After a brief visit to Dublin last year we decided we couldn’t go home without seeing more of this beautiful country and with St Patrick’s day approaching it seemed like the perfect time to visit. Ever wondered how much of Ireland you can see in just 3 days? Read on to find out….
The Rock of Cashel
We arrived late on Thursday night and after a few hours sleep we were awake at 5am as we had a full day tour of the South booked. We set of from Dublin and it wasn’t long before we arrived at our first stop, The Rock of Cashel also known as Cashel of the Kings and St. Patrick’s Rock. This historic site is located at Cashel, South Tipperary in the south of Ireland. The Rock of Cashel is one of Ireland’s most spectacular archaeological sites – a collection of medieval church buildings and fortresses set on top of a limestone outcrop rising out of County Tipperary’s Golden Vale. It is a significant historical site and for 600 years was the power-base of the kings of Munster. Many of the old church buildings still survive and a gentle trek to the top of the Rock offers wonderful views of the countryside.
From there, we continued onto the fair city of Cork where we briefly stopped for lunch and a walk to explore the city. It was quite a small place so even though we only had an hour we managed to see the main sights including; the Princess Street Markets, the old brewery, Holy Trinity Church, Millenium Bridge and the well-known Father Matthew Statue.
Our final stop of the day was Blarney Castle, a medieval stronghold in Blarney, near Cork, and the River Martin. The castle originally dates from before 1200, when a wooden structure was believed to have been built on the site, although no evidence remains of this. Around 1210 this was replaced by a stone fortification. It was destroyed in 1446, but subsequently rebuilt by the Lord of Muscry. The legendary Blarney Stone is found among the machicolations at the top of the castle.
For over 200 years, world statesmen, literary giants, and legends of the silver screen have joined the millions of pilgrims climbing the steps of Blarney Castle to kiss the Blarney Stone and gain the gift of eloquence. Its powers are unquestioned but its story still creates debate. Once upon a time, visitors had to be held by the ankles and lowered head first over the battlements to be able to touch their puckered lips against the cold, smooth stone. Today with work place health and safety laws it’s a little different. Visitors wanting to kiss the stone lie down while a man holds their legs, then they lean backwards (holding on to an iron railing) to be able to reach the stone and kiss it. The Stone itself is still set in the wall below the battlements. We both had a go, it was terrifying stretch over the edge of the castle walls and see the ground 27m below you but it had to be done so we could gain the “gift of the gab”- we are still trying to decide if the legend is true as we havent noticed a difference with our speech.
Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge
Saturday morning meant another early start and big day of touring, this time in the north. Our first stop was the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge. This famous bridge near Ballintoy in County Antrim, Northern Ireland links the mainland to the tiny island of Carrickarede, meaning “rock of the casting”). It spans 20 metres long and is 30 metres above the rocks below. It is thought that salmon fishermen have been building bridges to the island for over 350 years and in that time it has taken many forms. In the 1970s it had only one handrail and large gaps between the slats. It is reported that no one has ever fallen off the bridge but there have been many instances where visitors have been unable to face the walk back across the resulting in them having to be taken off the island by boat.
The Giant’s Causeway
After a visit to the famous bridge, our tour continued to another well-known Irish sight, The Giant’s Causeway. The Giant’s Causeway is an area of about 40,000 interlocking basalt columns which is the result of an ancient volcanic eruption. It is located in County Antrim on the northeast coast of Northern Ireland.
According to legend, the columns are the remains of a causeway built by a giant. The story goes that the Irish giant Fionn mac Cumhaill (Finn MacCool) was challenged to a fight by the Scottish giant Benandonner. Fionn accepted the challenge and built the causeway across the North Channel so that the two giants could meet. In one version of the story, Fionn defeats Benandonner. In another, Fionn hides from Benandonner when he realizes that his foe is much bigger than him. Fionn’s wife, Úna, disguises Fionn as a baby and tucks him in a cradle. When Benandonner sees the size of the ‘baby’, he reckons that its father, Fionn, must be a giant among giants. He flees back to Scotland in fright, destroying the causeway behind him so that Fionn could not follow. Across the sea, there are identical basalt columns (a part of the same ancient lava flow) at Fingal’s Cave on the Scottish isle of Staffa, where it is possible that the story was influenced by this.
We finished our tour with a stop in Belfast As we drove into the city we passed Cavehill mountain which was supposedly Jonathon Swift’s inspiration for writing “Gulliver’s Travels”, as the mountain depicts a large face like a giant. We also passed the cranes that were used to lift the Titanic before it sailed on its maiden (and only) voyage. The city centre reminded us sightly of Queenstown in New Zealand as the city was surrounded by picturesque snow-topped mountains. The first thing we had to see was the DeLorean from the film series “Back to the Future”. The car was made in Belfast and was currently on display. They charged excessive amounts to take photos the car so we settled for a sneaky picture of the car through the building window.
Some other sights worth mentioning in Belfast was city hall, where a bomb had exploded only weeks prior to us visiting, as well as the city clock tower, a large blue fish mosaic by the riverside, Grand Opera House, Crown Liquor Saloon extensively refurbished and a good example of a Victorian Gin Palace and lastly the Beacon of Hope sculpture-this is a statue of a lady holding a hoop high into the air. The locals refer to her as ‘The thing with the ring’.
St Patrick’s Day in Dublin
On Sunday morning, our St Patrick’s Day celebrations began by meeting our friends for a tour of the Jameson Irish Whiskey Distillery. Here we were given an insight into how Irish whiskey is made and how it compares to Scotch whiskey. After the tour and a little Irish whiskey tasting, we walked back into the city centre to watch the St Patrick’s Day parade.
We decided to leave the parade a little early to ensure that we beat the crowds and got a seat at a pub (we have our priorities right) and where else should we celebrate St Patrick’s Day, than at the oldest pub in Ireland, The Brazen Head. Here, we followed the typical Irish tradition of consuming as much Guinness and Irish whiskey as possible while singing along with some classic Irish songs. By the end of the day we pretty much knew all the lyrics to the songs “Dirty Old Town”, “I’ll Tell my Ma”, “Molly Malone” and our favourite, “Seven Drunken Nights”. We had to fly back to London that night but before leaving we couldn’t resist having a few more drinks at The Church. This pub is formerly St. Mary’s Church where Arthur Guinness married his wife Olivia in 1761. The Church was purchased by Arthur Guinness and is now a pub which still features the old organs, stained glass windows, tombs and exterior church look along with its old tower.
After an amazing weekend in Ireland and plenty of Guinness and Irish whiskey in Dublin to help celebrate St Patrick’s Day, it was time to return to reality (and work) back in London. It was totally worth the hangover at work on Monday.