In Ireland, the last weekend in October is a long weekend. We hadn't made any plans for the weekend until early in the week Xan and Diane started plotting to get us away from town for the weekend. After a few days, they had us booked in a B&B just outside Kinsale -- a little Irish town south and a bit west of Cork. Getting accomodation in the area was a bit tricky, as the October long weekend plays host to the Cork and Kinsale Jazz festival. So it was lucky we got accomodation when we booked so late. So Darse and I took Friday off and we headed out early-ish on Friday morning towards Kinsale. On the way, we stopped at Cashel and Cahir to take in some sights. At both locations there are castles to go see, so we got to see our first real Irish castles. That was pretty cool, but I'll let the pictures do the talking for the most part. We liked Cahir castle a lot better than Cashel -- maybe because there was a little bit more to do there. You could climb up and down several narrow stairways that twist and turned through some of the walls. It could also be because Cahir was in much better shape. It could also be because the friendly people at the gate let us in for the family rate, even though we weren't of the typical 2 adults, 2 children family composition.
It's really quite amazing to see some of these structures which have been standing for so many years. It makes you realize just how much humans are capable of -- even without modern technology to help.
After exploring Cahir castle, we continued our journey through Cork and on to Kinsale. Both Cork and Kinsale were madly busy, although Kinsale quite a bit less so since it's a lot smaller than Cork. Kinsale was mostly nuts because they were undergoing heavy construction on several of the roads including the main road you'd normally go through town on. Driving in Ireland is a terrifying experience -- drivers don't give you much in the way of leeway, and they're on your tail a whole lot. Between that and the narrow roads and the terrifying speeds that other drivers tackle the road with, you can't help but tense up whenever you see another car. And I wasn't even driving!
We arrived safely at our B&B: Walyunga. A charming little place with an excellent host by the name of Mirtle. She was quite helpful making sure we got ourselves settled in and gave us directions in town to negotiate the construction filled streets as well as some recommendations on where to eat. Having spent most of the day on the road, it was more than time for a good meal, so we headed back into town and eventually ended up at a pub called Jim Edwards. The food was relatively cheap, and pretty tasty -- especially the smoked salmon starter that Diane and I shared.
After having dinner we still had some energy so we wandered around Kinsale a bit and took in the scene. Being there for the Jazz festival was a really cool experience. You can walk down the road and hear live music coming from several pubs all at the same time. The first place we stopped was a pub called Muddy Mahers where a blues band had just started playing. We stayed for a beverage and for a few songs. It was pretty fun. We wandered around the town a bit more after that and stopped in another place for some more music (the name of the establishment escapes me now). We didn't stay long though. It had been a bit of a long day and we returned to our B&B with the idea of getting some rest before hitting the road to explore the southern coast of Ireland.
Unluckily for us, the weather had different ideas. We woke up to Saturday morning only to discover that the sky had opened up and some seriously unpleasant rain with gusting winds took over. As a result, we ended up sticking around the B&B for most of the day, only getting out for the evening for a bit of dinner.
So we were well rested when we left our B&B on Sunday to try and cover as much ground as we could. So we hit the road and explored the southern coast of Ireland a bit. Our first target was the Drombeg Stone Circle, which was pretty neat. There's a set of stones arranged in a circle. At the winter Solistice the sun is supposed to shine through a pair of gateway stones at one end of the circle. There's also some remains of a couple of stone huts which were cool to see. One of the cool things about this was just being able to walk through the circle.
We hopped back into the car and drove towards Blarney which was our next stop. On the way, we stopped in a Irish town called Bandon and walked around a bit and had a coffee at a lovely little cafe. Irish towns are so colourful -- the buildings are often each painted a different colour which gives towns a wonderful feel. After our coffee and a quick snack we moved on to Blarney castle.
Blarney Castle is an impressive structure. The castle is quite tall, and is still in good enough shape to climb to the top of -- which is a good thing or kissing the Blarney stone would be pretty hard. On the climb up, there were quite a few rooms to explore, and the view from the top of the castle was pretty nice! Both Diane and I kissed the Blarney stone -- it was kind of one of those silly touristy things that you gotta do.
Unfortunately, we didn't have enough time to walk around the Blarney castle grounds, so we'll have to return to do that. It looks like a beautiful area, but we had to get moving so that we could drop Diane off at the train station. Before we made our weekend plans, Diane had volunteered to help out at the Dublin marathon and she didn't want to cancel on them. So she hopped on a train from Cork on Sunday evening to take her to Dublin so she could help with the marathon on Monday.
We didn't spend too long in Cork, but we did walk around a little bit. We were there a bit early for the full in the evening before the Jazz festival really kicked off for the evening. We might have to go check out the jazz festival next year, but since we had to drive back to Kinsale that evening, we decided to head back and have dinner in Kinsale instead of staying late in Cork before having to drive back tired in the dark.
Darse, Xan and I ate dinner at a fancy little place in Kinsale called Jolas. We had tried to get into it the previous night but it was full. Jola's is the town favourite restaurant and it turned out to be quite a nice choice. The food was fantastic, but it wasn't the only cool thing about the place. You enter the building at street level, but the main floor of the building was cut out and the tables were arranged below ground level. So you go down a stairwell into a warm room with a very high ceiling (since it goes up for two floors). The walls are beautiful stone, but it didn't feel cold -- they had the fireplace going and it was a very comfy cozy atmosphere. It was a rather nice evening.
The next day, we had a limited amount of time to explore Kinsale before we had to head home. So we spent some time looking through both James and Charles forts, as well as walking through Kinsale by day. Charles fort in particular was really quite a neat place. There was so much space inside the fort to explore that it felt like it would take us forever to see it all. I'm pretty sure we didn't see it all, but we got through a fair amount of it. There was some nice views both inside and outside the fort and it was really quite a good experience!
The drive home was relatively uneventful, and it was good to get home to relax. Doing touristy stuff is tiring! It was a four day weekend, and even with the relaxing we did hiding from the weather on Saturday, we did a lot of walking and sightseeing!