and a time to rest our weary bones! Around 7pm we pulled up outside College Green and it was time to make our respective ways home and contemplate on an enjoyable day trip.