I should have kissed the Blarney Stone. I know now I should have. But at the time I confused eloquence with verbosity and thought the world would be a better place without me yapping away even more than I do now.
To be honest, I didn't think I'd make it to the top of the castle to do the kiss and I didn't like the look of the queue of people climbing the steep and probably slippery spiral steps to the top of the wall! Then I heard that once you start the climb, the people climbing behind you mean you can't change your mind, turn around and go back. 60 acres of parklands which include gardens, avenues, arboretums and waterways sounded a lot more attractive.
The grounds are a delight to explore with a poison garden where everything that grows can kill you if ingested in sufficient quantities. Some of the plants are so toxic that they are covered in metal cages to deter people from trying to touch them or, in the case of cannabis, pick a few leaves. The gardeners have kept up with the times and included Mandrake and Wolfbane, used by Hogwarts students in the Harry Potter books.
Unfortunately we didn't have half a day to spend here. I would have liked to see a lot more. I think I found the main attractions, the Fern Garden, the Bog Garden and the riverside walk near Badger's Cave.
the Fern Garden
Badgers Cave. Legend has it that it connects three underground passages: One to Cork, one to the lake and one all the way to Kerry.
It was at Badgers Cave that I was told off by a Swiss tourist for my unsuitable footwear - "I know, I am Swiss! You must not go further." Idiot! My footwear was very suitable for walking and I wasn't planning on battering down the grill at the entrance to the cave proper to see if it went to Cork or Kerry. And I wasn't expecting the footwear police!
I like the quirky touches:
a tree house
added colour to the plants
Just one more ruin to see in Ireland - Cashel Rock also known as Cashel of the Kings and St. Patrick's Rock. It sits high above the town on a limestone outcrop with commanding views over the surrounding grassy plains. This was the seat of power of the Munster kings prior to the Norman invasion, and the 12th to 15th century ruins are well worth seeing. The round tower dates from around 1100 and it's in excellent condition.
But the largest structure, the cathedral, is a shell, and the only a portion of the still intact chapel was open due to renovations.
The guided tour took about an hour. then there was time to wander in the graveyard for one last touch of ancient celtic crosses and admire the view.
Hore Abbey sits a little distance away and, had I been on my own, I wouldn't have missed seeing it up close.
A few hours drive up an excellent dual lane highway and we were back in Dublin - crowds, traffic, noise - saying goodbye to fellow travellers.
One more night of sitting with a beer listening to Irish music and my Irish experience would be over. Tomorrow I would board a plane to Scotland. But I'd leave a piece of my heart here in Ireland. I think this little fellow knows how I feel. He's found a treasure and doesn't want to let go of it.