Welcome back to another post in the Ireland Diaries. If you’ve missed the others you can find them HERE.
Getting to go on a train trip was one of the things I was most excited to do when I went to Ireland. I told my grandpa that he could choose whichever trip he wanted as long as there was a castle to see. The trip we chose went from the Heuston Station in Dublin to Cork, then a van ride up to Cobh, and a train ride back. It takes about 3 hours by train to get from Dublin to Cork and the ride there didn’t seem as long as I expected. Though it may have been because I dozed part of the way.
The train left at 7am that morning so our alarm went off at around 3am (No, I was in no way happy about this…but I digress) We got to the train station at 6am and the traveling began at 7. I enjoyed taking the trains during my time in Ireland because that is not a normal means of travel for me at all. It was also a great way to get to see more of the country during your travels! (Which why wouldn’t you want to, since Ireland is GORGEOUS!)
Our first stop was in Cork was the Blarney Castle and Gardens. The Blarney Castle is best known for having the Blarney Stone. If you are thinking that is the stone people kiss upside down than you would be right.
There are many stories associated with the stone. One of them being that the stone was Jacob’s Pillow that was brought to Ireland by Jeremiah the prophet. In order to kiss the stone, one has to lay on their back and hang off the edge backwards.
Those who kiss the stone are said to then gain the gift of eloquence. I did NOT kiss the stone because that just sounded like a bad idea, and a good way to get other people’s germs.
My dad kissed it when he went to Ireland as a kid, so I just say he did it for the whole family. To get to the stone you have to climb up these narrow stone spiral staircase to the top of the castle. It was a little scary but way worth it to get to the top and be able to see for miles.
As you go up and through the castle you get to see all the empty rooms and learn a bit about what they would have been used for. Like the main dining area, some bedrooms and even the Garderobe- which is an indoor lavatory.
The castle is not easy to maneuver around because when it was built the castles were used to keep people OUT! This was something I found really interesting, and this was evident in the fact the castle has a ‘murder hole.’ A murder hole is a grate in the ceiling above the main entrance to the castle where people would be waiting above to attack with fire, boiling tar, or just stabbing swords through the hole at their enemies.
On top of exploring the castle itself the grounds are beautiful! If you can get there on a day with just a bit of drizzling or on a super lucky day with sunshine it is a great place to walk around. There are many woodland and riverside walks, a water garden, arboretum and more to explore.
If you don’t want to do a ton of walking just off the side of the castle entrance, there is the poison garden behind the battlements. The garden has lots of interesting plants to learn about including some from Harry Potter like Wolfsbane and the Mandrake. Around each plant are signs that tell you their information about toxicity levels and what their traditional and modern-day uses are.
Before you leave the area stop into the Blarney Woollen Mills to look around and grab a bite to eat.
I had a ham and cheese sandwich with a bowl of potato soup. Yum! Plus, some tea and I still could not get over how lovely it is to use LUMPS OF SUGAR. If anyone knows where I can get delicious lumps of brown sugar in the USA let me know!
Next we got back in the van and drove about 20 minutes to Cobh to visit the Cobh Heritage Centre. My grandma’s one place she wanted to go on our trip was to Cobh because she remembers visiting when she went to Ireland with her parents when she was four years old! Before we went to the museum, we stopped to check out St. Coleman’s Cathedral.
This Roman Catholic Cathedral overlooks Cobh Harbour and was built over a 47-year period in the Gothic Revival Architecture style, meaning it is just stunning. This Cathedral is also how to a tower with a carillon of 49 bells, being one of the largest in Europe. I am Catholic myself, so it was really special to me to see such a beautiful church because most churches, especially in southern California, are not built in these styles. It is always nice to see historic things that you have a personal connection too.
Speaking of which, this brings us to the Cobh Heritage Centre. My great-grandparents on my dad’s side all immigrated to America from Ireland and this museum tells many stories, from the 1600s and beyond, about the Irish people who, specifically, left their home country from Cobh. This interactive museum, built into a Victorian railway station, tells many stories such as the ‘Queenstown Story,’ the Lusitania, the Titanic and more. When you go in you are given a ‘ticket’ with the name and boat of someone talked about in the museum and when you walk through the museum you get to find the story that goes with it. I really enjoyed going through and learning all these stories and would definitely go back and spend a little more time there.
Here is a link to the museum website if you would like to check it out.
From here we headed back to the train station for the 3-hour trip back to Dublin. On another trip back to Ireland I want to spend some more time exploring the Cork and Cobh areas because there is still much to see.
Have you ever been to any of these places? Tell me about it in the comments!
Here is the site we used to book our rail tour of Ireland. There are many more to choose from so when you plan a trip check it out > Irish Rail Tours
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