We took a day to get acquainted with the south of Ireland, exploring County Tipperary and County Cork. Check out this day tour to Blarney Castle, the Rock of Cashel, and Cahir Castle!
I like guided day tours because they take the stress out of having to plan and navigate a foreign country’s public transportation. I found this Blarney Day Tour through Viator, a TripAdvisor company, which took us to see: the Rock of Cashel, Blarney Castle, and a castle I hadn’t visited before! What more could a castle-lover ask for?
Departing from Dublin
We left Dublin bright and early in the morning. The tour met at the Molly Malone statue, and Kevin decided to help Molly out with her cart. The day was already cold and rainy, so we were glad to get on the warm and roomy coach bus that would be taking us traveling around southern Ireland.
Rock of Cashel
The first stop on the tour was the Rock of Cashel in County Tipperary. According to Irish mythology, the hill the buildings sit on was taken from the Devil’s Bit, a mountain 20 miles north of here. The devil is said to have taken a bite out of the mountain when St Patrick banished him, and the devil spat that piece out here at the Rock of Cashel. The group of Medieval buildings that make up the Rock of Cashel are the 12th century round tower, the 12th century chapel, the 13th century cathedral, and the 15th century castle. As the seat of the kings of Munster, the Rock is also said to be the site of the conversion of the King of Munster by St Patrick in the 5th century.
It was very cold, very rainy, and very windy. This picture of Kevin appropriately sets the mood:
I’ve wanted to visit the Rock of Cashel for a long time just because of how imposing and awesome it looks. I guess the gloomy weather we had made it look more imposing. We only spent 30 minutes here. I would have liked more time and more information on the castle, but at the same time I didn’t really want to be out in that weather any longer either.
Next, we traveled to County Cork to climb the steps of Blarney Castle and kiss the Blarney Stone. The weather had cleared up perfectly by this time, and we had plenty of sunshine for our climb. The current castle dates back to the 15th century. The first thing I suggest doing when you get to the Blarney Castle and Gardens, especially if you have limited time like most tour bus groups do, is to head straight for the castle and hop in line to kiss the Blarney Stone. The wait time is usually an hour or more to climb the 100 winding steps to the top of the castle
The Blarney Stone has many origin stories, but in every one of them it is said to have mythical properties. When it was installed in the top of Blarney Castle in 1446, the stone was said to give the “gift of gab.” Now visitors flock to the castle to hang upside down (they used to be held by their ankles, but not anymore) and kiss the stone, gaining eloquence in speech and the skill of flattery. This is my second trip to kiss the Blarney Stone, so I guess I’m really gabby now (is it working?).
A lot of people will try to tell you what the locals are supposedly do to the stone, but I’m not going to entertain those stories. Or they’ll bring up how many hundreds of people have come along that day alone and kissed it before you. But, really, I didn’t come all this way to half-ass Irish traditions. You never know when this magic is going to work for you or against you.
Still, no matter how much you want to follow tradition, sometimes plans don’t work out like when Midlife Milestones visited Blarney Castle. Even if you don’t kiss Blarney Stone, you can still have a great time at Blarney Castle exploring the grounds.
So, you’ve climbed a bunch of steps and put your lips to a questionable stone; now what? There’s so much to explore at Blarney Castle and in the gardens and not enough time! On your way down the castle, be sure to take some time to explore the rooms and the tiny passageways that go to little hidey-holes. At the north of the castle, there are dungeons and caves that you can crawl around in. And at the west, there’s the Poison Garden. Wandering the grounds, you can get to the Blarney House, and you’ll find a lot of fun towers and garden features along the way.
That’s probably not even half of what all you can see there, but we only had about 2 and a half hours to tour the castle grounds.
Back to County Tipperary, the last stop of our tour was Cahir Castle, one of Ireland’s largest and best preserved castles. The castle’s name comes from the Irish cathair, meaning “stone fort,” and that’s exactly what it is. Cahir Castle sits on an island in the River Suir and maintains much of its original defense structure, including its working portcullis. During the tour, the guides take you through just how difficult it would be to storm the castle, although it was captured quite a few times.
We had about an hour at Cahir Castles, just enough time to get the tour and then explore the rooms and towers on our own before heading back to Dublin.
Seeing three castles in one day is a new record for me, and I’m pretty sure all my day tours are going to require three castles now!
What’s your favorite day trip in Ireland? Tell me in the comments!