We woke up in Cork, checked out of our hotel, and headed to Blarney Castle to try our luck at getting the “gift of gab”. Blarney Castle is not just the Blarney Stone, but also beautiful gardens.
We headed straight for the Stone because we had heard there could be really long lines, but luckily we didn’t have to wait too long. We each had a turn to kiss the Blarney Stone, which is located on the very top of Blarney Castle. To kiss the Stone, you sit on the floor on a mat facing away from the Stone. Then a guide helps you lay back and grab the bars they’ve put in place to help bring you closer to the Stone. You tilt your head back and they tell you to reach out and kiss it and sort of guide you to it.
The Blarney Stone is a stone on the wall of Blarney Castle that was known back in the day to give the gift of eloquence. The whole thing is a bit ridiculous, but is a fun concept and people come to Blarney to partake in the experience (don’t worry, they clean the Stone frequently). The whole thing was funny, but also weird and awkward. It happened so fast that we didn’t really get a chance to absorb the experience or get a good look at what we were doing or the Stone itself. You’re on your back and looking upside down, there is a hole below you that goes all the way down to the ground, and it kind of makes you disoriented.
After kissing the Stone, we wandered around the grounds a bit. We checked out the Poison Garden, which has tons of poisonous plants. I had no idea rhubarb leaves were poisonous! We also checked out the Blarney house from the outside (the inside was closed until June!).
After Blarney, we headed on to Killarney. We had a pub lunch, I bought new sneakers, and we wandered around town. We planned to go check out a local waterfall in the national park, which is at the start of the Ring of Kerry. We walked a short distance to the waterfall, then beyond to the lookout point and part of a trail.
After our hike, we decided to do the entire Ring of Kerry, even though it was early afternoon. This part of Ireland has beautiful views around every corner and we spent the rest of the afternoon ooh’ing and ahh’ing at it all, before making our way to Limerick for the night.
The next morning we were up early to head to Doolin to meet our guide, Pat Sweeney, and walk the Cliffs of Moher. Doolin was hit hard by the recession, and in 2008, Pat, a local farmer, had this idea to create a coastal trail through farmland to bring tourism to the area. Even though there was doubt, Pat persevered and worked with local farmers to build the coastal trail. Every day, Pat does this small-group tour, walking along the coastline and through farms. Even though you can walk the trail yourself, it is fantastic to get an insider’s view and learn about the history of the area. This was one of our favorite experiences in Ireland. If you’re going to Ireland and you want to visit Cliffs of Moher, you should definitely do the Doolin Cliff Walk.
After our walk, we continued up the west coast of Ireland to Galway. We wandered around, did some whiskey tastings, and had a sub-par dinner at a local restaurant. Shawn and I were tired, so we went home early while Steph and Johnny enjoyed a night out!
We were off to Connemara National Park the next day. The plan was to first go to a local pitch’n’putt for some golf, but sadly the place we had planned to go to had closed down. Defeated, we headed into the national park to do a hike. The visitor center had some recommended hikes, so we did the longest one – Upper Diamond. This hike was stunning! We had 360° views of the park and excellent weather. I was not really expecting dramatic mountains and scenery like this in Ireland, so it was all a pleasant surprise to me.
We made our way to Westport and had a lovely dinner before turning in early in preparation for the following day – biking the Great Western Greenway! The Great Western Greenway opened in 2010 – it is 42 kilometers (26 miles) of biking/walking path that was created on a former railway (the Great Western Railway), which had not been in use since 1937. They converted it to an amazing path that goes through breathtaking scenery and is mostly flat. We rented bikes from Clew Bay Bike Hire, who drove us to the end of the path in Achill, outfitted us with bikes, and we cycled the 40km back to Westport (the Greenway ends in their parking lot).
We started in Achill, taking in mountains and streams. We cruised through Mallaranny and we were supposed to go to Yvonne’s Tea House for tea and scones, but it was closed. We ended up stopping nearby for lunch. We worked our way further along the Greenway, which has views of Clew Bay and across the bay, Croagh Patrick. After a long day and 4-5 hours cycling, we made it back to Westport. Through our hotel, we were able to utilize a fitness center with pool and hot tub afterwards, which was awesome after a long day.
Steph and Johnny were headed back to Dublin the following morning, so we said our teary goodbyes that evening. We are so glad we had them join us on our trip! They made Ireland so much more fun! Thanks for joining us!